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Thread: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

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    Bar Brawl, Redux

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    The bar was in bad shape. The windows and doors were all roughly boarded up and barricaded in a really haphazard fashion, and the place looked like it had seen a fair number of destructive fights. It was also full of a small handful of refugees, people who looked injured and very unhappy. And very surprised that the four of us had just magically shunted into the room. They actually readied themselves for a fight, and we thought some combat was about to go down before one of them said "You... you're not infected! what's going on here?"

    We didn't have to ask what 'infection' they were talking about. Instead we asked about the condition of the town.

    The barmaid who had vouched for us when we got arrested poked her head out from behind the bar, surprised (but not unhappy) to see us. She told us that they'd gotten warning of the swarm of bugs before they'd shown up, a ship from central island had reached the port and gave the authorities the sketches that the captain of the guard had drawn up.

    No one had taken it very seriously until swarms of the bugs started showing up and infecting people. While they hadn't taken the warning seriously, knowing what was going on was probably the difference between having survivors or not, because as soon as people began being infected and attacking one another, everyone left knew that the warning hadn't been BS.
    They'd immediately set down barricading themselves wherever they'd been. Now things were mostly quiet, but the streets themselves were littered with dead bodies and stray bugs. No one who'd gone out for any reason had managed to return... at least not uninfected. And every now and then, and new assault would begin on various locations, as barricades gave out and the newly infected attacked other positions. So far the bar had managed to repel any attackers, and they could see through the cracks that other locations in town still seemed fortified, but that (in the bar at least) there weren't many people left to fight, and they weren't sure how long they could last like this.

    We figured it was probably the same in any number of cities.

    We started talking options. I could use "flee the scene" to hop out into the streets and see exactly what we were dealing with. The problem with that plan was, while I could 'flee the scene' right back into the bar, it would let the Drifter know instantly that we survived being stranded in the arctic, and more than that, we were allready back to a mainland.

    Then we realized... that was actually GREAT. Because while it ruined our element of surprise (and really, the element of surprise is less useful against a world spanning hive mind that a strategic attack will do little against), it would pull potential heat away from Macguiller. What's more, the Drifter hates us enough, personally, to probably abandon this tiny little town in favor of pursuing us with a violent rage. The drawback being that we couldn't really rest while we were on the run, and we had two days to kill yet.
    But we weren't completely ready to plunge ourselves out into the wild bugfighting nightmare just yet. I needed 18 solid hours to make a scroll of teleport, and figured it was best that I take the opportunity of the (relatively safe) bar to scribe it in. We needed at least one option for mass transport other than the kobold, and having two ways to get to the desert would be preferable.

    The Dragon Shaman still wanted to go try to dig a path to the changelings location (and he had a valid point. If we were going to be running distraction for macguiller, we might as well do it in a way that the drifter would expect as obvious). So we compromised. Me and the Kobold were going to lay low at the bar while he rested to cast Teleport again, and I scribed a scroll or two of the same.

    The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler, lunatics that they were, were going to brave the 'storm' all on their lonesomes, and head towards the church on foot and wing. If they force marched themselves (and they both had the endurance to hustle the whole way there) they could make it in just over a day and a half, giving them a few hours to work their way down to the ziggurat. Now, we have no clue how deep it is, but the Dragon Shamans stance is that is doesn't matter, because more than anything they're just trying to buy Macguiller (and the town, and any other surviving towns) time by dangling themselves out as bait that we know the Drifter will take. He's going to try to make it as far down as he can (in fact, his plan is to start killing any of the self-destruct bugs he can find and hurling their gems at the same spot, in the dirt, trying to tunnel down with disintegration... which you gotta admit, is a pretty sound plan to come up with under pressure and with no real options.

    So that's exactly what we did, with an agreement that in two days, on the money, me and the Kobold are going to teleport to the abandoned church, grab them, and teleport to the desert, and go from there. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler sneak out into the streets and start booking it with everything they have in the direction of the abandoned church. They actually make it part of the way through the town before finally drawing attention to themselves, but when the hammer drops, it drops hard. The entire street they were on fills with a wave of bugs barreling down at them from both directions, forcing them to go up (the dragon Shaman flew, the swashbuckler did some acrobatic bounding and leaping up nearby fixtures until he made it to a rooftop).

    They ran for all they were worth, tumbling, diving, and avoiding the thickest of the bugs. Fortunately, they made it far enough from the bar that we didn't also become a point of interest. So I set to scribing while the kobold set to helping with the wounded and keeping his eyes peeled for trouble.
    On their path, they were accosted by any number of infected people and animals. The Drifter liked swarms of bugs (not illogical, he liked bugs a lot before becoming the hivemind anyway), but even where the swarms were heavy, there were still infected creatures. Which meant the massive walls of bugs were mostly from when he was trying to hammer-stomp the angel (which turned out to be a successful strategy...so...go him).

    Along the way, the Drifter would harass the dragon shaman about what he was doing to the changeling, and there was no stopping the mental assault. Every voice that arose from the crowds and swarms would get cut down or burned, but the drifter would simply switch to a new voice. Telling him that the Changeling had only had a temporary lapse in judgment, and that he was going to see to it that she came back 'under his wing' if it killed her.

    We did a bit of a flash-forward on the story here, as detailing my scroll scribing and the dynamic duos sprint through bug infested wilderness would be...tedious at best. The harassment occurred to the dragon shaman on their run, but back in the bar, we were relatively unaccosted.

    I say relatively, because one of the survivors there was one of the men we'd gotten in the barfight with way back when, and he contemplated getting some old-world justice on us while our "bigger, stronger" buddies were away.
    The kobold tried to talk him down, and he might have succeeded if he'd been human. Unfortunately, low-minded commoners from hard working port towns are rarely the most enlightened of individuals when it comes to matters of race and gender, and attack us he did.

    The combat lasted one round. . The kobold got into a flanking position to sneak attack, but I popped him with an eldritch blast without actually looking away from my scroll-work and set him so far into negatives that there wasn't much left to call a corpse.

    Commoners.



    Rem Ad Triarios Redisse

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    By the time a day and a half had passed, I was done with one Teleport scroll and working on a second one, meaning we were close to jump-time.

    The Dragon Shaman and the Swashbuckler, on the other hand, were not in the best of shape. They were exhausted from the run and had taken a definite beating along the way. The two of them had enough healing to keep them both ticking, but they were definitely worse for the wear for having made this difficult trek (especially without any support). On the plus side, them leaving had indeed lowered the frequency of the attacks on the bar (from 'a lot' to 'one the entire time' which we repelled with little trouble).
    The pair on the run found themselves walking into an ambush though. The church town had NOT been a place where people had held out, and the entire area was full of infected baddies. Mostly people, but there were infected animals (including wolves), and the whole mess was congregated around a group of infected trolls. The trolls would have been MORTIFYING if the dragon shaman hadn't had a fire breath weapon, as it was, they dropped from "We're screwed" to "we're slightly less screwed".

    Much to the Dragon Shamans disappointment though, there were very, very few of the self destruct bugs around. It seems that maybe they had been a bluff on the Drifters part, or they simply weren't prepared to mobilize in a formidable force. Whenever the Dragon Shaman saw one he could reasonably kill, he'd grab the gems from it, fly high, and hurl them into a newly forming pit in the dirt. The Drifter laughed each time he did it... obviously considering the whole thing futile. And he might have been right, as they fought viciously for far too long, barely able to hold out until the time limit came up.

    But then, mercifully, me and the Kobold showed up in the area. Our arrival was met with a wrathful uproar and an increased ferocity of attack from the infected and the bugs... and the forming of several 'bugamentals' that started to attack...

    But me and the kobold had no intention of turning things into a bigger brawl. The Dragon Shaman grabbed me, the kobold and me both grabbed the (on the brink of death) swashbuckler, and the kobold snapped his fingers.

    And then there was silence.

    We appeared unaccosted in the sands, somewhere between the port town on the Egyptian continent, and the desert ziggurat where this entire mess had begun, and apparently where the final chapter would be written. The kobold let us know that this was as close as he could get us to the ziggurat without feeling resistance from it, and that we'd have to go the rest of the way on foot.

    At least when we got there, we'd have our undead mounts back.

    It took us about an hour to get there. Unfortunately, the place wasn't as 'isolated' as we'd expected... My mental patients were outside of the ziggurat, weapons in hand, fending off a pretty wicked looking attack. Apparently, at some point, the Drifter had decided to poke his nose in this direction again. Whether he did it out of idle curiosity, or because he suspected something, we had no way of knowing. All in all, it looked very bleak though.

    The outside of the ziggurat was absolutely riddled with pockmarks from exploding bugs. So many pockmarks that the ziggurat itself seemed significantly smaller, as if it were a giant stone onion being peeled away layer by layer. As we watched, no less than four of my mental patients died in rapid succession. Fortunately, they were rising in a pattern fast enough to keep the entrance to the ziggurat relatively secure. Unfortunately, there were dark clouds on the horizon that were likely reinforcements... and a boosted spot check from the kobold revealed dark shapes moving on the horizon... not bugs. he couldn't make out what they were, but it was something worse than a swarm.

    We hurried inside and sent the dragons out to defend us, figuring they could buy us as much time as possible. Inside, the structure was obviously weakening. Shaking, dust falling from the ceiling, small bits of rock breaking loose from impacts of the bugs exploding along the walls. Obviously, we ran right to Macguiller, who was pacing around the main chamber, checking everything he'd set up again and again.

    It looked very, very similar to the setup the Drifter had used to turn himself into the hivemind. A massive symbol carved into the floor (sometimes overlapping the one the drifter had previously carved). Smaller symbols everywhere, and arranged in an imperfect circle around the whole mess were thirteen of the healing bugs. Particularly big, strong looking specimens too.

    The first words out of Macguiller's mouth? "OKAY. I need a volunteer!"

    None of us jumped with our hands up

    Kobold: "Maybe... maybe tell us what we're volunteering for?"

    The entire structure shook violently. We had no way of knowing what was going on, but whatever had hit us had been big. Probably a concentrated attack from a swarm of suicide bugs.

    Macguiller: "We don't have time for a detailed explanation! Our time here seems incredibly limited."

    Me: "...Trust me, it will take less time to explain what's this ritual will do than to convince us to step into it blind."

    Macguiller, sighing deeply: "Okay... leaving out as many details as possible, whoever stands in the circle when the ritual is complete will become a massive battery capable of storing ridiculous amounts of positive energy, which they'll be able to release in a massive pulse all at once."

    Dragon Shaman: "That sounds great!"

    Macguiller: "It will definitely kill the person who does it."

    Dragon Shaman: "That sounds less great."

    Macguiller: It'll possibly kill everyone nearby too.

    Dragon Shaman: "...Well then. I guess It has to be me..."

    Swashbuckler: "I'll do it."

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler both eyeball each other, while the kobold and I slink down in our chairs, trying very hard not to get noticed during the 'volunteering for guaranteed suicide' thing.

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler argue back and forth about which one of them it will be, while the compound shakes and rattles even more violently. A pinpoint of light appears in the ceiling of the chamber (meaning they were eating away at the structure at a frightening pace). I threw a wall of fire over it to plug it up and the argument continued.

    They asked macguiller for more details, who, with another sigh, Said that any healing magic cast on the person in question would instead transfer into this 'battery' of positive energy they were building up. So whoever did it wouldn't be able to heal at all, except through resting.

    The dragon shaman pointed out his ridiculous constitution making him less likely to die. The Swashbuckler pointed out that with his familiars help, he could potentially generate a lot more healing points per day, so if they got separated he could top off even faster.

    Another pinpoint of light appear in a different location, but the kobold plugged THAT hole with a flaming sphere.

    The two asked macguiller one last question. "How much healing energy do we need?"
    Macguiller: ...lots. And lots and lots. But I have a plan to address that too.

    The dragon shaman and swashbuckler looked at each other, and finally the dragon shaman conceded, owing to the difference in positive energy output. The Swashbuckler stepped into the circle, only vaguely regretting arguing so hard for the suicide spot...

    Macguiller started the ritual. And that's when the entire ceiling began to cave in.



    Return to Madness

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    Through the cracks, streams of bugs begin pouring in in long tendrils, acting almost like unified tentacles. Macguiller yells for the Swashbuckler to stay where he is, but he does draw his sword to fend off anything attacking him.

    We don't know if the Drifter realizes we're even performing a ritual, he might just be attacking out of spite and out for revenge, but our goal is still to keep him away from the Swashbuckler as best we can.

    Sunlight begins streaming through the cracks in the roof as large chunks of rubble give way. The Dragon Shaman takes to the air and begins roasting the tentacles with his fire breath at the thickest parts, and hacking at them in impotent fury while waiting for his breath to recharge. The Factotum tells me to put a ring of fire around the ritual area, which I do (my exact response was "It's a solid plan, and I endorse it"). After I throw up the fire ring, the kobold springs into it to protect the Swashbuckler directly. I fly into the area too. The Swashbuckler was going to cast "Repel Vermin" on himself, so we could really focus on protecting Macguiller, but Macguiller said that would ruin the ritual. At one point, Macguiller did get 'swatted' to the ground by a tentacle made of living bugs, but the kobold hit him with his healing touch to patch him up and the ritual continued.

    At one point, a massive chunk of the ceiling gave way all at once and began falling directly onto the Swashbuckler, but the dragon shaman flew himself in the way of it, and with a strength check, managed to deflect it off to one side (while suffering massive physical trauma from basically using himself as a cushion to protect the swashbuckler )

    After a few more rounds of fighting the tentacles, "it got real" when through the cracks, actual non-bug monsters began jumping down. We had to make spot checks due to the confusing nature of the battlefield (falling stone, ritual chants, a ring of fire, and the air full of OMG BUGS). We made out at least a few dozen people, a handfull of minotaurs, and what looked like living statues (gargoyles) all with runes glowing on their forheads.
    The fight was bad. Even being high level we were really outgunned, and missing our heaviest hitter (who was forced to watch us failing to stamp out a problem he could have easily taken by enlarging himself and starting to bodyslam ).

    Finally though, we held out for long enough that Macguiller pointed a tthe swashbuckler and said the last few words of his chant. Instantly, the Swashbuckler was swarmed by the healing bugs (good thing he didn't cast "repel vermin" or something... that was a case of our Dm protecting us from our own short sightedness). At first only the healing bugs used in the ritual swarmed him, but eventually, every healing bug still active crawled out of the cracks and made their way to him the best they could, coating him in a chitinous shell of writhing golden insects. He began to glow with a heavenly light, and in a massive pulse, the insects all simultaneously died and fell to the floor around him, and he was left with a vague otherworldly glow.
    Macguiller smiled broad and said it had worked.

    As a beneficial side effect, the pulse of the ritual finalizing was enough to kill every bug in the chamber, and heal the creatures we'd been fighting. Unfortunately, the idiot gargoyles just continued attack but the surviving minotaurs and people helped us finish them off, and we got a few seconds to catch our breath (we could hear the bugs outside making their hideous buzzing chittering noise, and we knew they were just re-swarming).

    We had to escape, and doing it on foot would be suicidal. I still had one scroll of teleport, but it was only enough for our group. I couldn't even bring my mental patients, let alone any of the surviving group. They were very upset about that revelation, but the Kobold calmed them by pointing out that if what we were trying to do worked or failed, nothing that was happening right now would matter (once for a good reason, one for a horrible reason).
    We looked over the glowing Swashbuckler, who just gave a small sad smile about his impending self destruction. We asked Macguiller how much healing energy we needed.

    Macguiller told us there was no way of knowing for sure, but that when he had enough stored, it wouldn't even be a decision for him. He'd just pop in a brilliant display of positive energy... and god willing, it would be enough.
    If it wasn't? Well, there's always suicide.

    We said our goodbyes, with Macguiller pulling out a few wands and promising they were going to go down swinging... then we sprinted up through the tunnels (the much SHORTER tunnels, now that most of the structure had literally been turned into dust over us). We booked as fast as we could while Macguiller and the other survivors caused a distraction by fighting in the main chamber... and when we got far enough away, we linked hands, and...realized that we didn't have anywhere to go.

    Dragon Shaman: "The bar?"

    Kobold: " Lunacy, the Drifter could put two and two together what we were doing in that area, and he'd expect us to return."

    Swashbuckler: "Well, central island is damn well not going to work, last we saw the air was literally just a wall of bugs."

    Dragon Shaman: "Same for the jungle area, even Papa HeeNo wouldn't have been able to do much against that mess."

    Me: "...ugh."

    Kobold: "What?"

    Me: "Mercyglade . And then I snapped my fingers."

    And we were once again left looking at the front wall of an asylum full of angry ghosts. And in this part of the world, the sun was setting.

    We leveled up here, by the way. Actually, this was the end of the tuesday campaign, so there's one more campaign, and then the climax. I'm going to go ahead and post this now, not because I want to keep teasing, (I'd really love to be done with this) but because we game again tommorrow night and I don't know how much I'll be able to get written up before our next campaign starts. Doing my best, promise.

    *edit*

    Oh, and I finally took Eldritch Cone



    I Hope You Brought Sunglasses

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    So we're in front of Mercyglade asylum, and the Swashbuckler is glowing faintly, having become our Deus ex Machina. We need to pump him full of as much healing magic as we can realistically get our hands on, and we need to do it quietly enough that we don't just get hammer-stomped into the ground by the Drifter.

    The world's teetering on the brink of total collapse under his ravenous influence, and we have no secret allies or hiding spots left, (except for a haunted asylum sure to be the death of us). The Swashbuckler is our only remaining card, so to speak.

    It's officially just us versus him.

    So first thing is first, we pump (almost) all of our remaining healing magic into the Swashbuckler. The Dragon Shaman dumps all but 5 of his "Lay on Hands" healing touch, the Swashbuckler uses most of his spell slots to cast cure spells, and the Kobold uses every use of his own healing touch. We only saved enough healing magic to stabilize party members who hit negatives, for emergencies. All in all, we pumped close to 500 hitpoints worth of positive energy into the guy... and we could see the difference quite clearly. His glowing aura became very pronounced giving off a strong light...

    That was bad news. He was a bright shining beacon that said "I'm the special one, kill me first!", not to mention making him harder to hide in the approaching darkness.

    Speaking of which, the rapidly approaching darkness had us once again (third time now! ) booking away from Mercyglade asylum as fast as our legs would take us. We didn't even have our zombie dragon mounts to drag us along at a rapid pace, it was just the four of us, running through the mountainous woods, and hoping we didn't find any trouble (we weren't in a great position for combat, what with all our healing magic being tied up).

    We ran through the woods, trying to keep a low profile as the sun set (as low a profile as one can when you're glowing with the energy of a small holy sun).

    After we'd gotten far enough from the asylum, we took to trying to figure out what to do about the Swashbucklers light. He couldn't suppress it, but we found that if we wrapped him in enough fabric we could stifle it. It still shone through, but not as a piercing floodlight of divine energies.

    Annnnd it was at this point that we realized... we hadn't run far ENOUGH from the asylum to escape the notice of some of the vengeful spirits inside of it. A few ghostly figures of rotting mental patients and orderlies came floating out between some of the trees, howling maddeningly.

    I'm not ashamed to say that we ran for all we were worth. I would fire eldritch blasts back at them, and occasionally connected (even killed a few), but they pursued us for miles before finally turning back. Why they turned back is something you can speculate on, but we came to the conclusion that there's only so far from their haunted-home they could realistically go, and we finally got out of their range of attack.

    Fortunately we didn't take too much abuse during the run, but we'd cut into the night time hours we could rest during, and we NEEDED to rest to recover any healing energies we had to put into the Swashbuckler.

    It also occurred to us that I had, strangely, become a valuable meat-shield. The Dragon Shaman still had a huge AC and high CON, but most damage he took, he was going to have to deal with, as we couldn't afford to waste it on stupid things like "life threatening wounds". But I had Fiendish Reslience, which meant that once a day, I could turn on fast healing and shrug off injuries that should kill me.

    It wasn't perfect, but I was the only one of us that could hit negatives, and still stand back up afterwards. I was hesitant to fling myself out in front of the party though, for any number of reasons (including cowardice, selfishness, and the realization that I'm still SQUISHIER than the other three party members are by a long shot).

    Still. There's selfish, and there's stupid, and I was not the latter. I promised I'd do whatever I could to keep ole Swashie safe if it came to that.



    Discovery

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    I also had to keep watch the entire night, which put me in a state of irritable sleep-deprived fatigue. The other party members needed a full rest to recover their assets, I didn't. So while it was prudent, I still had to stay awake all night staring out into the darkness for signs of trouble.

    Leaving the unhinged and unashamedly evil witch guarding you while you sleep was an interesting decision for the party to make, but I didn't bring it up. Just did my job. In the morning, they once again started pouring as much healing magic into the Swashbuckler as they could. I quote the DM here, "He begins to glow with a brilliant light that rivals the rising sun". We didn't know how much healing energy we needed, but when you start glowing brighter than the rising sun, you know you're probably close to it.

    You know you're also a big sore thumb on an otherwise bleak and ravaged landscape, and predictably, we were spotted.

    By a single Drifter bug.

    We spotted the glowing run on its back when we turned away from the Swashbuckler to shield our eyes. It was just sitting peacefully on the side of a tree, staring at us. It didn't attack, it didn't try to escape, it didn't even move. It just watched us.

    I plunked it with an eldritch blast, but it didn't matter whether the bug lived or died... what mattered was the Drifter had done the smartest thing he could have. Send a small number of bugs to as many locations as possible. And now he knew where we were.

    Before we even had a chance to discuss what we were going to do, the first wave of attack came down on us. It wasn't an epic assault... a few deer, a wolf, and some small woodland critters. The combat wasn't difficult (though it was exhausting knowing that every tiny little scratch or knock on the head from a hoof was going to stay there for lack of a way to cure it). But the fact that we were being attacked by infected woodland creatures was not good news for us.

    After we killed the infected creatures (and watching them dissolve into swarms of bugs afterwards, fanning out to likely infect more creatures ) we ran. Since it was daylight, we could see the area around us a little better, and we noticed some caves up on one of the hills about a mile away.

    But we also heard creatures charging at us from all sides, including the direction we wanted to go. Normal animals or not, there were so many of them that a fight (especially a fight with no healing magic) would have been ridiculous. Fortunately, the kobold recalled that his spellcasting was recharged, and we linked hands, he snapped his fingers, and teleported us into the cave mouth.



    Please Don't Feed The Trolls

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    Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

    The smell hit us all at once on our arrival in the strange unexplored cave system. It wasn't just an empty stone face. It reeked of rot and refuse, and before we had a change to even assess our situation, the kobold was struck bodily by a club so hard that it nearly bent him in two.

    We'd teleported straight into a den of trolls. Uninfected trolls, but it didn't really matter if they were infected or not. They were TROLLS. They jumped out of the darkness and began attacking us with clubs, claws, and teeth.

    It was everything we could do to keep the Swashbuckler safe while we fought. He regretted not carrying a reach weapon while the three of us backed him into a wall and formed a protective half-circle around him, fighting off the trolls who were more interested in the 'shiny man' than the three normal looking defenders.

    Luckily, we were decked out in all kinds of firey abilities. The Kobold hit the biggest looking one with an acid arrow, while I put up a wall of fire covering our area and the dragon shaman torch-breathed anything that got close. Most of them went ahead and charged right into the flames, but them standing IN a wall of fire while we fought definitely gave us the edge. The smarter trolls hung back and pelted us with very heavy rocks, which certainly hurt, but I was peppering them with Eldritch Blasts, which I guarantee hurt a whole lot more. Finally, mercifully, we killed the last of them and scorched their remains to guarantee they wouldn't stand back up.

    We took a moment to catch our breaths, before I remembered excitedly: "Hey wait, fresh corpses!"

    The Dragon Shaman just went "Really?" while we were stuffing black onyx in their stupid troll faces. The Swashbuckler didn't have any spell slots to raise anything, but me and the kobold both raised as many as we could, leaving us with around a dozen undead giant bodyguards. Hey, we needed all the help we could get.

    We kind of half thought the DM would give us a bit of a breather... after being chased by ghosts, attacked by swarms of woodland creatures, and then teleporting into a nest of hungry trolls. How foolish we were.

    The DM informed us that we could hear a faint "whooshing" noise outside, as if large amounts of air were getting displaced, followed by a very not-rythmic thumb that vibrated through the ground itself.

    The kobold dashed up the the entrance, with the rest of us a few heartbeats behind. When the kobold got to the cave mouth, he realized that we hadn't been deep enough to conceal the Swashbucklers holy glow. Everything in the area knew where we were, which meant the DRIFTER knew where we were. And we didn't have any more teleport tricks up our sleeves, and wouldn't without a good nights rest.

    A good nights rest it didn't look like we'd be getting. On the horizon, we could see it. A dark shape so massive it rivaled the mountains we stood amongst. A being of such epic size that "Colossal" didn't even begin to cover it. A massive, misshapen, spidery form 'crawled' along the ground in our direction, composed entirely out of bugs. Where its 'legs' hit the ground, it uprooted trees and left gaping craters in its wake. The horrible thing lolled to one side, so massive that its components didn't have the proper mind to make it symmetrical.

    And it had the Drifter's face.

    A face we'd almost forgotten, one we hadn't seen since he first completed the ritual to become the parasite he now is. But there it was, clear as day, his face sculpted entirely from living scarabs in a chitinous monstrosity.
    And as we looked on, we could see smaller swarms fluttering up to join the mass, contributing to its misshapen awkwardness.

    The drifter was coming, and it looked like we had his undivided attention.

    The kobold said what we were all thinking. "Deeper into the caves. Now".

    And with that, the session ended (and we leveled up again). The kobold got access to sixth level spells he couldn't cast without a good nights rest, the Dragon Shaman got another boost to his breath weapon, the Swashbuckler actually took another level in archivist for more healing spell slots (that he still needed a good nights rest for), and I got my first Dark invocation. I wanted Dark Discorporation so bad. SO BAD.

    But I did the smart thing and took Impenetrable Barrier to throw up walls of force. Being attacked by forces that outnumber us to an extreme amount, in a cave with limited mobility... the ability to create an indestructible wall only made sense.



    Triarii Routed

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    So we ran deeper into the cave system in the mountain, not really sure what to expect. We saw signs of life along the way, but we just weren't sure if what we saw was traces of the trolls we had already killed, or something worse. We tried not to think about it, simply running along the previously-dark caves now lit by the walking sun we counted in our ranks.
    We could hear the horrible monstrosity that was the giant drifter 'construct' scrabbling closer and closer to our cave, but we just ran deeper and deeper.

    And to our absolute horror, we discovered a full on dead-end.

    There were no turns, there was no where to double back to, and we had no way to teleport our troubles away this time. Even I couldn't escape with Flee the Scene, because there was nowhere in range for me to flee TO.
    I audibly kicked myself for not taking Path of Shadow instead, but what was done was done. Like it or not, we were forced into a final-stand situation.
    We couldn't even try to rest here, as we'd just woken up and started a new day. We, were, screwed.

    The entire mountain shook as the Drifter monstrosity finally connected with the terrain immediately surrounding it, and the entire cave system began to shake. Stuck literally between a rock and a hard place, we began weighing the likelihood of a cave in versus the likelihood of the drifter swarm just absolutely shredding us into tiny bits.

    A larger boom and the ground shaking even more made the decision for us. We couldn't let ourselves get buried under a few thousand feet of collapsing rock. If we could arrange some kind of controlled cave in, MAYBE, but even that would be stupid and suicidal, as the Drifter would have a full day to try to tear his way down to us.

    So we ran back up. About halfway to the surface, we saw how futile our struggles were. The entire tunnel was literally filled with rapidly approaching bugs. It was truly just a massive wall of chitinous shell and tearing mandibles, and the occasional "pop" as one of the self-destruct bugs went off in a rage.

    We didn't even have a way out. or so we thought at first. The Dragon Shaman panicked and hit the wall with a fire breath, carving out a 30 foot cone of freedom. Of course, the bugs just instantly refilled the space, but it gave me an idea.

    I through up a wall of fire...30 feet into the mass of bugs. And then an impenetrable wall directly in front of us, buying us a few turns to think. Of course, the self-destruct bugs, since they were using a disintegrate effect, just began to eat away at the impenetrable wall... but not so fast that we couldn't hack at the bugs to keep them at bay while explaining the plan.
    I do a double wall setup. When the dragon shamans breath recharges, I drop the impenetrable wall and he hits the (weakened by the fire wall) mass in front of us with his breath weapon, at which point I cycle the walls thirty feet further and we repeat and fight our way back to the surface, 30 feet by grueling 30 feet.

    Swashbuckler: "And what do we do when we get to the surface?"

    Kobold: "Split up."

    Dragon Shaman: "Suicide."

    Kobold: "Our only chance. We know the drifter has trouble focusing on multiple areas at once, the only way we're going to keep him from stomping us on sight is by moving in multiple directions. I'll go with the Swashbuckler, you and the witch take to the skies, we'll send the trolls out in four groups of three to fight, and we'll cross our fingers."

    Swashbuckler: "But what's our long term plan?"

    Kobold: "Die horribly I guess."

    Swashbuckler: "I'm glowing like the FREAKING sun, I can't need that much more healing juice. One more day, that's gotta be all it'll take."

    Me: "We're SOL. We need to run and hopefully we'll come up with something. Anything."

    Swashbuckler: "I wish I had some healing potions."

    We all stopped awkwardly at that and skimmed over our gear-lists, but we actually DIDN'T have any healing potions. Which is fortunate, in a way, cause we would have felt really stupid.

    It did give us a goal though. Book for the nearest town and raid the Apothecary and churches for any kind of healing juice. That might just be enough to top him off.

    Assuming we can make it that far.

    Which, upon finally fighting our way out to the cave mouth, seems less than likely.

    There were so many bugs that our visibility was limited to about ten feet in front of us, but through the fray, we could make out that the 'tunnel smash' we'd been fighting up from had only been one of the swarm/monstrosities many legs jammed into the face of the mountain.

    With me making a pair of walls meeting in a V shape away from the cave (fire and force, respectively), and me and the dragon shaman using our cone weapons (fire and eldritch magic, respectively), we managed to clear enough of a gap to let the Kobold and the trolls out first. The kobold booked straight up the mountain like the speedy little ninja he is, making a hide-in-plain-sight to disappear into the fray, even from the bugs that were causing the swarm. It worked by him moving too fast, in too unpredictable of a pattern, for the swarm to get a good grasp on where he was in relation to the other parts of the swarm.

    The trolls, as ordered, march/shuffled into four groups and away from each other, drawing the attention of some parts of the swarm without really doing much against it.

    Then me and the shaman fired off another pair of cone attacks to give the Swashbuckler a chance to get out. When he broke free from the cave entrance and began running upwards (following in the kobolds trail, as he was going to guide the swashbuckler to a town), his light was so blinding that the swarm actually reeled from his presence, backing away slightly for a moment before moving to attack him.

    Unfortunately, being such a bright target meant that...well, he was a bright target. The Drifter monstrosity reared back in pain from the sudden increase in light, but then recovered and sent an arm-swarm flying in the Swashbucklers direction, swatting him and sending him tumbling over the rough path and clinging to the rocks.

    The Dragon Shaman and I both left the cave. We were going to instinctively run to the Swasbuckler to help... but we came to the conclusion that it really WAS best to try to divide the drifter swarms attention here. So instead? We flew up at the drifters massive face, zig-zagging and slashing at the bugs ineffectively, before both of us unloaded directly at the 'eyes' of the Drifter.

    While he was a swarm... he really couldn't focus through every pair of eyes at once. That had to be WHY he was forming 'limbs' and 'bugamentals' and all of that. Which meant when the Dragon Shaman breathed fire at his face, and I created a ring of fire inside his 'head', he still reeled (in a sense) from the strike. The swarm 'hiccuped' and his entire bodily shape grew indistinct as the outline holding him together slightly detached from itself.

    It gave the Swashbuckler and kobold time to get within visual range of each other and attempt to run over the top of the hill/mountain to tumble down the other side, leaving me and the Dragon Shaman as the distraction. Obviously, part of the swarm still pursued... but the effects weren't as devastating as if we'd been in one massive group.

    Me and the Dragon Shaman flew past each other in the opposite direction. I shouted out to him, "If you die before I do, tell them I repent my lifetime of evil deeds!" The Dragon Shaman shouted back, incredulously, "Truly?". I just smiled, and said "No, not really" before firing an eldritch cone straight down and 'dropping' out of midair and through the newly formed hole in the swarm.

    The Dragon Shaman muttered an expletive under his breath before exhaling his breath weapon straight up and going further skyward, leaving the Drifters focus splitting between us. We could tell it was having an effect, because his 'face' was gone, and just replaced with a massive swarm of bugs. Holding onto a solid shape was getting too tough.

    Not so tough that he didn't just utterly destroy all our zombie trolls though, and then "stomped" both the kobold and the swashbuckler in a pillar of bugs. They both took massive damage as a result, but continued trying to escape.

    Me and the Shaman weren't in much better shape. We were taking heavy slashing damage from the bugs flying by us and scraping with their mandibles along the way. Every space we tried to clear for ourselves just instantly filled with a new set of bugs. I hit solid ground, made a ring of fire around me, and starting firing eldritch cones upwards. It was all I could do to keep the area directly above me cleared, as swarms circled, launched themselves down at me (trying to "stomp" me too), and doubling back for repeat tries as I kept firing cones up getting more and more desperately close to faltering and getting crushed under a massive pile of insects.

    The Dragon Shaman was plagued with suicide-bomber bugs, bursting the in path and making him roll Fort saves to shrug off the effects of their disintegrating shockwaves. Finally though, he managed to get above the Drifters 'head' area, waited for his breath weapon to full recharge, and then stacked every meta-breath feat he'd taken onto a single breath attack, and dive-bombed his way into the thickest part of the swarm, letting out a massive cloud of blistering heat through a bellowing roar.

    As an aside, I apologize to the more meticulous playgrounders, but I don't actually have his list of meta-breath feats .

    But the effects were pretty impressive. He took out such a huge swath of bugs that the entire swarm hiccuped again, which bought all of the rest of us some extra time in our various pursuits.

    Unfortunately, the drifter reacted well to the dragons dive-bomb, and actually swatted him out of the sky in the same direction he'd traveling. The combined force was enough to barrel him into the ground next to me, making a decent crater. The Shaman was low on hitpoints. There was nothing I could do about that though, instead, I took to the skies and left my ring of fire around him, letting him weakly fight off the descending bugs with his sword and shield while waiting for a breath weapon to recharge. I tried to fight skyward to pull off a similar stunt, hoping we could make a difference in letting the two runners get away.

    We didn't. They were taking a brutal pounding out in the open, and with both of them having limited mobility, there wasn't much they could do but TAKE it. The Swashbuckler even enlarged himself, making himself an easier target, but a stronger and more stable one. But in the end, it was no use. The Drifter Swarm created a veritable wall of bugs, and with a mighty 'sweep' managed to knock the two of them off the hilltop and into the trees below. They crashed, hard. The kobold had a handful of hitpoints. The swashbuckler...

    The swashbuckler hit negatives

    I got similarly swatted out of the sky, and hit the ground hard, activating my Fiendish Resilience just before I crashed and ALSO fell into negatives.

    The kobold had no healing. The Dragon Shaman could stabilize one of us, if he could REACH us without dying... it was looking for all the world like we'd failed at the last bit and managed a TPK despite everything.

    When the DM rolls a D4, and has the kobold make a spot check.

    "You notice a twitching form scuttling around in one of the Swashbucklers packs. Chitter is molting."

    Yup. Like all adventurers. We'd forgotten about the arcanists' darn familiar.

    The kobold pulls out Chitter, noting that he's bigger and brighter... meaning he could cast higher level healing spells... meaning...meaning we'd forgotten to use the bugs darn healing in the FIRST place.

    The kobold just lets out a sick grin and looks down at the bug sitting happily on the back of his hand. "Hey little guy. ...Time to do your thing."

    Chitter pounces off the kobolds hand and onto the swashbucklers face, and with a bright flash, expels one of his healing gems.



    "I Am Become Life, Savior of Worlds"

    Spoiler
    Show

    The effect was instantaneous.

    The Swashbucklers glow became so bright that the entire world, even the sun, seemed darker against him. And in brilliant pulse that erupted from his location, he vanished entirely. For a heartbeat, everything stood still. The swarm around us even stopped in its tracks, as the glowing sphere collapsed in on itself before bursting outwards in all directions, a cleansing wall of pure energy so brilliant and powerful that there was nothing to do but watch.

    We watched the wall travel off into the distant at the speed of light, and knew there would be no stopping it. Nothing would stop it until it met itself on the other side of the world.

    And it worked. The Drifter bugs didn't falter, or scatter where they were hit... they fried where they stood, falling out of the sky with heavy thuds, landing in great heaps, blanketing the ground four or five feet deep like some kind of perverse snowfall.

    The Dragon Shaman watched them closely. Not a one of them twitched.

    They were done for.

    The kobold stared into the distance, making an inspiration-point boosted spot check. He could see animals in the woods, running around in confusion, clearly not infected.

    I finally healed above negative hitpoints with fiendish resilience, and scrabbled my way out of the three feet of bugs I'd been buried alive in, coughing and spitting angrily.

    We did it.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 07:24 PM.