[Posted on time – characters get 0.1 HP]
September 17, 2017
Sovan Dareshin (bard [lore], 6)
Brier Demanscus (paladin 2 / sorcerer 2)
Amara Invictus (wizard [necromancer], 4)
Rowan Kyrie’yva (paladin, 3)
Jean-Pierre du Veyrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion (cleric [forge], 5)
Morgan Wheeler (wizard, 1), Log-writer
672 XP, or 740 XP with sheet update
Amara: 88 GP
Brier: 76 GP
JP: 46 GP, 30 Blazing Banner token
Morgan: 88 GP
Rowan: 88 GP
Sovan: 76 GP
LMF: -10 GP
- Ornate silver cup (from cyclops) – 60 GP
- Jewelled bracelet (from shaman) – 40 GP
- various valuables (from shaman) – 30 GP
- token from Blazing Banner champion – 30 GP, claimed by JP
- specialized stiletto knives (from GrosQua) – two knives, 20 GP each
The Purple Tower in Hex 9.11 and the Banded that it controls have been increasingly destructive in the plains. Our eventual intention is to attack the Tower while simultaneous attacks by our allies draw away its forces and its attention. We set out to cement alliances with: a) a group of GrosQua, by taking their side against another group of GrosQua and retrieving a magical item which they rely upon for food, b) the Blazing Banner tribe, by delivering demon ichor to them as proof of our martial prowess, and c) Broadleaf the ent, by helping it escape from the Crumbly Hills to more traversable ground. Roaring success on all three counts, on a purely goal-oriented metric.
We planned to deal with the GrosQua first – travel directly there, scry and spy their fort, and attack it in the morning. Our route was through Hex 4.13, taking the road up through 5.12 and 6.12 through the hobgoblin and Crested Skull territory, and then through the Crumbly Hills to the GrosQua fort. We travelled along the road and across the bridge without incident. The hobgoblin camp was minimally active and had substantially retracted its perimeter.
Suddenly Brier sensed something unidentifiably off [20 perception]. Sovan and JP inspired and guided me [35 perception] and I noticed a disturbance in the air in front of us and a soft footfall behind us just in time for them to go visible and attack us. There were four banded – twisted and tarry creatures with prominent silver veins. They attacked in pairs and targeted me and Amara as the two most vulnerable. Each banded attacks twice at a time with its claws.
One attack hit me and one hit Amara, who immediately pointed at it and evoked retributional flames around it. The battle was joined. JP cast Spirit Guardians and the air filled with ghostly dwarves. Fascinating. Also deadly. Brier attacked one and sliced into it with his longsword – then green flames leapt to the banded next to it. Half paladin, half sorcerer, all business.
Sovan used Vicious Mockery on one of the ones attacking me. Then he ran up to them and back again – provoking their reactionary attacks, so that I could back away safely. Then he approached them again, so that they would attack him instead of chasing me. I backed away safely. They didn’t chase me. ‘Thanks’ seems quite insufficient here but – thanks.
Amara cast Shatter. On seeing that we were tougher than they had perhaps expected, the banded turned invisible again and tried to run. JP’s ancestors slowed them enough to keep them in our sights (figuratively speaking) despite their speed [faster than 30 ft]. Brier ran up and took a swing at one that he ended up adjacent to – apparently standing directly beside one of them allows you to find it despite its invisibility. Sovan ran up and stood directly beside one and helpfully pointed it out to the rest of us. Amara and I missed with firebolts, Rowan missed with a rapier, and we all felt very good about ourselves.
A quite injured banded died beneath the diligent weapons of the dwarves of old. [Rough guestimate because didn’t track very well which ones took which damage, but about 40 to drop one.] The others kept running. Brier grappled one – a good move if they’re invisible, since getting a hand on it lets you know where it is [roll flat not disadv.]. Eventually we killed it. They are decently tough to hit [AC 16-17ish], frequently invisible [disadvantage on attacks] and fairly dangerous [6-7ish damage each of two attacks]. A delightful first encounter. We took some biological trophies from the two corpses – in case we needed to prove how tough we are to anyone – and moved on.
Amara found us a place to rest and we spent an hour without incident while Sovan sang for us. On reaching the Crumbly Hills, a sudden and torrential downpour turned the ground into a muddy morass half a foot deep. We slogged on northwards. Rowan sang to bolster our spirits, on the assumption that the rain would drown out any noise we made. Altogether more singing that I had expected but very nice.
We saw four hobgoblins stumbling down a hill near us. They spotted us at the same time and tried to backpedal up the hill, to no great success. We floundered towards them. Ah, mud, that great equalizer of men.
They wore standard armour and two were carrying a large chunk of giant beetle carapace. Sovan hailed them, and Rowan cast Friends on one of them. Our new, and very very temporary, friend told us that they were headed to their camp in the north, where they intended to work the carapace into shields. The other three hobgoblins shuffled around and knocked arrows in our direction and generally berated their overly-communicative friend. He reported lots of giant beetles and GrosQua in the region. Then we fucked off before the spell ended.
A little ways on, we came upon a cyclops stuck waist-deep in a collapsed hill. Sovan hailed it. It went ‘argh’ but also managed to communicate that it would appreciate our assistance in getting unstuck. Cyclops generally are known for their tendency to throw boulders at people and then eat them, but this one promised us treasure so we elected to free it. Rowan pulled out his block and tackle, we found a likely looking rock to brace against, and the more mighty members of our menagerie muscled it out.
The cyclops sprawled on the ground and went ‘argh’ again and told us that it hated the hills, which honestly seemed pretty reasonable. Then it pulled itself up to an impressive 11 ft height and off we went. It led us to its trove and, after offering us a variety of garbage and partially masticated bodies, gave us a be-gemmed silver cup. We showed it a guild crest and explained that we are both dangerous and helpful and ought not to be fought. It grudgingly agreed and we parted ways, reluctant non-combatants if in no way friends.
We continued on our way. I felt the earth tremble beneath us, yelled a warning, and then immediately faceplanted into the mud. A gigantic beetle stuck its head and shoulders, and most noticeably its mandibles, out of the mud and tried to grab me and drag me down. I Shielded, Sovan Cutting Wordsed, and I barely slipped out of its jaws.
Brier smote it with a booming blade attack, with Rowan’s assistance [19 damage]. Sovan used Dissonant Whispers [12 damage]. It tried to burrow its way back and triggered thunder from Brier’s attack [8 damage]. Brier swung at it again as it fled [crit: 30 damage] and that was the end of that. The beetle had beetled its last. [Shell worth maybe 50 GP, but too heavy for us to bother with.]
We reached the rebel GrosQua fort in the late afternoon. There were four concentric earthen rings around the fort, constructed since the guild’s last visit. Each was 20 ft tall and 15 ft thick, with 30-50 ft between them. I sent my familiar over to scout. It didn’t return.
JP conjured a Clairvoyant sensor into where he guessed the main hall would be. He saw a hallway leading from the entrance into the main room. Portions of the stone floor had been torn away to give access to raw earth, and there was a tunnel going diagonally downwards in one corner of the room. Half a dozen GQ sat at a guard post – dwarf-like creatures with strange metal plates, and armed with mostly shortswords and crossbows. One carried a long, dirk-ish knife and displayed agility. JP overheard them say that they would be ready when we came – dumping us all in one pit hadn’t worked, so they intended to split us up.
We headed over to our GQ allies’ base to recruit some of them to accompany us in the morning and get us through the earthen rings. On our way, we saw a flight of banded in the distance – approximately 30. We practiced the better part of valour and hid for our lives [group stealth 15]. They swooped around and dove periodically as if hunting, but didn’t catch anything so far as we could see.
Sovan sought out a GQ, Allard, whom he had met last time and correctly identified as the brave sort. He talked up the mission, Rowan played some adrenalizing music in the background, and she and a friend, Fronc, agreed to join up. No shamans were available – there are only three, who are necessary to maintain their defences and probably irreplaceable at this point.
We interviewed Allard to get a rundown of her abilities and the shamans’. Her armour wasn’t particularly good, but the metal plates buried in her body likely help in that regard. Allard reported that she could kill a wolf or hobgoblin easily, or probably one of the giant ants. She could maybe kill one of the rebel GQ, although she and Fronc would manipulating the earth instead of fighting. Individually, we estimated that each of the experienced guild members – i.e., everyone except me – could likely match 3 or 4 of the GQ in a stand-up fight. She estimated approximately 30-40 people in the rebel settlement.
The shamans are tougher: they can collapse a significant piece of ground from 50 ft away (other GQ must touch earth to move it). They can move stone, instead of only dirt like most GQ. They throw huge boulders and can pull up a shield of dirt to block ranged attacks. They can do this as many times as they want, but not necessarily in quick succession. They can also raise pillars of dirt beneath themselves – only a limited number of times, but bad news if they do, as they can kick two chunks of the pillar off at you at a time. The rebels had two shamans remaining, because the last guild expedition here had already killed one.
Allard warned us to expect a lot of pits designed to separate us. We formed groups of two – me and Sovan, JP and Amara, Brier and Rowan – who would try to keep together so that nobody ended up on their own. Once you’re in the pit, trained GQ attack you with specialized stiletto knives – they can strike through the earth, so the wielders don’t have to expose themselves. Rowan and Brier bought two, so that they could stab back into the ground if necessary.
Sovan asked what they find frightening. He has found a way to add a fear-inducing element to his Major Image spell – not something I’d see before. Allard described a bulette – a large, clawed burrowing creature with astoundingly massive jaws. In the morning, Sovan created an image of one, Allard and Fronc stuck their hands through it to prove to themselves it was fake, and off we went.
There was one section where the earthen rings were significantly closer together – which would have potentially meant a faster approach, but Allard confirmed that it was likely too substantial a deviation from their norm to be happenstance. We avoided the most compressed part of their defences and entered through an only slightly compressed section.
Brier blessed himself, JP, and Rowan. We started to sneak towards the walls, heard the amount of noise that we were making, and turned it into a charge. The archers on the walls spotted us at 450 ft, shouted some warnings, and scrambled for their weapons. Allard and Fronc laid their hands on the first wall and it opened to reveal a very startled scout. He took one look at the bulette image and Amara – thaumaturgied with a booming voice and accompanied by small tremors in the earth – and froze. Amara growled to him to “RUN”. He ran away. We ran forward.
The archers had collected their bows and their selves and began to fire at us and, luckily, our illusory bulette friend. A shaman popped up on the wall. We took a couple of shots at him as Allard and Fronc re-opened the next wall – the first time they’d done so, a GQ inside of it immediately snapped it shut. We all dashed through. The GQ caused the ground beneath Rowan and Brier to collapse but they dodged it.
The shaman leapt down from the wall and slammed the earth where he landed. A crack shot out towards us and the ground beneath us abruptly fell away. Brier, Rowan, and JP kept their feet. I cast Feather Fall on Amara, Sovan, and myself and we grabbed onto the edges. Three arrows hit me. I came to with a healing spell from JP. Sovan had been holding me up – he placed my hands back on the ground and healed me. He, Amara, and I pulled ourselves up. I drank a healing potion and watched JP’s spiritual ancestors roll in and do their spiritual work. Amara threw a warning firebolt at the archers. Brier summoned a Fog Cloud to block us from view. Sovan used Dissonant Whispers effectively on the GQ who had opened up the pit. Allard and Fronc killed him as he ran past. Allard and Fronc ran up to the next wall to open it – as they did, a pit opened up beneath Fronc and he was dragged down by a stiletto-wielding assassin.
The shaman sent a gigantic rock flying towards Rowan, who was standing up with Allard by the wall – the rest of us still covered within the Fog Cloud. Rowan dodged and it embedded itself in the dirt when he had been.The shaman took more damage from the Spirit Guardians and Rowan’s divine rapier. He looked almost dead. Sovan cast Dissonant Whispers and Brier, Rowan, and JP attacked as he fled. Then he looked fully dead.
I ran to the pit where Fronc was and found him alive – doing quite a bit better than his attacker, actually. I firebolted the rebel, Sovan came up behind me a cast Dissonant Whispers, and he burrowed away. Sovan tossed down a rope and Fronc quickly scaled the pit.
JP signalled Allard to open the wall. Two rebels had been waiting inside it – tried to close it and failed, the other was clearly poised to strike. JP’s ghostly ancestors swarmed them and he shot a sacred flame at one. The rebel crumbled the ground beneath JP, who used his Ring of Agility to get clear.
Sovan moved his bulette image to burrow out of the ground near us. The nearby GQ stood their ground, but Sovan jumped it up towards the archers, all three of whom dropped their bows and fled. Sovan’s use of that spell is quite a sight. Two of the three rebels near us died to the Spirit Guardians a moment later.
JP positioned himself in from of the door – next to Buttons, Amara’s mushroom sprout familiar, whom she had summoned unobtrusively by the door. Suddenly Buttons shambled into action. It rapped on the door with its tiny, squidgy fist. The knocks echoed and reverberated and the door swung open. Strategically sound and incredibly stylish.
The shaman inside instantly kicked a boulder towards JP, who raised his shield and his Shield and planted himself in the doorway and just – stopped it. The shaman and his three companions backed out of range of Spirit Guardians; they learn quite quickly from our tactics.
Brier and I came to the doorway to firebolt the shaman [hit on a 17]. He didn’t use his shield ability – to save it for a larger attack, presumably. Sovan cast Fireball and aimed it right over his head, at a pretty non-shieldable angle. It went off. The three non-shamans died. Rowan dashed up, hexed the shaman, and hit him with a divinely smiting rapier blow. He surrendered.
We demanded the mushroom idol (a magical item which causes mushrooms to grow more plentifully, and the price of our GQ allies’ help). He shiftily agreed to take us to it – not out-right lying, but he certainly would have taken an opportunity to fuck us over if one had presented itself. We strode forward to dispatch him and he dropped a ton of dirt from the ceiling to block his escape route.
Allard and Fronc couldn’t move it. Amara, who had cast Alter Self [15 ft burrow speed] and grown a set of magnificent claws, dug most of the way through it. Sovan Shattered it – revealing the two rebels who had been holding the wall shut and who were currently reeling from Sovan’s shatter. We killed them.
We found evidence that the shaman had burrowed away, but couldn’t follow the trail. We took the existing tunnel down to try to find him. We ran into two rebel GQ who yielded to Sovan’s terrifying bulette and JP’s Spiritual Guardians. They led us to where the mushroom idol had been stored, although the shaman had clearly been and gone by the time we got there. They told us the likeliest places to look when we reached the looting stage of our attack (mainly precious metals buried in the ground or stored in the leaders’ rooms on the top floor of the fort) and we released them.
We rushed back up to the surface to try to cut the shaman off before he could escape with the mushroom idol. Sovan cast Enlarge on Amara [25 ft burrow speed] and up we tunnelled. We breached the surface and saw about a dozen GQ and no shaman. They were gathering themselves to run, but sent off a volley of crossbow bolts on our appearance.
Brier conjured a Fog Cloud. Sovan pulled out a shawm and began to play shrill, shrieking music with it [26 intimidate]. Rowan strode out of the fog and yelled that we would let them go if they told us where the shaman went. JP followed him out. The rest of us loitered around under cover. There was a tense moment. Then one of them stepped forward and agreed to lead us to a hiding place where the shaman had likely gone, in exchange for our sparing the rest of them.
The shaman stood at the top of a huge, stony hill. He saw us approach, saw that we were being led by one of his own, and waited. We shouted that we would spare him if he gave us the mushroom idol. We told him that there was another Fireball if he didn’t. He tossed down the item. He asked after his followers – if we had killed them all. We told him that many had surrendered and lived.
We elicited his side of the story – what had caused the schism between the groups. He looked disdainfully at Allard and Fronc, then wearily approached us and sat down. The story we got was that the GQ had originated as two distinct groups. They had joined about 10-15 years ago because of the threat from the millitaurs. About 5 years ago, this shaman had fallen out with another lead shaman – he’d picked a fight with her and lost, although he never really said what the fight was about. His supporters kept fighting hers but were outnumbered 2 to 1. Eventually, there was a fight that killed a few people. He took the mushroom idol and left with his followers.
The story came out vague and disjointed. I cast Detect Magic to check for enchantment and saw that all four of the GQ were showing signs of lingering magic – not a discrete spell, just a greater concentration of the untyped background magic that permeates everything. The mushroom idol had mostly conjuration magic, as expected, but also had a hint of this other kind.
We questioned the shaman specifically about the idol – apparently they’d had it for many years, most of the time that they’d been working together. The shaman couldn’t recall where they’d gotten it, which was strange because – well, you’d think you’d remember getting an object that you’re clearly willing to kill for. Neither could his supporter, Allard, or Fronc. We tried to convince the shaman that it was weird that they couldn’t recall, which mostly convinced them that we were weird.
We set up JP to cast Protection from Good and Evil and Sovan to cast Countercharm. Amara cast Detect Magic to observe any changes. What she described was amazing; she saw the very nature of – the logic of – the corruption [41 arcana check! 41!]. Their behaviour was a manifestation of the corruption that had wormed its way into them – not a pierce of magic that could be dispelled, but something that had rooted itself deep within them and shaped them. The illogical split between the groups is a symptom of their corruption. They hadn’t even divided into their original groups – that story is something they tell themselves to make sense of their otherwise inexplicable behaviour. They couldn’t remember getting the mushroom idol because it had gotten caught up in their story and they could barely conceive of a time before they owned it. Over about 5 years, their brains had been irreversibly and inescapably rewritten to be unable to stand each other. Not heartening to know that the corruption is actively worsening, at least near the tower.
We tried to negotiate peaceable relations – separate forts, with a lot of distance between them; application of Plant Growth to provide more food; each side committing to only fighting the other in self-defence. The shaman clearly understood the logic of it and was trying to agree, but just couldn’t. The corruption had warped them too much to be reasoned with.
We discussed options. The other side had promised to join us against the banded. Their strength would be sapped by on-going civil war with the rebels. Removing the rebel’s last shaman would massively stabilize our allies. The debate went in circles with no satisfactory answer. Finally the dissenters stopped dissenting. We killed the shaman. This follower attacked us. I yelled to her that we had killed the shaman because he was dangerous, but that she didn’t have to die. I told her we would let her live if she ran. She ran. Allard and Fronc attacked. I yelled at them to desist but they were unable to stop themselves from shooting after her, and then chasing her down. I fervently, if only momentarily, considered casting offensive magic at the allies with whom we had just risked our lives. Instead I stood and passively watched them murder someone who I had promised safety to, twice, and who had volunteered to go with us to spare her companions. Rah-rah, go team.
We shuffled around uselessly for a little while. I mostly busied myself trying to not look at either of the corpses. We got a jeweled bracelet off of the shaman and some valuable metals from a cache in his hidey-hole. Can barely kill anybody around here without turning a profit. Amara went to find Sovan, who had wandered off during the debate. Then Amara and Sovan came running back following by a cloud of insects. There are some aspects of Silanya that do rather incline one towards pathetic fallacy. They had been sitting in a little hollow in the hill, apparently, which was actually the mouth to a cave inhabited by some sort of yellow-jacket.
Amara roasted many with Burning Hands and then JP tromped over with his Spirit Guardians and that was that. They were pretty tough – I cast a decent Sleep spell [25 HP of creatures] and only affected two of them. They’re also poisonous [DC 11 con check].
Allard and Fronc were getting agitated to bring the mushroom idol back to their group. We didn’t have any strong objections. We went back, handed over the idol, and were assured of their intention to honour their promise to fight against the banded with us.
In the morning we went back to the rebel fort for a traditional post-victory sacking. The archers were back on the walls. Not sure if that was deliberate strategy or the corruption not letting them adapt. We left it.
We went down-river to go free the ent – referred to here as Broadleaf as its full name is, to be frank, quite beyond me. Broadleaf seemed pleased to see us – because of how quickly we had returned (NB: it was several months). We all climbed into its branches, Sovan cast Fly, and off we went. Easily the most fun part of this expedition. We didn’t even have to kill any prisoners.
We flew for ten minutes to more solid ground. Broadleaf planted itself by the river near the lake in the middle of the eastern plains. I believe it intends to head into the Dark Forest for now, although it has pledged us its help.
We travelled up to the Blazing Banner fort after that accompanied by a harrowing illusion of Ezra Argent, provided by Sovan. Apparently Ezra had quite impressed them on a previous mission – he’d even stared down a cavalry charge and broken their morale. We turned up at the gates and explained to the four guards there that Ezra was back in town but communicating long-distance via our Moste Powerful Magicks. Ezra glared at each of them individually. Two discreetly slunk off. The other two steeled their nerves and demanded to know if we had brought them demon ichor, as agreed. We handed over a sample and assured them that we were fearsome demon killers who had barrels of the stuff back home – if they wanted to trade for it. Their shamans gain power from it. They told us to bring the barrels to their fort. We tried to hammer out the details of exactly what they would offer for it, but they just told us to bring it and they would give us something. Not big on negotiation. Seem to see bargaining as either disrespectful and/or degrading.
They confirmed that they would fight with us against the banded, now that we’d proven ourselves as demon-killing warriors. Then they asked if we could settle the matter of which of us would lead that fight. Single combat between our champion and theirs.
We and the Blazing Banner would each put forward a champion, and a second to support them magically before the fight. Brier lent Sovan his magic gauntlet and Sovan used it to Bless JP.
Amara went through the increasingly large crowd trying to get them to bet on the fight. Sovan helped get them riled up. By the end, they’d laid out 400 GP worth of money and valuables.
A truly enormous Blazing Banner came out, following by a shaman. Sovan buffed up JP with Bless and an Inspiration. The shaman took some ichor and traced it along his own arm, then touched the champion, who shook and stretched, hefted his giant war club, and stepped forward..
JP opened the fight by casting Heat Metal on the BB’s chainmail 20 damage, then follows up with a spiritual hammer crit, 9 damage.
Bb throws himself at JP, making three wild swings, reckless attack, surprisingly light on his feet, one hits JP through a Shield.
JP follows up with more Heat Metal, and a guiding bolt.
The BB misses three more times.
JP heats metal again, but misses with guiding bolt – BB was moving very, very quickly and sidestepped it.
The BB lands another hit, even after JP used Shield again.
JP heated metal again and cast another guiding bolt that caught the champion full in the chest. He staggered back and dropped to a knee. The crowd, which had been cheering wildly up to this point, seemed very taken aback. JP approached and offered his hand, then pulled the – and I cannot stress this enough – absolutely massive warrior to his feet. The champion gave JP his token. All very manly and brusque.
They honoured their bet and the leadership confirmed that we would lead in the fight against the Banded.
Our mission completed, we returned to town. We saw a group of BB along the way, who acknowledged us but didn’t stop to talk, and then we were back at the wall.
I saw some wonderful things I would never have expected to, saw some terrible things that I really should have seen coming, and got some loot. Much blood and tears were shed. Pretty typical expedition, I assume.