Monday, July 13, 2015

Hawkhaven Pathfinder Campaign #4: Dead Man's Quest Recap 5 and 6

Deadman’s Quest Chapter 4: “Azan knows all…about dirt!!!”
December 1st-4th, 316 P.E.(May 30th, 2015)
Roll Call: Melora, Izanami, Azarus, Gerik, Ragnar, Gaspar, Sassha
It is a crisp morning in Chessex when the party meets up for breakfast in the inn. At last, the group has all four pieces needed to open the way further into the dungeon, so they travel through the hills. They arrive without any interruption and use the silver awl to open the way to the much older portion of the complex. In they go!

The first thing they see is a corridor decorated with a fresco depicting a priestly type reading from a black scroll, staring at the night sky which is filled with constellation forms of many deities. As the group admires this artwork, they hear the chattering of teeth, then see multiple pairs of beady red eyes reflecting off Gaspar’s light source indicating a whole bunch of hungry vermin. Dire rats, to be exact.

Azarus gets into position while Gerik rages, charges, and slips on a sheet of ice that Melora produced on the ground. (Cue the slide-whistle). The rats, now seeing an easy target, go right for the prone barbarian. The rest of the rats charge towards the remainder of the party. Azarus, Sasha, Izanami, and Ragnar start killing off rats efficiently. Gaspar casts Sanctuary on himself, walks onto the ice sheet, and promptly falls down, then suffers a critical hit from a dire rat. (More slide-whistle, please.)

Gerik, Ragnar, and Melora keep killing rats, while Gaspar heals himself and stands up. The rest of the rats run away via small holes set into the bottom of the wall, leaving the carcasses of 21 of their comrades.

(The rats may be gone, but their influence will linger on. You'll see...)

The group moves further down the hallway to a door without a lock and two alcoves to the
Slogan: "More stupid monsters included
than in any other TSR product"
north and south, each with a large statue of a winged woman in flowing robes holding a sword aloft. Each alcove also has smaller statues of different varieties of dragons, scattered all over the floor, metallic types on one side, chromatic on the other. Gaspar and Izanami check out the two statues, which come to life and attack the party.

(One of the only monsters from the original Fiend Folio that was worth a damn. The Caryatid Columns, ladies and gentlemen!)

Ragnar and Gerik hit the columns, but discover that their weapons are taking damage due to hitting solid stone. Azarus takes the white dragon statue collected earlier and puts it into one of the inlets in the alcove. Melora takes her entire turn to gather up the metallic dragon statues and put them in the inlets of the northern alcove, which emits a clicking sound when she finishes. Gaspar uses one of his time revelations to flicker in and out of time space (like a Blur spell) and gets into flanking position with Ragnar, the latter who suffers a nasty hit.

(I just LOVE enemies whose very skin causes adventurers' weapons to break, don't you?)

Ragnar, Sasha, Gerik, and Izanami finish off the battle with the columns. Azarus collects all of the chromatic dragon statues and puts them in the inlets of the southern alcove, which engages the last lock and opens the door at the end of the corridor while Gaspar heals Ragnar.

The group moves into the next room, adorned with several statues. They are depictions of several gods and goddesses of the world’s pantheon, specifically Adonai, Okham, Stentor, Talludrah, Athena, Pahns, and Duma, and the words "Honor the one that is different". After some discussion about each of the deities in question, Ragnar notices that only one of them is chaotic aligned. Given his background, he gives a slight nod to the statue of Duma which unlocks a secret door across the room.

(Those are the deities of, respectively, Law and Good, Common Sense and Directness, Law and Order, Honor and Nobility, everyone knows who Athena is, Intelligence and Knowledge, and Freedom, Good, and Liberty.

Sasha takes point in the next corridor and begins to search for anything out of the ordinary. She finds a pressure plate, but sets off the trap in an attempt to disarm it. The trap flings out caltrops on the floor in front of her. The group ends up collecting the caltrops and moving along. The group finds a statue with empty hands. Azarus places the cup in the hands and another door opens into a dark room with a very high ceiling.

Gaspar casts Light on Ragnar’s hammer, which he throws into the darkness revealing a ceiling 100 feet up full of webs and four spiders with a red hourglass on their backs. Naturally, they begin to descend on the party.

(Creepy bastards. The spiders, that is, not the party)

The spiders reach the party and engage them. It’s a pitched, furious battle, with Melora taking a nasty bite but everyone managing to defeat the huge vermin. Ragnar and Izanami decide to climb one of the columns in order to get Ragnar’s hammer back. They find a few wrapped up victims of the spiders and find some nice items on them. Feeling like they’ve done enough for now, the group decides to leave, though they take some time to bury the victims of the spiders in a spot outside the complex.

(There are tales of the dead being grateful for having their remains properly buried. Fortunately, Jerry Garcia is nowhere to be found).

On the last hour of travel back to town, the group runs afoul of a wandering chimera. Here we go again! Gerik charges ahead and draws first blood. Izanami and Ragnar follow up but only the former manages a hit. Azarus attempts to blind the dragon head but fails. In retaliation, the chimera’s dragon head breathes fire on both Ragnar and Izanami. The former endures, but the latter goes up like a Roman candle.

Gaspar casts Stabilize on the dying Izanami. Gerik successfully intimidates the beast and he and Ragnar land some good shots on it. Sasha hits with a sneak attack to the point where the beast is now teetering on death’s door. Azarus runs up with his Grim Lantern in hand, casting Burning Hands for the killing blow. After copious amounts of healing, the group makes their way back to the inn safely.
F-I-L..T-H-F..E-V-E-R! Aw hell the song doesn't fit

The group wakes the morning of December 2nd and Melora, Gaspar, and Azarus wake up with a pretty intense fever. After some investigation, the group realizes that the three contracted Filth Fever from the dire rats they fought before. After a little healing from the temple of Duma, the three recover. The group decides to spend the day in town and do some shopping and recover from more wounds, also giving the sick people a chance to rest up..

(Those dirty rats...literally and figuratively!)

On December 3rd, the group goes back to the dungeon in the hills. They arrive at the room they fought the spiders and continue on down the stairs. They enter into a room full of books, and meet two creatures whose arms and torsos are human, heads with ram horns, and what looks to be a caterpillar like lower half. They are psychpomps, and they engage the party in some nice civilized discussion. In the course of these talks, the group finds out that the psychopomps, nicknamed Yin and Yang, are servants of true neutrality who guard the library.

(I just love that name...psychopomp. Neutral outsiders, and these ones in particular are scholars. Not looking for a fight unless one is brought to them.)

Once the chatting is over, the psychopomps allow the party to read any books in the library. Even better, time practically stands still, so they end up gaining some skills. Ying and Yang tell the group that one of the black scrolls does in fact exist somewhere in the dungeon and it’s guarded by the entity who built the complex. They also mention that the second scroll is located in Norgheim. The party moves on.

..not to mention Spam-loving Vikings!
( of ice and snow, herring, mead, the Aesir, longships, magic hammers, Valkyries, frost giants, and Viking kittens)

Inside this room are two doors, one with dials, and one featureless. Also inside the room are two skeletons encrusted with gemstones. The things come to life and engage the party the moment they walk into the room.

(Don't you love constructs made to look like undead? I sure do!)

Azarus and Melora attempt undead-affecting spells and they flat-out don’t work, which helps the group figure out that these two creatures are actually constructs and not undead. (See?) While the major combatants engage the constructs, Melora explores the side room and finds an urn with runes etched on it, so she uncorks it. This results in Melora releasing an earth genie named Azan, who is the creator of the complex, and pleased to be finally free. Melora asks him to take care of the constructs, which he does in short order.

(I love role-playing genie-kind NPCs. They are so bombastic yet subservient, humble yet egotistical).

At this point, the group looks to the dials on the door. Gaspar asks Azan in what year he built this complex. Azan tells the party and they input the number on the dials, which unlocks the door. At this point, Azan warns that the group will have to deal with an earth elemental and the very walls themselves. After that, the party must reason with the ego of Deysin in order to gain the black scroll.

The group also learns that beyond the urn room is a temple to Oghma that is protected by two old enemies of Deysin that he killed and turned into mummies. The group decides to pre-emptively attack the mummies and establish a secure base of operations in the temple. The barbarians rage and charge a mummy, which causes both to animate and attack. Azarus is able to gain control of one of the mummies and commands it to attack its counterpart. Sasha is struck with paralyzing fear from the mummies, but Melora grabs her and drags her into the temple, which removes the fear.

(Gotta love the old "safe zone within the dungeon" trope)

Fred the Mummy...IF HE WAS A WHORRRE!
Azarus, Izanami, and Gaspar make their way into the temple and let the mummies duke it out. However, the barbarians continue to try hitting but don’t really connect. The commanded mummy, who is now named Fred, defeats the other mummy with a little help from the barbarians. Fred then goes into the other room and finishes off the skeleton constructs that had been sunk into the ground courtesy of Azan. With all enemies dealt with, the group decides to rest for the night before tackling the final part of the complex.


On the morning of December 4th. the group makes their way past the door with the dials. They move into another room with even more dials, six of them, that have the letters of the alphabet on it. Melora spells out “Deysin,” on the dials and the door opens, revealing one of the black scrolls on a pedestal. Inscribed on a plate in front of it in Valgarese, “Be sure of your actions.” Ragnar grabs the scroll and another message appears on the doorway in the place: "The wheels are now in motion. To get the second, seek out the keeper of mystery who dwells where immortals and mortals mingle freely."

(Nice going, Melora. Failure to use the dials properly would've resulted in Earth Elemental carnage. As for the mysterious words, they are directing the party to seek out the oracle in the elven trade city of Alverene, where elves and non-elves mingle and do commerce.)

 The group takes the scroll with them and makes their way back to Chessex.

Deadman’s Quest Chapter 5: Welcome To Norgheim
December 5th-11th, 316 PE (June 27th, 2015)
Roll Call: Melora, Gunnar, Tolg, Izanami, Azarus, Gerik, Gaspar
The group wakes on the morning of the 5th in Chessex having finished completely exploring the dungeon in the hills and now having one of the black scrolls. Given the information gathered after gaining the first black scroll, the group rides to the elven trade city of Alvarene in search of an oracle who might point them in the right direction to the next black scroll. The party arrives in Alvarene by early evening, enjoying an incident-free trip.

When they arrive at the city, the party is greeted by a guard who helps them find the Oracle of Alvarene. The oracle pegs the group as fated individuals of some sort and leads them into the back of his establishment. Once there, the oracle has a vision and begins to spout forth a prophecy involving the black scrolls and a war that is coming. The group’s first stop based on the prophecy is to go to the country of Norgheim, to the legendary Graveyard of Dragons, specifically looking for the Tomb of the Ice Wyrm.

(Oracles are not the most common sight in elven cities, which is why finding him was so easy.)

Wait..a setting where elves aren't sadly fading away?
That hardly seems right!!!
The Oracle tells them of a quick way to Norgheim via a ghost stone, located in the heart of the kingdom of Hanael. Since non-elves are forbidden from walking in Hanael, he bestows on each party member an invisible mark that makes them elf-friends. Before they leave, they do a bit of shopping and in the midst of the shopping, meet up with their late-arriving friend Tolg. Once rested, they head out in the morning, December 6th.

(Elves in my world forbid non-elves from entering Hanael proper. Only if the non-elves are somehow given the status of elf-friend can they be allowed to travel unchallenged. That arrangement is most rare.)

After some uneventful travel through the elven forest kingdom for a day and a half, they arrive at the ghost stone, only to find a black cat calmly watching them. The cat speaks , asking the group why they are there. The surprised party replies with a phrase the oracle instructed them to use: the oracle knows the guardian’s secret and the oracle will reveal it to all, should the guardian of the stone hinder the party.

This prompts the guardian himself to appear, who happens to be the very much alive founder of the kingdom of Hanael, Lord-Archmage Noro Goldentree. He invites them into his home and asks their story before letting them use the ghost stone. The party explains their purpose, and when they finish, Noro adds that his people have experienced some odd manifestations of a magical plague, specifically certain maidens, and no one knows why. Some say it has to do with prophecies of the dead god of rot and disease and that the party may have some part to play in dealing with this ostensibly dead god. The group rests for the night under Noro's hospitality.

(Noro is the second character I ever rolled up, way back in 1978. I would play him several times a week until the mid-80's. When I "retired" from playing and focused solely on full-time DMing, he had led the elves of my world into the deep forests to re-establish the elven kingdom, the above-mentioned Hanael. Now, about 2080 years later, he has retired into the deepest woods, having faked his death, and lives alone with his familiar, the black cat named Midnight. Noro is a 25th level Fighter/25th level Wizard, Chaotic Good, and 2224 years old. Noro's grandson Ansalor is now king of Hanael.)

Apparently the oracle at Alverene knows of Noro's deception and has no compunctions about spilling his secret. Noro himself is of two minds. On one hand, he wants nothing more than to be left alone with his studies, his star-gazing, and his hobbies, enjoying retirement and waiting for death to take him someday. On the other hand, he rather misses the adventuring life, being as how he started out as an adventurer when he was a young lad of 150. Thus, he feels a kinship with this new generation and sort of wants to help them and watch their progress. This contradiction is a source of frustration, much to Midnight's amusement.)
The group rises the next morning, the 8th, ready to make their way to Norgheim via the ghost stone. Before they leave, Noro gives them a small wooden cube with Secure Shelter cast on it 12 times, and a few scrolls for the arcane casters (Azarus and Melora). When the group activates the power of the ancient stone, they are instantly transported into a bleak, hostile, cold environment. They begin traveling east towards their destination. As the group slogs onward, they eventually run afoul of a dozen frost wights.

(And so began one of THE worst bits of dice rolling I've don in years. Seriously. My dice SUCKED. These frost wights are terrifying things. Instead, they resembled the Keystone Kops if they were made out of Kleenex. Fortunately, I have a lot more chances of showing what these bad boys can really do!)

The wights engage the party but either badly miss or slip on some ice created by Melora. Meanwhile, Tolg channels positive energy to wear down the undead, Gerik, with his nice new great-axe, downs most of their number. Azarus controls two wights and makes them turn against their own, and some timely arrows from Gunnar downs a couple. Izanami kills one and Gaspar supports with spells as well as phasing one wight out of time and space. All in all, the group handily beats the wights, earning a few new magical items. After this, the group travels a bit longer and then rests for the night in the magical shelter that Noro provided them.

I dunno, I kinda like it here!
(Okay, let's stop here and get an idea of exactly how awful a place this dragon graveyard is, bad dice notwithstanding.  Picture if you will an elephant's graveyard, but remove the word "elephant" and place "evil cold-based draconic types" in its place. It's also huge, about 100 miles long and 50 miles at its widest point. Now, this has been the dying place of these monsters for at least 3,500 years, and that's a lot of dead evil dragons. This means the land has been soaking up all of those evil death essences like a sponge, so the entire area has the necromantic equivalent of constant low-level background radiation. It won't hurt or interfere with the player characters, but it has other effects.

Now, consider if you will how many unscrupulous, grave-robbing types out there hear the words "dead dragons", and think "easy treasure". So, year after year, dozens of opportunistic, greedy, unprincipled types go up there looking for all of that unguarded loot, and instead find death. Then that necromantic energy kicks in, and they all come back as frost wights.

But wait, there's more...

It's also freaking DECEMBER, so the temperature rarely gets above freezing. Even worse, the sun never makes it over the horizon, so you have perpetual darkness- no sunlight. Not so good for living creatures, totally awesome for undead.

As for any kind of civilization, that would be about a week's slog to the south, to the appropriately named Fort Heimdall, which guards Norgheim's northern frontier from incursions of white dragons, frost giants, and ice trolls. So, good luck finding a safe place to level up without undertaking that fun trek.

And oh yes, let's not forget the aforementioned living monsters that range around here, such as the white dragons, frost giants, and ice trolls.

Not to mention the tribes of gnolls in the area...

And the ogre clans...

This is going to be FUN!)

Morning comes and the group presses on. At around 10 am, a white dragon catches up with and engages the group. The group gets in a few good licks, but the dragon uses its breath weapon, downing Azarus and seriously wounding both Gerrik and Gunnar. The group throws itself at the dragon, landing some blows while Gaspar revives Azarus. The dragon advances to Gunnar and bites him, making him fall. Gaspar attempts to phase the dragon out of time and is successful in taking the dragon out of reality for a couple of rounds.

(I honestly never thought that Dibz' oracle would amount to much, but this character is consistently kicking ass. I'm impressed. And hey, the party's first dragon kill! Of course, it IS a white dragon, and they are the weakest of the lot).

The group use this handy respite to heal back up and get into position, pouncing back on the dragon when it reappears. Melora slows the dragon with a spell, which helps to limit its attacks and Gerrik gets in the final blow, felling the beast. The group harvests the scales of the dragon and press on, stopping for the night when it gets too late.

Yeah, kinda like this....
Unfortunately, while comfortably situated in their secure shelter, a frost-fallen mammoth (basically an undead elephant behemoth), makes a beeline straight for the group's camp.  Gunnar and Gerik are on guard duty, and they see this huge undead thing charging right for them. Gunnar goes to wake up the group while Gerik does a banzai charge, alone, making a beeline towards the undead locomotive. After a brief, furious fight, the mammoth was in fact driven off, courtesy of Melora making it fatigued, and Azarus doing a Chill Touch, causing it to flee in panic. The group was in no shape to press a pursuit. They went back into their shelter to tend to their wounds.

(Turns out I screwed up here. Since the Frostfallen Mammoth is undead, it should not have been fatigued nor frightened. Let's call it a case of "last encounter of the night, DM was up too early and is starting to fade" syndrome. In game, let's say that the party's robust resistance and the spells being thrown around managed to distract it enough that it decided to wander off and lick its wounds. No worries; there's plenty more Frostfallen Mammoths where this one came from! But for the future, remember: and spell that affects the mind or Fortitude will not work. My bad!)

When we begin next, it will be the morning of the 11th of December.

(And the biggest problem the party faces is: where can they find a safe place to rest up and gain experience points? Remember, the nearest civilized locale, Fort Heimdall, is at least a week's march away. Good luck with that.)