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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Default Only Making Things Worse | a Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign (set in Wales)

    So this is a chronicle of my party's misadventures through the 5th Edition adventure path Princes of the Apocalypse. I'm not the GM (so try not to tell me too many spoilers) - I'm playing Branwen/Bryony (I contemplated making you guess, but it's pretty obvious from the first chapter).

    Spoiler: The (Player) Characters

    The Tiefling Family
    • Lorcan, more commonly called Azazel, is the eldest brother - who sold his soul to the devil. (Pact of the Chain Warlock)
    • Branwen (also called Bryony) is the middle child and the only daughter. She was raised in a swamp by a hag. (Pact of the Blade Warlock)
    • Caith is the youngest child. He was lost early on, and ended up training as a virtuous knight. Oh dear. (Oath of the Ancients Paladin)

    Other Player Characters
    • Zethir is a dragonborn monk who is just learning about the concepts outside his secluded childhood. (Way of the Four Elements Monk)
    • Norman is a human knight who values Strength and Freedom, and who is always hankering to kill some cultists. (War Cleric)
    • Itri al-Badr is a human archer traveling from afar as a scout for a massive empire. (Battlemaster Fighter)

    This is up to date as of session 16. Each will have a little more introduction as they enter the story - but feel free to ask more questions about them (or other details) if I release details too slowly, or too vaguely.

    The game is currently ongoing, but I have a decent backlog of session writeups to start with, so I'll be releasing them somewhat faster than we hold sessions for awhile, until we catch up - starting with a double feature:

    Session 1: Not Playing with a Full Deck

    Of the three of them, Branwen was the only one who had a large, respectable, cozy house to shelter in.

    Had. And when it burned, the dancing red flames and thick black peat smoke had made a striking impression over the snowy white swamp - her two brothers standing over her awkwardly as the three realized their shared lineage.

    Caith had been - was still - the youngest, just a child when he was left in the chaos of a bad town visit. Whether it was a con gone bad, or simply unwarranted violence, the caravan had scattered without the time to look for a baby. His siblings, while more willing (or foolish) to go back, had not been more successful - and to her he had been swept away into the great unknown.
    Now in his return he was… still a kid, albeit an enormously tall one. His broad red shoulders carried (as well as his shiny chainmail and a broad, much repaired scythe - apparently a weapon he had fended off a monster with, and learned to master since then) a cheery face with laughing gold eyes and dark blue-black hair.
    And if Caith was tall, Azazel (his birth name was Lorcan, but he eschewed that long ago) was a giant. At 6 ft 6 inches (she measured) he towered over most men - and he made little attempt to tone down the effect that (or the fiery red hair he shared with Branwen, or his intense purple eyes, or his “nightmarishly” dark skin… or just about every sinew in his body) made on people.
    The loss of both siblings had changed him - forcing him to drift between the only people as untrusted as himself; thieves, murderers, and the cultists of the great fiends. Many hoped to use his imposing strength for their own purposes, but Azazel kept his calculating mind as well. He may have sold his soul to a fiend, he would say as he clutched his red spear, but he would have it returned with interest.
    Between them, Branwen - or the Witch Bryony, as she was more familiar by now - was like a mouse - barely 5 feet tall, and and pale as a bleached skeleton. With her horns and fiery red hair mostly covered by her wide grey hat, and a touch of makeup applied to match a more human coloration (a trick she quickly learned when her hag-mother disappeared and she found herself dealing with the villagers who sought witchly advice without a hag’s transformational magic), she could almost appear normal - if enigmatically sorcerous.
    Beneath the starry cloak, though, her hands constantly played with the crossbow at her side and the mysterious Minor Arcana deck that her hag mother had left when she vanished - the only connection she still had with her kidnapper (aside from an odd bag of teeth), and one with considerably more magic than she was willing to admit.
    The family would arrive in Red Larch with the first thaw. Winter was a terrible time to be traveling, but without Branwen’s house there would be few places near the swamp where such a motley band would find shelter. A few early and reckless flowers blossomed at the base of a huge pile of rock - what locals called Lance Rock - and touched at the path into the clamorous town.

    Red Larch is a loud town in the center of the crossroads in the land which is known hereabouts as Leonesse, halfway between the bustling city of Caer Lundum and the colder Caer Dydd. Between these metropoli, Leonesse was a hilly lawless area, thriving and falling in local business and the economic booms and busts of trade.
    Red Larch is almost built on a quarry, and sitting conveniently on the crossroads of an economic boom - the perfect place to rest without too many questions. Finding an inn, Azazel paid for two nights with a gold piece - a good deal in the rush brought on by the inn’s surprising lack of customers.

    “There’s foul magic around,” warned the innkeeper, mentioning rumors of terrible man killing winds to the west and even stranger oddities little talked about. Undeterred, the brothers wandered to the tavern across the street to rat out more of these tales. The room cooled somewhat at the introduction of the two fiend born, but Caith’s singing and cheer warmed the tired laborers to his presence.

    When everything was part of the Mists, fathomless and unknowable, a few great powers labored together to illuminate a world of light and structure. Chief among these was The Dagda, who forged the sun itself and gently lead the others with wisdom and a hearty laugh, which Caith strove to emulate. Where light was in the world, Caith swore to preserve it.
    Azazel’s presence was less well received, finding him toying his insinuations against a distrustful patron who was, in his own words, “a racist little bastard **** old man”. The patron did tell him about a cavern full of treasure to the north - known as Tricklerock - and seemed keen to get rid of Azazel to this lucrative quest.

    Chief among the children of Arawn and the Morrigan are the Great Fiends, who seek to escape from the unknown quiet of Arawn’s womb into the world and Avalon. One of the most famous is definitely Balar of the Evil Eye, whose form is that of a great misshapen giant with a third eye in the middle of his forehead. The eye is Greed, and when he opens the eye it poisons and blights what it sees. Balar and his forces form many legions in Arawn’s womb, and often seek out followers in the world (such as the power hungry Azazel).
    Meanwhile, Branwen also heard of this location. She had wandered to a barbershop, looking for people who had time on their hands to discuss rumors. After a few games of chance - less chance than they had hoped, perhaps, given her experience with her cards - the old men talked about the dangers of Tricklerock cave, warning her that whatever fools legend there was of the place, it was not one where she should go.

    Moving on from her card playing friends, Branwen found a bathhouse and joined the older women in a common room - only revealing her feet to maintain her humanoid guise, but enjoying what she could (which was free after all, for her first visit - a well appreciated promotion given the long trip to Red Larch).

    The bathhouse echoed with rumors, telling of the mysterious danger of Lance Rock, the strange masked people seen by the northern quarry (if those lazy ingrates of miners were being truthful, and not just wanting an early supper, that is), and even ghost stories around the tombs.

    Branwen returned to the inn to compare notes with Azazel, while Caith spoke with the innkeeper and learned about the opportunity of Tricklerock. The lonely innkeeper also gave him some of her… quality… crumblecakes to feed him. Setting up a pot of boiling water and soap as a hint for her still filthy brothers, Branwen set up her bedroll in between the two beds of the chamber and went to sleep.

    The next day, the family set off for Tricklerock, on Caith’s suspicions (and with Azazel’s suspicions as to the motives of the locals). To avoid sleeping together, Azazel made sure to purchase a second tent before the group left town discretely.

    Tricklerock turned out to be a large ravine with a delightful waterfall. The family camped a safe distance away and waited for daylight, while their inn room remained paid for but unoccupied in town.

    Before dawn, the crew entered - Caith taking the lead - only to find the cave empty of treasure and full of disgusting stirges. Despite some injury to Caith, the group cleared the cave and escaped largely unharmed. Returning to the town, the brothers decided to veer off to the bathhouse to take baths while Branwen reassured the innkeeper - who had been worried by not seeing them for the last few days.

    With one disappointing adventure, the three decided to chance the mysterious Lance Rock. Passing by a sign from a claimed “lord” of the rock who warned people off due to a “disfiguring disease”’s contagion, they found only a small series of tunnels with a dead body.

    And then some more dead bodies who started moving to the sound of their shouts. Azazel’s fire only angered them, and the zombies piled over him - dragging him to the ground. Caith kept swinging, and Branwen - unable to get a good hit with her crossbow - covered herself in frost armor and ran into the fray with her dagger. Together, they tore the zombies off of their brother and dragged themselves out of the cave. With a brief rest and patching up, though, the lure of the twisting tunnels drove them back in again, finding skeletons (which the three quickly smashed before they could show signs of liveliness or deadness) and a couple of old swords.

    Session 2: The Lord of Lance Rock

    When the family returned to the larger cavern, they noticed a light ahead. Having heard about a commotion near the rock, a dragon-blooded man named Zethir had begun investigating the area. Not having the eyesight of other fiend children, he had lit a torch.

    Of all the fiend bloods, the dragon blooded are the most physically bizarre. Zethir’s silver scales covered the entirety of his muscular body with a metallic sheen. This brilliance was covered, uncharacteristically for such metals, with a rather simple tan cassock. Born and raised in a remote monastery, Zethir was still unfamiliar with the world around him.
    Azazel and Branwen snuck forward towards the intruder - trying and failing to be stealthy (which ended up not mattering, as the naive acolyte was too entranced by his surroundings to notice their approach). Azazel announced his presence loudly, and Zethir put his sword (the biggest possession he had) down in a healthy response to the booming threats from the shadows. Under the threat of crossbows, Zethir declared he was trained in healing and useful - and that if this wasn’t needed, he at least understood enough to leave if he wasn’t wanted.

    Through Caith’s negotiation, and Zethir’s composure under pressure, the monk and the tieflings decided to continue together for the near future. Their immediate mission was clear - as they discussed, there were scraping and movement noises down the second hallway. After some waiting, the four pushed through - finding a tunnel full of old blood which opened into another large cavern.

    In the back, the team could see three figures - one appeared to be a bear, one a maiden, and one a jester. Upon the group’s entrance, the three figures danced forward awkwardly, revealing the putrid flesh beneath the clothing and makeup (including a full bear costume).

    Zethir and Caith charged at the jester, while Branwen and Azazel began firing bolts into the bear. Despite shooting out both eyes, the bear continued to lumber forward while the jester and maiden seemed to brush aside the blows covering them. Finally, though, the bear collapsed, followed by the maiden and jester - each covered in bolts from the backlines. The exhausted group dragged themselves back to town.

    When they arrived, the worried innkeeper cooked them a free dinner while Caith regaled her with fictional stories of battles. Zethir rented out a second room, with Caith taking the second bed (allowing Branwen to move off the floor). Caith and Azazel returned to the tavern while Branwen bathed and Zethir meditated in his room.

    Returning to Lance Rock, the group passed a small cluster of humans arguing near the road. When Azazel went to help (or so he claimed), the four men drew scimitars and threatened him. In the following fight, Zethir was badly beaten up, but the others burned and tore their way through the bandits.

    They were helped by a traveling knight, named Norman, dressed in shining waxed chainmail and a raven marked tabard. While Azazel convinced the final ruffian to throw down his weapon and prepared to run him through, Norman suggested beating him unconscious and dragging him into the town instead - a warning against bandits. After some discussion, the two tied the unconscious body to a nearby tree and pinned his foot to the ground with his own scimitar. Seeing Norman’s value, the group recruited him to join their mission.

    Norman had been born a slave, and trained in his bondage to fight. When freed, though, his skills made him an easy choice for a knight’s squire - not yet experienced in fighting alone, and for his own motives, but not requiring all the basic education a squire usually needs. He rose to a knighthood early - and perhaps immaturely in the process - and began to venture out in defense of his creed: to shelter and protect the flame of power - fostering the ability to fight wherever it might be wavering. While his thick black beard, shining armor, and bright red tabard would not indicate his past, the knight still sought out ways to make sure nobody could be overpowered or enslaved.
    Going further down the caverns, the band found a narrow - blood covered - hallway with iron chests near the end. When Azazel and Norman went to investigate, rocks fell from above and a voice laughed at their eagerness for treasure.

    Retreating back (and with some healing power from Norman), the band pushed through to look for their tormentor. They found a large lit chamber with baskets of old flesh, a dark cloaked figure, and several skeletons standing in formation. Upon further investigation, the dark cloaked figure was revealed to be another disguised zombie. The baskets began crawling, with hands pouring out to attack the heroes. Zethir froze a basket with his breath, while Branwen stabbed and shot at others. As she had thrown her crossbow aside to stab at an attacking hand, Branwen scrambled for her cards - and the 2 of Swords brought green flaming swords flying at her foes.

    Meanwhile, Zethir and Azazel managed the zombie, while the skeletons held their formation. A man ambled behind them, stating that he “figured you’d return” and declaring himself the lord of Lance Rock. He left the group as they charged at the skeletons, leaving his minions to clean up after these meddlesome peoples.

    As both sides charged forward, Norman shouted for the others to form behind him as the group saw the skeleton’s bows. Branwen quickly took him up on his offer, sticking closely to the knight’s coattails. The resulting battle nearly killed Zethir, but Norman was able to reach and bandage him up before he lost all of his blood, but the skeletons were fully destroyed.

    The Morrigan is a name rarely invoked by the mortals of the world, except when battlefields beckon (which is all too often). As Nemain, she is the havoc and confusion of war, seeding terror and chaos of the battlefield among its followers. As Babd, she is the bloodshed and death of war, causing even the stoutest warriors to fall and lose hope. But Norman invoked her as Macha, the rule and conquest of war, sought for new tactics and ways to kill others (as well as more reasons to). War brought strength for Norman, but only in the order of a careful battlefield.
    The party dragged Zethir back a room to try to heal up and strategize, with the tiefling warlocks holding guard. Azazel charged ahead, hoping to lash out at his foe, but the necromancer skirmished at a distance, fleeing the party while firing spells behind him. Caith was the first to be hit, as an iron crown formed over his head and his eyes lit up with magically induced madness - striking hard at Norman before realizing what he had done. The two sides exchanged salvos of magical fire - Azazel’s dark magical blasts and Branwen’s swords against the bright missiles of the necromancer.

    Azazel fell from the man’s bombardment before he could unleash fury on him, but the racing Caith and Norman had managed to catch the Necromancer and pin him in range of Zethir and Branwen. Zethir’s dart finally took down the menace of Lance Rock, who faded into a black mist.

    Left behind was a wand for magic missiles, and a poorly furnished (but clean) room with a glowing orb (and several beautiful gems).

    Upon their weary return to town, the group noticed the brigands they had previously fought scattered and chewed on while the tied up man cowered and muttered about “the bear breaking loose”.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Default Re: Only Making Things Worse | a Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign (set in Wales)

    The story continues...

    Session 3: Load Bearing

    Ripping the scimitar out of the man’s foot, Norman and Azazel debated what to do about the bandits. While Norman sought to take him to the authorities, Azazel figured there could be profit in listening to the man’s pleas. Indeed, the sobbing bandit mentioned more treasure (and the small issue of a loose bear) in a cave used by the bandits “Just please don’t put the sword back in my foot!”.

    Too injured to risk exploring this cave, the group set up camp by the tied bandit. When dawn broke, finding their charge in poor shape but still alive, the group set him limping off toward the camp. While Caith tried to bandage him some, the band was more concerned with the destination than their guide.

    The cave turned out to be fairly well furnished, with stairs and a cage built into it. Tying the bandit to the (formerly bear holding) cage, Norman lead the way into the depths - finding some heavily handled supplies before coming across the bear itself upstairs. The beast was not expecting such resistance, and the group soon vanquished it. Unlike the bear, the band was much more interested in the table of gems sitting beside the bear's feast.

    The band left with a handful of rings (giving one to each in the company, with one still left over), as well as the bear’s meat and hide. With their charge still somehow alive, they walked back to town, purchasing two rooms for another two nights. Upon finding out that the butcher also served as constable, Norman and Azazel turned their prisoner over to him - obtaining a bag of coins as a reward. Upon Norman peaking, the constable declared that it was a sound 30 gold - and was unable to increase this despite Azazel’s encouragement.

    In the meantime, Branwen bathed and took the bear pelts to a fashionable (and overpriced) clothing store to turn into distinctive armbands - all marked with a white bryony flower. Caith and Zethir sold other rewards from the caves, being finally joined by Norman - who gained a surprisingly good deal thanks to his skills with Orcish.

    Caith returned to the bar and encouraged good cheer among the citizenry, gaining him beer after beer from the proprietor. Fortunately, he was stopped before drunkenness by the quieting effects of night and the party slept an uneventful night and awoke to the weekend market.

    Looking for work closer to his… shady… expertise, Azazel sought out a wagon owner (but turned away when he turned out to be drunk) and a barber. Branwen wandered through the market stalls, eating a good meal from what she hoped would be her adoring citizens (Azazel followed at a distance to ensure her safety, but her imposing air kept the farmers from raising much of an issue. Some even were glad to have her take their pickles, potatoes, and so on.

    Upon their return, Branwen took to practicing with her shortsword - the nearby (not coincidentally) Norman took up the challenge to teach her, spending a good part of the day with sword trials, but retreated to the inn when hearing that the innkeeper was giving free food for stories.

    That night, tremors in the village awoke Branwen, but she was too groggy to notice the cause for her alertness. The others slept soundly. Picking up her bear fur armbands from the store, Bryony began to convince the others to wear them:
    • To Azazel, the dream of control by finding secrets and encouraging dependency.
    • To Norman, the honor of being an example to the childlike villagers of how to deal with problems manfully.
    • To Zethir, nothing but a suggestion - the naive monk knew too little of the world to not associate himself with his newly found brethren.
    • To Caith, a plea to help the town without the trouble of a knight’s jurisdiction.

    More tremors came in the night, with more of the group waking. With so many suspicious activities around town, Bryony and two of her newly minted knights went to the constable, whom she convinced to deputize Azazel and Norman in order to relieve him and his deputies of the burden of governance.

    Still, the group found it hard to find the source of any problems. As it gets late, though, a source would reveal itself - as a road in town collapsed into a giant pit.

    Rushing to the scene, Azazel, Caith, and Bryony slid down a rope to pull out some of the children who had fallen, while the others stood by to help pull the children up. The villagers meanwhile crowded around - with certain elders seeming to take control and warn the villagers, including these intruders, to not poke around. In particular, they were not to “disturb the delvers” or “move the stones”, although upon some… vigorous… questioning by Azazel, it seemed that not everyone who was cautioning them away even knew why these rules were in place.

    Leaping into the pit (literally for Norman, who was fortunately cushioned by the soft dirt, and metaphorically for the others who descended normally), the band found a blank stone door and an open rougher tunnel. Blocking the door, they wandered to the tunnel, finding it to emerge in the carriage wagon of the drunk man Azazel had met earlier (and who Zethir noted had also been among those warning against the pit).

    Back to the stone door, the group found a long passageway. Stern stone reliefs of chainmailed dwarves turned out to hold branching tunnels. Down one, there was simply the smell of death… and some giant rats and corpses, explaining this smell. Despite Caith being torn up a bit in the ensuing fight, the rats were quickly dispatched with. The skeletons of the corpses, though, left a mystery - each had a strange symbol carved into their foreheads (of the skulls). Down the other… was a toilet.

    Continuing to wander, the group found a strange floating stone. While they poked it to see if it could move, they considered the warnings and left it largely untouched for the time. At the end, though, they found a chamber with a door in each direction and a broken up and stitched back together statue of a dwarf (or, according to an inscription cut in it, a petrified dwarf found 30 years ago in a broken state by an unknown inscriber) with some some gems (and a nice dagger) and an odd circle of gravel (which Azazel kicked).

    Upon wandering through this chamber and picking a door, though, they found a guardsman watching for their presence (from the wrong direction), and quickly dispatched of him as well.

    Session 4: Cecil and Friends

    The room also contained a child pinned on the floor with stones. Finding that he was conscious, Azazel asked him why he was there, which provoked the enigmatic answer that he was “being punished”. He also asked for water, which Bryony gave him. Upon more questioning, he revealed that he had failed to deliver a message, and he refused aid out of fear that his bosses - the elders seen above - would know if he broke his punishment.

    Taking the stones off and propping him against a wall, the band pointed him down the tunnel which they presumed lead back to the original cave in - but the child was too weak to rise. Instead, Caith gave him rations and an assurance that he would return, and the band returned to its mission.

    Continuing down the tunnels, they found an old bald man on a stool, whittling a stick. Both sides were surprised, and the man dropped his knife and prostrated himself, begging for mercy from the obviously suspicious invaders. Caith pushed past Norman to raise him up and gently question him (to which Norman took great offense), but the man simply reiterated the warnings about “the delvers”. Azazel muttered something about him being “a useless bag of ****”, and the party continued past him (with Caith cautiously taking his knife as they left) into a large room full of stones - monoliths, archways, and so on - with a few dwarven bones.

    Seeing movement and feeling the Knightess of Cups card at hand, Bryony whispered for the others to huddle before attempting to hide them in a misty illusion. This strategy was belied slightly by Norman shouting out racial slurs against dwarves, and then both Caith and Norman rushing out of the mists (with Norman shoving his way past Caith, still holding a bit of a grudge).

    Seeing some light in the distance, Zethir began to creep toward the edge of the illusion, but was too late - a ball of acid hurled through the room, barely missing Caith. With Zethir’s careful eyesight and guidance, Caith, Norman, and Zethir began to converge around a rock where they thought they saw a figure.

    With Norman’s sacred flames lighting up the rock and confirming the presence of their shadowy adversary, the siblings in the back began firing blasts of magical energy, but to little avail. The man was clung tightly to the top of the rock, with little to aim at. Seeing that the group had found him, the man shook the rock and the ground beneath it, knocking Caith to his knees. Upon being shaken, all the rocks in the room began to float slightly.

    Zethir ran up one of these rising rocks to get a better aim at the man, but missed with his darts. Caith instead shoved the pillar the man was on, moving it away from Zethir but towards a thunderous impact with another archway. The man fell off, and Norman closed in on him with his sword, while Azazel and Bryony bombarded him from afar.

    Norman fell on his back as the man let out another tremor through the cave, but rose quickly and swung his mace - crushing the man’s skull as he saw the symbol (carved on the skeletons before) again on the man’s armor. Meanwhile, Caith and Zethir grabbed a floating archway of rocks and shoved it towards his followers, who had begun to emerge from a side passageway when the rocks crashed. The rocks plowed through a few, but they rose and continued into the room. Even Bryony’s green flames slowed them down little, as they raised loaded crossbows and released several terrible volleys. Both Zethir and Caith were cut down before they could reach the enemy, and even Azazel was injured by the hail of bolts.

    Norman scrambled to heal his wounded allies, while Azazel lashed back at the enemy with fire and magic. Desperate, Bryony created the illusion of a necrotic hand, imposing it over the first foe who fell. This bait was successful, as the group showered this foul necromancy with bolts (but missed).

    While the distraction provided some respite, the foes quickly unleashed more bolts. Bryony was struck in the chest, shocking her out of her magical concentration, and Azazel was heavily injured (but unleashed even more fiery fury). Luck had run out for the enemy, though, as Caith and Zethir returned to the fight and tore down all but one.

    With her last magical breath, Bryony unleashed a fuller illusion, showing all the man’s compatriots as rising up as zombies against him. The man swung wildly at the image before realizing its falsity. In deep emotional pain, he rose to swing again at the real foes, but was knocked out by Zethir.

    The weary band rested among the stones, waiting for their prisoner to wake up. When he did, Azazel took command of the interrogations.

    Cecil - the prisoner - explained that he was following orders from the first man in the cave, whose name was Larakh and who had started a con: pretending the stones were an omen in order to force the villagers to do what they wanted (or at least a small segment of village elders known as “Believers”, who they were intended to use to control village politics in their favor and gain offerings). The tremors were their making (although he claimed that not all were), and they were the men with masks who had spooked the miners. The gems were offerings, with the gravel circle used to keep greedy Believers from skimming off the top.

    He claimed to not know why there were skeletons with the symbol carved on their skulls, despite wearing the same symbol himself. He seemed to be unaware of all the plans of the group, and Norman decided to take him on as a squire. The group considered the options and decided that they could maintain the deception and cover up the truth of their “fix” to the problem - using Bryony as a figurehead for the new movement.
    Caith, disgusted by the machinations of his compatriots, left toward the cave in. He gathered up the other two people they had left alive in the caves and lead them out by the wagon maker’s shop. Along the way, he smashed the false inscriptions and dwarven “idols”. The others pushed through the last tunnel to confirm the bandit’s story that it led to another opening in the quarry, then also returned and declared that the problem was “taken care of”.

    The group split for the rest of the afternoon, selling items from their exploration and managing other business around town (including Norman visiting his half orcish friend to repair Larakh’s armor, and Bryony finding several villagers who could help repair the road that had caved in) before having dinner at the home of a family whose child had been saved. Azazel told the (official) story of the expedition, with Bryony and others aiding (and interjecting whenever Caith tried to correct it).

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Default Re: Only Making Things Worse | a Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign (set in Wales)

    The tale continues with a diversion to meet some pleasant pirates...

    Session 5: Shoot the Moon

    The next day, Azazel found a secluded spot and sought advice from his master. Upon conference, he returned with a... gift. To the others, it appeared that a raven had uncharacteristically decided to befriend the fiend born. To him, he saw the gleeful gluttony of the imp's disguised eyes. The rest of the party managed less sinister business, with Norman and Cecil training (and Norman barely staying in front of the apparently quite fast Cecil), and Bryony acquiring the workforce needed to repair the road: 7 workers and an architect to help supervise the construction. The sum would be 21 gold up front, and 27 upon completion - which was predicted to take 3 weeks.

    Upon hearing his sister complain about the architect's high wage, and the reasons for it (the mine wasn't paying out well, despite all the troubles in the town), Azazel decided to threaten the mine owner... who accepted his complaint and gave him 105 gold to pay for the repairs.

    The gang waited a few more days in town, mostly for the refitting and construction of new material funded by the recent windfalls (although Zethir stayed in the wilderness, picking herbs for medicinal poultices). During this time, however, Azazel saw some really large birds - almost like vultures... and almost like they were scouting out the area. Meanwhile, Caith heard no news of the trade delegation, which people were beginning to suggest had vanished entirely.

    In search of the delegation, the band wandered north through the mountains (Norman narrowly remembering to buy a third tent for the expanding group, which he occupied with Cecil). A few more vultures were seen, although they fled watching the camps after Caith took a potshot with his longbow. Finding a giant bridge crossing the river from a great height (and no railings), the band cautiously tied themselves together (with Norman and Caith positioned near the front and back to anchor the lighter members - and Azazel's "raven" tied to his shoulder) and crossed it - wary of danger. Danger decided not to show up, and the group arrived in the town of Belliard, where the delegation was meant to be.

    The inn in Belliard had a monopoly of inn services through the town, constantly expanding to meet demand. It also seemed to hold a monopoly on other features. Refusing to pay its rather expensive (merchant) fares, Zethir, Azazel, and Norman decided to brave the outdoors. Caith and Branwen slept in comfort.

    Belliard had little more information about the whereabouts of the missing delegation, although they could say that it was maybe "returning" a body - possibly a knight. They also had rumors of warriors riding on vultures, which was worryingly similar to the band's previous watchers.

    While the town couldn't tell the group more, an investigation of the surrounding areas found a disturbing secret: a dozen dead soldiers with the symbol of a red axe on black that Norman believed to be associated with the delegation, surrounding by some cairns and empty wagons.

    Desecrating the cairns for clues, the band found bugbears in black leather, wearing the same insignia as beneath Red Larch. Cecil denied knowing why the symbol might be here as well, and Larakh was too dead to be questioned. While the buried bugbears was intriguing, a smaller cairn held a more mysterious cache - a human woman with a gold gargoyle patterned mask and robes. Azazel pocketed it quickly, although it didn't fit him (and Branwen noticed that it was mostly tin, but didn't tell him).

    After breaking up the wagons to make a small pyre for the dead, the band followed tracks (Zethir identified maybe 30 bugbears or other large humanoids leading away from the incident) towards the river - where it appeared boats had been used. Not having boats of their own, the party waited on the banks and set up camp.

    Azazel's raven told him of the other bank, sighting a keep with a blue and white banner holding a few boats on the other side. Wary of this potential threat, the group went back to build rafts from the broken wagons and crossed cautiously. The band then carefully approached the keep, with Azazel hailing the guards.

    They allowed the group in reluctantly, noting that "Grimjaw" could tell whether the travelers could stay or not (and thus escorted them to see him), and noted offhand that several bugbears were in residence. Suspicious, the company followed their escort into the Great Hall where a large man stood behind a dirty table around tattered nautically themed banners.

    He was insistent that passage demands a price, and reluctant to be warned off by veiled threats of the band (especially Zethir's fiery sparks - which seemed to anger him). When Azazel asked for single combat, he disdained the violence of travelers - and when Caith calmed him with flattery, he still demanded a price, putting it at an extortionate 7 gold a day.

    As negotiations broke down, Catih swung at a guard - but missed. The rest of the band was ready for this, though, and Norman and Zethir both took down the guards in their corners. Azazel launched a series of fiery beams... but missed most of them. Meanwhile, Grimjaw took his time to reveal his... grim... jaws - the hideous boar-like tusks that betrayed his inner disease. A lycanthrope!

    Azazel's second burst of fire was better aimed, and badly scorched the pig - and Branwen, having had time to bring out her sword cards, charged at the monster. While her speed won her first blood, Branwen was no match alone for the boar, and was savagely gored by his tusks. Norman rushed forward to heal her, but the poison was already set. While she looked fine, her blood boiled a little beneath the magically salved wounds.

    Meanwhile, the boar's tusks were much less effective against Norman's armor, and Caith was able to pin him back and take off his head with a mighty scythe blow. The danger seemed to be past, but the fortress was not sleeping.

    Norman rushed back to bar the door behind the gang, but the doors in the upper story of the hall spilled out more guards holding horrifying shark tooth laced swords, along with a slithering water snake. Although Zethir, first to charge to block the stairways (and blow a cold breath onto the oncoming soldiers), was nearly suffocated in the snake's embrace - the band was fought off barely, with the water snake falling to a huge disbursement of Azazel's wand of missiles, which battered the (human) sorcerer to his death.

    Session 6: Under New Ownership

    With the enemy leadership dead and forces scattered, the band scrambled to survey the hall and bar doors. Caith, Zethir, and Norman fanned out in the lower level - finding two locked doors - while Branwen and Azazel cautiously explored the upper rooms.

    Barring the doors with spare furniture provided a brief reprieve for the group, but they had not rested long when the bandits sortied in the front door with a battering ram. With illusory fire blocking the doorway, the attackers started by throwing a volley of javelins (a fairly ineffective tactic - Zethir knocked aside the only one got near to hitting anyone) but quickly realized the deception and charged in. Norman and Caith counter-charged - having prepared their positions while the bandits struggled to break the door - and a short fight ensued with most of the bandits dead.

    A few bandits were fortunate enough to be missed by the warlock’s bombardment as they ran… but were mowed down by Norman. As he chased them out, though, he was exposed to fire from the battlements. Ducking around the hall, he called out to his allies inside to tell them of the situation: the main force had fled in disarray, there were few forces around, and those forces nearby were manning the high ground.

    As the gang sortied out, the tactical situation grew more dire. Freezing sleet fell on the ground outside the hall, caused by the magical interference of a priest in the nearby chapel. As Azazel, Branwen, and Norman slipped their way around, guards ran out from the chapel but were quickly blasted back.

    Finally managing to slide his way into the building, Norman stormed the chapel - mostly causing damage as the priest threw bolts of ice at him and hit the guards in the process. Brave Norman weathered the blows, battling shark tooth sword wielding guards one by one (with his own razored sword now), as Branwen, Zethir, and eventually Azazel managed to get to the building. Caith - who had escaped the damages of the storm by his speedy charge onto the battlements - attempted to run around the building and break down the back door.

    Caith broke through the door as Norman leapt over a pew to wrestle the priest to the ground (while the priest pretended to keep his composure, the storm outside quickly stilled) as the others took on the remaining guards. With all the band assembled, and the priest’s compatriots killed, the priest finally fell to a wide array of attacks.

    Although successful in their attack, the band was heavily wounded - especially the intrepid Norman - and the fortress wasn’t still. Fleeing back into the main hall and hastily rebuilding the barricades, the group found a secret door leading down to a hidden grotto. Hoping that those who had known about this secret passage were dead, they cowered in the stairwell and licked their wounds - emerging only when night had fully fallen.

    Their re-emergence was quickly caught by watchful guards - not even the stealthy Azazel could slip out before crossbow bolts were fired. With a small crowd of guards on the balcony, and more approaching from the other towers (as Branwen could see from the arrow slits), the band had to act quickly - when Zethir hesitated to use his freezing breath over a wounded Norman, the latter shouted at him to just hit the enemies no matter the cost.

    Zethir’s breath and Norman and Branwen’s blades made short work of the bandits on hall duty (with the last ones burned to a crisp as Caith rebuked him with fire and froze to Branwen’s frosty armor).

    Under the cover of an illusionary fog, the party raced to the nearest tower, hoping to follow their last victory with a quick assault. Norman charged first, taking several hits (as the fog ran out before the door, which was heavily barred). Zethir and Caith were quick to follow, but the three bounced off the door to little effect.

    Branwen moved the fog up to cover the door, leaving Azazel exposed - a fact which little mattered after a stray shot hit her and caused her to drop the effect. Still, the fiery nature of fiend borns proved quite lethal to the shooters, and the three door breakers learned the value of teamwork in collectively smashing the door (...and still failing).

    Finally, after a lot of enemy fire, the door broke down and the gang slaughtered the inhabitants. More importantly to the group, they found a lock box of valuables - including a potion of healing.

    The tower was hardly a defensible position, causing the group to charge on the central keep - this time breaking down the door on one try. The guards for this building had abandoned this entrance and hid in a second room, opening fire when Norman shouldered the door open… which bounced off his heavy armor. The following fight was short, with one surrendering as his friends fell effortlessly (Azazel blew his head out with a blast of magic).

    Finding a fallen enemy with an intact face (a surprisingly hard feat with these fighters), Branwen decided to infiltrate the remaining towers with a disguised appearance. As she drew out reinforcements (to help “free our tower from a siege by the intruders”), the rest of the gang pounced on them at the narrow cliff steps next to the water. Two of the reinforcements - some of the strongest guards left in the fortress - were dead before they could react. The others died not long after. The now weakened tower was finished off, with Branwen merely using her disguise to get the door open for the ambush. While the guard captain sucked the life out of Norman - nearly downing him the instant he rushed into the room - the fight ended in another success.

    Resting in this tower - which remained defensible due to the door remaining intact - the band soon learned (via Azazel’s mysterious raven) that the remaining guards had discovered some of the dead bodies, and were wandering close to the tower in search of the intruders. A quick shot by Azazel lead them to charge the tower - but the defenders were now ready to hold the door as a chokepoint, and quickly slaughtered the lot. The remaining towers, leached of almost all their strength, fell almost immediately.

    With the last tower falling, though, the band noticed that sailors had come up from below decks on one of the ships in the fortress. The gang lead one last charge (supported again by one of Branwen’s illusions - a rather slipshod attempt at frightening them with an owlbear, forcing the bandits to lose time as they identified this new foe), with Azazel staying on a nearby cliff to rain magical fire down on the boat - unfortunately missing most of the time.

    The captain had still been below decks, but quickly leapt out and threw a wave over the pier, sweeping the frontline (Norman and Zethir) hard down onto the dock. As Zethir and Norman powered on, he then froze them in place.

    One sailor saw his fate drawn out and surrendered. Branwen also saw his fate drawn out, realizing that he must die as her brother’s magic would only work with his death. The pleading sailor felt hardly anything as the second fiend blooded sibling killed in cold blood.

    Norman managed to escape the captain’s will, and he and Azazel focused on the powerful man… who then teleported away to attack the softer looking Branwen instead (a mistake quickly realized when the freezing bite of her armor kicked in). Meanwhile, the still frozen Zethir was hacked up by bandits, collapsing to the ground only when the captain also fell (to a charge by Norman).

    The last bandit on the ship gave up, pleading that he’d cause no harm, and noting that his friend (who Branwen had killed) had a family who needed support one way or another. As Azazel prepared a blast of fiery execution from the cliffside… Caith murdered the prostate sailor.

    With that blow, the last blood had been shed in the fight for the fortress. A little more investigation found multiple servant’s quarters, where several frightened peasants were hiding. Azazel warned them harshly of the dangers of crossing the band, while Branwen held back Caith - suspicious of his new bloodthirsty turn.

    Branwen approached the servant’s more pleasantly, although one who - for one reason or another - fought back in a rage soon discovered that her gentle appearance was backed with Azazel’s horrifyingly non-gentle magical fire (he dissolved into nothing before he touched her). Between the two fiend-blood’s negotiations - and a substantial amount of money (mostly because Branwen was finding it heavy) - the fortress’ new ownership started to settle into their place… aside from the treacherous Gorum and Heyrik.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Default Re: Only Making Things Worse | a Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign (set in Wales)

    Session 7: House of Cards

    While the band organized the cleanup - an extensive process given the widespread fighting (the early casualties had been somewhat managed, but as the bandits lost men they had became less and less focused on taking care of the carnage) - Cecil had been left below in the grotto to watch the waterways. While Norman’s squire was a decent match for a bandit - maybe for two if his speed could work in his advantage - Gorum and Heyrik overpowered him easily with the aid of ghouls in the waters, slipping out of the fortress in an experienced manner.

    Escapees aside, the group now had control of a strategically located fortress - a bit large and in poor repair, but well stocked and cozy. The stench of death took awhile to leave, with Caith’s enormous pyre belching a disgusting smoke (the servants suggested that the bandits would have been honored by burial at sea, but neither servants nor ownership had a desire to respect the bandits... or to feed the ghouls Cecil had mentioned), but the band was hungry enough for a large meal raided from the bandit’s pantries and tired enough for a relaxed day scouring the site for more information or treasure.

    The fortress’ lack of crew was not unnoticed by outside, though. In the night, a team of gnolls snuck over the walls to look into the situation. By the time the band’s watchman saw the sneaking raiders, they were already deep in the fort. Caith shouted for his associates inside the tower (after their door ruining battles for the castle, they had settled in the only tower with a working door lock - the one they had tricked their way into and out of), who quickly began running out with bleary eyes and nightclothes (for those who even wore any).

    After a couple unsuccessful volleys (with Caith’s longbow and a grab bag of magic and weapons picked up by the sleepers - countered by the longbows of the gnolls), Norman’s prayer to the Morrigan lit a gnoll up with divine fire to help provide a guide. Branwen raced to this target inhumanly fast, shedding cards as her form blinked and slipped between the shadows - but it was Azazel’s magical barrage which brought the gnoll down.

    The remaining gnolls broke and ran, with Branwen and eventually the speedy monk Zethir catching up on foot while Caith and Azazel tried to keep the gnolls pinned down at range. The gnolls finally turned at the base of the far wall, seeing that their pursuit was too close to let them scale the fortress’ walls easily. Three quickly fell between Branwen’s blade and Zethir’s staff - but the last injured one made a desperate dash for the wall. By this time, though, Caith had caught up and drawn his scythe, and the last gnoll died on the stairs.

    Haggard by the unexpected fight, most of the band decided to sleep in while Caith and Branwen managed the fort for the day. Rest did not come easily, though. The sleepyheads in the tower were again abruptly woken from their sleep by the ringing of bells - a warning sound that had to have been caused by magic, as the fortress had no bell tower.

    Zethir - the most alert of the sleepers - ran out of the tower towards the center of the fort, but found it obscured by a great cloud of sleet and ice. He slipped to the ground while thinking how unnatural that would be with the current fine spring weather.

    Caith, worried that there might be a second danger in the tower (as the bells had not sounded loud enough for Zethir to hear inside, so that monk’s quick exit was surprising and confusing), ran in. Seeing no danger, though, he quickly ran out again.

    Norman, Azazel, and Cecil had not woken at the sound of the bells, but figured that something was amiss by the sounds of Zethir and Caith’s panic. Still on edge from the last attack, they ran out without even putting on clothes - although Norman picked up his backpack in case he had to run completely. Seeing the magical storm in the center of the fortress, Azazel swore and started running along the perimeter walls - the foe was clearly on the other side, and the narrow flight of now icy stairs was a significant problem. Norman followed, confused.

    Zethir was already charging through the storm, though, and Caith quickly followed. Despite the slippery ice, they managed to slide up the stairs and towards the unknown other side at a slow jogging pace.

    On the other side, they saw… nothing. They did hear the sound of bugbears from inside the main hall, but no foes were waiting outside. Caith bellowed out to catch the attention of whoever was inside, hoping to fight them in the open.

    Instead, the shout attracted the attention of four bugbears and a priest of the water who had hidden out of view on the battlements. While the priest continued to duck behind the cover of a nearby building, the bugbears - several of whom seemed fairly injured - charged down the stairs.

    Caith and Zethir stood back to back against the charge, but were still heavily battered by the savage goblinoids. When the priest reemerged, having magically protected himself, the two fighters were on their last legs.

    However, the fight was quickly joined by the nude Azazel and Norman, who had finally made it around the center of the fortress. Azazel’s magical blasts were deflected by a magical shield around the priest, and the befuddled Norman shielded himself and cautiously ran forward. Still, their entry (and a blast of cold breath from Zethir) opened the battlefield and helped the four quickly scatter the four bugbears outside (although they could still hear the sounds of bugbears inside the main hall).

    Fearing the resilient and half naked band, the priest threw magical daggers of ice into the melee - the shards of which finished off the final few bugbears and left him nearly alone at the top of the stairs. Azazel shouted to the priest to tell them where his sister was, as the four could now see that one of their band was obviously missing. “We’ve killed your ‘Branwen’ ” responded the priest, hoping to intimidate the fiend… a poor idea.

    This was not even true. Branwen had been on the wall when the priest and his friends had entered. While she didn’t notice their emergence from the main hall, she had noticed when the priest tried to paralyze her with magic. When she had sounded the bell illusion, it was clear that the rest of the band was on the other side of the stairs, so the priest had cut off the stairs while his bugbear allies charged onto the wall to take care of the lone scout.

    She had somehow charmed the bugbears though, leading to confusion on the walls - which he had solved with one of his ice daggers. While this had wounded his own allies, the battered witch was worse hit and could hardly stand - much less fight a small band of chastised bugbears. The fight was over… and she disappeared.

    Unbeknownst to the priest, the witch had thrown herself over the side of the fort walls, using her magic to shift herself to a ditch in the grass - which she covered with an illusory hillock.
    Regardless of Branwen’s actual fate, though, Azazel’s rage manifested itself in a flurry of fiery bolts (a more fitting expression had any of them hit) and a following barrage of magical blasts. Zethir also threw himself at the priest, after some much needed patching up from Norman… but fell to the ground with a single chilling touch of the priest’s power. After yet more patching up, Zethir finally ran up again and beat the priest to the ground.

    Branwen’s presence was soon revealed (as she heard the fight conclude with victorious shouts from her allies), and the bugbears in the main hall were revealed as well… revealed to be an illusion meant to distract the priest’s assailants.

    While the battle was won, the band was still badly injured. It was clear the fortress wasn’t holdable with their forces, especially as the priest warned that more would follow him (albeit in a dieing breath, a notoriously unreliable method of communication). The band sorrowfully abandoned their newfound home, with Azazel, Norman, and Cecil breaking chains and doors and covering the halls with oil (for the latter two, as thoroughly as any drunk men could do - as Cecil had found and started using the fort’s impressive alcohol supply).

    As the sun set, the band started sail in one of the bandits’ ships (sinking the other) while red flames licked the black sky behind them.

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