Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Session 11 - Answers at Last

Saturday, April 21, 2007 from 5:30 to 10:00 PM.

We gather around 5:30 PM and have our early dinner together. As you might guess, the meals are as varied and short lived as one might expect with a group of hungry role-players like ours. When we are done, we take some time to just relax and digest, as the picture below can testify. We resume the game around 6:30 PM.

I wasn't sure we were going to play!
Session 11 - Answers at Last

25th of Rain

The girls wake up at the Ghostly Minstrel and head back to the Lodge. All has already been done to protect Simone's body after her untimely demise when facing an ogre there, and they can now resume their exploration of the network of underground rooms and galleries beyond the customers' area.

Once there, the girls discover that the bodies of the ogres and yuan-ti they fought they day before weren't moved. They know the monsters employed by the Lodge have taken over the area after they discovered some members of the staff had been replaced by dopplegangers in league with the Alchemists they are trying to find, so they proceed with caution when searching them.

Indeed, they discover the bodies were booby-trapped sometime during the night. This means that either the monsters, the alchemists or both are now more than aware of the adventurers' presence and thought they might come back really soon.

After salvaging what they could of the monsters equipment, the girls go back to the cavern where Iliana originally spied on the ogre cook. Despite their caution, they trigger a trap carefully concealed on the cave's floor while walking in. Not far from them, they spot what looks like a metal bottle topped with a crystal sphere. When the trap is triggered, the crystal sphere falls from the bottle and rolls to the center of the sphere where it starts to spin and levitate.

The girls retreat just before the sphere explodes. Large amounts of chaotic protoplasm erupt from the grenade and quickly take on volume. It shapes itself into some massive... something with two necks, a large belly... scales, horns and claws... an hydra!

Our heroes spring into action. The two-headed creature spits flames at them, hovers around, tries to catch them, but the girls have learned their lesson: they coordinate their efforts to confuse the beast, divide, and finally conquer.

The Two-headed Polyhydra spraying fire on the PCs

When they are done with the creature, the girls explore the cave further. Beyond a stream of water flowing nearby, they find an otyugh chained to a wall. The poor beast calls the girls to its help. It is terrified of the rats swarming all around. It calls itself "Garbage", since that's what the employees called it. The girls will have have none of that: they decide to help the otyugh and baptize him "Oscar".

Oscar knows its way around, and knows that the monstrous employees of the Lodge were the ones who trapped the place while the girls were gone, with the help of the alchemists! The summoning grenade the girls just faced was one of the alchemists' gifts to their new allies, it seems. Certainly, Oscar doesn't explain all this in these terms, since it is not all that bright, but it has witnessed a lot due to the fact that both monstrous employees and alchemists were dismissing his presence as the one of mere item, nothing more than a walking garbage bin really.

Oscar wants to follow the girls and help them find the alchemists. It doesn't have vengeance in mind, however, but rather a particular affection for these adventurers, these two-legged people who were the first to acknowledge its presence as a sentient being worth talking to.

With Oscar's help, Simone's newfound ghost abilities and some rather disturbing ingenuity (tossing a corpse as some sort of test weight around the corners of corridors would have been very disturbing to watch by the faithful of the Church...), the girls easily disable the traps they meet along the way.

Oscar the Otyugh happily munching on a corpse...

Soon, the group reaches a locked door. Simone becomes incorporeal and looks through it: beyond, there is a forge, and a large pool of molten metal. There, two Azers, who look like dwarves with burning beards and hair, are talking together and are obviously bored, as if waiting for something to occur. A fire mephit pierces the pool's surface and taunts them, but they simply ignore the remarks of the smart outsider.

Simone reports to the group. When doing so, the girls hear some movement beyond the door: they have been heard! The door opens wide, and the mephit stands alone in the room, right on the pool of molten ore: "Welcome, my friends! Please come in! I'm afraid my masters weren't as brave as they thought, and they left me with the fortunate task of dealing with your disturbances."

Our heroes, including the girls, Oscar the Otyugh and Hamrick the Bold step forward. The mephit smiles. "Now, you have a choice before you: we either play for a while with charades and see where it leads us, or you die. Now." The girls can't believe their own ears: play charades, in a moment like this?!

"Yes, play charades with me. All you have to do is to sign... here" the imp precises as he produces a burning piece of parchment that is not consumes by the flames all around. The girls try to talk it over with the mephit, but the elemental imp is obviously short-tempered. He gives up his idea of a game of charades and attacks instead!

The mephit attacks after changing into a magma hurler!

The mephit changes into a creature made of magma. It attacks by throwing blocks of molten metal towards its opponents. Simone runs forward in a room the girls did not explore before while Hennie Nagel reads a scrolls to summon a fire elemental she found some time before. To her surprise, Hennie's incantation works perfectly, and instead of a minor elemental, this is a Aarsaklaash, Lord of the Everburning Citadel and Archon of the Molted Skies of Al'Rashan who answers the call! The monumental fire being reaches from beyond and talks to Hennie: "What is it that you want, mortal?"

"Command that imp to leave us alone!"
"This will be done, Sorceress."

The huge elemental turns to the mephit. "FEAR MY WRATH, MEPHIT! Leave the Scion of Nagel to her quest! Begone with you!"

The mephit opens its fiery mouth to protest, but doesn't dare. It sinks into the pool of molten metal once again.

Ahead, Simone reaches a room with stairs climbing up to another level of the Lodge. There, a duergar stands with a chain in his hands. Two bugbears slaves are each tied to one of the chain's extremities. When the duergar slaver sees Simone, he doesn't think twice and flees before she can say anything.

The girls and their companions, including Aarsaklaash, soon join her. They hear the sound of conversations upstairs. They climb up and rush into the room...

The group climbs up the stairs...

When the girls enter the room, they find an aged human scolding the duergar: "So, you choose to leave your post, is that it? You choose your death, my friend." With this, the aged, gaunt man dressed in a military fashion thrusts his blade into the dwarf.

There are many people around the old man. Two alchemists, a young woman armed with a rapier and a dagger, what looks like a wizard of Kemite descent, a Shuul renegade, an Ogre mage armed with twin becs de corbin made of the whitest of horns and a clockwork machine of humanoid shape.

The old man sends the wizard, the ogre mage and the clockwork away to guard "the cannon", as he puts it. He then welcomes the girls: "So, you made it this far? You should certainly be proud of yourselves. You survived the cryotubes, the cloning, the implementation of these runes you bear... you are my own personal miracles, since I, Armenius Shiver, is the one who provided the knowledge necessary to your survival."

The girls are stunned. Armenius Shiver... of House Shiver? Cloning? Are they clones themselves, or the ones of have been cloned?

"We can solve this with honor and dignity... or not!" He fires a dragon pistol on Beket! A tremendous fight ensues, during which Armenius is literally disintegrated to ash by the Elemental Lord who came to Hennie's help earlier, his daughter, the young woman armed with rapier and dagger, succumbs to the combined efforts of Simone and Iliana, all of this while the Shuul fires at the adventurers. The latter finally understand the tide has turned in favor of the runebearers: he leaves the scene before dying like all the others did seconds before.

Fight against the alchemists of Armenius Shiver

At the end of this combat, our heroes now have a lot more answers: Zalathar was in league with this Armenius Shiver and his alchemists. They not only experimented on them, but cloned them (if they are not the clones themselves, that is). There is some sort of "Cannon" ahead which has to be protected at all costs. A cannon for what? That's what our heroes will soon find out...

XP Breakdown
All characters are Level 4.
- Fight against the Pyrohydra - CR 3 (5 characters involved)
- Second trap disabled with Oscar's help - CR4
- Third trap (poison arrows triggered by Beket by tossing a corpse) - CR2
- Duergar Slaver and Bugbears - CR5
- Armenius Shiver and company - CR7
XP per PC for Session 11: 1,410.
Total XP earned (Beket and Simone): 10,885 XP.
Total XP earned (Hennie): 9,910 XP.
Total XP earned (Iliana): 8,610 XP.
Beket and Simone level up.

DM's notes

Good game session where I had the occasion to test a few of my own designs, like the Summoning Grenade, and where the players had a variety of threats and NPC interactions.

Oscar was definitely a highlight of the game session. I played him like a muppet, with a deep voice, repeating his voice, a bit naive and very (overly) friendly: it was a complete success. The encounter with the mephit could have been much better, but I didn't have the time nor the inspiration to get on with it. I was desperate to get to the finale.

All around, a good session really. I adjusted my prep work on the spot to feel the need of the moment, and nothing went really bad. Prep time is important, but it shouldn't stop a DM from improvising on the spot if it makes more sense at the moment!

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