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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Dec 08, 2020 8:26 pm  
    Post 146: Down the Oyt Avon

    Post 146: Down the Oyt Avon

    22 January, 571 [Fireseek 28] - Oytmeet (lowlands)
    Ossian and his crew are up before dawn, reading Na Fèidh for departure. At first light they cast off, poling the barge until it swings into the current of the Oyt Avon. Despite Ossian’s words from the night before, he makes no effort to continue his conversation with Willa, and he and the hands are in good spirits.

    The first hour out of Oytmeet they pass through a narrow valley of agricultural land. Trails run on either side of the river, and they glide by numerous villages and farmsteads. After that, the valley opens up for the rest of the morning, the trails recede from the river, and it is all sheep pasturage. Here the river is slow, and while the peilot is always alert and steering, many of the hands doze on the deck.

    By the early afternoon they have reached the end of the valley. The cliffs converge, and the ground grows rough and rocky. They leave even the pastures behind. All afternoon is spent maneuvering through canyons. Foamy white spray from the river coats the sides of the barge and even lands on deck. All hands are manning poles to keep them from colliding with the walls and rocks in the river and keep them from lodging on sand bars. The first hour is the most intense, but Ossian calls for all hands innumerable times after. Finally, as the sun is reaching the western horizon, the river straightens, slows, and pasture lands again appear on the bank. Ossian grounds the barge along a curve in the river and announces that they are done with traveling for the day.

    [ Used 8 pounds meat and forage; 10 pounds meat and forage remaining
    38 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 14 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 82 pounds charcoal remaining]

    23 January, 571 [Readying 1] - The Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    The pleasant rolling pastureland they glimpsed last evening continues all morning long. To the west, some five or ten miles away from the river, are high bluffs. To the east is open pastureland as far as they can see, with occasional copses or larger stands of forest on the rougher or higher ground.

    At midmorning comes their first navigational challenge of the day - negotiating a gravely-bottomed ford where the Oyt Avon is wide but shallow. The twin trails from Oytmeet, the one following the east bank and the other the west, cross here, and there are thorps on both sides of the river.

    After the ford, they continue on through the sheep country, but the copses grow larger and thicker, the forest stands running together, and the pasturage retreating to smaller and smaller fields closer and closer to the river. They are, announces Ossian, at the outskirts of the Oytwood.

    The sun is low in the west, but they have an hour or more of light left, when the rise that had been blocking their view of the left bank gives way to valley bottom, revealing another river, the Lea, about to join with the Oyt. Here Ossian guides the barge to the slow shallows, and calls the party together. He has, he says, faithfully delivered them to the mouth of the Lea, as promised, and another 50 gold lions are due him. What’s more, the party will need to decide what to do next. If they disembark here, they can make a day’s march up the valley of the Lea to the city of that name. From there, good trails lead north through Pregmere and eventually to their goal of Dersyth. Or, they can stay on the Oyt Avon. The river will take them more than half the distance north to the city they seek - but at a cost of carrying them far further east than they want. Do they wish to disembark tonight, or hire Na Fèidh for the journey through the Oytwood to Preston-on-the-Javan?

    After a short discussion, Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora all agree that they will continue on the Oyt downriver. Ossian nods, brings the Na Fèidh back out into the current, and spends the rest of the daylight running the rapids that are formed by the confluence of the two rivers. When the river finally returns to calm waters again, he steers the barge to the shore for the night.

    [ Used 8 pounds meat and forage; 2 pounds meat and forage remaining
    38 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 12 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 76 pounds charcoal remaining
    50gp paid for barge]

    24 January, 571 [Readying 2] - The Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    Once the party starts out in the morning, the forest rapidly approaches both banks of the river and grows more dense. The last pastureland becomes a memory, and the barge spends the entire day going downriver through the thick wood. Ossian tries to keep Na Fèidh in the center of the river, and encourages the party to be alert for movement along the banks, or anything that might betray the presence of brigands or humanoid bands. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but several of them come to feel that they are being watched. The forest boasts all sorts of trees including a wide range of fruit trees. The mixture does not provide a consistent canopy. Sunlight penetrates the forest, undergrowth is prevalent, and they cannot see far from the river except in cases where distant forested hills rise up above the treeline.

    In the evening, Ossian continues to navigate far later than he has before, using the light of Luna’s growing crescent. When asked about it, he says that they need to make sure they are well beyond the elven village of Edhellond. If the village comes to the banks of the river, there is no sign of it to those on the barge, but Ossian insists that without an invitation from the fey, they will not be overnighting in the area. Even when they are well beyond, and Ossian relents and allows the barge to moor, he requests that the party set a double watch for the night.

    [ Used 2 pounds meat and forage and 6 pounds human rations; 32 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 10 mule rations remaining
    2 pounds charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining]

    25 January, 571 [Readying 3] - The Oytwood, on the Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    With nothing untoward passing in the night, Ossian and his hands are up even before first light, eager to cast off. Once it is light, the party can see that the forests are thinning and becoming interspersed with meadow. At midmorning, Ossian steers the barge to the banks and says the party has another decision. Up ahead, they can see a few wooden buildings on both sides of the river, and a ferry running between the banks. Ossian tells them that if they are bound for Dersyth, he can have them disembark on the north bank of the Oyt Avon, where the trail will take them to the city after several days’ march. He and his crew will be going another five miles down the Oyt, to where it enters the Javan, and then another six miles down the mighty Javan, to Preston, there to resupply before they make their way home. If the party wants a chance to buy goods before they set out up the trail, they should stay with the barge. If they feel that they are well-supplied, and can make New Midwood on their own, then being dropped off here, sooner, will save them a half-day’s journey back north from Preston.

    Aurora has been keeping track of supplies - although they exhausted their fresh food on the previous day and will be using trail rations on their march, they still have half a week’s worth - and Thokk and Larry have a new hunting trap. The party decides to disembark now, and Ossian steers Na Fèidh to the north bank. The dock there is just large enough for the river ferry, not the barge, but the peilot makes it work for long enough for the party to disembark. The mules take the longest time, not trusting the gangplank, and Ossian has to hustle to get Na Fèidh away before the ferry arrives. Already the peilot of that craft is shaking his fist at them as he approaches, so the party decides to continue up the trail before he makes port. They get two miles of walking in, back along the river bed, before they stop for a mid-day meal.

    The land they are traveling through is the now-familiar Geoffan sheep country, so Willa is not ready to loose Thokk just yet, instead waiting until they get farther from the river and perhaps settled lands. As the afternoon wears on, they do climb some hills, up and out of the Oyt river valley, but when they come back down the other side, they find themselves in the Javan valley, with just as much pasturage about as before. As the afternoon wears on into evening, however, they climb still higher, into rugged lands of light forest, and leave the sheep fields behind. If it stays like this on the morrow, Willa will give them leave to hunt.

    [ Used 8 human rations; 24 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration use, supplemented by forage; 9 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining
    55gp paid to Ossian and crew]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Dec 15, 2020 10:55 am  
    Post 147: Oyt Ferry to New Midwood

    DM's note on sources: Prenffrwyth is not on Darlene's maps but is on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description of it from, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 147: Oyt Ferry to New Midwood

    26 January, 571 [Readying 4] - The Oytwood, on the Javan (lowlands)
    As the party breaks camp in the morning, Willa selects Babshapka as their forward scout, and tells Thokk to remain behind the party to hunt, but to catch up by mid-day. Larry she would send to hunt as well - but on this level ground with a trail, he is going to be hard-pressed to keep up with the main party as it is, without falling behind further to hunt. Thus he is kept with the main host.

    For most of the morning, the track remains in the rocky highlands overlooking the broad Javan river. As the morning wears on, however, they descend back into pastureland, and soon after come upon the outskirts of a village at the edge of a wood. It is so close to mid-day that the village is the obvious location for their meal, but Willa wants to make sure that Thokk has rejoined them before they enter. She sends Babshapka ahead to scout the village while the rest of the party waits on the trail.

    It is not long before they spot Thokk coming up the track toward them, empty-handed. By the time he reaches them, Babshapka has returned as well, the village being small and easily scouted. Prenffrwyth is a small community of a few hundred humans. What is remarkable, notes Babshapka, is that nearly all of the villagers work as skilled craftsmen in wood. The remainder are either shepherds or work servicing the trail, including the village’s single inn - which has common rooms, but no private rooms. “Good eno’ fer lunch,” decides Willa, and they eat their mid-day meal hot off the grill. While they dine, Babshapka engages in conversation with the proprietor. She explains that the village was founded generations ago by a forward-thinking Goeffan nobleman who had negotiated a deal with the elves of the Oytwood: in exchange for not logging the lands claimed by the elves, the elves would sell wood to the nobleman, from trees carefully selected and harvested by the elves. The nobleman stood to gain more from the taxes on the fine woods than from the sale of lumber, which was abundant in the region. He encouraged woodworkers from Old Midwood, across the Javan, to settle in the village, and with their labors they produced crafted goods worth even more in taxes. Over time the village came to be sought out by those from all over the cantrev, or even farther afield, wishing to 'prentice as woodworkers. Today these craftsmen represent the majority of the villagers, and the original deal with the elves remains.

    The first five miles of afternoon travel are through the forested lands north of the village. They are surprised to find that the woods are old and intact, perhaps even a remnant of the ancient Oytwood. Just the thinnest margin of the forest near the village shows signs of being used for firewood, with no trace of the source of the wood they saw in the numerous crafting shops. Once they emerge on the other side of the forest, again along the Javan, they can see the walled town of New Midwood up ahead, where a much smaller river flows into the Javan. They reach the town just before the gates are closed at dusk, and a few words from Tyrius are sufficient to gain them entrance, including Thokk. That evening is spent at an inn.

    There is a scop at the inn, entertaining the crowd, though not a graduate of the College of Cainaith. To Willa’s question, he confirms that long ago, even before the Age of Heroes, even before there were humans in Geoff, the three great wooded lands of the Dim Forest, the Oytwood, and the Hornwood were as one - one unbroken forest that stretched across the length and breadth of the land. The fey held their hunts and revels there and lived beyond time. It was only after the Gyri arrived and settled along the Javan and began cutting trees for their homes and sheep folds that the Dim Forest was sundered from the Oyt Wood. Of course, this incurred the wrath of the fey, who sent the evil fey races into the world to punish the humans for their hubris. The scop indicates Thokk with a flourishing gesture when he speaks of the evil fey races.

    [ Used 2 human rations; lunch and dinner at inns; 22 human rations remaining
    No mule ration use, forage in day and stabling at lunch and dinner; 9 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Dec 22, 2020 8:37 am  
    Post 148: The Road to Dersyth

    DM's note on sources: New Midwood is not on Darlene's maps but is on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description of it from, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources. Based on the descriptions therein, New Midwood would not canonically exist yet in the timeline of my adventure, just Midwood on the other side of the Javan. The fogs off of the river are from that source. Naming the river Rhychdir is my invention, based on the name of the cantrev of its headwaters. The name of the cantrev ruler is from that source.

    Post 148: The Road to Dersyth

    27 January, 571 [Readying 5] - New Midwood (lowlands)
    [Light Rain 11am - 1pm][Drizzle 1pm - 3pm]

    As the party sets forth from the inn in the morning, they are greeted by a heavy fog from the River Rhychdir, tributary of the Javan. Fortunately the road to Dersyth is broad and well-marked. They follow it gratefully, and would soon be walking in circles without the slick cobbles leading through the town and, beyond the gates, the drainage ditches bordering the road. The road takes them up and away from the river, and the rising sun burns back the fog, so that by the time they are a league from New Midwood they can see the green pasture land around them and, far to the north, and for the first time, the Barrier Peaks!

    Throughout the morning’s travel, the road rises and falls along the slopes above the river. An hour before they stop for lunch a light rain begins to fall, and continues for several hours, although it eventually slows to a drizzle. They are wet, but not cold in the warm daylight and not slowed on the good road in the highlands.

    The rain is finally letting up as the road turns and leads back down to the river. There, in the valley bottom, the path splits. A lesser track crosses the river at a bridge, while the main road continues along the river itself. The scop told them, the night previous, that there would be two roads to Dersyth. The more direct, but less traveled, way is the northern branch across the river. The southern route takes longer, but passes through more settled lands. Here with the choice in front of them, they all agree that they prefer the direct route.

    The bridge is of ancient timbers lashed together and supported by stone pilings across the river. The wood is sodden and slippery, but bears their weight. They are not far across when the trail climbs to rough ground and their view is blocked by encroaching woods. There are only four hours or so to their evening camp, but Willa tells Thokk to drop back and hunt.

    The party makes their camp in a small clearing in the woods. Thokk joins them soon after, carrying with him a scrawny owl which becomes dinner. He and Larry disappear into the woods, setting up their hunting trap somewhere nearby for the night. Willa reflects on what Ossein said about the elves of the Oytwood, and on what the scop said last night, about the fey releasing evil fey as a punishment to humans who did not respect their land. She asks Umbra what she knows about the elves hereabouts, and whether the party should take any precautions when traveling or hunting in forests.

    Umbra is silent for a long time. Those near her in the gathering dusk can see her face twisting, as if recalling painful memories. When she finally speaks, her voice is calm and cold. “What’s done is done. Ossein was wise not to anger the elves of the Oyt. Those of the Dim Forest and the Hornwood are the same. But these” - and she gestures at the trees around them - “are now human lands, all the way from here to Dersyth. Do what you will, hunt where you like, it makes no difference.”

    [ Used 2 pounds meat caught today, 3 rations, and inn fare at breakfast; 19 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 8 mule rations remaining
    2 pounds charcoal used; 72 pounds charcoal remaining]

    28 January, 571 [Readying 6] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Thunderstorm 9pm-12am]
    The party is awakened in the night by nearby screams and thrashing. Thokk trots off into the woods and, moments later, the screams cease. He returns with a yearling roe deer slung over his shoulders, one leg twisted at an improbable angle. He begins skinning and gutting the dear as the others return to sleep.

    After a breakfast of hot venison, the party starts off down the trail. The woods continue and the ground rises until mid-morning, at which point they break out into more open meadows. Eventually they see crofts, cottages, and barns in the distance - more sheep country, though no villages larger than a cluster of houses are in sight. Innumerable trails cross the main track, but it is clear which is the main road. The party camps for lunch, enjoying more venison in the open grasslands.

    Shortly after they resume their march, the trail enters the forest again, and begins climbing up a steep, rocky slope. They crest this and pass down into a high valley of trees and meadows. Willa calls for a campsite underneath the edge of a forest, as Larry points out the gathering clouds.

    The last of the venison, supplemented by trail rations, makes their dinner, and Thokk eagerly sets the trap again before turning in.

    Several hours after dark, the sky is rent by thunder, lightning, and rain. The downpour continues until midnight.

    [ Used 6 pounds meat (caught), 1 ration; 18 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 7 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]

    29 January, 571 [Readying 7] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Wandering Encounter: Men, Patrol]
    [Thunderstorm 8am - 10am; half movement]
    Umbra and Babshapka have the predawn watch. They are enjoying the dawn chorus of birds greeting the day throughout the forest around them when both prick up their ears. To the west, up the trail, the birds have gone silent. They have the party up and armed by the time the strangers appear, though few of them have their armor on.

    A squad of six soldiers, headed by an officer, approaches them cautiously. The men are in woolen tartans, cloaks and skirts, though of a different color and pattern than those they saw around Gorna. They have leather breeches besides, long spears, and several of them carry slings as well. The officer has a shortsword and buckler at his belt - his long spear bears a pennant, of two hands clasped together on a green field.

    The officer introduces them as a patrol for his lord, the Arglwyth Briallen merch Luther, ruler of the Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed. He has a number of questions for them, but ultimately seems satisfied with Tyrius’ answers. He tells them that as outlanders, that can’t be expected to know all the laws of the cantrev, but keeping a close watch on Thokk and not drawing their weapons within town will be a good start. The party asks about the trail to Dersyth, and the man explains that they are about four days out, and that the trail will pass through a number of hamlets but none of any size before Dersythtown itself. The party thanks them and the men move on.

    Breakfast is a quick meal of trail rations while camp is packed. The hunting trap is found to be empty - perhaps just as well, as another deer might well have gotten them accused by the patrol of poaching the lord’s game. However, knowing that they are four days out from Dersyth is worrisome as they have less than three days of rations remaining; they will need to rely on their foragers. The party sets out west as the clear morning starts to cloud over.

    The forest they used to shelter from the storm last night goes but a scant mile or so before the trail climbs a high cliff overlooking a river. They spend all the rest of the day looking down on this river from above. In places it passes through broad meadows where sheep graze. Other times it rushes through steep gorges and there is no sign of human habitation about. A thunderstorm slows their advance and soaks them in the midmorning, but they have the rest of the day to dry out and clear skies by the time they camp in the evening, in light woods next to a clear pool.

    [ Used 7 rations; 11 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 6 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 541
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    Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:53 pm  

    I've read through this whole thread, and I just wanted to say bravo. You make the setting come alive with all the little details, and I love how you're willing to go your own way when it benefits your campaign. It's really engaging, and your players are very lucky.

    One question I have is where you got your information about traveling through the wilderness? I'd have thought the rivers were impassible to barges in winter, much less the mountains themselves. I was also surprised that the barge captain turned down Larry's offer to light the way when they were sailing at night-if I were running things, I'd have accepted the offer and extended the rate of travel.

    When I was writing For Crown Or Country, I had to ask several questions on the Greyhawk Resources forum on Facebook about various details I wasn't sure about. Where'd you get your information?
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Dec 29, 2020 8:28 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    I've read through this whole thread, and I just wanted to say bravo. You make the setting come alive with all the little details, and I love how you're willing to go your own way when it benefits your campaign. It's really engaging, and your players are very lucky.

    Thank you, CSL. That it comes from someone whose prolific articles are all about bringing the setting to life with little details makes your recognition even more meaningful.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    One question I have is where you got your information about traveling through the wilderness? I'd have thought the rivers were impassible to barges in winter, much less the mountains themselves. I was also surprised that the barge captain turned down Larry's offer to light the way when they were sailing at night-if I were running things, I'd have accepted the offer and extended the rate of travel.

    I've tried to be as explicit as possible about sources - most times before the party gets to a new city or settlement, for example, I include what I read in preparation. So you can assume that if I don't mention anything, it has been invented by me. And that would be most of the 'landscape scenes' as they travel. Typically what I would do is look at Anna Meyer's maps in as fine a level of detail as possible, and then try to imagine the natural world that would make those maps - how have the rivers carved the valleys, why it is forest in one spot but field in another, would the local peasants be growing sheep or oats, etc. My undergrad degree was in a Geology department, so once upon a time I had a number of earth science classes I draw upon for landforms, my graduate work was in Ecology so I've read a fair bit about competition between species and community assemblages, and I've always been interested in human land use. I am by no means an expert in any of those fields and I'm not saying my conclusions are accurate, but if they are evocative and lend verisimilitude then I would consider myself successful.

    As far as 'winter', I am using the weather generation tables as is from the WoGG. My previous 1E Greyhawk campaign was mostly set in Perrenland and the Vesve, so one thing I did not appreciate when I started this 5E campaign in Saltmarsh is just how far SOUTH the Sheldomar region is. Even Geoff, which I am imagining culturally as quasi-medieval Scotland to Keoland's England, is at 30N Latitude, in the subtropics, with a +20F to all temperature rolls. This is the latitude of RL Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Houston. So 'winter' brings cooler temperatures, to be sure, but it is not like ice floes are going to prevent river travel. If you haven't guessed already, the party is headed for the Barrier Peaks in their quest for the fallen star. Once there, with the adjustments for elevation, they will face some brutally cold conditions that will challenge movement and even survival.

    With respect to Larry's light and river travel, you may recall that I did have the captain of the Banner of Heather accept Larry's help when they were traveling up the Javan [Post 130], even if the Peilot of the Na Fèidh does not [Post 145]. This was just a function of the speed and size of the river. Crawling upstream on the wide and slow Javan, 150 feet of advance warning is plenty of time to maneuver around the occasional floating log or sand bar. Rushing downstream on the narrow Oyt, with frequent rapids to navigate, the extra vision from the light is simply not enough advance warning to avoid something like a rock or a rill, and would blind him to what was even further ahead.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    When I was writing For Crown Or Country, I had to ask several questions on the Greyhawk Resources forum on Facebook about various details I wasn't sure about. Where'd you get your information?

    I don't Facebook, so I didn't know about this forum. Sounds like something I will have to check out, thank you!
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 29, 2020 10:46 am  
    Post 149: A long journey almost ogre

    DM's Note on House Rules
    5E is very much a map grid-based edition, but it assumes that casters can place spells exactly where they want on a battlefield where targets have an exact position. In order to have a bit more verisimilitude for a six-second casting time against moving targets, I have casters make an Arcana check when attempting area of effect spells in combat. Failures are off-target, in the spirit of 1E's misses from a "grenade-like missile". This also helps contain the power of the bigger evocation spells like fireball and lightning bolt, since they can easily not include the optimal number of enemies and can even unintentionally include allies.

    Similarly, when shooting missiles into combat, if a PC rolls a low attack score (low being situationally decided by me but always including critical fails) I require them to make another attack on an ally to see if the miss results in a friendly-fire hit.

    Finally, the 5E rules for interrupting rest allow PC's to return to resting after a combat unless it lasts more than an hour! My players, however, know that even a round of combat will "spoil" their rest so that they do not achieve in-game benefits from it unless they start over.

    Post 149: With the Barrier Peaks in sight, the party's long journey is almost ogre

    30 January, 571 - [Readying 8] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [wandering encounter, predawn, patrolled civilized hills: ogre]

    Umbra and Babshapka are on watch before dawn. Suddenly the chilly air is rent by a deep, horrible cry. Some huge humanoid is screaming out, as if in pain. A second later, perhaps in response, both elves can hear lumbering figures thrashing through the trees and dried grass toward them, scattering rocks with every massive step. The sounds come from all sides - the party appears to be surrounded!

    Surprise round
    Babshapka hears two groups approaching - one up the trail in front of him to the west, another off in the brush to the southwest. Umbra hears the howl of pain from the southeast, but a large group coming from the north. The howls have woken everyone in the camp except Thokk and Eddard.

    Umbra pulls back from the trail to the east of the party and takes cover in the space between a large stump and Shefak’s tent. To the northeast of the camp, fully five eigers are moving rapidly through the brush with nothing between them and the center of camp.

    Round One
    Up the trail in front of him, Babshapka can make out four massive eigers lumbering forward. Their hide “clothes” are tattered, their long greasy hair unkempt, but all are brandishing thick tree limbs as huge clubs. Babshapka whistles a warning to the awakened camp, then drops into the cover of the trees off the trail to his right. As the first eiger comes into close range, he sends off two arrows that sink deep into the brute’s body (16 points).

    Umbra pulls a wand out from her robes and mouths some arcane words. She is surrounded by an inky sphere of darkness which emanates fifteen feet from her in all directions. Its boundaries are hard to see, since the camp itself is still in pre-dawn darkness, but for even those with darkvision, Umbra disappears from view. [One charge from crystal of shadows, 9 remaining].

    The eiger that was shot by Babshapka skids to a halt on the trail, his eyes narrowing and his head swiveling as he searches for the source of the arrows. The eigers behind him bunch up, giving Aurora all the chance she needs. Not ten seconds out of her bedroll, she launches a fiery missile through the air at the west side of camp. As Babshapka sees the flaming sphere sail over his head, he ducks behind a tree, closes his eyes, and presses his back up tightly against the trunk. The fist-size sphere detonates at about chest height on the eigers, and a blast of concussive, fiery force shoots out between them. The eigers are burned and staggered, and a shower of flaming tree limbs shoots past Babshapka. (Aurora Arcana roll 12; Babshapka is unintentionally at the edge of the effect and will need a save for no damage, or fail for half. Babshapka saves for no damage. Eigers all fail for 29 points fire damage to each.)

    [Aurora's rest is spoiled. She starts at 1/3/3 for spell slots with three mage armors cast the day previous and not recovered; fireball takes her to 1/3/2. Her current mage armor runs until 5am, and so she is at full AC15 with spell, Dex, and bracers]

    When the rain of flaming twigs and branches cease, Babshapka rounds the tree trunk and fires off another two shots.

    Larry snorts, growls, and rolls into a crouch. He shakes Thokk awake, grabs his own shield, and then trots over to the trail at the west side of camp.

    [Larry’s chain is medium armor. It would take him 5 minutes to put on; 50 combat rounds. He is now breaking his rest. He starts with 2/3/3 for spell slots with two create waters cast the day previous. He is at AC15 with just Dex and shield.]

    Tyrius awakes with a start, immediately calling to Pelor and surrounding himself with a golden halo of light. He stands up, grabs his shield and mace, and vaults on Eddard bareback, waking the mount in the process. By his light he can see the four eigers emerging from the fireball, but also another three moving toward a clump of trees southwest of the camp. He urges Eddard forward to face them.

    [Tyrius’ plate is heavy armor. It would take 10 minutes to put on; 100 combat rounds. He is now breaking his rest. He starts at 4/2 for spell slots. He is AC12 with just Dex and shield.]

    Thokk grabs his shield and heads over to the same trees as Eddard and Tyrius, bellowing a challenge at the oncoming ogres. Shefak emerges from her tent and starts that way as well, Tyrius being the only source of light in the vicinity. [Thokk is now breaking his rest; he is at his full unarmored defense AC with Dex, shield, and ring. Shefak is breaking her rest, she is at her full unarmored defense AC with Dex and martial arts ability).

    Willa, in her tent, takes a moment to grab her lantern and greatsword. Leaving her armor behind, she moves to the west side of the camp, where the trail is now strewn with branches, some smouldering and some in open flame. She lights her lantern with a nearby burning twig and sets it on the ground behind her as she faces the oncoming eigers.

    [Willa’s magical plate is heavy armor. It would take 10 minutes to put on; 100 combat rounds. She is breaking her rest. She is at AC13 with just her Dex.]

    Round 2
    While Thokk and Tyrius prepare to hold the line against three oncoming eigers, Shefak spots a single one moving up from the south toward the center of the camp. His shape is barely visible against Willa’s lantern light, but gives the monk enough to go by. Shefak moves to engage him, striking at his legs with her staff, and kicking at his hands when he tries to bring his club down on her. (Shefak does 5pts damage).

    The four smouldering eigers arrive within club distance of the party defenders; one on Babshapka partially concealed in the trees, two on Willa and one on Larry in the open on the trail. Another arrives at the camp from the east and sends a javelin into Aurora’s back. (Aurora from 38 to 27hp).

    The eiger facing Babshapka brings his club down in a shower of branches. (15 points, Babshapka from 48 to 33hp). The elf darts away, and follows up with another arrow shot (giant killer ability, damage 10). Babshapka continues to dance around the eiger attacking him. Using the trees as cover, he shoots twice more, and the second sinks another arrow shaft deep into the brute, and it crashes to the ground. (10hp damage; one eiger down). Unfortunately his first shot missed the eiger, but grazed Willa! (attack roll critical fail, 5hp damage, Willa to 57hp).

    The two eigers facing Willa interfere with each other’s blows, so that she is unharmed, despite her lack of armor, and Larry seems too small and nimble for the still-smouldering ogre attacking him to find.

    In the trees to the southeast, however, two eigers and a massive eiger leader have arrived. One misses Thokk, but the other and the leader both land heavy blows on Tyrius’ shield. The paladin barely manages to stay mounted, but Eddard seems to move instinctively under him, keeping him on despite his lack of saddle and stirrups (total 29 points damage, Tyrius from 49 to 20hp).

    As soon as the five eigers bearing down on the camp pass through the edge of Umbra’s sphere of darkness they begin to bump into one another and stumble over tree roots despite their darkvision. One breaks through to the other side, but the other four remain confused and lost in the inky sphere. Umbra, who apparently can see even in the blackness, easily avoids their clumsy steps. (Eiger wisdom saves to orient themselves; four fails one success).

    Willa, wielding her greatsword two-handed, moves among the thick legs of the eigers, striking deep clefts through their calf muscles (two hits, 25hp damage).

    Thokk, now in the heat of battle, bellows a shout of rage and strikes back at the eiger attacking him (two hits, 13hp damage).

    Tyrius, barely keeping his shield above him, and facing both an eiger and eiger leader, swings his war hammer. At each blow he channels the power of Pelor, resulting in a burst of light and extra damage on impact (two hits for 18, plus 16 more in divine smite for 34 points total, Tyrius uses two first level slots and now is at 2/2). Eddard strikes forward with his hooves, but misses the ogres.

    Larry, having just avoided the blow of the eiger facing him, moves around to the side of the brute. He carefully lines up that eiger, one of the ones fighting Willa, and a new eiger approaching the camp from the north. Summoning the power of the mountain spirits, he launches a lightning bolt that strikes all three foes. (25 points damage; two eigers fail their save, one succeeds. Larry now at 2/3/2.) Aurora sends a firebolt at the one closest to Larry, felling the eiger and allowing the dwarf to back out of combat (16hp damage, two eigers now down). She moves quickly to the edge of the trees to gain some cover from the javelins being thrown at her.

    Deep in her cloud of darkness, Umbra puts two fingers to her lips and blows - the whistle is shrill but soft - even the eigers stumbling around her do not hear it. At her side, a mastiff-sized dog appears, itself even blacker than the darkness in which it is encased, except for its coal-red eyes. It growls, deep and rumbling, and launches itself at the eiger closest to Umbra.

    Round 3
    Larry is confident that Babshapka, Willa, and Aurora will make short work of the other three eigers now facing them, so he trots over to where Thokk and Tyrius are trying to hold off another front. This time, his lighting bolt is a little too eager, as he sends it right up through the pitched melee, where it arcs through everyone to some degree (Arcana roll for placement 1 (critical fail); 27 points to three eigers that all failed saves, 13 points to three party members that all made saves; Thokk to 53 hp, Tyrius to 7hp, Eddard to 11hp. Larry now at 2/3/1.)

    Shefak, moving in a blur, rains down blows upon the solitary eiger she faces, but still it remains standing (flurry of blows for one ki point, four hits for 39 damage, total 44hp to this ogre).

    Aurora sends a number of magic missiles at the eiger fighting Thokk (cast at second level, Aurora now at 1/2/2).

    The shadow hound darts forward, sinking its fangs into the leg of an eiger (6 points); the eiger topples to the ground (failed Strength save) and Umbra blasts it with a bolt of darkness that leaves a trace of frost on its skin (8 points).

    Babshapka moves south, drawing a bead on the eiger facing off against Thokk. He fires two arrows (23 points), felling the eiger and freeing Thokk from the immediate combat (three eiger down).

    Willa, facing the last of the two eigers wounded from the fireball, manages to slay each one with mighty blows of her greatsword (13 points each. Five eigers down). She turns north and charges at the approaching eiger, the one that was caught by the tail end of Larry’s first lightning bolt.

    Tyrius forgoes attacking the two eigers he faces, and instead lays hands on himself for 15 points (15 points left, Tyrius to 22hp). By the grace of Pelor, Eddard is also healed for 15 (Eddard to 24hp)

    The eiger charged by Willa holds her at bay with a club swing (11 points - Willa to 46hp).

    The eiger fighting Tyrius sees his companion fall to arrows, and turns to face Thokk, landing a massive blow (18 points, reduced to 9 from rage, Thokk to 44hp).

    The eiger leader, now facing Tyrius one on one, brings down another club blow on his shield. (13 points, Tyrius to 9hp).

    From the trees to the south emerges the largest eiger the party has ever seen. His thick limbs are like tree trunks, and odds and ends of human armor have been strung on the thick leather hides that hang off his massive body. Assessing the lightning-throwing dwarf as the greatest threat to his band, the chief strides forward, the ground shaking under his feet. He buries his club deep in the ground next to the dwarf, but Larry slips away.

    The lone eiger fighting Shefak nearly sweeps her legs out from under her with a low swing, but she leaps over the blow and tumbles away.

    Three eigers emerge from Umbra’s darkness, joining another arriving from the east. Four javelins sail toward Aurora in the trees (7hp damage, Aurora to 20 hp).

    Two eigers are fighting the shadow hound - one standing, the other having been knocked prone. Neither manages to hit the hound, and the one that has fallen loses his grip on the tree-club and lets it fall to the ground beside him.

    Seeing Tyrius in a bad way, Thokk ignores the eiger that has turned on him. He steps forward, slamming his shield and shoulder into Eddard and forcing the war horse out of the way so that he can stand between the eiger leader and Tyrius. (contested strength roll (shove attack) Thokk 22, Eddard 10). Thokk slashes at the eiger leader (two hits, 24 damage).

    Safe for the moment, Eddard disengages from the fray and canters forward, then turns and lets Tyrius set himself for a charge at the eiger leader’s exposed back. Now seeing the huge eiger chieftain, however, the pair agree to charge him from behind instead.

    Round 4
    With three more well-placed kicks and staff blows (19 points damage), Shefak lays low the eiger she faces (six ogres down). Before the brute has even hit the ground, the monk has spun about and is running toward the melee with Thokk, Tyrius, and Larry, following the glow given off by the paladin.

    Willa slays the eiger to the north (two hits; 23 damage, seven eigers down), then hurriedly looks about. The javelin-wielding eigers arriving from the northeast are nearly in the center of camp now, and the mules are panicking. She dashes over to them and attempts to lead Randy away by his halter, but the mule, eyes wide with fear, bites at her. (Willa Animal Handling roll 4).

    Bolts of darkness fly from the cloud of black and strike the eiger on the ground, who is still being savaged by the hound (3 points, 12 points).

    Eddard gallops forward, going as fast as he dares knowing that Tyrius has no saddle. He slams his forequarters into the chieftain’s thighs from behind. The eiger wobbles but does not go down. (7 pts from hooves; Eiger chief makes Strength save).

    Aurora looks out from her cover among the trees. The five javelin-wielding eigers have drawn together in a loose knot in the center of camp, preparing to charge her or perhaps Willa and the mules. Now is the perfect time for another...fireball! The fiery missile is in her palm and then launched before she even thinks about it - or the fact that their being in the center of camp means that they are surrounded by the party's gear. The missile flies through the air, detonating in the center of the five eigers (Aurora Arcana roll 16 for placement, all five eigers affected, 33 points damage to four that don’t save and 16 points to the one that does. Aurora now at 1/2/1). The force of the concussive blast instantly flattens both Willa and Sheffak’s tents, then sets them on fire. Willa’s oilskin tent burns all the hotter.

    “Me tent!” screams Willa, and then, a second later, “Ther map!” Aurora’s elation turns to realization and then concern.

    Babshapka looks up at the towering figure of the eiger chieftain, dwarfing even Tyrius’s great warhorse. He flips open the cover of his second quiver and pulls forth two of the recently purchased “giant arrows” and sends them forth. One impacts a scrap of chain armor at the eiger’s shoulder and doesn’t penetrate, but the other sinks into his chest and immediately the shaft breaks off at the wicked head (12 points).

    The chieftain raises his club up for another strike at Larry (3 points additional damage from giant arrow). This blow lands on the dwarf’s shield, nearly driving him into the ground (18 points, Larry at 38hp). The eiger leader and remaining eiger try ineffectually to hit Thokk.

    The standing eiger striking at the shadow hound lands a blow (13 points), giving his companion the chance to grab his own club and rise to his feet.

    Three eigers that survived the latest fireball in the center of camp charge Willa and Aurora, landing hard blows (Willa takes 11, to 35hp, Aurora takes 17, to 3hp. The third eiger aims at Aurora, but through her use of instinctive charm he ends up hitting his own companion (for 14hp).

    Larry hears the cry of pain from Aurora as she is hit. Ignoring the Chieftain towering above him, he floods the other melee with a moonbeam (Arcana roll 16 hits two eigers but neither party member, Larry at 2/2/1. 12 points damage, both eigers make Con saves for 6 points).

    Thokk continues his assault on the eiger leader (2 hits, 22 points).

    Tyrius sees that the few hits the chieftain has taken have not even slowed him down. Seeking a quick resolution, he pulls forth a scroll tube, withdraws the scroll and throws the tube to the ground. By the light of Pelor he reads the scroll of hold person, but the chieftain is unaffected (makes Wisdom save).

    Round 5
    Willa grunts with effort, dodging the blows of the eiger and landing her own (two hits, total 30hp). Straining mightily, she spins and lands a third blow backhanded (action surge; third hit for 14 damage). The eiger staggers, then collapses into a pool, gushing blood and fouling the pristine spring (eight eigers down).

    Babshapka continues his arrow assault on the eiger chieftain, launching two normal arrows (one hits for 11hp, plus another 4hp as Babshapka activates a hail of thorns - he is at 3/2).

    Shefak’s attacks are too rapid to follow, as she rains blows down on both the eiger and eiger leader fighting Thokk (ki point used, Shefak has five left, flurry of blows, five hits, total 40 points damage). One eiger falls to the ground (nine down), but the leader remains on his feet despite Shefak’s best efforts (eiger makes dex save, not knocked prone).

    The eiger chieftain raises both arms above his head and brings his blow down on Larry’s shield with a resounding crash that echoes through the forest. Larry is driven to his knees, and the moonbeam winks out (20 points of damage, Larry at 18hp, concentration save fails; 2 points additional damage to chieftain from giant arrow).

    The eiger leader lands a blow on Thokk (17 points, reduced to 8 from rage, Thokk at 23).

    The two eigers facing Aurora are concerned. Half their band has fallen and their mighty chieftain has not been able to score a single kill yet. One of them turns and begins fleeing. He avoids the burning tents, but as the mules scatter before him, he sees their pack bags on the ground and snatches one up as he goes. The remaining eiger swings at Aurora but misses.

    Both eigers fighting the hound land blows - the creature disappears into shadow, leaving nothing behind.

    A new eiger emerges from the trees to the south, limping badly. Fastened about its ankle, like some diabolical metal shoe, is the party’s hunting trap. It looks confused and in pain. In fact, it was the source of the initial cry that first alerted the guards and woke the party.

    Ignoring the eiger attacking her, Aurora points at the fleeing eiger and calls out “That one has our mule pack! Stop him!” She sends forth a perfectly-placed web spell (Arcana 26, now at 1/1/1), covering the eiger in sticky, restrictive strands. As an afterthought, she shouts, “And they are setting the tents on fire!”

    Thokk continues his assault on what is proving to be a very tough eiger leader (two hits, 12 points total).

    Taking advantage of the chieftain’s last blow on Larry, Eddard has turned and fallen back. Now Tyrius urges him forward in another charge. As the horse and rider slam into the chieftain he teeters, totters, and finally crashes to the ground, jolting everyone around him with a force that threatens to knock them down as well (trampling charge, two hoof blows for 20 points damage). Tyrius leans low across Eddard’s back, striking at the now prone ogre with his hammer (attacking with advantage, two hits for 14 total, plus another 8 points of divine smite, Tyrius at 1/2).

    Four bolts of darkness emerge from Umbra’s cloud and strike at the ogre struggling in the webs. (14 points damage, Umbra at 4/2/3).

    Larry rises, moves around to the fallen chieftain’s feet so that his spell will not hit Tyrius or Eddard, and sends forth a lightning bolt to travel directly up the eiger’s spine as it thrashes about on the ground. (Dexterity save at disadvantage fails; 19 points damage, Larry at 2/2/0).

    Round 6
    Now that the chieftain has fallen to the ground, Babshapka moves up the trail and takes aim at the eiger in the webs. He sinks two arrows into him (16 damage). Aurora unloads a barrage of magic missiles at the same target (cast at 3rd level, total 21 points damage, Aurora at 1/1/0). Finally, a freezing cold blast of darkness shoots out of the inky cloud (8 points), and the eiger ceases its struggles, sinking to the ground (ten eigers down).

    With a howl of pain and frustration, and a string of invective in its native tongue, the eiger chieftain rises to his feet, towering over Larry, and bringing its massive club down like a sledgehammer against a stake. Larry crumples to the ground, unconscious (19 points, Larry to 0hp. Chieftain takes 2hp more from giant arrow).

    The eiger leader matches his chief’s bellows and lands another blow on Thokk (14 points, Thokk takes 7 from rage, Thokk at 16 hp).

    There are but four eigers left near the center of camp, including the one engaged with Aurora and Willa and the one with the trap on its foot. With some two-thirds of their companions slain, two of those remaining decide to turn and run, and none think to grab pack bags before they go. The one who stays throws a javelin at Aurora but misses.

    Thokk lands yet another blow on the eiger leader (11 points), and this one is finally enough to dispatch the great brute (ten eigers plus eiger leader down). Thokk then runs over to attack the chieftain, but when he sees his spoon-buddy Larry crushed and bloodied on the ground, he trips over the body of a fallen eiger and falls to the ground himself. “NOOOOOO!” he cries in rage and torment. (Thokk failed a Dex save to move quickly across the body-strewn ground)

    Willa squares off against the last eiger in melee range, hitting it twice and killing it (24hp; eleven eigers plus eiger leader down).

    Shefak, seeing that Larry has fallen, attacks the chieftain, attempting to move him away from the dwarf’s body (two hits, 19 points damage).

    <Larry fails a life save and is one step closer to death>

    While the chieftain is thus occupied, Tyrius dismounts and runs to Larry’s side. He lays on hands for 10hp to his friend. (Larry to 10hp, Tyrius has 5hp left of lay on hands).

    Round 7
    Babshapka fires arrows at the javelin-wielding eiger (two hits, 10hp damage), and Willa charges and ends the eiger with one blow (13 damage; twelve eigers plus eiger leader down). As he falls, Aurora shouts “That’s right, Willa - get those eigers! Did you see what they did to your tent!” Willa turns and begins to pursue Aurora into the trees, shouting that a good punch in the mouth will shut her up. Aurora shoots a firebolt at the eiger chieftain as she flees from Willa (12 hp damage).

    Tyrius is remounting Eddard and preparing for another trampling charge when Aurora’s firebolt knocks the chieftain to the ground. This time, he does not get up (twelve eigers, leader, and chieftain down).

    Umbra shoots five bolts of darkness[i] at the fleeing eiger. (Total damage 18, Umbra to 4/2/2).

    As swift as the wind, Shefak [i]dashes[i] up to the last fleeing eiger.

    Larry rises unsteadily to his feet. Looking around, he sees all of the eigers about him lying still on the ground - but then he sees the party’s tents aflame! He summons forth [i]created water
    , having it fall as a gentle rain over both tents. (Larry at 1/2/0).

    Round 8
    With the falling rain dousing the flames enough for her to approach the tent, Willa uses her greatsword to peel back the layers of flaming oilcloth. When she sees her backpack inside, she reaches forth to grab it, getting only a mild burn in return. The thick leather pack is singed but not aflame. (failed Dex save, 2 points damage, Willa to 33hp) However, all the leather stitching is burned through and weakened. The longer she looks at it, the more unsalvageable it appears.

    Shefak catches up to the closest fleeing eiger and ends him (total of thirteen eigers, chieftain, and leader slain - some three or four escaped).

    Umbra emerges from her cloud of darkness and shoots freezing rays into the fire, while Larry continues to rain water down. Willa has pulled out her plate armor by the time the flames are out.

    Post Combat
    Babshapka asks for Tyrius’ help, and with his light quickly recovers the giant arrow that missed the chieftain (Babshapka total 19 giant arrows remaining). He uses a dagger to retrieve the head of the other arrow from the body of the chieftain, but the weakened shaft has done its job and splintered. There is no way to reattach the head, but he saves it nonetheless.

    Willa uses her lantern to sort through what remains of her tent.

    [The days have been in the 50’s F; last night it got down to 40F. Willa was sleeping in some combination of small clothes and her traveling clothes, with her cold weather gear clothes loose in her tent overnight and put on in the morning. I decided that I would apply the fireball damage first to the tents, and with their destruction reduce the amount of damage "left over" to apply to the items within. Similarly, containers would "soak up" damage before passing on what remained to their contents.

    5E rules for damaging objects assigns a hp range to objects based on their size and toughness. Magic items are assumed to be resistant to all damage (taking half).

    Fireball was 33 points of damage, both bludgeoning (concussive force) and fire.

    Willa’s tent is a “Medium, Resilient” object and absorbs 18 points of damage before it is irreparably destroyed. That leaves 15 points to transfer to each of the objects in it.

    Magic Plate Armor
    Magic Mace
    Cold Weather Gear
    Longsword Scabbard
    Dagger Scabbard
    Cold Weather Gear
    Silk Rope

    Magic Plate Armor is a “Medium, Resilient” item and it has resistance to damage. The seven points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Magic Mace is a “Small, Resilient” item and it has resistance to damage. The seven points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Bedroll is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Cold weather gear is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Longsword Scabbard is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to the sword itself. The sword is a “Small, Resilient” item and five points of damage are not enough to harm it.

    Dagger Scabbard is a “Tiny, Resistant” item. It takes 5hp of the 15 and is destroyed. Ten more points of damage are passed to the dagger itself. The dagger is a “Small, Resilient” item and ten points of damage irreparably destroys it.

    Crossbow is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 15hp and is irreparably destroyed.

    Silk rope is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 15hp and is irreparably destroyed.

    Backpack is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to each of the items inside.

    Tinderbox (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Leather purse (inside backpack) with coins is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Map case with Willa’s Map of the Dreadwood and the Starfall Maps (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Tool box with Navigator’s Tools (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Folded Portrait of Nholast (inside backpack) is a “Small, Fragile” item. It is irreparably destroyed.

    Healer’s Kit Bag (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Belaying Pin (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. It is irreparably destroyed.

    Oil flask (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +1; the flask is cracked and slowly seeping oil, but the oil did not combust.

    Potion vial (neutralize poison) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +2; the stopper is cracked and the potion must be kept upright or it will leak.

    Potion vial (water breathing) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll -3; the vial is ruptured and the potion is lost instantly, soaking the other contents of the backpack.

    Potion vial (sweet water) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +1; the flask is cracked and slowly leaking potion.

    Checking her items, Willa silently thanks the Gentle Sea Cow of the South that the most important non-magical items, the map case and tool box for her navigation instruments, survived the blast. She resolves to offer something to the goddess to show her gratitude.

    She takes up the flask of neutralize poison and walks quickly over to the brook that runs through the camp. It’s not the warm south sea where the Sea Cow reigns - but it must flow into the River Fyn, and that surely empties into the Javan River, and that enters the Azure Sea, whose waters lap against the shores of Saltmarsh and which even now are likely feeding her brother Tom. “Modder Cow,” she mumbles, so as not to be overheard by the party, “please accept t’is offerin’ o’ me t’anks fer yer protection an’ care o’ me, me family, an’ me mates.” She pours the contents of the phial into the brook as slowly as she can, thinking of how its contents saved her and Babshapka from poison gas in Castle Ravenloft, poison gas that was released, of course, by Aurora fooling with a chest she was told to let alone...she sets aside the thought as uncharitable. It is true enough, but such salt is not befitting the solemnity of this occasion. When she has poured out the last drop of magical potion, she bows her head and mumbles a few more words of prayer. The prayer itself was taught to her by her mother, and the memory of the two of them praying together to the Sea Cow when her father would take to the sea is one of the clearest of the few memories she has of her mother.

    On her way back to the others, Willa feels the smooth glass of the phial in her hand, with its worn paper label. She recalls her surprise at finding the phial, one of three such, was actually labeled when they recovered it from the captain’s cabin on the Sea Ghost. She suddenly regrets never asking Sigurd if it was he who labeled the phials with his own hand, but is glad that she remembered to thank the Sea Cow for protection for her “mates,” figuring now that should cover Sigurd as well.

    Returning to her gear, Willa carefully pours the potion of sweet water from its cracked glass vial into the now-empty phial she took to the brook. The sweet water was found, she remembered, in treasure they won from a medusa that Aurora turned into a slug. So she supposes the ditzy wizard has her moments. She tries the stopper of the broken vial in the phial hopefully - it fits, but not well, and could easily bounce off if jolted. Aurora has a stub of a candle in her writing supplies, and Willa melts wax liberally all around the stopper. In the end, she is confident it will take the gentle jostling of the pack mules or her own backpack, but not a fight or flight. With luck, they will have neither before reaching Dersyth where she can look for a new container.

    Shefak’s tent is a “Medium, Resilient” object and absorbs 18 points of damage before it is irreparably destroyed. That leaves 15 points to transfer to each of the objects in it.

    Cold Weather Gear
    Dagger Scabbard
    Dart Case

    Bedroll is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Cold weather gear is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Dagger Scabbard is a “Tiny, Resistant” item. It takes 5hp of the 15 and is destroyed. Ten more points of damage are passed to the dagger itself. The dagger is a “Small, Resilient” item and ten points of damage irreparably destroys it.

    Dart case is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to the darts themselves. The darts are “Tiny, Resilient” items. Five points of damage are just enough to irreparably destroy them. (Luck roll 0; all of the darts are destroyed).

    Waterskin is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed.

    Backpack is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to each of the items inside.

    Holy Symbol (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +4. Although the paint has been burnt off and the metal pitted, Shefak accepts it as a symbol of the impermanence of material form and it will continue to function for her as holy even though broken.

    Silver Statue (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    It is still more than an hour until dawn. Babshapka and Umbra are the only ones who have had a complete long rest - everyone else has broken their rest to fight. It is agreed that they will wait until dawn and depart at a normal hour, which will allow the others to have at least a short rest. Before that, however, Larry insists that they pull the body of the eiger out of the spring. Even the mules refuse to drink from it later, however.

    Post-combat hp and spells remaining
    Larry 10/56, 1/2/0
    Babshapka 33/48, 3/2
    Umbra 38/38, 4/2/2
    Aurora 3/38, 1/1/0
    Tyrius 9/49, 1/2, 5/30 lay on hands
    Eddard 24/24,
    Willa 33/62,
    Thokk 16/66,
    Shefak 24/39,

    [Reasoning that they don’t know what the day may bring and they may still need their spells offensively, the party elects to spend hit dice on natural healing after their short rest rather than casting magical heals. Larry (natural recovery) and Aurora (Arcane recovery) also regain some spells.]

    Post-rest HD, hp, and spells remaining
    Larry 1/6, 54/56, 4/2/0
    Babshapka 4/6, 48/48, 3/2
    Umbra 6/6, 38/38, 4/2/2
    Aurora 0/6, 33/38, 1/1/1
    Tyrius 0/,6 44/49, 1/2, 5/30 lay on hands
    Eddard 3/3, 24/24
    Willa 3/6, 62/62
    Thokk 1/6, 66/66
    Shefak 2/6, 37/39

    At some point Thokk goes to check the hunting trap and finds it gone. The others tell him that they saw an eiger with it clamped on his foot. Thokk is incensed and demands that they go track down the eiger and get the trap back. Willa convinces him that the eiger has now had more than an hour lead time and is long gone, and it is not worth it to go off the trail and into some potential ambush of the whole eiger tribe. She tells Thokk to search the bodies of the eigers and see if they will pay for a new trap when the party gets to Dersyth. She stares pointedly at Aurora and says “an’ all me stuff, t’ boot.”

    Thokk comes back with 109 gold lions' value in coins of all different denominations. Willa estimates they may break even, once all of her and Shefak’s gear is replaced. Not counting the potion of water breathing, of course - that was likely worth in the hundreds or more.

    While Thokk was searching the eiger, he realized that all that meat has more than solved their food problem! They will likely have more meat than they can even carry. He is unprepared for the vehemence with which the others tell him that they will not be eating eiger, not even if he allows them to cook it. The elves are repulsed and Tyrius is indignant, although Larry just shrugs. Willa is a little queasy at the thought herself, but she is by now well used to finding creative arguments to manage Thokk. She takes him away from the group and explains patiently that he can eat off an eiger carcass himself while they are here - as long as he feeds on whichever one is farthest from camp. However, they will not be taking any of the eiger meat with them, as that would “spook the mules”. Thokk reflects on the combat and recalls the terrified screams of the mules during the attack. He nods and accepts the sage advice of his trusted evil advisor. The combat was exhilarating for him, and now that the eiger coin has softened the blow of the theft of ‘his’ trap, he is in fine spirits.

    As soon as the camp is packed after breakfast, the party is away. Already the crows are thick and loud on the corpses of the eigers, and most of the party are eager to be off before wolves or larger predators appear. The day’s march continues along the same hills and bluffs overlooking the river Fyn. Sometimes the hills are lower and nearer the river, sometimes higher and farther. Sometimes the trail is in view of shepherd’s crofts, and sometimes in desolate highlands with not a soul in sight.

    In the late afternoon they move away from the river, climbing up into rugged hill country, with a large peak between them and the Fyn. They camp in a bowl on the back side of the mountain, with untouched forest all around them. Willa decides that this is the perfect place to hunt, far from any tended flocks that Thokk might raid by accident. She tells the party that as they have less than a day of food left, five of them will remain in camp on the morrow while Thokk, Larry, and Babshapka all forage. Depending on how much they bring back at dinner, they may be able to continue on for Dersyth the day after.

    [ Used 6 rations (Thokk gorged on eiger flesh in the morning); 5 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 5 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:26 pm  
    Post 150: The Road to Dersyth Part II

    Post 150: The Road to Dersyth Part II

    31 January, 571 [Readying 9] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Rain 3pm - beyond 12am]

    After a breakfast of trail food, the main party sees Thokk, Babshapka, and Larry off on their foraging run. With the day planned for sitting in camp, Willa goes through their gear, taking an inventory of the supplies on the mules and seeing what they might need to pick up in Dersyth. In the process, she finds the last remaining fishing pole, which gets her thinking. A Salter born and bred, she has no experience hunting - but with a pole she might be able to contribute to their food stores, if she made a side jaunt to the river.

    She looks at who is left at camp - Umbra, Tyrius, Aurora, Shefak. None of them are exactly ideal fishing companions, and yet with eigers about she doesn’t want to travel alone. For those already foraging she is unconcerned about them going solo - Thokk and Babshapka can easily hide, and Larry can turn into an innocuous animal, if facing overwhelming foes - but stealth is not Willa’s forte. For that matter, she can’t imagine sitting on a river bank and trying to cast a line in full plate mail - she will be unarmored and vulnerable. She will want someone to come with, just in case, even if they are only on watch while she fishes.

    With his gear still arranged all about on the ground, Randy is confused about whether he is going to be packed today or not, and he stamps his foot anxiously. Eddard speaks soothingly to him. Eddard!

    After Willa asks him, and then Tyrius just to be polite, Eddard agrees to go fishing with her and they set out at mid-morning, reaching the Fyn in about an hour and a half and having to go off-trail only a bit. The mist is just clearing off the water when they arrive at the river. Eddard proves to be an excellent companion, neither going on at length about nothing (like Aurora and Tyrius would) or remaining tight-lipped on the occasions when Willa does want to talk (as Shefak and Umbra do). Rather, he waits until spoken to and then gives slow, carefully measured responses. By the early afternoon, as rain clouds begin to gather, Willa has caught only a single fish (Survival roll 8 ), but has had a grand time. She gathers some rushes at the river’s edge, weaves them into a small raft of sorts, lays the fish on it and says some words to the Sea Cow while Eddard remains respectfully silent. She lets the raft and its offering float downstream as she packs up the tackle. Already an ambitious kingfisher is eyeing the raft and its cargo.

    All the way back to the camp it rains in brief showers that come and go. She and Eddard are quite wet by the time they arrive, but Aurora has a charcoal fire going and the others are looking for dry, dead wood to add. The rain doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. A night in the 40’s, dry and in a tent, is one thing - but a night in the 40’s, wet and under the sky, is quite a different kettle of fish.

    One by one the foragers return to camp, all sodden. Larry is empty-handed (Survival roll 9), as is Thokk, although the half-orc is testy because he broke a javelin in his pursuit of game (Survival roll 5, critical failure). Babshapka brings in a brace of wood cocks (Survival roll 22), but the small birds are not going to be enough for all of them.

    Taking stock of their supplies after dinner finds them with even less food than the day before. Babshapka reports that his scouting from a nearby hilltop revealed that they are not too far from farming country. Willa tells them that they may just have to tighten their belt for a day, but they can likely buy food from a farmstead if they do not arrive at Dersyth on the morrow.

    The rain showers continue off and on all night, with the party taking shelter as best they can under the limbs of trees.

    [ Caught 4 pounds of game cock, used 4 pounds of game cock and 3 rations; 2 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used (full day of forage); 5 mule rations remaining
    7 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat and stay warm; 59 pounds charcoal remaining]

    1 February, 571 [Readying 10] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Rain 12am to 6am]
    [Hail 6am to 8am]

    In the morning as the sky lightens, the gentle rain changes to hail. When the ice pellets penetrate the mostly-bare limbs of the tree she is under and begin to bounce off her face, Willa wakes with a roar. “Aurora!” she bellows across the camp. “Yer buyin’ me a tent in Dersyth o’ I’ll be makin’ one from yer hide!”

    Shefak is already up, ignoring the hail and sitting cross-legged on the ground, facing east to greet the dawn in meditation. “We must accept loss as part of life,” she says in response to Willa, “and not dwell on material things.” She stands, then turns to face the party. “However, perhaps it would encourage Aurora to improve her aim if she had to replace all of our items from her own funds, rather than the party treasure.”

    The party finishes the last of their food supplies for breakfast and then packs the camp. “Bring us summit fer lunch,” says Willa to Thokk as they set out but he remains behind to forage. She had considered sending Babshapka out as well, but prefers missing a meal to stumbling into another pack of eigers while on the march, so she keeps him as their forward scout.

    The rain and hail continue for the first hour of their march. The trail takes them low and close to the river. As they travel, they leave the woods behind, and the land becomes green pastures, with shepherd’s fields more and more common as they progress. They make their noon camp, with Willa arranging a coal pit expectantly but not lighting it. Thokk shows up soon after, a string of small, skinned animals draped across his back and a small cloud of flies about him. He explains that just before he left the woods, he found a pair of pine martens skulking about the base of a tree that had a squirrel’s nest. He killed the martens with his javelins, and then fished the squirrels out of the tree one at a time and wrung their necks. He has brought enough meat for lunch and dinner besides!

    Some hours after they resume their march, the trail rises and is joined by another trail coming from the south. Willa and Aurora reason that this is the overland trail from the Lea and Pregmere that Ossein spoke of on the river. They must be nearing Dersyth.

    After this, the trail descends to the valley bottom again. Soon they start to see fields and farms, the first they have seen since New Midwood. While the folk of Geoff grow many things for their own household use, here the staple crop appears to be oats. They travel the rest of the afternoon. The farms grow more dense, but they have not arrived at Dersyth by nightfall, nor does Thokk have more forage for them when he arrives at their evening camp. However, they do find a stone-walled sheep fold with one corner roofed by rough timber and the flock nowhere in sight. Although the roof is not high enough for any of them to stand but Larry, all of their bedrolls placed one against the other just fit under the covered part, which is appreciated during a cold drizzle from before midnight through dawn of the next day. Eddard and the mules have to stay outside in the wet, but at least the stone walls of the fold cut the wind for them.

    [ Caught 8 pounds of game, used 5 pounds of meat and 2 rations; 3 pounds of meat but no rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 4 mule rations remaining
    4 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat; 55 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 11, 2021 7:26 pm  

    Boy, Willa doesn't like Aurora at all, does she? What's Aurora's alignment, anyway? I've seen you describe her alternately as a harridan, a ditz, etc.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:59 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Boy, Willa doesn't like Aurora at all, does she?

    The players of Aurora and Willa are co-workers and have been friends for years. Willa's player is very cautious and Aurora's much more impetuous. Part of the dynamic is Aurora's player always saying "Let's do this!" without regard for consequences and Willa's player always criticizing whatever decision Aurora's player makes. She likes to complain, but it is good-natured.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    What's Aurora's alignment, anyway? I've seen you describe her alternately as a harridan, a ditz, etc.

    A ditz, definitely. A harridan? Nah, more like a vixen or minx.

    I have some reflections on Alignment in this campaign between posts 108 and 109. Let me say here that for this, my first 5e game, I wanted to try a different approach to alignment. Basically I told the players that their job was to come up with a consistent personality and perspective, and that their actions would then dictate their alignment rather than the other way around. Thus, I have my understanding of what their alignment is, but it is not actually known to them.

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:59 am  

    DM's note on sources: Dersyth, the Lake of Rhûn, and the Monastery of Pelor are not on Darlene's maps, but the first two appear on those of Anna Meyer. On Darlene's map, Dersyth would be at the edge of the mountains, north of the G in "Grand". I based my description of Dersyth and the Lake of Rhun on, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 151: Dersyth to the Lake of Rhun

    2 February, 571 [Readying 11] - Cantrev of Gwyrth Bryn, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)

    Morning’s light shows that they are easily within striking distance of Dersyth, which straddles the Fyn below them, so Willa encourages everyone to take an extra portion at breakfast and finish off the squirrel. They arrive at the gates of the walled city long before lunch, but not before the mists have cleared from the Fyn.

    Willa sets their priorities as; first, finding an inn, second, replacing their gear, and third, learning what they can about the starfall so as to determine whether they will need more serious gear for the mountains. Tyrius adds that he would like to find a temple to Pelor, both to give thanks for their safe arrival, and to see what the local priests might know about the starfall.

    Dersyth is the seat of its cantrev, and is a large walled town, but calling it a city would be a stretch. It doesn’t take them long to find an inn and accommodate their gear and then have a quick lunch. Afterwards, Thokk stays at the inn drinking, with Larry and ostensibly Umbra watching him, but she spends more time in her room than the common room. Tyrius is in the stable, under the direction of Eddard, seeing to the care and maintenance of the hooves and coats of the mules with implements borrowed from the stablehand. Willa, Shefak, Aurora, and Babshapka set out for the town markets.

    Purchased from private funds of Aurora
    6gp Two-person oilcloth tent (Willa)
    2gp Backpack (Willa)
    10gp 50’ silk rope (Willa)
    - Longsword scabbard (Willa - minimal expense)
    - Dagger scabbard (Willa)
    3gp Repair of cold weather gear (Willa)
    1gp Bedroll, new (Willa)
    1gp Vial with well-fitting stopper (Willa)
    2gp Two-person canvas tent (Shefak)
    2gp Backpack (Shefak)
    - Dagger scabbard (Shefak)
    3gp Repair of cold weather gear (Shefak)
    1gp Bedroll, new (Shefak)
    0.2gp Waterskin (Shefak)
    Total: 31.2gp

    Purchased with party funds
    1gp 10 flasks of lamp oil (Willa)
    0.1gp 10 torches (Willa)
    28gp 56 human rations (7 days x 8 people)
    0.7gp 14 mule rations (7 days x 2 mules)
    2.5gp Half a hundredweight of charcoal
    1gp 2 javelins (Thokk)
    5gp Cold weather gear (Tyrius buys new for Umbra)
    10gp 50’ silk rope (Aurora)
    0.5gp 10 pitons (Larry)
    0.05gp Signal whistle (Tyrius)
    5gp Hunting trap (Thokk)
    Total: 53.85gp

    [Notes: The river Fyn does not appear to have any sailed vessel traffic, just poled barges and rowed boats. Willa does not find a belaying pin for sale in the markets of Dersyth.]

    [It is cheaper to buy a new bedroll than to repair the damaged ones. Tyrius gives the two damaged bedrolls to the Temple of Pelor to distribute to the poor.]

    [It is cheaper to repair the damaged cold weather gear than buy new ones.]

    When the quartet have returned from the market, Tyrius sets out and quickly finds the temple of Pelor. As one of the Old Flan Gods, the worship of Pelor is quite strong here in the north of Geoff. Tyrius offers his prayers at the temple and talks to the priests. If he is looking for old lore, they say, he should travel west of Dersyth, up the Fyn road. A day’s journey from the town is a monastery dedicated to Pelor that houses many historical books and records. It is decided that half of the party will go there on the morrow.

    The skies are clear of clouds tonight, although Luna is full. Willa rearranges the watch schedule so that she is up after moonset but before sunrise (Celene is new so she is free of that complication). She is able to make her final and most accurate starfall map. The final area, to the most precise reading of her instruments, is about a 15 mile radius high in the Barrier Peaks. Even in such a relatively small area, how will they find a single, odd rock in that remote wilderness? Willa is hopeful the monks of Pelor will have more information for them, and she gives the map to Tyrius the next morning. Even if they can’t narrow the location, at least they should be able to tell the party what the conditions and weather will be like.

    [ Used 3 pounds of meat - other food at inn, no meat remaining; 56 human rations remaining (purchased)
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining (14 purchased)
    2 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat; 103 pounds charcoal remaining (50 purchased)]

    3 February, 571 [Readying 12] - Dersyth (lowlands)
    In the morning, Tyrius organizes the expedition to the monastery. Willa has elected to remain in Dersyth and watch those members of the party who might not be as welcome in a place that is sanctified to Pelor; Thokk (a half-orc), Umbra (who seems to draw her power from darkness), and Shefak (a Bakluni). Eddard will of course be accompanying Tyrius, but also Larry (who speaks Flan and seems well-liked by the Gyri they have met so far), Aurora (who wants to know historical information) and Babshapka (Aurora’s bodyguard). Since they plan to be at the monastery before nightfall, the “away team” will be traveling light and leaving the mules in town.

    During the day, Thokk remains at the bar of the inn, with Shefak as his minder, while Umbra largely remains at the inn but occasionally makes forays into the city. Willa visits a few stores and shops to continue replacing their gear and check up on the craftspeople still repairing her and Shefak’s cold weather gear. Willa also talks to several fletchers. They can fit the head of Babshapka’s ‘giant arrow’ to a new shaft, but none of them know how to specifically weaken the shaft so that the arrow will penetrate but then immediately break off. At least, they will not be able to do that without some guesswork, trial, and error. Willa keeps the head for now.

    Dersyth is built on both sides of the Avon Fyn, with one great stone bridge and several lesser wooden ones crossing the flow. The party entered town from the south bank but the trail to the west leaves from the north. The trail runs roughly due west above the river, though the Fyn’s meanders take it sometimes near and sometimes far from the trail. As the away team travels west, they pass more oat fields, sheep fields, and thorps, but no major settlements in all the day. The Fyn itself seems covered in mist for much of the day, and the trail rises slowly into the foothills of the great Barrier Peaks.

    By sundown it is obvious that they will not be reaching the monastery before dark, mostly due to Larry’s slower pace. Still, backlit against the red western sky, they can see a great stone structure on a hill just a few miles ahead that surely must be it. After they pause briefly to rest, Luna rises, and the light of her full body is ample enough to continue on this cloudless night (and they are lacking most of their camping gear, besides, providing strong incentive to reach the monastery before they sleep).

    As they draw closer, they can hear the Fyn coursing in a deep gorge below. The monastery is built at the narrowest part of the valley, where the Fyn is hemmed in by cliffs, and travelers must pass under the stone walls of the monks. Low walls surround fields of wheat and hops, while a great temple is in the center of it all. Lights play along the surface of the temple, almost certainly a magical effect, making it a welcoming beacon in the darkness.

    The monks at the gate question the party briefly, but when they learn that Tyrius is a Paladin of their Order, they welcome the entire party inside (despite a few impolite questions for them from Aurora, designed to reveal whether the whole enterprise is an elaborate ruse).

    While many of the monks are currently at nightly devotional services and some have even returned to their cells, there are a few remaining at the communal dinner table and the party is invited to dine with them - including Eddard, who is served a bowl of hot oatmeal! (The party is surprised when he accepts, as they have never seen him eat before.)

    When Tyrius asks about historical records, the monks tell him that he can visit their library after dinner. When he asks whether Aurora can accompany him, the monks somewhat begrudgingly agree, provided she is under his supervision at all times. Over dinner, the party discovers that the monastery serves as a center of learning and healing, but also brews beer. “We spread Pelor’s light unto the world in many ways,” says one monk. Many of the monks undertake martial training as well. The monastery itself protects the upper reaches of the Fyn and the Lake of Rhun, where both the Council of Druids and the Bardic College of Cainaith are to be found. The monks screen travelers, and allow only those with peaceful intentions to continue on. In ages past, they also kept warlords from attempting to seize the Council or College and thereby claim rulership of all Geoff, but those days of inter-clan rivalry and warfare are long gone, and no one disputes the rule of the Brennin (Grand Duke) anymore.

    Tyrius shows the monks the latest map of the starfall, and asks them what the mountains will be like at that spot. They provide some general guidelines, like “cold, high, and full of humanoids and monsters,” but nothing too specific. All of them recommend that Tyrius speak to the Council of Druids on the Isle of Rhun, for they will surely know such details if anyone does. When Tyrius asks how to ask them, they explain that if the party travels another day up the trail, they will come to the Lake of Rhun. However, the lake is continually covered in mist. Only those whom the druids wish to receive are granted passage through the mists to their home, the Isle of Rhun. Similarly, only those the bards accept are allowed through the mists to their College on Kindler’s Isle. All Tyrius can do is travel to the shore of the lake and petition to speak to the druids - what happens next is up to them.

    Some time after dinner Tyrius and Aurora are admitted to the great library of the monastery. The head librarian is a very old man, but also quite hearty for one of his advanced age. He has heard of no tales of a star falling in the Barrier Peaks specifically. Of course, planets changing in the sky are a portent of change on Oerth, and he knows several tales of stars falling in general or in other places, just not near here.

    When Aurora says that this would have occurred around seven or eight hundred years ago, he shakes his head sadly. At that point, he says, the Gyri did not even have a written language, and although this library likely has the most extensive collection of histories in the land, none of them are older than five hundred years. For tales older than that they will need to seek an oral history, and for that they will need to go to either the Council of Druids or the College of Cainaith, both repositories of the Old History of the Land.

    The monk - librarian is happy to show Aurora all the relevant texts, but she rapidly agrees that none of them are old enough, and none contain specific tales of this fallen star.

    The party are shown guest cells and pass the night peacefully.

    [ Half of party eats at inn, other half has lunch only on trail, using 1 ration; 55 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    4 February, 571 [Readying 13] - party split between Dersyth and Monastery of Pelor (lowlands)
    [Thunderstorm 11pm - 2am]
    [Wandering encounter, Civilized Hills - Patrol, Men]
    Tyrius will not impugn the reputation of a Temple of Pelor by suggesting that they are anything less than safe, so he refuses to set a watch schedule for those who traveled with him. Nevertheless, he remains up after the others have retired to their cells, kneeling in a prayer vigil in a small chapel near their rooms. Some four hours later Babshapka comes to tell him that he has tranced enough, and will remain alert until dawn, should Tyrius wish to get some sleep. Tyrius nods gratefully as he massages the blood back into his legs, stiff and numb from the stone floor.

    The monks are up before dawn, as the entire population of the monastery celebrates a sunrise worship service in the marble-covered main temple. Tyrius drags himself from bed at the last minute to participate as well. After this, and as the rest of the party is waking, the more militant of the monks go outside and have weapons training in the cool morning air, while the aged and infirm or those more skilled in healing and brewing and other arts break their fast with the party. Tyrius opts to train as well, so that by the time the party has washed up, packed, and is ready to be on the road, he has not had anything to eat. If the lack of food and sleep is affecting him, he is good at pretending it doesn’t. As he rides to the head of the company on Eddard, he asks them rhetorically what they are waiting for.

    Eddard is only at a gentle walk but it is not long before Larry is huffing and puffing and struggling to keep up. Tyrius tsks his tongue. “This won’t do, brother Larrenthal. The monks were kind enough to let us in after dark, but I fear that once the the townsfolk close the gates of Dersyth for the night they will not open them for us.” None of them have brought their sleeping rolls, let alone the new tents, and it dipped into the 30’s before the sun rose this morning.

    “Ahm oon et,” says Larry, and casts the Longstrider spell on himself. “Ah’ll see ye a’ lunch,” he says, and trots ahead, faster than at least Aurora could follow, although the others might keep up with him if they had to.

    Not long after Larry is out of sight down the road, a number of figures approach the party from ahead of them. They appear to be a patrol of footmen, very similar in look to those the party met with nearly a week ago, although dressed in a different livery. The serjeant looks at the device on Tyrius’ shield and does not bother to even question them. He does draw forth an object from a large leather bag he carries to show them, though. It is a creature’s head, humanoid, though as large as a boar’s head. It has been rolled in salt to preserve it but still looks the worse for wear and they do not recognize it at first until Babshapka realizes that it is an eiger.

    “Aye, it be an eigre, true eno’,” says the serjent. “A whole troop o’ ‘em war foond on th’ low road t’ New Midwood. If ye be travelin’ east o’ Dersyth, best be on yer guard, eh!” The patrol continues up the road to the monastery.

    [Tyrius, Eddard, Babshapka, Aurora; moving 5 hours at 3mph (Aurora’s pace) = 15 miles
    Larry; moving 3 hours at 3.5mph plus 2 hours at 2.5mph = 15.5 miles]

    The party does indeed catch up to Larry at mid-day, for after three castings of longstrider he has walked at his own pace for the remainder of the morning. Even though they are eating trail food, and have little in the way of preparation or clean-up, he insists on taking a short rest for a full hour. While they eat, he contemplates the Fyn below, still shrouded in mist, but audible through the clear winter air. When they start up again, his natural recovery has allowed him to get those three castings back, and he tells them he will next see them at the gates of Dersyth.

    “Be careful,” says Eddard drolly, “I hear there are eigers on the road.” Larry chuckles as he speeds off.

    They do indeed find Larry again at the gates of Dersyth, trying to persuade the guards to keep the gates open until they arrive. The last rays of the sun glint off Tyrius’ armor as he thanks the guards, but they only scowl back.

    Reunited at the inn, Aurora and Tyrius tell the rest of the party that on the morrow they will be packing for a journey to seek the Council of Druids on the Isle of Rhun.

    [ Half of party eats at the inn, other half has lunch only on the trail, using 1 ration; 54 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    5 February, 571 [Readying 14] - Dersyth (lowlands)
    The party (less Thokk, who is in a drunken stupor) is woken by thunder in the night, and all of them are glad for the roof of the inn overhead. The pouring rain, thunder, and lightning last from before midnight to well after.

    In the morning Willa orders their march once they pass out of the north gate of Dersyth. Since they now have their camping gear with them, there will be no hardship if they fail to reach the monastery by sundown - and less to explain to the monks about the party members that stayed behind last time. Nor does she want Larry off by himself ahead of the party, so they will all travel together at his pace. Today, as they pass through fields of sheep and harvested oats, she will keep Thokk with them, but depending on the terrain she might release him to forage on the morrow.

    The day passes uneventfully. From their camp, they can see the lit monastery on the hill all night, a shining beacon in the darkness.

    [ Breakfast at the inn, 4 human rations used in rest of day; 50 human rations remaining
    One mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 17 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    6 February, 571 [Readying 14] - road from Dersyth to Lake Rhun (lowlands)
    [Light rain 8am-4pm, no affect on movement]
    Dawn comes, but the sunrise is unseen as the skies are overcast. By the time the party has reached the walls of the monastery, a light rain is falling. The river is covered in mists and a fog shrouds the land so that the horizon falls back from the great Barrier Peaks to just the trail immediately in front of them.

    All day the rain falls as they climb higher and higher into the foothills along the trail. An hour after their mid-day rest, the sound of the rushing river in the gorge alongside them fades away, and an hour after that it is replaced by the lonely cries of water birds and the gentle lapping of waves.

    Ahead of them, emerging from the mist, appear low wooden buildings. A small village sits at the shore of a mist-covered lake. Interestingly, it does not appear to be a fishing village - no nets or drying racks are in sight. There is a small dock, but no boats moored.

    The village is quiet, but not deserted. The villagers welcome the party and take them to the “petitioner’s house” - a two-story wooden building with the second floor just a loft accessed by a ladder. There is a stable, a large fireplace with wood already laid in, and simple but comfortable furnishings. It could be mistaken for a country inn, but there seems to be neither staff nor proprietor. The villagers tell the party that they are welcome to stay there as long as they need to. When they ask how long that will be, the villagers explain that only those who the Council of Druids wish may access their isle. A few are admitted right away, some, after a while, most never, until they eventually give up and leave.

    The party unpacks, settles in, and starts a fire in an attempt to dry their clothes. In the late afternoon, a man enters the building without knocking. He has close-cropped hair, hard-worn hands, and a simple robe of sky blue. He asks the party their business, and they reply that they would like to meet with the Council of Druids. He explains that he is a representative of the Council, and that they can state their business to him for the Council to determine whether they wish to hear it in person or not. Aurora is hesitant, but Willa forges ahead, and says that Larry would like to know whether the druids of these parts can teach him any spells he does not know. The man seems taken aback by the question, and asks does Larry not have a master? Does he not belong to a circle? Who taught him before, and why did they stop?

    “Ah war taught by a bar an’ raised inna cave,” says Larry simply. “Until ‘e said ‘e ‘adn’t nae more t’ teach me an’ Ah lef’.”

    After an awkward silence, Tyrius interjects. “He was accepted as a novice candidate by the Circle of the Great Druid in the Dreadwood, but he...did not agree with their teaching methods or priorities. He is, mostly, self-taught, as it were...”

    The man raises an eyebrow. “If that is your only business with the Council...” he says, in a tone that suggests that they are wasting their time.

    “Also, I am an historian,” says Aurora quickly. “And I am seeking information about an ancient event - a star falling in these parts. It is older than any written histories, but we were told that the Council has oral histories that go back further.”

    “We ‘ave a map,” says Willa bluntly. “O’ ther mountains, whar we think ther star fell. We’d be wantin’ t’ ken what ther weather be like oop yonder.”

    “I see,” the man says politely, although as he looks from one to the other of them it is not clear that he does, in fact. “I will present your petition to the Council. You will have their answer on the morrow.”

    A few of the party follow the man out of the building and down to the lake, where a single, oarless, rowboat is now tied to the dock. The man enters the boat, unties it, makes a mystic pass of his hands, and mumbles a few words. The thick mists of the lake part and the boat moves away from the dock, seemingly of its own accord. The mists close again behind the boat, like a curtain in a theatre.

    The rain lets up soon after, and the fog onshore disperses, but the mists over the water remain thick throughout the afternoon and night.

    [ 7 human rations used; 43 human rations remaining
    One mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 16 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 541
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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:37 pm  

    Kirt wrote:

    A ditz, definitely. A harridan? Nah, more like a vixen or minx.

    I have some reflections on Alignment in this campaign between posts 108 and 109. Let me say here that for this, my first 5e game, I wanted to try a different approach to alignment. Basically I told the players that their job was to come up with a consistent personality and perspective, and that their actions would then dictate their alignment rather than the other way around. Thus, I have my understanding of what their alignment is, but it is not actually known to them.

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Mathias - Neutral Bargainer w/ LE tendencies
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter

    Who's Mathias? Don't you mean Barnabas?
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:55 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Kirt wrote:

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Mathias - Neutral Bargainer w/ LE tendencies
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter

    Who's Mathias? Don't you mean Barnabas?

    Indeed. We lost Barnabus before we were playing online, so I don't have his character sheet - I think he may have been listed as "Chaotic Larcenous". And Mathias...well, that was unintended foreshadowing, as I just got ahead of myself. Mathias will join the party when they get to the starfall.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 1061
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    Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:08 am  
    Post 152: A Druid of the Council of Rhun

    Post 152: A Druid of the Council of Rhun

    7 February, 571 [Readying 16] - Lake of Rhun (5000' elevation)
    The party is glad of the large fireplace and ample wood, for the night outside drops into the 20’s - the first time it has been below freezing since three weeks ago in the Stark Mounds. Larry and Thokk figure they are already higher in elevation than the peaks of the Mounds and they are only at the base of the Barriers and will surely have a lot higher to climb.

    In the morning, after breakfast, Willa dispatches several party members to the water’s edge. The day is clear and cold but the mists lie just as thick over the lake as before. Suddenly the mists part and the same boat is visible, piloted by the same man in the sky blue robe, but now with a passenger.

    The new man climbs easily onto the dock and then strides ashore. There is a grace and suppleness to his movements that belie the deep wrinkles on his face. He has a long white beard, which flows down the front of his robes, themselves of a deep, royal blue.

    No sooner has the man stepped foot on shore but he is approached by animals - swallows and sparrows from under the eaves of the houses, mice from under doors and through holes in the walls, a mountain hare from beyond the edge of the village. They cluster around him, following him expectantly as he walks forward but not getting under foot. He nods at the party members on shore, but does not speak to them or even pause as he moves briskly towards their borrowed lodgings.

    When he reaches the building, he finally speaks, but to the creatures, not the party. Lowering himself to one knee, he tells the mice, “Search th’ buildin’ - make sure thar are no ears aboot.” The mice scurry under the door and into holes - those inside hear them crawling within the walls and in the loft above. Standing, the man addresses the birds. “See tha’ we are nae disturbed,” he says, and they take flight, circling the house. They ignore the party, but any villagers who accidently stray too close are immediately set upon. “An’ ye…” he muses, looking down at the hare waiting beneath him, “ye can warm me feet.” For indeed, he is barefoot in the hoarfrozen grass.

    He enters the house without knocking, takes a seat without asking leave. The hare curls up on top of his feet. He welcomes the party to the lake (rather than them welcoming him to the house), and asks who they are and what they would have of the Council.

    Once everyone is inside and the door closed, Willa introduces the party, each in turn, and he nods at all of them and squints. When she finishes, he says, “Well, ye’ve certainly got eno’ magic aboot ye.”

    “Do you know the mage Nholast?” opens Aurora.

    “Cannae say as ah do,” he replies, “‘tho th’ nime sounds Suel to me ear.”

    “Indeed,” agrees Aurora. “Nholast of the Suel House of Linth. This mage was a general to the wizard Asberdies, who ruled the Yeomanry.”

    The man’s eyes narrow. “‘Rruled?’ More like ‘e crrrushed th’ folk o’ th’ Yeomanry ‘neath ‘his tyrannical boot, an’ used ‘is fell magicks t’ enslave th’ lot o’ ‘em.”

    “So him you know,” agrees Aurora. “Well, anyway, we were in his servant Nholast’s tower, one of them anyway, and found a diary. Some seven hundred fifty years or so ago, he recorded a star falling from the sky and landing near here. He planned to use the metal in the star to create a mighty weapon, but fortunately it seems he met his end before he had a chance.”

    “An’ we be hopin’ tha’ ye might help us t’ find yon star,” says Willa. After a pause, she adds, “t’ make sure summit so powerful hain’t fallen inter ther wrong ‘ands an’ all.”

    “Do you know of any such histories of falling stars?” finishes Aurora.

    “Och, aye, o’ course,” he says. “Long, long ago - long afore th’ Gyri larned t’ write, when only the scops kept histories in song, thar appeared a star in th’ sky brighter than any t’others. Over th’ course o’ a few nights, et grew brighter an’ brighter, until ‘twere as bright as Luna ‘erself an’ could be seen in th’ day. Then it fell t’ Oerth. The stories don’t say whar, but they do say tha’ the whole Oerth shook, ‘twas a roar like thoonder tha’ lasted fer hours, an’ all th’ mountains ‘twere afire.”

    The party, now sobered, remains quiet a moment, until Willa ventures, “But ye dinnae ken whar it lies?”

    The man shakes his head and shrugs.

    “I ‘ave a map,” Willa says, pulling the map case out of her backpack and ignoring the concerned look of Aurora. She unrolls the map and spreads it out on a table near the druid. “This be whar we t’ink ther star might be. What can ye tell us aboot yon mountain?”

    The man rises to look at the map, the hare jumping up but then docile at his side. It takes him a moment to work out the scale and scheme of the map - but when he realizes what it shows, his eyes widen. He sits back in his chair pensively, his hands fumbling as if looking for a pipe or other device he has not brought along. Finally, he nods as if deciding something, and leans forward again.

    “Somewhar deep in th’ Barrier Peaks thar be a caive,” he begins. “A caive tha’ be th’ source o’ many a strange crrreature. Th’ Council hae kenned this fer generations, an’ we even hae a name fer it - Th’ Unoerthly Caive. The crrreatures tha’ coom from th’ caive be unlak any ‘tother thing ye ever seen - they be doonright unnatural.”

    “Interesting,” says Aurora, “but what does that have to do with the starfall?”

    “Yer map o’ th’ starfall be centered right upon th’ Caive. Wha’ if they be woon in th’ saime? Wha’ if these crreatures be so unoerthly because they dinnae be o’ th’ Oerth?”

    “What be ye proposin’?” asks Willa.

    “We can ‘elp woon atother,” he says. “Th’ Council will show ye exactly ‘ow t’ get t’ yer starfall, an’ ye can tell us wha’ lies in th’ caive.”

    “But if you have known exactly where it is for generations,” says Aurora dubiously, “why haven’t you investigated it before?”

    The man explains that the Council’s affairs are those of Geoff - the vastness of the Barrier Peaks are not in their purview, strictly speaking, although the tendency of strange creatures to leave the cave every few years and create problems in Geoff makes it of interest to them. They have, occasionally, over the generations, sent druids to investigate - typically brash young types with something to prove. Many have come back without locating it, turned away by the vast, frozen peaks. Others have not come back at all - whether they have been lost to the mountains, or the cave itself, he cannot say. However, he says that this party seems powerful, numerous, and well-equipped; he believes that they can handle the dangers of the cave and return to tell the Council what is producing the monsters, and hopefully, how they can be stopped.

    Aurora, perhaps overly excited at meeting someone who knows of Asberdies, is eager to plumb the druid for more lore. “You know,” she interrupts, “even though Nholast told Asberdies he was his loyal follower, he actually wasn’t. At least in his diary, he mentioned that really he was a servant of ‘The Master’.” The druid does not react, but Aurora continues. “He even mentions that he was looking for Relics of the Whispered One.”

    At this last reference the druid’s face darkens, and he bolts upright. Startled, the hare dashes off and hides behind the party’s mule packs. “Tha’,” he thunders, “is an ancient evil best lef’ unspoken. If ye value yer lives, an’ those o’ yer mates, ye willnae pursue tha' farther.”

    Even imprudent Aurora is cowed by his vehemence, at least momentarily. “I...I did not mean to offend...or seek more danger,” she stammers, as she recovers, “I merely wished to ascertain whether this cave, and the starfall, might somehow be connected to the...the one we should not name.”

    The lightning in the man’s eyes dims. “Nay, nay, there be nae connection atwixt th’ two.”

    Aurora approaches the druid, turning her body so that she can hide from Umbra the fact that she is pointing with her thumb at the shadow elf. She silently mouths the words “Whispered One?,” signals Umbra again, and raises her eyebrows as if making a question.

    Willa grabs Aurora by her shoulder, pulls her back a step, and scowls at her.

    The druid shakes his head. “Whar ye be gang be dangerous eno’, without th’ ancient evil. Ye must all be o’ woon mind, without dissention, if ye be coomin’ back atall.”

    Willa clears her throat and looks pointedly at Aurora.

    “Oh, we’re of one mind,” agrees Aurora. “Most assuredly.” She turns her back on the druid and gestures to the party to gather around her in a huddle, even Umbra. “I just meant to ask,” she whispers conspiratorially, “whether he knows anything about the...the place that made Umbra faint last time.”

    “You can say the Spidered Throne in front of me, enchantress,” says Umbra dryly. “And we will speak of this later.”

    Aurora turns back around. “We were just wondering whether any of this was connected to the Spidered Throne?”

    The druid shudders and says that has nothing to do with the Unoerthly Cave - but is also something you should not seek.

    “So how do we be navigatin’ t’ ther cave?” asks Willa. “Ye ‘ave a better map than this one?”

    “Maps, feh,” the druid disparages. “Ye think ye can circumscribe th’ Oerth Mother Beory with paper an’ calc’lations? Ye think tha’ drawin’ a place in ink says anything aboot the place an’ its life? Nae, nae, I dinnae hae a map fer ye. Bu’ I can tell yer druid th’ names o’ the peaks an’ valleys an’ streams an’ forests twixt ‘ere an’ th’ caive. Nae the names ye call ‘em an’ write on yer “map”, bu’ the names they call themselves an’ t’ which ther own spirits answer! Yer druid can talk t’ th’ spirits an’ ask directions along th’ way.”

    In addition, the druid explains to them that there will be two principle routes to choose from. One would continue north along the trail they used to come here, pass through the lands of the Dwarven Clan Stonereaver, then follow the last traces of the Upper Fyn high into the mountains, before summiting a high mountain pass and coming down on the Unoerthly Cave from above.

    The other route would take them south and west around the bottom of the Lake of Rhun, up a different river valley high into the Barriers, across a number of rugged mountain ranges and finally a vast snowfield before coming upon the Cave from below.

    Shefak asks about the weather to expect. He replies that it will be below freezing during the day, and far below freezing (below zero) at night. The greatest danger, however, will be the wind. While they are down in the valleys it will be strong, but when they need to cross ridges and on exposed faces it will be downright dangerous. The air will be thin, and they will be out of breath. They will need a heat source to keep their water from freezing - he warns them that eating snow will not keep them from dehydration and death.

    As the druid explains all the hazards of the journey, Willa’s expression grows more and more sour. “An’ what be in it fer us?” she asks, finally.

    The druid shrugs, saying that they came to him, asking about the starfall. He is giving them the precise location of it, in return for them investigating and reporting back about the cave. It seems a fair trade - if they want to try to find the location of the starfall from their map alone, they are welcome to try.

    “Might be a fair trade fer ye,” says Willa to Aurora. “Wha’ do the rest of us want wi’ starmetal?”

    “Oh, Willa,” chides Aurora. “Always so suspicious and negative. This starmetal is incredibly valuable. I’m sure it will have attracted monsters with treasures and such. We can keep those, right?”

    The druid indicates that indeed the party is welcome to whatever they find or discover, so long as they can explain what they found in the Cave to the Council.

    Willa is not satisfied, but she does turn to the more practical - asking the druid about what they will need in terms of supplies and equipment, such as snowshoes? And where they might get such gear.

    The man says snowshoes would just be a burden except perhaps in the snowfield, but ‘boot spikes’ (crampons) would be of high utility. They will need fur-lined sleeping bags if they plan on resting at night - after examining their cold-weather clothes he thinks they are likely to be sufficient to move in the day. Alternatively they could sleep in the day in what they have and move at night, but then they would need better clothes rather than better bed rolls. They will certainly each need individual tents, or at least one large pavilion for all of them and their mounts. The mules are hearty enough that they can take the cold while moving, but they will need blankets, or to be kept in a tent and out of the wind, when they are resting. And of course, the mules will need liquid water as well. He recommends that the party purchase either a brass or iron camp stove and coal - actual, mineral coal, not the charcoal they have with them.

    As to where they can find all of this, he suggests the Dwarves - they frequently travel in the mountains, and are skilled craftsfolk besides. When Willa asks whether the dwarves would be willing to offer them a fair deal, he says that although they are a proud and independent people, they are nominally under the rule of the Brennin of Gyruff, and maintain friendly relations with the Council. He can write them a letter of introduction that will insure they receive fair treatment, so long as they behave. As to what “behaving” means, he warns them to not ask questions, especially about their mines or livelihoods or family, to not speak until spoken to, to not haggle or show distrust, and generally to mind their own business.

    While most of the party seems ready to agree, Willa is still convinced they are getting the short end of the stick, and asks what else the druid might be able to offer them. After a bit more negotiation, he offers to teach Larry a spell to protect them from the cold, provided he is able to cast spells of third level. When Larry says that he is (his favorite being lightning bolt) the man nods and says that it is unusual to see a free druid so powerful - and that Larry may want to see about joining some Circle or other at some point. Larry scoffs at the idea.

    The Druid first teaches Larry the names of all the spirits of the land he will need to talk to to find the Cave (which takes the rest of the morning), and then, when he is sure Larry can recall them all, he teaches him the prayer he will need to call upon the spirits of the mountain for Protection from Cold, which takes much of the afternoon. Finally, Aurora lends him parchment, quill, and ink, and he writes out a letter, in both Common script and Dwarven runes (although none in the party, even Larry, can read the latter). It informs the Dwarves of Clan Stonereaver that the party (and it lists them all by name) are acting on behalf of the Council, and are to be treated as allies in their endeavor.

    The druid takes his leave of the party and returns across the lake.

    [ 7 human rations used; 36 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, forage all day; 16 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 26, 2021 7:46 am  
    Post 153: The Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor

    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 153: The Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor

    8 February, 571 [Readying 17] - Lake of Rhun (5000' elevation)
    [Clear; low 23, high 43]

    The party leaves the village by the lake at first light, when it is still below freezing and the grass crunches underfoot. Thokk lags behind, with instructions to hunt for them once he is well away from the village itself. By late morning the sun has melted the hoarfrost and the day warms - but not as much as it did in the green valleys below, along the Lower Fyn. The first stretch away from the village is through dense fir forest, but by some two hours out of the village they emerge from the trees and the trail follows the banks of the upper Fyn. This river is not clouded by the mist that covered the lake or the lower Fyn and visibility is good, although increasingly limited by the narrowness of the river valley itself. Soon they are walking at the water’s edge in a steep, rocky canyon, with the trail climbing most of the time.

    Willa reckons that it is as cold a day as they have felt since the “cold spell” on the Javan that set the merchants to speculating about giant raids. She is privately glad they are keeping warm by walking, and not immobile on the deck of a ship (although she would not admit that). With the blessing of the Great Mother Sea Cow, she will survive this foolishness and live to see the warm southern ocean again.

    Shortly after their mid-day trail meal they come to a stone bridge over the Fyn, where the trail they are on crosses from the northern to the southern bank. The stonework on the bridge is elaborate, with four life-size statues of dwarves holding axes at the corners. It is easy to surmise that they are crossing into the land of the dwarves, although no guards greet them. Aurora, at Willa’s request, sends Buckbeak back to find Thokk. She doesn’t want him hunting in the lands of Clan Stonereaver, so he is recalled to join the party. Just after they cross the bridge together, he spots a group of mountain goats moving along the cliff face over the trail, and despite his protestations is not allowed to go after them.

    In mid-afternoon, at what should be the warmest part of the day, it is barely above forty degrees, and the sun has passed from view beyond the walls of the steep canyon, although it will remain light for several more hours. Just an hour before their evening camp they cross the Fyn again, this time at an even more elaborately carved and decorated stone bridge.

    [ 7 human rations used; 29 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used; supplemented by forage; 15 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    9 February, 571 [Readying 18] - Trail to Moradinath-Mor (7500' elevation)
    [Clear; low 18, high 40]

    The next day is spent moving along the trail, which now stays entirely on the northern side of the Upper Fyn for all twenty-five miles traveled. Sometimes they are in narrow rocky canyons right at the water’s edge, sometimes the southern wall of the valley pulls back a mile or more and there is fertile meadows that could be grazed by mules, goats, or sheep (and some evidence that it has been, though they see no sign of herds, flocks, or inhabitants at the moment). The northern wall of the canyon remains steep and close, sloping up to the great snow-covered Barrier Peaks above them.

    The trail continues to gain elevation all day and it gets noticeably cooler as they go. For the last five miles, the trail leaves the river valley and begins making its way up the northern wall. Their camp this night is on a narrow ledge, scarcely three times wider than the trail itself. It appears that they will cross over a ridge and be able to move down into a valley on the morrow, but Willa does not wish to try the crossing in the dark, and the others are tired, sore, out of breath in the thin air, and cold enough to stop for the evening.

    [ 7 human rations used; 22 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 14 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 02, 2021 12:29 pm  
    Post 154: Moradinath-Mor

    DM's note on sources: Moradinath-Mor is not on Darlene's maps, but appears on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description on, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 154: Moradinath-Mor
    10 February, 571 [Readying 19] - Pass above Moradinath-Mor (11,000 feet elevation)
    [Light snow 1am-10am, sleet 10am-12pm, drizzle 12pm-3pm; low 15, high 33]

    Shortly after midnight, by the cloud-obscured light of Luna’s last quarter (Celene being new), those on watch see the finest of snowflakes drifting down. They melt rapidly after landing on the faces or sleeping rolls or hairy mule backs of those in the open, but accumulate on the stone trail and on the sloping roofs of the two new tents.

    The breeze that heralds the morning rapidly whisks the snow away from the high pass, and although it continues to fall it does not build up on the trail. After a quick, cold, breakfast the party is on its way. They have barely started out when they find themselves tired and gasping for breath - the air here must be very thin. Even Thokk, raised at these elevations, is out of breath - he must have grown accustomed to the lowlands in the last ten months. Only Larry seems unaffected, and for once he is easily able to keep pace with the party.

    Fortunately they do not have to go far before they summit the high pass and are able to look down on the vast valley below. Before them, in a wide bowl several miles across, is what they are seeking - the city of Moradinath-Mor, the city of the dwarves. At first glance they are overwhelmed by the number of walls, before realizing that most of the valley floor is paddocks. In the summer the valley must be lush with grass, but now it is all brown and frozen, though still divided into innumerable fields with gates and styles. At the outermost limits the rock walls are simply low piles of rough stones, cairn-walls such as one might build by collecting the rocks of the field where they lie. Closer to the center of the valley, the walls are of worked stone, squared and flattened, higher and straighter, though still enclosing open fields and the occasional stone barn or silo. By the time the walls of the city proper are reached, they are not only of worked stone, but every available surface is decoratively carved and linteled. The walls are high and cannot be seen over in many places. The city is full of statuary, gates, colonnades, arcades, porticoes, arches, plazas, amphitheaters, coliseums, domes, towers, basilicas, and keeps. It is as if hundreds of stonemasons had labored for generations to make every possible stone structure, but all balanced and in perfect proportion, not random or haphazard, but following a grand plan and all growing higher and finer into the very center of the city.

    As they travel down the side of the mountain into the valley, they realize that the city itself appears deserted. No beasts move amongst the hundreds of empty paddocks. No people are seen in the open streets and squares of the city. Is this a ghost town, an abandoned marvel? Then someone points out a thin column of smoke rising against the leaden sky and falling snow. Soon they can pick out dozens of places where discreet or even invisible chimneys are venting smoke into the sky. The city is not abandoned - but there is no one, man or beast, out of doors or above ground.

    They move through the outskirts of the city, where the trail becomes a broad flagstone road leading through the paddocks. While the valley floor is creased with ridges or rent with gullies, the road stays smooth and level, crossing over numerous stone bridges, cutting through embankments, occasionally lowering down long ramps with just the slightest hint of a grade. What they took from a distance to be barns and silos often are - but sometimes are not. Rather, they are occasionally stone bunkers and towers whose walls are perforated with crossbow slits. Similar to the archer’s nests in Talbaire, these have no visible doors, but unlike them they are large enough for whole squads of archers rather than a single bowman. Sometimes the bunkers have large iron plates completely shuttering wide, recessed windows. What waits behind those? Scorpions? More than once the more perceptive of the party hear noises from the bunkers and feel that they are being watched. Aurora suggests hailing the occupants, but Willa reminds her that the druid of the council said they were not to speak until spoken to. Throughout the morning the party continues, slowly making their way into the center of the city.

    By the time the walls and buildings rise so high around them so that they cannot see the rest of the city, they begin to notice entryways to the underground. Darkened archways open on stairs descending below street level. Blind alleys end in broad, descending ramps that become tunnel mouths. They even pass a wide platform, large enough to fit them all at once, surrounded by scaffolding with ropes and pulleys suggesting that the whole thing could be lowered into the earth, like a huge version of the dumbwaiter-car in Castle Ravenloft. And the noises - a low hum of distant activity, a buzz of muted voices, the faint echoes of hammers or machinery.

    Finally the road they are on enters a large, circular plaza. It exits through the opposite side, but all around the plaza are two and three-story buildings with numerous doors and windows, each one closed and shuttered.

    Halfway through the plaza, clustered outside one of the buildings, is a group of dwarves. Four of them are in highly-polished scale mail from head to toe, with visored helms shut so that the only living parts of them that may be seen are their eyes and beards - everything else is covered in articulated metal. They bear two-handed swords, fully as long as they are tall. The fifth dwarf is dressed in fine furs and leathers, with a woolen robe of deepest blue closed with a silver neck chain. With a few hisses from Willa the party forms up in a straighter line, and approaches wordlessly at a slow, dignified pace. They walk up to two-sword’s lengths from the dwarves and then stop. Tyrius, at the fore, dismounts, removes his helmet, and bows his head.

    The unarmored dwarf speaks in a deep, booming voice that several of them recognize as the Dwarven tongue, but none of them understand. They don’t respond. He speaks again, this time in Common. “Welcome, strangers. Welcome, travelers. Welcome to Moradinath-Mor.”

    Tyrius says, in perhaps the simplest introductory speech he has ever given, “Thank you.” He pulls out, unrolls, and holds forth the parchment given them by the druid of Lake Rhun.

    The unarmored dwarf takes the parchment and reads it slowly, looking at each of them in turn as if checking their number and appearance carefully against the descriptions on the parchment. Finished, he rolls up the parchment and, rather than return it, tucks it away. “You would stay the night?” he asks.

    “We would, gratefully,” says Tyrius, “and…” At the unrequested addition, the dwarf’s eyes narrow and Willa’s go wide in alarm. “...and, were it acceptable, we would purchase supplies.”

    There is a long and awkward silence before the dwarf finally gives a derisive snort. “So be it,” he says flatly.

    Without another word spoken, the dwarf leads the party across the plaza to one of the buildings. Opening the door, they find what looks to be an empty inn. There is a kitchen, a common or dining room, a suite of connected bedrooms above and below, and a stable that has a broad exterior door and a small interior door opening on one of the bedrooms. The last room he shows them has a hand-pump for drawing water from some unknown source, a coal bin, and a coal stove with bronze water troughs on top. The troughs empty into a basin in the floor. Lined with polished stone and accessed by stairs, the basin is large enough to fit two of them at a time. It isn’t until the dwarf has left the room that Aurora first works out what it is (a heated bath!) and whispers “Yessss!” in his wake.

    Once the various stoves and hearths of the inn have been running a while the whole place warms up, while outside, the snow has turned to sleet with the warmth of mid-day. The party has taken off their cold weather gear, bathed and changed into their travel clothes, and had their lunch of rations by the time the first tradesmen show up. Apparently the party is to wait at the inn while the custom comes to them. Throughout the afternoon dwarves arrive; some with pack mules, some with hand carts, all bearing goods. The first bring a general assortment of wilderness and adventuring gear, but after the party tells them what they are really interested in, the subsequent arrivals have inventories that are better suited to their desires.

    In all, the party purchases:

    10gp A pavilion tent
    80gp Eight fur-lined sleeping rolls
    10gp A double-sided wolf fur blanket
    84gp One-hundred twelve human rations (two weeks for eight people)
    3gp Twenty-eight mule rations (two weeks for two mules)
    10gp A small bronze camp stove and a copper kettle
    5gp “Cold weather gear” for one person
    28gp Leather-and-iron crampons for seven
    Two signal whistles -
    10gp Fifty pounds of mineral coal

    Total: 240gp

    The pavilion has a central pole that is ironwood, light and very strong, with oil-treated canvas sides, hemp rope guys, and iron-shod ironwood stakes. Packed in end-to-end, all eight of the sleeping rolls will fit under it, as well as the mules, although they will have one of the tent-sides more-or-less draped over the beasts and those sleeping closest to them will be in danger of being trod or shat upon.

    The sleeping rolls have water-proof leather exteriors and a variety of furs lining their insides - they are soft and quite warm. Sized for dwarves, they are over-wide for some of the party and a bit short for the humans, such that they come up to mid-chest rather than neck. Most of Thokk’s torso sticks out of his, the longest, so he is also sold a double-sided leather and wolf-fur blanket that he can wrap around the upper half of his body.

    The people rations are mostly familiar - dried fruits, meats, and nuts. In place of hard tack and cheese, however, they have narrow strips of leathery brown material the dwarves call “mushroom jerky”.

    The mule rations are mostly rolled oats lightly sweetened with molasses.

    The bronze camp stove is sized for coal, not charcoal, with a tiny door that opens and closes.

    Although Umbra has been using her sandals and emerald gown since they found her, and it is still without stain, tear, or fray, Tyrius insists on buying cold-weather gear, leather and furs, sized for her.

    Leather harnesses with small, sharp iron knobs and points (similar to the cestes used by pit fighters) are purchased that can be tied onto their footwear to make crampons. Willa finds the design overly-complicated and asks whether they don’t just have footwear already incorporating the spikes, like hobnailed boots. The dwarves chuckle and say no - if the iron is part of the shoe itself, it will transmit the cold to the inside of their shoes and their feet will get frostbite! They buy seven sets - Larry insists on going barefoot, even over the predicted ice.

    Two shrill little carved soapstone whistles are given to Tyrius as trinkets without charge.

    The hard pieces of mineral coal are said to burn twice as hot as charcoal for the weight, but are much denser and so fit in a bag even smaller than the bag of charcoal. A few pieces should be able to heat the bronze stove enough to warm a meal or heat their tent.

    After the party tells the first dwarven merchants that they would like to pay in gems, a craftsman arrives with a jeweler’s eyepiece, a small precision balance, a curious lantern with colored glass filter plates, and other strange tools. Babshapka lays out all 39 gems the party recovered in the Tower of Nholast, and the dwarf assesses them as follows:

    0.5gp very small jet
    0.5gp very small topaz
    1gp small chalcedony
    1gp large lapis lazuli
    1gp very small amethyst
    1.2gp rhodochrosite
    1.2gp huge moss agate
    1.4gp very large azurite
    2gp very small garnet
    2gp very small peridot
    5gp small spinel
    5gp huge azurite
    5gp huge malachite
    5gp very large banded agate
    5gp chrysoprase
    7gp very large tiger eye
    8gp very large turquoise
    10gp large citrine
    10gp large sardonyx
    10gp very large malachite
    10gp sardonyx
    10gp garnet
    10gp coral
    35gp large jade
    50gp peridot
    50gp huge hematite
    50gp very small black sapphire.
    50gp very large sardonyx
    50gp large coral
    50gp very small diamond
    50gp very small ruby
    100gp large black pearl
    100gp large spinel
    100gp star ruby
    100gp huge lapis lazuli
    100gp very large chalcedony
    100gp small oriental emerald
    100gp very small ruby
    500gp very large jet

    Knowing that they will not have this chance again in any human city, Aurora is at first excited at the prospect of using the note from the druid to get a “fair deal” and changing all of their gems into coin. Willa quickly reminds her that even the smallest and most meager gems are lighter than coins, and they are heavily-laden enough as it is. Perhaps they can consider selling their gems upon their return from the Unoerthly Cave, should they pass by this city again.

    It is thus decided that they will part with only enough gems to equal the 240gp in gear that they are buying. But this could be just a few of the larger gems, or any number of the smaller ones. Willa initially argues that they should get rid of as many as the smaller gems as they can, to lighten the load. Aurora counters that if they are sure they are getting a fair deal here, they should instead just use two or three of the large gems, since they will “keep their value” and if the party are forced to change gems somewhere else, they will lose less upon exchanging small ones than large. Tyrius adds his thoughts to the mix. In the end, they decide to go with Aurora’s plan of using the highest-value gems, and hand over...

    100gp large spinel
    100gp huge lapis lazuli
    50gp large coral

    ...and accept ten gold lions in Geoffian coins in change. Aurora also carefully records the values given by the dwarf for the other gems and even has him put his mark on the paper, as possible leverage in future dealings with gem buyers.

    The relative warmth of the afternoon has turned the sleet to drizzle. By mid-afternoon, that too has ceased and the skies slowly clear - the temperature drops outside and a thin layer of skim ice forms on the wet cobbles of the plaza. Larry says that as high as this alpine valley is, they will be going higher on the morrow - soon even the relative heat of mid-day will be below freezing.

    While it remains dry outside, Willa insists on packing the mules this afternoon and putting them through their paces, formalizing the packs today rather than tomorrow in the morning when it could be wet again. They start by packing the pavilion tent, all one hundred pounds of it, on Randy. As he walks around the plaza, laden, with Eddard beside him, the warhorse shakes his head. “Nope, that’ll make him slower than the rest of the party”. The mule can easily bear the load, but at the cost of a reduced pace. A few flasks of oil are moved to Larry, some rations are moved to Andy, and finally Eddard is satisfied that Randy will be able to keep up. However, they have not yet added any of the other gear they just purchased. There will need to be a drastic reduction in what they are carrying to make room for all of the new gear.

    They can replace their lowland sleeping rolls with the fancy new fur-lined bags. They can leave the charcoal behind as they have coal. But they will still need to shed something to carry all of the rations they have purchased…

    As they are enjoying their evening meal, a dwarf shows up asking for payment for the inn, at one gold for each of them. Willa turns this around in her head. “An ‘ow much would it be fer us ta keep some t’ings ‘ere until we return?”

    The dwarf is taken aback by the request, but has to admit that there is not much custom in the winter, and that it will not be much of a bother for the gear to be stowed in one bedroom of the closed building. Once he is assured that it won’t contain live animals or food or anything else that could go bad, he agrees to let them store their things for 1 gold lion a day, plus a promise that they will use the inn again for at least one night upon their return.

    Once they know that their things can be stored in relatively safety, the party finds other things they can shed besides sleeping rolls and charcoal, principally the three heavy tomes carried by Aurora, Thokk, and Andy. After all, sighs Aurora, they needed the diary and the book of star positions to find the starfall, but now Larry will be doing that for them.

    They leave behind:
    Andy Book of Infernal Bargains (20lb), History of the Good Hills (5lb), 65 pounds of Charcoal, 5 lowland bedrolls

    Randy 38 pounds of charcoal
    Umbra: Bedroll
    Aurora: Diary of Nholast (20lb)
    Shefak: Bedroll
    Thokk: Star book (20lb)
    Willa: Bedroll

    [DM’s note: All of party members are now at less than two pounds from being encumbered. Andy’s pack is at 410.6 pounds, and Randy’s is at 394 pounds (the most they can carry and still move is 420 pounds). Both of the mules are heavily encumbered, and will be moving at 20 feet per turn and will have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. The party will use rations and coal from the mules' packs first, eventually dropping them to encumbered and removing the penalties.]

    The party turns in, eager to be off on the morrow.

    [ 7 human rations used, 15 remaining, 112 purchased; total 127
    2 mule rations used, 12 remaining, 28 purchased; total 40
    No charcoal or coal used; 50 pounds coal purchased]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
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    Tue Feb 09, 2021 1:44 pm  
    Post 155: The Orcs of Gruumsh

    DM's Notes:
    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 155: The Orcs of Gruumsh
    11 February, 571 [Readying 20] - Moradinath-Mor (c. 11,000 feet elevation)
    [Light snow 11am-5pm, foot travel at 3/4 normal]
    [Low 18, high 31]
    [Randy starts the day with 394lb, Andy 387lb; both heavily encumbered]

    The party leaves at first light, but finds an escort of dwarves waiting outside the inn when they open the doors. Whether they are the same individuals as before or different is impossible to tell, for they are likewise clad in gleaming scale mail with nothing visible but their eyes and beards. Neither do they speak, and the dwarf who spoke to them the previous day is not to be seen. They take the party silently north through the city, and out to the edge of the furthest paddock before stopping without so much as a fare-thee-well.

    This side of the valley has no road, not even a trail, but Larry meditates for a bit and then says that the mountain spirits are guiding him north, up a little draw between a peak to the northeast and the shoulder of a much larger peak to the northwest. All morning they work their way up the trail-less rocky valley. Despite Larry’s warning the previous day, they are not gaining much elevation, and the city of Moradinath-Mor lies behind them, not below them.

    In late morning they are beginning to pass through the narrowest spot between the peaks when a light snow begins to fall. This, and the thin air, slows the party considerably. Fortunately the mules are slowed even more by their heavily burdens, and since they are setting the pace, the effects of weather and altitude on their progress are negligible. Willa estimates that they have traveled about five miles when she calls for the mid day meal.

    After their break they turn northwest, the valley floor now following the lowest point between two ridges. The ridge to their right is steep and dark, the one to their left an easier slope but covered in snow.

    The snowfall ceases at about the time the sun passes behind the mountains; Willa keeps them marching another hour in the twilight before selecting a campsite with just enough loose soil and scree that they can use their tent stakes, and as well where the last hour of wind has blown most of the snow away. With Larry providing unfrozen water at each stop, and the trail rations not requiring cooking, they use no coal, saving it for the higher elevations to come where they will need it to heat the tent.

    [ 7 human rations used; 120 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used (no forage); 38 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    12 February, 571 [Readying 21] - Barrier Peaks, c. 11,000 feet elevation
    [Low 13, high 33]
    [Randy starts the day with 380lb, Andy 377lb; both heavily encumbered]

    After midnight the temperature continues to drop, but does not go below zero. Randy and Andy, who were in and out of the open side of the tent at first, eventually settle down (or realize it is warmer inside) and remain inside the tent with the canvas draped loosely over their backs. Between the mules and eight party members, the tent rapidly warms, and in their fur-lined sleeping rolls those not on watch pass a comfortable night. Those on watch, outside, find they need to keep moving to keep the cold bearable. Fortunately there is little wind down here in the valley bottom.

    The next day dawns clear and even Willa has to admit that the rosy light paints a majestic mountain landscape of rugged peaks and vast snowfields all about them, with nary a sign of habitation as far as they can see, and they can see many miles. The trail from the Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor was deserted of people, of course, but it was a trail, and besides the stone bridges it was crowded with mule flops, discarded bits and pieces of broken tack, and abandoned campfire rings. Here they have a true remote wilderness, with the sense that they are the first people to pass through, or at least the first in a long, long while.

    The march itself, morning and afternoon, is uneventful - unless you can count the fact that it gets above freezing for about an hour in the afternoon as an “event”. The party continues up the long valley between the two massive mountain ranges, adding another ten miles or so by day’s end, still traveling at the pace of the heavily-laden mules. When they make their evening camp, the mountain spirits tell Larry that they are now beyond the places the Stonereaver dwarves regularly visit, and only occasionally are these peaks and valleys seen by two-leg eyes.

    [ 7 human rations used; 113 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used (no forage); 36 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    Aurora and Tyrius have the 9pm to 11pm watch. Their watch starts with the night air in the twenties but rapidly dropping into the high teens. Having learned from the night before, the party gathered bits of scrub wood while it was still light, and after dinner Aurora shot firebolts at them until the green and half-frozen wood finally ignited. She and Tyrius now sit by a decent campfire to warm themselves. Willa is currently sleeping in the pavilion, and won’t be on watch until they are done, so she is not there to scold them that sitting by the fire means they are blind to the night around them.

    Surprise Round
    Without warning, the cold night air is split by the whoosh of fletched javelins. Both Tyrius and Aurora are struck, but have no idea from whence. Their shouts of alarm wake the rest of the party, who begin to rush out of the pavilion dressed in no more than their nightclothes, but with weapons in their hands.

    Round 1
    As the party rushes out of the pavilion, those with darkvision, and not standing next to the fire, see a host of orcs moving toward the camp from the southeast. Another volley of javelins lands among the party, wounding several of them. Tyrius calls to Eddard, and the warhorse is at his side with a clatter of hooves on the hard rock. Tyrius vaults onto the horse bareback, and casts the blessing of Pelor on Thokk, Larry, and himself. By the power of his spirit bond with Eddard, the spell benefits the horse as well.

    The sudden shouts and rushing about of the party has spooked the mules, and they too bolt out of the pavilion into the darkness, stamping their hooves nervously.

    The orcs have stopped their advance, but continue throwing javelins. Unbeknownst to the party, they are attempting to provoke a response, drawing the party away from the tents so that the real strike force can move in, but Aurora has other plans.

    Round 2
    Shefak uses the light of Luna’s waning crescent and Celene’s waxing crescent to charge forward. She finds an orc opponent and strikes at him mercilessly with fists, feet, and staff.

    Aurora ignores the fact that she still does not see their attackers, but trusts that they are somewhere beyond Thokk in the general direction that he even now is facing. She sends a full-scale fireball into the darkness, rather near to where Shefak is engaged in melee. “Aurora!” cautions Willa after the missile launches, but it is too late. The massive explosion illuminates the night (28 damage) and creates a boom that echoes up and down the valley for miles around. Of the orcs attacking from the south, nine are slain immediately and another three are wounded, with their heavy winter leathers still aflame. Satisfied, Aurora slinks away from the campfire and takes cover from the javelins in a cluster of nearby boulders.

    Babshapka uses the light of the now multiple fires to send out arrows towards their attackers, and then, seeing one particularly large one, casts hunter’s mark for good measure.

    Thokk rushes forward and engages the remaining orcs in melee.

    Tyrius and Eddard are farthest from the remaining orcs, but charge forward. Tyrius casts the light of Pelor on his shield to reveal the battlefield to his human eyes as the fires die out.

    From the rear of a camp comes a sudden shriek. In the boulders, Aurora finds herself surrounded by a group of orcs and casts her shield spell as a defensive reaction. The initial javelin volley from the south was a diversion, allowing this group to sneak closer to the camp. In the center of camp, a third group of orcs is rapidly approaching the mules. Their weapons are stowed and each of their hands are free - apparently they intend to grab the halters and make off with the beasts!

    One of the infiltrating groups moves closer to Babshapka. Suddenly he is recognized as an elf and hoarse shouts of “Lulgijak!” are taken up by the orcs as they point their weapons his way. [Thokk will later tell the party that this literally means “flowers-for-blood” but is typically an insulting way to refer to an elf]. Immediately all of the orcs nearby throw their remaining javelins at Babshapka and then charge, including a few that, moments before, had been intent on stealing the mules. [Babshapka takes a total of 22hp damage this round from multiple hits].

    Round 3
    Larry maneuvers himself so that all of the orcs approaching the mules form a single line from his perspective, then calls on the spirits of the mountains to help him hurl a lightning bolt down the line [30 damage]. The bolt narrowly misses the mules themselves and they bray in terror.

    Babshapka continues to fire arrows, trying to avoid being hit by the mob gathering around him. Aurora shrieks again, but with all the orcs about specifically targeting him, Babshapka knows that running to her side will just draw more enemies there. “Go help Aurora!” he shouts at Willa.

    Willa turns from the orcs in the south, by now well under control, and sees the distance she will have to cover to get to Aurora. She runs, preparing to jump over the campfire as the shortest way there (Athletics check 8, critical fail), but trips on the rocky ground and flies sprawling through the fire itself, singing her nightclothes and sending a shower of sparks everywhere. Aurora dodges the orcs as best she can in the hope that Willa can recover soon.

    Shefak continues to rain monkly fury down on those still around her, losing her staff (critical miss) in the process but striking on unarmed and dauntless, then suddenly landing even more blows, regaining her staff, and seeming to disappear from the thick of the combat (1 ki point for flurry of blows, a second ki point for step of the wind and a bonus disengage).

    Of the orcs left in the diversionary force, the only one of any import is a huge, scarred chieftain. Tyrius and Eddard ride him down, hammer and hooves falling, and in a second Thokk is by their side, landing blows of his own, but the massive brute remains standing.

    Umbra emerges from the tent and cloaks herself in an armor of shadows. Through the darkness she sees a new orc arriving, this one with a spear in its hands and a second, glowing, spear floating beside it. By the light of the glowing spear she can see that he has only one good eye, the other being a gaping hole gently oozing near-frozen blood onto his cheek.

    A knot of orcs launches a volley of javelins at the retreating Shefak, but she spins, catches the first one, and throws it back, wounding its owner. Some of the others hit her, though, staining her nightclothes with blood.

    Aurora continues to dance around the orcs encircling her, but as her nicks, scratches, and close calls continue, she knows it will not be much time until her luck runs out.

    Round 4
    Larry launches another lightning bolt (25 points), again narrowly avoiding both mules and party members. Thokk, Tyrius, and Eddard continue to engage the orc leader. Shefak is now on the other side of camp, teaching the orcs there about the harmony of universal truth with her staff and feet, but taking damage as well and ultimately falling unconscious.

    Willa reaches Aurora’s side, pushing her out of the way and taking several blows meant for the wizard (22 points). In a surge of anger, she returns the blows on every orc nearby (action surge).

    Babshapka has retreated to the inside of the pavilion, so as to face fewer numbers of attackers at once, but he continues to fire arrows at those who are trying to enter the open flaps. The one-eyed orc pierces the heavy canvass on the other side of the tent with his long-headed spear, and rends the fabric all the way through to the ground, then steps through. He gestures at Babshapka, and the glowing spear strikes the elf in his side.

    Round 5
    Freed from immediate danger, Aurora sees a second one-eyed orc approaching the tent, and sends forth an underwhelming volley of magic missiles (cast at second level for four missiles, total of 9 points damage). Thokk, Tyrius, and Eddard continue to batter the orc leader.

    Inside the pavilion, Babshapka begins shooting at the one-eyed orc while trying to avoid both of his spears.

    Round 6
    Babshapka draws back his bow to its full extent, and fires point-blank at the eye-hole of the orc in the tent. The orc falls to the floor, one arrow deep in his skull and a second in his chest (26 points).

    Larry hurries to Shefak’s side, using a healing word to restore her to consciousness.

    The fight with the orc chief continues unfettered, until finally the huge brute falls to the ground and ceases to struggle. Thokk hurls a javelin at a retreating orc so hard it overshoots, hits a rock, and breaks (critical miss).

    Aurora shields herself again, but still takes damage.

    Shefak rises unsteadily to her feet, but is almost immediately struck down again by a fleeing orc in a parting blow.

    The second one-eyed orc enters the pavilion through the entrance flaps and attacks Babshapka.

    Round 7
    As most of the orcs remaining are in general retreat, Thokk turns and runs to the tent, entering to engage the one-eyed orc. He and Babshapka attack the orc from both sides.

    Everyone else in the party converges on the three orcs standing over the body of Shefak, with weapons, fire bolts, and poison sprays. Those that survive the initial onslaught turn and run. Once the second orc in the pavilion is slain, all orcs remaining are in full rout, and Shefak is soon pulled back from the brink of death by the grace of Pelor.

    The party listens carefully to the sound of the retreating orcs for several minutes before letting down their guard. They check the bodies of the fallen foes, dragging them away from the tent itself and the nervous mules. They have poor quality weapons, armor of no account, and a few tarnished silver coins each. The “food” they carry is inedible to all but Thokk, and their own mules are still overburdened by rations.

    When the party finally re-enters the pavilion, they find Umbra standing next to the huge rent in the tent side. She is humming softly to herself and making a motion in the air, as if she is sewing with an invisible needle and thread. Slowly, inch by inch, the heavy canvas of the tent is drawing itself together and sealing closed, with nary a trace remaining of the great tear and frayed edges.

    Once Aurora has received some magical ministrations to her wounds, she and Tyrius return to their guard duty - only now, they take turns at the campfire, so that one of them is warm, while the other one is uncomfortably cold but can actually see into the night.

    Inside the pavilion, Thokk has become the party’s cultural guide, explaining in his simple and direct language the intricacies of orc tribes, political structure, and religious beliefs. Each orc tribe, he explains, experiences a constant tension between the secular leaders (the chieftain and his favored lieutenants) and the religious leaders (shamen). Although the orcs as a people worship many gods, any one tribe worships only one god, for the shamans of the tribe will not permit the worship of any god but their own patron under penalty of death. The gods collectively embody all of the best features of the orcs, but each tribe focuses on only one of these features and that shapes the development of their particular culture. Tribes in which the shamen are the dominant force tend to be more insular, attacking any neighboring tribe that is not of their faith, and often warring as much with other orcs or humanoids as they do with humans and demi-humans. Tribes in which a strong chieftain is able to curtail the power of the shamen are more open to political alliance, uniting with same-faith tribes and other humanoids against their common foes the humans and demi-humans. Occasionally an orc warlord emerges who is personally so powerful and charismatic that he eclipses the shamen, unites all of the orc hordes under him and even makes alliances with tribes of different faiths. Then the human cities are put to the torch, the elves hide in the forests, and the dwarves cower behind their gates of stone.

    When asked by the others what faith these orcs who ambushed them were, Thokk explains that they are obviously those of Gruumsh, the Allfather who created the orcs themselves as well as all the other orc gods. He is usually called Gruumsh One-Eye, for He lost His other eye to an elven god’s arrow at the dawn of time when the elves tried to take the forests away from the orcs and said they could not live there. Gruumsh is the god of survival and conquest of territory. It is He who urges the orcs to fulfill their destiny of living everywhere on Oerth, in all environments, and enslaving all other peoples, but destroying elves. To become a shaman of Gruumsh, an orc must pluck out his own eye and cast it into a fire as a sacrifice to the god. If he lives, he will be granted divine favor and the power to cast spells. Although the dress, the tattoos, and other features were indicative as well, it was the presence of the one-eyed shamen that most clearly gave away the identity of their attackers. Collectively, all of the orcs under the shamen of Gruumsh are called the “Tribes of the Evil Eye”.

    After the party has absorbed this, Willa’s curiosity gets the better of her and she asks Thokk what tribe he was raised in. His father’s tribe, Thokk says proudly, was one of the “Tribes of the Dripping Blade”, with the shamen serving Ilneval, who Gruumsh created to be His trusted lieutenant. Dripping Blade orcs desire battle itself more than conquest, displays of prowess more than killing, but they are also strategically and politically astute, and the most willing of the orcs to make alliances between different groups for tactical advantage. It is because he was raised in this tribe, concludes Thokk, that he is simultaneously so wise, so battle-savvy, and so easy to get along with. And, he says, choking up with emotion, it is also because of this that he values so much the faithful service of his evil advisor. “Thokk thank you for question and for loyalty,” he says finally, sniffing back a manly tear as he looks gratefully at Willa.

    [Slain: 28 regular orcs, 2 orc eyes of Gruumsh, 1 orc war chief]
    [Taken: 117 sp]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 541
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    Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:00 pm  

    You make me eager for Tuesday afternoons. I love large parties and your campaign logs are a pleasure to read.

    How familiar are your players with Greyhawk canon and the contents of the classic modules? I'm curious as to how they'll react to the Starfall and what, if anything, you've changed to avoid spoilers.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:29 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    You make me eager for Tuesday afternoons. I love large parties and your campaign logs are a pleasure to read.

    It is great to be appreciated!

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    How familiar are your players with Greyhawk canon and the contents of the classic modules? I'm curious as to how they'll react to the Starfall and what, if anything, you've changed to avoid spoilers.

    At this point in time, I don't think any of them knew or suspected what the implication of "a fallen star in the Barrier Peaks" was. Fortunately I did not have to do anything to avoid spoilers - none of them knew what they were getting into! The defining conceit of this campaign was 'a tour of the classic modules of Greyhawk updated to 5e'. The original point was that setting it in Greyhawk made it less work for me, so I could focus on the 5e conversion rather than the backstories, but in retrospect it worked well that none of them had prior Greyhawk experience.

    The game was originally in person with colleagues from work in Utah...
    Player 1: Thokk and Aurora
    Player 2: Barnabus and Tyrius
    Player 3 (son of Player 2): Larry and Babshapka

    We then added...
    Player 4: Willa
    Player 5 (my daughter): Shefak

    After I moved to California and the game went online, immediately...
    Player 2 dropped, Barnabus retired and Tyrius was retained as a collective party PC
    Player 3 dropped, Babshapka was taken over by Player 4, and Larry was taken over occasionally by Player 6 (Player 1's son)

    Player 7 (former colleague from Utah) was added with Umbra, but she never was able to find the playtime she needed.
    Her son (Player 8 ) briefly took on Tyrius.

    So, at this point in the story we have:
    Player 1: Thokk and Aurora (and often helping with Larry)
    Player 4: Willa and Babshapka (and often helping with Tyrius)
    Player 5 (my daughter): Shefak
    Player 6 (Player 1's son): Occasionally Larry
    Player 7: Occasionally Umbra
    Player 8 (Player 7's son): Occasionally Tyrius.

    The three younger players (5, 6, 8) had no previous with RPGs before I had a BECMI campaign set in Mystara with (5) and (8). (That game is logged on my Obsidian Portal site). Player (6) had no experience with RPG's before he started, and none of them had played in Greyhawk.

    Player 1 came into D&D with 5e. His is a tragic tale with a happy ending - he was prevented from playing RPG's in his youth by his religiously conservative family, and now in his middle age they are his passion and he shares them with his own children as much as he can. Before and during this game he ran a number of 5E adventure series for his children and for myself and other work friends, but they didn't give him any background on Greyhawk.

    Player 4 played a lot of D&D in college (c. 2E?) but hadn't played in years when she joined our group. She says her college experience was pretty free-form, and "I don't think we ever finished a module". I doubt there was an explicit setting in their group, so she had little to no Greyhawk experience either. After a few sessions of the Starfall she remarked to one of her college friends that she was currently fighting vegepygmies, and his response was "There are SO MANY of them!" That was the closest she got to a spoiler, and it was after we had already started the adventure proper.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 12:25 pm  

    So who generally plays Umbra? Is she a DMNPC, or do your other players take turns playing her? I notice she hasn't done much in the last couple of sessions.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 4:41 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    So who generally plays Umbra? Is she a DMNPC, or do your other players take turns playing her? I notice she hasn't done much in the last couple of sessions.

    Umbra's player was one of the principals in my BECMI Mystara game, and she and I spent a lot of time in Umbra's backstory development around the time of my move to California. While she was an enthusiastic player in person, for family, schedule, and personal reasons we found she just couldn't commit to online play. She was with us in most sessions throughout the Tower of Nholast (Posts 106-118). Her long period of unconsciousness at the end of that was in part plot-driven, but in part was for us to try to work out a time she could play more easily. She was with us during the ogre attack (Post 149) but at that point was missing more live sessions then not. Typically I played her as a DMNPC when her player couldn't be with us. She made the first few Starfall sessions but eventually just stopped coming, at which point I created a diverging storyline to move several of the characters without permanent players out of the party. I still hope to return to 'the others' someday, though!
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:23 pm  
    Post 156: Save vs. Cold

    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 156: Save vs. Cold

    13 February, 571 [Readying 22] - Barrier Peaks, 12000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 8, high 26.]
    [Randy starts day with 366lb, Andy 367; both heavily encumbered]

    After Aurora and Tyrius are done with their watch, the others in the party take each their turn. Temperatures drop into the single digits. Those with darkvision not sitting next to the fire can see the bodies of the thirty-some orcs strewn about the camp steaming as they give up the heat of life, then slowly hardening and freezing over. By morning they are frozen solid.

    Umbra and Babshapka greet the dawn gratefully and rouse the rest of the party, who are glad of the pavilion as they try to move as quickly as possible from their sleeping rolls into their winter gear or armor or both before stepping outside. After Larry has prepared fresh water for the party (and the mules) and they have chewed their way through a cold, hard breakfast of trail rations, they are off.

    The valley they are following continues to rise throughout the course of the day, the air growing ever thinner and colder despite the sun. It certainly doesn’t rise above freezing. They get closer and closer to the tops of the peaks around them, going from the base of great cliffs in the morning to being only a few thousand feet from the tops of the ridges at day’s end. They camp at the end of the valley, where a “Y” intersection means they can no longer go west (unless they wish to travel straight up the snow-topped cliff face in front of them). Rather, in the morning, they will need to decide between the northern and southern branches of the valley.

    As the rest of the party prepares their evening camp, Larry meditates, eyes closed, speaking to the mountain spirits around them. His indecipherable voice rises and falls like the wind, occasionally booming like thunder or cracking like ice.

    As the party takes their evening meal inside the pavilion, Larry reports to them that they have a choice to make. The Unoerthly Cave lies over and beyond the ridge in front of them, and they will need to go around the mountain to reach it, but they can go either north or south. The northern way is shorter, and will allow them to stay in the valley for almost the entire way. However, there is one final high pass over the ridge that will be at a great elevation, along a way that is always covered in snow and ice, before dropping down into the valley wherein lies the cave. The southern way is longer and more circuitous, and they will need to pass over a series of no less than three mountain passes in a succession of smaller ridges. However, none of those passes is as high as the single pass to the north. The mountain spirits know no human measures, and cannot tell him how high, how cold, or how windy any of the passes are - only that the northern way is higher, colder, and windier than any of the series of passes in the south. He opens the party conversation to opinions, for he says they will need to decide their route before setting out in the morning.

    There is also the more immediate matter of the watch schedule. They are up far above treeline, and haven’t seen even bushes since morning, or frozen grasses since mid day. There will be nothing local with which to start a fire for tonight's camp. Those on watch outside the pavilion may need to bring the camp stove out and burn coal to stay warm enough to do their duty, or they may simply assume that it is cold and desolate enough here that they do not need to set an exterior guard, just making sure that someone is always awake and on watch inside the tent. They may, after all, need the stove to keep the tent warm if tonight is even colder than the night before! They could take turns of, say, one watching outside for half an hour before switching places with one awake but inside the tent and continuing to rotate throughout the watch. Or, they could simply try to both “tough it out” - with both those on watch outside regardless of the cold. They do, after all, have three casters capable of healing them of damage in the morning.

    After Willa, Aurora, and Tyrius confer, it is agreed that they will follow their normal watch schedule, outside the tent. Larry will cast his protection from cold on one of the watchers, and they will take the camp stove outside in an attempt to keep warm those on watch as well. Aurora’s brazier will be set up with coal at the ready inside the tent, in case that needs to be heated as well.

    As to their destination on the morrow, Willa says that they should take the path best suited to the mules and Eddard; Aurora agrees. Eddard seems to take this as an invitation to speak. He says they don’t know much about either path except that one is longer and the other is colder. Both are costs, but longer is a cost they can bear easier than colder - they have plenty of time, and plenty of food, but they don’t know how much cold they can protect themselves from. If they were being chased, or were chasing someone else, the risk of the high pass might be worth it. But in their current situation, the risk of any of them freezing, especially the mules, is not worth the benefit of arriving a few days sooner at the cave. While he is at it, Eddard says that they should start to feed the mules more - he suggests a ration and a quarter a day, so that they can more easily maintain their inner heat. The others agree to Eddard's counsel.

    Thokk and Larry are on the first watch (7-9pm). At the start of their watch, it is already below twenty outside. Larry casts his protection on himself, both because Thokk pridefully says it is not necessary, and because he has to admit his bare feet are getting cold standing on the ice, snow, and cold rock.

    [Temperature is below 30F but not below 0F. Everyone will need at least two factors of protection to avoid saving throws against the cold or three factors to rest. Thokk and Larry both have “cold weather gear” and so do not need saves. The stove, and Larry’s spell, will make them more comfortable, but are not necessary. Those inside the tent have already three factors without lighting the brazier; the tent itself plus their fur-lined bags. They rest comfortably.]

    Second watch is Aurora and Tyrius (9-11pm). Temperatures are in the mid-teens. No coal necessary, though Aurora does occasionally open the door of the stove and shoot in a succession of firebolts, then warm her hands over the re-radiated heat.

    Third watch is Willa and Babshapka (11pm - 1am). Temperatures are in the low teens.

    Fourth watch is Shefak and Babshapka (1am - 3am). Temperatures are in the high single digits.

    Fifth watch is Umbra and Babshapka (3am - 5am). Temperatures are in the mid single digits.

    The lowest temperatures are just before dawn as the party begins their day, in the low single digits. If they continue to climb higher along the mountain path, it will likely go below zero on the morrow’s watch, and the camp stove may be necessary for those outside at camp.

    [ 7 human rations used; 106 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra 0.25 each for warmth); 33.5 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    14 February, 571 [23 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 14000 feet elevation
    [Ice crystals in air (frozen heavy fog) 6pm to 7am; low 3, high 20]
    [Randy starts day with 354lb, Andy 353; both heavily encumbered]

    The party starts off down the southern trail as fast as the mules allow in the morning. They are at high elevation, of course, but still in a broad valley between two mountain ridges that are even higher. Both ridges are snow-covered. Down here there are no snowfields, but the valley floor is a mix of ice patches and fallen rocks that they have to slowly pick their way between.

    Soon after their lunch break a narrow valley to their right draws Larry’s interest. After several minutes conferring with the spirits, he says that they will be going up this, rather than continuing south up the broad valley. Turn they do, and head up this much smaller side valley. Here it is narrow, barely more than a mile across, and has a curiously flat bottom and steep sides. Larry repeatedly shakes his head and mutters, and eventually says that the spirits keep telling him that this valley was carved by a massive river of ice, as if that was a thing possible. He hopes they are honestly mistaken, and not treacherous, for if they cannot trust the spirits to guide them, they are lost indeed.

    The valley twists and turns sharply twice, until just as it is growing dark it appears to dead end in a wall of rock and ice. Larry says that this the start of the first low pass - that they will need to cross the ridge in front of them in the morning, the arm of the mountain that they have been walking along the base of all day. Currently none of them can see how they are going to do that - the cliff face is nearly straight up. Possible for them with their climbing gear perhaps, but not the mules and Eddard. Larry can only say that this is what the spirits have told him. Thokk shrugs it off unworried, and says that he can scout a path in the morning that even the clumsy mules can walk.

    As they make camp, the air is full of delicate, dancing ice crystals - like tiny snowflakes, but just floating in the air. Larry believes it is moist enough to have fog, but too cold to do so, and Thokk agrees. Temperatures overnight drop into the low single digits, and again they decide to forgo the use of the coal, saving it for a time of greater need.

    [ 7 human rations used; 99 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra quarter ration); 31 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    15 February, 571 [24 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 14,500 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 2, high 20]
    [Randy starts day with 340lb, Andy 340; both heavily encumbered]

    The camp starts moving before dawn and when it is just above zero. When the sun finally clears the ridge to the east, Thokk and Larry have a good, long look at the cliff face in front of them, conferring about possible routes. When they are both convinced that there is a way up, they start the party forward (Survival (Mountains), 25, plus help is 30).

    Willa has arranged the party in order single file, knowing that the way up may include narrow ledges. Tyrius asks to be in the center, with the mules, so that the protection of Pelor may extend to as many of them as possible (Aura of Protection, +3 to saves for allies within 10’). Eddard volunteers to go in advance, making sure the way is passable for mules, and safe for all - as he reminds them sardonically, if he plummets down the cliff face to his death, it will only take a single spell from Tyrius to bring him back.

    Over the next two hours they climb. Although the day warms as they go, the increasing wind makes it feel like it is effectively below zero, the coldest they have faced so far.

    My House Rules wrote:
    Below 0F. Whenever the temperature is below 0F, a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each hour or gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures with a total of three factors of protection automatically succeed on the saving throw. Those with two factors have advantage on the save, one factor has a flat +2. A total of four factors of protection or a successful save are necessary in order to gain the benefits of taking a rest.

    [Note: everyone has three factors of protection, with cold weather gear plus activity, so no saves are needed at the moment]

    They spend as short a time possible on the ridge crest itself, buffeted by winds, and eyes stinging too much to take in the view, before starting down the other side. Here they are unable to plan their descent very far ahead, but simply have to trust to Larry’s intuition. (Survival (Mountains), 26, plus Thokk's help is 31).

    Once out of the wind and down in the valley on the other side, they have a good long rest with food and fresh water, then continue on for the day, through narrow and twisting canyons. They are still deep within one such canyon when Willa calls for the night’s camp.

    [ 7 human rations used; 92 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter ration); 28.5 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    16 February, 571 [25 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 17,000 feet elevation
    [Cloudy; low -7, high 10]
    [Randy starts day with 327lb, Andy 327; both heavily encumbered]

    Some time between one and two in the morning the temperature drops below zero. Shefak and Babshapka, on guard duty, agree that they cannot take the cold any more (cold whether gear but no activity, only two levels of protection). They enter the tent and find the mules restless, and several of the people in the party shivering in their bags. Stacking coals in Aurora’s brazier, they use a tinderbox to start them, to heat the tent. They fill the camp stove with unburnt coals, then add a few more burning ones to get the ones in the stove started, before taking it outside.

    [Watchers outside: cold weather gear and stove (2+1 = 3). Resters in tent (fur-lined bag, tent, and brazier (2+1+1 = 4). It continues below zero until 9am, but after 6am no one is trying to rest and everyone has “active” as a level of protection. Total five hours of coal burned in two places is total of 5lbs of coal used.]

    Although it warms somewhat after dawn, it remains cold in their steep-walled valley with little direct sun all day as they pick their way over and around avalanches of snow and rock. Occasionally they have to ascend rises that Larry’s spirits call “passes”, but none are as high as what they did on the day previous. More importantly, none are exposed - all remain down within their current valley and none require them to cross a ridge and face the full force of the wind. They have just emerged from their canyon into a much larger and wider valley when Willa calls an end to the day’s march.

    [ 7 human rations used; 85 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter-ration); 26 mule rations remaining
    5 pounds coal used; 45 pounds coal remaining]

    At this higher elevation, the temperature drops below zero by 10pm. Again coals, stove, and brazier are put into use to keep the tent and those on watch warm enough to rest or function. [Total eight hours of coal burned in two places is total of 8lbs of coal used.]

    17 February, 571 [26 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 17,500 feet elevation
    [Cloudy and windy; low -9, high 13]
    [Randy starts day with 310lb, Andy 310; both heavily encumbered]

    As they make their way out from the protected canyon into the open plain, the intensity of the wind builds, until it is blowing a constant 20 miles per hour, with occasional gusts. The sky is overcast, but not snowing, which is fortunate, for even the little pieces of dust, grit, and ice crystals are stinging their eyes and testing their endurance.

    This is a broad plain, but it is no river valley, not even one carved by some mythical river of ice. Rather, it is just a huge mountain top with higher mountains around it. The floor is not flat, but made up of innumerable smaller ridges, cuts, ledges, crevasses, drop-offs, and the like. Visibility is good, albeit painful, so Willa lets Thokk and Larry scout ahead, trying to find the least dangerous route for the mules and the party. Everyone else clusters around Tyrius in the center, both to conserve heat and block the wind, but also to stay near the protection of Pelor, for it is quickly obvious that even traveling they will not be generating enough warmth, with the wind rapidly stealing it from their bodies.

    7am: Actual temperature -6F, wind chill of -47.

    My House rules wrote:
    Below -30F (including wind chill). Whenever the temperature is below -30F, a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw at the end of each half hour or gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures with a total of four factors of protection automatically succeed on the saving throw. Three factors grants advantage on the save, two factors +2, one factor +1. Five factors of protection or a successful save are necessary to gain the benefits of a rest.

    [7:30am - All travelers have three factors of protection (cold weather gear plus activity) for advantage on their save, those within 10’ of Tyrius have a +3 as well. Everyone makes save]

    8am: Actual temperature -3F, wind chill of -44. [Andy fails save and receives one level of exhaustion; disadvantage on ability checks.]

    Although not seen at first, Andy’s shivering is eventually noted by Babshapka (Animal Handling 6), who tells Aurora to message Larry when she has range. They are moving at the pace of the mules (20), and Andy is still carrying over three hundred pounds of gear - they can’t afford to have him lame from frostbite! [Also note that level 2 of exhaustion is half movement]

    When Larry returns to the party, he casts Protection from Cold on Andy. The mule is still exhausted (level 1), but at least will suffer no further effects of the cold for an hour.

    8:30am: Actual temperature -1F, wind chill of -41. [Andy no save needed. Randy and Tyrius fail saves.]

    Babshapka notes Randy’s difficulties and Tyrius can speak to his own. Larry could cast another protection or even two - he has the slots but it is a concentration spell and doing so would remove the protection from Andy.

    Willa looks about - none of the crevasses they have passed are large enough to take shelter in; there is no effective cover from the wind short of the tent. The day is getting warmer, slowly - it is still early morning. They will have to tough it out and keep moving, for as long as they can move at least. She has them bring their group into an even tighter huddle and tells them to keep going, but to keep talking, too - and to keep an eye on the mules - if either of them starts to founder, they will need to set up camp and hope the next day is less windy.

    “Nae mooch chance a’ tha’” mumbles Larry, but his words are lost in the wind.


    9:00am: Actual temperature 0F, wind chill of -40. [Andy no save needed, everyone else makes their save.]

    Larry can tell his protection for Andy has faded. He returns to the party to renew it, but now has to choose between Andy or Randy (or Tyrius). Babshapka looks them over quickly but can’t see that either is in worse shape than the other. Larry shrugs and protects Randy.

    9:30am Actual temperature 2F, wind chill of -37. [Randy no save needed, everyone else makes their save.]

    10:00am Actual temperature 4F, wind chill of -34. [Randy no save needed, Aurora fails her save.]

    Teeth chattering, body shaking, Aurora now has one level of exhaustion (as do Tyrius, Randy, and Andy). Larry casts his final protection spell on Andy.

    10:30am Actual temperature 5F, wind chill of -32. (Andy no save needed, Tyrius fails his save).

    After half an hour more of travel, Tyrius stumbles and sinks to his knees. “I can’t...I can’t feel my feet…” he says absently. Then, more resolutely, “Pelor, give me strength!” and rises again. Although he continues to walk determinedly, the others soon find they are slowing their pace to stay near him (and his aura of protection).

    [Tyrius is now at two levels of exhaustion; disadvantage on ability checks and moves at half speed; this drops his speed to 15 while the mules are still moving at 20.]

    After a few minutes of this, Willa decides that it won’t do and asks Larry if his spirit guides know of any shelters or side canyons where they can get out of the wind to rest. Larry confers, but shakes his head. None that won’t take them several miles out of their way.

    Willa asks Eddard how he is doing. “Fine, I guess. A bit cold, I must say. But yes, Tyrius can ride, if that is what you are after.”

    [The problem with Tyrius riding is that while he will thus be able to keep pace with the party, being even less active means that he will drop to two factors of protection and make it more likely for him to fail his next saving throw]

    Thokk laughs and pulls his wolf fur blanket out of his backpack, wrapping it around Tyrius once he has mounted Eddard, in a way that is much gentler than his mocking tone. “Har, har! Problem is you think of your god, not battle! Thoughts of battle warm Thokk even when cold wind blows up his loincloth!”

    “Thoughts of my god are what has preserved half this party against the cold…” offers Tyrius weakly, but Thokk has turned his back before he has even finished, and his words are whipped away in the wind.

    11:00am Actual temperature 7F, wind chill of -29. [Now that it is above -30F, it is one check per hour, and the check automatically succeeds with three factors of protection; which is cold weather gear and activity, or cold weather gear and blanket]

    After another hour of movement, Willa calls for a halt for just long enough to get some trail rations out of bags and distribute them, and have Larry create water and fill waterskins. She doesn’t want anyone to stop or lose the little warmth they have built up inside their clothes. A few of them have not been drinking their water from the morning fast enough - they find it frozen in their waterskins now, with no way to get the ice out or put new water in. After the few remaining skins are filled, Willa tells them to keep passing the skins around, keep it sloshing and moving and being drunk. She wishes in vain for a fifth of rum to put in each skin to keep the water from freezing. They will walk slower for a while, but they will eat and drink as they walk.

    12pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill of -24.
    1pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill of -20.
    2pm. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill of -21.
    3pm. Actual temperature 11F, wind chill of -23.
    4pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill of -24.
    5pm. Actual temperature 9F, wind chill of -26.
    6pm. Actual temperature 8F, wind chill of -27.

    With the light fading, there is still no sign of shelter in this broad and windswept bowl. This is no place to camp, and Willa believes, with the exception of Tyrius, she could keep driving the party forward if she had to. However, the mules don’t have darkvision. With both of them already weak and overloaded, the chance of a stumble in the dark is just too great. They will make camp where they are, light the stoves, and hope for the best.

    There is no soil, and little if any gravel - they abandon any thought of using the ironwood stakes that came with the tent and instead use a total of eight pitons pounded directly into the bedrock to hold the ropes. When the tent threatens to sail away even with that, Willa works to get them to narrow the surface presented to the wind, so it is longer and thinner than normal, with the draped flap for the mules leeward.

    [ 7 human rations used; 78 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and an extra quarter ration); 23.5 mule rations remaining
    8 pounds coal used; 37 pounds coal remaining]

    7pm. Actual temperature 7F, wind chill of -30.

    When it is well and truly dark, the wind seems, if anything, to be increasing even as the temperature drops.

    First watch, 7-9pm, Thokk and Larry. [They make their saves and Larry even has it count as a “short rest”. Natural recovery allows him to recover a third level spell. Later, in the tent, Larry makes his save to complete his long rest as well.]

    9pm. Actual temperature 5F, wind chill of -35.

    The next watch is supposed to be Aurora and Tyrius, but Willa has already changed that. She wants Tyrius inside to make sure he recovers for the next day. When he objects, she points out that those in the tent may need his protective aura in order to rest, and he reluctantly agrees for the good of the party. It doesn’t take Willa long to convince Thokk to pull a double watch so that someone is with Aurora. She merely has to agree with Thokk that yes, these are real mountains and that no, none of them but Thokk and Larry are prepared to deal with the rigors of living in real mountains.

    Aurora (who is still at one level of exhaustion) is granted Larry’s recovered protection from cold spell so that she should not be affected by at least her first hour on watch.

    Second watch, 9pm-11pm, Thokk and Aurora. [Both make their saves on the watch and later in the tent for their rest. Aurora's rest removes her single level of exhaustion.]

    11pm. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill of -40.

    Third watch, 11pm - 1am, Willa and Babshapka. [Babshapka starts his watch already having had a full rest. He and Willa both fail saves on watch and come away with a single level of exhaustion. Willa is later able to get a long rest in the tent that removes her exhaustion]

    18 February, 571 [Readying 27] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Snow 5pm to 5am, Wind 14mph; low -4, high 8]
    [Randy and Andy start at 290lb each, heavily encumbered]

    1am. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill of -45.

    Fourth watch: 1am - 3am, Shefak and Babshapka [Both complete watch successfully. Later, in the tent, Sheffak successfully finishes a long rest.]

    3am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill of -50.

    Fifth watch: 3am - 5am, Umbra and Babshapka. [Umbra fails a save on watch and acquires the first level of exhaustion.]

    5am: Actual temperature -3F. Wind chill of -54.

    The party starts moving and prepping for day. Thokk is allowed to sleep in until just before the party departs so that he can have a full long rest given his double watch shift the previous night. Overnight, Randy and Andy have recovered from the day before, and Tyrius is better for having rested. [Currently, a single level of exhaustion on Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka]

    7am: Actual temperature -3F. Wind chill of -53.

    From 7pm to 7am the party has burned 11 pounds of coal (bringing the cook stove in from the watch at 5am) and has 26 pounds remaining.

    While packing, Willa is seriously concerned about the amount of coal they have left - enough for just another two-and-a-half nights, if they are like last night. Assuming they make it to the cave, how many days will it take to get back?

    She asks Larry to ask the mountain spirits how far remains to the starfall, hoping he can get a clear-ish answer. After an extended conversation, Larry has Willa review the terrain in the morning sun with him. He says that the valley, or bowl, that they are in is part of a much larger valley, with most of it lying on the other side of the low ridge on their north. The spirits say they need to travel to the end of this ridge, where the broader valley opens up, and then just a bit further, to the western end of the larger valley where it starts to narrow and rise again. Of course, they give no distances - but if it truly is at the western end of this bowl, Larry thinks he can see it from their current camp, and estimates it is one or two days of travel away at their current pace.

    While this is reassuring to Willa, the fact that the wind is even stronger today than it was the day before, making it effectively colder, is not; nor is the fact that they will be starting the day out with Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka already tired.

    They face a difficult choice; they can set out now like they did the day before, facing brutal cold and the possibility of more of them falling to exhaustion but at least getting closer to their goal, or they can wait several hours here in camp until it warms up enough to travel safely, protected from the worst of the cold but burning what little coal they have remaining and then traveling for only part of the day.

    Willa asks for comment from her normal counselors. Aurora thinks they should stay - whatever challenges lie ahead - worse terrain and cold, yetis and frost giants, she doesn’t want to face them with all of the party exhausted. They can wait a few hours for it to warm enough to travel. This agrees with what Willa was thinking to begin with, and Tyrius is focused on recovering himself and says he trusts their judgement. Willa tells people to finish eating and pack what they can, but that they will be staying in camp for the nonce.

    Willa asks Aurora if she still has Buckbeak on hand, since she hasn’t seen the hawk since the winds started. Aurora affirms that he is with her, just that she has been keeping him in a “non-dimensional space” rather than have him blown away in the gale. Willa asks if she can’t maybe dismiss him and summon instead something more appropriate, like a snow hare or arctic fox, that could stay on watch for them so that they could consolidate fires and spend coal on only the stove in the tent?

    Aurora explains that Buckbeak is not actually a hawk - he is a fey spirit that can take the shape of a hawk. And the limitations on his shape are the words of the summoning ritual. He could take the form of a hare or fox - if Aurora knew the appropriate ritual to summon him that way, which unfortunately she does not. Of course, at her level of power now she could start experimenting with the summoning ritual, changing the words and seeing if she could find such a form, but this is not really the time and place for experimentation. She tells Willa that she will start with Buckbeak on guard. He has a pretty weak frame, but she doesn’t actually know whether he can get tired or cold. If that doesn’t work, Aurora currently has enough materials packed to cast her ritual six times - she can summon a snowy owl to take his place. That, she believes, would be the most appropriate form from among that she knows the ritual to weave into being.

    While they are on the topic of magic, Aurora also mentions to Willa that if someone gets dangerously cold, she can use her rope trick to get them to a safe space to rest. She believes that the space inside the rope trick is a constant temperature, regardless of what it is like in the outside world - it certainly was much warmer in it, than the out of doors when they last used it to hide from frost giants in the Jotens. The limitations would be that she couldn’t get Eddard and the mules up there, that the space itself can’t move, that it lasts for just an hour, and that the person would need to be able to climb the rope of their own power to get in and out. Still, if they had someone in a seriously bad way, it might make the difference when needed. As much as Willa doesn’t like listening to Aurora’s lectures on magic theory, she has to admit that it could be an important tactical consideration.

    Something Aurora said about using the rope trick to hide from the frost giants jogs Willa’s memory. “Twarn’t it so t’at we could see out ther bottom?”

    “Yes, like a huge pane of glass.”

    “An’ ‘how ‘igh up can ye place it?”

    “The length of the rope - fifty or sixty feet.”

    Willa sucks in her cheeks as she thinks. “Well, t’en, ‘igh yerself up t’ere!”


    Willa explains that if Aurora can see out of the rope trick, but if the cold can’t enter, she wants Aurora to make a scouting blind directly over the tent, as high as possible to get the best field of view if she is looking directly out of the bottom. Aurora is to stay up there on watch, and if she sees anything she can alert them in the tent with her message.

    Aurora isn’t too keen on being outside, alone, on watch, but she is intrigued by a possible new use of her spell. She considers who she might have in the rope trick room with her. Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka need to be resting, Willa needs to be on command duty in the tent, Thokk would just get bored and distract her, and Larry...she’d rather not be in the air-tight confines of the rope trick room with him and his musky odor. But Shefak...Aurora tells Willa that she will agree to “stand watch” suspended over the tent as long as Shefak is up there with her, and Willa assents.

    Aurora steps outside, instantly feeling the frigid blast of the icy wind. She casts her spell and tosses her rope into the air, where it stands nearly straight up, though the end wavers in the force of the wind. She has to remove her mittens to climb, and instantly feels pain like knives stabbing into her hands, but manages to climb all the way up the rope (Athletics check 14).

    As she sticks her head and then her chest through the invisible entrance-way, she immediately feels a flood of warmth. The rope trick room is a pleasant 65F, and the warmest she has been since her hot bath in Moradinath-Mor. “Oh, yeah…” she sighs contentedly, but then feels a gust of cold as Shefak climbs through the entryway. Apparently “breaking the plane” of the inter-dimensional door can let in the cold and wind. She had considered sticking her hand mirror out to check a view beyond what she could see directly underneath, as they did in the Jotens, but now knows she won’t be doing that, at the risk of filling the room with cold air.

    Shefak crosses her legs in her meditation position, and tells Aurora to alert her when it is her turn to watch out the “window”.

    8am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill -50.

    When it has been nearly an hour, Aurora wonders whether she can simply re-cast the spell to maintain it, rather than climbing down and casting it again from the ground. That would also be worth experimenting with - but not from fifty feet up. Both she and Shefak descend, spend an agonizing half-minute in the cold, and then climb back up to the blessedly-warm room. Shefak shakes her head disapprovingly as they re-enter.

    “What, you don’t like my magic?” says Aurora defensively.

    Shefak shrugs. “Self-indulgent. You should train to deny your flesh, not cater to it.”

    “You are welcome to watch outside, if you prefer the cold.”

    Shefak shrugs again. “I’m watching you as much as I am the tent. Someone has to make sure you stay awake in this hotbox of unrepentant hedonism.”

    “Well, I never!” is all Aurora can think to respond at the moment.

    9am. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill -45. [With another four hours, Babshapka and Umbra have completed a second trance and successful long rest. Each removes the level of exhaustion; only the single level on Tyrius remains.]

    Aurora casts her third and final rope trick to gain another hour of protection from the cold while on day-watch.

    10am. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill -40.

    Since she has not done anything but trade watch duty with Shefak on and off for the last hour in her warm room, Aurora has taken it as a short rest. She uses her arcane recovery to get back a second level slot and a first (to replace the mage armor she cast upon waking). She is not worried about third level spells since she has not cast any yet today. When her third rope trick ends around ten am, she goes quickly into the tent to confer with Willa, then comes back out and casts rope trick a fourth time.

    11am. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -38. [Tyrius has finished a second long rest period but failed his CON save to benefit from the rest. He remains at one level of exhaustion].

    “I just can’t get the chill from my bones,” Tyrius says groggily as he rises and begins to methodically chew some jerky without gusto.

    Aurora and Shefak enter the tent.

    “What dae yer spirits tell ye?” Willa asks Larry.

    “Wind’s still afury ootside, bu’ et be gang doon. Tanight won’ be so bad ahs las’.”

    Willa braves the outside long enough to squint at the pale outline of the sun behind the clouds. Returning to the tent, she says they will give it until mid-day to warm, but they are leaving in an hour whether it is safe or not. She tells the party to eat now, so that they can get in a full six hour’s march before dusk, without a rest.

    12pm. Actual temperature 6F, wind chill -32. [Everyone makes saves]

    The party has the tent packed and mules loaded by mid-day, the beasts already stamping and biting, eager to get moving rather than standing in the cold.

    [From 7am to 12pm the party has burned 2.5 pounds of coal (the cook stove in the tent) and has 23.5 pounds remaining.]

    12:30pm. Actual temperature 7F, wind chill -30. [No further checks necessary while moving as it stays above -30 and everyone is active]

    The party sets out. The first half hour is difficult, but they warm from exertion after that and the march becomes wearying, but manageable. The heat of the day peaks soon after they set out and afterwards the temperature drops, but it becomes apparent to all, not just Larry, that the wind is dropping as well, so it is bearable and they continue to march.

    To their left as they travel is the wide and uneven landscape of the bowl and then a higher mountain range, to their right is a ridge-line perhaps a thousand feet above them, and far behind that an absolute monster of a wall, a towering cliff face covered in snow whose summit is shrouded in clouds.

    As they pick their way across the barren, frozen, rough and rocky landscape, the ridge to their left lowers. Over the course of the hours it drops to half its height, then a quarter. The clouds overhead grow thicker, and lower, as they continue until eventually they cannot even discern when the sun actually goes behind the mountains in the west, but it is around that time that the first flakes of snow begin to fall. With the wind still around 15mph and gusting over 20mph, they don’t have to worry about accumulation - the snow is whisked away from the rocks as soon as it lands, scuttling along like millions of tiny white ghosts. Willa continues to encourage them on, saying they are going to use all the light they have and before it gets too cold to travel, snow be damned.

    6pm. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -25

    Finally the ridge to their left has lowered into scattered outcrops with gaps between. In the twilight they can just make out the valley beyond, lower, much bigger, and flatter than the one they are in. When it is so dark that those without darkvision begin to trip and stumble, Willa calls for a halt. They have been marching without rest some six hours. They pitch the tent as rapidly as they can, and then lead the mules inside before unloading them.

    7pm. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill -26.

    Thokk and Larry do their watch from 7pm to 9pm. So far, those present are able to tolerate the cold in the tent, while those outside risk a few hours of exposure without lighting the stove. The snow continues to fall. Little drifts begin to accumulate in deep depressions and behind large crags, but for the most part the snow is swept away by the steady wind.

    8pm. Actual temperature, 2F, wind chill -28. [Thokk and Larry make their saves on watch]

    9pm. Actual temperature, 2F, wind chill -28. [Thokk and Larry make their saves on watch]

    As Thokk and Larry hand off the watch to Aurora and Tyrius at 9pm, Larry casts a parting protection from cold on Tyrius and wishes him well. “Mayhap ye won’ be needin’ this, Tyrius - th’ snoo be keepin’ th’ wind doon an’ tain’t so coold tanight.”

    10pm. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill -29. [Aurora makes her save, Tyrius no save needed.]

    11pm. Actual temperature 0F, wind chill -31. [Aurora and Tyrius make their saves.]

    Tyrius has made it through the watch session without growing more exhausted. Pelor willing, he will be able to shed his exhaustion with a good night’s sleep tonight. He and Aurora are relieved by Willa and Babshapka, just as it drops colder. They face a decision - if they remain on watch outside, they are going to need to bring out the stove. Or, they could do their watch in the tent, where the stove is about to be lit anyway.

    Willa and Babshapka slip the signal whistles out of Tyrius’ pack while he slumbers and light the camp stove in the tent. They plan on keeping themselves warm inside, but listening for any sounds outside. Every so often, several times an hour at irregular intervals, one of them goes out and makes a quick circuit of the tent, walking a fair distance in each direction and listening, but returning before getting too cold (less than half an hour), and making sure they they are warm again before setting out by alternating turns. The tent itself is quiet, with just the heavy breathing and occasional snores of those sleeping, punctuated now and then by the soft nickering of the mules or the gentle flops of them leaving steaming apples on the floor. Outside, all they hear is the wind.

    12am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill -32

    [ 7 human rations used; 71 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter-ration); 21 mule rations remaining
    0.5 pounds coal used; 23 pounds coal remaining]

    19 February, 571 [28 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low -6, high 8. The temperature will be warmed by 2F for each mile traveled today to a maximum of +15F due to geothermal activity.]
    [The mules are starting out at 274lbs each, which is no longer heavily encumbered but just encumbered. Their speed will go from 20 to 30.]

    1am. Actual temperature -2F, wind chill -34.

    At 1am, Willa passes the signal whistle to Shefak and explains their watch plan. The monk nods earnestly.

    3am. Actual temperature -3F, wind chill -35.

    At 3am, Shefak passes the signal whistle to Umbra. Babshapka explains their watch plan and the strange elf nods cooly.

    As Umbra and Babshapka go about their watch, they notice the wind speed building. The still-falling snow is driven rapidly before it, hitting the windward side of the tent with force before flying over and around it. The sides of the tent flap against the mules, and they stamp irritably.

    4am. Actual temperature -4F, wind chill -47.
    5am. Actual temperature -5F, wind chill -57.

    By 5am there are snow squalls outside, and a wind of over 30 miles an hour that would strip the heat from anyone uncovered in minutes. The party wakes to a howling gale outside, and the watchers see the clouds growing lighter with approaching day, but also flashes of cold lightning between them.

    [Tyrius has successfully rested and removed his exhaustion]

    The party, mules included, eat inside. Willa says there is no point in even packing at the moment. If anything, the winds appear to be increasing.

    6am. Actual temperature -6F, wind chill -61.

    Larry says this is the peak of the storm, and that the spirits tell him it will be warming and the wind going down shortly. He cautions against watchers continuing to make scouting rounds, though. Their opening the tent flaps at this point will let in more cold than the little camp stove can compete with.

    Willa was satisfied with the march they had the day previous, starting at noon and have lunched already. She sees no point in exposing the party if it is not warm enough to at least march without them freezing. She is fine with waiting out the morning, if that is what it takes. She also approves tying closed the flaps of the tent securely for the moment, and not having scouts outside - although she does ask Aurora whether she wants to watch from above in her climate-controlled rope trick room.

    Aurora considers it, but agrees that nearly all threats to the party would not be out in this weather. However, anything that was capable of movement now, like frost giants or yeti, would be such a serious threat that she would rather hang on to her second-level slots for the time being. A well-placed web would likely be more decisive in combat than having a few more seconds of warning.

    7am. Actual temperature -4F, wind chill -54.

    11am. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -41.

    At 11am Willa calls for camp to be struck so they can depart at mid-day. As bags are packed around her, Aurora dismisses Buckbeak and spends ten minutes ritual casting to summon her fey familiar back in the form of a snowy owl, Hedwig. The last half hour is spent getting the tent and stove packed, so that everyone has already spent thirty minutes in the cold by the time they are moving.

    12pm. Actual temperature 6F, wind chill -37. [Tyrius fails his save, and is again with one level of exhaustion.]

    As their last acts before leaving their campsite, Larry casts protection from cold on Tyrius, and Aurora sends Hedwig aloft, with instructions to search the lower elevations for caves large enough to shelter the party and trees or bushes large enough to burn.

    Hedwig squints in the light, for the squall in the early morning has blown the clouds away, and it is a bright, clear day. The snow stopped hours ago, and just a few drifts remain up against the largest of the rocks or down in deep crevasses.

    As soon as they start out it is apparent that the mules are moving faster than before. Since they left Moradinath-Mor, Randy and Andy have been moving at a slow plod and either Eddard or Babshapka has been calling for their rest whenever a natural windbreak appeared. Now, however, they have a more lively walking pace. Aurora, Tyrius, Willa, and Umbra (the slower members of the party) find that they can easily keep pace with the mules, but they are feeling the elevation, and are soon breathing deeply as if jogging, while actually at just a walking pace. Secretly, Willa doubts that she could go a full ten hour march at this pace, and does not rue her decision to keep today’s march to just six hours.

    All the previous day the party traveled west at the base of the low ridge. Now they finally move past it, turning north through a narrow gap that will eventually take them out into the large valley Larry’s spirits told him of.

    12:30pm. Actual temperature 8F, wind chill -33. [Tyrius no save needed, everyone else makes save]

    1pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill -29. [No further checks needed as long as party is moving.]

    As they emerge into the foretold valley, a strange sight greets the party. It is perhaps ten miles across but longer than it is wide, and slopes gently down to the center. Although still rough, it is not near as rugged and jagged as what they traversed the day before. However, the surprising feature is the innumerable spots where white smoke rises up from the floor. Thokk at first thinks he is seeing a great army encampment - but without the army. What is actually burning is not obvious, for the smoke is the white of steam, not the grey of woodsmoke or black of sooty coal. Looking across the vast valley, they do not see any creatures moving, just the smokes rising up and then being carried away by the wind. Furthermore, although the rock itself is the grey and black of granite they have been passing for a week, here and there in the valley are dots of yellow, often near the smokes. In the lowest, center, spot is a hint of blue.

    Willa doesn’t like the look of it at all. “What be t’ose, and be we crossin’ t’em?” she asks Larry suspiciously. The dwarf takes a moment to confer with his spirits, shaking his head incredulously.

    “They be sayin’,” he finally relays, “tha’ th’ fires o’ the Oerth be close t’ th’ surface ‘ere. Tha’ smoke be nae smoke, bu’ steam, so they say.” He shakes his head again, adding as an aside, “Fires o’ the Oerth, me feet! Tain’t no such thing. These spirits be daft.”

    After a minute more, he continues, “Boot t’ answer yer question, nae, we nae be crossin’. Th’ cave we seek is t’ th’ wes’ - we ‘ug th’ wall until we leave this valley, doon ah steep slope.”

    Willa removes one fur-lined leather mitten, then the steel gauntlet of her plate, then the kid leather glove beneath. She touches the rocky ground - it is as cold as ice, but so is the wind whipping past. “If thar be fahr unner ther Oerth, I ain’t feelin; it,” she says, more confidence in her voice. She points Thokk at the western wall, and he moves off to choose a route for the mules.

    2pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -21.
    3pm. Actual temperature 14F, wind chill -18.
    4pm. Actual temperature 15F, wind chill -17.

    As they work their way along the southwestern wall, the wind drops. They seem to be using the cliff face itself as a huge windbreak. After three hours, they find a gap leading to a slope down. At least the spirits were not lying about that. But as the valley below comes into view, they are struck with another oddity.

    Starting more than a mile down with a few sparse bushes, eventually they see scattered pine trees on the lowest slopes. They haven’t seen vegetation in days, and even downslope should still be above treeline. Is it possible these subterranean fires exist, and are warming things enough for plant life to survive? This time Willa has Thokk upend a huge rock as she strips her hand, then places it on ground that has been out of the wind until moments ago. It is cool, to be sure - but not as frigid as the air above. Could these fires be real?

    The steep slope down looks treacherous, and they have just two hours of light remaining. Willa sets them moving again, with Thokk and Larry in front to select their route.

    5pm. Actual temperature 17F, wind chill -12.
    6pm. Actual temperature 18F, wind chill +3.

    Despite the declining sunlight, the air grows warmer as they descend, and the wind drops considerably. At first they pass over spare tussocks of frozen grass. By the time they find a ledge that is broad and flat enough for the pavilion, they are among scattered scrub bushes. Willa calls for a halt, saying simply, “Watch be outside ternight, no coal fer ther moment.” They could denude half the hillside in gathering enough wood for a decent campfire, and it would be green at that, so Willa tells them not to bother collecting wood - they should be enjoying the warmest night they have had in awhile.

    First watch, 7-9pm, Thokk and Larry [Warm enough that no saves needed]

    9pm. Actual temperature 15F, wind chill 1 (above).

    Second watch, 9-11pm, Aurora and Tyrius [Aurora and Tyrius both save]

    10pm. Actual temperature 14F, wind chill -1.
    11pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -2.

    While Aurora is on watch, Hedwig returns. She has traveled south of the party and found only barren slopes of snow, rock, and ice - no greenery, and no caves. She made her way back up the valley in which the party is now, however, and found it full of fir trees at the bottom. Some eight or ten miles downslope of the party she also spied a cave that might serve as a cramped shelter for the party, if not the mules. The cave appeared to be occupied by canines, however.

    Third watch, 11pm-1am, Willa and Babshapka. [Both make their saves]

    [ 7 human rations used; 64 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra quarter-ration); 18.5 mule rations remaining
    5 pounds coal used; 18 pounds coal remaining]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, they are camped less than a mile from the Unoerthly Cave.]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:47 pm  
    Post 157: The Unoerthly Cave

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
    [Bold font] or [blue text] indicates specific keyed encounters and area descriptions from the original module.

    Lurkers Above have no official 5E stats - I made my own conversion.

    The playdate for this, our first Barrier Peaks session, was 12 January, 2019.

    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 8, high unknown (inside cave).]

    Third watch, 11pm-1am, Willa and Babshapka.

    12am. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -2. Willa and Babshapka both save.
    1am. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill -3. Willa and Babshapka both save.

    Fourth watch, 1am - 3am, Babshapka and Shefak

    2am. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill -3. Babshapka saves; Shefak fails and gains 1 level of exhaustion.
    3am. Actual temperature 11F, wind chill -4. Babshapka and Shefak both save.

    Fifth watch, 3am - 5am, Babshapka and Umbra

    4am. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill -6. Babshapka and Umbra both save.
    5am. Actual temperature 9F, wind chill -7. Babshapka and Umbra both save.

    Long rest successful saves: Babshapka, Umbra, Larry, Thokk, Aurora, Tyrius (removes exhaustion), Willa, Shefak (removes exhaustion), Andy.

    Unsuccessful long rest save: Randy, starts day with 1 level of exhaustion.

    The morning dawns fair and clear and the party has a better view of the long slope upon which they have camped. As Hedwig reported, at the bottom of the slope is a narrow valley covered in fir trees. Where they are now has the occasional scrub bush, but these thicken and turn into stunted trees as the slope descends. It was an unusually warm night, and Willa is gratified that they did not, in fact, end up using any coal. If they keep going down this slope there should be fallen firs to collect for a campfire tonight.

    Randy is particularly fussy, not taking his breakfast grain and kicking and biting as they try to load him. Babshapka and Eddard check his feet, confer, and decide that he may have a colicky indigestion from the cold. Eddard advises them to not feed him for now, to shift some of his load to Andy, and to see if the morning’s walk will help. If he is not better by lunch, Eddard suggests using the camp stove to heat water and giving him warm water for lunch, followed by a warm mash if he will take it.

    Once the mules are laden, the party continues down the slope. They are among the first of the low, scattered trees, with dry and frozen grass beneath their feet, when Larry suddenly looks stunned and stops in his tracks. He is a bit more composed by the time the party catches up, but when they do, he tells them simply, “Th’ spirits say we be ‘ere.”

    The rocky mountainside is before them, with stunted vegetation clinging wherever it can. At first glance, it is just like any mountainside they have seen for days. A moment’s pause, however, reveals more. Here and there among the natural rocks, from tiny pebbles to huge slabs as large as city walls, is worked stone, carved stone, sections large and small that are perfectly flat and nearly vertical, not cracked or angled. Someone - dwarves? stone giants? - has worked sections of the mountain, shaping them and giving them form. These sections go from ground level to over three hundred feet up the side of the mountain. Who can say what lies within - a fortress? A subterranean city?

    Careful inspection of the wall reveals no arrow slits, no windows, no chimneys - but there are two doors! The larger of the two is at ground level and can easily be approached on foot. It is some fifteen feet across and just as high, with the area of worked stone wall beyond it adding another five or ten feet on each side. The door is closed, with the door itself of stone identical to the wall in which it sits.

    Above, some 200 feet up the side of the cliff face, is a smaller door, perhaps a third the size of the lower one. That door is open, and the darkness beyond the open doorway suggests that it leads deeper into the mountain. Is this the “unoerthly cave”? No path or roadway leads to it. It looks like a scrabble up the cliff face would allow access to it, but there are several sheer surfaces that will need to be climbed.

    Aurora sends Hedwig up to investigate the cave above. When she returns, she relates telepathically that the cave mouth opens into a medium-sized space wider than it is deep or high. All of the surfaces within - floor, walls, ceiling - are stone, completely featureless and flat. A heavy layer of dust and dirt is on the floor.

    Aurora approaches the lower door. Here is something odd - touching the door, and the wall, the dust comes away on her gloved hand - there is not in fact stone beneath, but something else! Vigorous rubbing reveals that it is metal, some kind of hard, gray metal like iron or steel and yet not recognizable. Both the door and wall are made of this.

    Further, if this wall is not is beneath the mountain’s stone! Indeed, she can shift a few smaller rocks and find more of the metal wall underneath. Is it possible that the entire section she is seeing is one huge metal wall, though now mostly buried under rock - from a landslide, or an earthquake, or deliberate design? If just the parts she sees are metal, it is as much metal as any of the party has ever seen in one place. If the whole side of the mountain underneath the rock debris is is more metal than they knew existed in the world.

    Thokk moves forward, presses his javelin hard up against the strange metal surface, bears down with all his might as he draws the head over the wall with the wooden shaft nearly doubled in pressure. The shaft snaps. He rubs his hand against the line in the wall. As the dirt is worn away, it reveals the metal underneath without even a scratch. Whatever this strange metal is, it is harder than beaten iron.

    Aurora investigates the lower door. It appears to be without handles, hinges, or any other mechanism of opening. It is recessed several inches back from the wall itself and so obvious to sight, but fits into its frame so flush that not even a paper-thin crack is present anywhere around the margin.

    Thokk, with the help of Tyrius and Larry, spends several minutes trying to push the doors in. Despite his bulging muscles and best efforts, they do not so much as move. [Strength ability check 23, +5 help, +2 guidance, total 30].

    After a bit of discussion, it is resolved that the party will try the upper cave, which appears to be the entrance. Aurora suggests that with three fly spells, she can get the mules and Eddard up, and everyone else can climb. Willa agrees, but insists that the cave be scouted first by more of them than Hedwig before they move either of the two mules up.

    Thokk and Larry, the two most experienced climbers, get into their purchased climbing harnesses and remove hammers, pitons, and ropes from the mules. Even before they have gotten ten feet off the ground, it becomes apparent that none of the rocks are a solid cliff face - all of them are scree that has tumbled down from above and is now leaning against the solid metal wall in heaps and piles. Plenty of the rocks tumble away at the slightest touch, careening to the bottom of the cliff. At best, Thokk and Larry can find large rocks that are firmly in place, supported by the stacks underneath and joined to other rocks by plant roots. The climb itself [Thokk Athletics roll 26] is almost inconsequential - the tricky part will be choosing a route that is safe. [Thokk Survival (Mountain) roll, with advantage from use of climbing harness and pitons, +5 with assistance of Larry: 8, 16+5 = 21]

    With Thokk leading and Larry belaying, the two choose what they believe to be a stable route up the side of the cliff face, leaving a trail of pitons behind them. Sweat glistens on Thokk’s massive biceps as he ascends using almost entirely upper-body strength. Eventually they reach the level of the cave itself.

    The cave mouth opens into a finished room, 8 feet deep, 20 feet wide, and 10 feet high. The far wall has a vertical line from floor to ceiling down its center. All of the surfaces - floor, walls, ceiling - are of the same strange wall metal as outside, completely featureless and flat. A heavy layer of dust and dirt is on the floor, but there are no tracks apparent.

    Thokk bellows down to Willa that it is safe and that she can order people for the ascent. He and Larry tie their ropes together, having easily fifty more feet than needed. Their plan is to lower the ropes straight down from the entrance of the cave and haul people straight up, rather than having them climb the circuitous piton route. They will begin with the lightest people and move to heavier ones as they have more hands to anchor the rope at the top.

    Shefak is the first one up. She rapidly realizes that rappelling up the face will not only endanger her, but everyone below, so she tries to put the least weight possible on the loose rocks as she ascends, pressing just enough to keep herself from dragging and scraping as Thokk and Larry haul her up. The others move away from the base as the occasional rock tumbles down.

    Babshapka is the next up, then Aurora, then Tyrius. Willa and Umbra remain at the bottom with Eddard and the mules.

    Upon her arrival, Aurora investigates the cave, looking for any secret door or control mechanism, but finds nothing (Investigation 23). She sends a firebolt against the metal wall. The dust and dirt turns to soot, but when she cleans that off she finds the metal below is both completely unaffected, and still cool to the touch (Investigation 24).

    Thokk pushes against the doors, but these yield no more than those beneath (Wisdom save 8 ).

    Tyrius stoops down and brushes away the dirt in front of the doors. He finds a curious recessed groove running along the base of the doors, but not the wall. “I think…” he says slowly, “these doors don’t open in...I think they might slide open.” (Wisdom save 18 ). “Thokk, try pushing them apart from each other.”

    Thokk shrugs and adjusts his stance, then focuses on pressing his palms as hard as he can against the doors and moving them away from each other. (Strength check 22). The line running down the center of the wall widens to a narrow crack. Emboldened, Thokk adjusts his hands again and bellows as he strains. He manages to pry the doors a full two inches apart, revealing a much deeper cave beyond. But now, even with space enough for his sausage-thick fingers and much better leverage, the doors won’t budge. Thokk works at them for several minutes until his arms are trembling, but cannot move them further.

    Aurora reaches up to put her hand on his shoulder and bids him rest. She listens at the narrow gap, but does not hear anything immediately. “Well, that ought to be safe enough for even Willa,” she says. “Time to bring the mules up.” She has Larry knot a rope about her waist and then he and Tyrius lower her down the cliff face.

    At the bottom, Aurora and Willa and Eddard discuss strategy. Eddard is quite confident that he can simply zoom up to the cave entrance once Aurora has cast a fly spell on him. He is more worried about the mules. They are likely to panic and bolt once they get off the ground. He recommends blinkering them and pulling them up with rope. Willa suggests that Eddard guide each of the mules up, one at a time, and he agrees - until Aurora informs them that fly is a concentration spell and she can cast it on only one animal at a time.

    Still, Aurora casts fly on Eddard, and he floats easily up to the cave to inform the others of the situation. After some discussion above, Larry casts spider climb on himself and comes down. While Willa modifies a feed bag into a hood for Randy, Larry unties Aurora and leads the rope through Randy’s halter and then the stays of his pack harness. He walks around the base of the cliff with him for a few minutes until the mule grows accustomed to being led blind, then has Aurora cast her second fly spell. Larry walks over to a large rock with a low incline and guides the mule up it, then has it walk with him up steeper and steeper slopes, until both are ascending vertically. Randy is hesitant and it is slow going with lots of coaxing, but eventually they reach the cave entrance and Randy is led inside, his hood removed. Larry waves down to Aurora to dismiss her spell.

    Tyrius slips a crowbar from the mule’s pack and gives it to Thokk. The barbarian’s eyes brighten with excitement and he immediately returns to the doors even as Larry is descending the cliff face.

    With a number of grunts and tugs, Thokk succeeds in getting the doors open half a foot - just wide enough for someone narrow to slip through. Shefak slips on her ring of invisibility and enters.

    At the base of the cliff, Larry gets Andy prepared, and Aurora casts her third fly spell. Larry begins guiding Andy up the cliff face.

    Shefak rapidly realizes that the great cave is far deeper than she can go using just the dim light entering through the partially-open doors. The interior of the cave is a large, dark chamber. It is sixty feet by sixty and has three tunnels out, across from her (north), to the right (east), and to the left (west), all aligned at precise angles. Down the tunnel in front of her there are recessed doorways barely visible; she cannot see down the other tunnels from her current location, and would likely not have light enough even were she there. In the center of the chamber there is an odd circular support column that runs from floor to ceiling [Drop tube]. While most of the floor of the cave is quite flat and solid, there appears to be textured walkways running from the tunnels to each other and the door, all intersecting at the column.

    After Larry gets Andy into the outer cave and untied, the rope is used to bring up Aurora, Umbra, and Willa in quick succession.

    Aurora spells: Start 4/3/3
    Used: Mage armor (5am), Fly (x3).
    Currently: 3/3/0

    Larry spells: Start 4/4/3
    Used: Create water, spider climb
    Currently: 3/2/3

    (9am) Shortly after Umbra is hauled into the exterior cave, she approaches the narrow opening of the doors. She examines the space beyond first with her eyes open, and then, closing her eyes and with her nostrils flaring (Perception 24).

    The most obvious thing about the space beyond the doors is that it is warm - as warm as a spring day - far warmer than the montane winter outside. Perhaps there is something to Larry’s “fires in the Oerth"?

    The air beyond smells stale - not unexpected for a cave, but still, unsettling. Deep, deep within she hears sounds - low, repetitive, pulsing sounds. This is a stranger place, perhaps, than she has ever been before.

    “I thought we be lookin’ fer a fallen star,” says Willa dubiously. “Nay a metal cave.”

    “I think,” says Aurora, “someone found the star first...someone built this...fortress? guard the star. But so much metal! Could this all be star metal? Could the star be so big that they mined it to make all of this?” She shakes her head, not sure what to believe.

    Working together, Thokk, Willa, and Tyrius manage to open the sliding doors wide enough for even the mules to squeeze through without having to unload them. All of the party files through into the chamber beyond. Tyrius summons the light of Pelor while Willa gives a low, impressed whistle.

    Just inside the sliding doors, before opening out into the larger chamber, there is a door set into the walls on both sides, so that the door they entered is the middle one of three. Aurora immediately finds a strange device on the wall to the right of the two other doors. Set into the door frame at about the height of her torso, is a small panel divided into three. The top section contains a narrow, horizontal slot. The middle section is a flat panel. The bottom section is a small, recessed bowl or receptacle, with the space above it going into the unseen inner workings of the panel. She tries to touch and probe this, first with her mage hand, and then her real hand, but nothing happens.

    The party takes a few cautious steps into the larger chamber beyond. The hooves of the mules clatter on the odd metal floor and the noise echoes down all three of the corridors before them. Suddenly Umbra hears a strange, faint, high-pitched warbling like a bird call, and then a hiss like a steaming kettle. The light of the chamber dims. Turning behind them, they find that the large double doors they entered have closed completely.

    Thokk strains to push them apart, but to no avail. He throws his shoulder against them, but succeeds only in hurting himself. (Thokk takes 2 points bludgeoning damage). They are unoerthly strong. He suspects foul magic, like that of the walls and bars of the Ghost Tower.

    These middle doors, notes Aurora, lack the curious panels of the smaller ones.

    With no way of going back, the party goes deeper. Willa lights her lantern and draws her sword.

    They are impressed by the absolute amount of metal everywhere. Most everything is covered in a layer of dust, though. Near the strange column is a pile of rags. Babshapka investigates (Nature 16). It is a strange, ancient cloth - perhaps silk, and a disarticulated skeleton. It could be human - the proportions are correct, but it is so old and dry, crumbing to dust as he handles it, and missing so many parts, that he cannot be sure.

    The party turns their attention to the column [drop chute].

    The column is a hollow cylinder with an opening on both sides. Inside are two tracks opposite each other, running the vertical length of the shaft up to the ceiling and down as far as can be seen in the darkness. The tracks remind Aurora of some of the belts that were used in the machinery that operated the dumbwaiter room in Castle Ravenloft, but larger. They remind Tyrius of the belts that translate the motion of a wind or water mill into the action that spins a millstone or moves trip-hammers. They are not moving. Each track has a series of handles spaced eight feet apart. At the top of the tube the handles appear to fold into the wall so that they could pass through a circuit, were the track moving. Thokk kicks some of the bones into the shaft - he hears them bounce off the side a few times, but does not hear them hit the bottom - it is either a long way down, or a cushioned landing. The shaft descends farther than any of them can see, either with their own darkvision or by the light of Tyrius’ spell.

    Given the three options of exit corridors, the party decides to head west. Willa arranges them in marching order, with the mules in the back. Thokk and Babshapka are in the front rank, Larry and Shefak in the second rank. No sooner have they started down the corridor, when the ceiling falls and envelopes them! [numbered encounter 1]

    For those watching, a thick, heavy, section of ceiling, fully twenty feet across, has peeled away and fallen, but upon draping itself around the front two ranks, has pulled itself together, and is even now constricting its muscles to simultaneously strangle and smother them. [Thokk, Babshapka, Larry, and Shefak each take between 6 and 8 damage, are restrained, and are suffocating]

    Round 1
    Willa rushes at the strange muscular blanket-like creature, slashing it with her greatsword [15 damage].

    Babshapka struggles to draw his swords inside it, but finds his arms pinioned to his sides, with no room to strike.

    [All four of the characters inside take another 6 to 8 damage.]

    Larry struggles inside the creature, trying to break free, but only feels it grabbing him tighter and further squeezing the air from his body (Strength save 8 ). Babshapka fares no better (Strength save 11).

    Umbra shoots forth a frigid beam of blue-white light that strikes the creature, raising welts on its rubbery skin.

    With the last air in his lungs, Thokk bellows forth a muffled roar (first use of enrage for the day - advantage on strength saves). Punching, kicking, and struggling, he forcibly crawls forth from some orifice of the beast and out onto the metal floor (Strength save 19).

    Inside the creature, Shefak stills her mind and summons her internal energy. Feeling her go limp, the creature shifts its muscle groups to the still-struggling Babshapka and Larry. Suddenly Shefak strikes out, using her knees and elbows to strike deep within the creature at now vulnerable organs. The creature spasms, them topples over, dragging all three of those inside to their sides.

    [Attack action: unarmed strike, unarmed strike. 1 Ki point (flurry of blows): Bonus action: unarmed strike, unarmed strike, target save vs. dex or knocked prone. Total four attacks, 1 hit against AC 16. 9 damage, Lurker Dex save 4, fails. Those attacking it from outside now have advantage.]

    Aurora shoots a firebolt at the creature [12 fire damage].

    Tyrius charges, raining down blows of his hammer [two hits, total 17 damage]

    Round 2
    Thokk tries to pry open the sphincter-like mouth of the creature and retrieve his friend Larry, but to no avail. His powerful hands find no purchase of the boneless, rubbery creature. [Larry strength save 2, +5 from Thokk’s help = 7. On Thokk’s turn, he neither attacks nor has taken damage since his last turn. His rage ends.]

    Umbra sends for a skeletal, disembodied hand to grab at the creature, but that, too, is ineffective.

    Now standing nearly astride the creature, Willa opens great gashes along its flanks, revealing glimpses of her mates inside. [two hits, one critical, total 29 damage] The creature quivers, but can no longer effectively constrict. The three inside, even Larry, begin to crawl out.

    Aurora shoots a last firebolt at it [damage 11], and the creature’s movement ceases. It slowly oozes out a purple-colored, blood like substance. This makes the floor sticky, but drops through the slots in the treaded part of the floor making a steady dripping patter on some surface close below. As the liquid drains away, the color of the creature turns from the dull gray of the metal ceiling to a dead white.

    Larry suggests that the party walk further apart, and Aurora explains to Thokk how he can probe the ceiling with his wooden pole every so often to detect other such creatures.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:19 pm  

    The journey just getting to the Starfall has been just as exciting as actually starting to explore it. Your players are all very, very lucky to have you as their DM.

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.
    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:40 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    The journey just getting to the Starfall has been just as exciting as actually starting to explore it. Your players are all very, very lucky to have you as their DM.

    And they tell me so, so I am lucky as well!

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.

    The party's current size is eight - they will pick up a new member, run by a new player, inside the Unoerthly Cave, bringing them to 9 PC's for three stable players, which was unwieldy. Once out of the cave, they will split with the five more-played characters becoming the main party, and the four less-played ones branching off - with the possibility to be continued in the future. Then the main group will get one more new character, for a total of 6 PC's played by 3 players. That is where we are right now and I am very happy with how it is working.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 541
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    Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:26 pm  

    Kirt wrote:

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.

    The party's current size is eight - they will pick up a new member, run by a new player, inside the Unoerthly Cave, bringing them to 9 PC's for three stable players, which was unwieldy. Once out of the cave, they will split with the five more-played characters becoming the main party, and the four less-played ones branching off - with the possibility to be continued in the future. Then the main group will get one more new character, for a total of 6 PC's played by 3 players. That is where we are right now and I am very happy with how it is working.

    What's the next story arc? Are you sending them to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, pitting them against the Slave Lords or making them fight Against The Giants?
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:05 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    What's the next story arc? Are you sending them to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, pitting them against the Slave Lords or making them fight Against The Giants?

    Yes, one of the three. Wink

    I think it is a little to early for that - today is the second of many posts about their Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I don't want to get ahead of myself and would rather entertain speculation about what is going to happen to them on the spaceship rather than what will happen if they survive it.

    We will BUILD to that.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:28 am  
    Post 158: The First Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our second Barrier Peaks session, was 18 January, 2019.

    DM's Notes: Vegepygmies and Thornies are statted for 5E in Volo's Guide to Monsters. However, the ones the party found herein were my personal conversions which attempted to stay closer to the source material. Mine are considerably more resilient and also have the six gradations of power found in the original module (HD1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), whereas Volo's has only normal vegepygmies (CR 1/4 and just 9hp) and chiefs. I have started a thread in the 5e forum documenting my hombrew conversions to S3 but unfortunately have not worked on it of late; I started it in anticipation of running the module but soon the actual play itself consumed my posting time!

    Vegepygmy Sporrior AC15, Hp.16, Dart: +5 to hit, d6+3 piercing, pack tactics
    Vegepygmy Sprout AC16, Hp.22, Javelin: +4 to hit, 2d4+2 piercing, pack tactics
    Vegepygmy Sapling AC17, Hp.30, Club: +0 to hit, d10-2 bludgeoning, distracting attack
    Vegepygmy Champignion AC18, Hp.37, Mace: +0 to hit, 2d4-1 bludgeoning, distracting attack
    Thornie AC15, Hp.30, Bite: +3 to hit, d4+2 piercing, prickly

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 158: The First Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    The corridor they are in has at least six of the strange doors before it turns a corner at the end, but Thokk hasn’t gone thirty feet before he finds one of the doorways, to his right, is open. The party investigates the small (20’ x 20’) room beyond [unnumbered room - apartment].

    It is a small chamber, apparently a solitary living quarters, judging by the furniture. The furniture itself is easily recognizable in form and function, but is made of strange and unfamiliar materials. The walls, floor, and ceiling are of the same metal as the exterior corridors. The floor and walls are solid, while the ceiling has a few rectangular panels that look as though they might be made of glass - although impossibly large for single panes. Just inside the door are two small, recessed panels on the wall. Both are rectangular and slightly larger than a human hand.

    Once several of them are in the room, Aurora presses the first panel (closer to the door) whereupon there is a slight whirring noise and the door slides shut. After a brief moment of panic, with many of those in the party looking for the inevitable pit trap, water trap, crushing ceiling, etc., Aurora pushes the panel again, and the door resumes its open position!

    When the second panel (farther from the door) is pressed, the room is flooded with very bright light. After their eyes adjust the party can see that the light is being produced by, or perhaps coming from behind, the glass panels in the ceiling.

    The party searches the room - it should be a quick search of a small space with little of interest - but each of them is dumbfounded by the strangeness of the materials used to make otherwise familiar objects. Showing the odd materials to one another, the party comes to recognize that they appear to be variations on the same thing:

    “Cave Horn”: This material is lighter than wood but hard and rigid, like horn. It shows no sign of having been carved - in fact, it looks more like it has been cast in a mold of exceptional detail and precision. It is reasonably easy to scratch, and in a few places there are scratches and scuff marks. Pieces that are large or thick are quite rigid, with just a trace of flex. Pieces that are small or thin, however, bend easily under pressure but instantly return to their original form when released. If pushed too hard, they will break rather than bending permanently. The odd material seems to be a substitute for wood and much of the furniture is made from it.

    “Cave Sponge”: This material appears to be full of tiny holes, like a sea sponge but much smaller and more regular. It compresses easily under pressure, but springs back almost immediately. It seems to have been cut to fit each of the items it is inside. The odd material seems to be a substitute for straw, hair, or feather-stuffed mattresses and upholstery.

    The bed has a frame made of light, rigid material they begin to call ‘cave horn’. The mattress is covered with a thin, linen-like but unrecognizable fabric. It is rent, torn, and stained in several places. Beneath the fabric is a thick block of soft, incredibly light, and resilient material they begin to call ‘cave sponge’.

    The room also contains an odd, stuffed divan. It appears to be designed for two or more people to sit next to one another, but in comfort, which is a strange concept. Of course, people often crowd together on benches at trestle tables or in pews at church because they must. But anyone wealthy enough to have private, upholstered furniture would surely want a chair to themselves, wouldn’t they? The divan has a frame made of cave horn. The seat and back cushions and armrests are covered with a thin, linen-like but unrecognizable fabric. It is rent, torn, and stained in several places. Underneath the fabric is a thick block of cave sponge. They imagine the divan would be exceedingly comfortable, as if it were designed for sleeping rather than sitting.

    There is a low table flanked by the divan. The height of the table is odd. For creatures sitting on the divan, it would be difficult to eat without bending over uncomfortably. The table is made of a single piece of a cave horn.

    There is a high table flanked by chairs, all of them made of cave horn. The table is a solid piece with fixed legs rather than of trestle construction, and likely cannot be put away when not in use, even though it is light enough to move easily. The chairs have normal backs, but no legs. Rather, the seat continues down the front, across the bottom, and up the back, so that the whole thing from the side rather resembles a lower base letter “b”.

    The desk is plain and unadorned. The drawers open easily, with a sophisticated system of runners and metal castors such as might be found in an expensive trap. The drawers are either empty or have worthless junk, however. Oddly, they find no trace of ink, ink bottles, quills, sealing wax, parchment, paper, or anything else that might be expected in a desk. The surface of the desk is a hard, reflective metal sheet, while the drawers and legs are made of cave horn.

    There is a small cave horn nightstand by the bed that seems to double as a chest. The lid folds up, but the entire front may be pulled out like a drawer as well. The hinges are of a hard, reflective metal. The drawer opens easily, with the same runners and castors as in the desk. It is empty, however.

    There are also skeletons in the room - definitely humanoid and most likely human, judging by their size and features, but the bone is exceptionally old and dry. What remains of the rags they are clad in is an exceptionally light material, thin like silk but remarkably resistant to decay judging by the age of the bones.

    “I wonder whether we could stop this door from closing if we had to,” says Aurora. She places the chair from the room in the doorway and presses the interior plate. The door slides closed, pausing when it reaches the chair. Aurora thinks she hears a whirring sound, like mice scurrying in the walls, and then the chair shatters, with several broken pieces of the horn-like material landing inside the room and several outside, as the door slides firmly closed.

    “Remind me not to be the last one through the doorway,” she says.

    9:40am - Unbeknownst to the party, three displacer beasts approach the apartment cautiously, sniff and listen to the sounds of them searching the room. Later, when the party emerges but without the mount and mules, the beasts fall back into the shadows and tail them.

    The party isn’t keen on walking around with their mules and gear in tow and exposing them to fights, and this room seems like an ideal place to keep them. Eddard is easily able to open and close the door by pushing the wall panel with his nose, and Tyrius is able to communicate with him telepathically even with the door closed. Just to be sure, the party tries to open the door from the outside, and are unable to do so. What a great place to stow things! Eddard agrees to stay and watch the mules, and the party eagerly sets out.

    “Ye sure ye don’t need yer spells?” Willa asks Aurora. “Ye used all yer powerful ones gettin’ ther four-legs up ‘ere.”

    “No, I’m only down a mage armor and three flies so far,” says the enchantress confidently. “I still have plenty of uses of magic missile and web left, and that should be enough for whatever else we find dropping from the ceiling. Mind you, I do like fireball and certainly wouldn’t mind having one on hand, but I’m no one-trick pony.”

    “Suit yerself,” shrugs Willa as they start down the hall.

    When they reach the corner at the end of the hallway, they see a narrower hall with more doors ahead, but immediately at hand there is another open doorway, with light streaming through it out into the dark beyond.

    Looking through the doorway, they find the room is recognizable as a private feast hall or perhaps the meeting place of a privy council [unnumbered room - activity room]. There is a single long, high table with eight chairs set up. All of the chairs are individual rather than being benches. More grimly, the bones of several humans or humanoids lie strewn about - some in reasonably articulated skeletons and some scattered. Most have rags of fabric clinging to them but no weapons or other devices are in sight. There are several piles of refuse along the walls and in the corners of the room. The southern wall is interesting in that it is gently curved, like the interior wall of a great round tower, rather than set at the precise right angles they have seen everywhere else.

    There are two doors along the interior wall of the hall, and two, including the one they are looking through, along the exterior wall. Most of the party has already passed into the room when Aurora pauses at the threshold. “Hmm…” she says, staring at the wall.

    “What ho?” asks Tyrius.

    “Look at this,” she replies. “This door doesn’t have the slot - glass - receptacle configuration of all the other doors - just a single pressure plate.” Tyrius nods and enters.

    “There are two plates on this side,” he says, “like inside that bedchamber.”

    Aurora presses the single plate on her side of the wall, and the door slides shut, sealing the rest of the party in the room and her outside. A second later, the door opens, and Tyrius grins at her. “Just like the bedchamber,” he says. “Watch this…” He presses the second interior panel and the room is plunged into darkness. Yells and curses from the party, now searching the room, quickly follow.

    And Pelor said let there be light…” he says jovially and presses the panel again. The rectangular ceiling glasses again flood the room with light.

    While the party searches the room, poking through the refuse piles, Aurora goes to the other doors. The door on the exterior wall is identical to the previous one, and can be opened or closed on either side. The two interior doors, however, have the three-part panel they have seen elsewhere, and there is nothing she can do to get them open.

    “What’s different about this space…?” ponders Aurora to herself.

    “In t’other room, ye helped searchin’, an’ in t’is room, yer jus’ sittin' on yer arse?” suggests Willa, as she uses her sword to poke through a jumble of trash on the floor.

    “This room is for public use, whereas that bedroom was private,” Aurora answers herself, giving no indication she has heard Willa. “Private rooms should have keys - which means something in that triptych panel is a keyhole.” She walks over to one of the interior doors, staring at the strange three-part panel. “And if this is the keyhole,” she traces the upper, horizontal, slot with her finger, “the key must be thin and flat, but broad.” Aurora tells the others, as they root through the refuse, to be on the lookout for anything small and flat that might fit in the door slots, but even after more searching, nothing relevant is found.

    The party returns to the hall. It is just a short way up and around the corner, and there is light ahead as well.

    They ignore an open, but dark doorway as they move forward. Looking around the corner, Thokk sees a long hall with no fewer than seven open doorways, each one with light spilling out.

    “Hush!” says Umbra suddenly, killing the innocuous chatter in the party. After a moment of silence, she says, “there is something ahead that is rustling - like tall grass in a breeze.”

    Thokk frowns as he tries to understand her words, then shrugs and moves forward. Peeking into the first room, he sees a curious sight [12]. Ten creatures - eight diminutive, and two the size of large dogs, are in a long, narrow room. The light comes from the ceiling, and the eight tiny men stand with arms open and faces up toward the light, swaying gently back and forth. The men are a mottled green and brown color, and are dressed in armor that looks like it is made of pieces of bark. They bear clubs and javelins, and their features are rough and distorted. Their hair is gathered in top-knots, and they have curious growths and protuberances erupting from their skin, particularly in the region of their bowels.

    As Thokk stares on in bewilderment, the men closest to him in the doorway turn slowly to face him, looking on with curious, lidless eyes.

    Thokk and Willa draw their weapons, but do not advance. They note that the curious bipedal creatures are small, ranging from two to three feet high. The four-legged creatures are rather larger, being the size of mastiffs. A few of the creatures in the room closest to them take some steps forward, then stop, emitting a strange warbling sound and beating on the hard wooden breastplates they have.

    Suddenly every open doorway begins spilling forth the tiny creatures. They move rapidly into the hall; those with javelins preparing to throw, while those with clubs move to the front ranks to engage Thokk and Willa.

    Willa hits one twice (total 25 points) but it remains standing. Apparently they are very tough for diminutive plant-men. Now that they are moving, Willa can see that they are not actually in wooden armor - rather, while much of their body is twisted, sinewy vegetation that moves, other parts have hard, woody plates covering them, like some kind of living exoskeleton.

    Thokk hits one (12 points) and Umbra, testing whether or not they are damaged by magic, fires off three dark bolts (total 7 damage) which do indeed seem to wound one (Umbra now at 3/3/3 for spells).

    Round One
    The three largest plant men, barely three feet high, attempt to batter Thokk and Willa with their clubs. For being so tough, they are not particularly strong, and the blows bounce harmlessly off of Willa’s armor or are easily avoided by Thokk.

    Willa’s counterstrikes are strong, but don’t penetrate the hard wooden plates of the creatures (hit rolls 14, 16 - they have AC17).

    Thokk hits twice (for 18 total) and the plant man he faces is still standing. How infuriating! Thokk enrages. (second use of rage for the day).

    Seeing the hallway swarming with the tiny creatures and more emerging from the rooms, Larry steps up behind Thokk and Willa. Calling upon the mountain spirits of storms, he launches forth a massive lightning bolt (32 points) low to the ground (Larry now 3/2/2 for spells). It shoots through the plant men in the front ranks of the party, enters one of the rooms they are coming out of, and bounces off the metal walls, filling the air with the smell of ozone. A half-second later, it emerges from the room, and heads straight back at the party, arcing through the plant men along the way! Babshapka, Willa, Larry, and Tyrius are all forced to dive out of the way, and still take damage from the stroke (16 points).

    With currents still arcing through his chainmail, Larry plants his feet firmly again. “Worth et” he says simply, but Babshapka is not so sure. The plant men seem to have attracted the lightning, but it passed right through them - none of them seem the worse for wear.

    “Uh, Larry...are you sure plants are hurt by lightning?” the elf asks. “Maybe we could try fire?”

    [DM’s note: Vegepygmies and thornies are immune to damage from electricity]

    The back ranks of plant men launch a volley of javelins at Thokk, Willa, and Babshapka. Only Babshapka is hit, but by three of the small, pointed sticks. The projectiles don’t have metal heads or even fletching, but they are covered in wicked barbs and the plant men throw them with deadly accuracy. Between the javelins (14 points) and the previous lightning bolt (16 points), Babshapka is not doing so well (now down to 9hp remaining).

    Seeing Babshapka waiver, Shefak launches herself forward. She leaps into the front rank with a kick that knocks a plant man out of the way but does no damage. Another kick wounds one, and a mighty blow from her staff finishes it off. (total two hits, one critical, damage 25). Seeing its form quiver on the floor, then cease its struggles, Shefak encourages her teammates, “They are strange, but mortal. Don’t give in to fear.”

    Despite her words, there is another volley of javelins from the plant men, and two find their mark among the party.

    “Ugh, there are too many…” frets Aurora, now regretting her words to Willa about not needing fireball. “They are like plant - rats. This should help…” she fills the hallway with webs, creating a shield against the javelins, trapping several of the plant men, and effectively halving the number the party are facing. (Aurora now at 3/2/0 for spells)

    Babshapka takes the opportunity to withdraw into the back ranks, giving space to anyone else who wants to rush to the fore.

    Tyrius pushes in by Willa and attacks, landing two blows with his hammer (total 17 points) and killing the second creature, then withdrawing. Umbra follows up with a ray of shadow at the closest one to her. (5 points).

    Round 2
    Now safely in the back ranks, Babshapka launches two arrows of his own at a plant man, following it up with a hail of thorns for good measure. The shots should do good damage (22 points total), but the plant man appears unaffected. Even the shafts that miss the wood armor and penetrate the living plant fibre seem to do no damage! (Babshapka spells to 3/2).

    [DM’s note: vegepygmies and thornies are immune to damage from non-magical piercing weapons]

    Babshapka, in a rare moment of anger and frustration, throws his bow on the ground and draws his two swords.

    Another volley of javelins lands for effect among the party. They realize now that the plant men are actually timing their throws to support the front melee ranks of their compatriots - when one of the party steps up to make an attack, they are met with a javelin throw.

    [DM’s note: Vegepygmy missile troops have “pack tactics” - advantage on attacks against any foe engaged in melee with an ally].

    Shefak continues to spin and weave among the melee. She lands two unarmed blows, and a solid blow with her staff. Seeing the number of foes still standing, she inhales sharply, then exhales loudly as she kicks a plant man so hard it flies backward and lands in Aurora’s web! (Second ki point spent for Aurora; flurry of blows plus contested strength roll to knock back 15 feet). In response, one of the strange plant-thorn-dogs lunges from an open doorway and bites Shefak.

    Tyrius looks for an opening between Thokk and Willa, then using Thokk’s rage to effect, moves forward, strikes twice (for 16 damage), and moves back.

    Annoyed that the plant men survived his lightning bolt, Larry summons a moonbeam and places it in one of the rooms from which they are still emerging (Larry now 3/1/2 for spells). The three plant men still in the room wriggle and writhe - the intense light seems to be browning, even scorching, their green “skin”. (7 points to two of them, 3 points to one).

    The tiny plant men don’t seem to understand that the party are the superior combatants. They are continuing to emerge and attack undaunted. Willa is getting angry. She strikes one of the plant men in the doorway of a room and fells it (24 points, now three vegepygmies down).

    Another volley of javelins lands among the party, damaging Shefak (6) and Tyrius (13). Shefak has outworn her welcome on the front lines and has sustained numerous wounds (Shefak at 3hp). Of all the plant men trapped in Aurora’s web, two struggle through and make attacks on Shefak and Tyrius, but to no effect.

    Thokk can barely make out anyone with the sound of his blood raging in his ears, but it seems he hears someone shouting “Fire!” over and over again. Is it Willa? Aurora? No matter. He drops his shield and shrugs his backpack off one shoulder, changes his sword to his offhand, and has the pack on the ground. (Dex save 23). Rummaging in his pack, he pulls out two flasks of oil and launches them at the lead melee plant man and the closest thorn-dog.

    Umbra shoots a Ray of Shadow at one of the thorn dogs, which does appear affected by the cold damage. Suddenly her shadow hound appears in the middle of the melee, baring its jet black teeth and uttering a menacing growl.

    Aurora shoots a fire-bolt at one of the oil-covered plant men (14 points damage, plus 5 from the oil). The resultant fire spreads to the other oil-covered creature and ignites the webs. At the end of the brief conflagration, two of the plant men have been burned to death (total five down), and many others are smoldering and wounded. Aurora had hoped that the plant men would go up like seasoned wood, but it appears that they are too “green” for that, too moist to keep burning after the oil and webs have burned away.

    Round Three
    With most of the plant men near the party struck down, they are now attacked by three thorn dogs. Shefak suffers a bite and drops to the floor in shock, unconscious. Umbra’s hound is bitten, but Willa’s magical armor protects her from another bite.

    Babshapka uses a second-level spell slot to heal himself, but is disappointed in the result (5 points healing, Babshapka’s spells to 3/1).

    Now that the webs have been burned away, there is a volley of eight javelins at the party! Two are aimed at Willa (missed), four on Thokk (one hit for 5, Thokk takes 2), and two on Umbra’s hound (one hit for 4). Before anyone in the party can react, another seven javelins come in! Two on Willa (one hit for 6), three on Thokk (missed), and two on the hound (both hit for 12).

    Umbra shoots another three dark bolts at the plant men around her hound (now at 2/3/3), and the sixth such creature goes down.

    Babshapka gets Aurora’s attention by slapping her with the broad side of his sword, and tells her “There’s too many.” He then shouts at the party for a general retreat and grabs his bow from the floor. Umbra adds her voice to those calling for retreat.

    Somehow the shouts reach Thokk even through his battle lust. He sheathes his sword (which was already in his offhand), throws his pack back on one shoulder, stoops and grabs both his shield and the crumpled body of Shefak. Straightening, he ignores the thorn dogs at his heels as he trots down the hall away from the combat.

    [Note; Thokk took damage this round, so he does not lose his rage even though he did not attack]

    The spellcasters, Larry and Aurora, prepare to cover the party’s retreat. Aurora plans on casting a new web, while Larry is ready to move his moonbeam, once Thokk and Tyrius are out of the way. In the room where the moonbeam already is, the three plant men take more damage and a seventh one is killed.

    Tyrius retreats down the hall, calling after the others to join him.

    Before retreating, Willa decides to attack one of the thorn dogs (two hits, 27 damage). In the course of her attack, several of its thorns blunt themselves on her plate. Without her magic armor, she would likely have taken damage just from getting too near the creature. Willa resolves to warn Shefak of this, if she can be revived.

    Aurora casts web in front of Willa and Thokk, the party members farthest to the front, then continues her own retreat. She conveniently ignores the fact that her web is covering Umbra’s hound (Aurora now at 3/1/0 for spells).

    Round 4
    Of the three thorn dogs covered in Aurora’s web, one remains stuck, one attacks Umbra’s hound, and one emerges to attack Willa. Of the three largest plant men, with clubs, two are caught in the web, while a third breaks free and swings at Thokk.

    The party is feeling confident that their tactical retreat is going well, when suddenly there is an odd hissing sound. To the north a set of doors has opened, revealing another room full of the creatures, on the near side of the web!

    “T’ey ken ‘ow ter use doors!” gasps Willa in surprise. Two of the creatures strike ineffectually at her with clubs.

    Larry whispers a healing word to Shefak, restoring her to consciousness, then concentrates on moving his moonbeam closer to the party. (Larry’s spells at 2/1/2). He gets his spell to cover the newly open doorway, and two plant men and two thorn dogs writhe as they run through it (17 points each!). This is not[/] the kind of light these plants like, apparently.

    Babshapka continues to retreat down the corridor, but Willa is surrounded - she has two of the plant men and two thorn dogs on her. Cursing in annoyance, she strikes at one of the plant men, slashing it into a quivering pile of tendrils (two hits, one critical, total 32 damage). When Aurora [i]firebolts
    the other one, it falls as well.

    Umbra’s hound struggles to keep attacking, but it is ensnared by webs. She mutters darkly, looking down the hall at the plant men and thorn dogs emerging from the moonbeam. A sphere of darkness appears between the creatures. Tendrils of darkness break the surface of the sphere, reach out, grasping at them. Three manage to elude its grasp, but one thorn-dog is grabbed and held. (Entropy; Umbra now at 3/3/2 for spells).

    The plant men in the hall send a volley of ten darts at Thokk and Umbra’s hound. (Three hits on Thokk, one critical, 24 points of damage, reduced to 12 from rage. Five hits on hound, two critical, 32 points of damage). The hound gives up its essence to cover Umbra’s retreat, disappearing back into the shadows from whence it came.

    Plant men begin struggling through the new web, trying to reach the party.

    Shefak jumps down from Thokk’s shoulder, and he draws his sword.

    One plant man batters his club against Willa’s plate armor.

    Round 5
    Thokk and Willa are still covering the party’s retreat. They have turned the corner from the new web, though, and so are visible only to the creatures emerging from the last room, the one whose door just opened. Two darts are thrown at them (Thokk is hit for 5, takes 2).

    Umbra has retreated far enough that she is standing in front of the door of the room in which are the mules and Eddard. She looks anxiously down the hall in both directions as she waits for the rest of the party to catch up with her.

    Larry moves his moonbeam, keeping it just behind Thokk and Willa so that any pursuers have to run through it to get to them.

    A thorn dog misses Thokk; both he and Willa are missed by plant men.

    Shefak pauses in her retreat, adopts a standing meditative pose, and briefly glows with a golden light. She then runs to Umbra’s side, outside the door. (Wholeness of Body - Shefak healed for 18 points).

    With two swift strokes of his sword, Thokk fells two of the thorn dogs.

    Willa hits the remaining plant men twice and then falls back, ignoring their feeble response strikes.

    Aurora and Babshapka arrive at the door to the mules. Babshapka starts pounding on it, while Aurora tries to message Eddard.

    Tyrius arrives at the door and reaches out to Eddard. The door finally opens.

    Round 6
    Aurora provides covering firebolts as the party enters the room as quickly as they can through the doorway. Plant men are still throwing darts as Willa and Thokk, his rage fading, enter last. Just before the doors close, Larry moves the moonbeam into the hallway outside the door itself.

    As the door closes, Thokk turns, ready to form up ranks. When he realizes that they were actually running away, not drawing the plant men forward to fight them from a better position, he howls in frustration. He is not ready for the battle to be over.

    Willa turns on the party accusingly. “What ther ‘ells were t’at?” She seems both surprised and disgusted by their disarray.

    “I guess we are not very practiced at retreating,” offers Aurora. “We don’t do it often. In fact, I think the last time we ran away from a fight was before we knew you. We were outnumbered, and fighting against smugglers.”

    “And skeletons,” adds Babshapka in agreement.

    “And sausages,” says Thokk, and shivers in remembered dread.

    Willa snorts derisively, and motions everyone away from the door while she takes off her helm and places her ear up against the metal.

    Aurora moves to a far corner of the room and begins a ritual of detect magic. Willa hushes her incantations testily. Umbra glides up to the door and listens with Willa. They agree that there are still noises of the plant men without, but they are faint - either they are far away, or the door is an excellent insulator of sound. Willa mutters that she hopes the creatures don’t know how to open this door.

    Tyrius makes the rounds, examining each of their wounds. He finds Babshapka most in need of healing and lays hands on him (5 points of healing, Tyrius out of lay on hands). The elf thanks Tyrius and cautiously lowers himself to the divan, preparing to trance.

    Suddenly the door of the room slides open. It has been less than a minute, and Larry’s moonbeam is still flooding the hallway with light. Beyond the area of the beam, however, are arrayed a dozen or more of the plant men, front ranks with clubs readying a charge, back ranks with darts and javelins in hand. To the side of the door frame, one of the larger plant man stands by the wall, stretching his arm up to retrieve something from the receptacle at the bottom of the three-part panel.

    Willa leans out and grabs the creature, attempting to pull both it and whatever it has in its hand into the room, but it turns and writhes in her grasp. Apparently it doesn’t have joints, at least not ones that work like Willa expects. (Contested strength roll; Willa 7, Sapling 16. Willa spends an inspiration point to re-roll hers, and gets a 5 (critical fail!)).

    Babshapka leaps up from the couch, asking whether they are continuing the fight. In response, Willa shouts “Shut ther door!” through clenched teeth as she continues to tug on the plant man. Finally she wrestles it into the room (Willa contested strength roll 18, sapling 12), and then wraps her hands around its little neck, attempting to throttle it.

    From the hallway comes a volley of javelins, and Willa is struck by one (10 points). Larry moves to the door, pressing the panel to close the portal, and mentally moving his moonbeam to cover the exterior panel even as the door slides shut.

    Thokk wrenches the plant man from Willa’s grasp, throws it to the floor, and then chops at it with his sword. (two hits, 21 points, but it still lives!)

    Aurora abandons her ritual and attempts to message the plant man in Ancient Suel, the oldest language she knows.

    Eddard moves along the wall and holds his nose to the wall panel, prepared to shut the door if it opens again. Shefak moves to the closed doorway, ready to deflect any entering javelins.

    Tyrius steps up to the scuffle, motioning Thokk away. He wants to knock the plant man out, the better to question him later. He hits it on the head with his war hammer and it goes limp and falls to the floor. He carefully picks it up and carries it to the bed.

    Willa has gone to her knees and is pushing around the floor the bits and pieces of the plant man that Thokk hacked off. She comes up with a small, flat, rectangular bit of cave horn. It is jet black and slightly reflective, shaped like a playing card but smaller. “I t’ink t’is be ther key ter ther door…” she says, and hands the object to Aurora.

    Eddard has joined Tyrius alongside the bed. He sniffs suspiciously at the tiny plant man. “This is what you all were running from?” he asks, clearly not impressed.

    “There were a lot of them!” says Aurora defensively.

    “In my experience,” opines Eddard, “when facing large numbers of minor opponents, it is best to use area-of-effect spells, such as your fireball, or Master Larry’s moonbeam.” Aurora reddens, attempts to respond, and then silently seethes.

    Finally, she says, “I’ll be readying a comprehend languages. Bring me the thing when it is conscious.” She stomps across the small room and begins another ritual.

    Tyrius lifts the arm of the creature, tries to feel for a pulse, but is unsure if there was one to begin with. Babshapka comes over, casts a cure wounds to speed the process along. (Babshapka’s spells to 2/1). The creature doesn’t stir. “I think it’s dead,” the elf says.

    “But I was trying to knock it out!” objects Tyrius.

    Babshapka shrugs. “Maybe plants don’t go unconscious.”

    Aurora sighs exasperatedly and motions for Babshapka to move the creature from the bed to the low table beside the divan. She unpacks some supplies on the divan and prepares to dissect it right on the table, as well as examining the javelins that landed inside the room. While she works, she asks each of the party, in turn, to tell her what they remember of the combat, in as much detail as possible. The entire encounter lasted less than a minute, and she pieces together a more or less coherent narrative from the collected memories.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:39 am  
    Post 159: Police Robot

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our third Barrier Peaks session, was 8 February, 2019.

    DM's Notes: Police Robot: AC11, Hp. 130. The police robots generate a protective force field that can take 20 points of damage. In effect, they begin each of their turns with 20 temporary hit points.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 159: Police Robot
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    [Unbeknownst to the party, after the loss of a door card and many of their warriors, the vegepygmies have decided that they have successfully defended their territory. They haul the dead and wounded off to the mulch room, and post guards in some of the dark rooms approaching their hallway, but don’t otherwise menace the party.]

    It has been some fifteen minutes and the door has not opened - Willa and Umbra don’t hear anything outside. The party prepares to rest.

    “I don’t think this is a city, or a mine,” says Aurora suddenly.

    “Why not?” asks Tyrius.

    “These rooms - whoever heard of a bed chamber, or a meeting room, just lying off the street outside the main door of a city? Where are the guard rooms, where is the market square?”

    Tyrius nods, forced to agree. “What do you think this is?”

    “I think it is a ship,” Aurora says matter-of-factly.

    “Yer barmy!” explodes Willa.

    “I’m serious,” contends Aurora. “I thought before that they built this city at the site where the star fell. But what if there was no star - I mean, what if all of this (and she gestures all around them) was the star!”

    Willa shakes her head. “I don’t ken from magic, but I ken ships. Ships don’t be made o’ metal.”

    “Water-ships, no, of course not. But ships that move between the stars? What if this whole place is a star ship? What if what Nholast saw was this whole thing falling to Oerth?”

    “Ships don’t fly,” says Willa, “an’ t’ey don’t fall, neither.”

    “Mules don’t fly!” counters Aurora. “And yet I made two mules and a celestial horse fly up to the entrance of this place. I can’t begin to imagine the magic it would take to make even one of these strange doors - and we’ve already seen a dozen! Is it so hard to believe that the mage who made this place could make it fly? Fly between stars?”

    “Yer daft,” says Willa, but this time she doesn’t sound quite as sure of herself.

    (11:25am; rest time 1 hr for all)
    It has been an hour since the party killed the plant man. Most of them elect to take the benefits of a short rest.

    Larry’s spells from 2/1/2 to 3/2/2 (natural recovery).
    Aurora’s spells from 3/1/0 to 3/1/1 (arcane recovery).
    Shefak recovers all her ki points.
    Tyrius spends 3HD and gets back 20hp.
    Thokk spends 2HD and gets back 22hp.
    Larry spends 2HD and gets back 20hp.
    Willa spends 3HD and gets back 19hp.
    Willa also uses her Second Wind for another 15hp.
    Babshapka spends 3HD and gets back 30hp.
    Shefak spends 2HD and gets back 15hp.

    With the addition of two cure wounds spells from Tyrius, the party is all at full hp. Tyrius’ spells now at 2/2.

    After an hour without interruption, the party decides to make longer-term plans, and to take a long rest. (Long rest will recover: full spell slots (including for Tyrius, Babshapka, Umbra), rage, wholeness of body, lay on hands, second wind).

    They consider wedging the door with a piton, but are unsure they would be able to get it open again, even if it worked to hold the sliding door shut, which they doubt it would. The door actually goes lower into a groove in the floor, so they can’t place the piton beneath the door, either. In the end, they position Thokk as sitting on the floor, leaning his back up against the door, so at least he will be woken if it opens.

    The restless mules are unladen, and the gear packs distributed around the room, bed rolls taken out and placed on the floor. Things they may need to access during the rest are laid out on the desk, low table, and high table. Tyrius doesn’t get out his bed roll, but he does take off his armor and lay down in the bed - sighing in both amazement and satisfaction. “I don’t think the Earl has a bed as comfortable as this, be it stuffed with goose down,” he says contentedly. “In truth, I don’t think the King of Keoland does.”

    The mules sniff at the odd fabric covers of the bed mattress and divan, but don’t like what they smell. They try a few pieces of the dissected plant man, and this they actually chew and swallow, but without much gusto. It is still early in the day, so they are not too hungry. Fortunately the warm air of the cave seems to have improved Randy’s colic and attitude.

    Aurora examines the small card found by Willa. She agrees that it is the right size for the horizontal slot on the door, and could be a key - but learns little else about it.

    Some time later one of the mules raises his tail and deposits a load of droppings on the floor. Those in the party who are awake ignore it - they have been living for more than a week with the mules and their droppings in their tent, and this room is considerably larger than the tent. After a few moments, though, Larry sits up and begins to snuffle. (Nature check 22). He wanders the room sniffing, then licks a grubby finger and holds it in the air. “Och, this rrroom be vent’lated,” he says finally.

    Bored with nervous energy in the strange place, many in the party start to seek out the source of the air. Aurora (Investigation 18 ) finds, on opposite sides of the room, twin wall panels with tiny, pinprick-sized holes that were not noted before. Using a thin sheet of parchment to detect the current, she is able to see that indeed, air is flowing out of one of them and in to the other. She looks for a way to disassemble the grate and finds four screwheads in the corners. The slot for the screwdriver is thinner than her parchment paper, however, and tiny besides. They would likely need jeweler’s tools to undo it. She unpacks her sharpest utility knife and fumbles at the screwheads, but the blade is still too thick.

    Thokk has been ignoring the proceedings so far (except for a hearty chuckle at the mule’s initial defecation), but he perks up when Aurora takes out her knife. He is still annoyed that they ran away from the plant men. Is the screechy elf-woman going to fight something? He stands and moves to her side.

    “What you do?” he asks as he sees her touching the wall with her dagger.

    “Trying to open this grate, Thokk dear, to see the vent on the other side.”

    He watches her fumble for a bit and then gently shoves her out of the way. “Thokk open,” he says, and then swings his ham-hock sized fist at the wall. The metal is hard and takes the skin off his knuckles, but he does leave a dent - this isn’t the same kind of hard metal that broke his javelin head without a scratch.

    At the resounding clang and grunt of pain, Willa looks up from sharpening her greatsword. “Thokk, no!” she says, dropping her implements and dashing to his side.

    Thokk assumes that she is jealous and wants to open the grate herself. “Thokk find first!” he says, and lands another powerful blow on the metal, denting it further. “Advisor find own grate.” She attempts to shove him away from the wall, but is unsuccessful. (Contested Str check Willa 7, Thokk 20). Aurora has wisely retreated from the wall.

    “Thokk, NO!” Willa says, and tries to punch him on the jaw (Attack roll 13), but he moves instinctively and takes the blow on his shoulder (Thokk AC without shield 17). He continues to pound on the grate, now with both hands in urgency, sensing that he has to finish before Willa tries to do it herself.

    Willa slides between Thokk and the wall just as his right hand finally breaks through. The broken, jagged metal rips bloody gouges in his hand and wrist, but he steps back smiling in satisfaction. “There, Ror-ra!” he says contentedly, “Thokk open!” He grins triumphantly at Willa, and then returns to his post by the door, blood dripping from his lacerated hand.

    Aurora returns to the wall. Willa is livid. “Now, ‘ow we be closin’ it?” she demands of the enchantress.

    “Close it? Why Willa, think of it as an alternative exit, if something locks the door from without,” she smiles. Aurora examines the space beyond the broken grate with her dagger. There is a box-shaped depression the same size as the grate, with the only exit being a narrow tube at the top, a few inches in diameter.

    “And who be able t’ exit yon?” demands Willa hotly.

    “Oh, Charlotte, of course,” replies Aurora easily, “or Larry in one of his wild shapes. Willa, you need to be more open to possibilities.”

    Willa considers her next action, but everything that springs to mind would involve interrupting her rest. She stomps back to where she left her sword and whetstone on the floor, and takes out her anger on the blade.

    (12:50pm; 2:25 hr into rest for all)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a security robot on patrol moves down the hall. It pauses over the body of the slain lurker, runs some diagnostics on the wounds, and concludes that it is highly improbable it was killed by vegepygmies. It routes all available power into its sensory apparati, and its hearing picks noise coming from one of the jet-carded apartments.

    The robot wheels forward, and the displacer beasts camped outside the room break and retreat. The robot approaches the door and holds forth its key probe to the pearl-colored sensor panel of the lock.]

    Some two-and-a-half hours into their rest, the door slides open. Thokk, who was asleep, looks up quizzically. There is nothing in the unlit hall, but gliding into the room is a very strange creature.

    It appears to be several different sizes of metal barrel, onto which two arms and two tentacles have been affixed. Nearly all of it is metal, although some of the articulations look to be covered in tarred cloth, perhaps. It is unclear how it is moving as it glides silently across the floor. Numerous tiny, dim lights glitter along different surfaces. As it enters the room the topmost barrel swivels back and forth and the party realizes that it is to be taken as a head.

    Thokk, seeing no enemies in the hall and no weapons in the hands of the strange metal creature, gets to his feet and draws his sword, but does not immediately attack, instead waiting for Willa or Aurora to set the tone. Or even for Tyrius to talk to it, he supposes. Tyrius likes to talk to strangers.

    Others in the party leap to their feet, but do not attack. Once the creature is inside the room, one of the human-like arms reaches behind it and presses the panel by the door. The door closes, and the creature glides to the center of the room.

    Willa looks for a card in one of its hands, or even its tentacles, but does not see one. She moves to block its access to the rest of the party, and greets it in Common. The creature swivels its head from the door panel back to her, but does not otherwise respond.

    “Aurora, wha’ be t’is?” asks Willa over her shoulder.

    Aurora, followed closely by Larry, approaches.

    “Some sort of construct,” says Aurora confidently. “Like the iron golems in Castle Ravenloft, or the flesh golem in the Tower of Nholast.” She frowns at it. “But certainly the most amateurish one I have ever seen. I mean...look at how ugly and ungainly it is...the greenest animator ‘prentice could do better.”

    Larry steps up to the creature and pokes it. Its head swivels, its tentacles wave, but there is no other reaction. He tries to find something that might be an eye, focusing on the little colored lights. Looking at one on its chest, he sees a bright red light and is momentarily blinded (Investigation 2).

    “I suppose…” considers Aurora, “a flying city of master wizards would have to have dozens of ‘prentices on hand. Perhaps this is someone’s first practice.”

    “T’is ain’t a flyin’ city,” says Willa, “an’ it ain’t a ship, neither.”

    Aurora begins speaking to the creature in every language she knows, trying to issue it command words. Constructs, she knows, are built to do things. They have functions that can be triggered - if only she can find the right words. She speaks for several minutes but has no more luck than she did with the flesh golem.

    Still suspicious, Willa draws her sword, and Babshapka notches an arrow, but even this does not provoke a response. Willa tosses a coin in front of it - perhaps reasoning that the lowliest of constructs would be used to clean - but neither does the creature react to that.

    Frustrated, Aurora pulls out her wand of magic detection. She could use a ritual, of course, but that would tax her rest. Perhaps with this she can get enough information to know how to command it (wand charges to 15).

    After a brief moment, her face looks perplexed. “Wha’?” demands Willa.

    “It’s not magic,” says Aurora, dumbfounded. She looks around. “Nothing in this room registers as magic...not even the door.” But how can that be?

    “Well, it ain’t alive, neither,” says Willa and Aurora nods agreement.

    “Is it a clockwork?” Aurora asks, apparently to herself. “That would explain all the metal and moving bits, I guess.”

    “A clockwha’?” asks Willa.

    “Clockwork,” says Aurora, sounding more confident now. “Some gnomes make automatons that seem animated, but they aren’t actually magic - just complicated machines. Inside they have gears and springs and such. Of course, they can’t think or react - they are little more than toys.”

    She bends nearer, trying to find any buttons or levers that might control it. There are several articulated protuberances, and she even manipulates a few of them, but to no effect. “I don’t know,” she sighs. Keep it here and let me think.”

    Aurora goes over and sits on the floor near the desk (having previously smashed the chair in the door). Willa grabs Thokk’s arm and maneuvers him so that they are both blocking the doorway, preventing the thing from leaving, though it shows no inclination to do so.

    (1:00pm; RT 2:35 hr for all)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, while they are inside with the police robot, a patrol of twelve vegepygmies with four thornies has made its way down the hallway. Normally they would cut the lurker into manageable pieces and haul it off to the mulch room, but now having found the party they thought they had driven off still camped so close to the colony they are concerned. Sensing the vibrations through the floor, they locate the room the party is in and set up camp outside. They are not keen to lose another card assaulting the room, but they can wait until the party emerges into the hall, where their superior numbers will be more of an advantage than trying to force their way through the narrow door.]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, another four vegepygmies and a thornie have arrived to reinforce their position - a total of sixteen and five now lie in wait.]

    Some ten minutes or so after the automaton entered the room, Aurora’s mage armor has expired, which is typical for the early afternoon. She casts it early in the morning to last until their mid-day break from marching. Now, however, she chooses not to renew it - again so as to not tax her rest, as she needs her mind refreshed to get back two more fireballs to deal more effectively with the plant men.

    Suddenly the automaton emits a brief series of high-pitched beeps. “Language analysis complete,” it then says in perfect Common, with a hint of a Uleki accent. “Initiating translation protocol.”

    The party stares at it, all of them surprised, even Eddard.

    “Unrecognized personal,” it continues, “please present identification cards.”

    There is perfect silence in the room.

    “Unrecognized personnel,” it continues, “present identification cards.” The timbre in its “voice” has changed upon repetition, and carries an obvious element of command.

    Aurora swallows and stands. “Please describe identification cards,” she says, her mind racing.

    “Identification cards are issued upon admission of personnel to ship,” it says. “Present identification cards.”

    “‘e said ship,” whispers Willa, eyes wide in astonishment.

    Babshapka turns and does a rapid search through the desk, but finds nothing resembling a card or document (Investigation 22).

    Aurora draws forth the black rectangle Willa recovered from the plant man. She holds it in front of her and takes a step toward the automaton. “Here’s our identification card,” she says.

    It glides smoothly toward her, positioning itself so that the red eye that blinded Larry is a foot from the card. Those in a position to see the card and Aurora’s face see a red light briefly play over both.

    “Colonist Identification Card does not match personal biometrics of subject,” the automaton announces. “You are being detained. Do not resist.”

    Aurora gives a nervous laugh. “Of course not. We will not resist. Explain detention method.”

    “You will be taken to level one security facility for detention. You will be held there until processing.”

    Aurora holds out her arms as if waiting for restraints.

    Round One
    Babshapka steps between Aurora and the automaton, letting fly with a string of words in elvish, hoping to confuse the machine. He still has an arrow nocked, but does not fire. The machine’s two tentacled arms reach forward, trying to avoid Babshapka and reach Aurora’s wrists.

    [Grappling; two contested Athletics rolls. Automaton 17, Aurora 19+5 from help = 24. Automaton 7, Aurora 15+5 from help = 20].

    With help from Babshapka, Aurora is able to back to the far side of the room without being seized.

    Larry is already standing next to the machine. He holds forth his hand and sprays it with a green venom. The drops bead up on the metallic surface of the machine, but do not seem to affect it.

    It speaks again: “Subjects are resisting detention. Initiating combat protocol.”

    From across the room, Aurora pleads, “Four hours! Combat protocol countermanded. Subject will submit to detention in four hours!” (Persuasion roll 10).

    Willa swears like a sailor and brings her greatsword down in a long overhead strike, then recovers it and strikes again at the socket where one of the tentacles attaches to the body. The machine makes no effort to evade her blows and is easy to hit - but both times her sword strikes, she sees a glint like a blue field just above the surface of the thing. Although she feels the impact in her sword, there is no visible effect on the machine - not even a scratch or dent (two hits, damage 11 points, 9 points, but damage absorbed by forcefield).

    Willa watches as Thokk’s first hit also impacts the curious blue field (11 points). His second strike, however, does not (7 points) - and it actually scratches the metal when it lands.

    Round Two
    Aurora continues to try to move away, while not being trapped between the bed and desk. She shouts at it, “You are broken! Initiate self-diagnosis!” (Persuasion 25)

    It responds. “Self-diagnosis placed in action queue. Will commence when combat protocol has resolved.”

    Umbra shoots a ray of shadow at it. It strikes the metal frame and frosts part of it over (11 cold damage).

    Willa shouts, “There be a blue field aboot the creature, an it made me sword do nothin’. But Thokk’s sword be makin’ the blue aura vanish. So now we might be in ther mix!” She hits twice (damage 14, 11) and her hits are leaving dents and scores on the machine.

    Babshapka fires arrows from point blank range. One hits (10 points), while the other bounces off its rounded steel chassis.

    Thokk is grinning, glad to be engaged in melee again, and against something more formidable than a plant man. He strikes twice (10 points, 9 points).

    Shefak slips in front of Larry, bringing her magic staff down hard, twice, and following up with a scissors kick. (damage 10, 7, 8 ).

    Tyrius, from atop the bed and currently unarmored, sees little room to add another melee participant to the fight. He surveys the scene and watches the door, in case his spells are needed.

    Eddard speaks soothing words and moves between the nervous mules and the combat as much as the confines of the room allows.

    Larry draws his scimitar, the rust on the blade scraping on the scabbard as he pulls it forth. He hits the machine (for 8 damage).

    Round Three
    A sliding door in the lower body of the machine opens. With a fwoosh, a brilliant blue stopperless flask is ejected, landing on the metal floor with a tink, tink, tink as it skips across the room. Suddenly the flask cracks open like an egg, and the room is instantly filled with a thick, smoky gas.

    Shefak (Constitution save 11) takes a step forward to strike another blow, but then falls to her knees, and a second later is prone upon the floor.

    Willa holds her breath (Con save 21) and fumbles desperately in a pouch pocket. She draws forth her ioun stone and tosses it in the air. It immediately takes up orbit around her head - and she ceases needing to breathe!

    Babshapka (Con save 4+3 from Tyrius = 7) and Tyrius (Con save 14) collapse as well. Thokk howls a battle cry (third rage since entering the cave), but before he has even finished, his massive frame has fallen and is draped over the high table in the room (Con save 13).

    Larry, seeing his protector Thokk collapse, screams in shock and fear. (Con save 3 (critical fail), but dwarven resilience gives advantage on saves vs. poison, and second Con save is 21). Gasping and choking, he runs to the doorway to press the panel. “Nooo!” mouths Willa, but with no air in her lungs, she is silent. She tries to catch Larry as he passes and prevent him from opening the door, but he wriggles from her grasp (contested strength roll Larry 19 (critical success), Willa 13), jumps, and hits the panel with his fist.

    Eddard (Con save 5), Randy (Con save 10+3 from Tyrius = 13), and Andy (Con save 4) take a few staggering steps. The mules sink to the floor before rolling to their sides. Eddard manages to lock his knees and remain upright, but with a drooping head before he is motionless.

    Umbra takes a deep breath before the gas reaches her and resolves not to exhale until the strange machine is down. Adventuring on her own for so long has taught her to carefully ration her spells, but she recognizes a dire situation when she sees one. She casts dark bolt as a third level spell, unleashing as much magical power as she can and hitting the machine with five separate bolts for 21 points of force damage. (Umbra now at 3/3/1 for spells).

    Aurora is reflecting on her decision not to engage so as to preserve her rest as she, too, falls to the floor (Con save 8+3 from Tyrius = 11).

    At the end of the round, just Willa, Larry, and Umbra remain conscious.

    Round Four
    A panel in the upper half of the machine slides open, and a thick, heavy, black metal wand emerges from its ‘chest’. The creature points the wand at Willa, and there is a brief, high pitched hum. Twin bolts of red light like magic missiles fly forth, hitting Willa square in the chest. Despite the breastplate of her magical plate mail, she feels a searing pain in all her upper body. (13, 18, for a total of 31 points radiant damage).

    “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” the machine drones.

    Willa tries to circle around it, hitting it from behind to stay away from the wand (two hits to the automaton, total 23 damage).

    Umbra continues to hold her breath (Con save 22). She unloads another five dark bolts at the machine. (11 points, Umbra now at 3/3/0 for spells).

    The door of the room slides open and Larry dashes into the hall. Even though he is free of the gas, he still feels its soporific effect (Con save 19 with advantage). From the middle of the corridor he turns and shoots out a thorn whip, wrapping the prickly tendril several times around Thokk’s leg, then jerking back and pulling the half-orc into the clean air of the hallway. (Thokk takes 8 points, but this is not a magical slumber, and the damage does not wake him).

    [Unbeknownst to the party, as soon as the door opens the sounds of combat against the police robot reach the nearby vegepygmies. Not wanting to engage the robot, they withdraw down the corridor and are not seen by Larry.]

    Round Five
    Stop resisting! STOP RESISTING!” calls the machine, ever louder. This time when the metal wand projecting from its chest hums, Willa is not taken by surprise. She is able to dodge one of the blasts and is only clipped in the arm by the other (8 points).

    Willa is tired of this tin can. She adjusts her stance, locking herself in one place, but bringing her maximum strength to bear. She brings two crushing blows down on its head in rapid succession (two hits, total 28 points).

    Larry stoops over Thokk, slapping him hard in the face. The barbarian is alive, but comatose. Larry charges back into the gas-filled room and slashes at the automaton with his scimitar (4 points).

    Umbra is forced to exhale, but is still standing (Con save 18 ). She is down to second-level spell slots now, so she showers the machine with four dark bolts. Each hit draws forth sparks of electricity from the creature. (18 points, Umbra at 3/2/0 for spells).

    Round Six
    Between the open door to the hall, and the vent they previously discovered, the gas in the room has largely dissipated. Larry doesn’t feel any burning in his lungs as he slashes at the tentacles of the machine (7 points with his scimitar)

    Willa screams soundlessly and continues to batter the machine. One hit (15 points) causes a shower of sparks, while the second (13 points) causes all of its lights to go out. It ceases to swivel the wand toward her, and its tentacles slowly droop to the ground. It appears they have won.

    Willa reaches up into the air, catches and stores her magic stone. Now that she can talk again, she says, succinctly and bitterly, “I don’ like t’is cave one bit.” She sheathes her greatsword without cleaning it - one advantage of a bloodless opponent - and picks up Thokk’s greatshield from where he let it fall. Using the shield as a huge fan, she stands in the doorway waving it until she is convinced all of the gas has dispersed.

    In the hallway, Larry attempts to heal Thokk (cure wounds for 9 points). He is able to recover the damage Thokk suffered from the thorn whip and opening the grate besides, but the barbarian still does not awake. (Larry’s spells to 2/2/2.)

    Larry drags Thokk back into the room, even as Umbra is arranging the bodies of the others into more comfortable positions, out of the way so that the three conscious party members can traverse the room.

    Willa presses the panel and closes the door. Larry attempts to piton the door closed, but after several blows from his hammer he finds that he has just blunted the piton - both the metal of the floor and the door are far harder than the iron spike he is using.

    Willa tells him not to mind, she’ll guard the door. Umbra asks if they shouldn’t find a safer place to stay. Willa agrees, but says that until they can get the rest of the party conscious, they aren’t going anywhere. Umbra shrugs.

    (1:10pm; Time in rest 2:45hr for Aurora/Tyrius only)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, the vegepygmies in the hall creep closer and resume their cordon around the door.]

    A few minutes later Umbra goes over to the automaton and asks Larry whether he wants to help her take it apart and see what is inside.

    Larry declines, and says that such things are better left to Aurora. Umbra asks him what else he is doing while he waits for the others to, hopefully, wake up. He shakes his head but does not answer. She asks him whether he can at least provide her with some tools.

    Willa gets up from the door, goes through one of the mule packs, pulls out a healer’s kit that will provide a scalpel, forceps, tweezers, and scissors. “Take yer time an’ be careful” she admonishes. Umbra thanks her and sets to work.

    The hard metal plates of the chassis have been rent open in many places by Willa’s sword blows, revealing a view of twisting cords and cables, gears and ratchets, and oddly-shaped mechanical works. “I guess it is a clockwork,” admits Umbra.

    Umbra locates a chamber in the lower part of the body in which she can see several stopperless flasks like the one the automaton discharged at them. One by one, like precious eggs, she pulls them forth from the body of the creature. In the end, she pulls out two blue flasks, one green, one red, and one black.

    Larry wishes to compare the intact blue flasks to the one from before. He looks about the room for it, but it seems to have disappeared! (Investigation 1, critical fail). Larry is befuddled.

    In the upper torso of the automaton, Umbra uses scissors to sever the cords that connected the metal wand to the insides of the creature, but cannot do much more without more appropriate tools. She finally convinces Larry to help her lay it down on its side, however. Underneath, there are several caster-like wheels.

    (1:20pm; Rest Tine 2:55hr for Aurora/Tyrius only, RT 10 min for all others)
    Some ten minutes later, one of the mules snorts, brays, and struggles to its feet. As it stands, the two halves of the spent blue cannister are revealed! Larry hurries over to it (Investigation 18 ). The only difference he notes, besides the spent one being split down the middle, is that the dial rivet of the spent one is on the rightmost setting, while all of the others are in the middle. The inside of the flask is mostly hollow and empty, although there is a section under the two rivets that is partitioned off and appears unopenable.

    One by one, over the next half hour, people and animals alike regain consciousness.

    Once Aurora is awake, Umbra shows her the inside of the automaton. There are multiple sections and components she can recognize, although she has no idea what any of them do. The inside is covered in writing. Aurora proposes that they continue to rest until at least she fully recovers her spells - some five hours more, by her estimation. Willa and Tyrius agree. Now that Aurora is awake, Larry agrees to look over the creature with her. The only thing he recognizes is the tube through which it projected the flask - he compares it to the ovipositor of a wasp, with the flasks being eggs.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts that were stalking them earlier but were spooked away by the security robot return to see if they are still present. Although they can still smell the party, the vegepygmies now outside the door cause them to retreat again.]

    (6:25pm, Rest Time 8hr for Aurora/Tyrius only, RT 5hr 15 min for all others).
    By the time Aurora and Tyrius have finished their long rest, Babshapka and Umbra have had a chance to fully trance as well, and everyone has had their evening meal.

    (Aurora at 4/3/3, Tyrius at 4/2)

    [ 7 human rations used; 57 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage); 13.5 mule rations remaining
    No pounds coal used; 18 pounds coal remaining]

    Aurora’s first action is to cast mage armor on herself (active until 2:25am). She then begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages. (Aurora at 3/3/3)

    (6:35pm, Rest Time 5hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa).
    Aurora’s ability to understand the strange script will last an hour (to 7:35pm), so she quickly gets to work, with her parchment and ink on hand to take notes. The first thing she examines is the stopperless flasks. The settings on the dial rivets are numbers - from left to right, 5, 4, and 3.

    The interior of the automaton is a sea of words and numbers. Some words she recognizes easily (power source, atmospheric analyzer). Others she understands the word itself, but not the context in which it is being used (matrix processor, field generator). Many others she simply doesn’t understand - her spell has translated the word, but either she doesn’t know the word in any language or she doesn’t know the meaning (laser pistol, flux capacitor, servomotor).

    She looks for any slot on the outside or port on the inside that might fit their black identification card, but doesn’t find one. Lacking knowledge of the parts or their functions, she is most interested in the things labeled “power sources”. One heart-sized metal and glass flask was securely mounted in the center of the machine, with thick cords that led to the metal wand (“laser pistol”) that shot Willa, at least before Umbra cut them. Other cords connected that flask to many other parts of the body. She is able to remove the flask itself, and tries to remove the wand, but it is so securely fastened to its retractable mount that she is unable to free it.

    In the “head” of the machine, near what appears to be a retractable retort, Aurora finds a device inside something labeled “power disk frame”. The “power disk” itself is thick and round, but she cannot see much detail on it without extracting it. This she resolves to do.

    Babshapka stands nearby, watching, holding tools, and offering suggestions. Fortunately, the room is very well lit by the overhead light panels.

    After a bit of exploration, Aurora determines that the Power Disc is being held in a mount that looks something like a miniature bureau drawer, but with springs as well as runners. Somehow she needs to get the drawer to open and release the disc.

    [Simple Non-lethal Items Chart. Initial roll 8; modified to 7; Triangle.]
    Her initial efforts to extract the disc do little other than getting her tools stuck. She keeps trying.

    [Roll 9; modified to 8. Returns her to start]
    After freeing her tools, Aurora is ready to start over again. She adjusts her angle of approach.

    [Roll 4; modified to 3. Advance to circle.]
    This time she seems to be getting somewhere. Aurora has triggered the spring mechanism and opened the drawer mount. Now she just needs to extract the disc itself, through the broken fragments of the automaton’s body, without damaging it.

    [Roll 4; modified to 3. Advance to finish.]
    Aurora triumphantly pulls the disc out of the body of the clockwork and holds it up for the party to see.

    Not wanting to lose whatever knowledge she has gained, Aurora first pries apart the machinery to give her more room to work, then spends several minutes inserting and removing the disc until she is sure she understands intuitively how it works.

    [-2 to roll for having operated a similar item previously]
    [Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to insert or extract a Power Disc. In any situation that is not time dependent, we can assume she is automatically successful. If she was trying to change a disc during combat, a roll might be called for to see if she could finish in one round rather than circling around the chart a few times.]

    (6:45pm, Rest Time 5hr 35 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa).
    Now confident of her ability to extract and deposit the disc, Aurora takes some time to examine the disc itself. It is blue-colored, of some hard material like glass or slate, and is the size of a large coin. One side is smooth and unmarked, the other side has a white, arced band, marked like a sundial with 5 lines. A taut thread rests on one of the lines, the central-most one.

    She looks carefully around the room, attempting to find any other place she might be able to insert the power disc, but ultimately does not find any.

    (6:55pm, Rest Time 5hr 45 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    Aurora returns to the body of the clockwork man, looking for anything else useful that she might be able to extract. She decides to try to remove the strange box labeled “atmospheric analyzer”. Despite her best attempts, and those of Babshapka, they are unable to get it out (Sleight of hand rolls 6, 7). Still, she believes it is possible to reach the screw-mounts, if only there was someone with smaller, more nimble hands. She calls over Shefak and explains how she thinks the device can be removed. (Shefak Sleight of Hand roll 21). The monk is able to disconnect a few waxed threads connecting it to the insides, pop the device out of its mounting, and extract it from the body of the clockwork.

    A gray slab of a material similar to horn, it is about the size of a necklace case. On one side are three windows, all rectangular in shape. Behind each is a strip of colored paper. The papers are all white on one end and shade into another color at the other end. The window to the left is white shading to yellow, the middle window is white shading to purple, and the paper behind the right window is white shading to green. Over each window is mounted a translucent jewel, the same color as the colored paper of that window. At the front of the slab is a series of small holes. On the back is a narrow panel set in a groove. Sliding it reveals a slot about the size of a coin. The case is only 1/4' wide, 1/2' long, and about a thumb’s width thick.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts return to try again - but find the vegepygmies still camped outside the apartment door. They withdraw again.]

    (7:05pm, Rest Time 5hr 55 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    The coin-sized slot on the back is empty - but it is about the size of the power disc. Aurora slides the power disc recovered from the clockwork man into the “analyzer” and it fits perfectly. She slides the covering panel back into place. And immediately the windows in the device start to glow!

    Almost hopping with excitement, Aurora pushes buttons on the device, hoping for a reaction.

    [Simple Non-Lethal Items Table. Roll 1 - 1 = 0, advance to circle. Roll 2 - 1 = 1, advance to finish.]
    It does not take long for the device to start functioning. Delicate hair lines in each of the three screens start bobbing up and down, each ending toward the white, rather than colored, section of their window. The machine speaks in an alien language while strange symbols move across a screen. To the others, it is gibberish, but Aurora can both hear and read the following:

    “Spore and pollen count low” (this is assessed by the yellow window)

    “Radiation level negligible” (this is assessed by the purple screen)

    “No toxic gasses detected” (this is assessed by the green window).

    Aurora knows what spores are (the products of mushrooms), as well as pollen (from flowers), and toxic gasses. ‘Radiation’, on the other hand, is an unfamiliar concept to her. She thinks it is related to the radiant light of the sun or moon - but why would it say that radiation levels are negligible, if they are in a brightly lit room? Perhaps ‘negligible’ means they are not capable of causing damage. She supposes that they could test the function of the device by attempting to get a reading on Larry’s moonbeam spell - that might be detectable radiation.

    With no further use for the analyzer at the moment, Aurora finds a switch that de-illuminates the lighted windows and carefully sets it aside. She returns to the body of the clockwork, poking and prodding and seeing if there is other machinery she can pry from its frame.

    An attempt to remove the red eye that scanned the identification card fails, and the gem-like lens is cracked in the attempt. (Babshapka sleight of hand roll 10). Inside the “head” of the machine, a broken retort is found.

    (7:15pm, Rest Time 6hr 05 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    Once Aurora is convinced that there is nothing more of use or interest that she can strip from the clockwork, she puts away her tools and asks Willa and Tyrius what they should do next. Four of them are still resting, so setting out against the plant men is not an option. However, many of them are interested in the strange card-shaped key, and wonder if it can be used to open other doors besides their own. Eventually they decide to try the card in the doorway directly across the hall from them.

    Tyrius presses the panel on the wall that slides the door open. As light from their room spills out into the hallway, several of the thorn dogs are illuminated close at hand to the door. Before the doorway is even completely open Tyrius is pressing the panel again, and succeeds in closing the door before the dogs can enter the room.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Mar 16, 2021 1:10 pm  
    Post 160: The Second Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 160: The Second Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1
    Tyrius presses the panel on the wall that slides the door open. As light from their room spills out into the hallway, several of the thorn dogs are illuminated close at hand to the door. Before the doorway is even completely open, Tyrius is pressing the panel again, and succeeds in closing the door before the dogs can enter the room.

    The debate now turns to whether they should confront the dogs or refrain from conflict until everyone has rested. “How about we avoid conflict altogether?” suggests Babshapka bitterly. “These plant creatures are just defending their home. We are the invaders here, surely?” His comments are not taken seriously by the others, however. As their talk turns to a scouting mission in the hallway, he switches from his bow to his broadsword and shortsword.

    Tyrius is unsure of how many thorn dogs he saw, and the consensus is that numbers matter - a foray with just those in the party who have already rested might be worth it if they could quickly clear the hall. He decides to gather more accurate intelligence. Eddard positions himself by the door-panel. With his telepathic link to Tyrius, he will know instinctively what is the best timing for opening and closing the door, without the paladin having to shout any commands.

    Tyrius casts light on his shield and holds it in front of him as he moves to the door. He nods and Eddard noses the door panel. Tyrius moves quickly into the hall, spinning and keeping in motion so that he cannot be mobbed by the dogs [dodge action]. He goes out as far as he dares and is halfway back to the door before they can react. The door is closed again without any of the plant-men or thorn-dogs having entered.

    Tyrius counted 5 dogs and 16 plant men outside, with the dogs in front ranks and the men behind. Babshapka listens at the door to see if they are agitated, but does not hear any commotion.

    (7:25pm, Rest Time 6hr 15 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, Comprehend Languages runs to 7:35pm)
    Five dogs and more than a dozen pygmies is more than the party thinks they can clear easily, and some are in favor of waiting until everyone has rested. Aurora, on the other hand, seems to think that there are not enough of the creatures outside. Or at least she says she doesn’t want to waste a fireball just to leave their room, when she might need all three once they head back down the hall that seems to be the lair of the creatures. She wonders if there might be another way to clear the hall.

    Her gaze falls upon the colorful stopperless flasks pulled from the clockwork and she picks one up. “Red is pretty universal for fire, right?” she asks.

    “Mayhap,” says Willa skeptically, “bu’ ‘tain’t like blue be fer sleep.”

    This sets Aurora to thinking. “If only there was some way we could test those flasks without opening them.” Her first thought is always her wand of magic detection, which can often provide a clue as to the kind of magic it finds. But she has already confirmed that everything they have found so far is mechanical, not magical. But if it is mechanical, could she use the same strange technology upon itself?

    She picks up the "atmospheric analyzer". Of course! Aurora takes the two halves of the spent blue flask and carefully examines them. Most of it is a hollow, empty space. But there is an unopened box on the inside, opposite where the dials and plunger are. Intricately cut levers emerge from the box and go to various latches set about the inner seams of the flask. Aurora is confident that the box contains a control mechanism, and that the dial and plunger can somehow be used to release the latches. If the contents are alchemical rather than magical, it is possible they are inert when sealed closed, but immediately react when the flask is opened and they are exposed to air.

    The wizard focuses her thoughts. She has only a few minutes remaining of comprehend languages - likely not enough to read the device for all of the flasks. She tells the others to watch the door while she performs another ritual.

    (7:35pm, RT 6hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, CL to 8:35pm)
    Recalling the time in her ‘prenticeship when she was required to work in an alchemical laboratory, Aurora reaches deep into her pack to find the cleanest scraps of cloth and rags she has. She puts a few drops of water and lantern-oil on them, then carefully cleans the five flasks with one rag each, making sure to swab every surface of their bodies, especially around the plungers and along the seams where whatever ingredients that might be inside could leak out. Then she carefully lines up the rags and prepares to test them. [Aurora gains one Inspiration Point]

    Starting with her swab sample of the red egg, Aurora finds the switch that lights up the windows of the atmospheric analyzer and holds it close. Willa sets her ioun stone to circle about herself.

    [Modifier discovered: -2 to roll for having operated a similar item previously. Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to use the analyzer. In any situation that is not time dependent, we can assume she is automatically successful. If she was trying to take a reading during combat, a roll might be called for to see if she could finish in one round rather than circling around the chart a few times.]

    Red Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of incendiary chemicals detected”

    Aurora grins. “That sounds like fire to me!” she says gleefully.

    Green Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of neurotoxins detected”

    Aurora doesn’t know what “neuro” is referring to, but from "toxins" she guesses this one is some kind of poison.

    Blue Stopperless Flasks (two)
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of neuroinhibitor detected, degraded but likely to be in opioid family”

    None of what the analyzer says is intelligible to Aurora, but fortunately they already know the blue flasks produce sleep - assuming all blue flasks are equal. After this reading, the device gives an uncharacteristic “ping” that has heretofore been unheard. Aurora looks it over but cannot find any differences in the readouts. With a sinking suspicion, she slides open the back panel and removes the power disc. The hair has moved - rather than being in the middle setting, it is now two from one end, three from the other.

    Aurora sighs. “I guess four uses of the device is a charge then? And this has two charges left, or eight more uses?” She tells the rest of the party to be on the lookout for power discs whenever they search any part of the cave. They may prove even more valuable than the card-shaped keys!

    Black Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of nitrates and dichromates detected, in combination likely to produce explosion”

    “Nitrates” and “dichromates” are unknown to Aurora, but “explosion” is a word she is intimately familiar with.

    (7:35pm, RT 6hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, CL to 8:35pm)
    With the red flask confirmed to be fire, Aurora says that she will clear the plant men in the hall with the device, allowing the party to explore rooms as they had planned. She checks whether anyone in the party has anything that might make them resistant to fire, but no one does. Babshapka stands near the doorway, ready to move in front of Aurora should something go wrong. Tyrius, Eddard, and Umbra, who are rested, stand nearby, but the others are hopeful the hallway can be cleared without them breaking their rest to help.

    Aurora spends some time playing with the dial and plunger on the red flask. Suddenly she hears a muffled “click” from inside, as if some of the internal latches had released. “Open the door!” she shrieks and Babshapka hurriedly presses the panel. The door slides open. There are two groups of plant men, one to the right and one to the left of the door. Aurora tosses the flask into the midst of the knot of plant men and thorn dogs to the right.

    “Tink, tink, tink…” it sounds as it skitters across the floor. Half of the diminutive men turn toward the sound, the other half toward the open door. “Fwoosh!” From the flask erupts a cloud that looks to be liquid fire, engulfing all the creatures in a ten foot radius and covering them in gooey, dripping flames.

    [Table discovered: Using a grenade requires rolling on the “Simple Lethal Items” table]

    In the midst of examining the flask, Aurora has discovered two things. First, the dial reading (3, 4, or 5 in the alien language) is a timed delay, measured in seconds. One can activate the flask and then still have the delay time before it explodes. Second, the flask is activated with the plunger, which must be depressed completely, spun widdershins 180 degrees, and then depressed completely again.

    [Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to activate and throw a grenade.]

    Surprise Round
    Fire covers the plant men and thorn dogs. They are all burning, but none are slain. Aurora estimates the power of the blast to have been about a quarter that of her fireball - rather underwhelming, in fact, perhaps equivalent to a large flask of oil or alchemist's fire. [Initial damage is 2d6, Aurora rolls 8hp]

    From behind Babshapka, Umbra shoots forth a ray of shadow, squarely hitting the closest of the flaming plant men.

    Tyrius and Babshapka, with war hammer and broadsword, emerge from the room. They smash and slice at the burning creatures. Babshapka manages to fell a thorn dog, and then retreats to the doorway to guard Aurora.

    Round One
    Much to Aurora’s surprise, the fire continues to burn, both on the creatures and the floor, as if it was more like oil than a fireball. While it is dripping off the creatures, it is doing so slowly - it almost seems to be sticking to them, like some sort of flammable tar. [The incendiary grenades will continue to do damage after the initial explosion, at d6 damage per round - this grenade will last another four rounds - this first round everyone hit previously took another 2 points]

    “Sapling” plant men come forward, swinging at Tyrius and Babshapka with their wooden clubs. Babshapka is hit (for 8 points).

    Aurora pulls back into the room, allowing Eddard to charge into the hall. He attempts to trample the plant man that is fighting Babshapka, but the little creature moves out of his way.

    Tyrius swings and kills a thorn dog with his hammer, then wounds the plant man that had attacked him.

    Somewhat larger plant men join the fight against Tyrius and Babshapka. Babshapka is clubbed (for 6).

    At this point the smaller plant men, with darts and javelins, have targeted Babshapka, and launch a volley of eight missiles. Several of them pierce his arms and legs. [Babshapka takes 23 total and is at 11/48]. Swearing, he slashes his broadsword across the nearest plant man twice but does not fell it.

    Considering the large number of plant men still in the hall, including half of them not on fire, Aurora decides to use her first fireball of three. She steps out of the room and launches it behind the unwounded ones to the left, placing it perfectly so that the blast envelopes them but does not reach those of the party in the hall (Arcana roll 12). Her explosion affects six of the plant men, slaying two of them outright and wounding four others [22 damage], as well as two of the thorn dogs.

    Thorn dogs swarm Tyrius but his heavy armor protects him. Babshapka takes another javelin hit, this one to his throat, and falls to the floor, bleeding out. [critical hit for 11 damage]

    Round 2
    [Those vegepygmies still on fire from the incendiary grenade take another 5 damage]

    With Aurora now in the hall, a plant man launches a javelin at her. She reacts by casting a shield spell to protect herself, and then returns fire with a massive firebolt. [17 damage][Aurora’s spells at 2/3/2]

    Three dogs and two plant men miss Tyrius and Eddard with their bites and clubs.

    [Babshapka successfully makes his first death save]

    Two javelins pierce Eddard’s leather barding. He whinnies in pain and then his form shimmers and disappears. His barding falls empty to the floor of the hallway.

    Willa, watching anxiously from the doorway, darts into the hall. She squats, grabs Babshapka, stands, and carries him back into the room, shouting at the others to retreat. Two plant men swing at her, but their blows do not penetrate her magic armor.

    Tyrius turns to see where his spirit mount has fallen, and echoes Willa’s admonition to Aurora. He grabs the empty barding and drags it back to the room. As soon as he is inside the door, he prays for a cure wounds spell and lays his hand on Babshapka, whose throat is still seeping blood. [11 points; Babshapka is conscious and stable.]

    Aurora is now alone in the hall and is quickly surrounded by four of the plant men. Her magical shield deflects four of their battering blows.

    Round 3
    [Those vegepygmies still on fire from the incendiary grenade take another 3 damage]

    From the doorway, Willa shouts “Aurora, get in ‘ere, we be shuttin’ ther bloody door now!”

    Babshapka rises and staggers to the wall, holding his hand inches from the panel that will shut the door, hoping that Aurora will withdraw, knowing that if she does not he is duty-bound to defend her.

    Aurora retreats, slipping through the knot of plant men that have formed around her [disengage action]. As soon as he sees she is headed for the door, Babshapka presses the panel, and she slides through the closing door with no plant men able to follow.

    There is an awkward silence punctuated by the panting gasps of Tyrius and Aurora. Finally, Aurora speaks. “Well, we learned that the fire flask doesn’t explode as powerfully as my fireball, but that it keeps burning. That is useful knowledge.”

    “We learned t’at I ‘ate t’is fecking ship!” shouts Willa.

    Aurora smiles broadly. “I told you it was a ship!” Willa looks about her for something to throw at the enchantress.

    [Over the next hour, Babshapka takes a short rest and spends four hit dice to heal 30 points. He is at 41/48]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the vegepygmies have decided that the party is nearly as dangerous as the security robots, who they avoid precisely because of their use of incendiary grenades. After the party has retreated to the room and closed the door, the vegepygmies gather their dead and wounded and retreat. The dead and wounded they place in the mulch room (the wounded to recover, the dead to decompose), while the unwounded return to their rooms in the colony. A few of the wounded thornies and pygmies are placed on guard duty in the hallway leading to the colony.]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts return, and are pleased to see that the vegepygmies are gone. They sniff at the remains of burnt plant material on the floor, and set up in a position where they can see the door open without the party seeing them.]

    (8:45pm, RT 7hr 35 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, Aurora’s comprehend languages no longer in effect)

    (9:10pm, RT 8hr for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a worker robot clangs down the hall, its hydraulic legs pumping rhythmically. It opens the door across the hall from the party and to the east to check the room, then the one next to the party. As it approaches the door of the room the party is in, the displacer beasts scatter.]
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:46 am  
    Post 161: Worker Robot

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Keyed rooms from the map are indicated in [blue]

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot

    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 161: Worker Robot
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    (9:10pm, RT 8hr for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a worker robot clangs down the hall, its hydraulic legs pumping rhythmically. It opens the door across the hall from the party and to the east to check the room, then the one next to the party. As it approaches the door of the room the party is in, the displacer beasts scatter.]

    [9:10pm. Long rest for Feb 20 / Cave Day 1 complete for all party members.]
    Those who did not fight in the most recent skirmish outside the room have completed their long rest. Larry now has his full complement of spells. Talk turns to strategy for clearing the hall - hopefully with more success this time.

    After a bit of discussion, it is decided that they will open the door with Thokk and Tyrius in front, making a shield wall and trying to distract the javelineers from the rest of the party (dodge action). If the casters can eliminate the missile troops with their ranged spells, then all the melee fighters will move in to engage. At some point, Shefak will slip invisibly to the rear of the pygmies and attack them from behind. Umbra mentions that if they are preparing for combat, she would take some healing from Larry or Tyrius [four points of lay on hands administered].

    The party members line up around the doorway. When their formation satisfies Willa, Tyrius presses the door panel and the door slides open.

    There are no plant men in the hall. And no thorn dogs.

    Instead, there is another clockwork man. Willa pulls out her ioun stone, prepared to release it.

    This clockwork, however, is different from the other one, and considerably smaller. It is short, and squat, and has just two arms instead of four. It has two legs as well, rather than a flat bottom on castors. With the door open, it trills a short warble that might be taken as a greeting, and then advances to the door, with each step it takes producing a barely audible hiss and whir as its legs flex and extend as well as a loud clang when its foot contacts the deck.

    The clockwork hisses and clomps until it stands a bare foot from Thokk and Tyrius, who are still blocking the door. Thokk looks down disgustedly at the thing, barely four feet tall. Are there no worthy opponents for Thokk in this bizarre cave?

    “Should we let it in?” asks Tyrius bemusedly.

    No one in the party objects, so he pulls back to give it access, and it “walks” into the room. Willa gestures at Tyrius to close the door, and he presses the panel again.

    “I’m going to ritual-cast comprehend languages,” says Aurora matter-of-factly. “Keep it busy and don’t let it leave the room or bother me.”

    The odd clockwork takes a few steps, inclines its body as if it was looking at the floor, and pauses at the edge of where the metal is still slick with the blood lost by Babshapka when he nearly bled out following the last fight. With a whirring sound, a sliding panel in the torso of the clockwork opens, and a snaking hose emerges. The creature takes the hose in one hand and holds it low over the pool of blood. A fine mist emerges from the hose, and Willa tosses her stone into the air, where it begins to circle her head. Rather than put people to sleep, however, everywhere the mist touches the blood, the blood bubbles, clumps, and coagulates into a fine white powder in what is now a thin layer on the floor. When the clockwork has converted all of the blood to powder, it produces a humming sound. Suddenly the hose in its hand begins sucking in air rapidly, as if a man was sucking through a reed straw. The hose sucks up all of the white powder, until a faint discoloration on the floor is the only indication it was once covered in blood.

    The clockwork bends and with one hand picks up a bloody cloth the party had used to staunch Babshapka’s neck wound. It then turns and begins heading for the wall. Willa motions the others out of its way while she watches its actions with an almost morbid curiosity.

    The clockwork clomps over to the wall, to where Thokk had broken through the wall grate and exposed the air duct. Another panel on its chest opens and a drawer slides out. Inside the drawer are a number of small hand tools. It takes a diminutive screwdriver in one hand and works rapidly to unscrew each of the four tiny screw heads in the corners of the grate, takes the grate in one hand, and replaces each of the screws in turn. It puts away the screwdriver and closes both the drawer and its chest panel. It holds the grate up in front of its “face”, as if inspecting it visually. Then, grasping the grate firmly with both hands, it proceeds to fold it over twice, until it is a quarter of the size it was before. Even Thokk gasps. He had to pound on the grate repeatedly with all his strength to break through the perforated metal. This clockwork, with its spindly arms, has just easily folded the metal - with the second fold clearly demonstrating strength greater than that of Thokk or Willa. Perhaps it is a worthy opponent after all. He steps forward to shove it, hoping to provoke a fight, but Willa intercepts him. Thokk stomps over to the divan and lies down, sulking.

    The clockwork walks around the room, ignoring the party, but clearly inspecting the walls, floor, and furnishings. When it gets to the mules it pauses at a pile of their droppings. Suddenly a hatch in its back is released, and a hinged door opens wide at the top while remaining closed at the bottom. Those nearby can see that the door leads to a small space inside the body of the clockwork where there is a pile of broken parts of furniture and machinery. The clockwork reaches back over its head and drops first the folded grate and then the bloody bandage into the drawer so that they land on the pile of sundries. Then, with both hands, it picks up the mule droppings and deposits them in the hinged drawer on its back as well. Finally, it sprays the floor where the droppings had been with its mist and sucks up the white powder with its curious hose.

    At this point the clockwork completes another loop around the room and heads for the door. Aurora is still working on her ritual. Willa decides to stall it. She sticks her hand into the open chest of the clockwork they fought, rips out a handful of the odd waxed cords, and scatters them across the floor of the room. The smaller clockwork walks to each of them in turn, carefully picking them up and dropping them inside its drawer. In the time it is doing this, Willa is stripping everything she can from the inside of the fallen clockwork. Now she drops one item at a time in opposite corners of the room, such that the clockwork has to cross the room, retrieve the part, and cross the room again for the next one. It does not tire of the game, but she is nearly out of parts when Aurora finally stands up and announces that she is ready.

    (9:20pm, Comprehend languages lasts until 10:20pm)

    “Hail!” says Aurora. The clockwork ignores her and continues retrieving the bits and pieces dropped by Willa.

    “Automaton - cease your cleaning!” commands Aurora. The clockwork does not pause.

    Willa has now run out of parts. The clockwork clumps over to the frame of the other machine-man. It looks it over, and issues a series of chirps and warbles. Aurora hears it say, “Security robot structural integrity compromised - diagnosed as irreparable. Many sub-components still salvageable. Deliver to level one robot repair facility.

    Aurora has never heard the word “robot” before, but she takes it as a synonym for clockwork creature.

    The drawer on its back closes and the hatch seals. It bends down and grabs two of the arms of the larger clockwork with its own hands. Leaning back and walking backwards, it drags the fallen machine toward the door. There is a terrible sound of metal scraping on metal as the jagged edges of the larger clockwork slide across the floor. As it reaches up to press the wall panel, Aurora says “Don’t let it go.”

    Willa immediately countermands her, saying, “Ye cain’t control it - ye tried. Tyrius, let it out ther door.” The paladin steps aside, and the smaller clockwork drags the larger one out the door.

    “We could follow it…” suggests Aurora, “It said something about a ‘repair facility’”.

    Willa actually considers this, then shakes her head. “Nay, ther noise it be makin’ will only attract godsken wha’. An’ we need ter stick close ter ther mules.” Indeed, as the torn pieces of metal on the frame of the fallen clockwork catch in the open grates of the floor of the hallway, the screeching echoes up and down the corridor.

    “We stick ter ther plan an’ investergate ther tother rooms.”

    “First,” says Tyrius, “if we are to leave the mules alone, I would like to re-summon Eddard.”

    “Fair eno’,” agrees Willa. “Be at it - p’raps ther noise from yon clockwork will hae drawn off anyone ‘ereabouts by then.”

    Tyrius closes the door and begins the ritual prayer. In the end, Eddard reappears. Tyrius fills him in about the resolution of the combat and the appearance of the clockwork while he helps him on with his barding. He looks up at the height of the ceiling, then decides not to put on his steed’s saddle or bridle for now.

    Willa orders the party and they pass into the hall. There are soot stains on the floor from the fiery flask and Aurora’s fireball. There are bits and pieces of broken and burned plant limbs strewn about, but all of the bodies of the plant men and thorn dogs have been removed.

    Eddard noses the door panel to close it behind them from inside. Willa tells Aurora to use the black card to open the door across the hall from them, and tells Shefak to keep guard for them around the next corner. Shefak slips on her ring of invisibility (Stealth 21) and scouts the hallway.

    Just as Aurora and Babshapka are passing through the now-open door into the new room [apartment], Willa hears Shefak whisper that there are thorn dogs just around the corner, but they are unmoving, seemingly on guard as well. “Good,” whispers Willa back, “stare ‘em down, an’ let us ken if t’ey be comin’.” She motions to the rest of the party to proceed, but to be quiet about it.

    The room into which Babshapka and Aurora pass appears to be another living quarters, but larger than their base across the hall. Babshapka presses the second wall panel, and Aurora grins as the room is flooded with light from the ceiling glass. The room has a large double bed in place of a single, and two night stands rather than one. Fully eight chairs surround a large dining table. Two divans flank another of the curiously low tables whose function remains unknown. The materials are all the same - cave horn for the furnishings, cave sponge for the mattress and divans, metal for the walls, floor, and ceiling. There is a skeleton clad in tattered silks on the floor of the room. Babshapka examines it, finding broken ribs that suggest it died violently.

    “Look for more cards,” suggests Aurora. Babhapka opens the night stands, flips the mattress, looks under the divans, pokes through the refuse strewn across the floor, but finds nothing of interest, card or otherwise (Perception 22).

    “Nex’ room,” hisses Willa, and points down the hall to the east, away from the thorn dog at the corner. Babshapka and Aurora comply, as Willa and Tyrius move into the open room to see for themselves.

    “This is a lot larger,” says Tyrius, and Willa nods. It was cramped quarters in the other room, with two mules, a warhorse, eight people, and a fallen clockwork crammed in. Larger than a rope trick space, but not by much. While Aurora and Babshapka open and search the next room, Tyrius contacts Eddard mentally and has him open the door. The party moves their beasts and gear over to the larger room across the hall; Willa lays the mule bags on the bed. She flips the table on its side. It is light, far lighter than wood, and not exactly a barricade, but it could provide some cover. She and Tyrius maneuver it into the doorway, push a divan up behind it to hold it in place, and then climb over everything to exit. Eddard noses the door shut.

    The next room over [apartment] is deep but narrow, in between the two others in size, the door just a few feet from where the body of the ceiling creature still lies. There is a double bed and end tables, two divans and a low table but no dining table or chairs. Babshapka searches it but comes up empty. They close the door behind them and move on.

    The next door is near the main entrance of the cave, in the chamber where there is the circular shaft to somewhere far below. Aurora, now an old hand at the doors, slides the black card confidently into the slot. A loud and pulsating buzzing fills the air - “Brrrt - brrrt - brrrt!” Babshapka looks about nervously to see what might be attracted.

    “What the - I don’t…” begins Aurora, but she is cut off by speech coming from the door! What is an unintelligible language to Babshapka is discernible to her, since she still has her comprehend languages running. “Access denied,” the voice says, “Security clearance not accepted.” Aurora looks in the receptacle under the slot. The card has not been returned. She swears.

    Aurora quickly looks at the door mechanism, but can find no way to physically dismantle it to get at the key. The klaxon sound of the door continues. Babshapka draws forth an arrow and turns his back on the door.

    “It’s okay, no worries,” says Aurora out loud, as she silently continues to curse. She says the words of a knock spell, and the sound of the alarm ceases. She sighs with relief.

    Inside the door mechanism, she can hear a faint whirring sound. The door does not open. The card is not released. She presses on the panel to no effect. She calms herself to think. Knock is good for opening one lock. If the mechanics of the door are particularly complicated, it might have more than one lock - just like a merchant who triple-locks his trunks. (Arcana 23). The door is susceptible to magic, she is sure of it - but how many spells she would need to use to open one door remains unknown. Clearly more than one.

    “Go get Thokk” she says to Babshapka.

    Thokk throws his shoulder against the metal of the door a few times, then shakes his head sadly.

    “Well,” says Aurora resolutely. “We got that key from a plant man. We know where we can get more.”

    Aurora returns to the main party and whispers to Willa that they will need to get more keys. When pressed, she reluctantly provides details. Willa motions everyone over. Leaving Shefak on guard in the hallway, the others return to the apartment with the mules and shut the door behind them to discuss strategy. After some ten minutes of preparation, the following plan is decided upon:

    Shefak, while invisible, will attack the nearest dog in the hall. Once an alarm has been raised, Willa and Thokk will charge up the hall to slay the next one. By that point their attacks should draw a response. Once the hallway is filled with plant-men, Aurora will send a fireball to clear them out. If that carries the day, they should have plenty of bodies to search for keys. If not, they will pull back and defend the door of their base room from a safer position. Eddard listens to the plan and comments that a few well-placed enhancements now could save any number of healing spells later. Tyrius decides to cast Heroism on Thokk (will last one minute) and Aid on himself, Willa, and Babshapka (will last eight hours, provided they have not lost the bonus hp by then). Babshapka casts Hunter’s Mark (will last one hour or until his concentration fails), and Umbra casts Armor of Shadows on herself (will last eight hours).

    Willa, having noticed before that the plant men were impervious to stabbing or arrows, borrows two of Tyrius’ hammers in case she needs a missile option.

    Tyrius at (2/0 and 26 lay on hands remaining)
    Babshapka at (3/2)
    Umbra at (3/3/3)
    Aurora at (2/2/2)
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:44 pm  
    Post 162: The Third Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies

    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 162: The Third Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    (10:20pm - Aurora’s Comprehend languages ends)

    Round 1
    Shefak manages to get within striking distance of the thorn dog without it noticing (Stealth 11, but 16 with advantage due to her invisibility). Only one of her two staff blows really connects, but it proves enough (10hp) to slay the dog, which was apparently still wounded from the previous scuffle in the hall.

    The thorn dog further down the hall does not charge them. Rather, it retreats back around the corner. This immediately frustrates Willa and Thokk’s plan to slay it and draw out others. Willa smashes her two hammers together, making as much noise as she can. Thokk shouts taunts in Orc down the hallway.

    A plant man emerges from a side room and dashes after the retreating dog. Babshapka sends two arrows his way, but even the one that hits seems to have little effect (damage 12 plus 5 from Hunter’s Mark, but vegepygmies are immune to non-magical piercing damage (12) and resistant to magical piercing damage (5 becomes 2) - it appears that the Hunter’s Mark does damage of the same type as the weapon itself, but the fact that it is at least magical helps).

    Aurora sends a firebolt after the fleeing plant man, and this proves much more efficacious (17 damage).

    [Unbeknownst to the party, this guard is alerting not only the nearby rooms, but the entire colony. Vegepygmies are pouring out of their rooms and moving south in direct response, but a whole other group, led by two sub chiefs, is taking the ‘long way around’ to come at the party from the east.]

    Round 2
    A thorn dog, this one fresh, rounds the corner and charges the length of the hallway at the party. Babshapka draws on it and considers switching his Mark to the beast, then decides it might be better to track down the fleeing plant man to see how far he has run and how many rooms he has alerted. He shoots at the dog, but it seems to have the same resistance as the plant men. (one hit for 12, thorn dog immune to non-magical piercing).

    The dog is fast, and able to leap at Babshapka before any of the others can react. Babshapka has been standing near the open door of the table room and he curses himself for not darting into the doorway after his second shot. (Babshapka takes 5 piercing from the dog's thorny maw).

    Thokk hits the dog twice, but does not slay it (total 18 damage).

    Round 3
    Bounding ahead, two more thorn dogs charge the party, and Thokk, glorying in the prospect of battle, moves to block the hallway. The three leap and snap at him, but he nimbly keeps his shield between himself and their thorny teeth.

    Using Thokk for cover, Babshapka enters the table room and presses the panel to slide the door closed behind him. Shefak is inside the room with him.

    The end of the hall ahead, just at the corner, begins to fill with dozens of plant men, each carrying handfuls of barbed darts and javelins. They form up lines in the back row and begin to target the party. Others are moving to the fore with gnarled clubs in hand, preparing to charge once their numbers are massed.

    Larry calls forth a moonbeam, placing it at the most massed concentration of plant men (lasts up to one minute or concentration, Larry to 4/2/3).

    “That doesn’t look good,” whispers Umbra, referring to the plant men missile troops massing. Before they can get off a volley, she points a wand at the end of the hall, and it is filled with inky blackness. No longer are the missile troops visible, although the first of those with clubs are starting to emerge. (Umbra to 3/2/3, darkness lasts ten minutes or concentration). The darkness also completely envelopes the moonbeam, although Larry can sense that his spell is still there and presumably still doing damage.

    Tyrius moves up next to Thokk, and begins swinging at the thorn dogs fighting the barbarian, battering their woody limbs with Molly (two hits, 21 total damage).

    Thokk shouts exultantly (rage; three left) as he hacks at the dogs (one hit for 11).

    Willa drops Tyrius’s hammers and they clatter to the metal floor. She shouts her own battle cry as she draws her greatsword and engages the dogs (two hits, 25 damage total, two dogs of the three remain).

    Aurora had planned to send a fireball down to the end of the hallway, using the ninety-degree bend to shoot flames both at the missile troops at the end, the melee ones advancing, and any reinforcements as yet unseen around the corner. Now that the hall is enveloped in darkness, however, she is unsure of the actual distance. Unconcerned, she launches her flaming missile anyway (Arcana roll 9, fireball lands 5 feet short of planned target). For a split second the darkness is pierced by a light so bright it illuminates the plant men within it, allowing their silhouettes to be seen even through the glare of the moonbeam. Then the flames centered in the darkness go out, but the wave of burning air is rushing down the corridor toward them, filling the side room to the right as it passes. Only now is Aurora realizing that she landed it short of the mark and it could engulf the party. The flames lick at the thorn dog in melee with Thokk and Willa. They are both hit with a wave of heat and a smell like burning wood and smoldering vegetation, but take no damage themselves.

    (34 fire damage, DC15 Dex save for half. Fully thirty-one plant-men and a thorn dog were in the area of effect. After saves, eight saplings, seven sprouts, two sporriors, and a thorn dog are slain, while another fourteen troops are wounded but still advancing. Aurora at 2/2/1)

    Once the roar of the fireball has faded, the noise of the plant men, both those in sight, those covered by darkness, and those around the corner, redoubles. The ones in sight, many of them still aflame, seem undeterred by the deaths of a full score of their companions. Larry decides it is time to hunker down. He ends his first moonbeam and casts another, this time at the most potent level he can, moving it to halfway down the hall, in between the corner and where Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa are holding the line. “Tha’ shood ‘old ‘em, well eno’” he grumbles. (Larry to 4/2/2; third-level moonbeam will last to round 13 and this round is doing 19 damage to any who enter the area).

    Shefak presses the door panel of the tabel room and looks out upon the combat. Seeing just a single thorn dog left in the melee, she emerges and kills it with two strikes of her staff, leaping out of the way of its barbs. (total 12 damage, Shefak uses a ki point and bonus disengage to avoid its reaction to being attacked. Shefak at six ki points remaining).

    Round 4
    Babshapka decides that dealing with the oncoming hordes now takes priority over tracking one individual. He ends his old hunter’s mark and casts it again on a new target, continuing to fire at the advancing plant men through the gaps between Willa and Thokk but to little effect (one hit for 9 damage + 2 hunter’s mark = 1 point damage). Babshapka at (2/2)

    Umbra shoots a ray of shadow at the same plant man that Babshapka targeted but misses.

    Three plant-men emerge from the darkness, pass through the moonbeam, and launch darts at Thokk and Willa, who take the shafts on their shield and armor. Two new thorn dogs run the same gauntlet and are able to reach the pair, snapping at them in melee. Willa returns their blows (two hits, 15 and 16 damage) and takes out one dog.

    Seeing the first of the missiles beginning to rain down on the front ranks, Shefak retreats to the open doorway of the table room, and readies to attack anything that attempts to enter.

    Thokk slays the other dog (damage 9).

    Two plant men make it through the moonbeam; one manages to swing his club at Thokk.

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (now base damage 17).

    Tyrius attacks the plant man with the club (9 damage), and Aurora sends a firebolt at it as well (6 damage).

    Round 5
    Umbra sends another ray of shadow at the approaching plant men, but misses.

    Six plant men manage to make it through the darkness and then enter the moonbeam. Ignoring the corpses of their companions littering the hall, they join a single living plant man and begin throwing darts at the party, principally Thokk (seven attacks, three hits, all critical, 34 total points damage, Thokk takes 14 after rage and heroism). Most of them fall to the floor, slain by the moonbeam, soon after their volley. Willa sheathes her greatsword and picks up Tyrius’ hammers from the floor.

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (now base damage 20).

    Aurora sends off a firebolt at the plant men (damage 12), but then notices something at the edge of her vision, approaching from the other hallway, not the one to the north the party is defending, but rather the one to the east, the one that leads to the slain ceiling monster and the main entrance of the cave. She grabs Tyrius by the shoulder. He turns, and the light from his shield falls upon a thorn dog galloping toward them. “Don’t let us be flanked!” says Aurora, and Tyrius moves to intercept the dog.

    Babshapka drops back so as to view both hallways, and launches a single arrow to the north (damage 12 plus 5 from hunter’s mark, results in 2 damage).

    Round 6
    Larry affirms his concentration on the moonbeam (now base damage 21), and turns to face the dog by Tyrius’ side. He slashes at the dog with his scimitar but misses. However, behind the first dog come a half-dozen others from the east, bounding forward. Beyond them, at the edge of his darkvision, he can see a long column of plant men approaching. Larry shouts a warning to the others.

    Aurora firebolts one of the missile troops (14 damage).

    To the north, plant men and now thorn dogs are continuing to pass through the darkness and moonbeam. Three dogs are approaching Thokk; one snaps at Tyrius down the other hall. Two dart-bearing men and one with a club pass through the moonbeam. One manages to get off a dart before he dies, but Thokk intercepts it with his shield.

    Babshapka continues firing arrows (two shots, one hit, 5 plus 4 is 2 points of damage).

    Willa moves to the east hallway, strikes at a thorn dog but misses.

    Umbra decides the host approaching unimpeded from the east is far more of a threat than those trickling through the moonbeam and taking damage besides. She turns and pulls away from the northern hall, fixing her full attention on the vanguard of dogs. Suddenly a great dark sphere appears. Tendrils of insubstantial shadow snake out from it, wrapping around the nearest thorn dogs, pulling at them. Their advance is slowed - perhaps more helpfully, they no longer are agile enough to wound those striking at them. (six thorn dogs fail their save against Umbra’s entropy spell - they now move at half speed and cannot take reactions. Umbra to 3/2/2).

    With no melee opponents, but now being the sole defender on the northern hall, Thokk yells and shakes his shield and sword at the plant men launching darts. [Thokk has neither attacked nor taken damage this turn. His rage ends. He takes the dodge action and uses another rage. Two rages left]

    Tyrius forgoes attacking, moving in such a way as to try to distract and draw the shadow-slowed dogs to him. (Tyrius takes the dodge action) He contacts Eddard mentally and has his mount open the door to the apartment on the south side of the hall, in case the party needs to fall back. The large table, on its side with a settee bolstering it from behind, blocks the doorway so that only the top half of the doorway is open.

    Round 7
    The forces in the north and east are both building and pressing upon the party. Aurora starts calling for a general retreat back to the room. “Bu’ we hain’t none o’ us been wounded,” objects Willa (ignoring Thokk for the moment). Aurora insists that they will be, if they allow themselves to be surrounded on all sides. In fits and starts, they begin to make for the door of the apartment, some with more alacrity than others.

    Umbra fires off a ray of shadow at a thorn dog but misses, then turns and moves to enter the apartment. She tries to climb over the table barrier, but her feet slip and slide on its smooth surface and she appears insufficiently strong to pull herself over with her arms alone (Acrobatics 8 ). She scowls and then disappears, suddenly appearing a second later well within the room. (Shadow step, Umbra at 2/2/2).

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (this round, damage 21) even though he cannot see it. He looks nervously at the plant-men and thorn dogs arriving from the east, more all the time. He shouts to Thokk, asking him if they should retreat, but the enraged half-orc’s only answer is a bloodthirsty laugh.

    Four thorn dogs and a plant man with a club attack Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa, but their armor protects them.

    Shefak attacks a thorn dog with her staff, hitting it twice (total 18 damage), but twisting out of the way of its responding bite. Hearing Aurora’s calls for a retreat, she turns and sees another thorn dog blocking her path to the door. Summoning her ki, she runs at the dog and then unleashes a series of high and low kicks. The last one connects, knocking the dog fifteen feet back and to the side and opening up her path. (Shefak uses a Ki point for flurry of blows, now at 5 ki points. Three unarmed attacks on dog, last one hits, forces a strength save, dog fails and is knocked back). Shefak continues to run forward, jumps, and pulls herself over the table and into the room (Acrobatics 12). “Get this out of the way!” she shouts at Eddard, pointing at the settee and table.

    Eddard places his broad head along the side of the settee and digs in his hooves. He pushes the settee out of the way, although the table remains blocking the doorway (Strength check 17).

    Willa stays in the thick of the combat, not retreating. So far no plant men or thorn dogs have been able to penetrate her magic plate mail. If they want to keep throwing themselves on her sword, that is fine with her (two hits, 26 damage total).

    Babshapka fires off another two arrows, this time at the host in the east, but misses both times. He retreats about half the distance to the door.

    Tyrius continues to move among the thorn dogs, urging them all to attack him (dodge action) while his companions retreat to the safety of the room. He moves closer to the room himself, but it is one step forward and two back all the way.

    Aurora tries to calculate the area of impact that will hit the most opponents (Arcana 13), and then launches a fireball down the eastern corridor. It lands among five thorn dogs and two plant man “saplings”. (two fail for 38 damage each, five save for 19. Aurora at 2/2/0). Before the blast has even detonated, she turns and is halfway to the door of the apartment. Arriving there (with a little push from the explosion behind her), she tries to slide the table out of the way but is unable to budge it (Strength check 5).

    Round 8
    With Eddard continuing to push the settee to the far side of the room, Shefak moves the table from the inside, opening the doorway at last.

    Willa attacks a thorn dog (one hit for 14).

    The five thorn dogs bound by tendrils of shadow are largely unable to escape their effects (four failed Wisdom saves, one success). Umbra moves to the doorway and shoots a ray of shadow (7 points) at the one that managed to free himself. Babshapka shoots the same dog with an arrow (5 points + 2 hunter’s mark = 1 damage).

    Larry moves back from the scrum to view the northern hallway again and pulls the moonbeam back, closer to Thokk (this round it will do 21 damage).

    A sapling with a club, and a thorn dog, continue to attack Thokk to no effect. Halfway down the northern hall, the plant men launch a volley of seven darts and javelins. Only one finds its mark (5 piercing, 2 after rage, 0 after heroism).

    Five shadow-bound dogs bite at Tyrius and Willa, but miss. A sapling misses Tyrius with a club.

    Aurora, standing in the now-open doorway, sends out a firebolt but it misses.

    Thokk wants to back up so that he can assess the situation in the east hallway. He yells at Larry to have the moonbeam follow him as he retreats.

    Round 9
    Umbra, next to Aurora in the open doorway, sends out a ray of shadow (8 damage).

    Larry heeds Thokk’s words and has the moonbeam cover his retreat. It sweeps over eight plant men as it moves, doing 15 damage to each.

    Five shadow-bound dogs bite at Tyrius and Willa, but miss. A sixth misses Larry.

    Two saplings with clubs miss Willa, another two Thokk.

    A total of seventeen plant men missile troops have now accumulated in the northern hall and send a volley of darts and javelins at Thokk. Five find their mark (including two critical hits). [Thokk takes 50 points, to 25 after rage, to 22 after heroism] Thokk decides it may indeed be time to retreat. He sheathes his longsword, turns and runs (thorn dog bite and sapling club opportunity attacks both miss). He pauses only long enough to scoop up a surprised Babshapka (Athletics check 26) with his free arm before barreling into the room. Umbra and Aurora manage to get out of his way without getting knocked down.

    Seeing Thokk fleeing, Tyrius reasons that they are about to be hit with a flood of plant men from the north. He turns as well and makes for the door (club opportunity attack from a plant man misses). He is in no position to scoop up Larry as easily as Thokk did Babshapka, but he manages to push and shove and keep the dwarf in front of him as he goes (Athletics check 15).

    Aurora decides to lay down suppressive fire and cover the retreat of her companions. She sends out four magic missiles (cast at 2nd level for 17 damage, Aurora at 2/1/0).

    Willa looks about - it seems Aurora has convinced even Thokk to retreat. She increases the speed of her attacks to an unsustainable level as she clears her path to the door (action surge, four attacks, two hits, 27 damage).

    As Willa, the last one to enter the room, crosses the threshold, Thokk presses the door panel to close the door behind her.

    Round 10
    Babshapka sets another arrow to his bowstring and draws it lightly, pointing it at the floor near the closed door. “I think we should give it a minute,” he says tersely. Then, thinking better of it, he puts away his bow and draws his broadsword.

    “Does anyone need healing?” Tyrius asks, looking pointedly at Thokk, who is covered in puncture wounds from the darts and javelins. The half-orc shakes his head, and no one else speaks up.

    Round 11
    (Thokk’s heroism has expired)
    (Thokk’s second rage has expired)

    Willa, standing near the door, hears the mechanical whirring of the strange lock mechanism. She gestures at the others to be ready.

    As the door slides open, those near it can see a cluster of plant-man melee troops formed up in a phalanx outside. Farther back are rows of missile troops, even now poised to throw. Willa, closest to the door, can see a plant man straining upward to reach the receptacle into which a key card would be returned.

    Larry faces the door and concentrates, moving his still-existing moonbeam to just outside the door itself. He drops it squarely on two saplings, four sprouts, and a sporrior. They writhe in pain and begin to scatter.

    Thokk attacks the fleeing plant men nearest him, cleaving down at them with his longsword (two hits, 18 damage).

    Willa pushes past Thokk and reaches into the receptacle with one hand. With the other, she shoves hard, knocking the plant man back into the area covered by the moonbeam. It tenses in pain and she grabs the key card triumphantly. “Close it!” she shouts, and Babshapka presses the door panel.

    Round 12
    Unnoticed by the rest of the party, Shefak slipped on her invisibility ring even as the door opened. Now, she slides by Thokk and out into the hallway, stifling her gasp as she enters the moonbeam and takes damage. She passes through to the other side and out into the sea of plant men, trying to avoid them as they scurry about (dodge action).

    Willa tosses the black key card to Babshapka and draws her greatsword. He in turn tosses the card to Aurora and moves his hunter’s mark to a thorn dog just visible through the closing door. Aurora fumbles the card, then bangs her head on the oddly low table as she dives after it.

    Two thorn dogs snap at Thokk but he fends them off with his shield. Willa beats them back from the doorway (two hits, 26 damage total).

    Thokk, sword still drawn, faces the door as it slides closed.

    (It's minute up, Larry’s moonbeam finally expires)

    [Unbeknownst to the party, in addition to all the vegepygmies stirred up from the rooms they attacked, another 12 vegepygmies and 5 thornies have arrived as a patrol (wandering encounter) and joined the forces outside the door being directed by the sub chiefs.]

    It isn’t until a few minutes later when someone finally notices that Shefak is no longer in the room with them. From the center of the room, Aurora tries to message her. Receiving no response, she moves to the door, where the metal is thinner than the width of the walls. Now she does indeed hear back.

    Shefak explains that she is invisible, in the hallway just outside the door. There are some 30 to 40 plant men and a half-dozen thorn dogs out there with her. More importantly, there are two plant men that seem to be in charge. They are much larger than the others, standing nearly five feet tall, and are greatly gnarled and barely able to move. With whistles, chest thumps, and gesticulating limbs, they appear to be ordering the other plants, men and dogs, about. It is the first time Shefak has seen any of the plant men do anything more than blindly charge forward and attack. Now, they are forming up into well-spaced rows, with melee troops in front and missile troops behind, all surrounding the door of the room in which the party is. On either side of the door are stationed thorn dogs.

    As Aurora begins to relate Shefak’s message to the party, Willa and Tyrius confer. They agree that with their complement of best spells depleted, and the damage Thokk has taken, it is not worth it to provoke another fight. If the plant men storm the room, however, the party should definitely target the leaders. Perhaps if these larger plant men are slain or captured the others will disperse. Their conference is interrupted by Aurora reporting that Shefak is saying urgently that another plant man with a black card in hand is approaching the door. The party readies for another fight, while Aurora moves away from the door and begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages, for use on the leader they intend to capture.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:01 am  
    Post 163: Speak with Plants

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fifth Barrier Peaks session, was 5 April, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies

    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 163: Speak with Plants
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    Round 1
    As the door slides open, Thokk enrages (one rage left). He immediately pushes through the crowd, barreling straight at the plant man leader and ignoring those in his way. (Three opportunity attacks, two sapling clubs and a thorn dog bite, all miss). Thokk reaches the leader, bends down, and attempts to seize him with his bare hands about the creature’s neck. (Thokk makes a failed grapple attempt. He uses an inspiration point for a re-roll, but fails again).

    Aurora thinks better of her plan, ceases her ritual, and shoots a firebolt through the doorway. Umbra follows that with a ray of shadow.

    Babshapka struggles briefly with the plant man at the door and comes away with the key card. [Current tally, one black card each on Babshapka and Aurora].

    Willa strides out the door to her right, wading through the battle lines toward the second leader. The attacks on her by those she passes are ineffective (three sapling clubs and three thorn dog bites, opportunity attacks, all miss). Willa grabs the seemingly surprised plant man, hugs it to her chest, and begins walking backward despite its struggles and the attacks of those around her. She manages to drag it five feet closer to the door. (Successful grapple attack and moves opponent at half own speed)

    There is a volley of sixteen javelins and darts. They all are thrown through the open doorway. The plant men do not appear to have reacted immediately to the assaults on their leaders, or perhaps they are just mindlessly executing a previously decided-upon plan. Larry is wounded by two javelins, Babshapka by four.

    The leader evading Thokk's grasp manages to bring up a sort of cobbled-together flail and tries to strike at the barbarian, but is too close to be effective. The leader being grappled by Willa struggles, but cannot free itself.

    Tyrius moves to the doorway, sees that Willa has one leader well in hand but that the other has not yet been subdued by Thokk. The paladin casts compelled duel, hoping to goad the leader into charging at him, but it resists the power of Pelor (vegepygmy leader makes a Wisdom save with 17; Tyrius at 1/0 and 26 lay on hands remaining).

    Shefak dives into the combat, becoming visible and attacking the leader that Thokk faces, but from behind. She uses her flurry of blows to both prevent its reaction and knock it down (Shefak now at four ki points - first hit, stuns leader, no reactions, second hit, failed dex save, knocks it prone, total 17 points damage). “Now try!” she yells at Thokk, as the enraged barbarian struggles to understand why the plant man he was just fighting has dropped to the ground without him touching it.

    From inside the doorway, Larry casts a moonbeam, hoping to scatter the missile troops. It lands on six sprouts and six sporriors - the damage is disappointing, and half of them make their saves, but it is distracting and will hopefully frustrate a second volley. (Larry to 4/1/2; second-level moonbeam will last to round 12).

    Round 2
    Babshapka moves back behind the wall of the apartment, out of view of the missile troops, and pulls out one of the javelins that stuck in his side.

    Willa continues to drag the plant man leader backwards toward the door, ignoring the attacks on her (one dog and three sapling club opportunity attacks miss). She enters the area of the moonbeam and clenches her jaw as she begins to take damage (round 2 damage nine points, Willa saves and takes four). When she gets to the doorway she pauses, holding the plant man in front of her like a shield against the javelins. Still inside the moonbeam, and still taking damage, are two thorn dogs, three sporriors, three sprouts, three saplings, and the leader being held by Willa.

    Frustrated that the moonbeam hasn’t scattered more opponents, Larry runs up to the doorway, right behind Tyrius and Willa. He yells, drops to one knee, and slams the ground with his fist, sending forth a wave of force. A thunderous sound echoes down the metal corridors. (Thunderwave at first level for nine points - Larry at 3/1/2). The shock hits Tyrius first (Con save 4, fails); he takes damage (9 points) and flies forward out of the doorway and into the hall, barely managing to remain on his feet. Willa is thrown into the air, but comes down in place and manages to retain her grip on the leader (4 points damage). As the wave propagates out the doorway, about half the javelin-throwing troops go down, falling to the floor. Their green-gray skin burns and cracks in the moonbeam. The club-bearing saplings in the doorway, tougher than their missile throwing companions, remain standing. Four of them batter at Willa. They are unable to break through her armor, but their blows help loosen her grip on the leader, and he manages to break free. He staggers forward, turns, and beats his flail at her chest plate, knocking the wind from her for a moment but not doing any lasting damage (attack roll 20 vs. AC21).

    Outside the room, three thorn dogs snap at Tyrius with their barbed jaws. The remaining missile troops all target Willa - because she is in the doorway, or because she tried to capture their leader? (Now that she is in melee with the saplings, the missile troops have advantage). Two sporriors and five sprouts are left - of the seven missiles thrown, three manage to penetrate her armor.

    As the fallen leader before him stands up, Thokk leans down and snatches it in a bear hug, then lifts it over his head, holding it high in the air so that none of its woody limbs can find purchase on the floor (successful grapple attack). He turns and moves heavily toward the door, pausing only to raise a booted foot and kick the free leader fighting Willa in the back (successful shove attack). As the standing leader stumbles forward past Willa, Thokk moves to take its place in the doorway, the other leader still held over his head. Thorn dogs snap at his heels (three opportunity attacks - one hit, 5 points, 2 damage after rage).

    Shefak assesses the doorway - most of it is blocked by Thokk’s girth, but there is a bit of room over his head, just to the side of the plant man leader. She runs forward, planting her staff like a pole, and starts her vault - but the pole slips on the metal floor, slick with plant juices. Shefak slams into Thokk, then falls to the floor (failed Acrobatics check). Thokk stumbles forward from the blow. Shefak shakes her head, leaps to her feet, and re-assumes her invisibility.

    Tyrius, from inside the room, attacks the four saplings battering Willa (two hits, 21 damage, one sapling down). Aurora firebolts another one of them (9 damage).

    Round 3
    With the doorway now clear, Shefak runs inside the apartment, launching herself into a flying kick at the free plant man leader.

    Babshapka hits the door panel and the door begins to close.

    Willa trades blows with the plant man leader inside. The three remaining saplings beat her with clubs, and the leader manages to turn and slip out through the closing door.

    Thokk tightens his grip on the remaining leader he holds aloft inside the room.

    Larry dashes to the half-closed door, moving his moonbeam to center it onto the fleeing leader. In response, four sprouts and a sporrior throw missiles at him (one hit, Larry takes 5). Aurora runs to his side, sending a volley of magic missiles after the leader through the last six inches remaining between the closing door panels. The plant man leader is slain just before the door closes (14 points damage, Aurora to 1/1/0).

    Tyrius smashes two of the three saplings that remain inside the room into planty bits (two hits, 7 and 11 damage).

    Round 4
    Thokk continues to grapple the leader, holding him high overhead.

    The one remaining sapling in the room attacks Willa with its club. Willa returns his blows (one hit, damage 11). Tyrius moves to support her (one hit, damage 7).

    Aurora shoots a firebolt at the grappled leader, but it misses, impacting the ceiling instead.

    Larry tosses Shefak a rope, and she moves to Thokk’s side, urging him to set the plant man down so that she can bind it.

    Round 5
    The sapling strikes at Willa again, and her response smears it all over her greatsword. Now just the leader is left alive inside, although Larry and Babshapka are guarding the door in case it opens again.

    Thokk holds the leader down while Shefak ties it up with the rope.

    When the plant man is well and truly bound, Thokk loses his rage and moves to guard the door.

    Aurora begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages, while Shefak uses her Wholeness of Body to recover 18hp and then moves much of her personal gear over to the mule packs (cold weather clothes, crampons, bed roll, staff, dagger, mess kit) so as to lighten her load. “It seems like we will be in this cave a while,” she says, to no one in particular. Umbra nods and puts her own cold weather gear and crampons in one of the mule packs.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the remaining vegepygmies in the hall withdraw. In just this last skirmish, besides numerous comrades, they have lost a black key and two of their subchiefs. They collectively retreat, back to defend the colony and await further instruction]

    Aurora and Babshapka come over to where the leader is tied up. Aurora begins speaking to him, knowing he cannot understand her, but trying to keep a friendly tone in her voice.

    As the leader whistles and rattles his limbs, Aurora hears a deep basso voice, slow and ponderous. “You…(and he inclines his head at Aurora)...thrower of fire! Burner of men! You think you can conquer the colony! But you will never overcome us! Never!”

    The leader’s obvious hostile reaction gives Aurora pause. Without being able to speak to him, she will be unable to persuade him of anything. She retreats to the far side of the room, where she can still hear him and whisper messages to Babshapka with translations of what he is saying.

    Although he has calmed somewhat at Aurora’s retreat, the leader’s defiance has now shifted to Babshapka. “You will not overcome us! We will defend the colony, though it cost us our individual existence, we will be reborn to serve the colony again! You may chop off our limbs and branches, but they will grow back! We will defend our lights and our soil!”

    Seeking a nonverbal way to indicate their friendly intentions, Babshapka sets down his weapons on the floor. He tells the others in the party to set down their weapons and back away. A few follow his directive, but Thokk just laughs.

    The plant man pauses in his invective. When he resumes speaking, his tone is less forceful, but still suspicious. “Do you mock me? Do you seek to frighten me, by showing me the dead bodies of your former foes? Is this what you will do to me, with my body? I will not be intimidated! Do your worst, and I will serve the colony to the end!” Babshapka only now realizes that his bow and arrows are made of wood - to this plant man, apparently they look like dead bodies laid in front of him.

    Babshapka throws up his hands in frustration, gathers his things and withdraws. Larry stumps over, willing to give it a try. He squats by the leader, who is still dripping sap and whose living wooden armor is chipped and cracked in several places. Larry touches him and bestows a cure wounds. (Larry at 2/1/2).

    The leader winces at Larry’s touch, then shudders as a few of his wounds close and the wood knits itself together. A single violet flower bud emerges from between wooden plates in the soft joint of an elbow. The leader’s eyes widen.

    “You heal me...why? To make me whole before you sacrifice me?”

    When Aurora translates this for Larry, the dwarf shakes his head and holds forth his empty hands at the plant man. There is a long silence.

    “If you truly wish to cease hostilities...untie me, and let me go.”

    Aurora has been translating and messaging as fast as the leader speaks, without commentary, but when she says the last line uncensored she immediately regrets it. “Now, hold on there, Larry!” she says out loud right after, but Tyrius strides over and begins working at the ropes that bind the plant-man’s limbs while Larry holds out his empty hands in a gesture of peace. All eyes in the room are on the plant man as it stands, then walks over to where its wooden flail fell and collects it. More than one of the party have their hands on their weapons, but the leader ignores them and moves to the bodies of the several slain saplings in the room, then kneels by them.

    The leader lays its hand on the chests of the dead, rumbling in a rhythmic cadence, repeating the same prayer for each, “Your life was not in have served the colony in life, and now you serve it in death...soon your body will be absorbed by the soil and your spirit will sprout again…” When it has repeated the same prayer for each of the fallen, it weaves their limbs together and stands, pulling on the body of one and testing that they all come along as it drags them. Bits and pieces of broken twigs are left behind, but the leader seems unconcerned about these.

    As the leader makes toward the door, trailing its fallen comrades, Thokk draws his sword and moves to bar its way. “Nay, Thokk, let ‘im go,” says Willa, “bu’ we need fer sommun ter foller ‘im.”

    Shefak nods and moves behind the leader. Aurora tells Larry he should go too, but in scout mode. Larry suddenly shrinks down, assuming the form of a tiny wolf spider. Almost unnoticed, spider-Larry darts over to Shefak and climbs up her pant leg, eventually settling on her shoulder by the time the door is open (wild shape, one use left).

    The party tenses as the door opens, but the hallway beyond is empty - or at least, there is nothing moving. Bits and pieces of plant men are strewn everywhere, and more than a few scorch marks from fireballs[i] are present, as well caked-on plant juices baked to the metal floor with [i]moonbeam. But there is nothing recognizable as a body, neither of plant man nor thorn dog. Without thanking them or even turning around, the leader plods out into the hall, dragging the four fallen saplings behind him. After Shefak crosses the threshold of the door, she puts on her ring and disappears. A very perceptive observer might see a small grey spider floating along the corridor at shoulder height, but Larry’s current size and color render him nearly imperceptible.

    The door is left open; Babshapka and Thokk move into the hall to set a watch, while Tyrius offers healing to them and any of the others remaining. Besides his one last spell, he still has nearly all of his lay on hands available.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:22 pm  
    Post 164: A Curious Spider

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Keyed rooms from the map are indicated in [blue]

    The playdate for this, our sixth Barrier Peaks session, was 29 April, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 164: A Curious Spider
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    The plant man leader passes the table room [unnumbered activity room], an empty side room [ibid], and a black-keyed closed door [12A] without pause. When he gets to the long hall lit from the numerous rooms that held other plant men [12], however, he sets down his burden. One by one he goes to each of the rooms, steps inside, and presses the wall panel that turns out the overhead lights. The rooms are a mess of broken furniture, scavenged odds and ends, and bits and pieces of fallen bark and twigs. He murmurs as he does this but Shefak does not have the benefit of Aurora’s comprehend languages. Shefak counts her steps as she goes, realizing now that her return trip may be in darkness and, unlike many of the party, she cannot see in the dark.

    When it gets to the end of the corridor, the leader passes through a doorway and goes to the far end of the apartment [12], which is in just as much disarray as the others. In the back is a keyed door, and the leader pauses and withdraws a key from some recess under its living armor! Spider-Larry scampers down Shefak’s arm to get a closer view, and sees a flash of bright yellow as the plant man inserts the key in the slot, and again as it retrieves the key from the receptacle, before it is again tucked away from sight.

    As the door slides open, Shefak is hit with a rich, pungent, earthy smell. The large triangular room [mulch room; see DM's notes at end] within is full, with nearly every square foot of space being taken up by plant men, although the doorway is flanked by a pair of thorn dogs and at least one more is further within. The ceiling lights are bright and the plant men sway gently as their arms reach upward, their eyes closed. As Shefak’s eyes adjust to the brightness she can see more details. All of the plant men bear some type of injury - hacked off limbs, cracked wooden armor, sap-weeping wounds, burned and blackened skin. More plant men, or their bodies, lie on the floor - there is no way to move without stepping on them. Those on the floor look to be dead, or sleeping, though their wounds are worse than the others. Underneath them is a thick brown mass, like a rich loam or humus - the metal floor is not visible through the mass of bodies, broken branches, and brown layer.

    Thorn dogs just within the open door bristle, but then bow their heads to the leader. Other plant men, seemingly in a daze or trance, move forward slowly, and one by one the leader hands off to them the four different bodies it has been dragging. Each one is carried inside the room and then let gently down to the floor. The leader warbles, whistles, and beats its chest, and a few of those helping respond, but the majority of the gently swaying plant folk seem not to notice. Shefak quickly estimates perhaps two dozen standing plant folk - the number of fallen is impossible for her to guess.

    The leader spends just long enough in the doorway to see the bodies lain on the floor, and then turns. Shefak rapidly backs up and out of its way. It passes back through the room, out into the hall, and turns north. As it goes, it turns out more lights in more apartment rooms [12]. Shefak tries to keep running tallies now of both the number of rooms passed and her steps to return. They pass four more, all on the left, before arriving at a four-way intersection. The plant is moving faster now that it is not dragging its fallen comrades behind.

    At the intersection, the leader is soon surrounded by smaller plant folk arriving from the right branch. That hallway itself is dark, but light spills out into it from numerous doorwars along the south wall [12]. Plant folkn move in and out of the doorways and into the hall. The whole place appears much as did the southern hall, at least before the combat with the party. The leader beats its chest loudly and whistles as it wades into the crowd, and these apparently unwounded plant folk respond much more enthusiastically than the ones in the mulch room did.

    Shefak looks down the hallway. Invisible as she is, there is no way she can pass unnoticed - she is unlikely to get ten feet without someone or other bumping in to her. She proceeds just far enough to see where the northern branch of the intersection leads. No plant folk are in sight there. It is lit, but dimly, with many of the ceiling panels flickering in a way that is reminiscent of candles, but in whole blocks at once rather than points. There are numerous doors on both sides. She decides it is time to return to the party and report.

    Unbeknownst to her, Larry had decided to continue scouting when they were back at the plant man hall. The tiny spider lept from her shoulder to the wall, then climbed to above the height of the plant men. At human head height, he now scurries along the wall as fast as his eight little legs can carry him.

    As Shefak turns and carefully makes her way down the now-dark hallway, she ponders. The leader turned out lights in eleven rooms as he went. Thokk and Willa said that each room had produced some five to seven plant men, as well as a thorn dog, in their initial fight. Assuming that the leader thinks these rooms are now unoccupied, no longer needed, is there a way to estimate casualties among the plant folk? Six of them per room, times 11 rooms; 66 plant folk and 11 thorn dogs? But more than likely the wounded in the mulch room are a result of the fighting - so perhaps two dozen wounded, and 40-some slain, as many as eight thorn dogs slain and three wounded? Then Shefak remembers that a large force in the third attack came from the east - are there more rooms in that direction? If so, her numbers are likely to be an underestimate of their losses.

    Outside the party’s room, Thokk and Babshapka remain on alert. Thokk hears faint metallic clanking approaching, that then resolves itself as footfalls on the metal floor. He draws his sword and tells Babshapka to be ready.

    At a distance just beyond his sword-reach Shefak suddenly becomes visible. “Boo!” she says, though with a gentle smile. She proceeds to enter the room, where others are already binding wounds or laid out on bedrolls, although everyone still has their armor on and weapons at the ready. Shefak relates her story to Aurora, Willa, and Tyrius. When Aurora asks about Larry, Shefak looks surprised, and cranes her neck to see both shoulders - there is no spider on either one. She shrugs and says she did not notice his departure.

    Aurora moves to the open doorway and tries to raise Larry with her message spell, but to no avail. By the time she returns, Shefak is already kneeling, eyes closed in meditation but holding her crystal before her. The leaders of the party confer, agreeing that they will give Larry enough time for everyone in the party to complete a short rest. After that, if he has not returned, they will go out to look for him.

    It is hard for Larry to estimate time and distance while in spider form. He figures he has crawled about halfway along the hallway of plant folk, and gone past five open doorways leading into rooms full of the creatures [12]. To the north, a corridor leads away from the light and noise of them. He turns the corner and proceeds that way. He passes a closed door, then an open one. There is a brief side-foray into a storeroom, with smashed and empty crates, and then back out into the hall. Continuing north, he passes another four closed doors before then next open one, this one leading into a room with several pieces of battered and scratched furniture [unnumbered apartment]. After one more closed door, he comes to an intersection, with the main east-west corridor of substantially greater size than the north-south one it crosses. Larry turns to the east, but has not gone far when he arrives at a T-intersection, with the wall ahead bearing a single door. As he pauses to look in all directions, there is a whooshing of air as the door opens and light spills out into the hall from the room beyond [Police HQ]. The light is immediately followed by a clockwork - a large one of the kind the party fought before. This machine creature turns south and speeds away down the corridor. Larry follows as fast as he can, but the machine is soon lost to his sight.

    Larry turns a corner and passes another four doors before coming to a second T-intersection. This time turning south, he finds a four-branched corridor, with a hallway full of plant folk to his west. He is reasonably sure it is the same hallway he passed through before, seen from another perspective. He continues south. After five more doors he comes to a large atrium, at a nexus of hallways, with a hollow circular column in its center. Suspecting that he has returned to the initial entrance to the cave, he heads west and soon finds the body of the ceiling monster the party fought some fourteen hours before, still lying on the floor in all its massive bulk.

    It is not far past that when he can see Thokk and Babshapka standing guard in the hallway. He crawls to the floor and then resumes his dwarven shape. Thokk trots over and pats him on the head affectionately, which is as close as the barbarian will go to telling him he was worried about him.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, in the hallway, three displacer beasts approach - seeing Thokk and Babshapka on guard in the hallway, they retreat into the shadows.]

    DM's Note: On the map of Level I, there is a curious room just beyond the most south-west of the vegepygmy occupied rooms. It is accessed through a jet lock, which should indicate an apartment, but it is larger than the other apartments nearby and of odd shape. More strangely, although the only room granting access to it has vegepygmy occupants, it does not have any, according to the map. I decided that this was a "mulch room", where the southern vegepygmies take their dead and wounded, and where the wounded could heal themselves by decomposing the dead. The northern vegepygmies have an entire hallway filled with humus in which they grow mushrooms to eat, so it seemed fitting that the southern colony would have something similar. All of the living vegepygmies in the room when Larry and Shefak found it were ones that had been wounded in the various battles with the party so far.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Apr 20, 2021 12:52 pm  
    Post 165: The New Guy

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our seventh Barrier Peaks session, was 7 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies

    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 165: The New Guy
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    By the time Shefak has completed her short rest, the other party members have as well (excepting Larry). [Thokk, Willa, and Babshapka spend hit dice to heal themselves. Shefak recovers all of her Ki points. Aurora gains back three spell level slos]

    Since more than an hour has passed with the door open and no plant men in sight, Willa is cautiously optimistic that the brokered peace with the leader may have worked. She declares that they should head out and look for food and fuel. Shefak mentions that she is happy to scout ahead invisibly, but that much of the cave is unlit and, unlike Larry, she can’t see in the dark. Larry bestows a darkvision spell on her (lasts until 8:15am, Larry at 2/0/2).

    “Before you go, I have a concern,” says Eddard. When enough of the party has turned to him, he says, “I’m all for peace with the plant men, but if it turns out that the leader we freed is just using this time to plan a bigger assault, or if there is a tree or something higher than him that doesn’t like his decision, I’d rather not be in a room that they all know that we are in, especially if the rest of you are away.”

    Willa agrees that if they are scouting, they can first find another room for Eddard and the mules.

    As the party proceeds into the hall, Aurora suddenly stops them. “Just a second - Larry, you said that leader’s card was yellow, not black?”


    “So maybe the different colored cards open different colored doors.”

    “Bu’ ther doors are all ther same color, jus' grey metal,” objects Willa.

    “Are they?” asks Aurora rhetorically, and insists on spending several minutes examining not the door itself, but the strange three-part locking mechanism outside their current room. Then she dashes off several doors to the east, back to the door that previously “ate” their card.

    “Aha!” she says, “look at the slot!” Upon first inspection, the lock mechanism is the same in both doors - a slot above, a pearl-colored panel in the middle, a receptacle at the bottom to return the card. However, she points out that this door has a thin enamel-like filigree in the rectangle around the slot, and that the filagree is of a violet color. She takes them back to the door of the room in which they rested, and shows them that the same filigree there is of a jet black color - a color which matches exactly the two black cards they still have.

    “So...ther key color has to match ther door color?” asks Willa.

    Aurora frowns. “I don’t think so. That would be too complicated - everyone would have to carry around all the different door colors, and that leader with the yellow key couldn’t open black doors, and black doors seem pretty common.” She thinks some more. “Willa, what are the ranks on the biggest ship you can think of?”

    “Why?” asks Willa suspiciously. She has given up actively denying that the cave is a ship, but Aurora’s question makes her feel complicit in the fantasy.

    “Just answer, it will help me think.”

    “Well, a ship o’ any size will hae a cap’in, ar a measter, dependin’ on if it be free, royal navy, ar pirate, Keoish ar Sea Princes. Unner ther cap’in be ther off’cers; a mate, ar maybe a first an’ second mate, pr’aps a bo’sun ar a const’ble. Unner them be ther sailors, an’ maybe marines if ‘tis a vessel o’ war. Ye seen all t’is when we sailed ther Azure Sea.”

    “Yes, yes,” says Aurora distractedly. “Now, the captain would have the run of the ship, right - he could go anywhere.”

    “O’ carse, it be ‘is ship.”

    “But while a bo’sun can go most places, like the crew’s quarters...and the hold...and such, he shouldn’t be in…?”

    “Ther cap’in’s cabin. Ar ther pantry, fer t’at matter.”

    “Right. And a sailor should only be…”

    “About ‘is duties ar in ‘is berth.”

    “So this ship probably has some hierarchy like that - it is not that the color has to match the door, but that some colors are higher than others - and a high color card should open any color door beneath it, but a low color card gets confiscated if you try to open a higher-color door with it. And, apparently, violet ranks above black.”

    [Aurora gains an inspiration point]

    Willa says that while all of that is fine in theory, it doesn’t get them any closer to finding a place for the mules. If Aurora is done, they are returning to check the table room.

    The table room itself is as they left it, but now they inspect the enamel around the card slots in the two doors, finding to their satisfaction that both are black. Aurora and Babshapka use their cards simultaneously and the party splits into two teams to search the rooms beyond.

    The southern room is yet another apartment, the standard furniture being familiar by now and quickly searched. The northern room is some sort of storeroom with several crates - now all smashed or otherwise broken into. A mess of odd metal machine parts, bits and pieces with no apparent function, is strewn across the floor, along with decaying wood and fragments of fabric. There is a second door on the north wall, also keyed black. Eddard says that the presence of the key locks is good, and that this is nowhere the plant men have seen them yet, although it is awfully close to their lair. It will do for now, though if the party finds someplace better as they scout that would be appreciated. He asks them to move out the largest of the broken crates and machine parts so that there is more room for the mules, and then bids them good hunting.

    As they exit, Willa makes sure that both keyless doors to the table room are closed. In the familiar hallway beyond, Aurora notes a new color - the doors to the north and south have a brown enamel around their slots. She tries her key - and it is promptly taken by the door and not returned. A loud klaxon sounds and the party prepares for a fight, but after five minutes it stops, with nothing else appearing. “Brown is higher than black,” notes Aurora. The party is now down to a single, black, card - held by Babshapka.

    [At this point, wandering encounters are being rolled in two locations: for the party itself, and for the room with the mules and Eddard]

    As they discuss where to explore, it is agreed that they should try to find somewhere away from the plant men. Willa leads them due east, and past the great circular shaft at the main entrance, down a previously unexplored corridor. An unmoving form is seen in the hall, and the party approaches cautiously. [Numbered encounter 2]

    The form appears to be an unmoving cleaning clockwork. It is dented and battered, and their examination does not revive it. Small hand tools are scattered on the floor around it. Three doors in the north of the hall are all black-locked. Two in the south are black; a third is brown, but open, and a brown door is on the far wall where the corridor turns north.

    Aurora gathers up the tools, then examines the clockwork and the tools. The machine man looks like it was put out of commission by blunt force damage, but there is no sign of what did that. The tools are a mix of the familiar (but exquisitely made) and alien. Aurora intends to see if there is anything to scavenge, so she starts looking for which of the various screwdrivers will open the bolts on the thing’s chest. Willa says this is a waste of time, but if she is going to do it, she should be somewhere safer than the middle of the hall.

    Babshapka quickly scouts the room with the open brown door, finding it to be a storeroom similar to the one the mules are now in, smashed and looted crates and all. Willa reminds him to be on the lookout for key cards, power discs, food, and fuel, but he finds none of that, nor any other items he considers useful or worthy of mention. The others help Aurora drag the clockwork into the room.

    Inside the clockwork are gears, levers, and strange wax-coated wires, all crude and similar to those in the security clockwork she disassembled before. Here and there are pistons, but she finds no power discs or obvious weapons, or even something like the atmospheric analyzer. She uses the unfamiliar tools, as much as to try to test their function as from any further desire to take apart the clockwork. Removing one small panel, she finds a set of four small toruses, each filled with balls, like ball-bearings but seemingly made out of crystal. She has no idea what their function is, but imagines they could easily be sold as gems. They seem to allow a frictionless spinning motion, but are incredibly hard and resistant.

    In time, she manages to pry all four bearings out. The rest of the innards are certainly interesting, but she does not find anything else of obvious use or value.

    When Willa asks to see what she found, Aurora shows her the “gems”. Willa responds that treasure is nice, especially portable treasure, but their priorities are food, fuel, and grain for the mules, in that order, and it is time they headed out. She rearranges them into march order and exits the room. Almost immediately her lantern light spills across a figure approaching them from the west.

    The party freezes in place, ready to react at the first sign of any aggressive action, but unsure of what to do with a single, human-looking, figure after so many encounters with strange monsters and machines.

    It is a man, indeed a human - tall and slender with pale skin and dark wavy hair that cascades over his shoulders. His mustache and goatee are as dark as his hair, and sweep across his face framing in his stone grey eyes that seem to be focused somewhere other than on the party or the corridor in front of him. He wears a nearly full-length leather jacket, tight and obviously personally fitted to him. It is dyed russet overall, with intricate leather tooling and carvings of different fiery scenes along with blade marks colored with bright red dye. The jacket has reinforced sections along the shoulders and vital areas revealing its true use as armor. The sleeves and jacket hem are cut irregularly and dyed various shades of orange to mimic the shape of flames. He wears dark brown lace-up leather pants with dark brown boots to match. His pants have a flare to accommodate the tall boots. The effect of the dark pants and boots against the bright orange flame patterns make him appear to be floating, at least in the right light. He carries two 2-foot long tubes of wide diameter and a greatsword in a scabbard on his belt, as well as a pack on his back with wide leather straps. The leatherwork on the tubes is as equally ornate as his armor.

    Babshapka steps in front of Aurora, one hand on his broadsword, and says in elvish, “Well met, stranger”.

    “Greetings, friends,” the man says in Common, “I’m afraid I don’t speak that tongue.”

    Tyrius strides up noisily next to Babshapka. “Do you come in peace, sir?” he says in Common.

    “That depends on who you are,” the man answers confidently. “You wouldn’t happen to have been sent here by the druids of the Isle of Rhun?”

    Willa intercedes before Tyrius can answer. “We hae certainly met yon druids, bu’ we tweren’t sent ‘ere by t’em.”

    Thokk slowly draws his longsword. Holding the blade carefully in one hand, he picks under the nails of the other with the point. Babshapka raises his hand above his head and rests it on Thokk’s shoulder.

    The man shrugs, not wanting to debate such a fine distinction with Willa. “I am a servant of the druids. They sent me here to help a party of adventurers. If you are not them…”

    [Shefak, who has the best Insight in the party, thinks he sounds believable.]

    When noone in the party appears willing to either confirm or deny their identity, he continues. “My duties take me far and wide across the land. When last I came to Rhun, the druids said a group had come to them, seeking help in locating this Unoerthly Cave. They gave what help they could at the time, but the party was unsatisfied. They told me of the group and bid me come here to help them.”

    “How long have you been traveling?” asks Aurora, not bothering to mask the suspicion in her voice.

    “About two weeks, a little less.”

    “How did you know how to get here; have you been here before?”

    “Never here, never this deep in the Barriers. The druids showed me the way.”

    Aurora pauses, and when she speaks again, her tone is slightly more credulant. “Actually, we did speak with the druids, particularly with Gethin. Do you know him?” [note - Aurora is making the name up as a test]

    “No, I know of no druid by that name - but I don’t know everyone on the Council, so it is possible I don’t know him. Mostly I scout for them and send reports through intermediaries, I don't usually deal with them directly.”

    “What proof can you give us that you are who you say?” demands Aurora. She whispers, so that only those near her in the party can hear, “Nadine”.

    The man shrugs again. “It’s rather hotter in here than outside, no?” He drops his backpack, then undoes several buckles on the rigid cuir boili breastplate of his leather armor that allow the front to swing open, revealing a heavy cloth maroon-colored button-up shirt that is missing the top four buttons. By pulling the collar over his head, he is able to slip out of the shirt without taking off his armor, although doing so reveals that his leather pants are dangerously low cut and end well below the top of his hips, exposing most of his midriff until he closes the breastplate of his armor.

    “I don’t know that any of this is true, or counts as proof, but this is what I was told: A party of adventurers arrived at the fishing village on the lake more than two weeks ago. They spoke to the villagers, and then the boatman, said they wanted to talk to the druids. The boatman brought one of the councilmembers over to the village - I wasn’t told which one. The party stayed in the visitor’s house. They told the druid that they had an ancient text describing a star falling in the mountains. The location of the star fall corresponded to the location the Council knew was the Unoerthly Cave. The druid told the party that they would help them find the Cave in return for the party investigating it and discovering for them why strange monsters emerge from it. The party accepted their help but were unsatisfied with what they got in return and kept asking for more. So when I visited a few days later to give an unrelated report they told me to go to the Cave and offer my help to the party. So now, I would really like to know, are you actually that party, or am I wasting my time here?”

    Willa and Aurora continue to stare down the newcomer. “Go check that room,” says Willa to Babshapka, “and take Thokk.” She points at a black-locked door to their right.

    In the awkward silence, the new man carefully folds his jack and stows it in his backpack, then puts the backpack on again, but over one shoulder.

    Willa has Babshapka check the next room, the one directly behind them, quickly, just to be sure there is no one in it, and then moves the bulk of the party into it. It is another apartment. She keeps Babshapka, Thokk, and Shefak checking rooms, starting with the one they are all in.

    “I just found the doors a few hours ago,” says the newcomer as he walks into the room. “What is this place?” He gestures at the strange furnishings and metal walls.

    “T’is a flyin’ ship,” says Willa, her voice as nonchalant as she can manage. Aurora starts to interject, sees a peculiar set to Willa’s jaw, and stops herself.

    “Huh,” says the man. “I’ll be damned.” From the long, thin bag at his belt he pulls out three stout wooden staves, joined at their middles, and adds to their top a triangular piece of leather - the whole becomes a camp chair when assembled. As they wait for the rest of the party to search this room and the one next door, he pulls a pinch of tobacco from the pouch at his belt, and produces a rolling paper from somewhere, then rolls and lights a cigarette. Those in the party not actively engaged in searching find it hard not to stare at him.

    Aurora decides to fill him in - a bit. She talks about the abundance of metal walls, the strange clockwork creatures, and the magical plant men.

    “Plant men?”

    “Yes. Plant men. A LOT of them. They seem to be the principle defenders of this place, whatever it is.” Her exposition quickly turns to interrogation. “We had to hike through frozen mountains for two weeks to get here. How did you get here? If you just arrived, where is your gear?” she demands.

    “I flew,” says the man simply, and takes a long drag.

    “Flew?” says Larry. “Be ye a shapeshifter?”

    The man laughs. His laugh is easy, as if he finds much amusement and often.

    “No, I flew. With a fly spell. It’s easier. I just have this pack,” he says, as he absentmindedly kicks at the backpack now at his feet. “I don’t take anything I don’t need, and I don’t need much. I would never walk into mountains this high. Plus there is ice and snow like everywhere. Walking would be crazy.”

    “Aye, ‘twould,” agrees Willa. “‘Twould also be long, an’ cold, an’ windy.” The man nods in agreement. “Thar be clockwork men ‘ere with strange weapons. We’ve fought one, an’ atother mostly ignored us. We ‘ad an awfully ‘ard time openin’ ther main door. ‘ow did ye manage t’at by yerself?”

    “These plant men,” the man replies. “What can you do to damage them?”

    “Fire works,” says Willa. “Stabbing nae so much.”

    “Well, that’s good,” says the man. “I’m a fire mage. Well, a fighter / mage,” he says, and slaps the scabbard of his greatsword. “So I guess a fighter / fire mage. But not a fire fighter - mage. I don’t fight fires.” He takes another long drag and the party stares on, trying to discern if he is mad or for real. “Have you spoken to anyone? I mean, anyone local to the Cave,” he asks.

    “Ther plant men ain’t big on conversation’,” says Willa sarcastically. “Bu’ we did talk ter one o’ ther leaders. We t’ink we hae a truce, fer ther moment.”

    “These plant men - are they just men? No females?”

    “Truth be told,” says Willa, “I couldna tell ye if t’ey were males ar females - t’eir mostly bark an’ no parts t’ speak o’, as ‘twar.”

    Shefak returns to the room to tell them that they have finished searching the next apartment over and are continuing down the hall. The next room has a brown door, but it is open, so they could go inside, but it was just a storeroom.

    The man’s face expresses puzzlement. “Do you normally not open brown doors?” he asks. Aurora explains the card system to him, as well as her supposition about the color hierarchy. No one mentions who in the party is carrying the single card the party currently has possession of, but Aurora says that they are in search of more.

    “And where did you find the one you have?” the newcomer asks.

    “From the plant men,” replies Aurora. “Maybe we should try to get some more from them…”

    “No!” calls Babshapka’s voice from halfway down the hall. “They are just defending their homes!”

    “Homes?” chuckles the man. “Plant men in a metal city? I don’t think this is their home.”

    When Willa gives the word to move out, the newcomer crushes out his cigarette on the metal wall, tosses the butt on the floor, stands, folds up and stows his stool. As they filter out into the hall, Willa whispers to each of the party members in turn to not say anything about the mules. Then, when Larry is the last one out of the room they were in, she admonishes him, “Shut ther door! Leave ther rooms like we found t’em.” Larry sullenly complies.

    They continue east down the hallway. Shefak finds an unlocked, push-panel, door. She presses and enters. Inside the room [encounter 3 - robot repair room] are two security clockworks. They swivel their heads to the open doorway, but apparently cannot detect her invisibly. There is a desk in the room, and several low tables. Storage bins and compartments are on several of the tables, and many of them are filled with gears and other mechanical parts. The clockworks move about the room, their metal hands selecting parts and moving them from one bin to another. The room has two interior doors. That is all Shefak has a chance to see before she backs out, as silently as she can, and presses the panel in the hall to close the door behind her.

    Shefak makes herself visible in the hall, holding her finger to her lips as she does so. She whispers to Willa that there are two of the security clockworks in the room. Willa nods and uses her fingers to pantomime tiptoeing past the room to the rest of the party.

    The next door they pass has a violet lock, and the next black. Babshapka pauses to insert his card, trying to do it when the newcomer is looking the other way.

    The black-locked door leads to a large apartment with a table, but two interior doors, one a press panel and one black-locked. Although looted the same as the others, the items here are in somewhat better condition, with not as many dents and rents visible. Willa remains in the hall to watch for clockworks, but motions the rest of the party in to search.

    When the black-locked interior door is opened, it leads to a bedroom suite. Separate dining and sleeping areas? “I like this place,” says the newcomer as he enters the interior bedroom, taking a seat on one of the settees as Babshapka frowns and begins to go through the cushions. “That’s a big bed,” he says, to everyone and no one in particular. “You could fit a lot of people in that.”

    “Yeah,” says Aurora suggestively, “we’ll have to remember that for later.”

    “I’ll take you up on that,” suggests the newcomer salaciously. Babshapka sighs in disgust. After searching the bedroom, he proceeds to the uncarded door, finding a small and unremarkable study with a single desk and chair.

    The party reforms in the hallway and proceeds north to a four-way intersection. The west branch is bare, the east has a few doors. The northern hallway [encounter 4] has a number of doors on it, but it is also full of trash and debris for about the first thirty feet, up until the second door. Aurora looks down each branch and says she thinks there is a light source somewhere distant to the west.

    Thokk pokes the refuse pile with his ten foot pole. It is a combination of bones and organic waste, the strange lightweight fabric, and bits and pieces of machine parts and broken sections of cave horn. Nothing looks intact.

    “Nice pole, big guy,” says the newcomer.

    “Thokk get that often,” says the half-orc, in a guileless response. Willa shakes her head, then tells Thokk to check the pile better. He starts with his pole, probing to provoke a response from anything hiding in the refuse, then sets his pole aside and starts sorting through the rubbish with his hands.

    While they wait, Willa shines her lantern along the hall, thinking that she can make out black locks on the doors ahead. “Wha’ do we ken about ther colors?” she asks Aurora. “Do all ther berths be black, all ther storerooms brown?”

    Aurora remembers back on what they have found so far, and shakes her head in the negative. “The storerooms were varied,” she says, “Some black, some brown, some uncarded, just push-panel. But so far every black lock that has not been a storeroom has been an apartment, and every apartment has been black. We’ve also seen violet doors, and we know there is a yellow card, though we haven’t seen yellow doors.”

    “Whar be ther crew quarters?” asks Willa, perhaps rhetorically. “An’ do all t’ese berths be fer crew? Wha’ kind o’ ship hae private quarters fer all ther crew?” When no one else volunteers, she answers herself. “A fancy ship, I serpose.”

    Thokk has reached the end of the trash pile. He turns and stands, shrugging his broad shoulders. Willa points him and Babshapka at the first and closest door, which stands open. “Whar be yon trash from?” she asks herself. She shines her lantern on the ceiling. It is bare metal and the occasional exposed pipe or conduit. There are no chutes dropping trash from above. Willa sets her lantern on the floor, and examines the edge of the trash pile. Besides Thokk’s huge, fresh boot prints, there are plenty of marks in the dust, all jumbled and overlapping. She backs up, finds one isolated and intact print near the wall. It is circular - and sized just like that of the clockwork that cleaned their room. She nods in understanding. “T’at cleanin’ clockwork be droppin’ ‘is loads ‘ere,” she announces. “Mayhap we can find a mule apple ar twain in ‘here.” She resolves to search the pile herself while the others search the rooms. Babshapka and Thokk are already checking one apartment. She tells Aurora and Larry to check the next, Tyrius and Umbra to advance down the hallway to the end, Shefak to guard the intersection behind them.

    “Did you feel that?” asks the newcomer suddenly, his tone anxious.


    “I think the ship is moving.” He puts his hand on the wall as if to steady himself.

    Willa stares at him awhile. Finally, she says, “Wha’ be yer name?”


    “Mmhmm. Willa.” She turns and begins slowly and deliberately going through the trash pile, repeating to herself as she goes, “Key cards, food, fuel, grain, power discs.”

    A few minutes later Mathias says, “There it is again! Seriously, you can’t feel that shift? Should we run?”

    “NO,” Willa says firmly. Then, when Aurora and Larry emerge from the second apartment, “Aurora, do ye feel ther ship move?”

    Aurora looks at Willa quizzically, then closes her eyes and lays her hands on a metal wall. Several moments later, she opens her eyes and speaks. “Humming, vibrating - yes. Move? No.” Willa nods in satisfaction and returns to sorting through the trash.

    [Unbeknownst to either the party or Eddard, a solitary Lurker Above has entered the Table Room and set up on the ceiling just outside the room in which the mules are stored.]

    As she works, Willa calls back to Mathias without looking at him. “‘Ow did ye say ye got in ther main doors?”

    “I was there a good while,” he says. “I tried everything, but they wouldn’t open. So I camped in the outer cave and waited, thinking you might come out at some point. Then, hours into my wait, and a few hours ago, they just...opened. So I went in. They closed behind me.”

    Willa thinks to herself that the druids did say that “every so often” monsters would emerge from the cave. So...are the doors on a timer? Or are they somehow being watched? She doesn’t like the second option.

    The two searching teams have gone through seven apartments off of the northern corridor, but each one of them has already been plundered of anything useful. They return to the hall. “Ready t’ shove off?” asks Willa, just as she spies something in the trash pile reflecting Tyrius’ light of Pelor.

    Willa stoops and retrieves the item.

    It weighs about ten pounds and is about one foot across, although it looks like it could fold to half that size. It is composed of a U-shaped section of metal rod with a black rivet on one end and an attached piece of thick glass mounted in a frame. This glass is about the size of a hand mirror, and is what allowed Willa to note the reflection of light. On one side of the frame are two raised discs, while on the other is a fine mesh, mounted on a rod. The mesh is as fine as pulled wire for jewelry, not course like chain link. The glass is on both sides, not backed like a mirror, although one side is dark and the other clear. Willa hands the strange object to Aurora and announces that they will head to the light at the end of the west hall.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, they have been watched for the last ten minutes by a vegepygmy patrol from the southern corridor who are keeping to the truce they were told about. The creatures carry no light themselves, and stay out of range of the vision of the party. When the party heads down the west hallway, the plant men retreat. If, upon the party’s return this way later, Babshapka spots the fresh tracks of the vegepygmies, he does not share that information with the others]

    As they walk down the hall to the west, Aurora’s mage armor fades from existence. Has it been eight hours already? She pauses to renew it (will last until 10:30am).

    At the end of the hall is an intersection, with light spilling into it from a large open doorway to the north. There are two closed doors to the south, a large double-door to the north, and the corridor itself continues to the west. Looking through the open door, they find a room that is obviously for relaxation, perhaps an officer’s lounge. There are both upholstered chairs and low tables everywhere, as well as a few large metal boxes. However, it appears that some fight or other struggle occurred here long ago. The chairs are all torn, many of the tables are broken, the boxes dented or even stove in. There is ash from old fires, and scattered bones and skulls.

    “Babshapka,” says Willa simply, and the elf nods and enters first. The others slowly fill in, making sure to stand only where he has already searched.

    The skeletons are definitely humanoid and most likely human, judging by their size and features, but the bone is exceptionally old and dry. What remains of the rags they are clad in is an exceptionally light material, thin like silk but remarkably resistant to decay judging by the age of the bones. All of this conforms to what has been found before.

    The height of the tables is curiously low, like many of those in the cave. The table frames are made of cave horn; several have been broken, either in their legs or across the boards. The stuffed chairs have frames made from cave horn, but the cushions are of a linen-like fabric over cave sponge. They are rent, torn, and stained in several places.

    In the crease between the cushions of a divan, Babshapka finds some papers. He waves Aurora over. “That’s the first paper we have found on the ship!” she marvels, having lost count of how many desks they have searched already. The paper is old and brittle, and covered in alien symbols written in a shaky but legible hand. She carefully carries it over to Willa’s lantern. The markings are not made in ink, but in some thin and delicate powder, like a grey chalk or fine charcoal. “Yeah, I’m definitely going to translate that,” she says. “Ten minute break, everyone!” Mathias ignores the numerous chairs around the room and again sets up his stool.

    Before Aurora begins her ritual, she breaks out two sheets of vellum from her backpack, an inkwell, and a pen. Working at the most intact table in the room, grateful for the bright overhead lights, she first copies the alien symbols line for line on her own paper, not at all confident that this ancient paper will hold up to travel. Only when she is done and the ink is drying does she begin her spell of comprehend languages.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
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    Tue Apr 27, 2021 12:09 pm  
    Post 166: Backstory for 'Mathias' I

    DM's Notes: Although the new PC introduced himself as "Mathias", that is not his name. I will be interweaving his (long) backstory with the ongoing adventures of the party (now including him) until he is "caught up" to the present timeline.

    In my Greyhawk, Veluna is dominated by the orthodox Pholtun church, and the ArchCleric is of that faith. While many of the nobles in neighboring Furyondy are of that faith as well, others follow Hieroneous, Rao, or St. Cuthbert, and the King historically has been an adherent of either Pholtus or Hieroneous. The sometimes allied / sometimes rivaled nature of the relationship between the two nations, and the intrigue among the nobles in maneuvering a claimant of their own "true faith" to the throne, is loosely modeled after the historical relationship between Catholic Spain and Catholic / Protestant England.

    Post 166: Backstory for "Mathias" I

    Leezarius Angelicus Temtonio was born a noble of the Temtonio House of Veluna. The second son of his father, not much was expected of him, which was good considering how able and pious his older brother was. Having a free and adventurous spirit, Leezarius chafed under the religious restrictions of the Pholtun faith even from an early age. It seemed he was always being punished or forced to do penance for transgressions. As he grew, the punishments lessened in frequency - not because he transgressed less, but because he grew shrewder and less likely to be caught.

    It seemed that everything was a sin in the eyes of his father and their family priest - playing at dice with the servants, smoking pipeweed and drinking coffee like the foreign merchentmen in the town, and most especially his growing interest in women. As his appetites grew, he had to become more and more clever to disguise them from his family. On the increasingly rare occasions when he was caught, the punishments grew more severe as he grew older. Being denied food when he was a boy gradually became whippings or being forced to wear hairshirts as a young man.

    By the time Leezarius' brother attained the age of majority, he was already a skilled warrior and had pledged his service as a paladin to the Bishop of Valkurl. In his father’s pride and delight at his elder son’s accomplishments, he was granted lands of his own, and a manor house. Leezarius finally saw a chance for freedom - if he had his own estate like his brother now did, he could do as he wished. Of course, he would have to have a priest at the estate - but he would be sure to find one who could be bullied, bought, or corrupted into silence.

    However, when Leezarius first broached the idea to his father, he was met with derision. His father knew his ways, and would not risk the family gold or honor on giving him his own lands. Leezarius resolved to work the long game - maintaining an image of piety, sobriety, and usefulness so convincing for so long that even his father would believe that he had truly repented, and would acquiesce. He could not be a knight or paladin, however. Although he was skilled enough with staff and club, he lacked the strength to wear heavy armor and he had never been a good horseman. The thought of even pretending to be a priest made his stomach turn. So, to win the favor of his father, he would need to prove himself a capable administrator of the family’s wealth and lands.

    For several months he feigned interest in business - collecting rents and taxes from peasants and merchants, seeing to the repair of bridges and construction of boats, hosting visiting nobles at the family’s estates. He had always been charming and well-spoken, and his successes eventually gained his father’s begrudging respect. Finally he was allowed to accompany a trade mission to Kisail. Just a few miles away, just across the Velverdyva River - but outside Veluna. Kisail lay in the Kingdom of Furyondy - and was not under Velunese Canon Law.

    The day of the negotiations went smoothly. Deals were struck, future profits ensured, and Leezarius was polite and courtly. As he relaxed over dinner with his father’s merchants, the innkeeper offered them wine. The merchantmen looked suspiciously at him, but he said to the host, “Just one glass each, to toast our success.”

    The wine seemed to improve his hearing, for he soon overheard a Ferrond man at the next table extolling the virtues of a local brothel. Now that was something he had never had a chance to sample in his home country! After he finished dinner, he excused himself from the merchants, made as if to retire to his private suite, and slipped down a back stairway and out into the night.

    The brothel wasn’t hard to find, and with a full purse he was able to pass the entire night indulging in carnal pleasures he had previously been able to only imagine. Fortunately, as a young and healthy man he was able to recover quickly from each one and soon be ready for the next. When at last he passed into a contented slumber it was near dawn.

    Leezarius awoke with a start, drenched in a bucket of cold river water. His first thought was gratitude that it hadn’t been a chamberpot. But as his vision cleared, his heart sank. In the chamber with him were both his family priest and an unknown Ferrond priest. Two guards were at the closed door. The whores that had been such pleasant company the night before were nowhere to be seen.

    While Furyondy was not under Canon Law, consorting with prostitutes was still illegal - and all along the Velverydyva Valley the local lords were either willing pawns of the Pholtun Church or at least had been cowed into submission by it. The magistrates of Kisail typically turned a blind eye to brothels such as the one he was in, but every now and then they could be goaded into action when the Church wanted to make a point. Leezarius never learned who had turned him in, nor whether it had been for faith, favor, or coin - his father’s merchants, the innkeeper, the brothel’s owner, the whores themselves? What was clear was that the two priests were working comfortably together, and that rather than stand trial in Furyondy (where consorting with prostitutes was merely a civil crime), Leezarius was to be returned to Veluna for judgement by his father. He was allowed to change from his soiled finery into something more nondescript and his hands were bound with a heavy rope. As it so happened, this was not the first time his hands had been bound in that very room, but the night previous it had been with smooth silk rather than scratchy hemp.

    As the guards escorted them to the riverfront, the priest’s plan became clearer still. By avoiding anything public, he was currying favor with Leezarius’ father. Indeed, in his mind’s eye Leezarius could see his father, rewarding the priest for being so careful about protecting the family honor by returning his fallen son so discreetly. Leezarius, of course, would never be trusted again - and the prospect of his estate and the freedom it represented being taken from him forever was far worse than any passing punishment his father or the Church could devise.

    The priest climbed into a small rowboat and the guards helped Leezarius in, but remained themselves on the dock. “Good,” thought Leezarius, “let the vile priest sweat a bit crossing the river.” As they pulled away from the shore other thoughts came. How convenient all this was - how a boat had been at the ready. Leezarius began to believe that he had been set up - that the priest, with whom he had shared a mutual hatred since his youth, had planned the whole thing, including the “overheard” remark about the brothel from the man at the next table. Then he seethed. He resolved to wait until they were mid-river, stand up and flip the boat, and see if he could drown them both.

    A voice came unbidden. “Fair enough, but what if you could kill him without dying yourself?”

    Leezarius assumed he was delirious and laughed. “Of course I would,” he said aloud, the first words he had spoken that morning, “but how?” The priest paused in his rowing, looked quizzically at him, then continued.

    “Trust in my master, pledge your soul to my master, and you will be free,” the voice said.

    This talk of “souls” moved Leezarius from boiling anger to freezing dread. Was he going mad? Certainly the priests talked non-stop about the dangers of temptation - about the hordes of demons and daemons and devils who set traps for the faithful. But, as he reflected, he was hardly faithful. And less than a minute ago he had been willing to kill himself as long as he could take the priest with him - and the Pholtuns claimed that suicide and murder both sent one to Hell. If he was going to Hell anyway, why not on better terms?”

    “I agree,” said Leezerius.

    Instantly his flesh was wracked with exquisite pain and he tumbled from his seat to the bottom of the boat. Sensations both intensely hurtful and wonderfully pleasurable flooded his body. He moaned and screamed and lost all sense of time.

    When he finally regained his senses, he found himself kneeling in the bottom of the boat, holding forth his bound hands as if in supplication. “Save your begging for your father,” the priest said, making no effort to mask the contempt in his voice. “You’ll get no pity from me.”

    “Nor you from me,” said Leezarius, in a voice that was at once his own and not his own. Flames shot forth from his outstretched hands. Each finger gouted and jetted fire. The hempen rope that bound him burned away. The robes of the priest ignited. The man’s face, caught in a sneer, bubbled and blackened. He dove, screaming, from the boat. Leezerius never learned whether he died from the fire or drowning, or both, but after the body had been under for a while, it came up again, limp and floating face down, circling the boat under its own power, like some strange reminder that his decision made in the moment would forever be with him.

    Leezarius, with his hands now free, turned the boat around and slowly made for the Furyondy shore, but far downstream of Kisail.

    Leezarius Angelicus Temtonio, aka "Leezar", aka "Mathias"
    First Level Warlock / Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 10 (0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 13 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 9 (-1) Cha 16 (+3)
    Hp 9, Languages Common, Velondi
    Skills: Deception, History, Investigation, Persuasion
    Cantrips (2):
    Spells (2 - both cast at level 1): Burning Hands
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue May 04, 2021 12:20 pm  
    Post 167: Female Android

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our seventh Barrier Peaks session, was 7 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies

    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 167: Female Android
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    (2:40am - in a Lounge)
    In the crease between the cushions of a divan, Babshapka finds some papers. He waves Aurora over. “That’s the first paper we have found on the ship!” she marvels, having lost count of how many desks they have searched already. The paper is old and brittle, and covered in alien symbols written in a shaky but legible hand. She carefully carries it over to Willa’s lantern. The markings are not made in ink, but in some thin and delicate powder, like a grey chalk or fine charcoal. “Yeah, I’m definitely going to translate that,” she says. “Ten minute break, everyone!” Mathias ignores the numerous chairs around the room and again sets up his stool.

    Before Aurora begins her ritual, she breaks out two sheets of vellum from her backpack, an inkwell, and a pen. Working at the most intact table in the room, grateful for the bright overhead lights, she first copies the alien symbols line for line on her own paper, not at all confident that this ancient paper will hold up to travel. Only when she is done and the ink is drying does she begin her spell of comprehend languages.

    Once she has finished her spell, Aurora reads quickly through the alien script, making sure she sees the same words in both the original and her fresh copy. It all makes sense now, except for some numbers at the bottom. She quickly uses her second sheet of vellum to record the translation, and does not bother to really think about the meaning until she is done. Then she calls Willa and Tyrius over, and reads her translation to them: (a few of the words, or their contexts, are unfamiliar to her, even after her spell has translated them)

    “Alien creature on Level II - likely to be near remains of captain
    Use this lounge as communication drop point until further notice - data pad comms are monitored by acting captain and are not secure - do not meet in public - Diggs is likely watching our movements

    read these documents only in no-vid locations and replace as soon as possible - do not extract or replace in sight of anyone including bots and droids

    I believe alien is unrelated to plague - was shipboard and in stasis long before outbreak and separation - I have not checked database for onload date and location as query may be tracked

    Alien is practiced in mental manipulation and dimensional projection - was confined in a Mark 6 black box with stasis fields for transit - I believe captain, after infection, freed alien for unknown reason but was subsequently taken over by it

    When I suspected that captain was plague-infected I prepared security team for rapid response relief of command - later routine med scan revealed that captain had become host for alien and I called in team - captain/alien realized and fled to 2 with us in pursuit - Tanner killed in firefight - I killed captain’s body but alien
    emerged from his head and fled before we could respond

    Upon return to bridge, I found Commander Diggs had assumed acting command of ship section - Diggs had already displayed early signs of infection (hostility, paranoia) - deleted captain’s medical records while we were ‘tween decks - ordered me to not speak of alien - I did not reveal identity of team to him - he is suspicious of me but has not moved against me yet - we are trying to first capture or kill alien and then monitor Diggs to see if infection progresses and he needs to be relieved - proof (dead alien) may be needed to show Diggs is unfit

    Have caught glimpses of alien, always on level 2 - I believe the interdimensional shields between decks keep it confined to that level - we are continuing to hunt but have to hide our efforts from Diggs - always use different drop chutes and from no-vid zone if possible -

    use space below to coordinate times - teams of three minimum - do not leave ID

    64.56.13 ✓✓✓
    64.56.59 ✓✓
    64.58.08 ✓✓✓✓
    64.70.28 ✓

    Willa has a sour look on her face. “I dinnae ken most o’ t’at, an’ I liked less. Ther part about ther plague, in particalar.”

    “Well,” says Aurora. “It’s been 750 years. One can hope whatever plague was on board has died out, along with all the crew…?”

    With the note translated and read, it seems like the party is about to depart. Babshapka moves to the door, and Mathias packs up his stool, but Aurora holds up her hand. “The light’s too good here to miss this opportunity,” she says, and takes out the strange device that Willa passed to her.

    “Well now,” she says almost immediately, as she locates the slot at the base of the mirror part, the part that overlaps the U-bar. “That looks about the right size for…” and with a few more deft movements she succeeds in opening a compartment and extracting a power disc. It looks the same as the others found so far, and what’s more it is “fully charged” to the sixth line. She smiles in satisfaction.

    Seeing that they are not leaving any time soon, Mathias sighs, plops down in one of the overstuffed chairs, and puts his booted feet up on the curiously low table. Willa’s jaw drops. She may be low-born (and freeborn don’t get much meaner than fishingfolk from Salinmoor), but even she knows how rude it is to put one’s feet on the furnishings. Not that his doing so actually bothers her, but does this solve the mystery of why the tables are so low? Surely a race capable of building a flying ship wouldn’t have tables for just that use? Babshapka chooses a settee closer to Aurora and puts his own feet up. Now Willa has seen everything.

    Aurora tries to determine how the strange mirror works.

    [Rolling on the simple, lethal items table, she starts with a -1 for high intelligence.
    [8-1 = 7 (triangle), 7-1= 6 (start), 3-1=2 (circle), 10-1=9 [charge wasted]. Luck roll = 0]

    She fiddles with the dials and knobs, looking into both sides of the glass and trying different configurations for holding it in her hand. Suddenly there is a loud humming sound and a bolt of black energy shoots out of the dark glass side. It hits squarely the table on which Babshabka’s feet rest. An instant later, the table is gone - vaporized? Disintegrated? A few splinters of cave horn on the metal floor and an acrid smell in the air are all that remain. Babshapka jumps to his feet. “Woman!” shouts Willa menacingly at Aurora.

    Undeterred, Aurora continues to tinker, but now careful to point the dark side of the glass away from herself, and mostly away from the other people in the room. “Great Sea Cow, protect us,” mutters Willa.

    [7-1 = 6 (circle), 9-1=8 (triangle), 9-1=8 (discharge: person is hurt). Target roll: Babshapka]

    Although Aurora now knows to point the dark glass side away, she has not yet figured out how to “lock” the hinge. Just as she presses the trigger, the mirror part flips down, shooting the beam directly behind her, and straight at Babshapka again! He jumps out of the way at the last instant, and a glancing beam reflects off his chain mail. This time half of an upholstered chair vanishes, with the other half looking twisted and melted.

    [Targets hit by the beam must make a DC13 DEX save. A successful save while armored results in no effect. The save is made at disadvantage from 30 feet or less]

    “What in the nine hells!” curses Babshapka. He storms from the room, quickly followed by Mathias and Umbra. Willa remains, but insists that Aurora retreat to the far side of the room, putting the greatest distance between the “disintegration ray” and the rest of the party.

    [5-1 = 4 (circle), 9-1=8 (triangle), 1-1=0 (circle), 9-1=8 (triangle), 2-1=1 (circle), 9-1=8 (triangle), 4-1=3 (square), 7-1=6 (circle), 4-1=3 (success!). Aurora may now add the -2 for “like or similar item operated previously", for a total of -3 to future rolls.]

    “I’ve got it!” calls Aurora triumphantly. She coaxes Babshapka back into the room and gives him a lesson in operating the device. “Hold it in your left hand,” she says.

    “You look through the clear side. When you turn the top dial “on”, the clear side lights up and becomes transparent.” She shows him how he can see the figures in the room through the glass, with the one closest to the center of the screen covered in a crosshair. As she slowly pans the device across the room, the crosshair jumps to new targets. Strange figures appear illuminated on the side of the screen. Still under the effects of the comprehend languages, Aurora reads them as numbers and takes them to be the distance to whatever is the current target. A little experimentation in the room shows that the unit of measurement appears to be roughly equivalent to a yard. “When you turn the bottom dial, the magnification of the screen changes, acting like an increasingly powerful spyglass!” This last part seems just as impressive to her as the ability to shoot a disintegration ray. “The little button here on the bottom is the trigger to discharge it.”

    When she is done with the lesson, Aurora pops the power disc out. It is now on “4” - apparently each of the errant shots drained a charge. She loads it back in, then presents the whole apparatus to Babshapka. He looks at her quizzically. “Well, you are our missile expert, and this is a ranged weapon.” Willa thinks about that, then nods. Babshapka switches the top dial to “off”, carefully folds the device, and hangs it from his belt.

    [Babshapka now has “operation explained by one familiar with it” for a bonus of -2 with the device.]

    As the party filters back into the room, Mathias points to the half-melted chair. “Have you been doing things like this all along?” he asks Willa incredulously.

    She nods. “Aye, this be a pretty standard course fer us.”

    “Has anyone died?”

    “Not yet, though I hae lost plenty o’ personal gear t’ ‘er spells.”

    Mathias nods somberly, and calls to Aurora - “I’d appreciate a ‘heads-up’ next time, alright?”

    With just invisible Shefak on guard in the hall now, the others rearrange the furniture, gathering the strangely light chairs and divans around a single table. Mathias, noting that Aurora can cast comprehend languages, asks whether the party has tried talking to the leaders of the plant men. Willa says that it is a one-way conversation, that the spell only allows the party to understand them, not the other way around. Mathias asks about the party’s overarching goal in being here in the ship, and Willa confirms that the druids have asked them to determine the source of the terrible monsters that are released and either put a stop to them, or at least provide the druids with enough information so that they can do so. [No one mentions Nholast’s Diary or starmetal, and Aurora seems reluctant to answer Mathias’ questions in general]

    “So it seems like the plant men are just an obstacle then - not part of your mission.”

    Willa says that is a fair assessment.

    “So we don’t NEED to fight them,” emphasizes Babshapka.

    “But they could be a good source of keys,” suggests Mathias. At Babshapka’s scowl, he adds, “...if we could talk to them. Perhaps we could negotiate, or even threaten them for a few keys, without it actually having to come to blows. I mean, we could bargain with them - tell them we will leave them alone if they give us some keys. If they have a lot it might make more sense to them than fighting.”

    Larry says that plants are just plants. He sees no reason to wipe them out, but if the party can’t find another way to get keys, he doesn’t mind if they have to kill a few more. Tyrius adds that while there is not much honor or glory in such a fight, he doubts that they have souls, and is no more concerned about killing them than in the harvesting of wheat for bread.

    Babshapka looks disgusted. “The two clockworks had no problems opening doors. Maybe you can look to them for cards. I expect all of the crew of this ship had cards as well. If that cleaning clockwork is collecting their remains and effects, and we look for more middens, there are likely to be cards there as well.”

    Mathias sounds interested. “We passed two clockworks on the way here. How about we try them? The monk’s invisibility worked on them alright didn’t it?”

    Willa sucks in her cheeks in thought, then says that having fought one clockwork already, and they proved tough nuts to crack. Two at once might be one too many.

    “But now we have a disintegration ray,” says Mathias, indicating Babshapka. “If we disintegrate one at the start of the fight, then concentrate all our attacks on the second, it shouldn’t be that hard.”

    “Bu’ if we disintegrate ther wrong one - ther one w’at hae ther card?”

    “I am willing to bet that if we disintegrate one, the card will be in the other one.”

    “Ye want t’ make a wager on it?” asks Willa, incredulous.

    “Of course. If I win, you give me a backrub.” He moves his shoulders. “Your mage’s carelessness has me too tense.”

    Willa snorts. “Yer scrawny, an’ not really me type. Bu’ what if I win?”

    “Don’t worry about type. It’s just a backrub - five minutes. But if you win, and it was the disintegrated robot that had the card, then I will give you...a shot of my fey juice.”

    Willa snorts again - but a bet is a bet, after all. She nods. “Bu’ we hain’t all agreed t’ attack ther clockworks jus’ yet. The cleaning clockwork said summit about taking ther first one we offed ter a “repair facility”. Mayhap ther rest o’ ther party wan’ t’ try somethin’ safer t'an attackin’ two a’ once.”

    “Don’t forget,” says Aurora, “we also need to find an entrance to this ‘second level’ where the alien is - there could be cards there!”

    Willa shakes her head. “No more fishin’. Don’t none of us need t’ catch ther paranoia plague.”

    “Does she do that often - get you involved in strange things like this?” asks Mathias of Aurora.

    “All ther damn time. Shark men, glowin’ orbs, vampire castles, ghos’ towers. More often t’an no’, ‘tis ‘er doin’.”

    “Well, I certainly don’t like vampires or ghosts. Or any undead, for that matter.”

    Willa nods. “T’at be sensible. Typically we hae ther mos’ trouble when she lies about stuff.” Tyrius nods his agreement.

    Aurora, flushed, says hotly, “How about we just vote on whether we are going after those two clockworks or not?” But Mathias and Willa have not finished their conversation.

    “Fishing, huh? You’re certainly tan enough. Are you a sailor?”

    “I grew up in a small fishin’ village near Seaton.”

    “So that’s where you learned to fish.”

    Willa nods. “Worked most o’ me adult life fer ther crown, though, as an excise officer.”

    “Where’s your ship now?”

    Willa simply smiles, thinking of her innocent youth spent on the sea, before she knew anything of half-elves or enchantresses.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a second lurker above has entered the table room. Since the doorway to the room with Eddard and the mules is occupied, it chooses the portion of the ceiling over the southern entrance doorway to the table room.]

    Finally Aurora is able to bring the motion to a vote, and enough in the party agree that they should return and prepare an attack on the clockworks, so that the party sets out. Babshapka holds up a hand and has them wait in the doorway. While Willa arranges them in marching order, the elf takes his new device to the intersection, switches it on, and practices reading the ranges and changing the magnification by looking down the corridors. He is just a bit disappointed to learn that it works with visible light only - the magical screen doesn’t show him anything in the darkness, no matter how he turns the dial.

    When Babshapka is ready he returns to the group and they set out. First invisible Shefak, then Willa with her lantern, then Thokk and the others. Shefak and Willa pass the intersection without incident, but something in the corridor to the west catches Thokk’s eye as he crosses in front.

    A decidedly female figure (keyed encounter 4), in skin-tight clothes, stands just at the edge of his vision down the darkened hallway. In one hand she holds a large glass object, in the other, a long bar. She makes no move toward him or the party - just stands surveying them.

    Without a word to the rest of the party, Thokk turns on his heel, a wide grin on his face. He saunters down the hall to the woman, eager to meet her. Next in the march order is Umbra, and she calls ahead to Willa, who turns just in time to see Thokk disappear down the side corridor. “Thokk! Thokk get back ‘ere!” she calls after him, but he ignores her. Willa turns back, with Shefak behind her, and follows Thokk down the hall. Umbra comes soon after.

    “Alone woman!” Thokk bellows. “Thokk protect you from plant men!” He opens his arms wide to show that his hands are empty (but also to show off his thick bare chest and huge arms). The woman raises the glass device and points it down the hall. Willa realizes that the device looks an awful lot like the broken retort they pulled out of the security clockwork’s head. “NO! THOKK!” she shouts. Shefak sprints past her, moves so that the bulk of Thokk is between her and the woman’s weapon. Umbra readies her entropy spell to attack the woman if she fires.

    Golden sparks fly from the device. A wave of force sweeps down the hall, all the way to the lounge. Thokk, Shefak, Willa, and Umbra feel an electric jolt, like every nerve in their body is being shocked.

    [Paralyzation ray; DC13 Con save.
    Short range (up to 20 feet):
    Thokk (15 feet): Save. Paralyzed for 2d6 rounds = 5.
    Medium Range (up to 40 feet)
    Shefak (20 feet): Save. Paralyzed for 1d4 rounds = 3.
    Willa (25 feet): Fail. Paralyzed for 20 minutes.
    Long Range (up to 60 feet)
    Umbra (40 feet): Save. 1d4 rounds slowed (half movement, attacks at disadvantage) = 3]

    In response, Umbra sends her entropy at the women (who makes her Wisdom save).

    Round 1
    Babshapka rounds the corner and looks down the hallway. Undeterred by Willa and Thokk being in the way (Shefak, though paralyzed, is still invisible) he presses himself against the wall and sends two arrows at the woman. One sinks into her midriff, one glances off of her bare forearm as if it were hard metal, not soft flesh (9 damage).

    Mathias moves to where he can see as well. With what appears to be the two front-line fighters of the party frozen like statues, he casts a dispel magic, then darts for cover through the open doorway of an unexplored apartment. Willa and Thokk remain frozen in place - apparently their paralysis is not magical in nature.

    Aurora moves into view, and sends forth three magic missiles which detonate against the woman, blasting open rents in her clothing and singing her skin.

    Larry would like to cast a lightning bolt, but the spell would emerge from him and the corridor is full of his allies. He cannot move to the front so soon, and so contents himself with centering a moonbeam on the woman and advancing. The silver-white glow reflects off her hair and her skin dries and cracks, but she does not even wince in pain.

    Tyrius removes a gauntlet, begins the prayer for lesser restoration, but has not yet reached Willa.

    The woman lowers the retort and strides forward out of the moonbeam. She stops in front of Thokk, raises the metal bar, and begins bringing it down on him repeatedly with a series of sickening crunches.

    [Thokk has Condition: Paralyzed. Attacks against him are at advantage and melee attacks that hit are automatic criticals. Thokk is hit twice for a total of 39 bludgeoning damage. Paralyzed creatures are incapacitated; incapacitated creatures cannot take actions, so Thokk cannot rage as a bonus action.]

    Round 2
    Larry reaches Thokk’s side and jams his fist forward at the woman. A lightning bolt streaks out from his hand, passes through the woman, and shoots down the hallway as far as any of them can see, briefly illuminating a great number of doors, intersections, and side passages. If it hits anything at the end of the hall, if the hallway actually ends, no one sees. Even after the bolt has passed through her, lines of electricity arc through her form, illuminating her skeleton through her skin. Smoke begins to emerge from her head. [Note: androids are vulnerable to electric attacks (take double damage)] Despite the effects of the lightning bolt, the woman is still on her feet and is raising the bar in the air to strike at Thokk again.

    Mathias emerges from the open doorway in time to see the effectiveness of the lightning bolt. He holds forth his hand in an arcane gesture, and more lightning arcs through the woman. His spell seems every bit as powerful as Larry’s, but it is concentrated on a single form, the electricity bending and redoubling through and through her body. Mathias now seems almost frozen himself, standing with his hand outstretched. After a second of this crackling energy, the face of the woman shoots off her head and skitters across the floor. Underneath her skin is revealed to be a mass of gears and wires. Her whole form is shaking with the energy and she looks unsteady but is still upright.

    Babshapka runs up behind Thokk, on the other side of Larry. He collides with the paralyzed and invisible form of Shefak, who is knocked to the ground. Babshapka staggers, doesn’t fall, but is unable to attack.

    Aurora sends forth another three magic missiles, targeting the open head cavity of the woman. As the bolts of force explode inside her skull, bits of metal and fragments of cave horn fly out and spray over Thokk. The woman ceases moving. Her limbs droop and the metal bar clatters to the floor.

    Babshapka rights himself and collects both the retort and the metal bar from the mechanical woman. Mathias collects her faceplate and stores it in his backpack. The party gropes about for Shefak, finds her, and moves her, Willa, Thokk, and the body of the clockwork woman into the open apartment. Once everyone is inside, Larry moves his moonbeam to right outside the doorway, and then the panel is pressed to close the door itself.

    Tyrius explains that he was going to cast lesser restoration to remove the paralysis, but now that there is not an immediate danger, perhaps it would be better if they saved the spell and waited to see if the effects of the strange retort wear off by themselves. Babshapka remarks that if they don’t, he can cast the spell as well.

    In less than a minute Shefak and a seriously bruised Thokk are active again, and Umbra feels better as well. Willa, however, remains frozen and unresponsive. Tyrius and Aurora confer, and decide to begin a short rest for everyone.

    While she waits, Aurora examines the retort.

    It looks like there is a handle that can be compressed. There is a button on the bottom. As soon as she starts turning it around, Babshapka reminds Aurora of what happened with the mirror and to watch where she is pointing it - if she even knows where she is pointing it, for it is not obvious from which end the ray emerges - the “wand” end or the “eyeball” end.

    “Well, I’m sure Thokk saw how she was holding it...right, Thokk?”


    “How was the woman holding this device when she pointed it at you?”

    “Thokk not look at de-vice; woman’s eyes up here!” Thokk says defensively, holding his hand at chest height - for indeed, the woman’s head came up to about the height of Thokk’s chest.

    Aurora sighs. “Shefak?”

    With only mild embarrassment, Shefak explains that as soon as the woman raised the weapon, Shefak took cover behind Thokk and did not see it in detail.

    “Grrr. Willa?” asks Aurora. Willa, rigid but lain on the only bed in the small apartment, does not say anything.

    “Fine, fine - at least I can figure out if it takes a power disc - they seem to be pretty universal.”

    [Rolling on the simple, lethal items table, she starts with a -1 for high intelligence.
    [1-1 = 0 (circle); Aurora learns that the button on the bottom releases the power disc.
    She takes it out - there are 5 charges left.
    Start over; 2-1 = 1 (circle); Aurora learns that the pistol is fired by squeezing the handle.]

    That is as far as Tyrius lets Aurora explore the strange device in the confines of the small room, without knowing from which end the beam emerges. She turns her attention briefly to the metal bar, but it is featureless, simply a rod of some metal like unto steel, two feet in length.

    Finally, Aurora looks at the body of the machine woman and is instantly impressed. The other clockworks, on the outside, she found to be clunky devices not worthy of an artificer’s ‘prentice. But this woman is different - to the look, even to the touch, she could easily be mistaken for a living being - her “flesh” is soft and yielding, though draped on a frame of lightweight metal. The security and cleaning clockworks were mostly empty inside except for their weapons systems and the gears and pistons that moved their limbs. But the inside of the body of the woman has nearly as many miniature cords and joints as an actual human. In particular, Aurora believes that the connections in the head would allow her to show various facial expressions. A taut drum-like membrane in the throat would likely permit speech. Unlike the security clockwork, none of the parts inside her are labeled, none of the systems look like they can be removed and still operate, there are no obvious components but rather a tangle of complicated connections. As Aurora sits back and reflects, frankly in awe of the craftsmanship, Mathias comes over and pokes the body. “They are onto us,” he says. “I can feel it.”

    Aurora scowls at him and he returns to the other side of the room, where his pack is. He takes out the faceplate of the woman, looking through the eye-holes from the inside, sticking his fingers through the mouth hole and feeling how the jaw articulates. Suddenly he looks up with concern. “Did you feel that?” he says. “The ship’s moving again.” When no one responds, he rolls himself a cigarette and begins to smoke, perhaps to calm his nerves.

    Some ten minutes later Willa struggles from the bed to her feet, swearing a blue streak. Once the ratio of profanity to intelligible content in her speech has dropped to the point where she is mostly making sense, Willa explains that she has been fully conscious and cognizant for the past twenty minutes, listening to all of them, just unable to move or speak. She grabs the retort from Aurora, says that the machine woman held it thusly (firing from the eyeball end)...and promptly forbids her from playing with it until they are in a large enough space that she won’t hit everyone with its huge cone area of effect. Then she tells Mathias that NO, the ship is NOT moving.

    It is quickly decided that with Thokk as beat up as he is, and Larry low on spells, they will not be going to try their luck against the two security clockworks until after they have had a good rest. The question is whether they want to finish the rest here that most of them had already started. Tyrius checks in with Eddard, prompting a question from Mathias about who Eddard is. (Although Willa had previously told the party not to mention the mules to Mathias, apparently his actions in the fight against the machine woman have won him a modicum of her trust). Tyrius says that Eddard says that they have been undisturbed, and are fine so far, but that if the party plans on resting for hours, he would prefer them back, rather than so far away that they cannot respond to anything that happens on his end. It is resolved that they will return to the storeroom and rest there.

    The party sets out from the apartment, retracing their steps back past the lounge and then south at the intersection with the trash pile.

    “It’s a shame that clockwork attacked us immediately,” says Mathias. “If we find another, we should try to persuade it to join us.” Willa scoffs at the word “persuade”, but keeps her attention and lantern on the corridor ahead. She is looking in particular for anything recognizably different since they passed.

    Shefak reminds everyone to go as silently as they can when passing the room that held two security clockworks.

    (4am - Aurora’s comprehend languages spell, cast in the lounge, ends)
    The party enters the “table room” in single file through the more northern of the two doors, and then spreads out. Babshapka approaches the inner door and takes out his black key card, but before he can insert it into the slot, the ceiling falls!
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue May 11, 2021 2:43 pm  
    Post 168: Backstory for Mathias II

    Post 168: Backstory for Mathias II

    Leezarius made shore within walking distance of a small fishing village on the river. He pulled the boat into the cover of some overhanging willow branches and took stock of his possessions. He still had his signet ring and his purse embroidered with the family arms of Temtonio, for whatever that was worth. The purse itself was empty, although it had had coin enough even at the end of last night’s pleasures. Again, he did not know who to “thank” for that - the whores, the brothel owner, the priests? He had the plain-spun clothes on his back, sandals, and, he supposed, he had a rowboat. Now approaching midday, his stomach was already complaining.

    The body of the priest dragged itself through the reeds and onto the shore. The face had peeled away to the bone in several places, and what remained of the flesh was blackened and charred. It sat up, made as if to speak, but when it opened its mouth, a gout of dirty river water poured forth. Finally it croaked, “And me. You have me.”

    Leezarius jumped back. Undead? he thought in silent terror.

    “No, that’s Orcus’ domain,” said the body, in a voice that grated like a shovel scraping cold ashes from a hearth. “I am merely possessing this body for now.”

    Leezarius calmed himself and forced himself to return to the dead priest’s side. “And you are?”

    “A demon of little account. But my master is Lord Vuron. And his master is Graz’zt, Prince of Demons and Ruler of the Abyss. And it is to the great Graz’zt that your soul now belongs.”

    Leezarius opened his mouth to object, then bowed his head in acceptance. The dead priest smiled as best he could, with his swollen and water-logged tongue lolling from his mouth.

    “And what does my master bid?” Leezar finally said resignedly.

    “First off, feed yourself. You are no use to the Dark Prince if you are starved.”

    Leezarius smiled ruefully. “Alas, my money has been taken. I have nothing with which to buy food.” Inwardly, he thought that this is where it would begin. His soul was owned by a demon. He was about to be ordered to enter this fishing village, put it to the torch with his magical fire, kill all the peasants, and then feast on their food, if not their corpses.

    The dead priest chuckled. “Perhaps some day,” it said, still having no difficulty reading his thoughts, “but not today.” He held his arms over his head, undersides now blue with collecting blood. It took Leezarius a moment to realize it was showing him the pockets in the priest’s robe. Gingerly he approached, for the swollen corpse was already starting to stink, and fished through the pockets. He came out with enough coin for several days’ worth of food, and a set of rosary beads.

    The beads he immediately wanted to throw in the river, but then noted they were of smooth and semi-precious stone, not the crude wooden beads of the small folk. Perhaps he could sell them - but how to explain their acquisition? Then a wicked thought came to mind. The night before the whores had introduced him to something they had called globulus culi. That might be a far better use for these Pholtun beads.

    “ the boat,” he said to the dead priest, or the demon inhabiting it. He walked to the village and bought as much food as he could for his voyage...where? Downstream he supposed. When asked his name, rather than the obviously noble-sounding Leezarius, he said simply “Leezar”.

    The next few days he spent rowing downstream, and trying not to gag from the growing stench of his companion. The demon instructed him in the casting of burning hands, the spell he had used to free himself and kill the priest. He also learned witch bolt, as well as the cantrips blade ward and eldritch blast. He could cast one of the true spells only once before exhausting himself, but even an hour’s rest was sufficient to recover. The demon “spoke”, telling him and then making him recite the words of power. The jaw of the priest at first was clenched in the rigors of death, and later drooped as the muscles rotted away, but fortunately the demon did not need to move the priest’s mouth to speak - his voice emerged as a raspy croak from the throat of the corpse, but did not seem to be produced by the body itself.

    On the second day, Leezar thought to ask the demon about Graz’zt - who was his new master, and what was it like to serve him? The demon said that Graz’zt was a Demon Prince, the mightiest and most magnificent of the Demons and the rightful ruler of all the Abyss. The demon’s service was his own concern, but for Leezarius...the demon was pleased that he was taking an interest in being a proper servant. “What Graz’zt wants,” he said, “is for you to take pleasure. To take pleasure in all things - in food and drink, in smoking and material comforts, in sex and song. Take pleasure in the pain of others and in your own pain. But most of all, take pleasure in knowing that you are in service to Graz’zt, the handsomest and most powerful demon in existence.”

    When they reached Verbobonc, the demon told him to put in to port, but only after midnight, and steered him to a deserted dock. There, the demon in the dead priest “meat suit” departed. A living man in black robes met the boat, and wordlessly gave Leezar a bag containing enough food and coin to make it the rest of the way downriver to Dyvers.

    In Dyvers, he sold the boat for enough money for a few nights at an inn, and before the money ran out he had signed on as a “fire mage” with a trade caravan bound for Greyhawk. He could, by then, throw eldritch blasts as often as the mercenary crossbowmen guards could fire bolts, and without ever running out. By the time the caravan reached Greyhawk, he had eaten well for many days, and had some coin besides.

    Leezarius Angelicus Temtonio, aka "Leezar", aka "Mathias"
    New abilities in bold.

    First Level Warlock / Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 10 (0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 13 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 9 (-1) Cha 16 (+3)
    Hp 9, Languages Common, Velondi
    Skills: Deception, History, Investigation, Persuasion
    Otherworldly Patron - Dark Prince Graz'zt
    Cantrips (2): Blade Ward, Eldritch Blast
    Spells (2): Burning Hands, Witch Bolt, both cast at first level
    Patron Feature (1): Dark One's Blessing
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue May 18, 2021 10:39 am  
    Post 169: 'splorin'

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our eighth Barrier Peaks session, was 21 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 169: 'splorin'
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    The party enters the “table room” in single file through the more northern of the two doors, and then spreads out. Babshapka approaches the inner door and takes out his black key card, but before he can insert it into the slot, the ceiling falls! Actually, it is another of the strange ceiling mimics such as the party fought upon their initial entry to the cave. Babshapka, and Mathias beside him, are enveloped by the rubbery folds of the creature’s flesh, and immediately feel its muscles constrict around them like bands of iron (9 points of damage each). The black card, currently the party’s only one, is lost for the time being.

    Round 1
    Babshapka draws his dagger, the only weapon he has room to use while enveloped, and attempts to stab his way out from the inside, but does not penetrate the thick hide of the creature.

    Thokk hacks at the creature from the outside with two mighty blows (two hits, total 19 damage).

    Shefak attacks with her fists, but cannot get it to release her comrades.

    Aurora’s firebolt glances off its thick hide, but the dark bolts of Umbra strike true (Umbra at 0/2/0).

    Willa strides forward. Her first attempt to strike with her greatsword is not sufficiently strong to break through its hide. She takes a step back, inhales sharply, spins all the way around gathering speed, and plunges her sword deep into the creature. She would never thus turn her back on an intelligent foe, but doubts the creature will be able to respond. (20N, critical, total 23 points of damage from one hit!)

    The creature is showing several gaps and gashes, and at least one of the two people trapped has an arm out of the great rent Willa just made, but still it is squeezing its prey (5 more points to Mathias, 7 to Babshapka).

    Tyrius readies an action to heal whoever emerges from the creature.

    From inside the thing comes the muffled voice of Mathias, then crackling bolts of force, and the surprised cry of Babshapka.

    Larry cannot reach the side of the creature in time, and it is by now surrounded by the rest of the part in any event. He tries to sling his thorn whip at it from under the large table, but the whip wraps around one of the table legs instead.

    Round 2
    Thokk, furious at having his plans for food and rest interrupted, screams at the creature (last rage used). He strikes twice, his final blow ceasing the struggles of the creature, although it wounds Babshapka as well (Babshapka now at 17).

    After Matthias and Babshapka have been extracted from the folds of the creature, and then the dropped key card is located, the party stands around panting. Willa is the first to speculate - “We closed yon doors when we left?” (she indicates the doors of this room to the hallway) The party agrees. “T’en t’ese creatures ken how to open ther push doors - bu’ t’ey dinnae open ther keyed doors, else ‘twould already been feasting on mule.” When they have opened the door to the storeroom, Eddard tells them that he certainly heard their combat outside just now, but not the arrival of the lurker some time previous. That’s a sobering thought for most of them, and Willa makes each of them promise to check the ceiling more often, and makes Thokk promise three times in hopes that he will remember. With the interior door now open, most of the party enters the room with Eddard and mules. Finding it rather crowded, they open the northern door out of the storeroom to the neighboring activity room and spread out between the two chambers.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a vegepygmy patrol passes by the northern hallway door but, honoring the truce, they do not stop or enter.]

    Larry borrows some daggers and investigates the digestive tract of the slain lurker, hoping to find another card or something else useful. From his examination, he determines that something as small as the card would easily pass through. He believes that since these creatures seem to be ambush predators, they likely have hidden spots where they defecate, like big cats, but are unable to bury their waste. If the party could locate one of those middens, that might be another place to look for cards.

    Once Larry enters the storeroom and closes the door behind him, the party begins planning a watch schedule for their rest. [Unbeknownst to them, almost immediately afterwards, another lurker opens the northern door to the table room and sets up just outside the storeroom door. There are now lurkers in both the southern doorway and just outside the door to the storeroom they are in.]

    Before anyone can actually begin to rest, the party has a strategy session about who needs magical healing and who can get by with mundane wound dressing.

    Current HP
    Willa, Umbra, Shefak: Full
    Larry: 46/56
    Mathias: 25/39
    Babshapka: 17/48
    Thokk: very low

    Babshapka casts a cure wounds on himself for 10 points and is out of spells.

    Larry casts two cure wounds on Thokk and one on Babshapka and is out of spells.

    Tyrius also heals people until he is out of spells.

    Willa feeds and waters the mules and checks the party's supplies of food and fuel. Including the nascent day, they have enough human food left for five days - if they don’t have to feed Mathias. There is nearly a week’s worth of mule food, about 20 pounds of mineral coal, and nearly three dozen flasks of oil. An optimist would say that they have plenty of everything for as long an exploration of the “cave” as they could possibly need. A pessimist would say that they don’t have enough of anything for their trip back through the mountains, even if they left now.

    Willa directs the placement of a table from the activity room against the outer doorway of that room. She takes the opportunity of moving past where Mathias reclines in one of the stuffed chairs to ask him if he has his own food. He says of course he does and she mentions that Larry will be creating water for the group after he rests, and Mathias is welcome to fill his skins.

    First watch 4:20am - 6:20am Thokk and Aurora
    [Unbeknownst to the party, another lurker sets up in the table room, such that they are now inside each of the doorways, with three in total in the room.]

    After Willa retreats to the far side of the room, Mathias takes a blanket out of his pack and covers himself. As he leans back and closes his eyes, he mutters to himself, “I’ve got this, I’ve got this…” A few minutes later, he says somewhat louder, “Remember the vid screens!”

    Willa comes back over, if nothing else to keep his voice down so that the others can rest. “What vid-screens?”

    “The ones in the note your elf found.”

    “Do you think we are being watched?”

    “I don’t doubt it. That machine woman was probably sent because we found the note.”

    “I think you are being paranoid.”

    Mathias shrugs. “I’m alive.”

    Nearby, Aurora ponders what a “vid-screen” is. Perhaps a scrying device - with the screen looking like that in the mirror-weapon they found. She resolves to keep on the lookout for any more such devices.

    “Whar be ye from?” Willa asks Mathias abruptly. Then, perhaps to soften her question, “I told ye, I be from Salinmore.”

    “I hail from a place north of Hookhill in the Grand March, originally. I used to work for nobles - arranging and sometimes hosting their lavish parties. I grew tired of the politics and wanted to be free from their watchful eyes and judgement. I have been traveling a lot since that earlier time in my life. I have made my living dueling in tournaments, in various protection jobs, and fighting bandits for bounties. Since I move around a lot, the druids of Rhun compensate me for sharing with them what I have learned in my travels.” He pauses, considers that he has given enough information without something in return. “Who leads your group? I notice a lot of talking when it comes time to make a decision.”

    Willa explains that leadership of the group rests with her, Tyrius, and Aurora equally. She tends to handle the immediate details - like setting marching orders and watches - since she trained in the local militia and eventually attained the rank of sergeant in service to the crown. Major long-term decisions of goals and policy are sussed out between the three. She mentions briefly that they are in exile from Keoland, on the run from a knight because Aurora saw a book she shouldn’t have.

    Mathias considers this, then offers, “I am late to the adventuring business. I would like to find my place in a group so that I can gain more knowledge and equally more power and skill. I do enjoy life to the fullest I can, but I also like order. That's why I asked who was the leader of your group. I believe there should be a clear chain of command, and don’t see myself staying long with an undisciplined group of freebooters.

    “I have never seen this place or one like it; the plant men or machine creatures. I have no idea about a book or who or why someone is chasing you. I have a notebook myself and will be writing stuff like this in it so that I can refer to it later, but no one has ever attacked me for it.”

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a pair of displacer beasts pass by the table room. They pause and sniff the air, noting the presence of multiple lurkers in the room, and continue.]

    5:20am - everyone has had a short rest. This is Larry and Mathias’ first short rest of Day 2, but the second for everyone else.

    Larry - natural recovery - 3/0/0
    Aurora - arcane recovery - 4/2/1
    Mathias - spend 3HD - recover 19hp, now at 39/39
    Tyrius - spend 2HD

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a repair robot enters the table room. The lurkers therein had heard its heavy steps approaching all the way down the hall. Each of them at some point in its life has tried to swallow such a robot, and quickly regretted it. Now they all know better than to drop on them. The robot continues on to the inner door.]

    FWOOSH! The door to the table room slides open. One of the cleaning clockworks stomps heavily into the room.

    Willa had been sharpening her sword with a whetstone, but comes into the southern room at once. “Thokk - ‘ow did it open ther door?” (Thokk had been watching the southern door to the table room, Aurora the northern one to the plant man hallway.)

    Thokk shrugs. “Thokk not see through door.”

    “Mayhap ye should leave wit’ it an’ see ‘ow it closes ther door.” Thokk shrugs again.

    The clockwork begins to pick up the mule droppings and a few of the smaller pieces of broken crates. It ignores the party. Eddard observes that it is the first time one has entered here - nothing came in while the party was away.

    “When war ther las’ time we seen one?” Willa asks.

    In this sunless cave, Larry has a better sense of the passage of time than any of them. He counts on his fingers and mumbles. He decides that it was eight, perhaps nine hours ago.

    Aurora has left her watch post to see the clockwork. “If they need to be recharged, it would be good to know the location of the recharging station. Perhaps we could refill our power discs there, or obtain more.”

    Willa nods. “We should be followin’ it - bu’ nay in our curren’ condition. We be restin’ fer a reason.”

    “I’m fine,” volunteers Shefak. Indeed, the monk has used her curious inner power to remove any trace of damage from the last battle with the plant men. She also can complete her ki meditations in an hour, and is done with those as well. She will eventually need to sleep, of course, but apart from that she is quite ready. “How long will your spell on me last, Master Larry?”

    Larry remarks that she should still have darkvision for at least another two hours.

    “I can follow it,” Shefak says.

    Willa nods, but feels obliged to add, “Be ye careful.” Shefak slips on her ring and disappears. The clockwork spends several more minutes tidying the room before it moves to the doorway, reaches up with its “hand” and presses the pressure plate. The door slides open and it clomps out into the table room. If Shefak is actually following it, no one can tell.

    Umbra’s armor of shadows ends. Although she has spell slots available, she does not cast it so as not to interrupt her trance.

    Shefak follows the clockwork out through the table room and into the hall. It is slow, loud, and easy to follow. It also pauses frequently, seeming frozen in place, before it starts moving again. She follows it east through the hallway in which the last battle of the plant men took place, and then into the great chamber with the deep shaft, the one they discovered when first they entered the cave. There it pauses for quite some time before moving along the wide corridor to the north.

    They pass six doors, all but one closed, and it pauses again at the next intersection, where a smaller hallway crosses their larger one. The passageway to the left is full of plant men, but the clockwork takes the one to the right. When that again branches, it turns south, and approaches a black-keyed door.

    A panel on the chest of the clockwork opens, and a delicate wand protrudes, to the point of almost touching the pearl-colored panel that lies between the slot and receptacle of the door lock. The very tip of the wand glows with a red color, and the color seems to be taken up by the pearl panel. A second later the panel chimes, the door of the room opens, and clockwork and Shefak both walk inside.

    The clockwork spends time cleaning and arranging the room to its satisfaction.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a pair of displacer beasts pass by the table room. They pause and sniff the air, noting the presence of multiple lurkers in the room, and continue.]

    6:20am - first watch completed
    Second watch had been scheduled for Larry and Shefak, but Umbra volunteers to take the monk's place.

    The clockwork emerges from the small apartment and back out into the hall. It retraces its steps to the three-way intersection and proceeds east, then soon turns north. It enters the open doors of a room that Shefak immediately recognizes as the lounge where the hidden note was found. It starts by cleaning up the ashes on the floor, but as Shefak watches it, she realizes that it is not taking any of the bones. It will likely be here a while.

    The clockwork finally leaves the lounge, and proceeds back down the hall to the apartment it cleaned before. It sits without moving for quite some time outside. Eventually it returns to the lounge. Shefak is puzzled, as the creature’s actions don’t seem to follow a logical pattern. This time, however, rather than re-entering the lounge it heads for the double-doors the party passed without opening. After it presses the wall panel, both doors slide open, revealing some sort of deserted feast hall [MEETING ROOM with communication panels].

    Several long, high tables and numerous chairs are set up as if a meal were in progress. However, many of the chairs are overturned, and there is no evidence of food, trenchers, or utensils. All of the chairs are individual rather than being benches. More grimly, the bones of many humans or humanoids lie strewn about - some in reasonably articulated skeletons and some scattered. Most have rags of fabric clinging to them but no weapons or other devices are in sight.

    Each of the tables has one or two inset metal panels with small grills. These could be stove tops for cooking at the tables themselves, but no fuel source is apparent. The tables are all made of cave horn, as are the chairs. None of them are cushioned.

    The metal panels have sections of glass, often broken, and the metal fixtures themselves are bent and dented. Below the metal is a complicated network of threads which appear to be coated in stiff, colored wax.

    Beyond the first room is a second, largely the same. The clockwork spends the better part of an hour puttering around in both rooms. It repeatedly picks up small bits of debris, opens its trash receptacle and then, perhaps because its innards are already full, closes the hinged drawer again without inserting anything. Once Shefak sees it do something rather unusual - it climbs up on one of the tables, squatting over a metal panel that has a number of small rents. It opens a panel and protrudes a wand-like device, but different from the one it used to open the keyed door. There is a flash of bright light, and Shefak is blinded for a moment. When she can see again, she finds that the source of light is the wand, and she finds she can not look directly at it. The light finally fades and the clockwork climbs down from the table. When Shefak examines the panel, she feels a warmth radiating from it and finds that the rents have been closed as if the edges of metal were melted and joined together by a smith in a forge. All that is left is a tracery of lines brighter than the metal around them, like a long-faded scar.

    After this, the clockwork busies itself by setting upright all of the chairs and moving them neatly into their places at the different tables.

    When the clockwork emerges from the feast hall it turns left and west until they are back at the intersection where the plant-men’s hallway is again visible. The hall itself is not lit, but light from each of the rooms spills into it along its length. Here it turns north, then west, north, and west again in a series of wide but winding corridors. The last corridor proceeds for a great distance west, unbroken, until it opens out into a dimly lit chamber that appears to be a replicate of the first chamber the party entered, complete with the large circular shaft in the center. From this shaft, however, Shefak detects the hum of moving machinery.

    The clockwork proceeds directly to the nearer of the two openings for the shaft and straight inside - Shefak hangs back cautiously. The clockwork seems to float in the air for a second, and then falls from view.

    Shefak approaches carefully. There is some sort of poster in an alien language near the entrance to the shaft. The shaft itself descends into darkness, at least as far as the other one had. At the top, where the ceiling should be, is some sort of closed portal with no obvious means of opening. Inside the shaft are four tracks, two opposite each opening, running down the vertical length of the shaft. Each track has a series of wide handles spaced eight feet apart. Two of these tracks, the ones close to Shefak, are moving down, while the ones on the other side are moving up. At the top of the tube the handles seem to appear fully formed from the wall itself or to move into the wall and disappear.

    Shefak is tempted to follow the clockwork down the shaft, but remembers the notes about the dangerous alien on the second level, and also realizes that the party will be unlikely to look for her on another level should something go amiss. She decides to wait for the reappearance of the clockwork.

    Larry’s darkvision on Shefak ends. She is fortunate to be waiting in a lit area of the cave. The corridor to the south is decidedly dark.

    8:20am - second watch completed
    Bashapka has had a long rest, his singular long rest for Day 2.
    Babshapka and Willa take the next watch.

    Shefak decides, after some two and a half hours of waiting at the shaft, that the clockwork is not returning. She determines to make her way back to the party, through the unexplored and dark corridor to the south.

    She proceeds carefully down the hall, feeling her way along the wall. She passes a closed and locked door, but the next door is open. Reaching inside the doorway, she quickly locates the panel which activates the magical ceiling lights, flooding the room with light that spills out into the hallway. The room itself is another looted apartment. Enough light is generated that she can see there are another two open doors (also apartments) on the opposite wall. Turning on their lights reveals an open storeroom further along the original wall. With all four lights lit the hallway itself can be seen well. Shefak spends some time looking in each room but does not actively search them. Finally she returns to the first room and turns out the light, then works her way down the hall, turning out the other lights as she goes.

    Beyond the again-dark hall is a dimly lit corridor running east. Following that to an intersection, Shefak recognizes her location as the farthest place she followed the plant man leader before. From here she knows the way back to the party.

    Still invisible, she makes her way along the corridors until she gets to the closed door on the other side of which Babshapka stands watch. She knocks on the door, and a few moments later it opens to reveal the elf, broadsword drawn and pointed at the empty doorway. “It’s Shefak,” she says simply, and he steps back to let her enter. Not until the door is closed does she remove her ring.

    Shefak explains what she learned while following the clockwork, spending most of her description on the curious shaft. In response to Aurora’s questions, she says she doesn’t know what level they are on, and whether they would need to go up or down to get to level 2. Aurora teaches her the symbols in the alien language for the numbers 0 through 9. Fortunately it is a decimal system.

    10:20am - third watch completed
    Umbra has had a long rest, her singular long rest for Day 2. She recasts armor of shadows and is at 3/3/3. Babshapka and Mathias will take the next watch.

    Shefak explains that the shaft is close by - but that to get there they will need to skirt the now-retracted edge of the plant men’s territory.

    At Aurora’s enthusiasm, Willa asks why they would want to go to another level, when they don’t yet have keys, but Shefak explains that it does not appear that keys are needed to use the shaft.

    Babshapka suggests that rather than fighting the security clockworks for keys, they could use the shaft and read the alien symbols. If the clockworks acted like servants to the human ship crew, it would make sense that the servant quarters are below. Perhaps down there they could find a charging station and cards. He suggests that they test the terms of the truce and try to just walk past the plant men.

    Aurora’s mage armor ends. Although she has spell slots available, she does not cast it so as not to interrupt her rest.

    Willa asks whether they can move the mules to the lower level, and Shefak confirms that the doorways are wide enough for the mules, even with their packs on. Mathias remarks that perhaps the alien waiting on the next level will prefer to feed on the mules rather than on them. As larger hosts they could grow larger aliens inside them.

    As more voices are heard, the plan gets turned around a few times, but in the end they all agree they will try to make it past the plant men without conflict, then allow Aurora to read the symbols around the shaft. They will leave the mules and Eddard where they are for now.

    12:20pm - fourth watch completed
    Babshapka and Tyrius take the next watch.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, a pair of displacer beasts pass by the table room. They pause and sniff the air, noting the presence of multiple lurkers in the room, and continue.]

    2:20pm - fifth watch completed
    Everyone but Shefak has now had a long rest for Day 2.

    The party briefly discusses plans again before setting out.
    Aurora casts mage armor on herself. (Now at 3/3/3)
    Mathias smokes what he predicts to be his “last cigarette as a human” before he gets infested. Willa fills and lights her lantern.

    (2:30 pm)
    The party exits the storeroom and activity room through the northern doors to the hall [thus avoiding the three lurkers waiting for them], being careful to close both behind them, and enters the now-abandoned corridor of the plant men. This is the hallway the leader walked down, extinguishing the lights as he went. Shefak points out the former apartment that leads to the “mulch room” she saw with spider-Larry.

    Shefak, invisible and in the lead, reaches the intersection and confirms that the northern corridor is still full of plant men, wandering in and out of the occupied apartments. When Willa visibly enters the intersection, there is an immediate commotion. Those plant men already in the hall whistle and thump and dozens more flood out from the adjoining rooms.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue May 25, 2021 7:45 am  
    Post 170: Backstory for Mathias III

    Post 170: Backstory for Mathias III

    Greyhawk. The City of Thieves. In so many ways the opposite of Veluna. Leezar loved it. He immediately sought out the parts of the city that offered brothels, drug dens, bars, gambling houses, fighting pits. After spending all of his money, he sought employment at the brothel he had enjoyed the most. At first, he was just a guard - protecting the whores from johns that were drunk or violent, protecting the madam from the city watch and the thieves’ guild. He lodged and ate there for free; he was quite happy to spend nearly all of his wages on the services of the other employees, a fact which made him a favorite of the madam.

    As the first heady days turned into months, however, he became less naive. The madam wasn’t being hassled by the thieves’ guild - she paid protection money, just like everyone else. Sometimes she just needed him as a strong presence when negotiating changes in fee structures, or when a guild “reorganization” happened (like when a capo was killed and someone new was put in charge of collecting her “rent”). And the madam wasn’t even the brothel owner, it turned out, just an on-site manager for a complicated network of individuals that could be traced back to one or more of the city oligarchs, if one dared. Leezar wasn’t interested in who the madam actually answered to, until he was informed that as an employee of some nebulous boss, he was obligated to occasionally work other jobs. Fill-in guard at more important brothels, occasional muscle for the thieves’ guild, even a “vocal supporter” at political rallies when crowds were needed. Every now and then he was told to fight in the pits - at first just taking or receiving dives to make sure the guild odds-makers remained profitable, but after he learned the spell armor of agathys (a crowd favorite) he performed in actual legitimate fights, although scheduled as walkout bouts. As he did well in these tasks he was utilized more and more outside his home brothel. “You do good work,” the madam told him. “The reward for doing good work is you get more work.” There were a number of close calls, but he found that he often emerged from brushes with death with the ability to learn more spells or cast the spells he already knew more powerfully.

    At the same time that he was coming to know the city and advancing in power, he was coming to understand his master Graz’zt a little better as well. One of the whores in his home brothel introduced him to a cult of Graz’zt and he frequently attended worship services. Usually these were in the basements of inns or in deserted warehouses, but occasionally high rites were performed in secret chapels in the mansions of debauched nobles. Leezar began to pick up the tenets of the faith - not only “take pleasure in everything,” but also “restriction is the only sin.” He began to undertake missions for the cult as well, although not paid - simply for pleasure of service. Most involved assisting in plans to tempt or corrupt various clergy or paladins in Greyhawk. It was from the priests and priestesses of the cult that he learned his new spells, or sometimes from demons summoned in the rituals themselves.

    As months turned into years he continued to advance in power, both in the spells he was able to cast and in his ability to fight with staff and fist. He came to enjoy working the pits, where more and more frequently he got to be a trial horse for contenders. One day the leader of his local cult cell told him he was ready for a ceremony of full initiation, without explaining what that was. The ceremony itself was both awe-inspiring and exquisitely pleasurable, but took a decidedly strange turn. At the peak of festivities, when a number of naked women were writhing on the carpets around him, a great flash of light and heat enveloped them all. The women screamed and then were still, except for one still writhing, but now in agony, not pleasure, her whole body burned. Leezar was badly burned as well, but remained standing. He had a curious double vision - overlaid on the burned bodies of the women he saw the forms of dead crones. Where the altar had been was also an upturned cauldron. “Find them!” boomed a deep basso voice that sent thrills of pleasure up and down his spine despite his burns. “Find the ones who did this to my servants.”

    As a high ceremony, there were a number of priests and priestesses of Graz’zt on hand among the common cultists. Most of the women could be saved despite their burns. In speaking with the high priest, Leezar learned that Graz’zt Himself had chosen him to discover and track down the ones who had slain his worshipers. When he agreed that he would do just that, he felt a surge of power. As mark of his new status, Graz’zt had just given him access to a new spell (his sixth true spell), a new invocation (his third), and the knowledge that all of his spells could now be cast as third level, a great increase in power. It was with no small measure of pride that Leezar prepared to depart Greyhawk.

    Leezarius Angelicus Temtonio, aka "Leezar", aka "Mathias"
    New abilities in bold.

    Fifth Level Warlock / Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 10 (0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 13 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 9 (-1) Cha 18 (+4)
    Hp 33, Languages Common, Velondi
    Skills: Deception, History, Investigation, Persuasion
    Otherworldly Patron - Dark Prince Graz'zt
    Cantrips (3): Blade Ward, Eldritch Blast, Mage Hand,
    Spells (6 - all cast at level 3): Burning Hands, Witch Bolt, Armor of Agathys, Darkness, Fly, Dispel Magic
    Invocations (3) : Fiend's Sight, Thirsting Blade, One With Shadows
    Pact Boon: Pact of the Blade, Pact Weapon
    Special Ability: Saved by the Bell. Because of his work as a pit fighter and his experience taking dives, may make a Deception check to convincingly feign unconsciousness or death.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
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    Tue Jun 01, 2021 7:25 pm  
    Post 171: Doppelgängers!

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our eighth Barrier Peaks session, was 21 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 171: Doppelgängers!
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    (2:30 pm)
    The party exits the storeroom and activity room through the northern doors, being careful to close both behind them, and enters the now-abandoned corridor of the plant men. This is the hallway the leader walked down, extinguishing the lights as he went. Shefak points out the former apartment that leads to the “mulch room” she saw with spider-Larry.

    Shefak, invisible and in the lead, reaches the intersection and confirms that the northern corridor is still full of plant men, wandering in and out of the occupied apartments. When Willa enters the intersection, there is an immediate commotion. Those plant men already in the hall whistle and thump and dozens more flood out from the adjoining rooms.

    Willa slouches, trying to make herself look smaller, walks slowly, and avoids eye contact. The plant men grow more agitated, but do not attack. The rest of the party copies Willa’s example as they pass the intersection, except for Thokk, who still walks boldly and proudly but has agreed that he will not draw weapons unless the plant men actually attack. By the time the last of the party has passed the intersection and turned down the hallway to the west, they are surrounded by dozens of the plant men. The creatures chitter rebukingly and shake their weapons but do not use them.

    At the end of the hall, Shefak turns north and Willa follows her whispered directions. Babshapka, however, is intrigued by a large unkeyed door on the south wall, the second they have passed. He pauses and presses the panel to open the door. He sees the dimly-lit interior of a huge room only briefly before realizing that all of the plant men around him are brandishing their weapons, some even thrusting them uncomfortably into his chain armor - not quite attacking, but certainly threatening to do so. “Shut ther door,” says Willa firmly, but in what she hopes is a calm tone. Babshapka presses the door panel a second time, then backs away from the doorway as he is thronged by greater numbers of agitated plant men. He does make careful note of what he can see, though, even as the door closes.

    The room is instantly recognizable as a feast hall or mess hall [Dining Room]. Several long, high tables and numerous chairs are set up as if a meal were in progress. However, many of the chairs are overturned. Numerous empty trenchers are on the tabletops but also litter the floor haphazardly. More grimly, the bones of many humans or humanoids lie strewn about.

    The plant men are now beginning to menace the party members to either side of Babshapka and Willa beckons them to keep moving. Only once all of them have started down the dark northern corridor do the plant men slowly calm. The farther they advance, the fewer plant men follow them, and those that do, at a greater distance. By the time they emerge into the large, dimly-lit chamber with the shaft, the last of the plant men have withdrawn around the corner and out of sight. Shefak quickly checks on them, then returns to report that they are indeed returning to their lair-hallway, although a knot of them still remain around the door that Babshapka opened, as if guarding it.

    There is some sort of poster in an alien language near the entrance to the shaft. The shaft itself descends into darkness, at least as far as did the other one at the entrance of the ship. At the top of the shaft, where the ceiling should be, is some sort of closed portal with no obvious means of opening. Inside the shaft are four tracks, two opposite each opening, running down the vertical length of the shaft. Each track has a series of wide handles spaced eight feet apart. Two of these tracks (to the east) are moving down, while the ones one the other side (west) are moving up. At the top of the tube the handles seem to appear fully formed from the wall itself or to move into the wall and disappear.

    “Those plantfolk are certainly strange,” says Mathias, and sets up his folding chair where he can see down the northern corridor. The rest of the party watches the various approaches while Aurora examines the poster. It is covered in alien script, but nowhere are there numbers, or any indication of what level they are on. At the top is a diagram of one large circle, with four smaller circles within it. One of the circles is colored red.

    Aurora begins her comprehend languages spell ritual.

    Ten minutes later, Aurora is able to read the text under the diagram. It states:


    Safety Procedures: When anti-gravity is functioning, step into the shaft and wait for the next available handle. Grasp the handle firmly with one hand and retain your hold until you approach your level. Release your hold when the handle before yours crosses the opening and use your (dampened) momentum to exit the shaft. If the shaft is in use by multiple personnel, always allow at least one unused handle between each person.

    If anti-gravity has been disengaged, but the handles are still in motion, grasp the handle with both hands and be prepared to support your own weight. If you do not have an anti-grav belt, use this procedure only in emergency situations such as a major power redirect. Do not load handles with more than 300 pounds of weight.”

    Aurora has heard the term “anti-gravity” before - it is a very high-level spell, more powerful even than fly. To test it, she grabs a piece of refuse (there is an abundant supply about) and tosses it into the shaft. It remains suspended there, as if levitating, although it drifts slowly away from her with the force of her throw. She notices that it comes to a halt much sooner than it otherwise should, and reasons that this is the “dampened momentum” to which the poster referred.

    She calls Babshapka over and has him hold one of her hands while she leans into the shaft. As soon as she crosses the plane of the door she does feel dizzy, and suspended or buoyant, as if she was entering water. On the interior wall of the shaft, next to each open doorway, is a large number “1”, written in the alien language.

    “I think we are on level one!” she announces to the party. “But I don’t know if level two is above or below us.”

    “You are not going to level two,” responds Willa, automatically.

    In the dark hallway to the south, several creatures emerge and creep cautiously from various doorways. Even Umbra’s excellent darkvision does not register them, for their skin seems to shift and take on the color and patterning of whatever they stand in front of. The party remains unaware of their presence, but they eagerly note Aurora’s exploration of the shaft.

    Aurora tells Babshapka to grab hold of the train of her dress, but let go of her hand. He shakes his head and mumbles something that might be a prayer in elven, but complies. Aurora steps out into the void. She floats just inside the open doorway. She hears the gentle whirring of the tracks sliding past her, the one to her right coming up from below, the one to her left going up a short distance to the closed ceiling.

    She stares down, trying to find other openings, but does not see any. They could, she reasons, be recessed and unviewable from her current perspective, however. There is a set of alien symbols on the walls about 15 feet beneath her that line up with the “1” on each of the interior walls at this level, and another set about 30 feet down. There might be more, but her vision only extends to about sixty feet before the details are lost in darkness.

    “You can let go, I’m going down,” she tells Babshapka confidently. When he reluctantly lets go of her dress, she kicks hard off the wall next to the doorway and begins to drift across the shaft to wear the tracks run down, not up. Babshapka runs around to the other doorway, but by the time he is there he finds that Aurora is stuck, floating nearly in the center of the shaft, but far out of reach of anything, looking perplexed.

    “Hmm, momentum dampener,” she says to herself.

    Babshapka calls Thokk over and he extends his pole out to Aurora. She catches hold of it, and he is easily able to pull her over to the downward handles. Babshapka, seeing Aurora on the end of Thokk’s pole, is sure there is a metaphor for “fishing” in there somewhere. As soon as Aurora grabs a handle she is whisked away downward. Babshapka only hesitates a second before jumping into the shaft and grabbing the next available handle.

    Aurora has only to hold onto the handle for a few seconds before the one in front of her passes beside a doorway. She lets go and continues her downward motion, though at a decelerating pace, until she lands lightly on the narrow ledge in front of a small recessed door. In any event, the track she was using folds into the wall at the bottom of the doorway, while a second downward track continues on the other side of the doorway. A cry from above startles her, and she moves to the side just in time to allow Babshaka to land right where she was standing a second ago. The door in front of them is both closed and keyed with the same locking mechanism ubiquitous on the level above. As Aurora looks more closely, she can see that the slot is coded brown. She is disappointed; Babshapka is relieved.

    On the interior wall of the shaft, on both sides, is written a large number “2”. Across the shaft is a matching recessed area and ledge, and a keyed door. From here she can’t see the color, but assumes it is also brown. Within the recessed chamber is written on the wall in large letters of alien script, “UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ARE NOT TO ENTER THE SERVICE DECK AREAS.”

    Aurora nods to Babshapka, steps off the ledge, and grabs the handle going down to the next level. This trip is slightly longer, as the recessed ledge is twenty feet below the last. Babshapka follows her, and this time Aurora remembers to step aside for him to land.

    On the interior wall of the shaft, on both sides, is written a large number “3”. Across the shaft is a matching recessed area and ledge, and a keyed door. Both these doors are considerably larger than the one above, on the same order as those of level one. Both doors are closed, but Aurora notes that they do not have card locks - just the pressure plates that allow free access.

    Now some thirty feet below the rest of the party, Aurora stares into the darkness of the shaft, but still sees no other openings. She launches a firebolt at the door directly opposite her, and it flies across without issue. Satisfied that the momentum dampener does not affect her spell, she launches a second bolt across the shaft, but five feet below the first, so that it strikes the wall and detonates. She then methodically launches bolts down the wall, aiming five feet lower each time. When she gets to about sixty feet beneath their platform, the light from the bolt disappears before she hears the boom of its detonation, and that boom has a different tone than all the previous ones. “And that,” she says with obvious self-satisfaction, “shows that there is another recessed door down there, in what is likely level four.”

    “Are we going further?” asks Babshapka in a voice that is not afraid, just concerned.

    “No,” says Aurora, we will check this level first.” She turns back to the door and reaches for the pressure panel. Babshapka puts one hand on his broadsword and tenses. But in the split second before Aurora presses the panel, a cry of alarm can be heard above them, swiftly followed by the unmistakable sounds of combat.

    Aurora, eyes wide, spins and crouches at the edge of the ledge. “Help me across!” she commands, and as she springs forward, Babshapka shoves her as hard as he can in the small of the back. She sails across the shaft, just barely reaching an upward-traveling handle before her momentum fails.

    In the southern corridor, the nine humanoid forms note that the party is now down to seven, but that no more of them are entering the shaft. Now appears to be the best moment for their ambush. They creep forward silently, seeing how close they can draw before they are spotted (Stealth roll 24). They are easily within melee range when Umbra gasps and then cries out in alarm.

    As one they begin to run forward, all nine of them. The creatures have dull eyes and strange rubbery black-gray skin. However, as they run forward, the two in the lead quickly assume the shape and form of Tyrius and Umbra. The copy is exact, down to Tyrius’ shining armor and flowing blonde hair, Umbra’s alabaster skin and deep green dress. By the time they reach the party, they are indistinguishable from its members. The seven creatures behind the lead pair remain as nondescript humanoids.

    Round One

    5E Doppelganger Stats wrote:

    Multiattack. The doppelganger makes two melee attacks.
    Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (1d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.
    Ambusher. In the first round of a combat, the doppelganger has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has surprised.
    Surprise Attack. If the doppelganger surprises a creature and hits it with an attack during the first round of combat, the target takes an extra 10 (3d6) damage from the attack.

    The creature running at Tyrius raises its hand - and its arm transforms into a copy of Molly. It brings this down twice, hard, on Tyrius (23 points damage). Umbra carries no weapon, but the one attacking her slams her repeatedly with its fist (32 points damage, Umbra to 6hp). The two creatures almost instantaneously copy the changes to the forms - “Tyrius” has new scuffs on his armor, “Umbra” has bruises in the same location as the real Umbra. “Tyrius” and “Umbra” hold their positions, locked in combat with their duplicates, while the other creatures stream by them to engage the rest of the party.

    How dare these things copy his warband? They had better not copy Thokk! Thokk is inimitable! Thokk enrages, then strikes at the first creature that has run past Umbra (two hits, 23 damage).

    Mathias leaps up from his chair. His hand goes to his belt pouch and he intones words in a language that Willa, nearby, does not recognize - while it could be “the language of magic”, she is pretty sure she hasn’t heard those particular syllables from Aurora at any point. Suddenly his body is covered in armor - an exquisite set of full plate mail that looks like it has been delicately carved from blue-white ice. He draws forth a greatsword from his scabbard and rushes forward.

    Shefak draws on her ki and strikes at the one already wounded by Thokk. After her flurry of blows, it remains barely standing.

    Willa advances on the creature between her and the shaft to her left, ignoring the two trying to flank her to the right. “Right behind you” calls Mathias. She strikes at it once, but the creature seems to anticipate her blow and steps out of the way. Her follow-up strike is faster than it can dodge, however, and she hits (for 14 damage).

    Larry readies a lightning bolt in his hand, then steps up to a wounded creature. He has a line-of-sight that will send his bolt through three of the creatures and then down the hall to the south, but as the creature moves suddenly to his right he adjusts without thinking to track it as he throws the bolt. The bolt goes through the creature, but then hits the curved wall of the shaft and rebounds straight back, passing through Larry and then behind him, ending by bouncing between the walls of the corner of the chamber. The creature drops to the floor, electricity arcing through its twitching body (Larry at 4/3/2).

    Umbra sways unsteadily on her feet, but completes an Entropy spell. Black tentacles of shadow wrap around three of the creatures and restrict their movements. Umbra pulls back, trying to fade into the shadows as “Umbra” unsuccessfully swings at her (attack of opportunity misses).

    Round Two
    Undeterred by taking the brunt of his own lightning bolt, Larry end-runs to his left around the advancing creatures. He thinks he can get six of them at once so long as he doesn’t mind hitting both Thokk and Tyrius, which he doesn’t. This bolt also pulls to the right, and ends up passing through two of the living creatures, Thokk, the dead one, bouncing off the wall of the shaft, passing through a third living creature, narrowly missing Tyrius, and ricocheting away down the south hall. (Larry at 4/3/1)

    Willa swings at the three creatures around her, but misses.

    One of the creatures breaks away from Willa and charges Mathias, assuming his likeness as it runs, ice armor and all. It strikes him, and instantly regrets it, as cold from the real ice armor shoots up its false greatsword and through its body, damaging it for 15 points. The real Mathias seems unaffected by the blow.

    The remaining creatures rain blows down on those who are nearby - Willa takes three different hits for 21 total, Tyrius takes 9, Shefak and Larry suffer 6 each. Thokk takes 4 (reduced to 2 after rage). He laughs at the puny blow and says that such a weak creature cannot hope to copy Thokk and his massive muscles. He hits back at “Umbra” once for 13. The two creatures fighting Willa have both become likenesses of her, while the one on Thokk now appears as he does.

    Umbra emerges from around the north side of the shaft. The words for her dark bolt are on her lips, but before her are two Mathiases, alike in every way. “Umbra, it’s me!” they both shout - and if there is a delay from one, she can’t discern it.

    5E Doppelganger Stats wrote:

    Read Thoughts. The doppelganger magically reads the surface thoughts of one creature within 60 ft. of it.

    Aurora glides out of the shaft, adjusting to gravity without stumbling. She readies an action to cast magic missile (at second level) at either of the two Mathiases, should one give itself away as false.

    One of the Mathiases makes an arcane warding gesture with his hand, copied as if in a mirror by the other, and begins walking away. The other forgoes the attack of opportunity provided. The first moves close to the combat in which Willa is engaged. The second is hit by a series of magic missiles from Aurora. Umbra is still too unsure of the actual identities to attack.

    Willa strikes at those around her (two hits, 26 damage).

    Tyrius tries to raise his shield and strike with Molly, but he appears dazed from the surprise attack still.

    Round 3
    Aurora launches a firebolt at “Mathias”, but he dodges and retreats to the south. She moves to step between the creature and a seriously wounded Umbra.

    “Don’t hit women!” yells Mathias at one or both of the “Willas” engaged with Willa.

    “Wha' in all ther hells?!” responds the real Willa. Both creatures fighting her fall back, and she hits one for 10 as it retreats. “In case ye hain’t noticed, Mathias, I’m ther best fighter in ther party! Now get after ‘em!”

    “Yes, ma’am!” he calls and advances, greatsword in hand.

    The creatures have apparently decided they don’t like even odds (now eight on eight) and the rest of them are turning and running. Thokk kills one (ten points - opportunity attack) as it withdraws, Shefak wounds hers, but by the time Larry can draw his scimitar, the last one is away. The dwarf growls in frustration, then sends forth a moonbeam to block off their escape down the hall (Larry at 4/3/1). The beam actually lands a little closer to the party than intended.

    Willa kills hear nearest copy (15 points), then runs after a fleeing one, it being still slowed by Umbra’s spell, and strikes it as well (12 points).

    Babshapka emerges from the shaft and checks to see that Aurora is well before turning to assess the situation.

    With the creatures in flight, Umbra runs forward with more confidence and fires off five dark bolts into the back of her false self.

    Thokk plunges into the area of the moonbeam, ignoring the pain to slice at, and slay, two of the creatures. He chortles in satisfaction.

    Shefak runs forward, carefully avoids the moonbeam, and brings another one of the ambushers to the ground with a series of kicks and fist strikes. Thokk chuckles at her foolishness; if she hadn’t avoided the beam, she could have attacked two of them. His skin continues to blister and burn.

    Mathias dashes forward at great speed, passing the moonbeam and the fleeing creatures, then turning round to face them, arms spread wide. “Where do you think you’re going?” he demands.

    Tyrius finally seems to have cleared his cobwebs. He sees two Willas, but one is advancing and the other one retreating. He reasons that the retreating one must be the false Willa, and strikes at her with Molly, leveling her.

    Round 4
    “Tyrius”, desperate to get by Mathias who is blocking his retreat, swings at him. The cold from his armor travels down the length of “Molly” and into his body - he drops to the ground, frozen dead. Mathias looks up, a grim smile on his face. “Hit me, please!” he calls to the others, then traces an arcane ward in the air with his free hand.

    A second fleeing creature, “Thokk”, strikes at him, and also suffers cold damage. Mathias laughs as the creature winces in pain and staggers away. His armor appears to melt and dissolve. He strikes with his greatsword (opportunity attack) and connects, but the creature keeps going.

    Willa strikes another one down, and now there is only one left - the one fleeing Mathias.

    Larry shifts his moonbeam further down the hall, dropping it just in front of the fleeing creature. The creature stops rather than run through the beam. Aurora sends a firebolt over its shoulder, and Umbra hits it with a number of dark bolts for 11 damage.

    Round 5
    Mathias, sword still in one hand, sends forth two bolts of mystic force from the other - both strike the creature (9 points).

    Babshapka presses himself to the wall and fires off two arrows, but they miss. Too many people in the way, he curses, but marks where the shafts land to retrieve them later.

    Shefak dashes ahead, and her fists bring the combat to a close when she slays the last creature. Even now those that had assumed the shapes of party members are slowly reverting to their native state of tar-colored rubbery flesh.

    When it is clear that the combat is over, Mathias says “We should check their bodies,” but it is immediately apparent that there is little to check. In their natural state, the creatures do not have clothes and carry no items, apparently trusting their strange bodies to form what they need. “Hmm,” ponders Mathias, “butts and lady pockets? Should we check these?” But lo, aside from nostrils and ears, the creatures do not appear to have any bodily orifices, not even mouths. Willa seems strangely content as she performs a cursory search of the bodies. When asked why, she says it is because these are the first normal creatures they have found in the cave.

    “You call these normal?” asks Mathias incredulously.

    “Aye,” she replies. “If I don’ miss me mark, t’ese be doppelgangers - shapeshifters wha' steal ther identity o’ people an’ then kill ‘em. I grant ye t’at t’ey be queer eno’, bu’ ev’ry ‘venturer ‘as ‘eard tell o’ ‘em, ‘as ‘eard stories a’ least. Bu’ hain’t nobody ‘eard tell o’ plant men an’ flying ships an’ clockworks wha’ shoot wands an’ sleeping gas. T’at be strange - doppelgangers be ther first normal t’ing we hae found in t’is whole place.”

    [The party takes stock of their fitness to continue, and whether they need to retire:
    Babshapka: 44/48
    Willa: 41/62
    Aurora: 38/38
    Shefak 33/39
    Thokk: 28/66
    Tyrius: 17/49
    Larry: 16/56
    Umbra: 6/38]

    Although they are not eager for another combat, it is decided that they can at least search the rooms adjacent to the shaft, and then any along the way of their retreat back to the storeroom.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:29 pm  
    Post 172: Backstory for 'Mathias' IV

    Post 172: Backstory for 'Mathias' IV

    Leezar did not sleep for the remainder of that night. Morning found him with his traveling clothes packed and all of his valuables stowed. He left Greyhawk by the west gate, crossed the Selintan on the public ferry, and then walked south on the road along the river. For the first day he stayed within the crowds, with people either too frugal to book river boat passage or who, like him, did not want their name to appear on a manifest. At a mid-day camp, several agents of the Thieves’ Guild revealed themselves, asked him where he was going, and “reminded” him that he was still under contract to the guild. He lied and told them he was on a contract and that they had better check with their superiors if they didn’t want to get in trouble for drawing attention to his clandestine assignment. He remained in the thick of the crowd for the rest of the day and did not sleep that night either.

    All through the next day the crowds on the road thinned, both as travelers of different speeds pulled away from one another and as the pack of agents following him 'persuaded' the civilian travelers to slow down or speed up. Eventually he found himself on a lonely stretch of road with just the half-dozen rogues in sight, which was of course when they made their move. He immediately used his armor of agathys, for which they were well prepared, since he was known to use that in the pits. That was likely why so many of them had been sent after him, and why they carried such an abundance of throwing knives. What they did not know was that he could now invoke a thirsting blade. When a sword suddenly appeared in his hand, that gave them pause, for he had been wearing only a single knife in his belt, having left even his staff behind hoping to escape detection.

    Some harsh words from their leader sent them rushing in at him despite his sword and armor. He was wounded several times, but every time he slew one of them he got a fresh surge of energy. His Dark One’s Blessing was also something they had not been prepared for, since he had fought only one opponent at a time in the pits. By the time he had slain four of them, the two remaining decided to flee, and sensibly in opposite directions. He used misty step to appear in front of the man, striking twice and on the second strike impaling him through the belly. Then he turned and threw eldritch blasts at the retreating woman, one every three seconds, until she was brought down as well. He had never felt so powerful. Truly he had Graz’zt’s favor. He stripped the bodies of anything useful and left the road, hiking overland until he reached the Gnarly Forest by nightfall and then hiding. He slept through the night, all the next day, and the night after.

    Although far slower going, he kept to the woods as he worked his way south for the next week, only emerging at the end in a small fishing village where he paid an old man to ferry him east across the river. After that it was just a two days’ walk to Hardby. There he used nearly all his own coin, as well as what he had recovered from the agents, to book passage on a trade galley bound for Gradsul.

    The days and nights aboard the ship passed without incident. His dreams began to be invaded by dark images, by impressions of the deaths of the crones, each in turn. Heretofore he had had only a vague notion that they were “to the west”. By giving in to the experience, by fully feeling the pain of each of their deaths in his sleep, he found he could pick up clues, bits and pieces of their memories. They had lived in the Keoish Dreadwood, in a realm ruled by a vampire count. The count had allowed them to worship Graz’zt so long as they used the spells that they gained for doing so to aid him. They had been his subjects their whole lives, until the end of their lives, until a party of adventurers had invaded the lands, slain the count, and soon after the entire coven [Note; most of this is described from the party's perspective in Post 76]. Leezar tried to gain information about the adventurers themselves, but no matter how many times he relived the painful deaths of the crones, that information remained hidden.

    From Gradsul, Leezar took the forest road north, through Daerwald, and Silglen, over the mountains and down the Javan trail. When he reached the Owl Stream he knew he needed to enter the forest to the south, but he found his way barred by thorns, and elven scouts, and by a hawk he was pretty sure was a druid in beast form. ‘Giving up’, he withdrew from the stream. At midnight he flew up and over the forest - with a number of ‘owls’ in pursuit. Guided by the lights of a village deep in the forest, he set down after ten minutes, and the owls almost reached him before he could cast fly again. This time Leezar sped to a high castle overlooking the village. There was a main door in the courtyard below, but it was tightly closed and it seemed likely the owls would overtake him before he could enter. In the main keep, however, above the courtyard, there were two windows that looked like they had been blown out from within - shattering the leaded glass and steel lattice work and leaving just enough space for Leezar to enter, moments ahead of the owls. He turned and stood, facing the narrow opening in the window, sword in one hand and the other ready to summon eldritch blasts, amid the ruins of some sort of laboratory. The owls passed close by the windows for several minutes, but none entered - perhaps knowing that in the small indoor space they had lost both the advantage of numbers and the ability to attack in three dimensions.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:59 am  
    Post 173: An interrupted rest

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our ninth Barrier Peaks session, was 26 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 173: An interrupted rest
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    Although they are not eager for another combat after the fight with doppelgangers, it is decided that the party will at least search the rooms adjacent to the western shaft, and then any along the way of their retreat to the storeroom.

    There are two doors on the wall to the west of the shaft, both unkeyed. The more northerly one is a storeroom, with smashed crates full of unidentifiable machinery.

    The second unkeyed door is also a storeroom. The crates within have long since been broken into. They do not hold complicated machinery, but rather pipes, tubes, and conduits of all types, lengths, and thicknesses. Some are metal, some are cave horn, and some are one or the other but encased in an insulating layer of cave sponge. Her comprehend languages spell is still ongoing, so Aurora looks about for writings or markings, but does not find any. The room is wide enough that Thokk notes the pronounced curvature of the outer wall, which the party is beginning to suspect delineates the maximum extent of the ship.

    There is one other door to the south in the large chamber of the shaft, and it is keyed black. The party investigates quickly and finds a looted apartment. Willa is still finding it hard to believe that a ship could be large enough for each crew member to have an entire cabin to themselves, rather than just a hammock in the hold, but it is ever more apparent that this is the case here. For his part, Babshapka is amazed that all of the furnishings they have found are identical - every bed, every desk, every chair equal to all the rest. Are there no craftsmen’s marks, no artistry? Perhaps all of this was made by magic. Or, as he considers it, perhaps there are 'crafting clockworks' that create identical items? Regardless of the reason, it does make the searching faster - he knows pretty much exactly what to expect in one of the looted apartments, and unless he finds something out of the ordinary he can check a room in five minutes and feel confident he hasn’t missed anything.

    The party begins their way south along the dark corridor, with Tyrius and Willa lighting the way. Mathias asks Umbra if she is okay to continue, or needs assistance, considering the wounds she suffered at the hands of the doppelganger, but she replies that she is fine, thank you. As they go, the party continually reminds one another to check the ceiling.

    The first black-keyed apartment appears as the others, but only a living area with no bed. However, there is an interior keyed door leading to a bedchamber. In the bedchamber, an intact skeleton lies on the floor. One hand points to its head. When Aurora investigates the skull, she finds a small hole on the side near the hand, and a large hole with fractured bones opposite, as if something had gone through the head and exploded out the far side. Ancient stains on the wall behind the figure support this interpretation. The positioning of the head and hand suggest a weapon - a wand? A retort? But none is found nearby or anywhere in the room. Several party members suggest suicide, which leads to dark speculation about the nature of the “paranoia plague” and the alien and other morbid thoughts.

    Back in the storeroom, a repair robot enters and tidies, collecting the mule droppings and a few pieces of smashed crate. Eddard watches it carefully, but does not contact Tyrius.

    The party quickly searches another apartment suite with interior and exterior rooms.

    The door to the next room is open. There are tables and chairs in the room, but no bed and no interior door. The doorway is open, no card lock or even door is in place, as if people could come and go. Perhaps it was an office, lounge, or activity room. It is just as looted and full of debris as the other rooms.

    Another activity room like the previous. Aurora’s comprehend languages ends.

    In the base storeroom, another worker robot enters. The room having been checked less than twenty minutes ago, it soon moves on.

    To speed the search, Willa splits the party into two teams for the two doors remaining on the west wall of the corridor. The first is black-keyed and leads to a large single-room apartment. The second is an open doorway that leads to a storeroom with looted crates, with a few still containing pipes, fittings, and some strange panels of wax-covered wires. There is an interior door, but it is not carded. Opening it reveals a smaller storeroom, just as looted as the first, with what remains just as useless or incomprehensible.

    The party begins to search the last door off the hallway, leading to another looted apartment, the ubiquitous furniture and bits of rag and bone now very familiar to them. Some of the party begin to drift into the hallway to the south that leads to the corridor of the plant men.

    A few plant men are still on hand around the intersection to the east from when the party passed through before, and the appearance of the party again gets the diminutive creatures agitated. With hisses and whispers, Willa calls most of the party back around the corner, although Mathias lingers the longest. Shefak uses the distraction to invisibly open the door and slip into the large room beyond. When Mathias finally moves back the plant men calm somewhat but remain close at hand and observant.

    Shefak finds the room is instantly recognizable as a feast hall or mess hall [Dining Room]. Several long, high tables and numerous chairs are set up as if a meal were in progress. However, many of the chairs and at least one of the tables are overturned. Oddly, the tables and chairs are crammed together as if space was limited, but all of the chairs are individual rather than being benches.

    In the hallway, Mathias opens one of his pouches, the long one that contains his chair legs, but pulls out a two-part section of rod and screws the two parts together. He opens his sack and withdraws a heavy black cloth, then fits it to the rod like a curtain or drape. Finally he makes a gesture, and the whole thing begins to float in the air without apparent support.

    Aurora messages Shefak, asking what she sees, whether she has found any food, and if there are any apparent color patterns of note.

    Shefak advances slowly through the ancient mess hall. Numerous empty trenchers and utensils are on the tabletops but also litter the floor haphazardly. More grimly, the bones of many humans or humanoids lie strewn about - some in reasonably articulated skeletons and some scattered. Most have rags of fabric clinging to them but no weapons or other devices are in sight.

    Mathias gestures and the curtain floats silently into the hall. Crouching, he moves forward, using it to screen himself from the view of the plant men - he hopes. Aurora has now noticed him and is staring at the rod, trying without success to figure out how he is sustaining it (failed Arcana check). The plant men are starting to whistle and thump and draw more of their kind, and Willa hisses at Mathias to withdraw. He pulls back and stows the curtain, shrugs and says he tried.

    Aurora relates what Shefak is telling her by message and Willa wonders whether the bones are the remains of people who died at a meal, poisoned, or whether they were herded into the room to be slain. Shefak reports back that the remains are scattered about the room, and many of the bones and skulls are smashed, suggesting violence. She grows closer to the far wall of the hall. The trenchers may once have contained food, but look like they have been empty for some time - there is no rotten debris present, just dust. Each trencher has a number of sub-compartments in it, as if carved to keep foods separate from one another. She starts to head for an open doorway in the back of the hall.

    At the open doorway, to the right, is a large dark glass plate mounted on the wall with four rivets below it. Looking at the flat glass expanse, Shefak wonders whether it might be a “vid screen”. She stands to the side, out of its “view”, and turns the four knobs at the bottom but nothing happens other than a clicking sound from the knobs themselves. There are no slots visible in which a power disc might be inserted.

    Aurora messages to Shefak to be careful about leaving tracks and getting caught despite her invisibility. Shefak looks down and sees that the floor is dusty, but covered with tracks, the main body of which move from the two doors in the north to the doorway she is next to. She doubts that her tracks would be notably different to anyone but a skilled ranger. She continues to the room beyond.

    As a small room off of the mess hall, this should logically be a kitchen, and the abundance of counters and cupboards supports this notion as well. However, it is completely lacking in other obvious features - there are no ovens to be seen, no sinks, no utensil racks. There is no furniture besides what is bolted to the floor or walls. There is no food, although much of the waste and debris on the floor may once have been organic. There is considerably less dust than other parts of the cave and many tracks abound. A few of the horn trenchers like those from the previous room lie on the counters or floor.

    Along one wall is a bench with a number of metal boxes. Each box has a dark colored glass door in the front of it. At first glance these might be mistaken for ovens, but they have neither a space for wood or coal, nor a chimney to vent smoke. Arranged beside each box are a number of square metal plates. On top of each box is a short, black cylinder. Along other walls are a number of fine metal mesh screens with a rivet below them. There are a total of eight of these. Next to each of these is a long, narrow door that opens on hinges to a small shelf-like compartment.

    Shefak doesn’t see any food or anything else of interest, and returns to the party. On her way back, Aurora wonders aloud why the plant men are so protective of the room if nothing is there. “Lots of people died there violently,” suggests Mathias, “maybe they don’t want it to happen again.”

    Shefak whispers that she is back when she gets to the party. Aurora asks her whether she opened any of the boxes or drawers, turned any of the knobs in the kitchen. She sighs and says she will go back.

    Inside each large box in the kitchen are a number of shelves spaced close together - they look like they would fit a trencher, so she tries one. It is indeed a good fit. She turns the knobs on top of each of the boxes, but when nothing happens, she carefully resets them to their original positions. Aurora asks her via message whether there is any source of power. Shefak responds that the ceiling lights are on in both rooms, mess hall and kitchen, but she doesn’t see any other source of power. All of the metal fixtures are very corroded. Aurora asks about the hinged doors and knobs on the mesh wall, but Shefak is already on her way back. She tells them that she exhausted all of the possibilities.

    Willa sends Larry first down the hall to the plant men - he was the one who healed and finally persuaded their leader to the truce. He walks slowly, hands open, speaking soothing words. A crowd of plant men presses close. They are not attacking, but are perturbed. They eventually give way in front of him. One by one the party moves down the hall. There are at least a dozen of each of the three common sizes of plant men surrounding them, as well as some more moving in and out of the doors of their hall. After all of the party has turned south at the intersection the creatures gradually withdraw.

    Thokk holds Willa’s lantern for Babshapka as he looks quickly in each of the abandoned plant man apartments [12] on the west wall. All of them are a mess of rotting vegetation and discarded plant parts. The original furniture of the ship is smashed, the mattresses shredded. Babshapka pokes around in the debris to see if there are any discarded keys, but finds none.

    There are two black-carded doors on the south wall of the corridor. These lead to looted apartments, but without signs of plant man habitation. Both have interior doors, but now so close to their home base, Babshapka ignores these.

    The party returns to the storeroom and adjoining room where they have set up camp. Eddard says it has been quiet - no incursions from plant men, lurkers, or others - just the two cleaning clockworks that tidied things and moved on. Willa repeats her hypothesis that the lurkers can’t open locked doors and that the truce with the plant men seems to have held. As she smells the fresh mule apples in the storeroom, she asks whether giving them to the plant men, rather than waiting for a cleaning clockwork to haul them away, would be a good peace offering. Larry, who saw the “mulch room”, agrees, and collects all the droppings and places them outside in the hall to the north.

    Aurora fills in Eddard on the parts of the ship that they have now seen, and asks his opinion on moving the mules. The warhorse ponders a bit. He had said before that a location farther from the plant men would be better. Now that he has learned of the doppelgangers, he is not so sure. So long as the truce with the plant men holds, it may be better to be here, in the shadow of their territory and protected by their influence, rather than in the wilder parts of the ship where other monsters roam. He agrees that the mules should stay here for now, unless and until the party finds rooms that could be made more secure (like a lock of a higher color than black) or until the plant men break the peace.

    The party then discusses who should head out on the next expedition - continuing to look for keys, perhaps going after the two security clockworks in the room that Shefak found. But this discussion hinges on who is healed or not. Larry heals Thokk with two different spells (Larry to 2/2/1). Aurora casts mage armor on Shefak (Aurora at 1/3/3; armor lasts until 1am). After this, it is agreed that they will rest for an hour [allowing anyone who wants to spend hit dice on heals to do so], as well as have a chance for a meal. Upon learning that the plan is to rest for an hour, Mathias recasts his ice armor.

    (5:10pm) [start short rest]
    Mathias eats his own food.
    Now that they have passed 24 hours at temperatures well above freezing, Willa cuts back on the grain rations for the mules at Eddard’s suggestion. Babshapka does not need food for the time being, due to his continual use of his ioun stone.

    [ 7 human rations used; 50 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used (no forage); 11.5 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 18 pounds mineral coal remaining]

    After eating, Willa watches the north door and Larry the east. Babshapka sets up in the doorway between rooms, with his bow out, ready to go either way. Willa lectures Thokk about using the time to rest and clean and dress his wounds rather than just talking and swinging his sword about and “helping” her keep watch.

    Thokk says he hears something in the hall - a second later, the north door slides open to reveal a security clockwork.

    Babshapka draws back on his bow. Willa holds her greatsword in front of her and uses her elbow to press the door panel next to the door. As the door closes, one of the tentacles from the clockwork slides inside the doorway. The door closes on it, pauses, and opens again. [Decidedly unlike the other apartment, whose door crushed a chair - either the tentacle is much stronger than a chair, this door works differently, or both].

    Surprise Round (party surprises clockwork)
    As the door opens again, the clockwork moves into the room. Willa immediately attacks it, although her first attack is blocked by an arm (one hit, 9 points damage).

    Thokk is right next to her, and hits it twice (two hits, 20 damage total, its force shield is now down).

    From across the room, Aurora shoots off a firebolt (13 damage).

    Babshapka shoots two arrows, but they glance off the rounded metal body.

    Mathias leaps to his feat. Waves of force roll forth from his hands and explode against the metal skin of the clockwork (2 hits, 14 points total).

    Shefak, the last of them in the northern room, runs to warn those in the south.

    Round 1
    Umbra moves from the southern storeroom to the northern room. Seeing the clockwork, she lets fly with five dark bolts (now at 2/3/0).

    Thokk enrages (three left) and hits twice (23 damage).

    Shefak uses a ki point to deal a flurry of blows - three of her four attacks hit, but the clockwork proves resistant to being knocked over.

    Eddard presses his nose to the door panel, shutting him, Larry, and the mules in the southern room, away from the combat.

    Babshapka shoots two more arrows - these enter the body of the clockwork through holes that the others have rent. (two hits, 21 damage)

    With two more blasts of force (17 damage), Mathias has battered the clockwork to bits. It has been destroyed. [The party was able to unload more than 150 points on it before its initiative came up]. Willa checks the hall as Babshapka retrieves his arrows.

    “Well, that was easy enough,” says Mathias. “I don’t know why you all were so hesitant to go after the two in the other room.”

    “Not all o’ ‘em be so easy,” responds Willa. “‘specially when t’ey drops ‘alf ther party t’ sleep wit’ a single flask.”

    Mathias shrugs, unimpressed. “Check it for cards,” he says. “I want my back rub.”

    “Sorry, wrong room,” says Willa. “T’is one ‘twaren’t part o’ are bet.”

    [Tyrius and Larry are 20 minutes into their short rest. All of the rest of the party have spoiled theirs and will need to start over.]

    Aurora takes out her tools and begins leisurely disassembling the clockwork. The power disc, and the frame housing it, are both intact. She extracts the disc easily, but it is only charged to “one”. As Aurora begins to work, Willa starts her ioun stone revolving, just in case.

    The retort in the head is intact, but it lacks the “squeeze” trigger or even the handle that hers has. Likewise it has no slot for a power disc, but is connected directly to the internal power disc frame. Similarly the metal wand in the chest lacks both an independent power source and a trigger - she could pull these out, but does not know how she would be able to use them.

    In addition to what she has previously looked for, Aurora is now on the hunt for anything that might be used for scrying, or in the alien parlance, a “vid-screen”. However, she finds no such flat surface.

    The compartment of flasks inside the clockwork is intact, even if the launch mechanism is bent and inoperable. Aurora recovers a full complement; three blue, and one each of black, red, and green.

    There is no sign of any colored cards.

    What she recognizes as the atmospheric analyzer has been smashed. There is another object inside she does not recognize from the previous one - a short metal tube located near its head. It has a wire mesh grill on one end. Mathias opines that it is “a reproductive organ”. Aurora is able to slide it smoothly from the body of the clockwork, although it is connected by the waxed wires to the frame of the power disc. She doesn’t see any buttons or controls.

    When Aurora replaces the power disc in the frame, the tube emits a very high-pitched whining sound, which spooks the mules. Aurora tries to adjust it, but the sound continues unabated. Andy kicks the wall. Finally Aurora is able to disconnect the tube from the power source and the sound ceases. The tube she stores on the mules, the power disc she takes, the stopperless flasks she divides up with Willa.

    Current tally of stopperless flasks:
    Aurora: 2 blue, 1 black, 1 green
    Willa: 3 blue, 1 black, 1 green, 1 red

    Tyrius and Larry have finished their short rest.
    [Larry uses three HD and gains back 22 hp. He is at 38/56. After natural recovery at 3/3/1]
    [Tyrius uses three HD and gains back 18hp. He is at 35/49, and for spells he has 2/2]

    Umbra’s armor of shadows ends. She does not renew it, as she is low on first level spells [1/3/0] and plans to remain behind in the storeroom for some time even if the others set out.

    The rest of the party finishes their short rest.
    [This is Larry and Mathias’ second short rest of Day 2, but the third short rest for everyone else]
    [Thokk uses two hit dice, and with healing from Tyrius is back to full]
    [Umbra uses three hit dice and heals 19. She is at 25/38 and 0/3/0]
    [Aurora uses arcane recovery to be at 4/3/3 (her full complement); she was already at 38/38]
    Mathias decides to lighten his load a bit by leaving some of his rations in the storeroom.

    It is decided that the main party will leave through the north door, while Tyrius, Larry, and Umbra will remain behind with Eddard and the mules. The “away team” is considered strong enough to handle the two security clockworks, while the others will remain in reserve in case healing or support is needed later. As the others leave, Tyrius begins to drag the remains of the defeated security clockwork into the table room [where the three lurkers hang in wait].
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:52 am  
    Post 174: Backstory for 'Mathias' V

    Post 174: Backstory for 'Mathias' V

    Still watching the windows, Leezar backed slowly to an open doorway, passed through and shut the heavy oaken door closed behind him. The room was pitch black and smelled of death and decay. Leezar fumbled in his pack and removed flint, steel, cotton, and a tarred torch. In half a minute he had the torch blazing and could see the room. Seven corpses and an upturned cauldron lay in the room. The corpses were not long dead - several weeks to a few months - but had been picked clean by rats and insects, and so were now just black robes, gnawed bones, and hair. Leezar knelt by the one with the longest, whitest hair. When he touched the hair itself all of the memories of the crones came back, and he gasped, swooned, and nearly passed out from the sudden pain of experiencing each of their deaths simultaneously. There was more than the memories he had experienced on the ship, though - there was a new, burning memory, of the moment of their deaths.

    [Note: the following is originally from Post 76]
    Babshapka is lifted through the trapdoor by Thokk, climbing silently into the room. There are two doors in the room, and from the nearer one comes the sounds of several voices united in chant. He calls softly down the trapdoor about the bottles and jars, and Aurora insists on being the next one through, though her ascent is not nearly as silent as his was.

    Many of the jars have labels, and she can read in Suel things like “Eye of Newt," "Hair of Bat," "Snail hearts," and "Maresweat." She sends Charlotte under the near door, and the spider reports a small chamber with a cauldron in the center, and several human figures chanting around it and stirring. Aurora recalls her, then tries to send her under the far door, but the frame is too well fitted and the spider cannot squeeze through.

    Aurora whispers a plan to Babshapka. They empty their packs of oil flasks, and stand with two in each hand. Babshapka is to kick open the door and toss in his flasks, and then Aurora will throw hers in followed by a [i]fireball

    Babshapka strides forward and kicks boldly at the door - but it opens out, not in, and his blow lands with a resounding thud. He looks over at Aurora, halfway through her spell and even now surrounded by a red, glowing light that is building in intensity. Babhapka turns and jumps down through the trapdoor.

    Aurora rushes forward, turns the handle, and pulls open the door. Through the darkness of the room (K56) she can just barely see green-glowing wisps bubbling up from a huge black kettle. Electric sounds of cackling suddenly strike, sending a shudder through her as she retreats back into the potion room. Fully seven crones dressed in black robes turn to face her as she lets fly with her fireball, aiming for the far wall of their chamber.

    A brilliant red spark flies from Aurora, impacting the wall. A half-second later there is a powerful explosion, filling the small room with fire. The robes of the women are instantly ablaze, the kettle knocked over by the concussive force. A shock wave followed by gouts of flame shoots out into the potions room, engulfing Aurora in fire. The tables behind her collapse, and the windows explode out in a shower of glass shards that fall to the courtyard below. Aurora is bowled over, but fortunately lands on top of the oil flasks in her hands and they do not ignite. The party later reports that flames even shot halfway down into the closet through the trapdoor.

    Several moments later, Aurora is the first to her feet, before any of the crones. All about her are broken glassware and mingling liquids pooling on the floor. The labels have been singed or completely burnt away. In the chamber beyond lie seven bodies, none moving. Their upper halves smolder, while their lower halves are soaking in whatever liquid was in the kettle. Beyond where the kettle stood is a low stone pedestal, and on that sits open a thick leather-bound book. Even now flames are slowly consuming its parchment pages. “No!” shouts Aurora, and she hobbles into the room, slams the tome shut to extinguish the flames. When she opens it again half the pages, reduced to ash, fall out.

    Aurora is still standing, looking dejectedly at the book, as the rest of the party ascends to the room. When she finally regains her composure, she tells them to wait while she casts a detect magic ritual. The intermingling liquids on the floor are magic - or were, though they are rapidly losing potency, and the book she holds is obviously a spellbook, but she finds no other foreign sources of arcane power in the room, not even the wicked-looking curved daggers that Babshapka is liberating from the bodies of the crones.[/i]

    The memory now completely played out, Leezar staggered to his feet and set the cauldron aright. He disarticulated the bones of all the seven women, rearranged them around the cauldron into the unholy symbol of Graz’zt. Was it his imagination, or did the room actually get darker when he was done?

    “So, now I know the people that did this,” he said to himself. “A half-elf wizard, her wood-elf guard, some others. I suppose the next thing is to find them and take my master’s revenge.”

    “Revenge?” said a voice in the dark, and Leezar jumped in spite of himself. “No, your master has something far more important in mind. These servants were of minor and limited use to the Dark Prince. The wizard that slew them, Aurora, is more powerful then they ever were and is easily tempted by lust besides. Your mission is to find her, yes, but not for revenge. You are to turn her to the service of your master.”

    “I understand,” says Leezar, and he nods in the dark.

    “Take the crone’s hair. Let it be a token of Graz’zt’s favor.”

    “As you command.”

    Leezar grabbed the skull he had touched before, and the hair needed little persuasion to quit the rotting skin and bone. He tied it in a knot and put that in a bag, then waited to leave the castle until well after it was light and the owls gone.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
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    Tue Jun 29, 2021 8:10 am  
    Post 175: Two clockworks at once?

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our ninth Barrier Peaks session, was 26 May, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 175: Two clockworks at once?
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    [DM's Note: This was definitely a difficult fight for the party, with three of them being taken out in the first round! The ability of the Security Robots to generate a force shield that can absorb damage each round is effectively 20 points of regeneration. To counteract this, the party needed effects that would continue to do damage each round, and they found them with the giant arrows and Mathias' witch bolt. Concentration is a hugely important mechanic in 5E. During the fight itself I looked some things up quickly and ruled that Mathias could maintain concentration on his spell even while paralyzed, allowing him to remain in the fight much longer. However, afterwards I learned that paralyzation breaks Concentration, RAW. See:]

    As the away team works their way out and around the hallway, Tyrius exits the storeroom. He has not gone more than a few steps outside the door when the ceiling falls! This time he is ready, though. He lurches heavily to the side and the lurker drops on, and envelops, the destroyed clockwork while he remains free. Tyrius shouts for aid.

    In the hall beyond the table room, the party, moving quietly, can barely hear Tyrius’ call for aid. “Oh, for Balor’s sake!” says Mathias. It is not clear whether he is mis-pronouncing Pelor, or deliberately invoking some other god.

    Round One
    Willa enters the more northerly of the two doors on the east of the table room. As she draws her sword and strides through the doorway, a second lurker drops from the ceiling, enveloping her! (Damage 7).

    Umbra moves to the doorway of the storeroom. She sees two lurkers on the floor - both attempting to suffocate prey. She shoots three dark bolts at the closer one (11 damage to the one with the clockwork). Umbra at 0/3/0.

    Eddard moves to the doorway between the storeroom and table room to block anything from entering and attacking the mules.

    Babshapka, still in the outer hallway, shoots two arrows at the one smothering Willa. One of the shafts manages to pierce the tough hide of the creature (damage 12).

    From the hallway doorway, Mathias sends forth two blasts of force on the one with Willa (one hit, 5 damage).

    Larry squeezes out the storeroom door by walking under Eddard and between his front legs. He rakes his thorn whip across the lurker still holding the clockwork (5 damage).

    Aurora stands just behind Mathias in the hallway doorway but does not enter the table room. She takes a second to assess both lurkers, then shoots a firebolt at the more distant one that appears more wounded (4 damage).

    With the northern doorway blocked by comrades, Thokk and Shefak head for the southern doorway, open it, and run inside. Immediately the ceiling there falls as well! A third lurker (or fourth counting the one that was already dead) glides down but misses Thokk and Shefak and lands lightly on the floor. Ignoring it, Thokk continues moving until he reaches the one that has Willa. “No one eat Thokk’s warband!” he yells as he chops at the creature (one hit, 8 damage).

    Tyrius beats on the clockwork lurker with his war hammer (one hit, 8 damage).

    The lurker that has Willa in its grasp tries to tighten its hold, but her magical plate armor resists its crushing strength.

    Round Two
    The lurker that had enveloped the clockwork recognizes that its prey is not edible. It detaches, glides along the floor, and attempts to leave the area, but not before Tyrius takes another swing (opportunity attack, hit for 9 damage). The one squeezing Willa is unable to squeeze hard enough. The one that had tried to drop on Shefak and Thokk attempts to glide away but is sliced by Thokk (opportunity attack, hit for 11 damage).

    Tyrius is able to keep up with the retreating lurker as it glides across the ground, and he batters at it (one hit, 9 points). Aurora continues to target it with her spells as well (firebolt hits for 12 damage).

    Babshapka shoots through the doorway at the lurker restraining Willa (two hits, 16 damage). Larry uses his whip on that one as well, but this round he cannot break through its thick hide. Mathias continues his force attacks (two hits, 16 damage).

    Thokk stabs his sword through the hide of one of the creatures many times, yelling “Thokk free his evil advisor!” as he does so (one hit for 12 damage kills the lurker - one hit does 11 damage to Willa). Willa shrugs off the last of the lurker’s embrace. “Thanks, Thokk,” she says, but the sarcasm in her voice is lost on the beaming barbarian. She grabs her sword from the floor and launches herself at the one that attacked Thokk (one hit, 7 damage).

    Shefak leaps, slides across the surface of the table, and lands next to the lurker that is trying to flee Tyrius. She punches it, then does a spinning kick that knocks it into the wall, killing it. (Ki point, Flurry of blows, four attacks, two hits, 14 damage, fails save to get pushed back, knocked into wall, 4 more damage).

    Round Three
    Shefak turns, runs and jumps over the table, and lands with a kick to the last remaining lurker, then follows that up with two strikes of her glowing fists. (Ki point, Flurry of blows, 4 attacks, 3 hits, 23 damage).

    Thokk turns and attacks the one remaining (2 hits, 19 damage), and Babshapka steps into the room to fire a last round of arrows at it (one hit, 11 damage). The last lurker is dead.

    “T’at be ther fifth one o’ yon creatures in t’is cave!” exclaims Willa. “‘ow many more could thar be?”

    “If they are as good at ambushing plant men as they are at attacking us, lots,” reasons Babshapka as he goes about collecting his arrows.

    “They didnae eat their dead fellow…” says Larry, “so they nae be cannibals, an’ p’raps nae scavengers - jus’ ambushers wha’ take live prey.”

    “War t’ey turnin’ tail fer real?” asks Willa, incredulous at the one that tried to flee.

    “Och, aye,” affirms the dwarf. “Most predators wha’ ambush hae no stomach fer a fair fight.”

    “Well, they can’t get into keyed doors, but seem to have no problem with these,” Tyrius indicates the outer doors of the table room, which were shut when he entered the room. “Why did they set up their ambush in this room, and why so many of them?’

    “Maybe they can smell the mules?” offers Babshapka, and Larry nods his agreement.

    “How long would it take you to look for cards?” asks Aurora of Larry.

    “Wat, en their entrails?” he responds. “Ten, fifteen minutes each.”

    Aurora brings Buckbeak out of his pocket dimension for the first time since they entered the ship, and tells him to wait here - if Larry doesn’t find any cards, he is to look for Aurora around the clockwork room to which they are headed and land on her shoulder. If Larry does find a card, he is to come get Aurora and circle her head. The hawk screeches its understanding and Larry nods.

    Those in the party that are off to face the clockworks continue down the hall. Larry closes the doors of the table room and then starts dissecting the intestines of the creatures. Tyrius and Umbra move a divan to block the northern door of the resting room and then settle in to wait for the party’s return.

    As the away team passes the apartments in the hallway on the way to the clockworks, they go in each to check their exterior walls. They searched the rooms themselves before, but did not note the curvature of the wall on Willa’s sketch maps.

    Outside the door of the clockworks, Willa and Aurora each take out a black stopperless flask. Aurora shows Willa how to ready it before throwing. [Willa now has a -3 on the chart to use the device] They retreat down the hall, while invisible Shefak peeks in the room to confirm that there are still two security clockworks inside. When she closes the door and tells the team that it is a go, they whisper the finishing touches on their plan. There is some debate on whether they should close the door to protect themselves from an explosion, or leave it open in case the blast damages the door to the point it can’t be opened again. They finally decide that they will leave it open. Willa sets her ioun stone in rotation about her head in anticipation of sleeping gas and sets her exploding flask on a three second delay.

    The plan: Thokk will open the door. Willa will throw the flask, attempting to land it between the two clockworks. Everyone will flatten themselves against the near wall, away from the doorway. After the explosion, they will rush the room. Thokk will rage and run in first so that everyone has advantage on his target. After Thokk enters, Willa and Shefak will converge in melee on whichever of the two clockworks Thokk has selected. The missile troops will remain in the hallway and acquire targets. Aurora in particular will have a mage hand going with a readied action to carry away any flasks that appear, and will also be looking for any unkeyed doors to open so as to dispose of clockwork-shot flasks in other rooms.

    Surprise Round; Party’s chosen initiative order
    Willa nods to Thokk and he opens the door. She depresses the plunger of the flask, twists it halfway, depresses it again, and throws. (Roll 2-3= 0; Circle. 5-3 = 2; Finish. To-hit roll (dex, no proficiency) 11+3 = 14). The flask lands precisely between the two clockworks. Willa loudly counts “two...t’ree…” as the party flattens themselves against the wall. On “t’ree” there is an explosion and a blast of concussive force, but nothing flies out the door. [Willa has now successfully used a flask (-2), been instructed in its use (-2), and has seen a flask in use (-1), so she will have a -5 in the future. She will be able to use the flask now without having to roll on the table because any roll will result in success.]

    [The black flask does 8 points of damage to the force shield of each clockwork. They are immune to both its stunning and deafening effects]

    Thokk enrages and runs into the room. There are two clockworks; he chooses to attack the one on his right, to keep the other one on his shield side while he fights. He hits the clockwork twice; his first hit brings down its force shield (15 points, total 23 to shield), his second dents its metal body (14 points, total 17 to body).

    Willa is right behind Thokk. The bins of clockwork parts that were set up on a table in the room have been upset by the blast and pieces of metal and broken cave horn are scattered about the room, but it does not appear that the clockworks themselves were damaged by the blast. Still, Thokk is scoring good hits on one of the machines, so she piles on while it is distracted by him. (Two hits, damage 30, total 47 to body).

    Shefak summons her Ki and is next through the door. She unleashes a flurry of blows against the clockwork, and thanks to Thokk’s rage, hits it all four times (26 damage, total 73 to body). With a massive kick to its head while she jerks on a tentacle, she manages to topple the creature to the ground, where it falls heavily (Dex save 5. First clockwork is prone. Melee attacks on it are now at advantage even without Thokk’s rage, but missile attacks are at disadvantage).

    From the hallway, Babshapka maneuvers so that he can see both clockworks. The plan was to take them out one at a time, but the one that the melee fighters are surrounding is now prone and a more difficult target; he is as likely to hit one of his party as the clockwork itself. He draws and fires on the undamaged one across the room. (Two hits, 13 damage is 21 total, shield down, 1 point to body).

    The stated plan was that melee fighters were to converge on one clockwork while missile troops provided support from the hall. No one thought to specify which type of fighter, missile or melee, Mathias was. He runs in the door, and when he is within a stone’s throw of the standing clockwork he shoots forth the personal lightning he used to such devastating effect on the female clockwork. (Attack hits, 3d12 damage, doubled for clockwork vulnerability to electricity). Electricity arcs through the body of the machine.

    Aurora has been waiting, mage hand at the ready, but no flask has yet appeared from their foes. From the doorway, she can see two pressure-plated doors out of the room - but they are both too distant for her spell to reach. “Open one of the doors!” she screeches to those in the room.

    Round One
    Mathias holds his position, concentrating on keeping his clockwork engulfed in lightning. (6 points of damage, doubled to 12). “We got this!” he yells encouragingly.

    With a loud hum and a flash of blue force, the prone and legless clockwork re-establishes its force shield and then somehow rights itself and levitates to an upright position without using its hands. A panel opens in its torso, its “ovipositor” emerges, and a familiar blue flask is ejected at its base. “Sleep gas!” shouts Aurora, and then uses her mage hand to pick up the flask before it can detonate. The far corner of the room is too far for her hand to travel, but it flies to 30 feet away from her and then tosses the flask into the corner, at which point it promptly explodes, covering about a quarter of the room in the thick, blue gas. No party members are in the immediate vicinity thanks to her readied action.

    The second clockwork also brings its force shield back online, then opens a large panel on its face. The glass retort emerges with a shower of golden sparks. It swivels until it finds three of the four people in the room in the conical area of effect, and then unleashes a paralysis beam. Shefak and Mathias are caught squarely in the beam and can’t move at all. Willa is hit at the edge and feels her muscles go numb, but thinks she will be able to pull out of it much sooner than the last time (Willa makes her save and is paralyzed for 4 rounds, Mathias and Shefak fail their saves and will be out for many minutes).

    Seeing three of the party suddenly incapacitated, Babshapka thinks he will need more than arrows. He drops his bow and flips open the hand mirror he had ready on his belt, immediately depressing the thumb trigger. (Roll 10-3 = 7; Charge Wasted) A beam blasts out and hits the ground at his feet. The metal of the floor buckles and bends, with bubbles and stress cracks appearing. Babshapka forces himself to calm down and uses the knob to flip on the targeting screen, moves the mirror until he can see the clockwork in the crosshairs on the screen. (Roll 3-3 = 0; Circle. 10-3 = 7; Triangle. 8-3 = 5; Start. 1-3 = 1; Circle. 6-3 = 3; Finish). It takes longer than he wants, but when he sees the crosshairs centered, he presses the trigger, and the mirror shoots forth its ray. (DC13 dex save failed by clockwork, 5d6 damage = 15.) The clockwork is hit with a solid blast from the mirror and its force shield flickers but remains up. [Babshapka has now used the mirror (-2), been instructed in its use (-2), and has seen it in use by another (-1), so he will have a -5 in the future. He will be able to use the mirror now without having to roll on the table because any roll will result in success]

    Thokk, seeing not only his evil advisor but the kicking woman and the funny newcomer taken out as well, is confused and further enraged. He decides to leave off attacking the clockwork he was hitting and attack the other one, before it can paralyze more of his friends. Forgoing his shield-form, he grabs his longsword with both hands and attacks recklessly. (One hit, 13 damage). His wild swings bring down the force shield again, and do a bit more damage to the creature’s body. Electricity from Mathias’ spell, still flowing between the paralyzed man and the clockwork, plays along the blade of Thokk’s sunsword, but does not reach the hilt. Thokk ignores the yelling sounds coming from Aurora as the blue gas cloud expands in the room.

    Desperate to end this fight, Aurora pulls out her wand of polymorph, shoots a beam at the clockwork Thokk left to his unguarded back, and tries to turn it into a sheep. The beam hits it squarely, but has no effect (Clockwork saves, wand to 19 charges). She tries to remember whether the wand can affect non-living things and thinks she remembers it can affect golems.

    Round Two
    Babshapka, now with more confidence, adjusts the range on the mirror and holds it forth against the paralyzing clockwork. He fires twice (Clockwork fails both Dex saves, 21 + 24 = 45 points damage. The mirror’s power disc is now at zero). The mirror emits a faint pinging sound, the screen display fades, and Babshapka moves out of the doorway into the cover of the hall as he reaches for his bow.

    With its grasping metal hands, the paralyzing clockwork reaches forth and grabs both Mathias and Shefak. It lifts their bodies into the air with ease, and then rolls forward, reaching the doorway and passing out into the hall. Thokk bellows at it and scores a hit as it retreats (opportunity attack, hit for 9 points), but this just lands on its re-established force shield.

    The other clockwork, to Thokk’s rear, opens a huge chest plate. A long metal wand emerges and Willa, unable to move, silently screams a warning to Thokk to turn around. Two blasts of light emerge and strike Thokk in the back (attack with advantage due to Thokk’s reckless attack, both shots hit, total 20 points radiant damage, no reduction from rage).

    Mathias may be paralyzed, but that doesn’t stop his mind from working. He wills his electricity to continue coursing through the clockwork even as it is hauling him away [Mathias is incapacitated and cannot take actions, but fortunately for all of them the DM misrules that maintaining Concentration while paralyzed is possible, 4 points electricity is doubled to 8]

    Thokk staggers forward from the laser blasts to his back. He hopes his friends in the hall can save Mathias and Shefak - but more than that he wants revenge on the clockwork that just hit him. He turns and brings his sword down hard, managing to collapse its force shield again (two hits, 25 damage, 20 to force shield, 5 to body, 78 total to body).

    Aurora gives way rather than be run over by the retreating clockwork wheeling her friends rapidly down the hall. She fires four magic missiles after it (11 damage, Aurora to 4/2/2).

    Round Three
    An enraged Thokk curses and growls and continues to strike at the one clockwork left in the room (one hit, 10 damage, 88 total to body)

    Mathias smiles inwardly as he shoots yet more lightning into the clockwork in the hall (7 points doubled is 14). Smoke emerges from the open panel in its face and it slowly wheels to a halt. Mathias and Shefak are still suspended by its hands.

    Willa is still struggling - she can begin to feel her limbs and almost move them...the blue gas has filled nearly half the room, and is threatening to envelop Thokk, who is ignoring it.

    The remaining clockwork in the room brings up its force shield again, then fires off two more blasts of radiant energy at Thokk, but he blocks them with his shield.

    With the threat in the hall resolved, Aurora steps back into the doorway, wand in hand. She has an idea...clockwork to sheep may be too great a change, but what about clockwork to clockwork? She fires the wand at the clockwork battling Thokk, trying to imagine it turning into one of the cleaning automatons...and it does! (Polymorph wand to 18 charges, clockwork fails save).

    The new cleaning clockwork shudders and shakes. The air is filled with the scent of oil and disappointment. “Don’t attack it!” yells Aurora.

    Round Four
    Thokk finally notices the expanding gas cloud and remembers the other clockwork that made him sleep. He grabs Willa, and lifts her taut form in the air to carry her out of the room.

    “No, Thokk!” calls Aurora. “She has her stone!” Indeed, the ioun stone is still circling Willa’s rigid body. “Bring the clockwork!”

    Thokk lets go of Willa and grabs the cleaning clockwork in a bear hug and lifts it off of the ground. It struggles against his grasp but cannot break free (grapple attack - contested athletics check). He staggers to the door with it fighting all the way. Aurora explains to him and Babshapka that if they attack the clockwork, it will revert to its normal form, so they have to keep track of it until the rest of the party is no longer paralyzed. When they attack it, they will need to all attack it at once so as to bring it down quickly even after it changes back.

    5e polymorph wrote:

    The target assumes the Hit Points of its new form. The transformation lasts for the Duration of the spell, or until the target drops to 0 Hit Points or dies. When it reverts to its normal form, the creature returns to the number of Hit Points it had before it transformed. If it reverts as a result of Dropping to 0 Hit Points, any excess damage carries over to its normal form.

    In the hallway, the clockwork continues to struggle against Thokk’s grasp. It knees him in the groin and he gasps in pain and drops it. It rights itself, clumps quickly into the room, and turns a knob on the desk. There is a rush of air, and the blue gas begins to be sucked into the ventilation system as the room clears.

    Round Five
    With a hoarse shout, Willa slumps and then stands, finally able to move. “Thank ther Great Sea Cow o’ ther South!” she exclaims, as she staggers over to the wall to get her balance. She presses the door panel, and the east door opens. The room beyond is full of tables, workbenches, and bins of parts and tools. A dozen security clockworks, in various stages of disrepair and none moving, lay on the tables and benches. A single cleaning clockwork stands over one, using tools to open a chest panel on one of the others, a complicated gear mechanism in one hand.

    Thokk stands up in the hall and moves angrily back into the room, sword in hand. “Not yet!” calls Aurora. “We need to get everyone back and ready!”

    Thokk snorts. “Evil advisor ready. That enough!” He strides over to the cleaning clockwork, who is now busily gathering the scattered parts on the floor and organizing them back into the bins. He raises his sword and brings it down twice on the unsuspecting clockwork (one hit, 16 damage).

    Aurora sighs and launches a firebolt. (Hit, 8 damage, total 24).

    Babshapka puts a giant arrow to his bow, but waits for the clockwork’s transformation back to the security version.

    Round Six
    Thokk continues to pound on the defenseless clockwork (two hits, 23 damage, total 47).

    Willa closes the door on the east wall, and walks with increasing control to the door on the south wall.

    “Uh, Willa, we all need to be ready when this thing turns,” says Aurora.

    “It hain’t turned yet,” says Willa, and presses the panel. The door opens on some sort of supply closet, filled with shelves of machine parts. She leaves the door open and turns to face the center of the room.

    Aurora groans and launches another firebolt (hit, 12 damage, total 59).

    Babshapka checks the halls to either side, making sure nothing is coming and Mathias and Shefak are alright although still paralyzed, and keeps his giant arrow nocked.

    The clockwork beeps and starts a loud alarm call, sounding much like the doors when an incorrect card is used. It heads rapidly for the door, legs pumping awkwardly but furiously. Thokk takes a parting shot (opportunity attack hits, damage 14, total 73).

    Round Seven
    The clockwork moves quickly past Babshapka and Aurora - it is fast! As it threatens to turn the corner, Babshapka fires off one of his giant killer arrows, sending it through a hole Thokk rent in the body. (Damage 14, total 87). There is the sound of gears grinding as it staggers to halt, shudders, and begins to change its form back into that of security clockwork (shield up, total 95 to body retained from before). Interestingly, Babshapka’s giant arrow remains piercing a hole in its body even as it transforms. It starts forward down the hall again.

    “Get out here!” yells Aurora to Thokk and Willa, and follows up her admonition with a firebolt (16 damage, all to force shield). As Thokk and Willa pass her, Aurora ducks back into the room, and out of the line of sight of the clockwork.

    Round Eight
    Thokk and Willa catch up to the clockwork just after it has rounded the corner to the west. Babshapka is behind them, and his arrows fly faster than they can run. Two more giant killer arrows, for a total of three, now protrude from its chassis. Thokk catches up to it and hits it twice (20 damage). Willa is farther behind.

    The clockwork lashes out at Thokk with its hands of flexible metal. He beats one off, but the other grabs him and lifts him off of the ground (one successful grapple attack not beaten by Thokk's Athletics]. Thokk is impressed - he doesn’t think even his mighty muscles could lift the machine one-handed!

    Round Nine
    While one hand restrains Thokk, the other attempts to further secure him, and the tentacles lash at him. The clockwork wheels itself rapidly down the hall, and turns the corner out of sight of Willa and Babshapka. However, Thokk can see sparks flying out of the machine around the shafts of the arrows (11 points this round of giant arrows continuing to do damage). Shortly after it turns the corner, the clockwork rolls to a halt and the hand slowly lowers Thokk to the ground. The machine is now just a smoking ruin.

    [DM’s Note: This facility has functioning video cameras that archive records here and transmit them to the security HQ. Thus, the party’s fight against the two security robots was recorded and analyzed. The repair robot working in the next room will upgrade the AC of security robots taking into account the means the party used to attack, at a +1 for each robot the party is on record as defeating. The security robots had an AC of 11 at the start of the module. All wandering security robots now encountered will be AC13 and resistant to fire damage.]

    Over the next several minutes Thokk and Willa drag both clockworks, as well as Shefak and Mathias, into the room and close the door. Babshapka retrieves the shafts of his giant killer arrows from one of the clockworks. The heads have broken off, as they were designed to do, and wreaked havoc among the internal gearing systems. He then begins to patrol the hallway outside the room, moving from one corner to the other.

    Buckbeak appears, alighting on Aurora’s shoulder (which indicates Larry did not find any cards in the lurker innards).

    Aurora and Willa discuss the fact that the security clockworks seemed to want to take captured prisoners somewhere, and that that place, wherever it might be, would be more likely than anywhere else on the ship to have food, fuel, power discs, and cards. They agree that should the opportunity present itself again, they may want to allow themselves, or at least one of their number, to be captured, and have the rest follow the clockworks back to their base. When they explain this to Thokk, he agrees to the plan only on the assumption that wherever their “lair” is, there will be more than two of the creatures to fight, since just two was not a challenge enough for him.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 1061
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    Tue Jul 06, 2021 2:02 pm  
    Post 176: Backstory for 'Mathias' VI

    Post 176: Backstory for 'Mathias' VI


    The hair of the crone proved a potent token indeed. For one thing, when Leezar carried it on his person, he found he could use it as an arcane focus for his spells. No longer would he need to carry water, a lightning-struck twig, bat fur, coal, and a feather for his various hexes. Even more importantly, once per night at midnight, he could command the hair to “show me your killer” and toss it in the air. It would unerringly land in a straight line, pointing the way for his next day’s travel.

    It took him several weeks to cross the Little Hills, Sterich, and Geoff, following the hair each night. One fly spell took him more than two miles in ten minutes. A second spell could have taken him just as far, but in practice he spent the last few minutes searching for a safe place to rest, for he would have to camp for an hour or more before regaining the power he needed to do the same again. He flew in short bursts, for all the night, covering some thirty or forty miles a night, straight in the direction of Aurora, and easily crossing barriers like rivers, mires, and mountains. He slept through the days. His night travels were aided by his invocation of Fiend's Sight.

    When he reached northern Geoff, he received another communication. This time he was told to seek out a boatman who lived on the Isle of Rhȗn. As he neared the lake, he learned more. The Island was sacred to the Old Flan Gods and shrouded in mist that even his Fiend's Sight would not penetrate, for it was the center of power of a conclave of Druids. However, the boatman, whose duty it was to ferry those granted audience with the Druids to the island and back, was secretly a worshiper of Graz’zt. He had been a worshiper of the Old Gods in his youth, and a druid as well, but when the hierarchy rejected him as unworthy for further promotion he was devastated, though they kept him on as a servant. In bitterness and despair his thoughts turned dark, and Graz’zt was happy to add him as a follower and satisfy his ego in other ways.

    Leezar met with the fallen druid in a small village at the edge of the lake. The man explained that the party had indeed passed through here some two weeks ago. He had overheard them speaking with one of the Druids about traveling to the Unoerthly Cave. They had asked for assistance from the druids in finding the cave, and had not been entirely happy with what the druids had offered. Leezar was pleased. The hair of the crone could be used to find the party easily, but he now understood that they were deep in remote and frozen mountains. It would be exceedingly suspicious for him to just show up when they had seen no one in weeks. They were unlikely to let him join the party. But if he could tell them that he had been sent by the Druids to aid them…

    The next day he set out for the cave, traveling higher and higher into the mountains, until the air grew thin and it was below freezing even at mid-day. Eventually he found the opening of the cave, but inside was a curious set of metal doors. Nothing he could do would open the doors - no spell, no object, no force. Even summoning his pact weapon in a myriad of forms, nothing parted the supernaturally hard metal doors. He made his camp and waited - the hair told him that they were within. He knew better than to pray for aid or wisdom. He had learned early on that his role was to remain receptive and do what the demonic voices bid of him, not ask them for help. Asking for help was a sign of weakness and failure in the eyes of Graz’zt.

    That night, well after sunset, the sky suddenly grew light for the briefest of moments. A ray of sunshine entered the cave and shone upon the doors. They parted with a brief mechanical whirring and Leezar entered. The inside was huge and strange, with halls and rooms all of metal. The doors closed resoundingly behind him. Now he had only to find the party...

    (Once Leezar finds the party, he levels to 6th):

    Leezarius Angelicus Temtonio, aka "Leezar", aka "Mathias"
    New abilities in bold.

    Sixth Level Warlock / Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 10 (0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 13 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 9 (-1) Cha 18 (+4)
    Hp 38, Languages Common, Velondi
    Skills: Deception, History, Investigation, Persuasion
    Otherworldly Patron - Dark Prince Graz'zt
    Cantrips (3): Blade Ward, Eldritch Blast, Mage Hand,
    Spells (7) - all cast at level 3): Burning Hands, Witch Bolt, Armor of Agathys, Darkness, Dispel Magic, Fly, Hex
    Invocations (3): Thirsting Blade, One With Shadows, Fiend's Sight
    Pact Boon: Pact of the Blade
    Special Ability: Saved by the Bell. Because of his work as a pit fighter and his experience taking dives, may make a Deception check to convincingly feign unconsciousness or death.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
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    Tue Jul 13, 2021 12:22 pm  
    Post 177: Go to Jail. Go directly to Jail.

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our tenth Barrier Peaks session, was 3 June, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 177: Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    Over the next several minutes Thokk and Willa drag both clockworks, as well as the paralyzed Shefak and Mathias, into the room and close the door. Babshapka retrieves the shafts of his giant killer arrows from one of the clockworks. The heads have broken off, as they were designed to do, and wreaked havoc among the internal gearing systems. He then begins to patrol the hallway outside the room, moving from one corner to the other.

    Buckbeak appears, alighting on Aurora’s shoulder (which indicates Larry did not find any cards in the lurker innards).

    Aurora and Willa discuss the fact that the security clockworks seemed to want to take captured prisoners somewhere, and that that place, wherever it might be, would be more likely than anywhere else on the ship to have food, fuel, power discs, and cards. They agree that should the opportunity present itself again, they may want to allow themselves, or at least one of their number, to be captured, and have the rest follow the clockworks back to their base. When they explain this to Thokk, he agrees to the plan only on the assumption that wherever their “lair” is, there will be more than two of the creatures to fight, since just two was not a challenge enough for him.

    When they have finished speaking, Willa puts her stone away and searches the room while Aurora moves into the next one, with the cleaning clockwork. She spends a long time watching the clockwork, attempting to determine how much time it will take to fix one of the security clockworks. She also speaks to the mechanical creature continuously, hoping to activate whatever tongues or comprehend languages ability she triggered with the first one they encountered. However, it never responds or even seems to take account of her. Furthermore, it seems to be doing little more than absent-minded puttering rather than targeted repair: it picks up and puts down a long series of parts before finally bringing one over to a clockwork, it opens and closes any number of panels before finally inserting the part, welds or solders it in a shower of sparks, then more often than not breaks the same piece off again. When it finally does leave the part installed and intact, it then proceeds to check nearly all of the broken clockworks in the room before it returns again to the trays of parts. With this “ten steps forward, nine steps back” approach it will likely take hours if not days to completely repair even one of the many clockworks in the room with it. Thokk hovers nearby, hoping the clockwork will give him an excuse to attack, and occasionally massaging his wounded manhood and his damaged pride.

    [For her attentive watching of the clockwork’s use of tools, Aurora now has a +1 on Sleight of Hand checks to open up the clockworks and extract components from them]

    Willa checks quickly through all the bins of parts in the other room but finds no cards or weapons. She moves to the desk. There are no drawers, but there are several rows of knobs as well as two screens of dark-plated glass that she thinks could be ‘vid-screens’.

    Willa moves to the supply closet and goes quickly through the parts, again looking for weapons, cards, power discs, maps, and such. However, the gears and cogs there are of no obvious function aside from somehow fitting inside the clockworks. After ten minutes she does find a black horn case, the size of a small valise. It has a simple latch mechanism and no traps that she can see. She gets out her stone before she opens it as a precaution. Inside, the case is completely lined with cave sponge except for a dozen narrow slots. Each slot is filled with a single power disc. She passes the case to Babshapka and puts away her stone.

    Babshapka withdraws a few of the discs - each of them is set to six / full. He grins in satisfaction and takes the case to Aurora. When she sees its contents she gives a whoop of excitement and exclaims “Blessed be the Scholar!” She shows Babshapka how to extract and insert discs in his mirror, her retort, and the atmospheric analyzer.

    Babshapka takes the empty power disc from the mirror and puts it in the box, swapping out for two full discs. He replaces one of these full discs in the mirror and carries another one loosely.

    With groans, Shefak and Mathias are finally able to move and they come into the parts room. Aurora is now set to leave. She proposes they destroy the cleaning clockwork so that it cannot repair any more of the clockworks they will later have to fight. “Now hold on there,” Mathias objects. “These things seem to be running the ship - what if they are the ones keeping the air flowing, or keeping the monsters in check?” Aurora has to admit that that is a possibility, and when Willa asks her how long before the security clockworks in this room will be repaired, she shrugs and says “Days?” It is decided that they will leave the clockwork to its tasks.

    Willa asks whether Aurora has searched this room and she admits she has not. Willa tells her to check the desk in the other room while she searches here.

    Willa goes through the bins and trays of parts, her searches unhindered by the clockwork. Here she does find plenty of weapons systems - many copies of the metal wand of damaging light and the paralyzing retort. However, none of them have spaces to insert power discs. Rather they have wires and cables and are set up to be run off of what Aurora said was the clockworks’ internal power supply. She finds no cards, or flasks, or discs. Willa considers taking all of the weapons, including the ones already installed, so that even if the security clockworks are repaired, they will be relatively harmless. It is a good idea in principle, but in practice she and Aurora are already overloaded and the rest of the party are at their weight limit. Taking all of the wands and retorts would mean taking on several hundred pounds of metal and glass, so it is just not practical at the moment - perhaps they can return later. She also notes that this room has a carded door to the south, but it is violet-keyed.

    Aurora enters the next room and uses her new knowledge to open up the two clockworks recently disabled by the party in the combat. In the first one, the atmospheric analyzer has been completely smashed in the fight. The compartment for the flasks is dented as well, and has several wires thrust into it and occasionally sparking. She might be able to extract the flasks, but at the risk of setting them off in the process. She decides to leave them in place. She does extract a full power disc, however, and claims it for herself. The second clockwork is more intact. Its atmospheric analyzer is broken, but she recovers a full set of flasks for Willa as well as a power disc at 5 charges, which she places in the black case. Mathias asks to carry some discs “just in case”, and she gives him two full ones from the case as well as transferring two empty ones to Thokk.

    Mathias asks whether she is sure that neither of the clockworks have cards in them, and Aurora says that it appears so. “Well, I guess I lost then,” he admits, and starts rummaging in his pack for “fey juice”, whatever that is.

    “Stow it,” says Willa. “I be on duty a’ ther moment. ‘Twill be time eno’ when next we rest.”

    [Unbeknownst to either the party or Eddard, a patrol of vegepygmies has entered the table room. They find the dead lurkers, and reflect that perhaps there are more benefits to their truce with the party than they initially realized. They resolve to trust more the wisdom of their subchiefs as they work together to carry the lurker bodies back to the mulch room one at a time.]

    Watched closely by Mathias, Aurora examines the desk. By manipulating the knobs she is able to control the airflow in the room, open and close all three of the doors without touching their panels, turn on and off and even dim and brighten the lights in the room, and turn on an alarm that she quickly silences. However, nothing that she does seems to activate the screens.

    Having exhausted all possibilities for the suite of three rooms, the party prepares to set out. Willa asks Shefak whether or not she can take them to the mess hall that she found by following the cleaning clockwork, and the monk nods.

    The way leads north by the pile of refuse in the hall and then past the lounge where they found the hidden notes. Opening a large double door with a press panel, they find a room that is instantly recognizable as a feast hall or mess hall. Several long, high tables and numerous chairs are set up as if a meal were in progress. However, many of the chairs are overturned, and there is no evidence of food, trenchers, or utensils. All of the chairs are individual rather than being benches. More grimly, the bones of many humans or humanoids lie strewn about - some in reasonably articulated skeletons and some scattered. Most have rags of fabric clinging to them but no weapons or other devices are in sight.

    Each of the tables has one or two inset metal panels with small grills. These could be stove tops for cooking at the tables themselves, but no fuel source is apparent. The metal panels have sections of glass, often broken, and the metal fixtures themselves are bent and dented.

    The tables have fixed legs rather than trestle construction and are in fact bolted to the floor. They are made from cave horn and metal.

    The chairs have normal backs, but no legs. Rather, the seat continues down the front, across the bottom, and up the lower back, so that the whole thing from the side rather resembles a lower base “b”. The chairs are made of cave horn.

    “If this be a feast hall, war did ther food come from?” asks Willa. Babshapka spends ten minutes checking the walls for secret doors, while Mathias spends the time checking all the bodies and bones. They find neither means of egress nor key cards or other identification.

    Returning out into the hall, Willa says that they should check the black-keyed rooms near where they fought the female clockwork. “Yes, Serjeant Stoutly!” agrees Mathias.

    They start with the next room over from where they stored the body of the clockwork. “How do you open the doors?” asks Mathias. “I need to learn this stuff.” Babshapka takes out a black card and instructs him in both how to use it and the significance of the colors.

    The first room and the next (8:35) are standard apartments, the last (8:40) is a looted storeroom. Shefak guards the intersection, and cautions the party against approaching as there are plant men nearby down the next corridor. They decide to continue the search down the corridor to the south.

    Along the west wall of the south corridor are five doors, all with black key locks but one already open. They find a looted storeroom (8:40), and then a series of four apartments (8:45, 8:50, 8:55, 9pm).

    [Unbeknownst to either the party or Eddard, a patrol of vegepygmies pauses outside the storeroom, and then continues.]

    Willa is about to send for Shefak to recall her when the monk comes running back of her own accord, warning that something is disturbing the plant men and that they are massing in their hallway! Willa commands Babshapka to check the only door they have not opened yet and try to find a way out. The others prepare to run or fight if needed.

    Babshapka checks the far door, which leads to an apartment. It is large, large enough for them all, but it is a dead end - no way out other than how he came in. When he relays this information to Willa, she tells the party to make for the intersection and retreat.

    Shefak leads the way, but before the rest of the party can arrive she makes herself visible and motions them back. “Nine plant men and two dogs,” she says.

    Willa ushers the party through the door of the open apartment while Babshapka readies his mirror. The last of them are not through the doorway and are still in sight when the thorn dogs reach the intersection. Immediately the creatures turn, heads dropping and thorns bristling in the direction of the party - but they do not rush forward.

    Aurora sends Buckbeak above their heads, to the intersection and then east, but they do not pursue. Rather, they remain at the intersection until their plant men masters arrive. The diminutive creatures brandish their weapons at the sight of the party but do not advance. Several moments pass by. When neither side makes an aggressive move, the plant men continue to the east out of sight.

    Several in the party let out held breaths. The size of the group itself was no concern - those present would have made short work of them. But the whole combat would have been a stone’s throw from the plant man hallway and a perhaps endless source of reinforcements.

    “Perhaps they were just a patrol?” suggests Aurora. Willa nods and says that whatever they were, it appears that their truce with the party still holds. She says that they will continue searching rooms, but not in the direction that the plant men went. That means they will need to pass through the intersection that lies at the end of the plant man corridor.

    Using the same procedure as before, the party passes one at a time through the intersection and then up the wide hall to the north, keeping their weapons away and looking non-threatening. The plant men mass together and display, but do not attack or pursue. Eventually the entire away team finds themselves at a T-intersection of 20-foot wide hallways. To the south are fully seven black-keyed doors, with one more brown-keyed one in the southeast. Along the northern wall are just two doors, both with push panels rather than keys. The eastern and western hallways both turn to the north.

    Before they enter deeper into the new hallway, Willa asks Babshapka to check for tracks, and the ranger reports that there are human-sized markings, besides the obvious foot prints of the plant men and thorn dogs. When she remarks on the presence of the human tracks, Babshapka reminds her of the female clockwork, which they fought nearby.

    Willa sets a watch on each of the hallways - Thokk south to where the plant men are, Shefak on the eastern corridor that turns north, and a recalled Buckbeak on the western corridor that turns north. The rest of them (Willa, Aurora, Babshapka, and Mathias) investigate the first black-keyed door to the east, but find only a standard looted apartment. Willa offers, and the others agree, that likely all of the doors to the south will be similar, for they are spaced evenly and cover the same space. They decide to try the unlocked doors to the north.

    The eastern door leads to a 20’ x 30’ room that looks to have an exit corridor in the rear as well as a keyed door on the east wall. Their immediate impression is that the place is distinct from other rooms in that it has not been looted: there are no piles of debris on the floor and there are two desks with chairs behind them that are in good condition. [Medical Area: Main records office and examination clinic]

    Willa is the first in the room with Mathias right behind her. As soon as Willa enters, however, a disembodied voice, like that of a magic mouth spell, begins speaking. The language is unfamiliar. Willa immediately turns and exits the room, but Mathias proceeds to a desk and moves the chair to better access the drawers.

    “Are you sure you want to be in there?” calls Babshapka to Mathias, over the sound of the alien language.

    “We’re supposed to be checking rooms, aren’t we?” he responds.

    “Ther door nae be locked - bu’ ther room ain’t looted - might be it hae some way o’ protectin’ itself.” Willa answers.

    “At least let me see what that voice is saying first,” suggests Aurora.

    Matthias shrugs and rejoins the party in the hall. The voice has repeated its short message three times and then stopped.

    With the others on watch in the hallway, Aurora completes her ritual of comprehend languages.

    With the ritual spell completed, all of those not on watch enter the room, Willa with her stone going. The voice repeats three times again, but this time Aurora understands what it is saying:

    “All medical personnel are currently absent; please return at the start of the next duty shift. Emergency cases can report to Med 1 or Med 2 for attention.”

    Babshapka moves to the rear of the room and looks down the interior corridor, while Mathias returns to the desk he was at before. As soon as he opens a drawer, however, an alarm sounds. It is similar to the alarms for when a wrong color card was used on a door, but louder. The noise fills the rooms and spills out into the hall. Willa winces and motions them out again.

    Mathias looks up, but seems to want to finish his search. The desk has but a few drawers, and each has only curious dark panes of glass with metal frames in them. It is possible a small item could have fallen between drawers or there could be a hidden panel but that would take more searching. [Unbeknownst to the party, Mathias has found and secreted on his person a yellow key card]

    Babshapka opens the pressure plate door and looks quickly around the room, which is strangely furnished. It is not clear whether it is meant to be an uncomfortable bedroom or a comfortable cell or torture chamber. There is a single bed with side rails and obvious locations for restraints. A smaller litter is nearby, curious in that it is wheeled. A thin, standing curtain has a sheer fabric mounted on a flexible folding frame that seems mounted to the floor and ceiling.

    Willa grabs her stone from the air so that she is able to speak, steps into the hall and tells Thokk and Shefak to be extra vigilant. She has just turned around to re-enter the room when Buckbeak shrieks. Willa turns to the west and sees a security clockwork rounding the corner.

    Round 1
    FWOOM! The clockwork launches a flask that falls to the ground at Willa’s feet. She sucks in her breath and holds it just as the space around her is filled with billowing blue vapors. (Willa makes Con save). The clockwork advances rapidly down the hall toward her.

    Babshapka leaves the interior room and continues to the west. He finds another office with a single long counter and two chairs behind it. He moves to the door.

    Aurora follows Babshapka, but pauses at the desk and tries to find a knob that might control ventilation like in the clockwork repair room. The counter does not appear to have any control knobs. Buckbeak sails through the sleep gas cloud, in the open door, down the corridor, and alights on her shoulder.

    Shefak invokes her Ki to run up beside the clockwork, but hesitates to attack. She waits for a command from Willa. Thokk has no such concerns. He barrels out of the southern corridor, draws his sword, and immediately lays into the clockwork. (Two hits, total 18 points, all absorbed by the force shield). Shefak follows up with a flurry of blows against the clockwork.

    Mathias stands up from his search of the desk and draws his greatsword.

    Round 2
    Willa tosses her stone back into the air. Hoping that the others remember the plan to follow the clockwork back to its base, she pretends to stagger into the wall, and then slump unconscious to the floor (Deception roll 15 - everyone viewing her (Thokk, Shefak, and Clockwork) rolls less than that on Insight and believes that she is actually unconscious).

    Mathias dashes to the other office and finds Aurora and Babshapka.

    Babshapka opens the door and darts into the hall, the mirror in his hand. He sees Willa slumped on the floor by the other door and moves to support Thokk and Shefak.

    Thokk and Shefak continue their attacks on the clockwork.

    Aurora yells that they need to remember the plan, then moves to the open doorway.

    The clockwork brings its force shield back up. Quickly calculating the distance between Shefak, Babshapka, and Thokk, it launches a black flask that lands precisely between them and explodes with a terrifyingly loud BANG.

    stun grenade wrote:

    Anyone in the initial 10' blast radius takes d6+4 damage, CON 16 save for half.
    All within the blast are stunned for 1-4 rounds and deafened for 10-40 minutes;
    All within a 20’ radius are stunned for 1 round and deafened for 1-4 rounds.

    [Babshapka and Thokk make their Con saves and take 4 points each, Shefak fails and takes 9 points. Babshapka and Shefak are stunned for 4 rounds each, Thokk for 3.]

    The clockwork wheels away from the dazed combatants, down the hall to Willa’s side.

    Round 3
    Mathias runs into the hall, and calls to his disoriented teammates to remember the plan. He does not realize that they cannot hear him. When he gets to the far side of the hall he disappears into the shadows.

    The clockwork secures Willa with a mechanical hand, then swivels its head, opens a panel, and extrudes the golden retort. The sparking beam shoots down the hallway, enveloping Thokk, Shefak, Babshapka, and the unseen Mathias. The clockwork returns rapidly back up the hall while carrying Willa, and grabs the rigid body of Thokk in its other hand on its way past.

    Mathias: Saves vs. paralysis (long range). For 1 round: half move, disadvantage on attacks, no dex bonus to AC.

    Babshapka: Saves vs. paralysis (long range). For 1 round: half move, disadvantage on attacks, no dex bonus to AC. Still stunned for 3 rounds, still deafened for 40 minutes.

    Thokk: Saves vs. paralysis (medium range). For one round paralyzed, then one round at half move, disadvantage on attacks, no dex bonus to AC. Still stunned for 2 rounds, still deafened for 30 minutes.

    Shefak: Fails vs. paralysis (medium range): Paralyzed 20 minutes. Still stunned for 3 rounds, deafened for 40 minutes.

    Aurora sees the flash from the paralyzation ray and hides behind the counter. Since her comprehend languages is still running, she listens for words from the security clockwork but the only one she hears distinctly is “Intruders”. She returns Buckbeak to his pocket dimension.

    Round 4
    A strange humming sound emerges from the clockwork. Shefak begins to float in the air. The clockwork rolls forward and around the corner, dragging Willa in one hand and Thokk in the other, Shefak floating in the air in some sort of telekinetic beam. The clockwork ignores Babshapka as it rolls by, and apparently cannot see Mathias any more than the others can.

    Inside the medical office, Aurora casts Invisibility on herself (now at 4/1/2).

    As she is dragged past a particularly dense patch of shadow, Willa hears Mathias whisper, “Wake up, Sergeant!”

    She sighs as if still asleep and whispers back, “All part o’ ther plan…” Her hand surreptitiously gestures a thumbs up.

    Mathias: No further penalties.

    Babshapka: Still stunned for 2 rounds, still deafened for 40 minutes.

    Thokk: Still one round at half move, disadvantage on attacks, no dex bonus to AC, still stunned for 1 round, still deafened for 30 minutes.

    Shefak: Still stunned for 2 rounds, still paralyzed for 20 minutes, still deafened for 40 minutes.

    Round 5
    The clockwork continues north up the hall. Willa, one eye open, can see that they are being followed by Mathias, darting from shadow to shadow. She grins.

    Thokk (still deafened for 30 minutes) begins to struggle against the mechanical hand that holds him, but then sees Willa gesturing at him to stand down. He suddenly remembers the plan, and is excited at the prospect of being taken back to the clockwork’s lair to fight many of them at once. His body goes limp, but he has to stifle a chortle of eager anticipation.

    Babshapka: Still stunned for 1 round, still deafened for 40 minutes.

    Shefak: Still stunned for 1 round, still paralyzed 20 minutes, still deafened for 40 minutes.

    Aurora follows them invisibly.

    Round 6
    The clockwork is heading for an unkeyed door in the middle of the wall, the only door in the whole long wall, opposite a long corridor.

    Aurora draws closer, prepares to dash in the door as soon as it opens.

    Willa prepares to resist the hold the machine has on her.

    Babshapka (still deafened for 40 minutes) finally is able to clear his head, and moves to the wall for cover. With his mirror he magnifies the image of the clockwork, and prepares to dash down the hall as soon as the door opens.

    The clockwork reaches the door and pauses outside it. A panel in its chest opens up and a delicate hinged rod emerges and presses the door plate. The door slides open and light spills into the hallway.

    Just as the clockwork is about to enter the doorway, Willa springs into action and twists out of its grasp. She dives and then rolls to the north, drawing her sword as she stands, careful not to be in a direct line with the others and so present multiple targets for a paralyzation ray. Babshapka sprints up the hallway.

    Aurora slips into the room as soon as the door opens and instantly regrets it [Police HQ]. The well-lit room has a desk with chairs behind it. Nearby is a second security clockwork. There are carded doors to the north and south - Aurora is not close enough to see what color. In the back of the room is a large console or cabinet with strange knobs and dials, near it in the southeast corner is a metal chest that looks like it has a card lock as well.

    Mathias suddenly steps from the shadows and fires off his electrical attack at the clockwork, concentrating it on the side farthest from Thokk. This drops its force shield and results in some damage to its circuitry besides. Undaunted, the clockwork pulls Thokk and Shefak into the room along with it.

    Aurora becomes visible as well, firing off five magic missiles at the clockwork (cast at third level, Aurora at 4/1/1). As soon as her spell is sent she darts back out the door of the room and into the hall.

    “We got this, Serjeant!” calls Mathias, although he maintains his concentration to keep energy playing along the surface of the clockwork.

    Round 7
    Aurora shoots another three magic missiles through the open doorway (now at 3/1/1).

    The hand that once held Willa now empty, the security clockwork uses it to wrench Thokk’s sword from his grasp as soon as he draws it and starts to resist. It drags Thokk and floats Shefak over to the north wall, and then the same lever that opened the previous door emits a pulse of light that is taken up by the pearl panel of the orange-keyed door. That door slides open to reveal a short corridor with many open doorways to either side and the clockwork takes them inside.

    The second clockwork moves around the desk until it is directly in front of the exterior door, then fires off a blue flask just outside and into the hallway. As the vapors fill the space in front of the door, it reaches up and presses a panel inside the room and the door begins to close.

    “We don’ got t’his,” says Willa grimly as she takes out her stone. Ignoring her, Mathias slips through the closing doorway (makes Con save to get past the sleep cloud). He continues his electricity attack on the clockwork (10 points to force shield).

    Babshapka sees that Aurora is in the hallway with him, and waits for a command from Willa to enter. When none comes, he remains outside the closing door.

    How dare this machine man take his magic sword? Thokk enrages and wrenches himself free of the grasp of the clockwork. He grabs its other hand and tries to recover his sword, but the machine man is able to elude him with it by holding it high in the air and out of his reach.

    Round 8
    Mathias follows the clockwork into the northern hallway, continuing to concentrate on his electrical damage (10 points).

    Aurora can barely see her companions through the open north door and the closing outer door. Undaunted, she sends off a firebolt against the clockwork that has Thokk’s sword (damage 14). Babshapka dives into the blue vapors that have expanded around Aurora without her being aware and pulls her out of their range. Note to self, Aurora thinks, sleep gas is not flammable.

    Thokk climbs on top of the clockwork to reach its outstretched arm and wrests his sword free from its grasp, then, grabbing its head between his thighs, batters at the top of its head with the sword pommel (one hit, 15 damage).

    The clockwork rolls to the nearest open doorway to the left, and levitates Shefak into a ten by ten cell. Its glowing rod touches a card reader that is mounted on a post in the doorway of the cell. A hazy blue field, seemingly projected from four studs set in the doorway, completely closes off the doorway itself. The color appears similar to the force shield the security clockworks use to protect themselves. As soon as the field springs into being, the body of Shefak drops stiffly to the floor.

    The clockwork in the room rolls back from the now-closed exterior door until it is in sight of those in the hallway to the north. The large metal rod emerges from its chest and fires off two blasts of light at Thokk. One he blocks with his shield, the other hits him (24 radiant damage, not resisted by rage).

    Willa pulls forth a red flask, preparing to throw it should the exterior door open again.

    Round 9
    Mathias thinks that between him and Thokk, they can finish off the damaged clockwork they are facing - but not if the undamaged one in the control room is assisting! He presses the panel on the inside of the doorway to close that door and seal off the cell block, even though this requires him to cease concentrating and lose his electric attack. He then casts a mage hand to be prepared for any flasks the clockwork produces. Knowing that their best chance lies in Thokk continuing to rage, he goads him, “Time to die a hero’s death, Thokk!”

    Thokk is still deafened and cannot hear Mathais’ taunts, but bellows regardless and pounds his sword down on the clockwork from his perch atop its shoulders (two hits, 22 damage).

    The clockwork reestablishes its force shield, the jolt of which dislodges Thokk who falls off but lands on his feet. Now that the doorway is closing, its combat tactics calculator decides that a sleep flask is in order, and it drops one to the ground at its base. Mathias is ready for this, though (Dex save 13), and his mage hand scoops up the flask before it can detonate, tossing it into the farthest cell to the end of the hall and on the left. It explodes less than a second later, filling that cell with blue vapor.

    In the control room, the undamaged clockwork runs motivation calculations, balancing the drive to assist its companion in subduing the two combatants (which would require it to cross the room and open closed the cell block door) versus staying where it is to better defend the exterior door against the intruders it knows are still outside.

    In the hallway, Willa stows her stone as she watches the sleep gas in front of the doorway disperse. She and Aurora are in agreement that there is no time to return to the storeroom for reinforcements - Babshapka is still deafened and cannot take part in the hurried conversation. Willa says that she is going to open the door as soon as it looks safe for them to move in, and Aurora says she will have a mage hand at the ready for the next flask and attempt to return it to the room if she doesn’t see any allies inside, or up the northern hall if she does.

    Round 10
    Mathias leaves his mage hand floating nearby and keeps one eye on the door behind him as he summons waves of force to batter at the shield of the clockwork (two hits, total 7 damage).

    Thokk saw the blue flask fly past him but didn't turn to see where it landed. Still enraged, he batters at the force shield of the clockwork (hit, 13 damage), and grunts in satisfaction as it collapses. He moves to its left, keeping his shield between them - closer to Mathias, farther from the flask, and hits it again. This time the sword cuts deep into its metal hide with a shower of sparks (hit, 12 damage). Thokk grins - one or two more good hits and the creature is his!

    The clockwork re-establishes its shield, repulsing Thokk’s sword with force. As the barbarian staggers back, it rolls forward, knocking into him in an attempt to push him back into the cell behind him. Thokk braces himself against the post in the middle of the doorway, and pushes back on the clockwork, muscles straining. The wheels of the creature skip and skid on the metal floor of the cell block and Thokk is not moved (shove attack, contested athletics check, Thokk 23, clockwork 13). As he strains, the creature opens its chest panel and the iron rod emerges. Thokk sees this in time and raises his shield. The powerful bolt of light energy is reflected away. Thokk roars exultantly.

    In the control room, the undamaged clockwork continues to calculate odds but takes no action for the moment.

    Outside in the hallway, Willa again launches her stone. Miming with her fingers, she shows Babshapka that she wants him to send arrows into the room as soon as she opens the door. He nods his understanding and nocks a giant killer arrow.

    Round 11
    In the cell block, one of the grappling tentacles takes hold of Thokk’s shield. While he struggles, the iron wand sends forth two more blasts of light (rolls 23, 24, both hit!). The first hit (13 points) nearly levels Thokk (down to 4hp), while the second (10hp) blasts him squarely in the torso and burns off all of his chest hair (Thokk to 0hp, but then to 1 hp through use of relentless end).

    In the hallway outside, Willa presses the door panel. As it opens, she primes and then tosses in a red flask, aiming to land it between the clockwork and the south east corner of the room. Although she immediately ducks out of the way and cannot see the results, her aim is true - when the flask explodes, the clockwork is doused with the sticky flaming substance, and the corner of the room is covered as well (first round damage - 9 points - to force shield).

    In the cell block, Thokk staggers unsteadily, and then roars in a mix of pain and raw fury. He raises his weapon and brings it down more like a club than a sword, and Mathais can hear the motors of the clockwork whine as it strains to maintain its force shield (one critical hit, savage attacks, bonus critical - total 19 points damage). Upon his second attack the shield finally gives way, and his sword crashes through the head of the clockwork in a shower of sparks (9 damage). The various lights on the surface of the clockwork slowly fade and all four of its arms sink to the floor. Its wand, still primed for another discharge, hums in ever lower and fainter tones.

    With the exterior door now open, Babshapka moves so that he can see the flaming clockwork. As he draws back his bow he says “Hunter’s Mark” in elven, and although he cannot hear himself speak, he sees a green target appear on the clockwork. He fires one arrow, then quickly draws and fires another before ducking back out of view of the door. (damage 8+2, 12+6, total 28, Babshapka to 3/2).

    With one clockwork down, Mathias opens the door to the control room, expecting to see the rest of the party engaging the other one. Instead, he sees only the clockwork. True, it is on fire and has two arrows sticking out of its chassis, but there is no sign of the others. “Some rescue,” he mutters to himself. Then, as the clockwork’s head swivels from the door to him, he holds forth his empty palms and fires off two blasts of force (two hits, total 8 damage).

    Round 12
    When the clockwork does not immediately respond, Mathias squares himself in the doorway and fires off another two blasts (two hits, 13 damage). He looks over his shoulder and sees Thokk unsteady on his feet and the sleep gas slowly advancing down the hall of the cell block. He shouts at Thokk that both doors are open, but the barbarian is still deafened.

    Babshapka appears in the outer doorway again and fires off another two arrows, these ones normal. Both find their mark in the clockwork (17 points plus hunter’s mark, total 21 damage). As soon as the second arrow is away, Babshapka darts out of view. Being attacked from two directions at once appears to have confused the clockwork and it does not immediately respond.

    Thokk wrenches his sword from where it has lodged in his fallen foe and grimaces. For a second, his pain threatens to overcome his rage. He looks up, and through the open cell block door he sees the other clockwork. With a more subdued bellow, he charges out of the cellblock. Moving his sword to his shield hand, he draws forth a javelin from its holder on his back and launches it at the clockwork as he crosses the room (hit for 8 points). By now he has seen that the door to the hallway is open as well. He throws another javelin to cover his retreat and makes it into the hall. The second javelin misses, flies over the clockwork, and lands in the section of floor that is still on fire. The wooden haft begins to smoulder.

    With Thokk out of the room, Willa charges in, but has a hammer in each hand rather than her greatsword. Standing well away from the flaming clockwork, she throws each hammer in succession (two hits, total 12 damage, plus another 5 from the first round of extended fire damage) and then ducks back out of the room.

    Suddenly the flaming clockwork begins to roll north, rapidly gaining speed (7 damage from two giant killer arrows) and raising its force shield as it goes. It plows into Mathias in the doorway at full force and he staggers back. While he is struggling to keep his footing, one of its tentacles slams him hard on his side and he flies into the first cell on the right, directly across from Shefak. (Shove attack, Clockwork athletics roll 16, Mathias 11). With its colored probe it initiates the force shield in the cell, and with a hand it presses the door panel inside the cell block, so that the door begins to close. In the cell block hall, Mathias’ mage hand winks out of existence as soon as the cell force shield comes up, but he does not notice (Arcana roll 0).

    Round 13
    Babshapka moves to the doorway but does not see the clockwork. He enters quickly, and finds his quarry about to disappear behind the closing door (Hunter’s Mark - advantage on Perception checks to find the target). He fires off two arrows through the narrowing gap (two hits, 15 points plus Hunter’s Mark is 20, drops clockwork shield). He moves back to the wall, just inside the exterior doorway.

    Mathias moves as close to the hallway as the force shield permits him and sees the door to the control room closing. He reaches for his mage hand to press the panel but does not find it (Arcana roll 4). He tries to cast the spell again in the hallway but finds he cannot - the force shield may be preventing him.

    The clockwork’s internal calculations lead it to conclude that the party will try a melee attack in order to reach it before the door completely closes and locks them out. It prepares a black flask to launch at anyone who charges the door. (It takes 6 damage from the giant arrows and then another 2 from the second round of continuing fire damage).

    Willa bolts into the room, now with her greatsword in her hands, and sees the cell block door closing. Even as she charges the door, she has a bad feeling about it. She is not even halfway there when the black flask is ejected, landing squarely between her and Babshapka. Aurora has her mage hand near the doorway, ready to intercept any flasks, but from her vantage outside in the hall she does not see the flask dropped in the room itself.

    Willa’s forward motion carries her enough away by the time the flask explodes that she does not take as much of the blast as Babshapka does (Clockwork attack roll for flask placement, 3)

    [Willa, in 20’ radius, no damage, stunned for 1 round and loses attacks, deafened for 3 rounds]
    [Babshapka, in 10’ radius, fails Con save and takes 8 points damage, stunned for 1 round, deafened for 10 minutes, added to his already 40 minutes for a total of 50 minutes, makes Con save to keep concentration on Hunter’s Mark]

    Thokk re-enters the control room. Now out of javelins, he has his longsword again in his right hand. Hesitating to charge at the second clockwork, which is still on fire (and he still at 1hp), he moves to just outside the door to the cell block, prepared to attack the machine man when it emerges, or in his mind, to press the door panel that he believes is there. In a daze, Willa tries to speak and gesture at him to enter the cell block, but she is both stunned and voiceless because of her stone, and Thokk is still deafened regardless. He has neither taken damage nor attacked this round, and he loses his rage.

    The door to the northern hallway closes and the orange-keyed lock activates. Too late, Thokk looks up and sees that what he assumed was a pressure panel is actually a card lock. Inside his cell, Mathias thinks to himself, they came in here - did they have a plan for getting out?

    [With the party unable to enter the cell block and the clockwork not emerging, the combat ends]

    Babshapka: In the outside hallway. Still deafened for 45 minutes.
    Thokk: In the control room. Still deafened for 25 minutes. At 1hp.
    Willa: In the control room.
    Aurora: In the control room.
    Shefak: Still paralyzed for 15 minutes, still deafened for 35 minutes. In a force cell.
    Mathias: In a force cell (and note that cell shields block magic]
    One security robot guarding the cell block behind a locked orange door.
    The party’s only known key card is black.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jul 20, 2021 12:47 pm  
    Post 178: Jailhouse Blues

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our eleventh Barrier Peaks session, was 24 June, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 2 - Level I, South
    12am - Rolling for Party only

    12:40am Party separates from mules - rolling for mules and party separately

    1:50am (mules) - Lurker above
    2:20am (party) - vegepygmies
    3:30am (mules) - Lurker above

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    4:10am - vegepygmies
    4:30am - Lurker above
    5:10am - displacer beasts
    5:50am - worker robot
    6:10am - displacer beasts
    1:10pm - displacer beasts

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    3:40pm (mules) worker robot
    4pm (mules) worker robot

    Party rejoins mules - one roll
    5:30pm Police Robot, non-lethal

    Party separates from mules - rolling separately
    8:10pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (mules) vegepygmies
    9pm (party) vegepygmies

    Party, Mules, and Security Room all rolling separately
    11:50pm (party) vegepygmies

    Post 178: Jailhouse Blues
    21 February, 571 [2 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 2

    Mathias looks around the cell. It is mostly bare inside, but on the far wall (away from the doorway) is a niche with two cave horn cups that fit in a receptacle. The roof of the niche has a nozzle above each cup. The clockwork that placed him in the cell has withdrawn from the doorway so that he can no longer see it. With no rescue immediately forthcoming, Mathias moves so that he won’t be seen from the doorway even if the clockwork returns, and he begins resting to restore his energy.

    Aurora and Willa look around the control room. It is well-lit and has a desk with two chairs behind it. The door to the cell block is orange-carded, while a second door to the south is red-carded. In the back of the room is a large console or cabinet with strange knobs and dials; near it in the southeast corner is a metal chest that looks like it has a card lock as well. However, to reach the chest one would have to cross the flame that still burns on the floor from Willa’s thrown flask.

    Aurora runs through the flames (3 points damage) to examine the chest. It is large and square, with thick walls like a strongbox. The top is a hinged lid, but the hinges are internal and cannot be directly attacked. The red card-reading mechanism is on the lid itself. Unlike all the single doors on the ship, which fit inside the walls themselves, the lid has borders that are nearly flush with the walls in which it fits. Thus, if the party had something both thin and strong enough, they might actually be able to pry it open.

    Aurora knows the party has at least one crowbar and possibly more, but those present say they are not carrying any. She mimes the action of prying open the chest for Thokk and Babshapka (both still deafened) but they shake their heads. Perhaps the crowbar is back with the mules. By this point, the fire on the floor has finally died out. Aurora seizes the blackened blade of Thokk’s javelin, the shaft having been by now completely consumed. Willa collects Tyrius’ hammers from the ground and brings them over. Willa uses a hammer to force the javelin blade into the chest while Aurora supervises. It soon becomes evident to Aurora that the chest is made from the same metal as the ship and is much harder than Thokk’s javelin head, which bends a little more on each blow while the chest is not even chipped or scratched. After some thinking, she realizes that a magically enchanted blade is also unnaturally hard - something like that might actually stand a chance against the chest (Arcana 20).

    Meanwhile, Babshapka has shut the exterior door to the control room and collected his arrows (13 giant arrows and 9 regular arrows remaining). He sets up on guard just inside the door, ready to press the panel to close it.

    Aurora tries to get Thokk’s attention and wordlessly ask him if he would be willing to loan her the sunsword to experiment with. The half-orc looks dubious - the blade is not just magical - it glows in the presence of undead and flames upon contact with vampires - with this blade he twice slew the demon Strahd! Aurora can see it is going to be a hard sell convincing him, and even she has second thoughts about using it. When Babshapka realizes what is going on he steps forward and offers up his magical broadsword - the one the party captured long ago from one of the officers of the Sea Ghost.

    Willa takes the blade and carefully taps it into the seam, using Tyrius' hammer on the pommel of the broadsword. It takes several minutes of pounding, but the broadsword seems equal in hardness to the chest, and every so often she feels something inside give way (luck roll+2). One final blow cracks the head of the hammer but results in an equal crack in the chest lid. When Willa hands the broadsword back to Bashapka, the blade appears intact.

    Babshapka: Still deafened for 35 minutes.
    Thokk: Still deafened for 15 minutes.
    Shefak: Still paralyzed for 5 minutes, deafened for 25 minutes.

    Aurora gingerly opens the safe. There is a top layer with a cave horn shelf that obviously does not go to the bottom of the chest and can easily be removed. On that top layer are two curious masks. The masks appear to be made for a masqued ball, for a costume based on a fly or some other insect. They are made of a boiled-leather-like material and have several straps attached. Mirrored glass plates cover the area of the eyes, but this does not seem to impair vision from the inside of the mask. There are no openings for mouth or nose, though the mask has been shaped to accommodate a nose and chin. At the base of the mask a cylindrical metal tube is attached and metal cords run from this tube up into the metal-framed mouth and nose region. Examining them, Aurora can easily see how the straps can adjust to perfectly fit the head and seal off someone’s eyes, nose, and mouth from the outside. She is pretty sure the tubes around the nose and mouth act as filters, and likely screen out anything that might interfere with breathing (Investigation roll 27).

    Removing the cave horn shelf reveals that the next layer down contains fully a dozen of the blue sleep gas flasks, which further supports her hypothesis that the masks would help someone resist a gas-based attack.

    Babshapka motions Thokk over from his position guarding the north door. When the half-orc is at his side, Babshapka casts two cure wounds spells (Babshapka to 1/2 spells left, six points of healing, Thokk to 7hp).

    Aurora lifts out the tray of flasks. One final level of the chest contains two strange devices, the like of which the party has not seen before. They could perhaps be potion bottles or flasks strapped to a number of tubes. The base of each bottle has a silvery lid with a knob in the center. The bottle flasks are bound in black leather and silver. From the top of this, a broad metal band encircles a number of tubes. Out one end stick three large projecting tubes, while the other has but a single tube, with a small hole in its end. There is a fluted knob on the side with a line across its top. There are two markings above it - a small dot and big 0.

    Willa sighs and says she longs for the days of finding scroll cases and magic rings.

    Aurora shakes her head. “I have nothing against all these alien devices, and any of them could prove quite useful. Under other circumstances I would have been thrilled to find this cache. But none of these things is the high-level colored key card we need right now to free our companions.”

    Still, she has to work with the tools at hand, so Aurora pulls out one of the two strange devices and begins to fiddle with the dial setting. Willa immediately insists that she do her experimenting outside in the hall, and ushers her over to the door, which Babshapka opens. Willa and Babshapka remain in the doorway, watching over her. Somewhat chastened, Aurora does pause to consider that she is using a potentially deadly device with no healers on hand. Suddenly Buckbeak appears on her shoulder, and a second later takes wing down the hallway to the south.

    [Simple lethal items chart. Aurora rolls 1-1=0; Circle. Rolls 4-1 = 3; Finish. Aurora now is familiar with the operation of a Needler Pistol and has a total of -3 on future rolls to use.]

    The first thing Aurora checks for is the presence of a power disc. She does not find one, but in looking she discovers that when the knob in the base of the handle is twisted and pulled, a compartment at the base of the handle opens like a small drawer. Inside is a small, lacquered wood-like box filled with needles that can be inserted or removed.

    Carefully closing the drawer after having removed the box, she squeezes the handle-grip. With a high-pitched whoosh, the three tubes suck in air while the single tube expels air. She tests the expelled air against her skin and finds the jet surprisingly strong. By moving the dial from the dot to the O she can widen the jet of air. After pondering the device, she decides that it is designed to launch the needles as projectiles in batches. The dot setting would launch a number at a single target, while the O setting would broadcast them over a larger area at multiple targets. The needles themselves, if forcefully projected, would certainly be painful and the power of the air indicates that they would penetrate far deeper than blowgun darts. Still, it does not seem a particularly lethal device - heavy armor would greatly protect a target and the thing would rapidly lose accuracy at range. Of course, the needles could be coated in poison, the small device would be easily concealed, and its use would be practically silent. Perhaps it is meant as an assassin’s weapon?

    Once she is confident she knows how it is supposed to function, Aurora demonstrates its purported use to Babshapka and Thokk. Thokk of course finds the thought of attacking someone with needles laughable at best and insulting at worst, but even he has to admit that the single javelin he has left will not serve him in an extended missile combat.

    Shefak groans and rises unsteadily to her feet. Though deafened, she could see the combat between the clockwork and Mathias up to the point where she was placed in the cell, but when she fell to the ground her head was facing away from the doorway. Now there is no one and nothing in the hallway in front of her. The force shield in the cell across from her is up as well, and the double layer obscures her view, but that cell appears empty as well. She tries shouting, but then realizes that she wouldn’t hear a response above the loud ringing in her ears. She presses on the force shield - it doesn’t yield. She breathes deeply and focuses her ki into her fist, then strikes the force shield with all the power she can muster. It absorbs the blow without even flickering. Clearly she is not getting out that way.

    She looks around. The cell is dimly lit and mostly bare inside, but she spies two recessed hand-holds in the wall at about the height of her knees. Grabbing them, she finds she can pull out a recessed shelf of metal, topped by a thin cave sponge mattress. She has no desire to sleep, so she pushes the shelf back into the wall. On the far wall (away from the doorway) is a niche with two cave horn cups that fit in a receptacle. The roof of the niche has a nozzle above each cup. She can remove the cups, but they are both light and easily breakable - they will not be of use. On the near wall (next to the door) is a small pressure plate. When she presses this, a small and narrow shelf emerges with a wide-lipped metal basin affixed to it. She is uncertain of the purpose of this, but it looks the right height and size to function as a chair - but why have the basin and not just the shelf?

    She may be here a while. She will need to conserve her energy. She sits down cross-legged on the floor and begins to meditate.

    Babshapka: Still deafened for 25 minutes.
    Thokk: Still deafened for 5 minutes.
    Shefak: Still deafened for 15 minutes.

    Aurora re-enters the control room and Willa closes and guards the door behind her. Aurora makes her way to the cabinet, and notes all of the switches, dials, levers, and small, dark screens. There is plenty of alien script labeling things, and she recognizes the numbers. She tells the rest of the party that she will be casting her ritual of comprehend languages.

    She hasn’t finished yet when the door to the hallway outside suddenly opens, and Willa nearly attacks Tyrius. The paladin, as well as Larry, Umbra, and Buckbeak are in the hallway outside, Buckbeak perched on Larry’s shoulder. Larry speaks to Tyrius.

    “Aye told ye when tha bard lands on me shoulder, et means coom an’ find them, an’ when ‘e lands on yer ‘ead, it means they be lost an’ we are too roon away, an’ nae tha ‘toother way aboot.”

    Tyrius provides Thokk with 20 points of lay-on-hands healing.

    Babshapka: Still deafened for 15 minutes.
    Shefak: Still deafened for 5 minutes.

    Aurora’s comprehend languages ritual complete, she reads the symbols on the console and finds it is a control panel for nearly every feature of the prison. There are switches and dials for doors, lights, food and water for the prisoners, ventilation, alarm and communication systems, as well as things called “waste”, “vid”, and “neural suppression”. Focusing on the doors, she finds she should be able to open, close, lock, or unlock each of the cell doors individually or all together, as well as the door to the cell block itself, the exterior door, and the door to something called the “Chf. Sec. Off”.

    Aurora shows Willa the controls and tells her they should plan their assault.

    The plan they derive is as follows: Umbra will stand by the console and operate the door switches that Aurora has shown her. When the cell block door opens, Thokk will rush in first [and rage to give the others advantage], followed by Willa. However, if the single remaining clockwork has somehow managed to revive or repair the other one, they will initiate by Willa throwing in a red flask before anyone enters. Babshapka will provide missile support and Larry spell support from outside. Aurora will have her mage hand and dedicate herself to grabbing any flasks and throwing them into the hall outside (the door is now open again). Tyrius will be on stand-by in case anyone needs healing. Willa says that they need to make sure they understand the plan, because once the door is open she will have her stone up and won’t be able to give commands. With that being said, Aurora convinces Babshapka and Thokk to try wearing the “anti-gas masks”. Thokk is unsure at first, and practices roaring and bellowing with his on. Although his voice is decidedly muffled, everyone but Tyrius assures him that it is just as loud and fearsome. He finally agrees to wear the mask.

    Babshapka: Still deafened for 5 minutes.

    With everyone in place, Umbra flips the switch that should unlock and then open the cell block door. The door remains closed, but she reports that strange illuminated symbols have appeared on one of the dark screens. Aurora hurries over and reads, “Enter security code for manual lock override, or use orange-level access key.” She curses and tries the switch that should simultaneously open all of the cell doors. The same message is repeated. She is able to open and close the door to the hallway outside, not that it is any help. In increasing frustration, she tries the switch for what is presumably the door on the south wall. The message that appears is only slightly different: “Enter security code for manual lock override, or use red-level access key.”

    Aurora slams her palm on the console and mutters “boring conversation anyway”. “Just try something,” she says to Umbra. “Flip some switches.”

    “Which switches?”

    “All of them. Shut them all down.” She returns to her spot and re-focuses on her mage hand.

    Umbra begins flipping all of the switches on the panel - after nearly every action she takes, the now-familiar alien script appears indicating that code or crd is required to execute the command. She notes that the message does not come up when she triggers the food and water controls, so she repeatedly switches these off and on again.

    “Uh,” groans Babshapka. “Wait, I think I can hear again.”

    “Great,” replies Aurora, “but that doesn’t get the clockwork to open that door.”

    “Get the clockwork to open the door…” the wood elf ponders. “How did we get it to open the door before, I mean, to come out of was the alarm.” His face sets resolutely. “Willa, I’m going to trigger the alarm in the medical room!” Babshapka dashes to the door and is away before she can respond.

    “Go wit’ ‘im”, Willa says to Tyrius, who sets off loudly down the hall after the elf. “Now, wha’ did set t’at off?”

    “The alarm! Of course!” realizes Aurora. “But everyone, quiet! If the clockwork hears us out here, maybe it won’t come out when the alarm goes off. We have to have it think we are all back in that medical room.”

    Once everyone is silent, Larry cocks his head funny. “Aye think aye ‘ear Mathias yellin’,” he whispers.

    “Yelling? What is he yelling?” Aurora hisses.

    “Dunno. Maybe screaming like ‘e is bein’ tortured or drowin’ or summit.”

    Umbra hurriedly shuts off the switches for the food and water and leaves them in place.

    When Babshapka arrives at the medical room, he rapidly enters the door, and hears the strange alien voice repeating the message from before - but no alarm goes off. He looks around - there is the yellow-keyed door, two desks - one with a drawer open. He moves to the open drawer and looks inside - there are a number of heavy, black glass slates. He reaches in to take one, and when he touches it the alarm sounds, just as Tyrius enters the room behind him.

    Back in the control room, Umbra notes a flashing yellow light and a new message on the console. Aurora can read “Intruder Alert - Medical Bay”.

    The cell block door slides open.

    Umbra moves away from the console so as to better see down the cell block hallway. The clockwork is rolling rapidly forward down the hall between the cells. The other clockwork lies unmoving on its side behind the first. Umbra sends forth a volley of dark bolts (cast at second level, four hits, 14 damage to force shield. Umbra at 0/2/0).

    The clockwork does not stop its forward motion (2 damage from giant arrows) but does launch a blue flask ahead of it into the control room. Aurora scoops up the flask with her mage hand and tosses it back down the hallway of the cell block, where it explodes. The clockwork brings its shield up to full strength after the dark bolts.

    Larry creates a moonbeam in the cell block, managing to place the leading edge of the beam completely on the clockwork (fails save, clockwork takes 9 damage to force shield, Larry at 3/2/1).

    The clockwork wheels forward and out the door into the control room. It grabs Larry with its grasping hands, and lifts him up and over its head, then tosses him behind it into the cell block (shove attack, Clockwork athletics roll 22, Larry 17). In their respective cells, Shefak and Mathias see Larry fly and land sprawling on the floor of the cell block corridor, just a few feet short of his own moonbeam. He maintains his concentration on the moonbeam as he rises to his feet, but he also sees the blue vapors of sleep gas advancing from the back of the hallway toward him.

    Thokk screams in rage and yells something at the clockwork. His words are muffled by the mask he wears and the only thing the others can make out is “spoonbuddy”. He strides up to the clockwork and strikes at it with the sunsword. His first hit (12 points) drops its shield, his second (11 points), damages its body. Willa is at his side in a second, landing blows of her own (13 and 16 points). The clockwork has almost made it to the door when Willa’s second hit opens a rent so large in its side that an explosion of gears and sparks pours out, and it ceases moving.

    A few seconds later Babshapka arrives, and shortly after him, Tyrius.

    Leaving a few of the party on guard in the control room, the rest enter the cell block. The force shield in front of each cell muffles their sounds, but by yelling they can communicate with both Shefak and Mathias. Aurora asks Mathias what he was yelling about before. He responds laconically that the water dispenser in the cell had turned on suddenly, so he wanted to let the party know that whatever they were doing was working.

    Now they examine the locking mechanism on the cells. Four studs project from the walls of the doorways, and these studs seem to be generating the force shields. In the center of the doorway is a short post with a key card mechanism on it, set to orange level, as well as a switch and a dial with numbers. Aurora takes the switch to be on/off for the field and the dial to control its intensity, but she is unable to adjust either setting without unlocking the card lock first. Mathias tells them that he saw the clockwork stick forth a probelike wand that changed colors in order to activate the lock, and Shefak corroborates that she saw the cleaning clockwork use a similar device to open several carded rooms. Aurora easily finds that part inside the bodies of both of the downed clockworks, but with them inactive she does not know how to get it to emit colors, regardless of whether she removes it from them or leaves it intact.

    “I can’t believe we got the clockwork to open the door, killed it, and we still can’t open the cells!” she says exasperatedly.

    “Take it apart,” says Willa.

    [DM's Note: From this point on, the control room will roll its own wandering monster rolls on the southern table, with only rolls of Police Robots and Worker Robots counting. Police robots will re-populate the room until it is back up to a total of three; worker robots will drag off the broken Police robots and take them to the robot repair room. Also, the combat in this room and the jail cells was recorded on video, with the party having defeated another two security robots. Thus, due to the work of the repair robot, all wandering security robots will now be upgraded to AC15 against the party's attacks.]

    Aurora gets out her tools and begins disassembling the clockwork in the control room.

    The clockwork’s atmospheric analyzer appears to be intact and functional, and it has a full complement of stopperless flasks - less the ones it used against the party (remaining 1 each of blue, red, and green). In addition to the fully-charged power disc in its internal power system, Aurora finds a second disc in a drawer that is not connected to anything internally and may be a simple storage unit accessed from the outside. However, she does not find anything that could be used to open the cell door besides the probe she would not know how to use anyway. She curses and stands. To add insult to injury, at that moment her mage armor fades, its duration having run out from when she cast it this afternoon.

    Aurora gathers her tools and proceeds to the end of the cell block to where the other fallen clockwork lies.

    This clockwork’s atmospheric analyzer is hopelessly smashed and its container for stopperless flasks is empty. It does have a fully-charged power disc in its internal power system. When Aurora checks the outside storage unit she catches a glimpse of a red key card and is instantly elated. Her elation soon turns to trepidation, however. Multiple sword blows have penetrated the walls around the card, leaving it wedged between jagged and folded pieces of metal and hung up on a nest of wires. Aurora tries coming at it from several different angles, but soon realizes that removing the card will require both extreme precision and luck. Anything less will drag it across the razor-sharp metal shard it is pressed against and more likely than not slice it in half. She finds her hand twitching nervously.

    A tense discussion follows among the party. While Aurora has the technical knowledge of using the tools to disassemble the clockworks, even she admits she is not the most adroit among them. That honor likely goes to Shefak - who is still imprisoned. Umbra is nearly as steady a hand as the monk, though. Ultimately it is decided that under Aurora’s direction, Umbra will attempt to extract the card. First, however, Larry blesses her with Cat’s Grace (Larry at 3/1/1).

    Umbra carefully clips the wires snagging the card and pulls out as many as she can. There is nothing she can do about the massive pieces of metal shards, so it is just a matter of seizing the card at exactly the right angle to extract it without damage. She reaches in ever-so-carefully and grabs the card with a tiny set of tongs, similar to a jeweler’s tweezers. Larry lays his hand on her shoulder and offers a prayer of guidance. “OK,” says Aurora. “Now just pull….WAIT!” At the last instant, Aurora corrects the angle of Umbra’s hand. “Now pull.”

    [Initial sleight of hand roll 3, 6. +3 dex, +2 guidance, advantage from cat’s grace = 11 (fail).
    Aurora spends an Inspiration point to have Umbra reroll. New result of 5, 18 = 23]

    With all present holding their breaths, Umbra pulls forth the card unscathed.

    “So now we open ther cells,” says Willa with satisfaction.

    Aurora frowns. “The cells are orange,” she says. “The card is red. It should work, but we would be remiss if we didn’t open the red door first, just in case we lose the card.”

    Willa nods in agreement at the logic. It was Aurora’s idea to begin with that the colors represent hierarchies, rather than being one-to-one, and so far the only evidence they have to back it up is that spider-Larry thought he saw a yellow card open a black door, once. “Can ye wait?” she shouts through the force shield to Mathias in his cell.

    The strange fighter-mage shrugs. “I’m resting,” he says. “Take your time.”

    Leaving the cell block door open but one of them behind, and a guard at the closed door to the hallway, the rest of the party proceeds to the door to the south. As she approaches the door itself, Aurora can see alien script beneath a layer of dust - something she did not note before when she searched the room. Wiping away the dust, and with her comprehend languages still running, Aurora reads “Chief Security Officer” - presumably what the control panel referred to as “Chf. Sec. Off.” Umbra slides the card in, the pearl panel changes to green, and the door slides open. The key drops into the receptacle beneath. They are in!

    The room beyond [South Room [sic] (Chief Security Officer's Office)] is spartan and dusty, but unlooted. A single desk is in the center of the room - a skeleton in some sort of uniform sits in the chair behind the desk and faces the door. In one corner of the room is a tall wardrobe or locker. One door leads out; both that door and the one the party opened have pressure panels and light switches just inside the doorway. On the wall above the desk are a series of glass panes that show a curious moving black and white field, as of a snowstorm at night.

    Aurora checks the locker for traps (Investigation 12) and finds only that it has a red-coded card lock.

    Umbra opens the other door and looks into the hallway beyond. It is bare and narrow and runs perpendicular to the door. There are four doorways leading off of it; the one to the north is red, while both the one in the center and the one in the south are gray - a color she does not think they have seen before. A final door in the south is a simple pressure plate. She steps into the hallway and turns around - from this side, the door into the Security Officer’s room is red-carded, but does not have his (or her?) title on it.

    Willa is at the desk. The officer’s uniform is made of the same silk-like material that they have found on all of the other skeletons on the ship, but much more intact. She touches a sleeve and it begins to fall apart at her touch - hopelessly dry-rotted, but apparently not having been handled in centuries. She quickly goes over the corpse - empty pockets, no weapons, no ID cards. She turns her attention to the strange boxes that appear to be affixed to the desk.

    There is a large glass screen on top of black glass. On the base beneath is a single switch, a fifty-some position slider, and three large dials. The dials have alien writing around them.

    Umbra returns to the room and Aurora points her at the locker while she herself moves to the desk. Set around the first dial (left to right) are the numbers 100, 200, succession up to 900. The second dial has a similar series but 10 through 90, while the third is 0 through 9.

    Umbra uses the card to open the locker. Indeed, it is a wardrobe, with one suit hanging from a rack within and a second that curiously seems to be supporting itself. The suits are very different from one another. The first is of the same material as the alien clothing. The vibrancy of the color and detailed patterning suggest to Willa that it is a dress uniform, and three medals are affixed to the left breast. The medals are a mix of precious metal and gemstones and obviously valuable. Willa removes these and stores them in her pack but in so doing notes that the fabric is only slightly less deteriorated than that worn by the skeleton.

    The second suit is more remarkable, and appears to be a suit of unusual plate armor. The joints appear to be finely, if somewhat strangely, articulated and an oily, black, leather-like material may be seen at major joints. The armor appears to have been worked to create the illusion of a heavily muscled man. The great helm is unusual in that it has no openings, only a broad glass plate in the front with a piece of glass above this. There are strange plates and tubing at various points and large metal bosses seem to be placed randomly on the suit. On the back of the left hand is a rectangular metal box. From this comes a short projecting rod tipped with a cone-shaped red crystal or jewel. The armor stands erect even though the glass helmet clearly shows that there is no one inside it.

    On the wall of the locker is a holster in which is a blasting mirror that appears identical to the one Babshapka carries. When Aurora checks the power disc, she finds it to be fully charged. She then examines the skeleton at the desk (Investigation 13) and finds no signs of violence or otherwise obvious cause of death.

    Umbra reports on the doors in the hall and the party elects to try the red door (the pressure plate can be opened any time, and they dare not risk the red card in a gray lock until they have tried it in the orange to free Mathias and Shefak). The red door leads to a long but narrow storeroom [Stores]. It is filled with boxes and crates similar to those the party has seen before, but each one is completely intact rather than smashed and looted.

    Leaving behind people in every room in case the doors close, a few of the party return to the cell block. Umbra inserts the red card into the slot in the post of Mathias’ cell. The dial lights up, as does the switch. She turns the dial down to zero, noting the fading blue of the shield as she does so, then flips the switch. The field disappears, and Mathias steps out free! Umbra quickly removes the card and follows the same procedure to release Shefak from her cell. [Both Mathias and Shefak have completed a Short Rest]

    Aurora has about ten minutes left on her comprehend languages spell. As Willa disperses people throughout the complex to make sure doors cannot be shut on them, Aurora walks from room to room, seeing if there is anything left to read.

    Willa gathers up Tyrius to discuss strategy. Mathias tags along. Willa says that with access to these red-card locked rooms, this may be a much more secure place to keep the mules, so long as the security clockworks stay confined to the prison and control room, which Babshapka assures them is true after looking at the tracks, and lack thereof, in the dust. Willa suggests that they may want to move the mules here, perhaps to the storeroom. But first, she would like to find a food source - she wants Umbra to use the food dispensing switches on the control room console while people check the nozzles in the cells.

    “I’ve got an idea,” says Mathias. Willa turns to look at him.

    The fighter-mage waves his hand around the room. “Umbra opened all of these doors, and the locker, with that red card. But she’s not really a front-line type and I’m not sure we want her in front, opening everything for us. I’d like to take the red card - if someone is going to take a hit opening up doors, I’d rather it be me.”

    Willa arches an eyebrow suspiciously at Mathias. “That’s something I would need to discuss with Aurora.”

    In a reassuring voice, Mathias says, “I already have this yellow key - I found it in the sick bay.” He holds forth a yellow key card.

    “An’ ye be jus’ now showin’ us?”

    “I had just pulled it out of the desk and was turning to show you when that clockwork attacked and you ran out into the hall...then there was the fight...then I was in the cell...this is the first time we have had a chance to talk, since.”

    Willa pauses to consider. She tells Mathias that tactically, it does not make sense for one person to be carrying two cards - not when there are so many ways of separating the party or paralyzing one of them. She offers to transfer the red card to him if he gives the yellow card he found to Aurora. He nods and sets off looking for her.

    Willa takes the red card from Umbra and walks with her and Tyrius to the console in the security control room. Umbra says she remembers which switches operate the food and water, and Willa gathers up Thokk. She, Thokk, and Tyrius pass through the cells while Umbra works the switches. The water nozzles send forth seemingly limitless water, overflowing the cups, while the “food” nozzles spray only foul-scented air.

    Thokk tries the water and says it tastes stale and flat but is drinkable. Willa tries some herself and agrees. She tells Thokk and Tyrius to round up all the skins carried by the party and fill them with water while Umbra operates the panel.

    Shefak informs Willa that she will be on guard duty, invisible in the hallway outside the control room.

    Willa calls for Babshapka and has him search the remaining four cells, the ones that were not occupied by Shefak and Mathias. He finds the same sleeping shelf and curious seat-basin she did, in each one. He shows one of the basins to Willa - she shrugs and says it is likely for giving water to livestock, should any be confined in the cells.

    Willa sees that the stopperless flasks are returned to the locker in the control room, the dozen blue ones that were there, as well as the blue, red, and green ones recovered from the clockwork. The anti-gas masks have already been taken; the needle-shooters are given to Thokk and Babshapka. After some discussion, the mirror-weapon found in the Chief’s room is assigned to Umbra and Aurora instructs her in its use, and the red card is given to Mathias.

    With Tyrius on guard in the cell block, Shefak outside, Babshapka in the control room, and Larry in the internal hallway, Aurora proceeds to examine the crates in the storeroom, while Willa, Mathias, and Umbra take the curious armor out of the Chief’s locker.

    It appears to be a suit of unusual plate armor. The bulk of it is heavy metal, but the joints appear to be finely, if somewhat strangely, articulated with an oily, black, leather-like material at major joints rather than chain, which is not to be seen. The armor appears to have been worked to create the appearance of a heavily muscled man. The great helm is unusual in that it has no openings, only a broad glass plate in the front with a smaller piece of glass above this. There are strange plates and tubing at various points and large metal bosses seem to be placed randomly on the suit. On the back of the left hand is a rectangular metal box. From this comes a short projecting rod tipped with a cone shaped red crystal or jewel. The armor stands erect even though the glass helmet clearly shows that there is no one inside it.

    Umbra says that she can attempt to put it on - but she is not sure how to get inside - the helm doesn't come off, there are no straps or buckles, etc. (Investigation 12). Mathias investigates it (20) and finds that the armor is opened by pressing two separate buttons concealed at the rear of the helmet beneath its lip. Pressing both buttons at the same time pops open a seal down the middle of the back of the armor that looks to provide access.

    Umbra is able to fit half her body through the seal easily enough, but does not understand how to get both the upper and lower half in at the same time - if she slides in head first, she cannot later lift her legs to fit inside - if she steps inside, she cannot bend her torso to fit in. Undaunted, she slides her upper half in, filling the arms, torso, and head capsule. She reports that on the inside of the glass helm, several screens are visible with lit, colored shapes and the strange alien script, while inside the hands are strange grips and triggers. She does not find any more buttons that might enable her to get her feet in, however (Investigation 4). Mathias and Willa go over the suit, but have no more luck (7, 9). Willa decides to give it a thorough investigation, running her hands slowly and methodically over the whole thing (take twenty Investigation 20, through 11:45pm). What she finally realizes is that while before the suit was rigid and locked in position, now that the back seal is open all of the articulations are stiff but movable. With a little work she can make the suit bend over, such that someone can step into the legs and then, so long as they are flexible enough to touch their toes, also bend over and put their upper half into the torso and arms. Once all inside, they should be able to stand up.

    When she explains this to Umbra and Mathias, Mathias volunteers to try. When he stands up as directed, the seal in the back closes and he hears a whoosh and feels his ears register a change in pressure. At the same time, the static displays in the helmet that had been glowing dully now flare with brilliant, dynamic colors, and in more than one place alien text scrolls by. Finally, all of the joints that resisted movement before relax and are perfectly loose.

    [Initial armor use, Mathias at +1 due to Intelligence of less than 10. Roll 3+1 = 4 (circle). Roll 5+1 = 6 (triangle).

    The suit, huge and much of it metallic, should be heavy. Full plate armor like that of Tyrius weighs about 65 pounds unless it is magical. Mathias estimates that this suit is about that heavy. A human has to be much stronger than Mathias to move in full plate (minimum Strength 15). He really has no business moving in this armor - and yet he still can. After some experimental steps, he realizes that the armor is actually helping him move! Every movement he makes is being amplified by miniature gears and levers inside the armor such that the armor itself is doing most of the work of moving itself. From outside, Willa and Umbra hear the hum of motors like that produced by the clockworks every time Mathias moves.

    Mathias tries a little hop into the air. Again, it would take his whole strength to get off the ground in a suit of full plate, if he could even do so. When he crouches, then straightens his legs, the armor seemingly anticipates his motion and straightens its legs with an incredible force, lifting him a foot off the ground. When he lands, the impact is felt through the metal floor by Umbra and Willa and heard by those in the rooms and hallways nearby.

    Mathias wonders, if the suit is powered like the clockworks, what is its power level after so many years? There are multiple displays that indicate the level of something, but which is overall power? He finds that by raising his hands into his field of view, he can manipulate the displays as if he was touching them - enlarging or shrinking them, moving them to different places on the interior of the helmet, dragging them from the center of the display to the periphery. When he grabs one particular display, the red jewel on the left arm flares to life.

    [From triangle, roll 9+1 = 10 (Discharge; person is hurt, return to start).]

    A red beam of light, looking like what the security clockworks shoot out of their chest, streaks from the jewel and slams into the side of Mathias’ leg. Just before it hits, Umbra and Willa see a blue field flare and absorb the red. The blue field appears similar to the force shield that the security clockworks generate. Mathias doesn’t take damage.

    [Powered Armor onboard Laser Pistol: Damage 2d8+20-AC of target. Powered Armor AC = 20. Damage = 9 points to onboard force shield]

    Two different displays inside the helmet flash. One, in red, lowers slightly and then rises almost immediately. Another, in blue, lowers about a fifth and then rises slowly, such that it will likely take a minute or more to be where it was before.

    Willa and Mathias discuss what happened. Despite the helmet, and the whole suit, appearing to be airtight, they can hear each other, though each of their voices sounds a bit tinny and hollow to one another. Mathias wants to confirm the existence of a protective force shield. They call Thokk in, and tell him to help Mathias test the armor by hitting it. Thokk grins broadly, recalling when he “helped” Barnabus test his magical leather.

    Thokk squares off and punches the armor in its chest plate (to hit 17, 20 - at advantage since Mathias is not trying to avoid the blow. Armor is AC20. Thokk does 5 points of bludgeoning damage)

    This time Willa and Umbra know what to look for, and clearly see the protective blue field. Inside the helmet, Mathias feels the blow but is not harmed. The blue display drops further, but the red display does not. Mathias is confident that the blue display tracks the power available in the shield.

    While initially thrilled about the possibility of powered armor with a self-generated defensive shield, Mathias now wonders about whether or not he can cast spells in it. He tries to cast mage hand, which has a somatic component - a precise series of gestures that have to be performed perfectly in order to execute the spell (Arcana 6). The spell fails, as his motions are disrupted both by the bulk of the suit and its over-compensation for his gestures. Can he cast in it? Possibly, eventually - if he has enough practice.

    His next question - is there anything in the suit that will act as an on-board color key, enabling him to open the doors of the ship? Willa agrees to stay inside the room and shut the door behind him, as he goes into the hall where Larry is. As he walks across the room, Mathias notes that his stride is slow but easy. There seems to be a limit to the speed with which the suit can adjust to his movements. He could likely walk all day in it without tiring, and possibly carry much more gear besides, but at a slower pace than he could without it.

    Once he is out of the room Mathias tells Willa to close the door (from her side it is a pressure plate, from his a red-carded lock). He lifts his hands and tries different motions in front of the door. Suddenly the red light from his left hand fires again - this time down the hallway - and strikes Larry’s shield, blasting him down the hall. Apparently there is some gesture that fires the bolt of which he is not yet aware.

    [Powered Armor onboard Laser Pistol: Damage 2d8+20-AC of target.
    Larry AC = 18 (not counting Dex). Damage = 14 points radiant damage]

    “Och, mind yer beams, ye grreat yooman ponce!” curses the dwarf.

    Mathias shrugs. “Looks like it hurt less than a lightning bolt,” he mumbles.

    He tries several more gestures, including miming turning a door knob and sweeping the door out of the way. If the suit can trigger a door, he does not know how. After counting to one hundred, Willa opens the door from the inside, and Mathias comes back in.

    He tries to cast mage hand again. This time he fails (Arcana 0), and sends a charge of the jewel of light into his own leg again! (Roll 9).

    “Take it off!” yells Willa.

    “You said to figure out how it worked!” he replies defensively.

    “Fine!” she says, “bu’ we be leavin’ - shoot all ye want once ther room be clear!”

    Taking care that both doors are still open, Willa, Thokk, and Umbra withdraw and head for the storeroom.

    “Thanks, but send Aurora in here when she’s done!” Mathias calls to their backs. “This would be easier if I could read the displays.”

    Aurora looks around the storeroom. There are crates and crates, all easily opened and labeled, but her comprehend languages is over. She tries a few of the crates. Inside are smaller boxes, also labeled. She will need to ritual-cast her spell again. But first, she needs a bit more protection. There are several unopened doors off the hallway, and she doesn’t feel too secure with Larry as the only guard. Babshapka is in the control room, a mere fifty feet away - but her message is blocked by an inch of metal - and these walls are all at least an inch thick. But message doesn’t have to travel in a straight line, so as long as all the doors are open...she summons Babshapka to watch over her while she conducts her ritual.

    Her spell complete, Aurora turns back to the first crate she opened. Both the outside of the crate, and the stacked boxes inside, say “Meaty stew”. Meaty stew? Can it be? She rapidly turns to the next crate - which reads “Creamy porridge”. Aurora squeals with delight, and tells Babshapka to start taking the tops off of boxes. Nearly all of them contain food stores, of both the two aforementioned ones, as well as “Nutrient drink”, “Surrogate steak”, “Vegetable substitute”, and “Vitamin bars”.

    With all the boxes open, Babshapka and Aurora have found more food than the party can likely carry. There were two small boxes without food, however, both of them small black cave horn cases with handles and latches. Inside the first case, nestled in cave sponge, are twelve ampules with brightly colored liquid and a curious set of a dozen tiny cave horn plungers topped with metal needles. Four each of the ampules read “disease cure”, “poison antidote”, and “radiation antidote”. Aurora recognizes the word “radiation” from the atmospheric analyzer, but is still not sure what it means besides a feeling that it is related to the radiant damage from spells like Larry’s moonbeam. She makes Babshapka memorize which colors of the liquids in the ampules go with which property for when her spell fails, but she also takes notes on the alien script and their translations.

    The second black case is labeled on the outside “Healing Canisters.” Inside are fourteen flasks surrounded by cave sponge. The canisters appear as smooth, featureless gourds. They are indented on one side to fashion a grip, flat on the bottom, and have a small neck curving out of the other end. This neck ends in a hole. On the back of the neck is a rivet. On the flat bottom is a sundial pattern with a hair marking a line on the pattern, as well as the numbers zero to six.

    Babshapka takes a box out of the “Meaty Stew” crate and opens it. Inside are a stack of cave horn trenchers, each covered by a silvery film made of some flexible material like oiled skins. At one end of the film is a tab, attached to one side is a strange implement that looks like a spoon with serrated edges and a hollow handle, and at the other end of the trencher are two rings, one red and one blue.

    Babshapka peels back the tab to reveal the inside of the trencher. The contents are in a dry, dusty brick, with lots of room for air. It does not look or smell appetizing. He tries a tiny bite, and it is all he can do to get it down. It tastes mostly of powder and salt. “Seven hundred and fifty years,” he says to Aurora. “Of course it is inedible.”

    Aurora is undaunted and not ready to give up her windfall. She directs him to take out the next trencher, and this time to pull the blue ring before peeling back the skin. When he does so, he reports that suddenly the trench feels “sloshy” and about twice as heavy, as if a liquid were added to the inside. When he pulls the red ring, the trencher and especially the skin quickly feel warm to his touch. Now when he peels back the skin, he is faced with a tray full of steaming stew that actually looks and smells very appetizing! He stows his stone and pops off the curious serrated spoon attached to the trencher. At a sip of the contents, even the taciturn wood elf smiles. “Not fresh,” he says, “but not bad.” The contents of the stew are not quite identifiable - cubes of some sort of root vegetable (darker than potato, crispier than turnip) and flakes of some sort of meat (as red as ham but with a flavor more like a delicate poultry).

    Willa, Umbra, and Thokk arrive at the storeroom, and Aurora eagerly describes what she has found. They all try a spoonful of the now-cooling stew. For all her criticism of the unnaturalness of the ship and its strange technology, here at last is a discovery that Willa approves of wholeheartedly. She does some rapid mental calculations - with one trencher counting as a complete meal - and the current size of their party being eight in need of food - the crates all together represent about a two month supply! Maybe, she speculates, the mules could eat the vegetable substitute, or perhaps the porridge.

    “Now we just need to find fuel!” says Aurora excitedly. “Do you think we can burn the crates?”

    Willa shakes her head. “No need. If t’ese meals ‘eat themselves like ye say, we be needin’ coal only fer ter ‘eat ther tent - an’ we hae eno’ coal fer that. W’at do yon ‘ealing cans do?”

    Aurora calls Thokk over and looks at the burns and welts on his now-hairless chest. She takes a canister in hand and follows the instructions on the inside of the case - shaking the canister vigorously, depressing the rivet, and pointing the nozzle at the wound.

    A misty liquid sprays out. When it hits, a green foam, greener even than Thokk’s skin, rises up. Thokk sighs and says it feels good. When they scrape away the foam, they find his burns have healed and even his chest hair re-grown. (Thokk healed for 12 points, the dial on the canister has gone from “2” to “1”. Aurora now has automatic use of healing canisters (-1 from int, -2 from successful use, -2 from instruction is total -5)).

    “Yes! Thokk missed glorious battle fur!” the barbarian shouts contentedly. “You find priest-in-can!”

    Willa loads eight trenchers each of stew and porridge into her backpack, as well as two canisters of healing (although she does not notice and Aurora does not think to check that both canister’s dials read “zero”).

    [11:50pm; Vegepygmy wandering encounter canceled - they avoid the central block of the level]

    Back in the Chief’s office, Mathias tries again to cast mage hand while in the armor (Arcana 0). This time when he fails, he sees several of the displays turn red (Roll 9). A second later, the suit seizes up and does not move. It has stopped assisting his movements - it has stopped moving at all, and Mathias finds himself locked in position as more and more of the displays turn red and unreadable text scrolls by.

    About a minute later and the suit finally responds to him, moving again, but he suddenly hears the hiss of escaping gas and smells something acrid. A new display shows a system of tubes like veins running throughout the suit and flashing. Mathias reaches up and finds the buttons that open the seal, bends over and rapidly climbs out of the suit. Green gas follows him out and starts to build up around the suit itself. Mathias’ lungs burn and he begins to cough as he retreats from the suit.

    From the control room (where he moved after Babshapka left), Tyrius can see the expanding cloud of green gas enveloping the suit. He calls for Umbra or Aurora to return. Willa hears his call and brings Umbra, skirting the cloud as she moves through the Chief’s office. Umbra moves to the control panel, trying to remember which of the dozens of switches and dials represented the “ventilation system in the “Chf Sec Off”. She tries a few (Intelligence Save 2, critical fail) and is met with the script which she cannot read but which she knows says that a password or key card is required.

    Soon after, Aurora and Babshapka enter the control room. With her comprehend languages, Aurora finds the correct dial to increase the ventilation in the office and begin to suck the green gas out of the room. In a few minutes the suit stops producing it.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Jul 27, 2021 9:26 pm  
    Post 179: Spores!

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our twelfth Barrier Peaks session, was 29 June, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 3 - Level I, South
    Party, Mules, and Security HQ each rolling separately
    1:30 am (mules) - 2 displacer beasts

    Post 179: Spores!
    22 February, 571 [3 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 3

    Aurora has comprehend languages until 12:30am
    Shefak has mage armor until 1am
    Babshapka spells at 1/2
    Tyrius at 2/2
    Umbra at 0/3/0
    Dirty Larry at 3/1/1
    Aurora at 3/1/1

    Party is in the central complex, Level I.
    Shefak, invisible, is on guard outside in the hall.
    Everyone else is in either the Security Control Room or the Chief Security Officer's room, with the door between them open.
    The poison gas from powered armor has been vented.

    Once all of the gas has dispersed from the officer’s room, Mathias and Aurora return. Umbra stays at the console control panel. Some of the stronger party members maneuver the fallen clockwork into an upright position behind the desk to make it look like it is still in control of the room.

    With her comprehend languages still running, Aurora follows Mathias’ instructions on getting into the suit. It allows her to enter but Mathias has to help her stand the armor upright. When she is fully standing, the back seal does not close and it does not pressurize.

    Aurora can read the numerous displays all around the helmet. In the center, and much larger than the others, is a flashing red notice. “Critical suit failure!” it says, “Mandatory repair. This fault was first reported 712 years 63 days 5 hours ago.” Below that, it says “All major systems offline. Currently running on long-term emergency power only. This fault was first reported 0 hours ago.” Finally, beneath this, it says, “Critical hydraulic system failure. Ethylene Glycol gas leak extremely dangerous to user. This fault was first reported 0 hours ago.”

    Around this, in smaller displays, she can read the status of the various systems the suit possesses. She shouts these out to Mathias, who can hear them through the open seal in the back of the suit. The voice of the suit-wearer is no longer being projected from the front. It appears that the suit is equipped with:

    Air Supply
    Air Supply Recharge
    Anti-Gravity Recharge
    Atmospheric Analyzer (with the same three systems as the handheld unit)
    Auditory Sensors
    Core Generator
    Force Shield
    Force Shield Recharge
    General System Power
    Image gathering and processing
    Language Translator (incoming and outgoing)
    Laser Pistol (the display says that this is currently set to “anti-personnel mode”. It does not say what the other mode(s) are)
    Low light sensors
    Movement Systems
    Processing and Diagnostics
    Structural Integrity
    Thermal Dispersion Patterning
    Voice Projection

    Mathias listens carefully. When Aurora is done, he says, “Well, we’ll just have to see about getting it fixed, then. Let’s take it back to that repair clockwork.” He helps Aurora double over again, then climb out of the suit.

    The party, less Shefak, gathers in the interior hallway of the central complex. Willa is still keen to move the mules here, but wants to do a bit of exploring first, making sure the complex is safe. There are two gray doors and a pressure plate one off of the hall, and they don’t know the contents of any of those rooms.

    It is decided that they will try the middle gray door - except that they have no idea where gray is in the color hierarchy. Aurora suggests that it can’t be very high, as black is quite low and the known higher colors are bright. She suggests using the red card, since that is likely the highest card the party possesses and thus most likely to work. Willa agrees that the red card is likely the highest, but says that in itself is the reason they cannot use it - they can’t afford to lose it if it doesn’t work. She says they should try the yellow card. If the yellow doesn’t work, they will still have the red, without having lost any functionality, but if the red doesn’t work they will lose access to this whole complex.

    Aurora inserts the yellow card into the gray-coded slot of the door. Immediately a door alarm begins to go off; the card is not returned. From the control room Umbra shouts that there is a flashing light on the console. Aurora dashes off to read the message. Under the flashing yellow light, text appears saying “Unauthorized entry attempted at central computing room - reroute all available security personnel”. Aurora attempts to override the alarm but fails. “We need to prepare for clockworks!” she shouts to the others.

    “Can Shefak see ‘em comin’?” Willa asks, and Larry admits his previous Darkvision spell on her should have expired hours ago. He hustles out in the hallway to apply another one, and warns her that they may have visitors soon. (Shefak now has darkvision to 8:10am, Dirty Larry at 3/0/1)

    What follows then is several moments of them shouting at each other as they try to work out whether they are supposed to be hiding or ambushing, and if the latter, where that is going to take place. Mathias has disappeared into the shadows in the control room until Willa reminds him that he is holding the red card and needs to be with the group if something happens. They finally decide on using the Chief’s room as their ambush spot and several of them ready themselves to attack anyone coming in the open doors. They leave all of the interior doors open but have plans to shut them if they hear from Shefak. While most of them think that any security forces will arrive through the control room, Willa insists that they need to be ready for something arriving through the other doors, and she sends Babshapka through the pressure-plated door to the south. On the other side he finds the familiar medical bay - he listens carefully, and then closes both doors from there to the hallway which were left open at the start of their last fight. Babshapka notes that on the medical bay side, the door is not a push panel, but rather is gray-carded, so he carefully leaves it open. Willa and Thokk move out to guard it as Babshapka remains in the bay and listens.

    After a tense five minutes or so the alarm ceases. “See, I told you,” says Aurora confidently. “I’m sure we have eliminated all of the security clockworks by now.”

    When they stand down she informs the party of what the message actually said - “Unauthorized entry attempted at central computing room”. Mathias asks what a “computing room” is. “I imagine it is like a counting house,” says Aurora. “On a ship like this, they would likely have to “compute” the pay for all the crew, the supplies in food and whatever they use to power all of these devices, parts for the clockworks, and everything else. Most likely a center of logistics and inventory.”

    Mathias considers this. He suggests that they insert their black card into the other gray door. They will surely lose the card, but at least they can learn from the readout in the control room what kind of place it is. Willa says that she does not want them to be down to a single card (she thinks, but does not say out loud, especially a single card held by him). She adds, however, that the black cards appear to be numerous - they have had two others before - one they lost to a brown door, one to a violet door. So it is likely they will come across another soon, and if not perhaps they can get one from some plant men. She is willing to try Mathias’ plan as soon as they have a spare.

    After some more talk, it is decided that if they are not going to be attacked, and if they can’t get through the gray doors, they need to explore some more to make sure the complex is safe for the mules. Willa wants Aurora to read anything in the medical area before her spell expires. Mathias convinces Thokk to carry the now-frozen armor. It is as heavy as a normal suit of plate armor and Thokk is able to get it over his shoulders and stagger forward slowly. Shefak runs rear-guard, closing all of the red doors behind them, but being careful to leave the gray one open.

    Once in the medical suite they spread out. Willa guards the southwest entrance to the hallway outside, Thokk sets down the armor and guards the southeast door, Tyrius remains at the north door they came from. The rest of them follow Aurora around as she reads. The yellow door to the east says “Research Facilities”. She wants to enter immediately, but Willa said they needed to explore the two smaller rooms in the medical suite first. One of these Babshapka previously looked in, but did not have time to search it as he had just opened the door when the clockwork attacked. Babshapka reminds them that the alarm is triggered by touching the desks and they should avoid those. The two small rooms have writing on the doors that say “Examination Room 1” and “Examination Room 2”.

    The first exam room is strangely furnished. It is not clear whether it is meant to be an uncomfortable bedroom or a comfortable cell or torture chamber. There is a single bed with side rails and obvious locations for restraints. A smaller litter is nearby, curious in that it is wheeled. A thin, standing curtain has a sheer fabric mounted on a flexible folding frame that seems mounted to the floor and ceiling. Babshapka has seen this room, so he proceeds to check the other one while Aurora looks for things to read.

    In various drawers around the room are a number of small unfamiliar machines and devices, and a few more of the dark panes of glass that Mathias saw in the desk drawer outside. One drawer holds vials and tubes. There is lots of writing, both in the room and on the objects in the drawers, that Aurora can translate, but she doesn't understand most of the terms - it seems to be a specialized vocabulary related to alien concepts of medicine.

    She starts looking through the drawers for things she thinks would help for dissecting robots, but all the tools seem to be designed for squishy humanoid non-metallic bodies. This is not a machine repair shop. She pokes her head into the room Babshapka is in but sees no great difference in its accoutrements, while meanwhile her spell is about to end. She returns to the yellow interior door.

    Aurora tells Mathias to open the yellow-carded door. He asks if they shouldn’t check with Willa first, and Aurora says it is fine. Babshapka shrugs and Dirty Larry nods in agreement. Mathias sticks the red card into the yellow-colored slot and the door opens. He asks Umbra to at least inform Willa that they are moving on.

    The room inside [Laboratories] has tables and chairs. Shelving and counter space is full of what Aurora recognizes as alchemical supplies: vials, retorts, petri dishes, etc., as well as more esoteric devices and machines she does not recognize but which she assumes have similar uses. There are a number of dark glass screens on the walls. There are lots of things to read, down to the labels on the equipment, but the terms are highly specialized - they relate to medicine and alchemy but that is about all she gleans. Certainly there is nothing that obviously says "healing". To the north there is a pressure-plate door, to the east two yellow-carded doors. One says “Lab B: Culture Laboratory” while the other says “Lab C: Alchemical Supply Room.”

    When Willa arrives, Mathias immediately says, “Serjeant, I told them to wait for you, but they made me open the door.”

    “Aye,” sighs Willa, “Welcome ter me world.”

    Aurora opens the pressure-plated door to the north while she points Mathias at the carded door, the southernmost of the two doors on the east wall.

    Aurora’s room [Laboratories] is small, the walls full of stacked metal cages and container bins. Many of the cages hold the dusty, yellowed bones of small animals. There are two other doors besides the one she entered. One to the north is uncarded and unlabeled; one to the east is yellow-carded, and says “Lab B: Culture Laboratory”.

    Aurora continues to the north. The next room [Laboratories] is also small, containing workbenches and counters, full of machines and alchemical supplies. A single, yellow-carded door is on the east wall, and says “Lab A: Reagent Trials”.

    Back in the initial room, Mathias uses his red card to open the first yellow door. The packed space within [Lab c] is filled with shelving and all manner of containers - jars, boxes, and bottles. Most are glass, but some are ceramic; all are labeled in the alien script. The others call for Aurora to come back and read. When she gets to the supply room, with the last vestiges of her spell, she reads that the

    Glass bottles of white powder say “defoliant”
    Glass bottles of clear fluid say “acid” (with different qualifying names)
    Glass jars of green powder say “poison” (with different qualifying names)
    Glass jars of pink powder say “sensory enhancer”
    Large ceramic bottles say “fertilizer”
    Large ceramic containers say “regal acid”

    There are about twenty of each type of container. A few are intact, most are rent, leaking, corroded, discolored, have dry-rotted seals, etc. Aurora’s spell ends.

    Aurora carefully looks through the containers, trying to find two of each that appear the most intact and are likely to still be viable, and then she directs the others to carry them out to the table in the previous room. Tyrius lays his backpack on the table in preparation for loading it with the containers.

    Mathias moves to the more northerly of the two yellow-carded doors. The room beyond [Lab b] is long but narrow. It contains dozens of tubs mounted on open shelving of various levels. Thin tubes drop from the ceiling into each tub and there is a steady dripping noise. Russet-colored mold overgrows all of the tubs, covers the floor, and runs up the walls of the room. Willa’s hand goes to her stone.

    Aurora takes a good look at the mold (Nature check, 24). She doesn’t recognize it, but doesn’t think it is “natural”. In the light of Willa’s lantern, she can see thousands of tiny, golden spores - dense in the air of the laboratory, swirling in eddies out the door, more disperse in the room they are in.

    Willa tells Mathias that he can close the door, but when he leans in to press the pressure panel on the inside of the door he sees, besides a few other doors to the room, a shape on the floor under a dense carpet of mold - it looks like a humanoid body, but only two or three feet tall.

    He leans back out of the room. “There’s a guy there,” he says, “under the mold. I think this is the source of the plant men.”

    “T’at nay be a plant man,” says Willa definitively.

    Mathias shrugs. “It’s the right size and shape.”

    Aurora rubs her hands together in excitement. “If this is the source of the plant men…” she says.

    “No fireballs!” commands Willa. “Larry, take a look,” she says, then puts up her stone and becomes speechless. Next to her, Babshapka pulls his anti-gas mask off his belt, slips it over his head, and begins adjusting the straps.

    “After you, nature boy,” says Mathias, ushering Larry into the room and then slipping in after him. Larry’s feet, and Mathias’ boots, tread on the carpet of mold and it immediately releases thousands more spores into the air. Larry unsheathes his scimitar and pokes it into the mold-covered lump. He scrapes away the surface layer and examines the features underneath. (Perception 10). “Och, tha’s a plant mun right eno’,” he says, “tho’ be et dead are be et nae yet bairn - aye dinnae ken which.”

    Mathias looks around the room, trying to identify anything else that might be under the thick layer of mold, but doesn’t find much (Perception 7).

    [Larry Con save with dwarf advantage against poison 9, Mathias Con save 13]

    Larry begins wheezing, and soon has trouble breathing. Mathias, too, feels a tickle in his throat, then begins coughing. Willa leans into the lab, one hand bracing herself on the wall outside, and yanks the two of them out without setting foot on the mold-covered floor of the room. Mathias, under his own power, starts stumbling back through the rooms, making his way slowly to the storeroom, followed by Aurora. As he goes, his exposed skin turns pink, then bright red, as if he has a sunburn - everywhere his skin was not covered by his leather. Larry is doubled over without moving, then sinks to his knees. He is beginning to turn blue from lack of air and gasps feebly.

    Babshapka sticks his hand inside the room to press the pressure panel and close the door. Still wearing his anti-gas mask, he dashes after Mathias and Aurora. When he catches them, he wrenches the red card from Mathias’ hand, and then continues on ahead to open the storeroom door ahead of them.

    Tyrius and Thokk together manage to carry Larry, arriving at the storeroom shortly after Mathias. By the time they get there, the skin on Babshapka’s arm, the one he closed the door with, is red as well. Tyrius empties his skin of water over Babshapka’s arm and sleeve. Larry’s breath is rattling feebly and his eyes are fluttering. Mathias can feel his throat closing off and begins searching for something in his backpack.

    Aurora opens the “healing” valise in the storeroom and fills one of the plungers with half an ampule of “poison antidote” by sticking the needle end through the rubbery seal and drawing the plunger back, like she learned in her alchemy class when they worked with liquid ingredients that could not be exposed to air. She gets Mathias to open his mouth and tries to squirt it down his throat - but it seems to have no effect. She considers why the needle at the end of the plunger is so sharp and fine (Arcana 20). She draws the rest of the ampule, jabs the needle under Mathias’ skin, and squeezes. His eyes go wide and opens his mouth as if to object, then passes out, one hand clenched tightly around a potion flask just drawn from his pack. The burns on his skin are spreading.

    Tyrius and Thokk set down Larry on the floor of the storeroom and quickly work to take his armor off. The skin of his hands and feet is peeling and sloughing off, and above that it is bright red to his knees and elbows. Tyrius lays a hand on Larry’s brow and prays for a lesser restoration (Tyrius to 2/1).

    Larry’s breathing slowly eases. Tyrius keeps his hand on Larry’s head, closes his eyes, and continues his prayer (Religion check 21). He says that there is no poison in Larry’s system, but that he believes the problem with his breathing was related to some kind of disease. He does not know what the burns are from.

    “Disease, eh?” says Aurora. She uses the already open syringe to draw forth a full syringe worth of “disease antidote” from one of the blue ampules, emptying it, then jabs that under Mathias’ skin and squeezes. (Mathias' death save 17). His body convulses as the thick, syrupy liquid spreads through his veins. Some tense moments later he begins breathing again, hoarse and weak.

    Tyrius asks Aurora to tell him the labels on all the ampules. She is working from memory, but says she thinks they were “poison antidote”, “disease antidote”, and “radiation antidote”. The curious spray they used on Thokk simply said “healing”. Tyrius doesn’t know what “radiation” is - but the burns bear considerable resemblance to the damage done by Larry’s moonbeam spell, which is “radiant”. Perhaps there is a connection between 'radiant' and 'radiation'?

    Larry’s burns are worse but no longer spreading, while Mathias’ are not as bad yet but are continuing to worsen even as his breathing improves. Aurora injects Mathias with a full ampule of “anti-radiation” liquid, while Tyrius shakes and then sprays the healing canister previously used on Thokk over Larry’s arms and legs.

    After several minutes they are both doing better - Mathias’ burns are slowly subsiding, while the skin has grown back over Larry’s hands and feet, soft and supple. When they later are conscious and have been explained everything that happened, Mathias weakly suggests that the plant men are the result of exposing the russet mold to the source of radiant damage they experienced.

    Babshapka removes his mask, his cloak, and his chainmail. The burns on his arm look bad, although he is not having trouble breathing. [Note: Babshapka normally Str 12, currently Str 11]. The healing spray worked well on Larry, so they take the same canister to Babshapka, but before she sprays it, Aurora notes that the dial on the bottom now says “0”. She presses the rivet, but no foam emerges. There are still plenty of canisters left, so she pulls out another one and checks the bottom - it is on “six”. She holds it over Tyrius’ arm and depresses the rivet. With a soft hissing sound, just a few drops of green liquid and no foam emerges - and the dial on the bottom drops rapidly from “six” to “zero”. Aurora curses and shakes the canister, noting that it already felt light when she picked it up. She goes back to the valise and pulls out the canisters, shaking each in turn. Of the 15 canisters remaining (including two that Willa had previously taken), there are only three that have the heavy “sloshing” feel she thinks means that they are intact. Of those, the dials on the bottom read 6, 4, and 1.

    Larry struggles to his feet. “Aye got et,” he says, and rests his hand on Babshapka’s burned arm while mumbling in Bear. (Cure wounds for 7 points, Babshapka’s strength restored, Larry at 2/0/1). Babshapka’s skin turns from beet red to a delicate pink.

    Willa takes the three working canisters and the valise of ampules. She is beginning to struggle with her load and says that they need to collect the mules and redistribute gear soon.

    The party returns to the complex of laboratory rooms. Using his mage hand, Mathias places the red card in the slot to open the second door labeled Culture Lab and sees that it indeed leads to the same russet mold-filled room. He uses his hand to return the card to his person, then sends it inside to press the pressure panel and close the door. The hand fizzles once the door lies between it and Mathias, but it is a cantrip and he can easily cast it again. Willa nods in agreement at his caution. “From now on, better use yer hand fer all ther doors.”

    “Yes sergeant!”

    The final yellow door, leading to Reagent Trials is opened in a similar manner. Inside [Lab a] is a lab bench and plenty of alchemical equipment spread out in use - rather than being abandoned as in previous rooms, many of these are filled with a variety of strange liquids and gels.

    A clockwork, roughly human-shaped, is moving between the different pieces of equipment and is currently stirring an odd glowing liquid with a small glass rod. The automaton is not nearly as realistic as the female clockwork they fought, but is much more obviously humanoid in appearance than all of the security and cleaning clockworks they have seen. It is five feet tall and genderless, and has many sockets for attachments and compartments that might house laboratory equipment.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:42 am  
    Post 180: Unit (#at†y [^']['h`/

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our twelfth Barrier Peaks session, was 29 June, 2019.

    Two posts ago was likely the nadir for the party - two of them locked in the jail cells, facing starvation, with no key card capable of opening the door. That problem resolved, and now in possession of a red card, the party is on their way up. In the last post they discovered the ship's stores and finally found a safe place to rest. Now their possession of a red card will give them access to a huge amount of information. They are finally starting to get answers to their questions.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 3 - Level I, South
    Party, Mules, and Security HQ each rolling separately
    1:30 am (mules) - 2 displacer beasts

    Post 180: Unit (#at†y [^']['h`/
    22 February, 571 [3 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 3

    A clockwork, roughly human-shaped, is moving between the different pieces of equipment and is currently stirring an odd glowing liquid with a small glass rod. The automaton is not nearly as realistic as the female clockwork they fought, but is much more obviously humanoid in appearance than all of the security and cleaning clockworks they have seen. It is five feet tall and genderless, and has many sockets for attachments and compartments that might house laboratory equipment.

    Aurora steps forward excitedly and says “Initiate language translation protocol.”

    The clockwork swivels its head in response, looks at each of the party in turn, and then returns to the task at hand. Aurora tells the party to watch it while she casts a ritual of comprehend languages. The clockwork spends the next ten minutes transferring the glowing liquid from one strange device to another, alternately stirring, heating, and examining it.

    [Shefak’s mage armor ends]

    Aurora finishes her spell, and moves to the still-open doorway. She says again, “Initiate language translation protocol.”

    Without turning its head this time, the clockwork responds with a voice that is loud enough for them all to hear - and it speaks in Common! “Translation protocol complete.”

    Aurora checks with the others and confirms that they can all understand the clockwork, it is not just the effects of her spell. She considers her training in commanding golems and other constructs - how to issue directives to things that are magically aware and responsive, but not really sentient or alive. She commands it to “report on current events.”

    It responds, “Reportage relegated to overflow processing capacity only - maintaining priority processing resources on current assigned task. This unit, laboratory technician robot (#at†y [^']['h`/, is continuing current research task.”

    “Very good; explain current research task.”

    “Current research task is to discover a cure for novel virus temporary designate HFX392: vulgar name, 'paranoia plague'.”

    "Report progress on assigned task."

    “This unit currently on trial 12,698 - no cure so far discovered - progress limited primarily by current lack of computational resources, biochemical materials and supplies, and live viral cultures. Majority of current run-time is involved in recycling and synthesis of chemical supplies in preparation for occasional trials.” When the clockwork mentions that it is dealing with limited resources, Mathias begins digging through his bag, eventually coming up with the same potion he had before in the storeroom.

    "How long have you been working on assigned task?"

    “Current assigned task has been ongoing for...750 years 17 days 13 hours.” Willa whispers that the security chief’s suit was damaged 712 years ago - decades more recently.

    Aurora continues, “Report on last two days’ activities before death of crew members."

    After a pause - “Specify: death of crew members. Crew members have died all throughout current mission.”

    Ignoring the clockwork’s request for more information, Aurora shifts tactics: "Report on activities of 750 years eighteen days ago."

    “Previous assignment, prior to current task, was researching nutritional supplements for exo-animals in containment units.”

    "Explain nature of exo-animals."

    “Exo-animals definition: life forms of animal nature not indigenous to home planet.”

    "Explain current location designation."

    “Current star location unknown - access to mainframe records lost.”

    Aurora says, "Explain key card color locking system," and a second later Mathias asks whether the repair clockwork can fix the mechanical suit.

    The clockwork says “Response delayed - critical process initiated”. It transfers the glowing liquid to another vial, then holds the vial securely in one hand. Its wrist swivels, spinning completely around as if on an axle. The spinning accelerates, faster and faster until the party can no longer track the motion and a high-pitched whine emerges. Aurora has seen a hand-cranked centrifuge in her alchemy class, but nothing like this. After several moments the spinning slows, then stops. The clockwork proceeds to extract part of the liquid out of the vial using some type of syringe, transfer that to a new vial, and then discard all of the previously used equipment into a bin.

    Mathias asks whether the liquid contained in his flask can help find a cure, and he hands his potion bottle to Aurora, in the doorway.

    Without turning its shoulders, with its back still to the party, the clockwork’s head swivels completely around, turning from Aurora to Mathias and back. “Specify ‘key card color locking system’. Specify ‘repair clockwork’. Specify ‘mechanical suit’.”

    Mathias and Aurora begin to fire off questions to the clockwork: Aurora says, "Do you understand the nature of human-issued key cards to open color-coded doors?"

    Mathias tries suggesting, “Cleaning clockwork? Cleaning repair clockwork?”

    Aurora says, "Explain nature of cleaning/repair clockworks? Can users direct cleaning/repair clockworks?"

    Mathias says, “What is the nature of your power source?”

    Aurora says, "What is in the culture room to the south of us?"

    Willa jumps in, asking, “Who was the first victim of the plague?”

    With so many unanswered questions now pending, the clockwork announces, “Diverging lines of questioning detected - processing resources limited - specify one line of inquiry.”

    Willa tells Aurora and Mathias to lower their sails for a second, that they are confusing the machine man and it seems to hold potential answers to a lot of their questions. She tells Mathias to suggest questions to Aurora, and Aurora to continue her interrogation, but to wait for one answer before asking another question. Finally, she says to the clockwork, “Respond t’ questions from t’is unit,” and points at Aurora.

    Aurora asks again, more slowly, "What is in the culture room to the south of us?"

    “Specify: south.”

    "What is in the culture room directly to your right?"

    “Culture lab contains: hydroponic cultures fed by nutrient broth. Culture lab may be used for stick-life, algae, fungi and similar organisms.”

    "What is your own power source?"

    “Standard issue Mark 4 internal microscale fusion reactor.”

    Aurora looks back at the party, who all shrug. “Not a power disc?”

    “This unit is not powered by power discs.”

    "Describe the first instance of paranoia plague. Subject status, symptoms, and end result."

    “Personnel medical files require yellow level clearance or higher to access.”

    Aurora grins hopefully. "We possess red card access - requesting visual identification." She steps to the side to reveal Mathias - he holds forth the red key card.

    “Questioners possess red level clearance - unlocking personnel medical files.” The party cheers. “Query is first instance of paranoia plague. Subject status, symptoms, and end result. Response: First documented instance of paranoia plaque was crewmember astronavigator Alfonse Jzzor. Subject was co-piloting scout ship assigned to prospect for water-bearing resupply planetoids in projected main ship trajectory. Upon return to main ship, subject Jzzor exhibited increasingly paranoid delusions and erratic, violent behavior. All documented cases of paranoia plague within first week of outbreak were subjects who had had recent close physical proximity to Jzzor. Estimation of Jzzor being viral host point of entry to main ship: 97.3% probability. End result: Jzzor killed self by suffocation with injection tube when confined to medical bay exam room for evaluation.”

    “Suffocation with injection tube?” Aurora whispers. “Did he hang himself?” Her questions seem more directed at the party than the clockwork - in any event, it does not respond.

    Aurora clears her throat uncomfortably, then directs the clockwork to "Explain tiers of all color clearance levels."

    “Black level; lowest clearance; passengers and/or colonists without specific shipboard duties.”

    “Brown level; crew and maintenance workers.”

    “Violet level; technicians and master maintenance workers.”

    “Orange level; security personnel.”

    “Yellow level; medical officers.”

    “Red level; security officers.”

    “Gray level; command officers.”

    “All clearance levels are in linear transitive hierarchical order as reported except yellow and orange level are equal, but restricted to limited operational spheres within appropriate duties.”

    While Aurora makes rapid notes in her notebook about the significance of the colors, Mathias tells her to ask about retrieving lost cards. Once she has things written down to her satisfaction, including confirming her notes with the clockwork, Aurora says "Explain method for retrieving improperly used key cards."

    “Improperly used key cards are immediately destroyed and an automatic system report is sent to security headquarters; card users are then scheduled for a disciplinary hearing and do not receive a re-issued card until the conclusion of the hearing.”

    Aurora says, "Explain current status of paranoia plague throughout vessel,” even as Mathias tells her to ask how many levels there are on the ship.

    “Current status of the plague is unknown to this unit - access to mainframe has been lost.”

    "Explain levels of ship and purpose of each level."

    “The original colony vessel had 56 levels before separation. Detailed specification of operations on each level requires gray level clearance.”

    Aurora says, "Confirmation - current vessel is the scout ship?"


    “Current vessel is the colony ship?”

    “Current vessel is second separate section of once-joined colony ship.”

    Mathias tells Aurora to ask about the female clockwork. Aurora says, "What was the female highly advanced clockwork?"

    “Query - question refers to female android?” [Here the party learns the word android]

    “Yes, the female android. Describe function.”

    (At this point, Babshapka leaves to check on Shefak and Thokk who are guarding the yellow door to the sick bay. The ranger also opens the door to the hallway, looks out, and closes it again.)

    “Androids represent the highest level of synthetic processing and Terran form mimicry available - they can be programmed for a multitude of functions beyond default processes. Female androids are most commonly programmed as guards and companions to ship officers.”

    Mathias tells Aurora to ask where they can find a companion - and how to sync with it.

    Aurora ignores Mathias for the moment and says, "Speculate - why did you lose access to this ‘mainframe?’" Aurora does not recognize the word, but from context it seems like a device for communication that would allow the clockwork - or android? - to know what was happening in other parts of the ship.

    “Mainframe contact was lost contemporaneously with maximum reported incidence of paranoia plague. Temporal association implies most likely scenario: ongoing Terran maintenance of ship systems delinquent due to spread of disease and effective personnel shortages, resulting in critical system failures. Lower-probability alternate hypothesis: deliberate severance of all internal communications systems by plague-afflicted ship command officers with gray-level clearance.”

    [Unbeknownst to the party or Eddard, two displacer beasts check the table room. Finding it now free of lurkers, they hide under the large table and wait.]

    Aurora says, "Explain how to command androids," and Mathias grins.

    “Androids are slaved to personal biometrics of ship officers upon assignment - reassignment occurs only with grey-level clearance.”

    “Ask ‘im what creatures be on ther ship now,” says Willa.

    “And were any of the passengers capable of changing shape,” adds Mathias.

    Aurora says, "Explain nature of current residents of ship."

    “Unable to access data on ship - mainframe access lost. Personal logs of this unit note lack of Terrans in centuries - present company excepted. Novel life form present in culture lab may have been Terran-derived but is no longer Terran.”

    Aurora says, "Verify - you have been in this room for the entire time of your current research."

    “This unit has been working in greater research suite since beginning of paranoia plague. Research suite includes three laboratories and three research rooms, contiguous. This unit is not programmed to leave research suite unless core level functions override current research task.”

    Aurora says, "Were passengers or crew capable of changing physical shape?"

    “Ship crew and colonists were incapable of changing physical shape except for processes of normal ontogeny.” It pauses. “Speculation indicates that novel life form in culture lab may have not been so limited.”

    Aurora says, "Explain more details of novel life form in culture lab."

    “Fungal-based life form not recorded in any archives - it may be novel mutant version of previous exo-fungal creature. Exo-fungal creature was being grown as possible nutritional supplement for exo-animals. Speculation: exo-fungus may have been inadvertently exposed to radiation during ship separation. Since putative mutation, fungus appears capable of infecting humanoid animal life forms whereas before it showed no traits associated with pathogeny. Result of infection in Terrans is novel host - sentient plant / animal / fungus symbiotic colony.”

    Aurora gets a creeping sensation in her skin but continues her line of questioning. "Explain method of reproduction of novel fungal life form."

    “Fungal spores infect suitable animal host - living tissue subsequently redirected into multiple smaller sentient creatures. Individual creatures grow, and can themselves reproduce by asexual budding.”

    “So if that mold gets us, it turns us into plant men?” asks Mathias, but Aurora does not repeat his question.

    “So if t’is jus’ be a section of ther ship, ‘how many levels do t’is section be?” prompts Willa. Aurora repeats the question, and adds that the clockwork android should explain each level of the ship as it goes.

    “Level 1 - Quarters for ship’s crew and colonists. Medical stations, security headquarters for this section. Dining rooms, kitchens, meeting rooms, lounges for all personnel. Training and recreation rooms. Research facilities, library. Central computing facility.”

    “Level 2 - ‘Tween decks. Service access for maintenance and technical crew only. Off-limits for colonists and non-dutied crew. Principle power generation and moderation for this section.”

    “Level 3 - Upper walkway and lounge. Recreational kitchen and other recreational facilities for all personnel. Cargo holds for colonist and terraforming equipment.”

    “Level 4 - Botanical gardens, rookery, and menagerie. Supply and support areas for same. Ten-Forward Lounge for all personnel.”

    “Level 5 - Garden ‘tween decks. Service access for maintenance and technical crew only. Off-limits for colonists and non-dutied crew. Principle water reserve, treatment, purification, and circulation for this section.”

    “Level 6 - Theatre, athletic, and activity deck. Recreational facilities for all personnel. Cargo hold for exo-beings in containment units. General cargo hold.”

    Mathias tells Aurora to ask whether each level has redundant systems, like other medical bays and security quarters. Aurora nods, but says "Explain current safety and viability levels for human presence on each deck."

    “Current situation unknown - mainframe access lost.”

    Mathias tells Aurora to ask what the source is of the creatures that the druids have reported emerging from the cave.

    Aurora says, "Are you aware of any creatures leaving the ship within the last 200 years?"

    “Current situation unknown - mainframe access lost.”

    Willa asks where the colony ship itself went, and whether there has been contact with the other sections. Aurora repeats her question.

    “This section of colony ship is currently in unknown trajectory - mainframe access lost. Status of contact with other sections unknown: mainframe access lost.”

    “Why did the colony ship separate into sections?"

    “Early stages of paranoia plague resulted in activation of quarantine protocol - colony ship divided into independent sections in attempt to control spread of plague.”

    “Were there aliens loose in this section - escaped creatures from the containment units? Are they still getting out?”

    “Current status of containment units unknown - mainframe access lost. Prior to loss of contact with mainframe, report of containment unit…” It pauses, then continues, “ of containment unit restricted to gray level clearance. Files not accessible.”

    Aurora says, "Explain nature of recent sickness and curing of incident with slime."

    “Specify: slime?”

    "In the culture lab to your right, there is a russet fungus with glowing floating spores. When agitated it caused medical problems in humanoids."

    “Respiratory difficulty and radiation burns are early symptoms of body repurposing by novel fungal life form. Advanced symptoms are loss of consciousness and total metabolic and biostructural reworking, eventually resulting in emergence of two to three independent bipedal fungal / plant / animal symbiotic colonies.”

    Mathias asks whether the maintenance androids can fix the exo suit, and Aurora repeats the question verbatim.

    “Specify: exo suit?”

    “This suit,” Mathias says, pointing to the armor that Thokk carried into the room before resuming guard duty.

    “Specify: maintenance android?”

    “Yes, maintenance android,” says Mathias.

    “Unknown term: ‘maintenance android’.”

    Mathias insists, “The clockworks that repair equipment, and repair the security androids.”

    The clockwork pauses for several seconds, then says, “Term requested is ‘repair robot’. Repair robots are tasked with the maintenance of structural features of the ship and cleaning detail. Robots are inferior to androids in both synthetic processing and mimicry of Terran form.” [the party now knows the term robot.]

    “Great,” says Mathias. “Can these repair robots fix this suit? If not, who can? What is this suit even called?”

    “Robot adaptive learning allows them to attempt basic repairs of robots and androids but their effectiveness is limited to replacing failed components rather than actual failed component repair. Terran technicians are required to approve requests for replacement components. “Suit” is standard issue Powered Armor. Powered Armor may be repaired by qualified Terran violet-level technician.”

    Aurora interjects with "Explain procedure for changing your assigned current task."

    “Current task may be reassigned by grey-level clearance directive.”

    "Where can we find grey-level clearance or individuals with such clearance?"

    “Grey level clearance may be obtained on ship command officers’ physical cards or by verbally accessing blind/concealed internal password in all robots and androids.”

    Aurora says, "What is the blind/concealed internal password?"

    “Password is concealed in inaccessible program files until unlocked upon hearing.”

    Mathias asks, “Is the password ‘Balls’?” The robot does not respond.

    Willa asks how many commanding officers there are, and how many crew.

    “Time passage since original officers and crew seen exceeds maximum theoretical Terran lifespan, even with regenerative technology not available on ship. Unknown whether new officers and crew have been assigned. Current status of ship officers and crew unknown - mainframe access lost.”

    Aurora offers forth the bottle that Mathias provided, saying "Prioritize analysis of given vial of liquid as it may be pertinent to current assigned research task."

    “Analysis of vial contents upgraded to next task after current trial.”

    "How long will current trial take?"

    “Current trial completion in two weeks, but projected downtime in 1 day 5 hours.”

    "What does projected downtime mean? Can you analyze vial then?"

    “Projected downtime defined: pause in commitment to current trial while cultures grow. Minor non-priority tasks may be completed during downtime.” The robot accepts the vial offered by Aurora.

    "Very good - you are the most diligent servant I have ever seen."

    “Specify: response to unnecessary praise desired?”

    Aurora chuckles and continues, “Verify - human operator needed to fix powered armor suit?”

    “Terran technician sufficient but not needed. Repair robot may be sufficient provided repair involves replacement of components that are already available to robot. Requisition of components requires Terran technician.”

    Some of the party have lingering questions for the lab technician robot, but Mathias is keen to get the armor to a repair robot and Willa wants to move the mules to the storeroom and rearrange gear. They all agree that they can come back later. If the robot has not left in 750 years, it is unlikely to leave any time soon.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 1061
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:54 am  
    Post 181: Work Smarter, not Harder

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our twelfth Barrier Peaks session, was 29 June, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 3 - Level I, South
    Party, Mules, and Security HQ each rolling separately
    1:30 am (mules) - 2 displacer beasts

    Party, Mules, Security HQ, Hole (I), and Hole (II) rolling separately

    Post 181: Work Smarter, Not Harder
    22 February, 571 [3 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 3

    Aurora’s comprehend languages ends. The party collects their rear guard and helps Thokk again lift the powered armor across his shoulders. They make their way into the hall outside the medical facilities and head for the robot repair room.

    They approach the intersection immediately to the south of the medical bay, one of whose branches leads to the hallway of the plant men. Shefak, invisible, is scouting ahead. She notices (Insight 17) that the plant men are getting agitated at the approach of the party - as they always do, but this time even more so. One of the thorn dogs is pointing stiffly at them.

    They have passed through crowds of the creatures enough times by now that they try what has worked before - weapons away, avoiding eye contact, moving slowly and slouching down. This time, however, the plant men move quickly past most of the party rather than threatening them. When they get to Tyrius, however, they surround him. A half dozen of them hop up and down on all sides of him, and when he does not immediately react, they begin to paw at him.

    More and more of them are emerging from the hallway, such that the corridor is becoming thick with them and those party members near Tyrius are having difficulty pushing past them, while he himself is immobilized. A few of the plant men are grabbing at his belt and trying to climb on him!

    One of the creatures attains his back and is fumbling with the straps of his backpack, apparently trying to open it or perhaps get it off of him. Once Tyrius understands that the creatures are interested in his backpack, he realizes that inside are all of the alchemical supplies the party recently picked up. He takes off the backpack, gently shakes the plant man from it, and opens the top flap. The crowd of plant men around him threatens to topple him, but he manages to keep his feet. He holds the pack over his head, out of their reach, and begins pulling forth its contents at random and tossing them down the hall behind the party.

    The first item out is a glass jar of green “poison” powder. This breaks when it hits the floor (luck roll -1). It is far enough down the hall that it does not land on any plant men, and they ignore it and continue to clamber about Tyrius.

    The next item is a glass bottle of white “defoliant” powder. This does not break (luck roll 1) but remains lying in the hallway.

    The next is a second glass jar of green “poison” powder. This breaks when it hits the floor (luck roll -4). It landed next to an outflow air duct, and it aerosolizes and drifts in a green cloud down the hallway, including over the plant men and the rear of the party. Apparently it is not a contact or respiratory poison, or perhaps is not still active after so many centuries, for no one seems to be adversely affected.

    The next is a glass jar of pink “sensory enhancement” powder. This does not break (luck roll 0) and rolls to the center of the hallway, where it is ignored by the plant men.

    The next is a large ceramic container of “regal acid”. Tyrius throws this well behind him, and the jar cracks on impact (luck roll -2). As the liquid seeps out, the metal floor of the hallway begins to blacken, then bubble, then sink from sight as it is eaten away. A thick cloud of caustic, acrid smoke fills the hallway. This gives a few of the plant men pause, but they quickly return to scrambling in mad attempts to climb up Tyrius and get to his backpack. Tyrius tries not to think about what might happen if he gets overborne and the second of those two containers of acid, still in his backpack, breaks.

    Next is a large ceramic bottle of “fertilizer”. At its appearance the plant men are in a veritable frenzy. Tyrius is nearly overcome as a wave of the creatures climb over one another to get at him, but fortunately he has enough size and weight on them that he manages to keep his feet (Tyrius Athletics roll 17, plant men -1). He can only lob the container a short distance away as he struggles to maintain his balance. It breaks (luck roll -2) and a greenish fluid seeps out. Immediately all of the plant men abandon Tyrius and converge on the broken bottle, fighting and pushing one another out of the way in an attempt to get at the fluid. They stick their twiglike digits into the thick liquid and then into their mouths as they push and jostle one another. Tyrius, and the rest of the party, are now being completely ignored, and Willa hustles them along the hallway to the east while the getting is good.

    [A wandering encounter is now being rolled on the Level II for the hole just created. If an encounter occurs, the Intellect Devourer will have found the hole and be able to climb to Level I. Also, a wandering encounter is being rolled on Level I for the mess in the hall. If it results in a worker robot, the robot will clean up the spilled poison and remove the intact bottles of poison and defoliant. It will ignore the hole itself as too large to repair without authorization to use ship stores.]

    The party enters the outer repair room, where the hulks of the two previously slain security robots lie, and then the inner room, where the solitary repair robot works on the dozen other non-functioning security robots. After an initial appraisal, Aurora does not believe that it is any farther along in its work than it was before. She considers the technician robot’s words - the repair robots are limited in their ability to repair things by their access to component parts, and new components can be requisitioned only by human crewmembers. In a new light she sees the vain attempt of the repair robot to take parts out of the bins or one of the non-functioning robots and replace them in another.

    Aurora walks up to the repair robot and commands it to “Initiate translation protocol.” It steps around her and continues to go about its work.

    Mathias directs Thokk to drop the armor in front of the robot. When he does so, it stops and spends a few minutes examining it with various probes and attachments. Finally it gathers up the armor in its hands and lifts it over its head (displaying considerable strength) and carries it to an empty workbench to set down, but then returns to working on the dozen security robots in the room.

    Aurora tells Thokk to follow the robot around from behind, and whenever it is not looking, to carry out one of the broken security robots and place it in the other room. Thokk is amused by this game and over the next twenty minutes succeeds in getting all of the security robots out of the room without the repair robot “noticing”. With nothing else left to work on, the repair robot moves over to the powered armor, and begins examining it in earnest. When it begins to produce tools that actually open the suit and starts removing parts, Mathias and Aurora smile at one another.

    Willa asks if they are ready to return to the mules yet. Aurora looks around and notes that the repair room has a violet-carded door in it they could not go through before - but now they have a red card, which the technician robot informed them ranks above violet. Mathias agrees, and uses his mage hand to have the card open the door.

    As soon as the door opens, a chime sounds - not an alarm, but a clearly audible chime. Those in the room next door hear it as well. The room beyond the door is oddly shaped, with three walls at normal right angles but the fourth curved as if it were the exterior hull. Inside the room are multiple large cases in cave horn and numerous small boxes of metal. One bench has a dozen of each of the colors of the stopperless flasks on it, as well as ten or more power discs laying out on top.

    In the hallway outside the repair room Umbra is on watch. She calls into the room, saying that she can hear the approach of something wheeled (Perception 18). The party readies for combat. Babshapka, next to Aurora, and Mathias move into the room quickly and look about. With no other exits, they both have the same thought - to grab a handful of power discs and then move to support the party. Babshapka actually snatches three discs out from under Mathias’ hand, mumbles an apology, and dashes out the door. Mathias grabs four and closes the door on his way out. Shefak moves into the hall with Umbra and calls to the others that a security robot is coming.

    [The security robot, having been summoned by the alarm on the armory door, is treated as a wandering robot and has been augmented to AC15]

    Round One
    Mathias dashes into the hall just ahead of all the others who were not there yet. “Time to meet your God, machine man!” he shouts. A great bolt of lightning arcs from him to the robot, then envelops it (witch bolt hits, 17 damage becomes 34 points. Drops force shield plus 14 points to body).

    Thokk draws his longsword, runs past the robot, and batters at it from behind (1 hit, 7 damage). Just one of the metal creatures is not a challenge, but he always enjoys fighting alongside his companions. However, he notices that this robot is different from the others they have fought - it appears to be in some kind of armor! (Perception 13)

    Shefak summons her ki and attacks with a flurry of blows (two attacks of four hit, 17 damage, she tries to knock the robot over but it remains upright), then continues her movement around the corner and out of sight of the robot.

    Babshapka just barely makes it out the door in time to launch two arrows at the robot. One hits (10 damage), while the other is stopped by Thokk’s shield, causing him to guffaw at Babshapka’s poor aim.

    Larry hits with his thorn whip and drags the robot closer to the door (6 damage).

    Aurora tags the robot with a firebolt, but she notices (Arcana 23) that it did not do as much damage as it should have, considering the placement of the shot (hit for 14, robot is resistant to fire damage and takes 7).

    Umbra follows up with a ray of shadow (13 damage), causing a section of the robot to ice over. Low on spells, Umbra converts sorcery points to spell slots (font of magic - Umbra at 1/3/0).

    The robot gets its force shield up and running and wheels in a rapid circle, blasting Thokk with the sparking paralysis retort (Thokk makes a Con save at close range - paralyzed for 4 rounds). Free from melee, the robot wheels down the hall and past the door. Babshapka feels his longbow tugged by an invisible force, almost wrenched from his grasp, but he manages to hold onto it (telekinesis ray, Babshapka strength save 24).

    Tyrius has remained in the room. He is up against the wall (out of view of the doorway) and is digging in his backpack, trying to find the second ceramic jar of “regal acid” to possibly use as a missile weapon.

    Willa bursts from the doorway of the room, runs past the robot, down and around the opposite corner and out of its view. It tries to strike at her with a tentacle as she passes (opportunity attack), but misses.

    Round 2
    Umbra fires off a dark bolt (10 points to robot’s shield).

    Tyrius is continuing to look in his backpack - where is that second jar? (Dex check 4)

    (Thokk has three rounds of paralysis left)

    Willa springs out from around the corner, hits the robot twice with her greatsword (total 31 damage, ten to shield and 21 to body). She retreats out of its view again before it can bring its paralyzation ray to bear on her, but a tentacle does strike at her as she pulls away (opportunity attack hits, 12 damage).

    Larry scratches its metal hide with his thorn whip (4 damage).

    Shefak emerges from around her corner with another flurry of blows. This time she lands four hits (total damage 32). She continues to pound dents into the robot until it stops moving.

    [Because this robot was defeated entirely in the hallway, there is no video record of the combat. Thus the party remains at having killed four security robots “on record” and there will not be an increase in the AC of future robots]

    The party cheers. Willa stows her stone and congratulates them on their improved tactics, particularly on staying away from the paralyzation ray by using cover. The key to fighting these things, she says, seems to be in not bunching up, but hitting and then ducking away so as to not be paralyzed...her words fade in her throat as she sees now the heavy metal plates on the robot. Is this a new version? Willa calls Tyrius into the hall to examine it.

    Mathias concludes his electricity spell before it can arc to Tyrius, and returns to the repair room to make sure the robot is still working on the powered armor (which it is).

    Together, Tyrius and Willa go over the robot. (Tyrius investigation 16, +5 from help is 21). They conclude that it is not a new model - it is the same robot they have fought before, but it has had heavy metal plates bolted onto its body in various locations. Tyrius believes that they have been added to key structural points that would be most vulnerable to melee damage - basically, everywhere they would normally target it. Furthermore, it appears to have been painted with a coat of some sort of varnish that makes it more resistant to flame. (Note: previous security robots had AC11, this one has AC15 and is resistant to fire damage).

    Willa suggests that the robot has been altered specifically to resist the party - perhaps that was what was happening when the “central computer” alarm was tripped and no security forces came - they were all being retrofitted? When this is explained to Mathias, he says that the repair robot in the other room spends an awful lot of time examining the security robot bodies - perhaps it is assessing their damage and not only fixing them, but making adjustments as it goes to prevent similar damage in the future - “adaptive learning,” the technician called it.

    Sobered, the party drags the robot into the room and waits for Thokk to be able to move.
    My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 541
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    Sun Aug 15, 2021 11:43 am  

    Your players have really come into their own in their tactics and their role-playing. I love their semi-dysfunctional interactions and their still supporting each other in spite of it all, and their ability to work as a team.

    How many sessions did the Barrier Peaks adventure take? I'm eager to see where your merry band of heroes is headed next.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Sun Aug 15, 2021 1:48 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Your players have really come into their own in their tactics and their role-playing. I love their semi-dysfunctional interactions and their still supporting each other in spite of it all, and their ability to work as a team.

    The 'new' player of Mathias, Shefak, and Umbra really would like to focus more on tactics and traditional roles - who is the tank, who is the striker, etc. The other two players just want it to be fun and exciting and don't want to focus as much on tactics as on role-play. It does create some tension and occasionally hard feelings, but two years on they are still adventuring together and enjoying each others' company.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    How many sessions did the Barrier Peaks adventure take? I'm eager to see where your merry band of heroes is headed next.

    In total there were 27 Barrier Peaks sessions, with each one typically 4 to 6 hours online. As to where they are going next, I will at this point say only that my organizing principal for the campaign is