Posts by alex

Alex’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

Gotta Catch ‘em All

Overview

1800 years ago was supposed to be Iniki’s contest, but Iniki has no use for Ronkel’s machinations, and so Iniki’s “competition” was to flood the world and not be replaced.  So Iniki sent Ophelia, avatar of Storms and Drowning, to destroy civilization. El, a moleperson and high priestess of Magus, came forth from the underdark to gather four compatriots.  They built a giant humanoid construct that they piloted together to defeat Ophelia and send her back to to the depths. This device was too dangerous to be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, and so they disabled certain important systems and scattered the pieces around the world.

When Hione announced this year’s competition, Ophelia awoke from her slumber, and continued her original mission.  Over the course of seven expeditions, the players discovered the existence of the construct, found the necessary parts to fix it, all the while making other captures for the menagerie, and finally learned how to work together to control it and used it to defeat Ophelia and make her part of the menagerie.

The Lightning Squirrel

Enticed by the following words on the poster:

Like fresh air?
Like being in the great outdoors?
Then capture creatures for Whiggam!

 

Bire Fringent, Elven Ranger

DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue

Jolynn Huxley, Half-Elf Fighter

Lazlo “Squeaks” McGee, Gnome Warlock

Loafe, Half-Elf Warlock

Raymond Stiggyn, Human Monk

Usidoor Neckbeard, Half-Elf Druid

 

The party was tasked by Delilah Zyland (see Megan’s runs) with retrieving a lightning squirrel for the menagerie.  They don’t know much about the squirrel, except that it’s a rare creature native to Whiggam, and can be found in the woods near Whiggam’s Institute for Arcane Studies.  They party traveled there without incident looked for Professor Tulgey. He wasn’t in his office and the passing students suggested that he’s rarely there. Going through his notes, they find out out some information on the Lightning Squirrel, some extinct creatures like the jub jub bird, and that there exists a larger cousin to the shambling mound, the spotted and herbaceous backson, which the Professor believes may have played a role in the jub jub bird’s extinction.  The party figured the poor Professor may have been eaten, but the students assured them that the Professor is often out for several weeks to months at a time. All they have to do, according to the students, is go off the path, then Tulgey will eventually find them, but try not to disturb the animals too much if they don’t want Tulgey to be in a bad mood.

 

The next day they set out along animal paths into the deeper woods, pausing every so often to detect Lightning Squirrels (5 mile radius, sadly not finding any) and Spotted and Herbaceous Backsons (finding some *every* time, but not wanting to fight one right away).

 

Setting camp for the night, they’re approached by Professor Tulgey, who is checking in to make sure they’re not disturbing the animals.  He approves of their careful campfire building, though of course he’d prefer they not use fire at all. The party mentions the Contest, and the Professor is quite firm in his belief that the Menagerie is a terrible idea.  Quickly rethinking their approach, they casually ask him about the habits of the Lightning Squirrel, purely out of academic interest. He becomes animated in discussion, and offers to take them to a spot where has has sighted a Squirrel before.

The next day they travel to the blind, and while they’re waiting for a Lightning Squirrel to appear, there is commotion not far off.  Two people come crashing through the woods, claiming to be students attacked by backsons. A yowl of a large cat can be heard in the distance.  ”That’s an Angrak windsteed! They’re not native to these woods!” cries the Professor, and he rushes off in the direction of the sound. The two students went off to find help, and the party decided this was the time to go off in search of the nearest Lightning Squirrel!  They do find one, but it eludes their initial attempts to trap it, and runs off to its lair, a hole in a small hill covered in grapevine.

Exploring a way to trap the squirrel in its nest, they discover that the hill hides a much larger structure of demihuman manufacture.  Negotiating a truce with the squirrels (the one they followed has a mate and baby squirrels!) they explore inside and find the following projected image message:

“Welcome; I am El, the high priestess of Magus.  This temple was built to protect the people from <static> storms and drowning.  We managed to send Ophelia back <static>, but we fear what could happen if the temple fell into the wrong hands.  Therefore, we, the original knights, Gretta Opusdottir, Riven <static>, Kusakabe of Orviska, Broseph of Illselia, and myself, decided to hide the temple and certain vital systems until it was needed again.”

There was a system of tunnels under the surface, and several panels revealing complex machinery.  At each of these panels, something appeared to have been removed, and the panel labeled in undecipherable script.  In the tunnel system they discovered a lamp; when its light was shone on the script, it revealed the names of each system removed.

The party promised all the nuts the squirrel family could eat, and left quickly before Professor Tulgey found them out.  However, upon returning to the Institute, they learned that Tulgey’s head had been thrown into the courtyard by a group of windsteed-mounted Angrak warriors, declaring that the thief had been punished.  Deciding that it was probably best if no one questioned them about Tulgey’s death, they claimed not to have encountered him in the woods, and returned triumphant to the menagerie.

GM note: the two “students” in the woods were Godonia agents disguised as Whiggamites.  They had stolen the windsteed and were trying to make it look like Whiggam was responsible for the theft, in order to sow discord.

 

Irontown

We need brave adventurers to travel to Eren to secure a shipment of Greenheart wood!  Possible creature capture!

 

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue

Kuu, Tiefling Sorcerer

Nash, Human Cleric of Hione

Phynian, Human Sorcerer

Rigger, Elven Fighter

Shofar Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard

Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock

Vetran, Elf Cleric of Ratri

 

“It’s much easier to lie when I think it’s the truth.”  Vetran

 

Faced with a choice of missions, they decide to participate in a trade mission for Greenheart wood in Eren.  During their sea voyage, they encounter refugees from Firviria, which has been ravaged by Hurricane Ophelia. They pause to help repair some of the most damaged ships and see to the most wounded, and Adrie directs them to Aru temples in Whiggam where they can find shelter, Sending to those temples to be prepared for the refugees.  Vetran, IIRC?, discovers that a few specimens from Firviria’s menagerie were rescued in the refugee fleet, and they determine to report this later in order to bolster Whiggam’s menagerie, once the Firvirians are resettled.

 

In Eren, the shipment of Greenheart wood from the interior has been delayed, and the party travels into the forest to determine what happened, following an expedition of Eren Paladins.  They discover a trail of toppled wagons laden with Greenheart wood, their crews apparently murdered by animals of the forest. Upon reaching the Greenheart logging camp, they find a few survivors, and the Paladins have gone further into the forest, cutting down Greenheart trees in search of “the one” that they believe is controlling the attacking animals of the forest.  The party is able to convince them to stop until the Queen of Eren can decide what to do here; they make it out with the desired shipment of Greenheart wood, but are concerned that Eren has cut too many of these trees.

We want… a Flywheel!

We need brave adventurers to escort Professor Maynard on a mission to Vandorel – a missing piece of the Temple of El and a possible creature capture are at stake!

Davos Rosencrantz, Human Bard

Galarin, Half-Elf Druid

Grandmaster Bato, Human Monk

Mr. (Elwig) Mackena, Human Warlock

Ryld, Elven Monk

Urist Vorpalbeard, Dwarven Fighter

 

During the sea voyage to Vandorel, they spied in the distance a Godonian airship of orcs and hobgoblins.  It was traveling slowly enough that they could catch up, just at the edge of their Fly range, and decided to attack.  In a daring raid, they defeated the enemy Godonian Heroes on top of the bag of the airship, but before they could overpower the crew, the orcish crew cut the gondola and scuttled the airship, sacrificing themselves.  There were a few tense moments as Ryld and Grandmaster Bato fell into the ocean and had to be retrieved before drowning, and Mr. Mackena nearly fell off the bag, but managed to catch hold of a rope thrown by Davos.

 

Continuing on, they discovered the cave of the “Legendary Black Beast” of Vandorel, which hid in the darkness of its cave.  They cautiously entered, leaving lights on the walls as they went, while Mr. Mackena’s familiar (an imp) waited outside as a lookout.  They eventually discovered a seemingly empty nest, which Professor Maynard eagerly explored for clues to the writings of Broseph of Illselia.  Mr. Mackena’s imp reported that the lights visible from outside the cave were being snuffed. When the imp went in to investigate, it was eaten (running theme; see the “Never Gonna Give You Up” expedition) by a huge creature of surprising stealth.  A waiting game ensued, with the party expecting an attack, and the Beast creeping about hoping for a good opening to strike. The party manages to Locate the Beast while it’s within Faerie Fire range, and lights it up.  The Beast is a Huge reptilian creature, with green scales and only two legs, numerous eyes and teeth, brown hair on his head, and a pair of horns.  Galarin transforms into a giant turtle in order to provide a target for the Beast, and while its mouth is full, the party brings it down while trying to avoid its tail sweeps.

 

It’s then that Professor Maynard excitedly reports finding some Ancient Bones and a Flywheel Gear (the Regenerative System) in the nest, along with some of Broseph’s writings.

 

GM note: During the fight on the bag of the airship, there was a sequence of 1, 20, 1, 20 rolled for Mr. Mackena to fall off the bag, then catch a thrown rope, then Davos to slip while the rope thrown to Mr. Mackena tangled about his ankles, then catch another line attached to the bag.

Tonari no Totoro


We need brave adventurers to travel to Orviska to investigate a lead on a missing piece of the Temple of El!  Cover provided by a trade mission for sorghum and rice.

 

Richard William Johnson, Human Fighter

Green, Human Druid

Irwin Stevens, Kangaroo Lizard Wrangler, Human Bard

Jack “Lucky” Rabi, Human Sorcerer

 

In their own words:

Upon arriving in Orviska, we were met by a ranking trade official named Ukeuith.  At his request, we headed to Kusakabe province to assist with the removal of a haunt in a local home.  Upon arriving we discovered that the local governing family had all died under less than normal circumstances.  Further inquiry** found that a young girl named May was the only surviving heir, being hidden as an orphan by the rest of the village.  The trade official had been trying to remove the locals’ claim to the area by destroying the home and line of the family. When he showed up to meet us with around twenty men, we were ready for him.  While Green launched a surprise moonlight spell, Irwin grappled and pinned him while RWJ sniped his men, and a polymorphed Lucky, in kangaroo lizard form***, bit one in half (he got better) and forced the rest to surrender.  We let the men go after ensuring their silence. Ukeuith we forced to come with us to Whiggam in order to ensure his exile from Orviska. We managed to find a piece from the Magus temple, the Power Drive System.

 

**Inquiry preceded by “I’m not very smart, but I’m very good at jumping to conclusions. — RWJ”

 

*** a “kangaroo lizard” looks surprisingly like a tyrannosaurus rex

 

Never Gonna Give You Up

Caim Vorgies, Tiefling Warlock

Koura, Human Warlock

Toblerone, Gnome Wizard (and Toblerone’s four zombies)

Vashi Vorgies, Tiefling Cleric of Aru

 

The party is told of an “Auxiliary Menagerie” that Pervanda has for dangerous creatures not yet integrated into their main menagerie.  Whiggam isn’t sure what’s kept there, but the party should go have a look around and bring back whatever they can. Starting from a point off the remote coast, they sent an impish familiar to scout around.  There were five puffy pink things in cages, kept out of earshot from one another, plus a cave mouth that was being guarded. The imp ventured into the cave, and the last images Kouri received was a flash of teeth, claws, and white fur.

 

They bluffed their way past the guards by posing as contractors who were there to fix some of the outer walls, with the zombies disguised as workmen, and also to transport “uh, the creature”.  The guards laughed at this last bit, but allowed them through the gate in the barricade to retrieve the Killer of the Cave of Pervannog. The zombies went first, and at the mouth of the cave, were attacked by a creature with the appearance of a small, white rabbit.  The Killer of Pervannog didn’t like the taste of zombie, so it fled back into the cave. Toblerone animated some darts, and sent them after the rabbit. The guards wanted to know why the “workman” wasn’t killed, figured out they were zombies, and started firing at the party.  In turn the party distracted the guards with a figurine of Bob West, which began telling them a story that they couldn’t ignore.

 

With a few lucky hits, the party managed to knock the Killer of Pervannog unconscious, and flee as the guards roused from the story.  Another unique creature added to Whiggam’s menagerie!

 

GM note: the “pink things” not retrieved by the party are a mob creature called the Rykrol; when encountered individually, each one would speak a single word, “gonna”, “up”, “give”, “never”, “you”.  If brought within earshot of each other, they say the words in the order in the name of the expedition.

Flight of the Porgs

We need brave adventurers to travel to the remote Isle of Achto to capture creatures in the path of the Hurricane Ophelia!

 

Dr. Odde IV, Human Wizard

Grusk Lager, Dwarf Fighter

Pollein, Human Paladin

 

The party encounters a number of other groups collecting the near-flightless, cliff-dwelling birds, and all decide to keep an eye on each other, but cooperate to save as many creatures as possible.  They discover a group from Angrak has been to the top of the island, where one of their party has been “lost” to the a mad hermit. Investigating, the party finds a red dragonborn listening to the teachings of a human in weather-beaten robes.

 

A sampling:

“Ronkel is the same.  Ronkel is the only true god, though all gods could be like Ronkel if they only knew.  Aside from Ronkel, Iniki is the only one who is unchanged, and therein lies the paradox of Iniki who is both always changing and yet unchanged. The legacy of El is failure, for Iniki still flooded the world.  Don’t be a warrior, work together! Hione was once the Hermit, but then became Hione.”

 

Dr. Odde concluded that he wants some outside verification on what the mad hermit is saying, attempts to Contact Higher Plane, and goes insane.  Everything his fellow adventurers say is complete nonsense, yet he understands when the mad hermit tells him, “It’s time for Hione to end.”

 

The party flees the island with their catch and has Dr. Odde restored at Hunter’s Hall.  He decides he wants that question answered and attempts to Contact Higher Plane, and goes insane AGAIN.

 

GM note: Dr. Odde was using my cursed dice.

Whiggam Rim

Let’s go fight a hurricane in a robot in a fantasy setting! — Ripper

 

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru, “Green Lion”

Nash, Human Cleric of Hione, “Rainbow Belt”

Phynian, Human Sorcerer, “Blue Lion”

Ripper, Elven Fighter, “Red Lion”

Shofar Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard, “Yellow Lion”

Vetran, Elf Cleric, “Black Lion”

 

Our heroes, with the missing pieces from the Temple of El, decipher the instructions that tell in what order the pieces should be reattached.  Success! Each takes a position within the temple, and they practice moving together (you might have seen them walking in sync through Campus Club).  They then set off to defeat Ophelia, positioning themselves downriver of the Dymarip. Ophelia arrived, and a titanic struggle ensued, in which neither side could gain the upper hand.  The Temple of El creaked, and began to take structural damage (“Point to the part of this picture of Voltron where Ophelia hurt you.” -Phynian). Nerves frayed and tempers flared, but the party eventually discovered how to truly work as one, knock Ophelia unconscious, and transport it to the Whiggam Menagerie.

 

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York’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

Session 1: Leomund’s Tiny House

PCs: Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric (Tim DeCapio); Giltun, Dragonborn Warlock
(Elissa Hoeger); Nash, Human Cleric (Mykl Sandusky); Phynian, Human
Sorcerer (George McBride); Ripper, Elf Fighter (Corwin Knaff); Shofar
Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard (Alan Zitomer); Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock
(Colleen Moore); Vetran, Elf Cleric (Ron Seidel)

Our Heroes were recruited by Miroslav, a human Cleric of Hione, for an expedition into Whiggam’s mountains. Doing library research, he had
found fragmentary notes about a long-vanished Warlock who had spoken,
occasionally, of a land holding many bizarre creatures found nowhere
else in the world. Tracking these clues, he found no more about the
land (except that it was on some continent other than Whiggam), but he
managed to pin down the identity of the Warlock, a gnome named
Leomund. (No, not *that* Leomund. Apparently this Gnome admired the
ancient wizard and spell-creator Leomund so much that he adopted it as
his magical name when he came into his powers. The Gnome’s original
name is lost to history.) He had established that Leomund vanished
about 80 years ago, and had found the location of his remote,
fortified home.

Guided by Miroslav, the party swiftly traveled into the mountains,
learning at the last town in the foothills that this particular
stretch of mountains had an evil reputation — “nobody goes there,
it’s scary.” As they climbed toward the presumed location of Leomund’s
home, they began to hear the eerie peals of a distant bell, which
brought on increasing feelings of unease. The bell rang once every 15
minutes, and the sound came from ahead of them, growing louder (and
making them increasingly nervous) as they traveled. Eventually they
reached a clear slope leading up to a structure at the peak of a
ridgeline, which both matched the location on Miroslav’s map and could
be clearly identified as the source of the mysterious bell sound,
which at close range induced fear so strong that it could be briefly
paralyzing.

Approaching the house, they were attacked by a trio of Galeb Duhr, or
rather by one Galeb Duhr and two boulders it had animated into minions
with physical abilities equal to its own. Though bruised and battered,
Our Heroes prevailed, only to discover a problem. Leomund, a recluse
with no interest in entertaining visitors, had built a house to suit
himself — a solidly-built stone structure with a 4-foot-high roof and
a 3-foot-tall door. It was at this point that our adventurers
realized, with some chagrin, that they hadn’t thought to recruit
anyone Small for this expedition. The house had an attached
observatory that was a 20-foot-diameter half-dome, which offered
plenty of room inside, but unfortunately had no exterior doors.

The smaller and slenderer members of the party squeezed through the
door and found that the main house appeared to be solely living
quarters. A puzzle-lock on the door to the observatory was quickly
solved. Another puzzle-lock in the middle of the observatory area
opened a trapdoor into stairs leading down. This stairway apparently
had been intended to pass large loads at times and so was wide and
high enough for the party members to descend at a crouch, rather than
squeezing through in a crawl. The party’s Half-Orc, however, had to
leave his armor outside the building entirely, since there was no way
he could squeeze through the front door wearing it.

At a landing on the stairs a bizarre creature sketched itself in the
air from the lines and angles of the  stairway; fully formed, it
looked more like a wireframe animation than a solid object, but it
proved capable of dealing large amounts of slashing damage as the many
thin lines of its structure cut through armor and flesh. Although
resistant to many weapons it succumbed to magical fire, and the party
made their way to the bottom and Leomund’s true workroom.

This was dominated by a mural occupying the entirety of one wall. A
sinister landscape beneath an impossible night sky held shadowy hints
of menacing creatures lurking behind various elements of the terrain;
in the foreground was a brightly-painted image of a cloaked,
staff-wielding Gnome with his back to the viewer. As the party
watched, the bell-tone sounded from the mural, somehow not frightening
when they could see its source, and the picture animated. Dark
creatures emerged from the landscape and charged toward the viewers,
while the painted Gnome fought them off with Warlock cantrips and
spells, and the power of his staff. Once the last of the onslaught was
done, the painted Gnome froze back into immobility.

The animated picture produced sounds, including some comments from the
Warlock suggesting that he was trying to keep the creatures from
getting past him. On the next animation cycle the party discovered
that they could fire missiles and spells into the mural and affect the
animated creatures in it. This caught the attention of the painted
Gnome, who turned to face them and apparently could see them. Although
only snippets of conversation were possible as the painting froze
after each wave of attackers was done, the party conveyed an offer of
help and the Gnome asked them to get turpentine and wipe his painted
image from the mural. When they did so they found that a live,
three-dimensional Gnome was emerging from the wall as the paint was
erased.

Ultimately Leomund thanked them for the rescue and explained that the
mural was a portal for accessing the realm of the Great Old One from
which he (and many other Warlocks) drew power. He had intended to use
it to attack and seal off a pathway by which other denizens of that
alien realm could attack the living world. The portal was so designed
that only images could pass either way, a safety feature that he
thought would keep it from being used as an alternate invasion route
itself. He had circumvented that safeguard by painting himself into
the mural with Nolzur’s Pigments, thereby putting an image into the
mural-world that was also real. To his chagrin he learned that his own
presence in the mural made it a two-way pathway that the monstrous
denizens of the other world could use to escape – unless he stopped
them. Fortunately he found that after each onslaught there came a
brief period of immobility which functioned as a rest. but he was
unable to extricate himself until someone outside the mural could
remove the paint. Once he was out, the mural was once more impassable.

Grateful for his rescue, and shocked to learn that he had been trapped
in the mural for eighty years, Leomund told his rescuers that the land
of exotic animals they wanted to find was in the Deep Forest on the
continent of Surelant. He told them a few particulars, including the
fact that the people of the Deep Forest were secretive, suspicious of
outsiders, and tended to use mindpowers of the local fauna to befuddle
uninvited guests. He recommended making friendly contact, with
patience and persistence, as the best way to get access to the animals
of the Deep Forest. Leomund also, as a token of gratitude, gave the
party a quantity of magical gear he had used in his earlier
adventuring days.

LITERARY SOURCES: This scenario was inspired by the writings of HP
Lovecraft, with just a touch of Looney Tunes.

Session 2: Explore the Forest!

PCs: Amaya Rein, Human Monk (Hannah Tandy); Farryn, Elf Ranger
(Danielle Coates); Hildur, Dwarf Barbarian (Clara Shikhelman); Lilith
Stormweather, Tiefling Cleric (Sydney Chiang); Oswin Hornblower,
Halfling Bard (Kevin Lee); Sycorax, Tiefling Cleric (Kayli Marshall);
Vitis Vinifera, Half-Elf Ranger (Riley Chiang)

Surelant is a continent friendly to Whiggam. Since every continent is
trying to build up their own Menagerie, collecting animals from
Surelant’s Great Forest might risk straining relations. Fortunately,
the folk of Surelant believe that the depths of the Great Forest
(hereafter simply the Deep Forest) is populated entirely by ignorant
yokels who cannot possibly have anything of interest to trade. Whiggam
was able to negotiate a deal where Whiggam adventurers would have a
free hand in the Deep Forest, under the sole condition that if they
retrieved more than one of any particular exotic animal not found
elsewhere, they would leave one with the Surelant authorities. Whiggam
also learned that, while the Deep Forest dwellers had relatively
little contact with the outside world, they did sell exotic timbers
and unique apothecary formulations in exchange for precious metals,
platinum especially.
Travel between Whiggam and Surelant involves a long sea voyage –
essentially halfway around the World, about the same distance sailing
west or east. When this expedition launched, storms at sea made the
western route impassable, so the trip involved sailing eastward
between Eldruent-Vangruldear and Melkanth, both continents hostile to
Whiggam. There are two reasonable places to make landfall in Surelant,
Westport on the extreme western tip of the island (which serves the
Great West Road, running from the coast to the Great Forest), and
Norbury in the northern mountains, which connects directly to the
Great Forest through a steep but short mountain pass. The players
elected to take the more northerly sea route, passing closer to EV to
land at Norbury.
Sure enough, about 2/3 of the way to Surelant a large EV ship was
spotted and changed course to shadow the Whiggam courier carrying the
party, staying about 3 miles back. The PCs sent a raven (a character’s
familiar) carrying a small rock with a message tied to it; the message
said they had the means to defend themselves and would do so if
attacked. After receiving the message the EV ship dropped back to 5
miles separation but continued shadowing the party. The players
deduced that the EV ship wasn’t going to attack but intended to shadow
them to wherever they were going in search of Menagerie finds.
The players hatched a scheme where during the dead of night their
courier would pass close to shore and drop them off in a lifeboat,
which they would quickly row to shore and hide. They felt that with
two rangers, one of whom specialized in coastal terrain, they could
make their way overland to Norbury and reach the pass without too much
delay.
Coming into sight of Norbury Harbor, they could see their Whiggam
courier (which had been instructed to wait and bring them back, and
supplied with ample funds for docking fees) anchored at a wharf, with
the large EV ship that had shadowed them anchored about three slots
away. The party split at this point, one contingent going to scout the
pass, one going to the Surelant authorities to make sure their mission
was acceptable, and one group (the party Bard, posing as a wealthy EV
merchant on holiday) went to ask questions on the EV ship. Results:
the pass looked to be in good shape for travel, the Surelant
authorities were quite supportive of the Whiggam mission and happy to
sell them additional travel supplies at cost, and the EV captain was
cozened into admitting that he was on the lookout for the Whiggam ship
to send out a party of adventurers and had a group of sailors with
land and wilderness skills ready to go follow them
whenever they appeared. Our Heroes avoided this headache by simply
making for their planned rendezvous out-of-town without ever going
back to their own ship.
Travel through the mountain pass involved an encounter with a gang of
bandits led by a middling-high level Warlock, who used Hallucinatory
Terrain to set up an ambush. The fight was made lively by taking place
on a narrow ledge between a rising cliff and a ravine; jockeying for
position to push an enemy into the ravine was a major tactic.
Arriving at the Great Forest, the party quickly made friendly contact
with the Foresters, a mixed society of elves, half-elves, and humans,
with elves in the majority. They were taught recognition signs for
friendly passage, and warned that the Deep Foresters were a
suspicious, unfriendly bunch who had nothing of interest aside from
the herbal concoctions and exotic timber that they sold for trade
goods. Undaunted, Our Heroes pressed on, until one day two members of
the party succeeded in a difficult saving throw and saw that their
comrades had suddenly fallen into a trance and they were being
confronted by people in forest-camouflage clothing holding small,
furry, big-eyed creatures facing toward the party.
The big-eyed creatures are Spirit Tarsiers, and the Deep Foresters
explained that they have a gaze attack that can put people into a
trance where they don’t remember anything that happened. Their plan
had been to knock out the party members, transport them past the Deep
Forest, and  let them continue through the forest without ever seeing
anything of interest. With two of the party having saved, though, the
amnesia approach was off the table. The party called attention to
their trade “goods” (essentially money, given the prior information
that the Deep Foresters accepted gold and platinum as payment), and
persuaded Rudra, leader of the Deep Forest scouts, to bring them to
their village to negotiate with the headwoman.
The PCs were treading carefully and on their best behavior as they
were led into Ni-Hau, an almost invisible village in the Deep Forest.
Like the outer villages, it was inhabited by a mix of Elves,
Half-Elves, and Humans, but for some reason Humans were the largest
part of the population in the Deep Forest. All the buildings were
treehouses, their walls obscured by layers of live leaves; all access
involved rope ladders which could be raised from above. This was
explained as a necessary defense against the more dangerous
inhabitants of the Deep Forest.
Negotiations with village headwoman Durga went well. The PCs confirmed
the existence of a number of creatures known nowhere else in the
world, and negotiated the conditions for future parties to come on
collection expeditions. The primary condition was that new expeditions
should bring a suitable fee, and MUST check in at Ni-Hau and get a
guide before proceeding further into the Deep Forest. Some creatures,
it was explained, could be captured and taken away safely, but others
needed to be left alone; the distinctions would be long and difficult
to explain, hence the necessity for a native guide.
The party then returned home without incident, bringing along one
Menagerie specimen: a Spirit Tarsier that had been “tamed” and was
used to human contact.

LITERARY SOURCES: Assorted Cold War spy fiction; Conan Doyle’s “Lost World”

Session 3: Negotiations and Captures

PCs: Bobbins Kettleblack, Dragonborn Fighter (Andrew DeMario);
DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue (Michael Brokes); Fencili Hartthsol, Gnome
Warlock (Stevie Chudomelka); Malon (aka Kit), Half-Elf Rogue (Lee
Mendelson);  Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock (Colleen Moore)

–THE OFFICIAL STORY–
The expedition got to the Deep Forest without any seagoing
difficulties. Arriving at Ni-Hau, they had an in-depth discussion with
Headwoman Durga about what exactly they might hope to retrieve. They
arrived at a list of creatures guaranteed unknown in the outside
world, which might have some specimens that could be collected without
harm:
1. Carnivorous Sunflowers, a powerful and dangerous Medium-sized
ambulatory plant.
2. Lightning Panthers, apparently close relatives of normal panthers
with silver-stippled black fur and silvery vibrissae (whiskers). They
have a lightning “breath weapon” which they use for defense and
hunting (they don’t actually breathe lightning, they project it from
their electrically conductive whiskers).
3. Culverins, a Medium-sized ambush predator who have a long snout and
the ability to shoot pebbles from it at high speed.
4. The Spirit Basilisk, a Large reptilian predator/scavenger only
vaguely similar to true basilisks. It has no gaze weapon; instead,
whenever it is hungry, angry, or frightened, it emanates a psychic
paralysis field in a radius around itself. To make matters worse, it
is completely immune to magic.
5. Razorwings, Small flying reptilian predators. Their wings are
rigid, like an insect’s, and as the name advertises have razor-sharp
leading edges. They fly at very high speeds, like fixed-wing aircraft,
growing organs beneath their wings that function as pulse jets.
6. Forest Behemoth. Gargantuan reptilian herbivore. Impressive only
for its size and tremendously tough armor.
7. Monopods. Medium plant creatures that resemble large mushrooms when
at rest; in motion, they kick off from the ground with a single
powerful foot (the “stem”) and use a wide, thin mantle (the “cap”) to
maneuver aerodynamically, even being able to glide considerable
distances without having to touch down again. Monopods are sentient,
though less intelligent than humans; a number of them have learned the
Common tongue. (They understand its spoken form, but lacking voices,
can only reply by writing on the ground with their powerful slashing
tails.)
8. Sentient carpenter ants. More specifically, a ten-foot-tall ant
mound houses an ant colony with collective intelligence. No individual
ant is particularly bright, but the colony can reason, act, and
communicate about as well as a human being. As with the monopods, the
colony living near Ni-Hau understands spoken Common and replies by
arranging large numbers of ants into written letters.
The party was quickly able to negotiate with the sentient creatures;
a breeding pair of Monopods were pleased to become an exhibit, and the
ant mound was eager to send off a young queen to found a new colony in
a welcoming environment. Following native guide Rudra, the party
stalked and killed a carnivorous sunflower without coming into range
of its narcotic perfume (kudos to highly effective missile fire from
the party Rogues), collecting 100+ seeds and suitable mulch for
sprouting them. [Note on mistreatment: Carnivorous sunflowers are NOT
sentient and are unrelentingly aggressive against any animal in range
of their senses. Moreover, being killed causes them to set seed and is
therefore an important part of their reproductive cycle.] The party
was attempting to capture a Culverin but eventually decided that they
needed to return home with the prizes they had in hand.
LITERARY SOURCES: Appalachian folklore, assorted fantasy and SF by
Piers Anthony, John Varley, Mercedes Lackey, E.E. Smith. And of course
you should be able to figure out which of the eight creatures is an
homage to A Certain Movie.

–WHAT REALLY HAPPENED–
This is what earned the expedition a Friends Like These award, for
managing to be trustworthy friends AND traitors at the same time. They
promised the Deep Foresters that they would keep their secrets, and
true to their word did not mention any of this on their expedition
reports, nor, as far as I could tell, in conversation with other
players. Everything mentioned above is true and happened approximately
as described, but a great deal else went on…
***
The first clue that something was odd about the Deep Forest community
was when Fencili the Warlock used her Awakened Mind class feature to
mindspeak Rudra the scout leader. He *replied* telepathically,
admonishing her that she was being rude and should be very circumspect
in using that power.
***
Another clue showed up during the negotiations with Headwoman Durga.
While others spoke with her, Bobbins, a Battlemaster, used a class
feature to gauge his relative abilities against the Headwoman. Bear in
mind, this is a large, powerfully built Dragonborn in the prime of
life, comparing himself to a petite elderly Human woman. The GM was
obliged to report:
“She’s stronger than you are. She’s faster than you are. She’s tougher
than you are. She’s smarter than you are, wiser than you, and more
charismatic than you.”
***
But the real revelation came when the party’s scouting allowed them to
hear a crash of falling wood and a feline scream. Native guide Rudra
took off toward the sound without paying the slightest attention to
them; the PCs followed as best they might. They arrived to see Rudra
lifting a large fallen branch off a badly injured Lightning Panther.
Then they saw the cat morph into a badly injured Human girl who bore a
strong resemblance to Rudra. They offered healing potions, but Rudra
waved them away while talking softly to his daughter – talking her
through the process of drawing her bones back together and into their
proper places, closing the rents in her skin and refastening her
muscles to their attachment points.
At this point, Rudra decided that his best course was to explain more
fully to the outsiders and try to engage their sympathies. A fraction
of the Deep Forest folk (about half the “humans”, about 10% of the
“half-elves”) are secretly natural shapeshifters. [DM's note: these
are not monsters from any standard supplement. I invented them for
this scenario, just as I did the weirder animals.] They keep this a
deep secret, not to deceive their neighbors, but to deceive their own
children; their children are born as completely normal members of
their apparent race, and show no sign of being unusual until their
powers start to develop after puberty. The Shifters have learned
through bitter history that nothing is more toxic to a child’s
personality than the sense of entitlement that comes from being raised
to see themselves as different from and better than the people around
them. So they live among non-shapeshifting folk, as members of the
community, in order to raise their children as responsible people
rather than self-centered monsters.
But once their powers start to manifest, adolescent Shifters need
practice with them. All of the Deep Foresters spend increasing amounts
of time alone in the forest during their teenage years, learning how
to live alongside the Forest creatures. The non-shapeshifting
Foresters simply don’t realize that some of their neighbors spend that
training time *being* Forest creatures. That’s the real reason they
wanted to vet the selections of hunting parties; many creatures might
actually be adolescent Shifters, and only the telepathic Shifters
could tell the difference. Thus the guides, and thus the accident:
Rudra’s teenage daughter was shadowing her father, feeling very proud
of her ability to be silent and unseen in animal form, and missed a
jump leading to a catastrophic fall.
The party all agreed to keep the Shifters’ secrets and asked if a
Shifter would be willing to come to the Menagerie – surely such a
remarkable being would be a prize display. Rudra explained that the
Whiggam Menagerie already had a Shifter in residence. It turns out
that there is no such animal as the Spirit Tarsier. As part of
concealing their own possession of mindpowers, they invented a
fictitious animal with mindpowers and had mature Shifters turn into
them as needed,  to provide sightings in the forest and to be “tamed
and trained” specimens when a Forest patrol needed to befuddle
strangers.
In exchange for the party’s commitment to secrecy, the Shifter
villages of Ni-Hau agreed to help more actively with future
expeditions from Whiggam. One particular item of assistance was that
the village herbalists would distill, from the remains of the
Sunflower the party had killed, a nonmagical drug that would help the
next Whiggam expedition subdue a Spirit Basilisk.

Session 4: Bring ‘Em Home

PCs: Davos Rosencrantz, Human Bard (Matt Reichardt); Galarin, Half-Elf
Druid (William Reichardt); Grandmaster Bato, Human Monk (Chris
Reichardt); Urist Vorpalbeard, Dwarf Fighter (Joshua Reichardt)

The mission brief for this expedition was simple: thanks to trade and
negotiation which had led to good relations with previous expeditions,
the Deep Foresters of Surelant would have a number of captive animals
ready to transport, needing only supervision from the Whiggam party to
get them back to the Menagerie. It was known that one of those beasts
was a Forest Behemoth, which could not possibly be brought across the
steep passes to Norbury. The plan therefore was for the party to bring
the animals out of the forest along the Great East-West Road of
Surelant that runs to Westport on the western tip of the continent. A
large cargo ship with a specially-built hold would be used to
transport the Behemoth (as well as the more manageable animals).
Travel to the Deep Forest proceeded well, and on arrival the part
found waiting for them a docile Behemoth and rolling cages containing
a breeding pair of Lightning Panthers. An additional bonus was
available if the party chose to attempt it: the villagers had a
substantial supply of sedative on hand, which could be used to knock
out a Spirit Basilisk and keep it unconscious until its arrival in
Whiggam, However, none of the Foresters had been willing to volunteer
to administer it to a live Basilisk. The Whiggam party was welcome to
attempt the feat themselves. After brief consultation, they decided to
go ahead.
The capture was well-planned and successful. Native guides brought the
party to within a mile of the Spirit Basilisk’s current den, the
closest they were willing to approach. Galarin used Commune with
Nature to find a clearing with the best possible features for an
ambush site. The party killed a deer and set the carcass in the middle
of the clearing; then, while the remaining party members lurked at a
distance (and safely out of paralysis radius), Grandmaster Bato dosed
the carcass with sleep drug and then butchered it quickly and messily,
so that the smell of blood and carrion rose quickly from the remains.
The Grandmaster raced to safety using his enhanced movement, although
such speed was unneccessary; while the Basilisk woke up the instant
the wind carried the smell of the kill to its den, it took several
combat turns to reach the clearing. While the party hid, it ambled up,
devoured the deer carcass in a disturbingly small number of bites, and
presently fell over unconscious. The party hauled it back to the rest
of their caravan on a wheeled travois and set up a drugging schedule
to make very sure it would stay unconscious untill delivered.
The overland trip to embark on the ship for Whiggam proved uneventful
but the sea voyage to Whiggam had to contend with a pirate attack.
More precisely, the attacking ship appeared to be a privateer out of
Melkanth seeking to seize the PC’s ship and claim the prize beasts for
themselves. The pirate’s initial attack plan was severely impaired
when Galarin used Control Water to capsize their ship. However, two
Sorcerers took to the air with Fly spells and moved to attack.
Clustering at the facing rail, preparing to meet the oncoming
Sorcerers, the party overlooked the arrival of a quintet of rogues
wearing Cloaks of the Manta Ray who had swum under their ship to board
on the far side. All except Grandmaster Bato failed to save against
the Wand of Fear wielded by one of the rogues. Davos and Urist dove
overside into the ocean, while Galarin, who had taken the Wild Shape
of a water elemental, simply poured himself belowdecks to hide in the
ballast. Bato charged across the deck to engage the rogues in melee,
only to find himself caught in a Web spell from one of the oncoming
sorcerers.
Gato learned very quickly why it is a bad idea to find yourself
restrained while facing multiple rogues making coordinated melee
attacks with poisoned blades. Fortunately, both Davos and Galarin made
successful saves to break out of the Fear effect as soon as they broke
line of sight to the Rogue who had created it. Urist, unfortunately,
did not, and being in possession of his own Cloak of the Manta Ray was
swimming away from the ship at high speed. Ultimately, it took him
three tries to make his save, which meant a total of six turns of
combat spent swimming away from and then back to the cargo ship. Bato
was at 0 hit points and had failed two death saves when he was rescued
by a healing spell from Davos. Meanwhile, Galarin the Elemental was
battling with several rogues and the high-level Warlock who had landed
atop the Behemoth’s pen, while the Sorcerers flew about flinging
cantrips at whoever seemed a likely target. The battle raged for
several turns, with the attackers taking some casualties while
inflicting massive damage on the PCs. When Urist finally returned to
the ship, accompanied by a pike-wielding penguin he had summoned from
the Menagerie using an item, the attackers not yet slain decided it
was time to flee.
No further hostile encounters took place and the PCs arrived safely at
the Menagerie with their cargo of unique and impressive animals.

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Megan’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

1. Quest for… Sand?

My first run was with a merry band of adventurers who were dutifully tasked by Delilah Zyland, the Great Architect of Whiggam’s daughter, and child prodigy protege, to gather sand from Mesareff. Why couldn’t the intrepid adventurers gather sand from Whiggam’s own desert? Well, the sand isn’t as good, you see. (According to Delilah…hmm…..)

They rented a boat and a week into their two-week trip were faced with two sharks!! One drunken crew member had fallen overboard and been bitten by piranhas (conveniently) and the blood in the water attracted the sharks. Despite the danger, Kilgana tied a rope to her waist and DOVE INTO THE WATER to not only save the poor sailor but also to assist in the capture of the sharks! Hadrian was a pro at reeling people in and manning the ropes while Aerlon Whiteeyes cast spells at the sharks until they froze in fascination, unable to respond as giant nets (cleverly created from sewing smaller nets together) were wrapped around them. Hadrian got a little stuck but eventually all of the party members were safely on board the ship again.

Unable to persuade the previous captain to take them on again, they next traveled on the Merry Weather, helmed by Captain Bell. Aerlon and Kilgana met up with Captain Bell’s contact, Mahiba Orete, the ritual advisor to Caliph Warnos of Mesareff, and obtained an invitation to speak with the Caliph. The others, Hadrian, Arlhak and Negon went into the desert and collected a cartload of sand. They faced a Dust Devil and defeated it!! … only then realizing they should have tried to capture it. At the fancy dinner in the palace, the Caliph offered them sand (for archaeological purposes of course) in exchange for solving the mystery of why there were so many Dust Devils around. Indeed, the Caliph had two golden carriages full of sand delivered to the Merry Weather to hold up his end of the bargain.

The following day the entire party traversed into the desert where they faced and captured a Dust Devil, probing its mind to find out exactly why they were bothering the people of Mesareff. If only the people would stop entering their home, the ruins, they would stop. They located the ruins and reported back to the Caliph that he should very much definitely stay away from that one specific area. Duty discharged, they left Mesareff with a variety of desert creatures (including a hunting cat) to accompany their Dust Devil.

2. Interviews for Assistant Groundskeeper

Rian Ticklefoot, halfling bard, approached the gathered party and asked for assistance in two things. Rian wanted to hire an assistant Groundskeeper for Bernie, the current curmudgeon groundskeeper, and this is all the party would get to. They traveled to the Menagerie, their trip only interrupted by a nighttime encounter with some saboteurs. Kuu did a great job of first scaring them then convincing them he was one of them. Diegona received quite a scare herself, and Lessadryn proved she was the fastest of them all.

In the morning they interviewed the potential candidates for the position. Barry especially had challenging hurdles for the applicants to get through, including forcing one to face her legit manifested fears and walk through fire. Tenacity herself also engineered a difficult trial involving spiderwebs and magical darkness. In the end, the position was offered to Tori the Druid, unbeknownst to most as one of the saboteurs from the previous evening.

At that point the heroes convinced Rian to give them a tour of the Menagerie. After seeing the construction projects, a very passionate argument began over whether the animals should be left alone, or if they should be freed. Two characters, Barry and Tenacity, were debating fiercely for a significant length of time, until in a symbolic gesture he threw away the manacles (of animal slavery) and walked away. A spell was cast opening a way out from inside the Aviary, and the wyverns were released.  Barry would then use his last spells of the day to pick up Tenacity and fly her away to safety when discovery and jail were imminent. It was an emotional end for many, and the culmination of long conversations on environmental conservation, imprisonment, duty to one’s god, and the morality of zoos.

3. Wood Acquisition and Small Town Politics

For my third run, three clerics, a sorcerer, a bard and a barba–fighter? Ok, and a fighter, get asked by Delilah to go to Orviska to get Retraining Heartwood which would act as a grounding material for the lightning mess the Lightning Squirrels (from Alex’s run) are causing in the Menagerie. Having a sailor amongst them comes in handy as they contract Captain Bell’s boat, the Merry Weather again, to sail them there. Cpt. Bell was a great at morale, not so much at sailing, but they still managed to get there in the correct amount of time thanks to the crew.

Once there the players had to contend with an attempted mutiny (which failed – thanks to Shofar’s quick thinking and his tigers) as well as navigate the politics of a small port town named Kingsmouth. Vetran danced (or tried to communicate?) with a Carnivorous Plant which they ended up bagging for the Menagerie, and Nash considered taking over as Captain of the Merry Weather. Phynian arranged to offer protection for the nervous laborers who were going to harvest the Retraining Heartwood. The situation got sticky – and the RP amazing – when their search for Margie Harper led them to her cousin’s house, the head honcho they’d made the trade agreement with. Lead by Ripper’s nose, they found the missing woman. Adrie was especially concerned with helping her recover and get back on her feet, and the others ‘disposed’ of the cousin. Margie Harper has since dedicated herself to Aru and is at the Aru Worship Center every day helping to make and serve food to the needy citizens of Kingsmouth.

The wood collection was successful from then on, and Vetran was even able to find the sentient Everburning Bush. The party bargained with it for a clipping which could be planted and used to warm up areas within the Menagerie which had to be warm for creatures, which included Nash reading and discussing things with it every evening until they departed. Ripper befriended a young half-orc orphan named Benji, promising to feed and cloth him as well as teach him how to use all kinds of weaponry. Effectively adopting him from Kingsmouth and taking him home to Hunters Hall. Yay fatherhood!

4. Mining, or The Evacuation of Tenton

Delilah was at it again, sending off a party of Heroes to Tenton, the volcanic island, for Obsidian and Adamantine.  The heroes took a river boat north to the coast, where their captain was so drunk they each got a chance to steer the boat, including Uber the mountain dwarf while Astri kept a weather eye out for obstacles in the water. They declined any stops along the way, and when they reached the coast chartered passage again with Captain Bell (who was stricter and more of a hard-ass this trip). On the way to Tenton they came across a pod of whales. Kilgana was able to speak with them, and they warned her of the ‘Noisy’ water around Tenton. The Heroes surmised that they only had mere days before the volcano would explode!!

Aerlon Whiteeyes sent off a message back to Bernie at Hunter’s Hall to alert everyone that ships were needed to transport evacuees off Tenton, and Kilgana went to the Island of Willow to negotiate with them for more ships and a place to bring the evacuees. Tenton is known as the place for outcasts of society, as well as the least human of all the races. While some of the party went into town to figure out the best way to mine for the needed materials, Lusine and Bruenor stayed behind to watch the boat. They became entangled in an altercation with the half-orc dock master who thought they had pushed his son off the dock (when in truth they had rescued him!). The dock master and a small mob boarded Captain Bell’s ship while the two rangers hid in the storage berth. While Bruoner was seen and caught – they completely failed to recognize him with dirt and soot covering his face (hastily applied as an attempt to disguise himself). Congratulating him on being a stowaway, they left the ship and the two rangers uninjured.

Meanwhile Gizma, Uber, Astri, SunSheen and Aerlon went to visit Dagney the blacksmith who lived up the (volcanic) mountain from town. Dagney turned out to be a former Daglir, and loaned them a diamond pickaxe though she was unable to assist them officially with the challenge. The heroes reunited with Kilgana who finally arrived, and half the party started evacuating the town while Sunsheen, Lusine and Gizma went up to the mountain to mine as much of the Adamantine and Obsidian as they could. Kilgana had been able to convince a number of vessels to come to Tenton’s aid (despite it being a rather racist island) and even the animals of Tenton were able to make it off onto rafts and the available ships before lava hit town. Even Daryell was found unconscious under a door in time to save him and reunite him with his lover James, the son of Willow’s Chancellor. The people of Tenton were temporarily housed by Willow, but were then on their way to Whiggam to decide what to do with their lives going forward.

This run had a lot of good inter-party conversations about what to do with the evacuees, the metaphor to colonialism, and what payment if any should be requested from the victims. SunSheen was happy to listen to the voices in his head, and was kind enough to share them with the party.

5. Prison Break

Diegona and Barry accepted a job from Delilah helping with the nest of undead underneath the menagerie, and were accompanied by Tenacity, who had been going as Drucilla since the incident with the wyvern wherein she faked her own death. Diegona and Barry met Samwise, a single man who had been fighting the undead, and together fought great battles below the surface. The montage was amazing. (Samwise was the very first Aru, and he gave his brooch to Diegona asking her to pass it along to a cleric of his faith when she could.)

Meanwhile Tenacity had been preparing for a mission to go into the menagerie and free the animals who were being held their against their will. Heroes infiltrated the menagerie for several months asking each creature if they wished to stay or be returned to their home.

Virago and Green joined, and a plan was hatched. Barry convinced Delilah and Bernie via alter memory spells that the water filtration systems in the bodies of water (salt and arctic) were damaged and needed to be repaired. The new blueprints included metal pipes to be sunk to the bottom of the pools. These would act as teleportation circles, so aquatic creatures could be sent via water back to the sea. (It was winter so the arctic squid should be okay in the warmer-climate water with the Merfolk, where an already established teleportation circle existed.)  The squid and two sharks were freed from the menagerie this way. Tori the Druid revealed her alignment when she callously killed a guard who found them in the act of letting free the sharks, proving that even people who are ‘on your side’ may not be the best of people.

Dimension doors were opened in the forest enclosure and aviary, and one to the Cave of Wonders. (The animals long extinct with no current homeland went there, except the woolly mammoth who went to the arctic.) Most creatures chose to stay at the menagerie, and a giant gold dragon appeared at the very end of the competition (as well as the phoenix, Ophelia, and various basilisks). As the party was trying to make a clean exit from the menagerie, they ran out the front doors into the middle of Delilah’s 13th birthday party… right as she transformed into a hag! Instead of asking questions the players set everything on fire, causing her to lash out at the surrounded party goers (employees who were obligated to attend) and there were many casualties. Barry turned her into a mouse and she was finally trampled as they heroes made their final escape. Delilah’s mother, the Shang Sister of Blood, would likely only find out that her daughter was dead the next time she tried to infiltrate her dreams….

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Hugh’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

Run #1:  Teth – Snake Mouth Bay’s Port of Telooin

The party travelled two weeks to Telooin, a seedy port town on the east coast of Teth which was transferring supplies to the Luin Isles {Camila’s Run’s location}.  They’ve been provided with some cases of Gin to use as a ‘delivery’ to MAJ Nelson, owner of a local bar (a literal “Djinn Djoint”) as their introduction.

Not surprisingly, they find that the port town’s locals – a menagerie of all races, including many monster types – are all on the take.  They gladly try to shake down any & all newcomers for bribes (the scam calling for their ‘papers’ is how they signal to each other just how gullible the marks are).

Thus lightened of a few hundred gold, they make their way to the bar and stop to loudly knock on the door to this public establishment, the first of several misunderstandings.

Eventually, they meet the owner (‘Rick’), who has been involuntarily quite dry for a few weeks and, after watching him get shaken down for a kickback to the local constabulary, Captain Citroën (a Beholder-esque creature, with a Golem for muscle), are able to explain that they’re really there to capture exotic animals for Wiggham’s menagerie, whereupon he agrees to show them some collectable animals if they take his defective ‘Wand of Kobold Summoning’ repaired by the Wizard Humphrey who lives up the semi-nearby Gno River, as it is through this device that he summons Kobolds to train them to be domestic servants (complete with white jacket, black trousers and a red fez hat) for affluent monstrous families.  Too bad they never inquired about who any of these families might be (perhaps Beholders?).

They arranged a meeting point for their ship to meet them and transported by the wind-walk later, they’re halfway to their destination, which, after another magical casting later by the Djinn on materials they gathered, they also have a boat with which to paddle upstream.  En route, they discover some of the animals which Rick had promised that they would find, namely Hippos (later, 3 are brought back).

After an overnight spent too close to the forest, the third watch wakes, to discover their 2nd Watch totally missing, along with their boat.  As they start to search for their missing compatriots, they are ambushed by intelligent, tool-using black squirrels, who down a third party member with their paralysis poisoned darts before the party takes out these one hit dice creatures with a lightning bolt and a blunderbuss (12 ga shotgun).  They successfully scout to find their missing party members floating downstream on their boat, still quite paralyzed…who become a tad traumatized when they see that their boat falls apart at lunchtime, when its 24 hour enchantment ends (which would have been prior to the end of the paralysis). Receiving some loot they march on, they meet an unusually harmless intelligent elephant herd who’s terrified of the ‘mice’ in the bamboo forest who have captured their matriarch (“Elephant Queen”) and would be happy to join Wiggham’s Mangerie to not have to constantly cope with those ‘bad’ mice, at a spot where the river goes fully into the bamboo forest.   At this point, the party decides to return back downriver, capturing a few hippos along the way, and to the Bay of the Gno River to meet their ship to return home. They also contemplate a genocide campaign against the black squirrels who control the bamboo forest.

Outcome:  the goal of visiting Humphrey for a new wand was not accomplished, but plenty of information, and an exotic animal species was obtained for the Whiggam Menagerie.

Run #2:  Teth – Gno River Bay

The party travelled two weeks to the east coast of Teth, but rather than to visit the ‘Gin Joint’ in the seedy port town of Telooin, they decide to proceed directly to the “Snake’s belly” – the bay of the Gno River, and use one of the ship’s nonmagical longboats to travel upstream, intending again to visit Humprey for a replacement Wand of Kobold Summoning.

Several days pass in travel, where they encounter various river hazards – hippos again, along with huge crocodiles, although they were forwarned to not overnight on the western bank.  They do notice one night a few sets of red glowing eyes on the far bank, which they (of course) choose to investigate, since that they were visible at beyond Darkvision made it too tempting.  While a ‘Sanctuary’ spell does initially provide protection, they found a fire-based ‘demonic’ sheep that breathed fire with the taste of flesh, not grass. Quickly disengaging, they also found that a fireball made them grow larger, so they don’t suggest that as a solution.

Approaching where the Gno River finally enters into the bamboo forest, they camp for one final night just outside, where a keen-eared human on watch tries to convince his dwarven compatriot that he hears tiny, high pitched bagpipes.  They choose to investigate by casting light onto a rock and tossing the rock across the river, revealing a squadron of green & black kilt-wearing black squirrels … who then fire a huge volley of arrows at them. The party reacts by applying the “Best defense is a good offense” brace of Fireballs (of course), and although one being neutralized through a counterspell by another member of the party, a large serving of squirrel, extra crispy, is produced and the coordinated attack is successfully disrupted.  The party doesn’t realize it, but they’ve now successfully cleared the resistance from the path to the Wizard Humphrey and could have proceeded unimpeded to accomplish that goal. But instead, the party was satisfied with the squirrel’s loot and returned downriver to their ship and home.

Outcome:  the goal of visiting Humphrey for a new wand was not accomplished, due to part of the party actively working against their own goals.  But some additional information on the region was nevertheless gleaned, with an unusual new animal found (although not captured).

Run #3:  Up the River (again)

The party travelled two weeks to the east coast of Teth, and returned to Telooin, bringing a supply of Gin again to the Djinn Djoint.  Being much savvier on bribes, they paid only a tenth of the first party, and did note that it was a scam. They ask some more intelligent questions and conclude (correctly) that Rick knows much more about the squirrels than he is letting on to, although Rick does reveal to them that the green & black tartan are opposed by a blue & red tartan, as well as teach them a summoning ritual that’s ostensibly for the Black Squirrels.  It actually is to attract the Green Torbat, an otherwise unknown species, who actually hunts the squirrels. Like the first party, they take avail of the offer for a Wind Walk halfway up the river, as well as of a patterned temporary boat from the Djinn…and they proceed upstream. After a day, they ditch the patterned boat and use their own folding boat that they had prepared in advance and had brought with them (in a ‘portable hole’ type of device).  During breaks, the players get up and practice the ‘summoning ritual’ (IRL it is actually the T’ai Chi Eight Form).

As they travel, their nights are protected by use of Leomund’s Tiny Hut.  They become aware that the squirrels are tailing them, and one partymember uses a Hat of Disguise to appear like MAJ Nelson (the Djinn) during the day, which successfully causes confusion amongst the squirrels and a contact note from their boss “TN” (‘Totally Nuts’) to be left one night.  As they progress to where the river enters the forest, they enter, magically disguising their boat as a large crocodile and make it through the squirrel’s territory without any battles. Therein, they sail across a large lake to the base of a huge cliff that’s 1000 ft tall. Casting a Commune with Nature, they locate a keep atop the cliff and the directions to a path up the cliff.  They break for a night’s rest and during the midwatch, a heavy, bone-splintering crash is heard, and a short time later, the movement of something large stumbling roughly through the underbrush & rocks and then ascending up a narrow path. The next morning, they find the crash site, which has fresh blood, a few scraps of a blue & red tartan and tracks which lead to the path up the cliff.  They very gingerly and carefully proceed up the path, which becomes steeper and a rock climb, finally reaching the top before sunset, where they overnight again, as their scout had spotted trolls on the castle wall (wearing blue & red tartan), where quite curiously, two tossed a third troll over the castle wall for a 40ft fall. The next morning, they approach the gate of the castle and hail:  they ask to be let in for an audience with Humphrey. The portcullis is obligingly raised and they’re allowed into the inner courtyard (killing zone) whereupon the portcullis is closed and the trolls become confused, as no one has gone to notify the Master and none of them knows who’s supposed to do this. A disagreement breaks out, which is successfully inflamed by the Party trying to assign a troll to perform the task, who is jealously set upon by another troll, and then another, as they’re now fighting for who will go do this.  In brief order, one, two and then a third troll is tossed over the wall, leaving but one troll victorious over the others. With the portcullis closed, all the Party has to do is kill off one troll and they have the run of the castle.

…but then the wild magic from the release of Magus (Chris’s Run) happens.

Feeling uncomfortably full of mana, the Mage first tries the Prestidigitation cantrip to make a small test ‘spark’.  To his surprise, it manifests into a wild (full/max) Lightning Bolt forming on his fingertips – - the last remaining troll atop the wall leaps over the wall to escape the tentacles of the building electrical charge – - and the Mage quickly turns away from the party and thrusts it instead towards the portcullis.  The lightning strikes strong and holds for seconds, blasting a hole clean through, & shredding/melting away pieces of the portcullis’s iron bars, which creates a metal storm of red hot iron chunks interspersed with the lightning that fly across the gate’s approach bridge, to … oh, the three previously tossed-from-the-parapet trolls had just gotten to the bridge in their run to get back to the front door.  Not no more. In reaction, the Bard tries to to cover up their attack by casting the Minor Illusion cantrip of a dragon’s roar (ie, blame it on someone else), which because of the Wild Magic flow becomes not-so-Minor afterall: not only does most of the Party fail their saves on a FEAR from a dragon’s roar (including the caster), a glimpse of a huge flying creature appears momentarily, and nearly all are now running around in a panic.   One who didn’t panic tries to grab the panicking Dwarf, who intuits a ‘Grease’ spell to escape their grasp….and grease flows out of his pores like a fire hose: in moments, the entire courtyard is ankle deep in grease and three partymembers start sliding down an incline to where an ominous pit trap awaits. They are saved by the last remaining non-feared partymember who Prestidigtates a ‘storm grate’ to cover the pit trap’s hole, which thanks to the Wild Magic is much-larger-than-hand sized, but closer to a King Sized bed.  Finally, a hobbit who had in his panic squeezed through a gigantic slit for the ballista, sees its firing lever, which of course must be pulled to defend against this attack from a so-claimed ‘Grease Dragon’. Ka-Twang! goes the ballista, which had been boresighted on the portcullis entrance as well. It cleanly passes through the chest of the surviving troll, who had similarly just gotten back to the bridge where his now-toasted compatriots lie in grizzled chunks. Fortunately, this contained no fire damage, so the traumatized troll does actually survive (and he is told just how lucky he was to survive an attack from the extremely rare ‘grease’ dragon).

With their grand entrance now complete, the party starts to pick their way through the castle to find Humphrey.  Many traps later, they realize that these are the products of supremely bored trolls to play practical jokes on each other, as they’re not fatal for regenerating creatures.  They finally reach a more civilized portion of the castle where they are announced by magic mouth to walk the red carpet for an audience with Humphrey. They persist in checking every five feet for traps, so nearly three hours later they arrive, finding Humphrey asleep on his royal-appearing grand chair.  Since they don’t murder him in his sleep and sack the place, Humphrey is quite friendly, and provides not one, but two Wands of Kobold Summoning to return to Rick. Humphrey also says that he still wants his familiar (a falcon) back from the Djinn, preferably restored to flesh.

In the home stretch, the party returns down the Gno River to the bay, where they realize that they hadn’t left rendezvous instructions with their ship, which is presumably still moored over in the port town of Telooin.  They return to Telooin and meet with Rick, swapping the wand for some more useful magic items. They did notice a large statue of a falcon, made of black stone, in Rick’s private office, which they presume is Humphrey’s familiar.

Outcome:  the goal of visiting Humphrey for a new wand was finally accomplished.  There’s still the opportunity to try to capture some ‘demon’ sheep, as they had learned that they’re the source of the wool of the Kobolds’ fez hats (and that they taste good too).  Similarly, the Queen of the Enchanted Elephants is still being held captive by someone in the bamboo forest (presumably the tool-using black squirrels).

What was really going on:  the black squirrels are slavers, who have a tribe of Kobolds in the forest that they nominally protect from their normal predators.   Their leader, “Totally Nuts” is partnered with Rick, who uses the wand to move their “merchandise” to market, where the first spend some time at the bar to learn how to be domestic servants before being sold off to affluent families, primarily the beholder families in Camila’s Run.

Humphrey really isn’t part of this, but he’s being blackmailed into it because he wants to get his turned-to-stone familiar back from Rick, and he’s being paid a cut.

The Queen elephant is being held by the squirrels, although indirectly:  she’s being held by the Kobolds who are being held by the squirrels. This is because the Queen has the ability of Telekinesis which isn’t strong enough for her to use against Kobolds, but it is strong enough for her to grab & smash squirrels against trees to kill them.  Finally, there’s also the question of just who possesses Rick’s djinn bottle and just what they might want . . . maybe Captain Citroën?

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Alex’s Scenario Recap (PCon 42)

Many players came from a world previously destroyed by Gargravarr.

What if the ruins of some of the worlds existed, and what if you could visit those ruins, and what if… the ruins were of old PrinceCon worlds?

Thus the Guide was born, and players traveled into a number of worlds to find representative items that could be used in the ritual to make Gargravarr disgorge World Hearts.  In the end, representatives or representative items were found for nearly all worlds that Gargravarr swallowed.

Highlights:

  • Ratri followers traded Baby Audrey, the Seedling of Life, to Elddir for a tool that would free Ratri from her prison in the Last Meadhall in the Multiverse, in exchange for a new Guide page that would lead to Gargravarr’s homeworld, along with a Fate Stone as a representative item for the ritual

  • Players later convinced Haroun al-Marid to contribute Baby Audrey as a representative item to the ritual

  • Players rescued Jaclyn from undead on the frozen planet so that Kristof, her love, would return a piece of the Heart of Rage of Pangaea so that Lydia Blattaria could be restored from suspended animation so that she could aid the final ritual by contributing a piece of the Shattered Heart and a piece of pure Orichalkon from the Pocket Universe

  • Players later convinced the undead on the Frozen Planet to contribute a piece of the Heart of Warmth.  In exchange, priests of Thoki (the god of the undead) are allowed to convert willing people to their religion

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