Revenge of the Horror Tomb Giants

A Promise Set In Silver

The story so far.

Our heroes have destroyed the eldritch engine which was corrupting the Feywild and restored order to the Harkenwold. Now however, a new power is rising in the Stonemarch; an army of horrific giants hell-bent on the destruction of the Nentir Vale. The ruler of Fallcrest, Cassia Markelhay, has recruited a noble team of adventurers to lead the defence of the realm. Their first goal is to seek allies. To this end they set out to find Rrowthar, torrian ambassador from the legendary city of Argent. Cassia watched them riding out of the town, knowing that if they failed then her only hope would be a goblin named Splug.

A magical message had been sent on to Rrowthar, asking him to meet the party – the Fallcrest Champions. A rendezvous point had been agreed near the West Crag, a well known landmark en-route to Winterhaven. As the heroes neared the crag however, they realised something was wrong. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen rising over the crag as though the very forest itself were on fire. The devastation was being caused by a series of elemental beings; primordial figures of stone and fire who sought to destroy a powerful lion headed figure who could only be Rrowthar himself.
He looked up as the heroes charged, renewing his song to Erathis and fighting with increased vigour. Some of the elementals moved to intercept the heroes; the earth elementals in particular seeking to shatter the ground and impede the progress of the would-be rescuers. For beings of stone and flame the primordials displayed a fair degree of prowess, making use of Zander’s ice storm to slow the progress of the party whilst bombarding them with fire and ash. Eventually though the heroes won through to the torrian and together they dispatched the last of his foes.

A short while later, Ambassador Rrowthar, Seneschal of Argent, Divine Oracle of Erathis, Keeper of the Keys, Master of the Sheltered Woods, Member of the Paragon Compact, First Assistant to the Guardians etc. etc. introduced himself to the party. This took some time but they were able to exchange diplomatic pleasantries. The heroes had possession of a writ signed by Cassia whilst Rrowthar’s silver cloak and pin clearly identified him as coming from the legendary city.

The torrian explained that he himself had been on a mission of sorts, recruiting heroes to take up the Silver Cloak and come serve the great and ancient city of Argent, becoming champions of all that civilization encompasses. A new threat gathers, and it has been too long since new champions last walked Argent’s hallowed streets. The borderlands stretch thin and the world stands defenseless. He went on for longer – mostly due to reciting titles – but the heroes jumped at the opportunity.

DM: If you can imagine, stories of those heroes who have donned the Silver Cloak in times past are a little like those of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table…tales from a long time ago that don’t always end well but will never be forgotten.

The conversation covered recent events in the Nentir Vale, and where Rrowthar had been travelling. The subject of Splug came up and his face darkened immediately. Apparently the goblin had been to Argent not so long ago, claiming a scheme of sorts to revitalise the city’s economy and bring a fresh wave of new recruits for the Paragon Compact to the city. From Rrowthar’s scowl this scheme did not end well! He changed the subject, teaching the heroes a ritual to take them to Argent. It proved more complicated than the usual teleportation rituals but proved to be a stronger construct; possibly designed so in order to penetrate Argent’s defences. It didn’t take long to perform and all too soon a silver circle of light flashed into existence; a shimmering gateway leading into the city.

The heroes (and Rangrim leading the horses) stepped through, travelling a thousand miles in an eyeblink. They found themselves in a large square, surrounded by statues depicting heroes of every race and creed. The stones of the courtyard were superbly crafted; golden hued in the warmth of the afternoon sun. High walls surrounded them though several archways led out and further into the city of Argent. In the distance they could see a tall tower (the Sunlit Tower of the Guardians) atop the highest point in the city, standing sentinel over the Plains of Chaos far below. At the base of the tower hill they could see the sunlight glinting off a finely polished dome of some sort (perhaps the Temple of the Dawn).
A teleportation circle, centuries old but still well maintained lay beneath their feet, its runes fading from bright silver and azure into the stonework. The rest of the square was dominated by an ornamental lake of sorts, perfectly proportioned for the square. A statue of the goddess Erathis stood at its far end.

East of the square stood a massive set of gates; presently closed but normally leading east to the Gateyard, entryway for ordinary travellers to Argent. Alarmingly some distant booms could be heard from this direction as though the city were…under attack?
Turning away from these many distractions the heroes turned to face their host; a powerfully built man glad in fine mithril spell-chain and a sable mantle. A circlet of brightly polished starmetal lay on his brow, above a face of ancient wisdom and majesty.

He introduced himself as Rupert Giles Obanar, Last Guardian of Argent, Bearer of the…KERRASH!

The flagstones of the courtyard exploded upwards as two bulettes – stone sharks for want of a better term – tore their way into the mall, all teeth muscle and elemental hatred. They were not alone either. The half-begun questions of the heroes (“Giles? Its me, Zander, your apprentice!” and “can you cast fireball?” and “why are you under siege”) had to wait.

Rrowthar grabbed Giles and the two flew across the lake to the statue of Erathis, Giles explaining that he needed to restore the wards about the square and seal off this lastest incursion. The bulettes seemed happy to try and devour the heroes. Ordinarily they wouldn’t be a problem but they’d brought company – Galeb Duhr Stoneshapers (evil boulder dwarves) and a Basilisk.

It proved another tactical battle – the stoneshapers promptly blocked half the courtyard with walls, forcing the heroes to concentrate on the bulettes whilst the basilisk faced the Guardian and Senschal, seeking to add two more statues to the courtyard. It only managed the one though when Kelnozz got a little too close and indeed, it seemed almost an act of god that the poor drow found himself petrified by the fell creature’s Petrifying Gaze.

DM: Kelnozz spilled cheese crisps all over the DM’s stuff and promptly got natural-20’d…this after Giles and Rrowthar had survived four rounds of gaze fairly unscathed.

The party responded to the stone shaper’s craft with power of their own, blasting / charging through / generally obliterating the walls they threw up and laughing off the thrown flagstones and occasional bites from the bulettes. Soon enough Giles completed his ritual workings and the courtyard repaired itself, allowing the heroes to finish off the remaining primordials at their leisure. Nettle, Zander and Rrowthar set about de-petrifying the warlock whilst Giles sought to do some scrying of his own.
He used the waters of the lake as a temporary scrying pool, looking down on Argent as though he were the sun-god Pelor himself.

DM: This is supposed to be a very fast transition…almost a run from this encounter to the next one but the heroes seemed rather keen on restoring Kelnozz. Ah well!

Giles ascertained that at least one more group had made it into the city and were presently somewhere near the temple. He’d also seen that the central wards that protected the whole city were faltering somewhat and needed restoring to prevent further incursions. He suggested that Rrowthar lead the party to deal with the invaders on Temple Street whilst he headed for the Sunlit Tower of Guardians, Protector of Argent, Sentinel over the Plains of Chaos and restore the wards; this should force back the enemies at the gates.

DM: I see Giles at this time as a little like Desmond from Lost…every four hours having to enter some numbers into a computer to prevent the end of the world.

Rrowthar led the heroes down an avenue and onto Temple Street, a wide carriageway which seemed somewhat more dilapidated than the mall. Aged stonework depicting frescoes of long forgotten events lined the buildings towering over the street. Many of the structures had fallen into ruin, though enough remained to cast the entire street into shadow. Where are the people?

Ahead the street opened out into a square before the Temple of Dawn. Something seemed to shimmer in the air just where the street was opening; an elemental rift of some kind that was probably not part of the original city. A tall brutish hill giant guarded the rift; a shaman of sorts who promptly directed his allies to stop the heroes so he could work on the rift. And they came – tall striding creatures of flame on stilts and spewing fire; swarms of crystalline stone that seemed to hover in the air with menace and powerfully built stone brutes; veins of magma lining their limbs and filling them with primordial power.

The giant opted for some crowd control, blasting the party with storms of fire and earth. The striders spat forth streams of inferno but proved all to easy to cut down to size. The brutes charged through the walls of nearby buildings causing them to tremble violently and giving Zander / Dirk the idea to collapse one over the nearest magma brute. The ensuing collapse proved effective though it did catch Rrowthar, incapacitating him somewhat.

The heroes fought as they always did, killing the giant and ultimately winning through to close the ritual through a carefully coordinated arcane assault. This group of invaders had been stopped but what of Giles? How had his attempts to restore Argent’s wards fared?

Until next time.

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The Games People Play

The story so far:
Maddened creatures of the Feywild have been on the rampage in the Nentir Vale. The source seems to be some mysterious runic buildings located in the Garden of Graves. Our heroes have journeyed into the Feywild to the garden in a bid to make sense of it all. There they found that the cairns of this once peaceful resting place for eladrin have been torn up and remolded to make an unusual structure. It seems to channel the ambient eldritch energy of this place in the Feywild somehow…but for what purpose…?

To date the party have found that Fey within the garden seem to have been enslaved somehow, twisted with fell energies to become servitors and guardians of the new place. Thus far Kelnozz and Hiral seem unaffected; Kel being protected by aberrant / dark energies and Hiral through his link to the primal. But for how long?

Most recently the heroes faced off against a band of spriggan shapeshifters who used their powers to appear as each hero…and a giant spider.
DM: I see the heroes still haven’t agreed passwords with each other!

With the duplicates defeated the party continued to explore the buildings in this part of the Garden. Voices could be heard coming from a nearby room; the clink of glasses and chatter of polite after dinner conversation. The room in question, whilst devoid of occupants was opulently furnished. Its main feature seemed to be five gaming areas all set out and ready to play – the ever popular Battleships-like Dragonmasters, a card game about using magic to summon creatures, some miniatures game revolving around a large exquisitely drawn map, some game involving gold and trade…and Twister.

_DM: Twister it seems is present in all incarnations of the multiverse. _

A couple of heroes edged into the room; Kelnozz because he was curious and Hiral because he’d spied a trapdoor behind the Dragonmasters set-up. Sure enough the room proved to have dangerous enchantments laid about it – ensnarements designed to encourage players to sit and play the games. Hiral almost fell prey but with the aid of the party was able to make his way back out of the room. Kelnozz elected to play the card game and unfortunately lost on the final round of the game meaning his mind took a bit of a battering.

The party elected to use range attacks to blast the Dragonmasters set-up aside and make their way to the trapdoor. It led to the tunnels beneath the cairns which had already been explored. One exit from the tunnels led to a planeshifting room; the other out onto the cliffs. The latter seemed the safest option, though this did lead to..
Onrich: We need to get a rope up? I grab one end and fly up.
DM: You don’t get flight till 12th level.
Gravity: Aha!

Once up top the party checked the layout of the remaining buildings. In their exploration they found the remains of some dead eladrin adventurers – probably a party from the Gloaming Court who’d must have tried to restore their Garden of Graves. It appeared possible that they killed one another. Their bodies were laid out by the team for later burial.

There seemed to be a central chamber to the complex, reached via another room that hadn’t yet been explored. The room in question turned out to be divided into two sections; one with a variety of tapestries and the other an oddly curved room. Examining the tapestries, one in particular drew their eye, of lightning exploding from locked double doors. A key in the tapestry appeared identical to the key found earlier and indeed touching said key to the lock in the tapestry triggered a mechanism somewhere.
DM: The double doors in the plant-cathedral area now opened.

The second room was dominated by a glowing light atop a plinth, facing the numbers 1 – 12 carved first in bronze and then again in iron. Zander took a guess and interposed a stone to cast a shadow over the bronze #1. Instantly black shadows coalesced from the magic of the room, forming smoky black visages which sought to drain the life from the heroes – wraiths!

DM: Quite a rough fight for the party. Pinned down in a narrow area and facing creatures with multiple auras. On the other hand the heroes had their paragon path powers to help even the odds. Also our first battle using monster tokens from the all-new Monster Vault. I liked these alot – lovely artwork and a red border on the flipside to indicate bloodied. The downside is they’re hard to see for anyone sitting down on the sofa! (The second downside being I’ve had my Ravenloft game wraiths on my coffee table for six weeks ready for this encounter and doh forgot them).

As the last wraith vanished into mists our heroes considered their options. They’d spotted secret doors in the adjoining tapestry room that were probably unlocked if only they could pick the correct number. But what was it? They settled down for lunch in order to think it over. Nettle suggested the sundial might hold the key. Sure enough, its numbers were in bronze and iron too. The plan was formed to lock the sundial’s light source in place at roughly the current time (3pm) then go back to the light chamber and cast a shadow onto the same time.
Happily this plan worked.

DM: Very happily, else you’d have been facing 5 more wraiths for 0 xp.

The secret doors clicked open and carefully the paragons made their way into the central area. Looking around they saw a large chamber split by crossed unsupported walls with those strange pillars at either end. Runes dotted the walls suggesting that this was perhaps where the energies were being channeled towards. Yet many of the markings were obscured by vines and wild growth that half filled the room (DM: and three quarter filled it by the end muhahaha). Midway down the hall the double doors from the tapestry could just about be seen. They were ever so slightly open. Closest to the heroes though were three cairns, indoor for some reason, and a larger cairn atop a dais.
Sure enough monsters shambled out of the cairns to attack. Three zombie eladrin knights moved to attack, as did the vine wrapped skin of a Horror Tomb Giant. Its movements were strangely lithe and agile, perhaps due to the lack of bones and structure. It made up for this with a marked ability to drain life from those it grasped and pulled around.

DM: The party hit alot of these foes with stuns and dazes. Just as well…the horror tomb giant drained healing surges with each strike – even minor action strikes. If you’d run out of surges that would have been brutal.

Unfortunately the undead were not alone – a sprawling demonic assemblage of vines, leaves and rotting foilage crawled out of the greenery to join the fray. It seemed to be directed by a glowing gem atop one vine in particular. More than once during the battle the gem glowed brightly and tried to drain the souls of its attackers. (DM: Two failed saves and dead with no resurrection!) Its vines had tremendous reach and it retained something of the fey about it. This magic seemed a perversion of the primal, triggering rampant growth of toxic brambles and the like to drastically alter the battlefield. Hiral and Onrich sought to close with it in melee (sometimes unwillingly!) whilst Kel and Zander dodged around, using cairns as cover at times and trying to whittle it down, one vine at a time if need be. Nettle stood amongst his namesakes channeling a stream of life to keep the heroes upright.

At last the Ivy Heart was cut down to size. The gem shattered into wisps of smoke with an earthshattering scream. Moments later the foilage rotted into green goo as the fey power sustaining it died. The heroes were victorious!

Though battered and somewhat worn down the adventurers inspected the room beyond the double doors. It proved unguarded, containing only a bizarre construct of crystals, rune carved wood and metal braces. Some sort of fey engine designed to channel the gathered energies. But to where? And for what purpose?

Smashing it to pieces seemed like a plan so that’s what the heroes did. Happily they were able gather some valuable pieces to sell / enchant. Every hero knows that destroying the heart of such places tends to trigger its destruction so they retreated outside. There they encountered Rangrim, Dirk and Delphina who’d just seen off an assault by cyclops invaders. Remembering the eladrin bodies from earlier the adventurers gathered stones from the site and existing cairns which had a few spares, giving them a proper burial.

By the time they were done the arcane heroes in the party could sense a slight change in the atmosphere of the Garden of Graves – already the destruction of the engine was having an effect. Given a few days it should be safe for members of the Gloaming Court / Quiet Hall to come and restore the site properly. All in all this meant that it was time to return home and report victory.

+ + + + +
Several days later and the party could be found heading down the road and into Fallcrest at the heart of the Nentir Vale. The Gloaming Court had been informed of the party’s exploits and rewarded them appropriately. Hiral in particular was promoted within his order to the rank of Emerald Guardian.

Yet Fallcrest seemed different. A series of temporary camps seemed to have been set-up around the walls of the main town. On closer inspection it seemed these were refugee encampments containing villagers who’d fled their homes for the safety of the walls. The rumours on the wind spoke of Giants on the move. A vast horde of giants and elementals assembling in the wilds, poised to roll over the Nentir Vale! Or so the rumours said.

DM: Fallcrest was once a much larger town – really a small city. Orcish raiders sacked the place several decades ago and burned much of it to the ground. The Fallcrest you know today was rebuilt from the ruins and new walls constructed. However its population never returned to its former numbers and this means much of the town consists of uninhabited ruins. Until recently it was simply unprofitable to clear such areas but now with the refugee influx there’s all manner of activity around the ruins – lots of political wranglings over who owns them, merchant companies scrambling to get the business of clearing them up / buy out the land, refugees seeking to claim squatters rights etc. This explains why access to the town is presently limited – only those with legitimate business are being allowed in. Still others are seeking to flee Fallcrest; there’s been unpleasant scenes at the docks. But just imagine the adventuring opportunities for 1st level heroes!

Slowly the crowds parted and the heroes made their way to the Wizard Gate where they asked for access to the city and to speak to someone in charge. The guard captain on duty, Sgt. Thorvald apparently recognised the Winterhaven Rescuers / Slavers / Young Ones / Heroes of Time. He explained that the Lord Warden had left standing orders for such heroes to be invited to Moonstone Keep; would they be willing to come to the keep and speak with her?

DM: You are welcome to google Fallcrest or peruse the DMG entry.
http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ex/20080526a
gives a solid bit of info on the settlement. The old Lord Warden Faren Markelhay retired five years ago and is succeeded by Cassia Markelhay. The Temple of Pelor has been expanded upon…beyond that there’s not a huge amount which has changed.

Several hours later, bathed and rested, the party went to speak with Cassia, and a few of her advisers in her meeting room. The Town Council were not present but perhaps surprisingly there was a representative from Winterhaven. And the High Priest of Pelor, a deva named Tobias. Cassia began to speak:

You have helped Fallcrest and the Nentir Vale many times, my friends <er>s downtime for those of you who wish to do things in Fallcrest. Temples to pray at, brothels for Zander, shops to purchase things at – including the odd paragon tier item; the town has had 10 years of growth from the DMG entry.

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Let Him Cross Over!

Season 4, second session of Revenge of the Horror Tomb Giants.

Our heroes are exploring the Garden of Graves in the Feywild, trying to find out the source of corruption in the area and put a stop to it. To date they’ve found a series of new buildings throughout the site, many of them adorned with arcane runes which seem designed to channel the ambient arcane energy somehow.

DM: Imagine a watering hole used by the local animals. Its a place where water accumulates naturally. You empty it, it’ll fill up. But keep emptying it and envisage the effect on the local flora and fauna. The runes are pipes going from this watering hole. What’s needed to complete this picture?

In the last battle Nettle was killed by corrupted scarab-queen Elesdri. A plan was formed to resurrect him, using the map chamber as a basis for the 8 hour ritual. Our heroes – Dirk wandering off somewhere and Onrich rejoining them – set-up camp, deciding to rest for the evening so they could commence the ritual around midnight. As night fell over the Garden, a sinister mist seemed to arise from the ground. Foot thick, it flowed about the campsite below, glowing with a faintly eldritch energy and illuminated by the occasional flash of energy.

The heroes chose the map room for the ritual as the best choice out of several bad options. For one thing it had several vantage points from which Kelnozz, and later Hiral were able to keep watch. Sure enough, towards midnight they spotted something moving in the forest. Whole trees shuddered as a cyclopean patrol picked their way through the forest and into the Garden. Here the mist helped the heroes as it hid the signs of their earlier passing through the clearing.

DM: Its not been an issue to date but Stealth, Nature or Streetwise checks can be used to hide signs of your passing.

The fey creatures picked their way about the campsite, ultimately deciding to set their own camp there. It meant for an added complication for the party who would have to be quiet during the Raise Dead. Zander drew circles, prepared unguents and readied Nettle’s body. This ritual would take 8 hours, and require the participation of all group members for it to be successful. It proved to be an arduous process; raising a spirit in the corrupted Garden of Graves could be compared to constructing a playing card tower in the middle of a busy intersection; lots of patience required and plenty of assistants to ward outside interferences away.

Those interferences turned out to be the spirits of the dead, and visions of the past long gone. Kalarel (foe vanquished in the Keep on the Shadowfell) appeared and demanded a payment for Nettle’s soul. He appeared to take possession of one soul in particular; that of Onrich’s former love. The paladin kept his focus and remained in the ritual.

Zander meanwhile saw a vision of the past, a scene he had apparently forgotten. Watching as a child he lurked a staircase in his family home, Alfonso crouched beside him. The two brothers saw and overheard a whispered conversation between his mother Jessica and mentor Giles. Giles was arguing for the boy to be taken away, commenting on “what he did to those animals” and how he was proving a danger to his brother. He argued that an education in Argent, far from Moonstair would be best for him. Reluctantly Jessica agreed.
The scene vanished as Zander successfully retained his focus on the ritual.

Spirits warred over the body, fighting for possession. Our heroes directed the ritual, trying to draw forth Nettle and not those other spirits who offered their power in his place. With one last burst of power the ritual completed and Nettle’s eyes opened. Was it the same Nettle? He seemed different somehow; rougher as though he’d acquired a few coarse edges in his brief passage through the Shadowfell. And as for Moradin? Well Moradin…Moradin was no longer worthy of Nettle.

Looking out over the garden, dawn had broken, the cyclopeans had gone and the mist was slowly lifting. There was a slightly hollowness to the day; a sense of fatigue that hadn’t been there before. Kelnozz perhaps felt it the most, being both fey and arcane. How long before the magical corruption affected him?

DM: The alternative here was you rest, perform the ritual and Nettle is back with you. However I thought it’d be an opportunity to try a few things out. That fatiguing effect though…can’t be good long term.

Wandering monsters are going to be an ever present risk. Had you engaged the cyclops forces then I’d have treated it as a mini battle rather than a full blown encounter. e.g. something that costs a couple of healing surges and requires a few skill checks aka a mini skill challenge. You did the right thing in camping somewhere relatively safe, keeping low and not letting curiosity get the better of you.

Raising the dead was practice for a swift skill challenge. Skill challenges have evolved somewhat so here’s a few pointers.
- improvisation is key. Which skills, abilities, resources to use and decisions to take. Such things can often lead to auto-successes.
- many challenges will favour certain skills. Diplomacy on the orc guard captain is going to be way harder than Intimidate.
- certain skills can be used to get clues. Insight might let you realise the Diplomacy-Intimiadate thing (and get a bonus). Nature might let you recall that orcs are often impressed by a show of strength (Athletics)
- skill challenges tend to be in rounds. Those participating in the round need a majority of successes in order to succeed. The classic group-check will be a Moderate or even Easy check. I could use crossing the rope bridge as a group Athletics check – the stronger and more agile heroes helping the less able ones over.
- skill challenges can branch. Failing to get access to the orc camp may mean resorting to Stealth.
- you can help each other. A hero with awesome Stealth could make their own check harder in order to give their platemail wearing companion a success. (Or in this example, use Bluff to cause a distraction?)
- mechanically you can rarely fail skill challenges outright. Rather there will be consequences for failure, opportunities missed…but the story will still progress. A goblin offers to steal the map from the orc camp but it’ll cost you 1000gp.

Rested, breakfasted and recovered the heroes made sure the cyclops warriors were long gone. Nettle grabbed a rusted spear from the camp site and had Zander enchant it for him. It looked like the fey giants had searched the camp and found a chest, forced it open and taken the contents.

Brief investigation over, the heroes headed up the stairs and over a rope bridge to check out the sundial room. The dial was lit by a slowly revolving bronze brazier which completed a circuit every 24 minutes. It proved possible to halt the brazier using mage hand, and even send it backwards in its path, thus altering the time displayed on the sundial. What did this mean?

Now for the water room; a chamber with an overflowing well which created eldritch runic patterns in the watery rivulets which flowed across the room. Previously the heroes had seen a watery serpent attack whomever disturbed the surface of the pool and teleport them into the nearby river, just above the waterfall. As such the heroes rigged up a rope across the river so anyone teleporting in would have something to grab hold of. Kelnozz fell in whilst trying to get a good look at the obelisk in the middle of the river and had to teleport out.

DM: The heroes surmise that the obelisks once formed part of the original garden, perhaps as some form of memorial stone at which wreaths can be laid and prayers offered. Perhaps this particular obelisk is also there for the DM to know the teleportation destination. And the whole river thing just reminded me of Superman 2.

Back in the room, a brief search led to the heroes spotting a key in the pool, protected by some kind of distorting illusion. Kel drank a potion of invisibility and grabbed the key. The serpent appeared and struck out blindly. The drow was teleported back to the river but was ready for it, teleporting to safety using his own dark magic.

DM: The invisibility potion was a good idea…I should have had the serpent auto-miss. But no the dice wanted blood.

The heroes now had a pale metal key in their possession. That pale metal is platinum; the key is worth 2,500 gp. Anyone want to divide it up?

A wooden bridge led to the western side of the river and to the Garden of Graves proper. The cairn stones had been torn from their original places and reassembled into a variety of odd shaped buildings, roughly mortared together in such a fashion that rendered them nearly impossible to draw on a map.

DM: The party can spend 30 minutes in front of a door but will just walk across a bridge. Point noted.

Not many of the original graves remained; just a few stone covered cairns here and there which had as yet been untouched. One larger clearing contained a pair of obelisks and, partially obscured in the dirt between them, a teleportation circle. Its symbols were easily deciphered. Should anyone master plane shifting then they should be able to return here.

A nearby building was oddly shaped, its eastern wing constructed to resemble an artificial cave. As the party stepped inside they felt a sudden sense of translocation. The door closed behind them and abruptly they were elsewhere, inside a building but somehow on another plane. A keen sense of loss and despair pervaded the place. Pelor felt far away to Onrich, as though this were a place bereft of the divine. It felt cold and dark…darker somehow than even the Shadowfell.

DM: Kelnozz has probably had encounters with the Abyss. Zander and Hiral have been to the Feywild. I don’t know of any other planar travellers amongst the group. No one could reliably identify this place – although there’s nothing to stop you guessing!

They explored a series of interconnected chambers of black marble (not the mortared grave stones found in the Feywild). This exploration was done by battling evil statues – gray angels – and using the powers of static Vecna-like statues to teleport around the place. Very little was known of these angel creatures – perhaps they serve to shepherd souls through the afterlife, punishing unwarranted intrusions by souls into their domain. And don’t blink.

DM: Quite a fun battle, with the party figuring the teleports out and setting up traps in the form of readied actions to blast the angels as they shifted about the battlefield. The angels for their part were playing the isolation game, seeking to lure heroes into separate areas and pound on them individually. Our heroes were hampered by the Miasma of Death effect of this plane…anti healing and vulnerability to necrotic damage. I missed an environmental effect of the cave – not moving in here for a whole round gives you 10 necrotic damage. Doh!

With the angels defeated it was back to exploration. Hiral’s keen eyes picked out a trapdoor in the floor of the artificial cave. A mechanism let the door slide sideways into the floor of the cave, revealing a short drop into a tunnel below. It looked like an intriguing place to explore but not before checking out the other doors leading from this area. All three of them opened back into the Feywild as though it was merely the interior of the building which had been planeshifted.

Zander stepped out of one door and onto one of the as yet untouched rope bridges. Looking back behind him he could see the party – but also versions of the interior where they were absent. He stepped back across the boundary and found himself elsewhere, in a second version of the building on yet another plane. Bits of mechanism protruded from the corridor walls but with no party in sight he elected to step back through.
With a bit of experimentation the heroes realised that the building contained multiple versions of itself, each on another plane. The potential existed to explore the other copies but first the secret tunnel beckoned.

DM: Who puts a trapdoor across a planar boundary. Hence in the write-up they are sliding, as are the doors. Feel free to submit ideas on how moving ropes through such boundaries should function!

The tunnel ran roughly parallel with the cliff edge. Indeed the heroes found an exit actually out onto the cliff itself; a small opening from which they could spy on the entrance to the Garden. However the tunnels continued; and soon enough they spotted another trapdoor. This one opened into another runic building constructed from cairn rocks. A confusing array of curving twists in the walls created alcoves of unusual shape and size. What’s more, the area positively glowed with illusion and teleportation magic.

In fact Zander’s magical senses were overloaded for a moment as he had a vision of another place: You find yourself within a desolate wasteland. Dust blows around your feet and swirls about a number of broken statues made of chipped and pitted marble. The sky above is black and empty of stars, and the air brushes your skin with a chill that is as much emotional as physical, bringing you a sense of unrelenting loss.

Abruptly darkness fell. It lifted moments later – to reveal a duplicate of each hero standing beside them – evil twins! Only Kelnozz’s twin seemed different, as though some spiderlike entity had latched onto the magic of the place and grabbed hold. Perhaps Five Eye’s spirit had come through the ritual magics last night and somehow broken free? What’s more the images of each hero seemed to flicker and shift, making it extremely difficult to determine which hero was Good and which was Evil. Cue one of the stranger fights, and one of the more drawn out ones – each hero primarily focused on their Evil counterparts where possible. Special mention to Zander’s Sleep-Wall-of-Fire punishment of his duplicate.

DM: Not my favourite fight to adjudicate; lots of confusing rules for beneficial / offensive powers and who they actually hit. Plus I had to reskin powers on the fly to look like your own. Spider-kel was the worst and I threw its powers out the window after round one, switching to some hastily levelled deathjump improv ones. (That poison should have been 10 ongoing if I’d thought more!)
And evil for the pc’s…nasty environmental effects for no extra xp! Who designed this place?!

_DM: Quite a few of your foes of late are fairly intelligent and more evil than usual meaning they will target-the-leader. Its just…just evil._

Eventually the group devised a strategy for tracking the duplicates. Zander employed true seeing whilst Nettle suggested using personal information; whilst the duplicates looked like the heroes they didn’t have access to memories e.g. all those shared experiences. Cries of “I can’t use fireball” and “I hate spiders!” filled the air. That last one came as Kelnozz pursued the mortally wounded Five Eye. The trail of spider blood led down a long corridor but vanished at a dead end. Kel searched the dead end in vain whilst the remaining heroes battled the last of the duplicates.
As each duplicate died it went through a Death Spasm, revealing itself to be a spriggan…an evil gnome fey creature; often an artificer of the fey races.

DM: Nettle has threatened to roll a spriggan if he dies again.

Kel returned to the heroes, venting wrath and fury (probably eldritch blasting bits of wall and everything that annoyed him). They were patching themselves up and agreeing code words for the next time evil duplicates showed up. “Fireball” is the only one to date. The alcoves proved largely empty – just another trapdoor in one leading back to the secret tunnel. However sounds could be heard coming from a nearby room as though a party was in progress.

A sense of empowerment filled the heroes; a growing feeling of power as their duplicates died (or in Kelnozz’s case were pursued with great rage and furious anger). Somehow they were able to capture the essence of their opponents and make it their own. Even Nettle felt the grave growing more distant as he realised his new-found strength. A new way to progress, a new way to fight. Level 11 achieved.

_DM: Immediately regain two healing surges + your level 11 hp gain + access to all level 11 powers. All Raise Dead penalties are over. Welcome to Paragon Tier! _

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Garden Party

Little realizing that one could time travel within their own lifetime, a number of heroes stepped into the Pyramid of Shadows, and vanished.

They returned to find themselves trapped in the future, facing older people who were once their friends, and driven by an unknown force to change things for the better. Their only guide on this journey is Dungeon Master; an observer from outside time, who appears in the form of a gnome in red robes that only they can see and hear. And so, the heroes find themselves leaping from plane to plane, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that their next leap, will be the leap home.

DM: Hey there’s going to be a Quantum Leap movie next year!
DM: Alternate text: Their only guide on this journey is Rangrim, an observer from their own time, who appears in the form of an older man who in his dotage struggles to see and hear.

Delphina Moongem, wood elf druidess and companion of Kelnozz The Mighty led the heroes through the forbidding Harken Forest towards an ally of hers, Baron Hiral of the Summer Court. Already Thunderspire mountain and the Seven Pillared Hall lay several leagues behind them to the north. Onrich was back along the road, providing assistance to pilgrims en-route to the new Temple of the Sun in Fallcrest. After all the heroes had seen hill giant tracks on the trail; dangerous times these.
As they walked along an old cart track several of the group became aware of an odd sound. Something was slithering over dead leaves nearby: it sounded like a cloak trailing over the ground. They squinted up the dark path, but after a few seconds the sound faded away.
They walked forward more slowly, ears straining for the faintest sound. Suddenly, in a clearing ahead, something definitely moved. The clearing contained a small wooden house on its the edge. A crossbow and a pair of galoshes were out-side the front door. A somewhat pumpkin patch nestled to one side of the house, separated from the clearing by a rickety wooden fence. In front of the house was an old man, tending to a pan of sausages cooking over a small fire. Rangrim.
Happy to be reunited with the Young Ones, he introduced a friend of his, Hiral Atasi, eladrin storm warden from the Feywild. Hiral and Rangrim had adventured together several times; slaying the notorious Six-Eye, defending Moonstair from encroaching bandits (though at the loss of Prince Etheron). Between adventures Rangrim had taken something on an interest in archeology; taking on the job once done by his mentor Douven Staul.

Hiral explained that six months ago, some unknown force took over a site belonging to the Quiet Hall faction of the Gloaming Court; a cemetery in the FeyWild known as the Garden of Graves. The malign energies involved appeared to corrupt any fey who tried to oppose them; either killing them or destroying their sanity. The corruption and its afflicted servants have been slowly spilling through a fey crossing in the Harken Forest and thus threatening the Nentir Vale; if not stopped the whole area may fall under its sway.
Thus far all attempts to reclaim the Garden of Graves had failed. Hiral is unusual amongst the eladrin – a race infused with arcane magic in that he has a strong connection to the Primal, to the mortal world. Indeed the only trace of his arcane heritage which has thus far surfaced is his Fey Step power.

Hiral’s superiors in the Summer Circle (a loose organisation of primal fey heroes with a faction based in the Nentir Vale) believe that Hiral’s primal roots might shield him from the corrupting effects and that he might succeed where others have failed. Similarly the Young Ones are a group of heroes who have travelled through the Far Realm and been exposed to its aberrant energies; they too should be protected in part; even Zander and Kelnozz should be okay…for a time anyway.

DM: Ah I do like fey politics.

Delphina, with her own primal connections had originally intended to accompany the heroes to the Feywild. However the possibility of giants represent an imminent danger to the villages in nearby Harkenwold and to her own people, the Woodsinger clan in the nearby woods. They had to be warned. Thus she regretfully bid her farewells to the party and transformed into a heron, winging her way southwards across the sky.

DM: I mulled over hero-motivation for this quest and figured why not bypass the whole thing…I’m sure each hero knows why they are here and doing this!

Hiral had a good idea of where the fey crossing was at this time. He led them to the very edge of the Forest. Holding his sword up high he pointed down a narrow, winding eath track that disappeared into the thick black trees. A light breeze lifted their hair as they looked into the Forest. That stuff shinin’ on the ground, silvery stuff? That’s unicorn blood. There’s a unicorn in there bin hurt badly by summat.
Zander collected some blood for his alchemy collection. When asked what it was for, he replied that – well it is a monstrous thing to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life from the moment the blood touches your lips.

DM: I wonder…

Eventually the path widened, gnarled roots and brambles giving way to an open space, a clearing containing a weathered obelisk and at its base, several dryads weeping over the bodies of a unicorn and her two foals. Unfortunately these poor fey creatures had been afflicted by the madness, and when the healers moved forward to offer assistance, the whole party found themselves under attack from the crazed feylings. Unicorns it turned out, where not quite as defenceless as legends might have you believe; employing hooves, horn and powerful soul deconstructing magic to annihilate their opposition. The dryads meanwhile proved highly agile; teleporting from tree to tree, using esp to read their targets thoughts and shapeshifting into creatures and persons familiar to them.
One surprise was when the creatures died; it was as though they slipped into a form of undeathly rage and continued fighting for a brief while longer.

DM: Quite an enjoyable fight to run; somewhat tweaked from the original but fun. Nice simple level 9 encounter to ease the heroes into things. Plus I got to google unicorn names.

The fey crossing was located nearby and the party crossed into the Feywild.

DM: The Astranaar music played at this point from WoW is something I remember quite well. It turns out digging into mpq files is fairly straightforward. What’s more there are literally hours of ambient sfx – doh we forgot our Halloween cd – in there so could easily leave a forest sfx track running.

Once in the Feywild a path of broken stones led through the trees towards a ridge of dark stone. From Hiral’s notes the Garden of Graves should be just on the other side, between the ridge and a river. The path led right to a narrow tunnel piercing the dark-hued rock. An etched poem was carved into the rock.

Count you the shadows, watch the sun,
The wise know where they stand;
While knowing not the time to shun,
The fools must find themselves undone.

Like lustful swain or panicked child
Who beg another’s gentle hand,
The fool delves heedless through the wild.
The wise are not so soon beguiled.

When darkness falls and dreams portend
The rising of a fearsome foe,
The fool, swift-striking, meets his end,
The wise know foe from friend.

Let art and image point the way,
Abandon all you think you know,
For common sense leads fool astray.
The key is simply this: Obey.

The wise must ever strategize;
They never play, unless to win.
They see the harm in comfort’s lies,
And seek to open weary eyes.

You’ve fought your way, you’ve risked demise,
To view the ivy heart within.
Now as the soul within you dies,
This knowledge isyour only prize:
You’d never have come, were you truly wise.

The tunnel led to a small cave containing three statues that blocked the passage leading onwards. Our heroes were able to bypass this obstacle only for Kelnozz to trip the hazard. They won through but with Kel & Hiral being aged somewhat.

DM: I am mulling over forcing Onrich to work this cave out hence the obscure write-up. Or you could leave him a message.

DM: On a more serious note this is the Tomb of Horrors. Its designed to be lethal and will punish the curious. What lies ahead will be more difficult than anything you’ve faced before. Some of the fights will be nastier too; I’ll be less inclined to pull punches. This is not a dig at tripping the trap…its the little gnome guy saying “uh you don’t want to step on the blue tiles”. You could always take it in turns; that way everyone gets the death saving throws :-)

Once out of the tunnel – and equipped with a nice shiny magic weapon found nearby – the party entered what should have been the Garden of Graves proper; only there were no graves. Rather several paths which wound their way through trees along the base of a cliff and towards a river. Distantly a fine eladrin marble structure could be seen standing on stilt-like columns, balanced over the river. A spiral staircase provided access. Hiral expected to see stone cairns everywhere but no graves could be seen.

First however were the remains of a camp site. Tents and rusted tools were strewn about the clearing. A ten-foot high stone obelisk topped by a rusted orb dominated the clearing. Between the camp and the river stood a tall stone column which in turn supported rope bridges; one leading to the stilt building and the other to the top of the cliff. As the heroes surveyed the scene several of them began to feel sleepy and Rangrim collapsed unconscious. Nettle shouted out a warning, only for half the camp site – well ok all of the camp site to animate and attack!

DM: A fairly light encounter, with lots of minions to smaaaash, an annoying will o the wisp that with hindsight was a poor choice and heroics by Dirk as he flew to the rusted orb and forced it open, thus countering the sleep magic. N.B. I’m not describing every fight in detail at this time else I’ll be here all night!

Gathering themselves after the fight, the party found a satchel of gold in the hole made when one of the animated burning logs had vacated the ground. In the excitement and money counting the heroes failed to notice that Dirk had wandered off until it was too late. Rather than look for him they pressed on.

The spiral staircase led to a fairly solid structure; mostly empty but containing a table and a miniature relief of the Garden of Graves. The model showed the map building and rope bridges; the waterfall too (the river ran north-south, over the cliff and beneath the map building. The cliff ran east-west across the garden and the heroes had entered from the south west through the tunnel in the ridge which curved around the west and north sides of the Garden). Atop the cliff, west of the river the model depicted lots of cairns. East of the river – where the party could see another marble building, the map instead showed an ornamental garden.

Heading for the second marble building meant crossing a rope bridge; the second building was at the level of the stilt-supported map building but atop the cliff. The heroes crossed the bridge and entered the building. Inside they noticed something unusual; thousands upon thousands of runes and hieroglyphs carved into the floors, walls and ceiling. The glyphs appeared to become more numerous to the north. They seemed to be channelling the ambient arcane energy.
Opening a door to the left revealed a room whose wall glowed with bright-blue fluorescent runes. Streams of water ran from an overflowing well throughout the room. Kelnozz tested the water using a mage-handed coin. Eventually he lowered the coin into the well water. This caused a huge serpent of water to manifest from the stream in front of him. The serpent engulfed the warlock and teleported him some sixty feet west; into the river just above the waterfall. His mage hand winked out. Luckily Kel was able to teleport to the bank.
Zander used magic to dry his clothing for him.

DM: The adventure explicitly mentions mage hand and telekinesis countermeasures :-)

Writing that room off as A Bad Idea, the party elected to explore the rest of the building, heading past an unusual wall which partly blocked the passageway to a small chamber from which an arcane light could be seen. Rangrim however remembered Dirk was missing and went to look for him.

Runes of increasing size and complexity decorated the following chamber, seeming interlinked with a curved vestibule at the end of the chamber. Beetles scuttled here and there about the carvings; part of the magic or something more sinister? A sundial beneath an enchanted bronze brazier (source of the arcane light) completed the vestibule. Of more interest to the party however was a chained and unconscious Dirk Benedict; rusting manacles fixing him to a corner wall.

DM: Bad luck on the Insight check Nettle…in fairness to you the original version of this encounter included a bonus to Insight if anyone spoke Elven

“Dirk” opened his eyes and stunned half the party with a Pacifying Burst of psychic force. She opened the manacles with a gesture and raised up to her full height, shapeshifting as she did so into her true form. She took on the appearance of an eladrin princess; fine clothes, gold torc…pearly smooth skin…but equally composed of thousands of scurrying scarab beetles. She gave a piercing cry; a sound that rattled the teeth and yet more swarms of beetles scurried out of the stonework to join her. Elesdri the lamia was about to have some fun.

DM: First round of combat not even over and I’m thinking every attack the enemies have does daze+heal/stun/ongoing damage…every enemy has an auto-damage aura…there’s penalties to saving throws…the healer is stunned…Total Party Kill? Fellow DMs might note this was one solo I didn’t need to augment too much!

The real Dirk rushed in to help as the party sought to gather their defences. Hiral activated his Oak Sentinel form (DM: I see Hiral as an anime hero…big sword, blonde hair and loads of over-long animations for all his powers) and sought to keep Elesdri’s attention on him. Kelnozz realised the smaller swarms would be deadly if left unchecked (DM: 8 poison damage aura, ongoing poison damage bite) and tackled one of them…striving to keep it from himself and Zander. The wizard was fortunate in having many area attacks – vital against swarm creatures – and put them to good use.

A large zone of necrotic hands forced their way out of the walls, floor and ceiling; swatting as many bugs as possible. Then came a wall of fire – placed close to the oak-form Hiral (“I’m made of wood what are you doing?!”) and finally Thunderwave after thunderwave. Nettle snapped clear from the stun at last and called upon Moradin for some serious runic might. He cursed Elesdri with a Final Rune and sent much-needed healing magic surging throughout the group – including bringing Kelnozz back from near death.
The battered warlock teleported outside and made his way back in; relying less on single-target spells (less effective against swarms) and instead supporting his comrades with much-needed heal checks and healing potions.

Dirk risked much in that he entered the middle of the fight adjacent to Hiral and Nettle. His blade flashed here and there, cutting swathes of beetles from Elesdri and the second swarm. One particularly impressive strike came from Hiral; a near decapitation of Elesdri forcing her to reform her neck from scratch.
The wall of fire looked like it had momentarily halted the enemies…only for Elesdri to scuttle through cracks in the walls and come out near Zander who teleported to safety. She unleashed a second pacifying burst and took advantage of the heroes’s stunned reactions to strike at them with now-familiar green glowing beetles, sucking the life from those near to her. Nettle collapsed from the onslaught, being under insane amounts of ongoing damage / aura effects and not having enough healing for himself.
A concerted group effort dragged him away from the aura beetles – Dirk staggered about stunned; Zander thunderwaved Elesdri; Hiral’s tree form pulled Nettle away from her aura and Kelnozz administered a healing potion.

DM: This is Tomb of Horrors…I had to play her with malice.

Elesdri cruelly stepped up closer and struck once more, leaving many heroes near death. Kelnozz dragged Nettle clear of the battlefield, trying to stabilise him even as the beetle poison did its work. Hiral’s branches swept Elesdri clear of the necrotic hands, setting her up – if only – for Zander to thunderwave her back into the effect. His spell struck true and she shattered under the impact of the magic; scarabs falling everywhere.

But it was too late for Nettle. Lying there in Kelnozz’s arms he took one last look at his companions, at the sundial room in particular, and closed his eyes for the last time.

The heroes had won this fight, but at what cost?

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The Longest Journey

Our heroes are

The Mighty Kelnozz, drow warlock with a dark pact
Onrich The Red, dragonborn paladin of Pelor
Nettle, shifter runepriest/cleric of Moradin
Zander, human wizard
Dirk Benedict, halfling rogue/sorceror

The party are exploring the Pyramid of Shadows, searching for Karavakos…tiefling wizard/warlock who is attempting to manipulate the heroes into freeing him from the pyramid with all its trapped power, thus granting him incredible cosmic power. The spirit of an ally of his, the eladrin Vyrellis has been aiding the party from within an obsidian orb. It seems the pyramid fragments the lifeforce of those it captures…thus weakening them making them amenable to capture. Who knows what creatures it has ensnared over the millennia?

DM: Bit of exposition there which strongly suggests its been the pyramid behind the lifeforce fragmentation thing. But its been too precise, too targetted…

Anyhow the party are out to kill the various aspects of Karavakos.

The door up ahead positively thrummed with fell energies. It proved difficult to open; largely due to the maelstrom of aberrant energies that surged about the chamber beyond….a large room dominated by a platform atop which some twisted aspect of Karavakos was chained. The chains ran to two obelisks which appeared to be the source of the power. A couple of statues were dotted about the room…past victims of the medusa from session 3.5 when she laired nearer to this room though the heroes had no way of knowing this.
More alarming perhaps was the rent in the very fabric of the pyramid…a tear through which the Far Realm itself could be seen in all its maddening glory; revealing the heroes to be but tiny motes on the shores of creation…no don’t look into the light…lets…lets fight!

Cue a fairly insane battle against both Karavakos (for indeed it was he), the deadly chaos storm and the occasional effects of the Far Realm as the pyramid continued its journey across the multiverse.

DM: I had the Dr Who music in my head most for most of the fight.

Karavakos proved to be several beings contained within one, capable of reacting with incredible speed and power. He flitted about the chamber, heedless of the storm, blasting with psychic, fire/lightning/cold and regular tentacle attacks…his aim being to disrupt the party formation and throw everyone into the storm / effects of the Far Realm. Such effects included a gigantic eyeball opening and the shift to above a hot desert-like plane filled with stinging sand.

DM: Kelnozz attacked inanimate statues for half the fight. I wasn’t sure if they counted for warlocks curse or not – they are petrified beings after all – but ultimately decided no. Maybe there is a ruling / guideline somewhere out there about using warlocks curse on inanimate objects. Still when the random roll for the eye came up “disintegrate”…that could have been nasty.

It proved one of the tougher battles the heroes had faced – they reasoned that destroying the menhirs weakened the storm…but also realised the storm protected those within it from the Far Realm. Cue a careful balancing act as they sought to cut down Karavakos’s 350hp. (DM: More than end-boss Karavakos and originally 428!).

With Karavakos-The-Mad defeated a greenish orb of power shot from his remains and up into the ceiling. Now the heroes rested a while before continuing. They explored more of the pyramid…(DM: I cut stuff out)…coming to stairs leading to the inner sanctum. An apparition of the real Karavakos appeared and asked the heroes to delay their approach a while, offering them the treasure of the pyramid if they deferred. Such tactics were scoffed at by the heroes and they continued up the stairs. Nettle took the effort to lug the very-expensive scrying orb up the stairs with him.

The apex sanctum of the pyramid was split into a series of small rooms – originally research areas when the pyramid was used by the eladrin – and a large control chamber. It was here Karavakos had been imprisoned…still in his own mind but without the raw arcane power to use the full power of the pyramid. From what they saw later it seemed obvious to the heroes that trying to use the pyramid without enough … power/focus/willpower would kill its user.
However Karavakos had been restored to himself…greater than ever before even.
Indeed as the party explored he confronted them; this time in full command of the pyramid’s fragmentation powers. He had split himself into numerous shards and seemed able to send his power from one shard to another; thus defying attempts to pin him down.

DM: I enjoyed the guessing game fight this became. A straight Insight vs. Bluff picked out the real Karavakos. But destroying his minions – striking at his vanity – his reflections of his own greatness – was the way to go. He was essentially immortal whilst one of those lived and indeed the reason they didn’t all simply swarm the party was some were hiding as backup…or waiting for the right moment. Game plan was to get the heroes all fighting what they think is the last Karavakos in the main apex chamber whilst a shard waits patiently in a side chamber.

As it turned out the heroes were able to weather Karavakos’s arcane onslaught, tracking down each shard and killing them. Karavakos retreated to the apex chamber and sought to use the pyramid’s power, channelling swathes of radiant & necrotic power through himself and the pyramid. The apex chamber began to detach from the pyramid. Our heroes moved swiftly, failing to secure a valuable rug (“loot!”) but getting the scrying orb inside and continuing the fight even as curtains of necrotic energy unfurled around the chamber.

Many heroes turned to radiant / necrotic powers, seeking to disrupt Karavakos’s control over the pyramid. Zander further aggravated him by placing a wall of fire adjacent to him.

DM: This was a field test of an optional power for some elites / solos. Called overpower or something…on their turn they can take (level) damage to end an effect on them. It stops solos being stunlocked whilst still giving the hero using the power (in this case wall of fire) some additional benefit.
Oh and in the case of radiant / necrotic damage…I essentially gave 10 more damage whenever such an effect hit him.

With a last strike Karavakos lost control over the pyramid’s power and exploded. A blast of radiant energy shook the room, nearly toppling the scrying crystal – nice save by Zander. As he lay there after his dive he spotted Karavakos’s ritual book and pocketed it, taking advantage of the fact that the blast temporarily blinded Onrich and Dirk.

However the energies of the pyramid continued to arc and rage unchecked…all about them it seemed the structure of the place was coming apart, refolding itself at random. Someone needed to take control. Kelnozz held up the orb containing Vyrellis’s lifeforce…she said that with Karavakos gone she could control the power and send the party home. As her body began to reform about her amidst the radiant light she beckoned the heroes forward into an enchanted circle that began forming. She asked the party where they wanted to go – “The Seven Pillared Hall” was their answer.

Leaving the pyramid in Vyrellis’s control didn’t quite ring true…so before she could enact the ritual, Nettle held up the amulet of passage. The energies abruptly arced from Vyrellis and into the amulet. It shone so brightly, an intensity that dwarfed anything seen before. Kelnozz threw something from his pocket…the energies flared…and Vyrellis cried out in alarm. Our heroes had gone.

They materialised in a clearing, deep in the Winterbole forest and seemingly not far from the clearing where they had originally encountered the pyramid. It was morning and fresh dew shone on the clearing, bringing with it all the sensations the pyramid had stolen from the heroes – life, hunger, passion and desire. Above them, almost unnoticed, a few spectral beings floated free for the first time in millennia. They drifted up in the sun’s rays, wishing an almost inaudible sigh of thanks for their freedom.

Our heroes were more interested in finding their horses but even so were pretty surprised to see Delphina Moongem walking out of the trees to greet the party.

DM: A close companion of Kelnozz’s, Delphina had seemed an ordinary eladrin flower seller when first encountered.

She seemed older somehow…and proved to be older in fact. For 10 years had passed since they had vanished into the pyramid; ten long years during which Delphina had spent much time travelling; both across the mortal world and Feywild. She said that the heroes arrival this day, in this clearing had been foretold by the elders and spirits of her kind. But seemed evasive on the subject when pressed for more detail. She had much to discuss with the heroes and Kelnozz in particular…but that could wait until after they had returned home.

Zander broke out the ritual chalks and the heroes teleported back home…back to the Seven Pillared Hall. Time to celebrate – it isn’t every day you thwart an evil that threatens the planes of existence and live to tell the tale. Or is it?

Back in the pyramid, all the remains of Karavakos is a pile of ash. And a shadow, a shadow that detaches itself from the wall and begins to laugh…

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Statues at the Dawn of Time

Previously… our heroes are exploring the Pyramid of Shadows. They’ve rested after a battle with bandits and are now ready to resume their assault. Long term the heroes seek to kill the pyramid’s primary inhabitant, the warlock Karavakos. For now though their immediate goal is the death / capture of Gharash Vren…bandit leader.

After some discussion of whether to “take the front door or try for an ambush” the party elected to go in the front. Yet they found his campsite (a cliffside village overlooking a vast jungle) deserted. Exploring the campsite they found a bit of loot and – perhaps more alarmingly – clear signs of ritualistic magic. From clues around the camp it seemed that Gharash had made some lizardman allies and powered up his force with a bit of ritualistic mojo. This appeared to have included slaughtering a succubus and drinking her blood. Other ritual clues suggested some divinations had taken place here. Vyrellis recognised the succubus as one of Karavakos’s former aides but didn’t seem overly concerned with her/its death.

DM: Some serious redecorating here. For one I wanted the pyramid’s encounters to … well encounter one another over time. I didn’t see Gharash as being the sort to sit still! The room went through a couple of incarnations and I kept the last one as a reserve should you try certain actions there. That reserve encounter was codenamed “Zerg Rush” :-)

The last unexplored area of this level was a nearby chapel in a twilight courtyard and it looked as though Gharash had been busy here too. The wards which once protected this place – or perhaps sealed something inside had been shattered. A battle with legion devils seemed to have taken place here. No one was wholly sure what the devils had been doing there or what had been in the chapel. The devils were presumably with Karavakos…but why here? Zander made fun of the gods whilst here; in particular poking fun at Moradin…and in his own temple too. He was not happy.

DM: This was originally one of my least favourite encounters of the module. I kept the theme of a warded shrine but twisted things around. DM: On a purely mechanical point Moradin shouldn’t be able to withhold healing from Zander (as happened later) – he gives the power to Nettle and its his responsibility what to do with it. So Zander don’t blame Moradin blame Nettle.

Nettle had been searching for tracks and determined that Gharash’s strike force had headed out of their little complex and into the main pyramid; perhaps in search of the heroes themselves! He and Dirk tracked the bandits through the corridors and passageways, eventually winding up at the stairs leading to level 2.

On a whim Zander tried his “Consult Mystic Sages” ritual and asked “What is Karavakos’s weakness?” (or words to that effect). The answer given was to strike at his vanity.

Opening the doors and starting upwards, the heroes checked for signs of the bandits. It appeared that the outlaws had disabled a trap or two whilst fending off a gargoyle / harpy assault. Several shattered bodies / harpy feathers / even a dead human could be found littering the area. The other main feature of the stairs though was a series of friezes depicting the pyramid’s history…

(With commentary from the heroes, Vyrellis et al) The early images show The Dawn War – the battle between gods and primordials for the fate of the mortal world. A struggle that raged across all existence – Fey, Shadow, Celestial, Mortal and Elemental. Indeed it was the war that drew the attention of those creatures which exist in the Far Realm.

DM: Point of interest; in Dark Sun history, the gods lose the battle. Cue no more divine magic and a devastated, dying planet.

Such a war was not without consequence. An explosion of some kind in the sky appears to send stars falling to earth. One such impact shatters the landscape, burying cities, burning the forests and killing untold thousands. A tiefling is depicted standing up from the ashes, his face a mask of rage – Karavakos. Overhead in the sky the war rages on. Other figures are getting to their feet in the background – could one of them be Vyrellis?

Indeed she spoke of what she remembered – the destruction wrought by the primordials; the invasion of the elven kingdoms; the assault on Argent, the invasion of the southlands, the rise of the giants; the corruption of the fomorians and many other events. It was a dark time for the world.

The next image showed Karavakos standing in a complex nine sided geometric construct; nine shadowy figures around him. The Nine Lords of Hell. He seems to be extending his infernal pact; making a deal not just with one devil but with their rulers and masters. The ground seems to split before him and the pyramid rises from it … a powerhouse of infernal and aberrant energies at Karavakos’s command, given power in exchange….in exchange for what?

Was Vyrellis part of this? When pressed on the matter she admitted that her people, the eladrin had indeed struck an alliance with Karavakos and his devils. We were desperate…the gods ignored us and our homeland suffered. They were the only ones who could help us.

Nettle asked her what deal she had made personally but she claimed amnesia. Hrm…

DM: Another encounter cut! Still it did teach me the lesson that one way to annoy adventurers is have someone else get there first…lots of players champing to roll initiative!

Level 2 began with scenes from a more serious battle. The bandits / lizardmen had fought some foulspawn – and slaughtered them, though not without cost. The heroes explored this area carefully, having seen large (3 foot high) demonic maws carved into the walls. As the party began testing the maws, they spoke up, playing it fairly dumb (DM: channelling the Labyrinth door knockers) and asking for food. Many of the party still hungered for revenge on the bandits and so offered bits of corpse to the mouths until they had been sated. Indeed the constructs answered the questions of the party, indicating that the lizard shaman had headed east whilst Gharash had staggered south; still seemingly in a ritual-crazed frenzy. What’s more the carvings spat out a radiant bastard sword, offering it as thanks for the meal.

South led…south led to a room of statues, one of which was Gharash himself. Petrified mid battle. That could only mean…hiss hiss scuttle scuttle…a medusa! (And her blinded ogre champion / bodyguard).

DM: Cue one of the more unusual battles in that the baddies did very little damage. It was all about saving throws. If the Medusa hits, you’re slowed. Fail one save and that’s immobilised. Fail a second and its petrification time. DM: I opened this fight on the assumption the heroes had remove affliction as a ritual. They didn’t. Ah.

The battle saw the heroes attempting to focus fire (a good move) on the ogre first even as he lumbered forward and lobbed the statue of Gharash at Onrich. The champions of Vyrellis took to invoking powers such as wall of fire and Final Rune to stack lots of damage on him whilst at the same time trying to pen Ms Medusa away from everyone. She slithered forwards, firing poison arrows (all of which missed boo) and using her gaze where possible. She struck most of the party with this at some point and many heroes went to one saving throw from lawn ornament status. Suddenly the thought of all these statues took on a different meaning

DM: Who’s gonna call Iain if Dirk gets petrified? :-)

Kelnozz spent most of the battlefield trying to set-up a flank but found himself thwarted by some magical doors (“The Gateways of Agony”). He took the central one but couldn’t find a way through behind the medusa and had to turn back.

Once the foes had fallen the party investigated the gateways. All three outer gateways had to be crossed in order for the inner gate to open. Kel reactivated the middle one with seemingly no problems. Onrich took the left gate, solving its riddle about senses easily. Zander braved the “Gate of Terror” and got torn to pieces for his efforts. Well apparently torn to pieces – he teleported into the inner chamber a few minutes later; just long enough for Dirk / Nettle to pass through Onrich’s gate (The Gate of Ignorance) and start interrogating Kel about his gate.

DM: Mark later in the session: “Hmm my alignment is good on my character sheet…maybe I should change that to Unaligned”

But then the inner gate opened, revealing a passageway of living flesh, like something out of Alien.

DM: Well ok alot like something out of Alien…but hey D&D heroes fighting Alien makes a cool scene in anyone’s head. Goal here was to lure heroes in past the first flashpoint…get them comfortable with walking through purple sludge then go crazy. Good work on the PC’s playing this up too.

The aliens proved to be swift hunter types – foulspawn berserkers; a larger, yet still agile destrachan with sonic attacks and a long writing serpent like grick…adept and wall crawling to snatch heroes and drag them off to be devoured. Even the walls themselves were alive; reacting to each missed lighting bolt and shield-claw-strikes. So alive in fact that after a few rounds of combat they acted defensively, sealing shut the corridor in several places and filling it with acid gas. What’s more the sentience controlling this area struck madly about with waves of debilitating, dazing mental strikes.

DM: This left Nettle and Kel facing the remaining alien-berserker outside the acid gas though in pitch darkness. Nettle shed some light on the scene with an illuminating burst of divine power which damaged one of the barricades, suggesting that they could be destroyed.

Dirk was just on the other side and somewhat dazed but still able to lightning bolt the barricade / the other aberrant monstrosities. Further down the corridor, Onrich and Zander – the main light sources for the heroes if you’re mentally imagining things – facing off against the grick. They realised that a section of wall at the end of the corridor seemed weaker than the rest – perhaps the source of the gas. The warlock, sorceror and priest broke the barricade and came to help defeat the grick, open up the wall and assist in the assault on what lay beyond – the Heart of Madness. A former illithid gone mad, this thing seemed…seemed well it needed to die. And die it did!

With the battle done the gas dispersed, allowing the heroes to lick their wounds and prepare for whatever would come next. A faint mental pressure remained suggesting a malign presence close by…could the heroes be nearing Karavakos? We’ll find out next time.

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Negotiations

The story so far… Our heroes are exploring the Pyramid of Shadows, once home to ancient secrets of life and death but now a prison for all who enter. The apparent master of the pyramid, Karavakos has challenged them to defeat him three times. To this end the heroes found and defeated his Hermit Aspect. Meanwhile the inhabitants of the pyramid seem to have splintered into factions, each warring / fearful of its neighbours. Those the heroes have encountered to date – arboreals, devils, undead and the forces of Vecna have proven outright hostile to the party. The latest battle had been with an empowered headless corpse, the body of Vyrellis (an eladrin princess; her head is within a magical orb possessed by Kelnozz).

Exploring the passageways east of their last battleground, the heroes found a grand staircase leading up into the pyramid. An acrid scent wafted from the stairs; a smell that hinted of alchemy and abyssal doings. Of more interest to the party was another doorway; this one coated in a sheen of ice. A plaque on the door suggested this was the armoury. Vyrellis related a story of how the castellan of the pyramid, a mage of lesser power and purported skill with a blade, Trathkul had retreated here during the battle with Karavakos, cowering with the noncombatants when this place had been a research facility and when Karavakos’s forces of devils attacked. From her tone it seemed clear that she despised the man for a weakling and a turncoat. Time had changed Trathkul. A “nobleman of simple pleasures; lover of fine art and skilled with both blade and magic. A civilised being” had found himself the reluctant leader of a very frightened group of refugees when the pyramid fell into the Far Realm. The other factions were fiercer and stronger whilst Trathkul’s allies deserted him; either fleeing to join the others or else being cut down in one of the frequent skirmishes that plagued the shifting corridors of this place. For a time Trathkul brokered peace with the neighbours, bargaining away the contents of the armoury to keep them appeased, all the while seeking power of his own. When he was forced to give up the last weapon in the armoury – his own blade – he felt that truly desperate times had come. Thus he enacted a ritual of his own concoction to draw power to himself. So much power that it burned through him with icy cold, transmogrifying his body into something else. Something steeped in powerful, unstable arcane magic. At last he had a way to protect his people, to forge art of his own. Peace came to his faction, a timeless peace that would endure throughout the centuries…

The heroes opened the door to find an icy chamber replete with frozen figures; here a woman and child; there an elven botanist, a dwarven engineer and perhaps a scribe. Vapour steamed off them as the opening of the door released the pent up cold. Realising this, the party closed the door (this being an icy chamber, the lights promptly dimmed) but it was too late; even their body warmth seemed to be more than the preservation magic could handle. Trathkul awaited them in the inner chamber, frozen in a block of ice.

One of the statues opened its eyes; eyes glazed with the paleness of the undead…chillborn zombies! Cue a battle for survival in which the zombies sought to slow, immobilise and generally drain the heat out of everything living. Perceived as the lesser threat for now, Trathkul lurked at the back and sent blasts of cold at one hero after another until their attention turned to him and he died.

DM: Yep Mark was right I hadn’t read all of MM3. But A is for Arcanian…

The armoury had been stripped bare (and the fittings which then made it an armoury had slowly been reabsorbed by the pyramid). but the party were able to find a glimmer of magic on Trathkul’s gauntlets.

+ + + + +

Deciding to explore the rest of this level, the heroes headed east and down a series of steps to a watery chamber filled with the sights, sounds and smell of the swamp. A dank, sewer like chamber with a hint of the industrial about it. Lizardmen arose from the water. Speaking in draconic they boasted of their prowess and strength in battle. Onrich defied them and stepped forward…onto a submerged pipe covering which promptly sucked him under the water. It seemed a network of pipes ran beneath this chamber; powerful currents capable of dragging characters under and forcing them out of another pipe far across the chamber.

DM: If you think back to the map there was no way for the lizardmen to really move around without setting off the trap themselves. Incidentally there had been more lizardmen but the nearby faction had recently reduced their numbers. And hey these guys eat their dead.

The fight with the lizardmen proved straightforward, largely thanks to some impressive area attacks by the party…AC buffs + dazes and attack penalties made it difficult for the enemy to get any attacks in.

A side chamber held a statue with a moonstone set into its forehead; a gem which Vyrellis said contained some of the power. Kelnozz took possession of the gem though this was against Zander’s wishes. It seemed a safe place to rest for a moment and so the heroes took advantage of the opportunity to perform their Comrades Succor ritual (component cost 10gp…primary skill = Heal).

+ + + + +

Unexplored steps climbed north and south out of the watery chamber. The heroes went south and found a doorway to their left and a barricade to the south. Human guards behind the barricade directed the heroes not to come any closer. Upon interrogation it transpired that the humans were part of Gharash Vren’s outlaw band. Gharash is an outlaw the party were interested in finding – if only for the bounty on his head. The guards were easily intimidated by the heroes, initially dismissing their claims to know Gharash but being won over when Onrich mentioned Gharash’s red eyes and silver wyvern tattoo on his shoulder. One archer went to inform Gharash that some adventurers wanted to talk to him. He headed east from the barricade. It took him quite a while to come back. In the intervening period the heroes further intimidated the guards, pressing them for information. Kelnozz took a step closer, opened the side door and saw it opened into a simple room with another door beyond – a way past the barricade? He asked the bandits who warned him not to go that way…they had their orders from Gharash and seemed pretty frightened of him too. Apparently the mercenary dragonborn had warned them against any interlopers coming this way…after all the lizardmen had proven treacherous and as for the ettin…well the outlaws had run from that fight. In a group huddle the party debated storming the barricade and massacring the guards whilst their archer friend was gone.

One snippet of information the guards disclosed was that Gharash apparently wanted a way out of the pyramid and apparently had agreed something with the lizardmen but..well before this topic could be discussed further the archer returned. Gharash agreed to see the heroes but on his terms – the heroes were to go back through the waterlogged chamber and up the stairs on the north side. The dragonborn would meet them in the chamber beyond.

This wasn’t good enough for the heroes; they wanted to go the way the archer had gone – why would the archer have gone east when Gharash is north? Nah it was time for action. A combination of jumps, teleports and scowls brought the party to the far side of the barricade. The human outlaws backed away nervously, letting the heroes brush through and east through the narrow corridor towards a door some twenty feet away.

The corridor proved linked to a teleport trap; an as yet unseen archer pulled a lever to send the party (all except Kelnozz) into the chamber Kelnozz had seen earlier…a chamber suddenly filled with flaming jets. Kelnozz was far enough back that the teleport didn’t catch him. The guards saw him alone…”get him before he eats our souls!” He fell before their desperate halberd attacks, being pushed back, dazed and on -15hp into the teleport trap area. Meanwhile the party weren’t standing still. Racing east out of the inferno chamber they found another room. Its sole occupant was an archer manipulating levers at a brass control panel linked to scrying screens. Both corridor and inferno chamber were visible on the screens, showing the fallen drow before three halberd wielding foes about to finish him off. Dirk, Zander and Nettle attacked him; forcing the fellow into a corner away from the panel. He tried to reach it but Nettle grabbed onto him and Zander storm pillared to block him in.

DM: It occurs to me that you should probably be able to grab as an opportunity attack. Someone runs past you…seems logical you could grab rather than attack. I’ll double check but this should be ok.

Dirk pulled levers on the controls, managing to teleport Kelnozz to the inferno chamber without frying him. Onrich moved to intercept the guards by the barricade – who elected to flee rather than fight. Seeing he was in trouble the panel operator ran for it. The heroes tried to heal Kelnozz only to find that the thing interfering with their healing rituals must have struck again, draining Kelnozz of the energies he so badly needed. Still he forced himself upright. He, Zander and Nettle ran after the archer, blasting him with spells and cutting him down before he could turn a corner. He collapsed dying before what appeared to be the entrance to a shrine to Kord, Moradin and Bahamut.

Onrich and Dirk had less luck against the fleeing guards, wounding them with ranged attacks but narrowly failing to kill the straggler.

Our heroes faced a choice – take the fight to Gharash, wounded as they were or fall back and lick their wounds; come at him full strength. Cooler heads prevailed and the party retreated to their hidey hole behind the library though not before sabotaging the inferno trap!

They set camp, readied some defences and discussed their options. Some force was interfering with the heroes attempts to heal through ritual means. As though an extra entity were adding itself to their magics and siphoning off precious lifeforce. Zander went through his ritual notes and realised he’d been scrimping a little on components, though he didn’t think this would have an effect. Though it might be that spending more on components – using some silver dust in lieu of chalk etc. would more properly seal the ritual space, preventing this unwanted egress. Another option is to systematically exclude heroes from the ritual i.e. have them wait some distance away and try to isolate the cause of the drain.

DM: If you make it to paragon tier I will likely allow lower level rituals to be performed for free (it still costs a surge!) and also easily researched…you’re approaching that level of power where the basic rituals now seem trivial to you…. 5ccs of mouse blood and all that.

As to what was stealing lifeforce…well it would take something with significant power. Artifact level power. Vyrellis herself admitted this, thereby naming herself as a suspect. Lets see, we have… - Vyrellis. Eladrin princess…probably a good liar if she were so inclined and she’s had an undeniable effect on Kelnozz. - some lingering effect of Vecna’s influence. After all the two heroes who have noticed lost healing surges both offered secrets to Vecna. Though Zander, Dirk and Nettle also gave of themselves. - the pyramid itself – could it be taking life to repair the damage inflicted by heroes? - the amulet of passage? All heroes are linked to it…indeed they increased this bond recently, gaining a per encounter teleport range 10 letting you teleport to another party member as a Move Action. Nettle hasn’t mentioned any direct communication with the amulet but does feel restless, keen to keep moving. - one of the heroes? Dirk’s magical powers can seem a little unstable (witness what happened to Trathkul when he drew on power; and Dirk admitted to causing the great fire of Hammerfast). And the thing about warlock pacts is they’re always made with some_thing_… - another artifact? Zander wondered about the Mirror of Empire’s Fall, a keepsake found on a digsite near Winterhaven. Or is there something else, something not revealed?

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Levi corpus

Events started with a bang, or rather a slide and a thump as half the party slid down a chute into a pit strewn with garbage and watched over by a charnal otyugh. The heroes who had evaded the trap decided the otyugh was a foe worth fighting and jumped / teleported in to help out. Post battle this meant quite a few hours of blasting solid, self-repairing stonework to break a hole in the trap and thus escape.

DM: One thing about the pyramid is that it messes with your sense of time…it could have been minutes, hours or days you spent blasting that rock.

Once freed of the trap, the party washed up and took some time to heal. Onrich participated in the healing ritual but again noticed something seeking to sap his strength.

Exploring further, Dirk opened some doors into a finer section of the pyramid, a well furnished set of chambers unfortunately guarded by cambions, dark creepers and a flameskull. The skull made use of enchanted mirrors and a scrying crystal to remotely attack the party with fire spells. It was eventually cornered and destroyed, leaving the heroes with a nice defensible location in which to rest.

The last encounter of the day was in a large hall, dominated by a series of magical obelisks which collectively generated a forcefield around the headless corpse of Vyrellis. Whilst obviously a trap, the party disabled one of the obelisks and allowed Vyrellis to reunite with her body. The force-magic immediately snapped into the corpse which animated and attacked the heroes.

DM: There’s a scene near the end of Stardust where a witch animates a corpse for a sword fight. This is how I imagined things this time round, albeit corpse-with-screaming-princess-head-bauble and force storms of little white glowing shurikens absolutely everywhere.

After a lengthy battle the heroes dispatched the corpse and it collapsed into grey goo, freeing the somewhat battered orb of Vyrellis. She seemed shaken by the encounter, but not entirely without hope; the experience had awakened some of her memories.

Vyrellis talked to the party both before and after this fight, describing her homeland in the Feywild and the city of Celduilon. It had been this eladrin kingdom which had fought Karavakos and his legion of devils all that time ago.

Zander had actually visited Celduilon several times over the course of his life; initially as part of his wizard training (“I guess they don’t teach fireball there then”) and later in search of information. He had fond memories of the brothels there and its many waterways.

DM: Zander is from Moonstair, a village in the Barony of Theurny. Moonstair is noted for The Moonstair, a portal to the Feywild which opens on each full moon. Celduilon is the nearest eladrin settlement – a city at that – on the other side of the portal.

Amongst her recovered memories, Vyrellis recalled another group of recent arrivals – mercenaries? – and believed they’d headed east from the entryway. It could be worth investigating…

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Levi corpus

Events started with a bang, or rather a slide and a thump as half the party slid down a chute into a pit strewn with garbage and watched over by a charnal otyugh. The heroes who had evaded the trap decided the otyugh was a foe worth fighting and jumped / teleported in to help out. Post battle this meant quite a few hours of blasting solid, self-repairing stonework to break a hole in the trap and thus escape.

DM: One thing about the pyramid is that it messes with your sense of time…it could have been minutes, hours or days you spent blasting that rock.

Once freed of the trap, the party washed up and took some time to heal. Onrich participated in the healing ritual but again noticed something seeking to sap his strength.

Exploring further, Dirk opened some doors into a finer section of the pyramid, a well furnished set of chambers unfortunately guarded by cambions, dark creepers and a flameskull. The skull made use of enchanted mirrors and a scrying crystal to remotely attack the party with fire spells. It was eventually cornered and destroyed, leaving the heroes with a nice defensible location in which to rest.

The last encounter of the day was in a large hall, dominated by a series of magical obelisks which collectively generated a forcefield around the headless corpse of Vyrellis. Whilst obviously a trap, the party disabled one of the obelisks and allowed Vyrellis to reunite with her body. The force-magic immediately snapped into the corpse which animated and attacked the heroes.

DM: There’s a scene near the end of Stardust where a witch animates a corpse for a sword fight. This is how I imagined things this time round, albeit corpse-with-screaming-princess-head-bauble and force storms of little white glowing shurikens absolutely everywhere.

After a lengthy battle the heroes dispatched the corpse and it collapsed into grey goo, freeing the somewhat battered orb of Vyrellis. She seemed shaken by the encounter, but not entirely without hope; the experience had awakened some of her memories.

Vyrellis talked to the party both before and after this fight, describing her homeland in the Feywild and the city of Celduilon. It had been this eladrin kingdom which had fought Karavakos and his legion of devils all that time ago.

Zander had actually visited Celduilon several times over the course of his life; initially as part of his wizard training (“I guess they don’t teach fireball there then”) and later in search of information. He had fond memories of the brothels there and its many waterways.

DM: Zander is from Moonstair, a village in the Barony of Theruny. Moonstair is noted for The Moonstair, a portal to the Feywild which opens on each full moon. Celduilon is the nearest eladrin settlement – a city at that – on the other side of the portal.

Amongst her recovered memories, Vyrellis recalled another group of recent arrivals – mercenaries? – and believed they’d headed east from the entryway. It could be worth investigating…

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Onrich takes a memo

DM: This one’s for the players

Onrich takes a memo or two.

(Outside the Tower of Mysteries, Thunderspire Labyrinth). Funny how things happen. Seemed for a moment we’d be denied entry to this hideaway for Vecna’s friends and I thought… well then the amulet of passage turned up. Here. Its a strange old artifact…popping up here and there through history, giving adventurers a helping hand. For an artifact, no one ever seems to talk about destroying it. They take its gifts, follow its suggestions and next thing you know they’re in the Underdark fighting mind flayers. The Sages of my Order suspect its little journeys may have a pattern to them, an overall direction. I shall have to speak to them next time I’m in Fallcrest. For now Nettle has taken it. Or did it take him?

(Searching the Tower) I found the book in the library easily enough; for once my source proved accurate. Not like with the Keep. A funny thing – the others claim not to be able to read these books. They say the pages are blank to them. Another nod to my associate there. Sure enough the book had the map along with the ritual papers. I have my orders. We defeat Paldemar and I plant the map in his possessions. The book stays with me. I’ve only had the briefest of glances at it but going here seems insanely dangerous. Already I can feel the amulet urging me forwards…light blasted thing. I shall have to keep a close eye on my mental state if I’m to stay attuned to it. Hah.

(Fallcrest, Temple of Pelor) I’ve arrived at the House of the Sun and immediately went into a meeting with the Sages. We spent the night in conference, going over the plan and its disparate elements. For my part it means a trip to the Pyramid of Shadows, way out into the Far Realm. Others are heading elsewhere…back to the Mages, over to Winterhaven and Hammerfast. We’re even sending a courier to Moonstair. I can only hope its worth it, that my comrades and I make it through in one piece. We need what’s in that place. We all need it. I was pretty tired from the night’s endeavours – some of those rituals can really take it out of you. I’m just glad I wasn’t the one leading it…I’m aching everywhere…getting old – nearly in my 20s.

(Fallcrest, outside temple) We finished up in the temple with an occultation blessing. Really charged my solar batteries, renewed my energies. Some kind of ritual of protection. Its a real relief having it. Should last a full year. Whether I do is another matter. Hah – not dead yet. Looking east I see the dawn’s breaking…hasn’t quite hit the valley yet but that looks like my comrades. Seems they’ve bought horses. I’ll need a name for mine…

(Pyramid of Shadows, entry way) Well we’re here. Give adventurers a treasure map and we’ll follow it to the ends of the earth. Further in this case. I look around this place and I can’t help but wonder about Sister Yacobe’s theory, that this place is one big sentient entity, gobbling up life for its own purposes. Trying to gather enough of the right stuff that it can free itself. Little mortals beavering away at their own thing…unaware they’d become part of a whole.

(Pyramid of Shadows, moments later) So Vyrellis is real, and not some later addition to the legend. If she’s real then that means she’s…well she’s a fey. Fey royalty and their gifts. Ask them to help you cross the road and you’ll wind up in the Southern Wastes. Or nailed to the road. Depends what mood they’re in. More seriously, the elf has picked her orb up. A sentient, talking artifact and he’s picked her up. I know first hand the danger of artifacts…I mean there used to be an Empire of Arkhosia till…well that’s another story. There’s tales of the drow and their love of power. Maybe Kelnozz thinks he can handle Vyrellis. Its possible…he’s still got a soul even after the deals he’s made. Mind you…long dead sorceress, magic gemstone. There’s only one kind of creature I can think of that pairs those two things together.

(Pyramid of Shadows, the library) Another library of books, some of which I can read; others of which are blank. Those eaters of knowledge might be to blame. Horrid things…they certainly did a number on me. Its the books I’m worried about. Is the library empty of words because of the eaters…or is it the other way round…is it slowly filling up with the thoughts and memories of those who’ve found their way here. Or a history of the pyramid? Vyrellis seems to think so. Hah we came here hunting a pyramid and now its hunting us. Or one of us anyway. Who’d make the best…oh right we’re moving on.

(Pyramid of Shadows, the hermitage) One down, two more to go. Karavakos seemed a little out of it…plenty of arcane juice but not much else. And a weird orb shot out of him when he died, flew out through the door.

As for me well I had a nasty shock today. Came to heal the party as part of our ritual and something was after my lifeforce. I held off on it but its not good. No one else seems to have noticed. It may be I’m a little more sensitive to it…healing hands and all that. My #1 suspect is Vyrellis. #2 is the amulet of passage. We’ve been drawing on the power of both artifacts and maybe they’re doing a little recharge. I’m going to have to be careful…maybe go easy on the healing unless it becomes necessary..avoid drawing on that amulet. Otherwise things could get nasty.

(Pyramid of Shadows, nearing arboreal quarters) My head is pretty rough today. I can’t feel the sun, feel what time it is. Not good when you’re a follower of Pelor. I’ve got a muzzy feeling of what its like back home..but this place not a clue. Didn’t help that the elf was up all night talking to Vyrellis. Course he wasn’t the only one doing some investigating. After all they say the secret of immortality is here. And now we’re fighting arboreals. I kinda feel sorry for them…not many left in Arkhosia these days. I can remember our tutor telling us horror stories of them. A species that refused to be civilised by either Arkhosia or the humans who came after us. Heh they probably hate humans and dragonborn on sight.

(Pyramid of Shadows, trapped passageway) Ugh I feel worse than ever. Is there such a thing as plane sickness? If so I’ve got it. Could it be the amulet I just used? The pyramid itself? Its like a smell of rotten something filling the passageway. The dead sahuagin reek too. If I could just clear my head for a moment.

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