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Thread: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

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    May 2006

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    I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait [until the next update]...

    --General thought process of SilverClawShift's fans

    To the great delight of many a D&D-playing Playgrounder, SilverClawShift would post another Campaign Journal from her real-life D&D 3.5 game in late-May, 2009. As of this thread's creation, the adventure isn't quite finished yet.

    Before we begin, here's a list of the PCs and a brief description of who they are and what they're like:

    The Dirty One-Third-of-a-Dozen


    Class: Dragon Shaman
    Gender: Male
    Race: Dragonborn of Bahamut (a humanoid dragon, basically)
    Attitude: Holy, Good, and Virtuous. Captain of the ship.

    Class: Factotum
    Gender: Male
    Race: Kobold (with shiny nwe Shadow template)
    Attitude: Neutral, quick, and kinda sketchy. Likes moving fast, and stealing things.

    Class: Warlock
    Gender: Female
    Race: Human (sans legs)
    Attitude: Emo. Vaguely and unspecifically evil. Not "Let's end the world!" evil, just not a good person.

    Class: Swashbuckler/Sorcerer
    Gender: Male
    Race: Human
    Attitude: "I stabs the people and they stop moving. Sometimes I cast True Strike first. I like being not-dead!" He's got a fairly simple outlook to most games

    Our Factotum in this campaign was the Archivist in the horror campaign.
    Our Swashbuckler in this campaign was the Paladin in the horror campaign.
    And our Dragon Shaman in this campaign was the Dusk Blade in the horror campaign.

    Just thought I'd share that.

    ...and so begins our second story.

    The Second Tale

    A New Adventure!


    So my group has recently started a new campaign, one that our DM says should last a good long while - which usually means we hit level 20, or even go epic at some point. By this point we're up to level 2, and we seem to be picking up traces of the central plot, or at least are on the right path.

    Some interesting stuff has come up though, and I'd be interested in getting some outside insight into things.

    The campaign world has an large central island, give or take equal sailing distance from every major continent. Naturally the island is a port-city metropolis, with a smattering of races and cultures from everywhere on the world. A lot of trade, import, export, ect. Not much you can't find there, and not many places on the world that you can't find a relatively direct path to.

    The player group is as follows:

    I'm planning on being a Human Warlock (with the classic "dark, mentally unstable witch" archetype). My current plan, unless something catches my eye, is to drop most of my feats into extra invocations to expand my versatility. I'm also probably going to carry around a handful of throwing daggers and the hardest poisons I can find, just in case.

    One player is being a Dragon Shaman (race: Lesser Aasimar turned Dragonborn). They're manifesting wings as a dragonborn, are boosting their CON and CHA almost exclusively (with a little into INT), and are going to take a lot of meta-breath feats. They're going for an "unkillable heal-battery with a hard to resist breath weapon" motif.

    Third player is a kobold factotum, with a one-level dip into barbarian for fast movement. They're also taking the Wild Talent feat to become a psionic character, and then taking the Speed of Thought feat for a +50 base move rate. The rest will be Font of Inspiration abuse, so there's not much else to say. A tiny, hard to hit, lightning fast, versatile scout/rogue who's everywhere we need him to be. He's bugging the DM for a chance to add the "Dark" template to his character for another +10 feet too.

    Fourth player is a human Swashbuckler/Barbarian. Probably wind up being a power attacking shock trooper or something.

    Anyway, onto the meat (and the questions).

    Cantrips in Crystals


    Our group had a few small confrontations heading towards the island in the first place. We had an attempted boarding by a group of pirates, but with some flaming oil pints and quick thinking, we made it too much effort to continue attacking us, and forced them to turn off into another direction. Stuff like that.

    We had a larger confrontation when the captain of the ship we'd purchased passage on realized we were smuggling the kobold in our luggage (the kobold having been wanted for questioning at the loading docks regarding a string of thefts), but we resolved it by palming him 5gp to upgrade our tickets to include a "no questions asked" policy.

    We still wound up swimming the last 100 yards to shore when the swashbuckler said something rude to one of the deck hands. But at least the captain was nice enough to toss our luggage onto the islands docks instead of into the sea. He even told the dock master we'd been with him, so we didn't have to deal with too much hassle signing the log sheets and getting our stuff. Tough but fair, I guess.

    We started looking for work on the island, and something big sprang up almost immediately. One of the trading companies was searching for an "exterminator". We tracked down the owner and started talking. Seems one of his ships had been visiting a desert nation to acquire some recently unearthed treasures out of a long-dead emperors tomb. It wasn't until they'd gotten back and started opening things up to examine them, that they discovered some kind of pest had apparently been sealed up in the packaging.

    They were fist sized scarabs, with seemingly metal carapaces and crystals growing out of their back. The problem was, they were EATING metal objects during the voyage, but now they were eating the metal weapons and armor of anyone who tried to deal with them. And they could apparently cast cantrips, because they were spitting little fireballs and acid splashes at anyone they saw. They'd already killed four men since they were unloaded.

    The owner finally had to seal up the building they'd unloaded the cargo into. The local authorities considered it his problem. He agreed to give us 50 gp each if we successfully cleared all the bugs from inside.

    Well, to make an already long story short, the fight was brutal. We found out that we could strip the crystals out of the dead ones and cast the cantrips with them, which saved our butts when we realized that the white and gold scarabs could cast Cure Minor Wounds. No way we would have survived otherwise. It was brutal, but finally we killed them all and collected their shells to get the gems out.

    At the end of the day, we were level 2, and had a fair number of shiny little gems that could cast cantrips. That was the end of that session, so we're trying to decide what to do with the stones at this point.

    Anyone can activate them as long as they're touching their skin, just by concentrating on them. I can actually fire them along with my eldritch blast, which is cool, but doesn't seem remarkably useful.

    We have:
    12 Acid Splash
    10 Ray of Frost
    7 Cure Minor Wounds
    5 Daze
    5 Open/Close
    3 Light
    3 Create Water
    2 Mage Hand

    We also have 2 that can cast True Strike, and one that can cast Reduce Person, from one of the scarabs that was larger and meaner and could apparently cast higher level spells.

    Our DM agreed that the Cure Minor Wounds gems could be activated while we were in negative hitpoints, to stabilize ourselves. So we're each carrying two of those, except the dragon shaman who is carrying one.

    Right now we're just carrying the rest in a bag so we can grab them if there's something we might want them for, but I'm thinking of asking the group of I can have the offensive ones set into some quick and dirty (and cheap) rings so I can wear a whole mess of them at once and activate them with my eldritch blast as needed.

    Anyone have any clever thoughts on how these gems could come in handy? Or is it more likely they'll just be a novelty we find interesting, but not so useful?

    The Curious Mr. Therin


    Anyway, we had another game session last night, and the plot thickened. Significantly so.

    Upon wrapping up the debacle with the bugs and counting out the gemstones, we went up to the owner of the shipping company to get paid. The owner noticed we'd collected the gemstones and a few of the bug bodies for further observation, and started getting really, really shady. At first he just told us that the bugs were part of the cargo being shipped in, and told us to hand them over if we were going to get paid.

    To which our factotum pointed out that, no, they weren't part of the cargo. We'd skimmed a copy of the shipping manifest inside the building. Nothing on it about any bugs. Which meant it was either an accidental infestation issue, or a SMUGGLING issue concerning foreign animals.

    The owner actually started to draw his sword in anger, but caught himself and re-sheathed it. He then calmly explained to us that the bug WERE an infestation, but that the owner needed to recoup the losses of the cargo and crew-men the bugs had killed, and that he might be able to find some use from them.

    We actually thought that pretty reasonable, or WOULD have if he'd said that from the start. And not almost attacked us when we'd pointed things out. I decided to test the waters, signaled my party that I was up to something, and told him he could keep the 200 gold, chalk it up to a free extermination, and let us on our way with the gems.

    The owner drew his sword but held it loose at his side, and said "Listen little girl. Those bugs belong to me. Hand them over, or there will be trouble."

    The swashbuckler calmly said "Trouble with the authorities, that is."

    The owner makes eye contact with each of us in turn, before sheathing his sword again and muttering "Fine. You four can enjoy your dead bugs, I'll keep the pay. Wait, you said you were looking for work around here right? I just lost four dock workers. How about you take their places? I'll pay you each 15 gold a week."

    Our Dragonborn immediately said "I believe we'll seek employment elsewhere for the time being".

    The owner laughed at us, smiled, and muttered "Good look getting hired anywhere looking like you do."

    We decided that instead of turning it into a fight, we should just turn tail at that and consider ourselves having come out ahead. If nothing else, it seemed like the owner had been up to something, and we'd obviously been a hiccup in his plans.

    So the first thing we did then was track down an herbalist/arcanist. At first he wasn't that interested in us, until we used one of the Open/Close gems to open the window behind his counter. We gave him one of the bug corpses, showed him the gems, and told him where they'd come from. He was EXTREMLY interested after that. He asked us what we had in mind, and we said we'd let him keep the bug on the counter if he let us know anything he found out about it. He smiled and agreed happily. We also sold him two of the gems for 50 gold, and took off, but not before warning him of how shady the shipping owner had been acting, and letting him know he should probably keep quiet about the whole thing. He told us that everyone on this side of the island knew "Charles Therin" (the owners name, we'd never asked. The arcanists name was Maguiller by the way) had been up to some shady activities for months now, but no one had any evidence to warrant sticking their nose into things. We also warned him that the bugs had killed four grown men, so the be careful with whatever experiments he had in mind.

    So after that we did some small shopping, mostly mundane equipment we could use, and rented a night at a local bar/inn. We told the bartender that we were looking for odd jobs if anything came up, and rested up for the night.

    The very next morning, the arcanist was waiting for us at the bar. Told us to come back to his shop, and not having much else to do at the time, we followed. He seemed a little strung out actually. Said that two of Therin's workers had come and harassed him about what we were doing there, but he told them we were just shopping for some generic ingredients and that aside from having a Dragonborn and Kobold with us, we hadn't really stood out.

    What was more immediately relevant though, was the state of the bugs, and the corpses that the bugs had killed.

    The corpses? There were no corpses. In fact, asking around, no deaths had been reported yesterday at all. The arcanist was more inclined to believe us, all things considered, but it did raise the question as to WHY you would cover up four accidental deaths.

    The bugs? Not just bugs. On the surface, they seemed like normal insects. Even at a glance dissecting them, they still looked like normal bugs, with a few oddities like some crystallized organs, but that seemed almost expected with the gems growing on their backs.

    But looking real close? Part of them were clearly metal. And not just metallic, but actual forged, tooled, and bolted metal. We took a glance through some magnifying lenses and saw what he was talking about. Obvious traces of sanding, tiny little bolts, and a stray gear.


    So the arcanist notices one of Therin's dock workers watching through the window, and asks if we'd agree to be his night guards for the time being. Therin wouldn't be so stupid as to attack in broad daylight, and the authorities would come running if Maguiller was attacked, but us actually being on the scene might be the difference between a scuffle and an assassination.

    So we just spent the day exploring the island. We had a few little side quests. A wealthy noble girl had lost her engagement ring out at sea, but the dragonborn just weighted his ankles and let his natural water breathing give him the edge over the divers looking for it. Found it, she rewarded him and gave him a peck on the cheek, saltwater and all. So 100 GP and a friendly noble on the island, not bad. Very handy to have courteous higher-ups, especially if you clearly don't look human. Stuff like that.

    At night, the Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler took up guarding the front entrance. I spiderclimbed up onto the wall of a taller building nearby and hid among some of the tattered canvas signs on it to keep a lookout on the surrounding area.

    We sent the kobold factotum back to Therins loading docks, to see if he could find out anything about the bugs, bodies, or Therin's shady activities.

    While he was messing around there, we did actually stop an attack. Two of Therin's dockworkers had gone and started breaking in the back door, figuring the two blatant guards at the front were all Maguiller had going for him. So I tossed a stone onto the sand in front of Maguillers shop to let my buddies know that our little gamble had worked, and spiderclimbed down to meet up with them. The three of us tried to just rough them up and drag them inside the shop for some interrogation, but they were actually fairly good in a scuffle, and it wound up turning into a fight to the death. Which was loud enough to draw the attention of the local authorities.

    Standard operating proceedure apparently involved putting the three of us in a holding cell until the whole thing gets straightened out. We actually didn't find that to be too unfair, since it was our word against the word of two corpses. Maguiller promised he'd vouch for us to the higher-ups that he'd been harassed by Therin's workers the day before.

    Luckily, our Factotum didn't get caught. He also didn't get too far into the loading docks before the commotion started. it was loud enough that the entire beachfront was lit up with guards, onlookers, and whatnot. He wound up tucking and running back to Macgiullers shop to hide inside for the night.

    So the next day Macguiller comes and vouches for us that he'd been harassed just the day before, while Therin is there calling us cold blooded murderers. Said his workers were on their way home for the night, and that they just happened to be passing by. It was more or less a hear-say stalemate. We figured it was going to turn out sour for us, but the husband-to-be of the noble we found the ring for camme in and vouched that we were good and honorable people.

    Truth is way less useful than a blue-blood's thumbs up.

    So we get released, and the local authorities tell Therin and the rest of us that, whatever is up between us gets dropped now. Any shady activity from either of us, and they'll bring the hammer of justice down on us with full force.

    Considering this is a D&D world, the hammer of justice might be an actual physical hammer, we're inclined to avoid it.

    So we laid low for the next few days, keeping an eye on Maguilers shop while he did experiments, and just avoiding trouble. On the second day, Maguiler called us all in to his shop to show us what was up. He'd managed to grow/heal/and cobble together enough of a bug to grow another two living bugs. Essentially clones of the first one (a cure minor wounds one at that). That's when we found out another interesting bit of info.

    The Bugs weren't naturally aggressive. The two just chittered happily around Maguillers shop, landing on things, exploring them a little, taking off little nips of a metal stick Maguiller was feeding them. He said that whatever these things were, they weren't aggressive by default, the ones that had been attacking were violent for some other reason.

    One of them landed in our Swashbucklers hair, seemed very friendly, and he asked Maguiller if he could keep it. Maguiller agreed, since he still had the original and a new living one to toy with. So our Swashbuckler acquired a pet with Cure Minor Wounds twice a day. Cute. Not incredibly useful, but cute. He named it Chitter.

    Now we HAD to know what was up. So that night the Factotum went back to the docks, while the rest of us stayed nearby in case trouble sprang up. Uneventful for us actually (we had to pause while the kobold adventured solo, it happens). He found some creepy stuff though. The dead bugs we hadn't collected (stripped of gems still) were locked up in a glass case together, labeled to be shipped back to the continent they'd come from. Along with other crates full of miscellaneous replies. Everything was going to set sail in the early AM.

    The factotum cracked one of the cases? Dead body. One of the dead dock workers, to be precise. With THINGS pushing at his skin from the inside. The factotum debated for a moment, before deciding against slicing open the corpse, instead re-sealing the crate and stealing copies of the shipping and receiving manifests, along with the record of all purchases made by Therin's sailing company.

    Him and the Swashbuckler (high INT, recall) both pured over the logs and manifests until they'd proved, conclusively, that what Therin listed as being shipped out COULDN'T be what was in those cases, because he didn't HAVE any on hand. They outlined the relevant parts in red, wrapped it in a bundle, and the factotum snuck up to the local sheriffs office and left the bundle sitting on the front porch.

    Which turned out to be a miscalculation on our part.

    The local authorities, including customs, went to Therins at just past dawn. They demanded to see what was in the crates that were, at the bare minimum, mislabeled and a gross oversight, and at worst a major crime.

    We were watching this from a safe distance away mind you.

    Close enough to see what was going on, but far enough that our presence wasn't an attention grabber.

    So there wasn't a lot we could do when Therin sighed, scratched the back of his head, and in one smooth motion tore the throats out of two of the guards with his bare hand.

    Then he started running for the boat, shouting for it to leave the rest of the cargo and set sail. Naturally we took off sprinting in its direction, but by now, things had gotten crazy. The other dock workers were all pulling weapons and trying to defend the area around the boat from the local guards as the ones on the boat started chopping at the ropes keeping it in place.

    We fought through them as fast as we could (I even started spiderclimbing UNDER the pier to avoid direct confrontation), but we couldn't make it before the boat took off. Then the dockworkers started setting fire to Therin's entire building. And themselves. They didn't even scream while they burned.

    We stood at the edge of the dock, watching the ship sail, with Therin glaring at us from the rear, watching his place go up in flames. A few quick skimmers took off to try to catch up, but he had gotten too much of a head start. Then we fought our way back through the flaming pier and could do nothing while everything else, including anyone who could answer a question, burned to ashes.

    Side Notes


    At least the local sheriff had seen the entire debacle first hand. He obviously believed that we were on his side. We apologized for the anonymous clues, but told him they'd been from us. He was mad that we'd taken things into our own hands, but understood why, all things considered.

    So that's where we stand now. We know what continent Therin is headed to. Or at least where his LISTED destination had been. We figure with the cargo going to and from there so often, it's likely he had a reason to be heading in that direction. The local authorities are on our side, but they won't be doing anything at this point but attacking on sight if Therin and Co show their faces again. Anything off the island is outside their jurisdiction.

    We're gearing up and getting ready to buy a charter ship to take us in pursuit.


    Oh, but the acid-splash laced Eldritch blasts have come in handy after all, at least :-p.


    Oh, I almost forgot to ask the question which was the whole reason I posted.

    Any thoughts on catching up to Therin directly? I can't think of any good way for a group of level 2's to catch a ship on the high seas, but if there's a trick or obscure rule that we might be able to take advantage of, I'm prepared to board that scary punk.

    The Ziggurat


    So our next session starts where it left off. Therin in the open water, the local authorities in panic mode, and us scrambling to figure out what the heck just happened.

    We started off by scouring over the immediate area and grilling everyone Therin interacted with with questions (with the sanction of the local authorities. They knew they couldn't follow up on anything that happened off the island without coming into legal trouble in a foreign land, so they knew we were going to have to be their justice by proxy).

    With liberal application of Sense Motive skill checks, we found out everything we could. We found out his DIET even. He appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a totally normal human who came across as a shady manipulative businessman.

    Except he tore out the throats of two trained guards in the blink of an eye.

    And his dock workers LIT THEMSELVES ON FIRE to escape capture.

    These are not normal behaviors.

    It remains to be seen whether or not the double-kill was some kind of cleaving sneak attack, or if Therin is more-than-meets-the-eye.

    In any event, once we'd established everything we felt we could reasonably figure out, we geared up and chartered a small fast ship to take us to the continent Therin had sped off towards. The local authorities actually even gave us some of their extra armor and weapons, some scrap gear, and some extra coin, in the hopes we'd take him down on behalf of the men they'd lost. We wished Maguiller well and left him tending to/experimenting on his healing bug.

    A word on the continent we were heading towards. It was a largely desert-land with an arab/egyptian motif. Pyramids, scimitars, and face scarves and whatnot. Magic was considered something only authority figures (pharoahs, clerics, and any apointed by them) were allowed to have any access to. Anyone studying or attemping to use magical abilities or items was breaking a serious law. Like a cut-off-your-head law. We would all have to be careful. Me and the Dragon shaman would have to be the most careful, having blatant flashy effects in our grasp at all times.

    So we set sail. The ship and crew we'd hired were known for being among the faster on the open seas, and we told them we'd double what we'd paid if they caught Therin's ship on open water. We had no sight of him. It was actually an uneventful trip (our Factotum noted that might have been one of the first times an adventuring team hired a boat to cross an ocean, and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED to the crew).

    When we docked, we were hit with a pretty strong sense of "not belonging here". A lot of un-hidden staring came in our direction when we got off. Probably mostly because half of our team was blatantly reptillian humanoids. A few passed spot checks meant our Factotum noticed a few people taking SPECIFIC interest in us. We couldn't be sure, but we suspected they were part of Therin & Co and were noting that we'd followed him here.

    Not really feeling comfortable in the open, we quickly found our way to an inn and rented a room to lay low in and use as a base of operations. Our immediate problem we noted was that no one was answering any questions about this "Therin" individual. They either didn't know who he was, he was using a different name here, or they were lying to us with enough fervor to get past our Sense Motive checks.

    After asking a lot of questions, we were approached by a local cleric. We were warned, point blank, to stop our line of questioning. He told us we were welcome to stay in the city (a small city, or a large town, population 3000ish), but that if we kept being 'troublemakers', we would find the trouble coming back down on us.

    While we were still reeling from that random little encounter, a scared looking kid pops us behind us from out of the alley he'd been hiding in. He said he knew who we were looking for. That this Therin was a bad man, and the group he was a part of had hurt his family. And he said he knew where Therin was staying.

    Since it was our only lead, we followed him, taking us out past the town walls, into the open sand and towards a a makeshift encampment out in a direction no one would normally need to travel, outside of sight of the towns. When we got to the makeshift camp, we found it empty. Wandering through the camp looking for signs and clues turned out to be the predictable course of action though, as the kid who led us there immediately ran out into the open sand shouting "THEY'RE HERE, I BROUGHT THEM, THEY'RE HERE!".

    So. Crap. We notice the ambush our failed spot checks hadn't noticed before, as a large group (over a dozen) of armed men surrounded the encampment, some of them mounted. The one that was obviously the leader started shouting to us that if we threw down our weapons and surrendered peacefully, he would.... make our deaths as painless as possible. WHEE.

    Me: "So we're outside of earshot and visuaal range of the town?"

    DM: ""You are completely and utterly gone.

    Factotum: "No matter how much noise we make, no town guards are going to hear it and come running?"

    DM: "Scream all you want to, ain't no one gonna hear."

    Me: "Perfect. Roll initiative, Eldritch Blast the smallest looking one in the face."

    So I popped the weakest looking one in the face with the eldritch blast laced with an acid-splash gem (killing him in the process) and our group took up defensive/hiding positions in the tents. The entire group of warriors converged on us at once. The fight was pretty rough, but between the Dragon shaman opening with a Damage Reduction aura for us, and then switching to a healing aura once we took a bit of a pounding, we managed to trim their numbers down to five within a few rounds of combat.

    At which point the leader of the gang crowbarred open a crate in the encampment, and a swarm of those damned insects came out, still firing cantrips at us. The fight got a lot harder at that point, in no small part because our Factotum had already used his inspiration point trimming down the group of guys, and we were still struggling against the remaining ones. Luckily we still had our Dragon Shamans aura, three competent fighters, and ranged Eldritch Blasts. Eventually we took out every last one of them.

    We debated setting the crates on fire rather than risk opening them up, but we eventually opted for cracking the crates open while sticking the bugs we saw with daggers/eldritch blasts before they could get out and swarm.

    We didn't see the kid again. Probably for the best, we would have had a hard time deciding between offing him and just dragging him around tied up until our business here was done.

    At the end of the encounter, we'd gotten enough XP to level up to 3, a bunch more crystals full of cantrips to replenish the ones I'd used fighting these guys, and a bunch of miscellaneous gear and gold. Not a bad haul, all things considered.

    We ALSO picked up a trail leading away from the encampment. In the OPPOSITE direction of the town. It looked like these crates weren't being taken from the town, they were being brought TOO the town. God knows why.

    So we trekked off following the trail. A small dust storm actually threw us off, but our Factotum used some inspiration points to regain the trail and we marched onwards. We also had to defend ourselves against a few piddling attacks from snakes, scorpions, and random desert problems. It was nothing too much, but we did have to pay attention to what was going on around us. A snake bit our swashbuckler, but he passed his fort saves and shrugged off the poison. I also acquired a dose of strong snake venom, and hung onto it for my daggers, just in case.

    Eventually, the trail led us to a box canyon with no seeming way down. What was interesting was that at the base of the canyon (about 300 feet straight down) looked like a small dig sit, which had unearthed what appeared to be three layers of some kind of Ziggurat (picture a pyramid made with platforms all the way up). We didn't notice much activity down there, but this was obviously where we needed to be. But there's utterly no sign of passageways or scalable surfaces. No way down.

    Now, there's one classic mistake beginning parties make, and one thing that NO veteran player would ever leave home without (once they needed it the first time and realized how screwed they were). Lots and lots of rope .

    We pooled some of our rope together until we had over 300 feet of it, tied it all together thoroughly, had our factotum take 20 while using some inspiration points to make DARN sure we'd spliced everything together strongly, and the dragon shaman started lowering us down one by one. Factotum, Me, Swashbuckler (in order based on weight, really, just in case). Once we were all down, he dropped the rope, unfurled his wings (strong enough to glide, but not yet strong enough to fly yet), and started swooping down towards us in lazy circles.

    At the ziggurat, a man hiding with a crossbow spotted the descending dragon shaman. But he hadn't seen us, and I won the initiative roll . I popped him in the face with my new improved eldritch blast, and took him down clean in one silent hit. At the base of the canyon, we collected our rope, regrouped, triple checked our gear and hit points, and started sneaking towards the structure. On the way, we noticed signs (and cast off shells) of the metallic cantrip-casting bugs, so this is PROBABLY where they're coming from, if not just a collection spot for them. We're not sure yet.

    Once we'd gotten to the top of the ziggurat and found a way in (a small doorway that you had to crawl through at the very tip), our factotum kobold perched in the doorway and made an authentic vulture call.

    See, we figured a vulture could reasonably be expected to make some noise out here in the desert, so the bird call wasn't so blatantly obviously an arrival of a foreign party so much as just a dumb animal in a dumb location. Our factotum also made a high-roll listen check to the echo of his own bird call, to figure out just how far the passageways descended. He rolled a 20, on top of having a decent modifier, on top of using some inspiration points for a boost, so he got a fair grasp on how far down the corridors go.

    The realization? "Way, way, way deeper than it looks from the outside".



    Kay, I'm trying to get this caught up before our next game session Tuesday.

    So where did I leave off? The four of us were standing at the pinnacle of a partially unearthed ziggurat, trying to determine the best means of continuation. The passageway down was on the smaller side. Not so much that it was a horrible squeeze, but enough that it restricted movement a bit.
    We sent the kobold in first, naturally, so he could tell us any changes in the upcoming twists and turns. The rest of us crawled in behind him.

    There were a few trip-wire traps that the kobold managed to undo without triggering. We couldn't tell what they actually did though, just that we'd stopped them from going off. Near as we could tell, triggering them was more of a warning system than an actual kill-you-dead trap.

    We crawled out until the passage opened into a network of larger hallways. There were a lot of doorways, but they all led to single rooms. Searching revealed that the rooms probably contained ancient objects (hundreds of years old, if not thousands), but that everything had already been picked clean. Probably a long time ago at that, based on the dust build up. In other rooms, it looks like makeshift beds are being set up, and that what is possibly construction material is being moved in bit by bit. Perplexing. Like we caught this place in the beginning stages of being set up as a base of operations.

    So we continue on until we hear a distant echoing whisper. It's distorted enough that we can barely make out anything intelligible. What little we can make out seems to be in no language any of us know (and that includes infernal, draconic, elven, and most of the common ones). As we wind down more and more passages, the whispering gets louder and louder, until we finally round a corner and see the source.

    Sitting in the middle of a giant empty chamber, facing away from us, is a human. He's sitting on the floor, with two candles on either side, rocking back and forth and hissing and muttering to himself. He's dressed in dirty rags and a shredded brown overcoat, and looks like a decrepit homeless lunatic. It sounds like he's alternating between crying, laughing, and muttering rhythmically to himself. Language checks again, and most of what he's saying is in no language any of us can speak. Occasionally he slips into common, and we catch fragmentary phrases concerning "where to find the materials" and building some device.

    No I won't lie. Sitting at the table, we had no idea how to begin approaching this. We discussed what the heck might be going on, and our first conclusion was that he might be some poor innocent dragged out here to be used as a sacrifice or something. our second thought was that he was just a crazy derelict, maybe being inducted to work for Therin. Our third thought, was that we have no freaking clue, but whatever this situation is it's the opposite of okay.

    Not sure about what we were doing at the moment, we send the kobold (highest move-silent modifier), followed by me (second highest move silent modifier), with the two clunky warriors staying back by the doorway. I stay about halfway between both groups, as the kobold goes and gently pats the crazy mumbling lunatic on the shoulder, and quietly asks if he needs help.

    The Drifter (as we've taken to calling him) immediately stands and turns in one lightning quick motion, glaring at us in the dim candle light. We can make out that he's...clearly infected with something. His skin color is wrong, his eyes are sunken and hollow, his skin is bubbled and chaffed raw.

    And he hisses, seemingly to himself. "Who are they? How long were they listening? We can't know. Trouble. TROUBLE!" he shouts the last bit before backing up quickly and Hitting us with a Gust of Wind spell, blowing out the candles and knocking the kobold flat on his back. We hear a lot of clattering and echoing footsteps on stone. The noises are coming towards us.

    The dragon shaman thinks quick and uses one of the "Light" cantrips we had, letting us barely make out what's going on. A group of four new people aside from the drifter had come running out of rooms on the opposite side of the chamber we were in. The drifter was shouting at them to leave and start their tasks. We don't catch a lot of details, but they sprinted out into the hallway past us. We did catch that one of them was Therin, who stopped to bellow "YOU" at us. The Dragon shaman sneered and said "Yeah, Us", but the Drifter grabbed him by the neck and screamed at him not to waste time, that there was too much to be done. As one of the group walked by, I realized they paused, shifted, changed their face to look exactly like mine, smirked at me, and then kept running.

    We started to pursue (and I fired off an eldritch blast that missed entirely), but the Drifter (now in the hallway past us) hit the area in front of us with a "Soften Stone" spell and turned the entire area into mud. Then he hissed for his "Children" to come and pick our bones clean. Our Swashbuckler managed to break past the mud and chase the five down into the hallway a way, before he realized that engaging in a five on one fight with clearly non-mook NPCs wasn't the most strategic course of actions. The fact that the other three of our group started screaming in panic.

    Because a swarm of rats poured in front cracks in the walls, a swarm of bats shrieked down from the (too high to see) ceiling, and the entire area filled with locusts and beetles. A few spellcasting bugs and scorpions were in the giant swarm of vermin too. Now this fight was hell. One of the bugs hit the entire area with a grease spell, so we were on a greasy mud patch. Another one of the bugs hit the kobold with a sleep spell, but he shrugged it off. The rats were diseased, the bats were everywhere, and we had to make concentration checks to do anything fancy. We gave it our all, but the kobold and and me both fell into negatives about 3/4 of the way through the battle. The dragon shamans healing aura stabilized us and made us crawl back up, but all it was doing was basically keeping us alive while the rats gnawed at us. The swashbuckler also hit negatives near the end of the fight, but his pet healing bug stabilized him, and the dragon shamans aura brought him back above zero. The two of them killed the last of the bugs, before some CON damaging poison from one of the scorpions knocked him far enough into negatives that he was effectively down for the count.

    So three of us are comatose and barely hanging onto life, and the dragon shaman is standing there in single digit hitpoints and wondering if the filthy bleeding wounds he has are going to be infected with something. That's when we hear quiet echoing footsteps coming back down the stone hallway towards us.

    Our lone conscious party member assesses the situation, and immediately drops his weapon and falls face first into the muck, staying as still as possible. The footsteps stop at the doorway, and there's a too-long, incredibly uncomfortable pause, before he hears Therin's voice asking if he should gut us where we lay. Then the Drifters raspy whispering voice answers him. "The rats will tend to them by morning, help Jezz and the others move as many crates as we can." He laughs "We don't want delay, do we? No we don't."

    The Dragon shamans healing aura brought the kobold back up to one hit point, but like the clever little lizard he is, he just continued playing dead.

    We stayed there in the filth for a while. What could we do? We cleaned and stabilized our wounds the best we could, drank a few of our healing potions, bandaged ourselves up, and just waited. We weren't in any shape to bring the good fight up to the five NPCs of questionable level. The Drifter alone was obviously a force not to take lightly, and we still didn't know anything about Therin. We figured all we could do at this point was wait for them to clear out of the ziggurat and then tail them, hopefully finding some way to understand more about what was going on, and undermine whatever plans we could. When we were sure things were quiet, we searched the area and found a fair chunk of coin, as well as a few decent spell-gems from bug carcasses.

    Eventually, we felt our courage return to us enough that we were comfortable marching back up hallways with our heads down. By the time we got to the section with all the rooms, we realized they were long gone, and so were all the crates (presumably full of the bugs). There were scratches and stray bits of rope, so they had simply dragged them up the passageway. Which was fortunate for us, because it meant there was some way of getting out of the box canyon we were in.

    We got out of the ziggurat, thankful to be in sunlight and fresh air after the uncomfortable situation we'd been in. We searched around a bit, and noticed there was a trail in the sand (wheels, and tracks from pack animals). We followed the trail to a small cave in a crack in the canyon walls, and started marching upwards. We were in no shape for combat, so it was distressing that we ran into not one, not two, but three giant spiders on our way up through the saves. We survived, barely, with a combination of hit and run tactics (mostly running backwards and peppering them with ranged weapons and eldritch blasts).

    We limbed back to the town through the desert, triple checking to make sure anything magical was tucked away out of sight, and that we had no lasting magical effects. We also cleaned up the blood and muck from ourselves as best we could, so we didn't walk through town looking like we'd bathed in gore. We were trying to keep our heads down, especially given that we'd ruthlessly murdered at least 15 people that day. We only caught a few sideways glances as we hurried back to our inn room, locked the door, and focused on getting a good solid nights rest.
    Fortunately the inn didn't catch on fire or anything :p

    When we woke the next day, there was a team of armed guards waiting for us. They grilled us about what we were doing here, what we'd been doing yesterday, and whether we knew of anything suspicious. Thinking it best to just avoid as much trouble as possible, we bluffed, bluffed, and bluffed some more, until they seemed satisfied that we were just hapless foreigners who stuck out like sore thumbs.

    We knew Therin, the Drifter and Co had probably taken off that same day, so we had some catching up to do. We also knew we were on SOME kind of time limit, as the entire group had been rushing for a reason. Why we didn't know, but they were rushing to get as much of their 'plan' done as quickly as possible.

    Thing is, after the previous days events, we felt that we may be in over our heads. We thought we'd stand a beter chance if we regrouped, maybe hired a few thugs of our own to land a hand with future combat scenarios, and formulated a plan of attack. So we went straight for the docks to head back for the Central island we'd started on. We sent the kobold to go out and do his thing, to find any shipping logs and information as to where the Drifter and Therin had gone off to, while the rest of us went back to the ship we'd chartered to tell them we were ready to take back off.

    When we got to the ship, we found an interesting surprise. The entire crew had been slaughtered, seemingly effortlessly at that. They were just laying there, soaked in blood in the morning light. You couldn't see it until you started coming up onto the ship itself, which was why no one had reported it yet. Now this was bad. We knew we were going to look guilty as hell here, and there wasn't a lot we could do about that other than drag the corpses out of plain sight and wait for the kobold to get back.

    When he did, we found he'd been fairly successfull, but that he also had bad news. Turned out, FIVE ships had left port last night without much warning, and from the sounds of things he'd heard with Gather Information checks, it was a distinct possibility that all five of our would-be assassains had taken a different ship to a different destination, WITH some of the crates. Why? Beats us.

    We didn't change our plans though. We were going to head back to the island, report in with the authorities who actually trust us, and then pick one of the destinations and try to pick the trail back up once we had our wits about us, and didn't feel like we were behind in the game.

    The DM agrees that with the skill checks, the Factotum knows just enough about sailing a ship that the four of us can successfully get things moving onto the high seas. But as he's directing us to prepare to take off, we see guards come running down the pier at us, shouting that we hadn't gotten permission from the dock keepers to leave, that we had to list our cargo and destination. And that they wanted to know what happened to the rest of our ships passenger list.

    Which is what they were asking as they came up the ramp to our ship and saw the deck coated in blood and gore. AWESOME. Great, wonderful, grand.

    We had no chance at explanation. They attacked outright. So we frantically prepared the ship to take off WHILE fighting off armed and trained city guards. While blatantly using magic, drawing a LOT of attention, generating a LOT of commotion, and only causing more guards and dock workers to run to try to stop us.

    We finally managed to push off to the sea, and when the remaining guards realized we were moving, they dove overboard rather than be stuck on a sailing ship.

    So, we'd better have some disguises worked out if we ever want to come back to THIS land. We'd probably be executed on site if we tried to dock here again.

    On the plus side, we got enough XP on making it back to the central island that we leveled up to 4. (Our DM likes to level us faster up to level five or six, far enough away from the oner-hit-kill hitpoint totals). Also, our Swashbucklers pet healing bug molted on the shipride, got a little bigger, and can now cast Cure Light Wounds instead of Minor wounds. So that's cool.

    And that's where we stand now. :)

    Glad I could get things up to date before our next game session.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 08:04 PM.