Saturday, March 25, 2017

Far Isles Session #58 - Death Among the Fishes

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar Pretty Bird
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 5)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

Once inside the room with their paralyzed comrades, (plus the bodies of the slain chief and witch-doctor), Jaz, Rodrigo and Abdul el Abdul spiked the door shut to better keep out unwanted visitors. And while waiting for the paralysis to pass, they gave the room a good going over. There was no furniture, just piles of mangy sleeping furs on the floor. Scattered about a fire pit were also numerous bowls and gourds, while on the walls was a wooded rack full of skulls, some newer furs, and dangling charms of bone. Jaz rooted around in the furs and then checked out the skulls, finding a handful of gems hidden inside one of the decorative craniums. Abdul el Abdul searched the two bodies, and was disappointed to find nothing of interest. The trio then looked about for another exit. The smoky and soot-stained room suggested there wasn't even  smoke hole of any consequence, and a search for secret doors confirmed the only way they were getting out was the same way they came in.

And speaking of the door, there was now noticeable activity outside. Feet moving past, sounds of low voices and some other uncertain activity. They soon found out what was going on: the sound of flames crackling and smoke creeping under the door told them someone was trying to smoke them out. The three wet some of the furs and stuffed them under the door to block the smoke, while Abdul el Abdul smashed some skulls to make bone caltrops to spread in front of the entrance just in case. The room was soon filling rapidly with smoke, and there was only a foot or two of fresh air left at floor level when the paralyzed party members finally stirred. With everyone back in fighting form, fighting is the form they chose. Abdul el Abdul hammered the spikes out of the door, and threw it wide open. Outside on the balcony they could faintly see human forms through the haze, fanning the flames and driving the smoke into the room. Abdul el Abdul stabbed blindly into the smoke, and cut down one of the forms, while Corvus shot and paralyzed another with a poisoned arrow. Finally, Kwinsea fired off another fear blast, and the rest of their foes starting running for the exit.

The party let them go, deciding to focus on what they could find deeper in the temple instead of tangling once more with the blasted natives. After quickly breezing through the three rooms off the north balcony (all of which were similar to the chiefs room in terms of contents), the party them formed up and marched into the tunnel below the great carved face. They did not get far before running into a crudely built wall of stone, which had a great stone slab laid upright against it. With some rope, grappling hooks and muscle power, Abdul el Abdul and Corvus hauled it down with a BANG! It was covering a crude opening, through which the party now passed. As the corridor twisted back and forth, they examined the floor, noting signs in the dust ages of the recent passage of human feet. In particular, Corvus noted at one point that the footprints moved to the side of the corridor, avoid the centre altogether. The party wisely decided to do the same, assuming there was some foul trap waiting in the middle. They came to an old wooden door. They first listened, then Awg searched it for traps. The calmonari noted nothing, so Abdul el Abdul added another door to his 'battered down' list, and the party moved on in.

In the centre of this room stood a 4' tall pedestal, on top of which sat a stone box with two hinged doors. The box itself was nondescript, except it was carved with some sort of alien or inhuman abstract geometric patterns. On the floor next to it was a scatting of sticks made of human femurs, a trio of gem inlaid bowls and bits of other old debris. Another door stood on the far wall. Chaff scooped up the bowls (and a few of the bones) as he looked around the floor. The little vivimancer observed that the dust was very disturbed in front of the pedestal, but barely so in front of the other door. A check beyond that door revealed a collapsed corridor; which, after a short time shifting rubble, the party decided to ignore. So it was back to the box on the pedestal. Based on the tales told by Oltau and other hints in the room, the party figured the mind-controlling god-statue was hidden inside the box. Realizing that looking at the statue would be bad news, the party hatched a plan. They all stood behind the pillar, on the opposite side from the box' doors.  Kwinsea held up her mirror so they could see, and Abdul el Abdul opened up the box. Inside was a small statue of gold and coral, depicting a humanoid with a smooth head, large eyes, a tentacled sphinctered mouth, and a body that ended in three long tentacles with flukes. Abdul poked it with a gantlet-ed hand, and the statue wobbled a bit. Well, at least it wasn't nailed down. So Awg hauled out a sack, held it below the statue, which Abdul then proceeded to topple into the bag before wrapping it tightly and placing it in his backpack.

With no where else obvious to go, they party backtracked to the stone slab. There, curious about the 'trap' in the hallway, they grabbed a few heavy stones and tossed them at the floor. After a few hits the floor gave way with a crash, quickly followed by a splash. Looking down into the resulting hole in the floor, the party could see water below. This looked like a job for aquatic Awg and his levitating sword. Tied off with a rope just in case, Awg floated down into the hole, finding him/herself in a water filled room. Looking up, he could see that some rotted beams had given causing the ceiling/floor to collapse. The calmonari poked around the room  a bit, noting that the water was about 4' deep and that a small school of albino fish swarm about below. Awg used the calmonari charm on them, but learned little other than the fish were hungry. A passage led north, and Awg headed that way to explore, passing a half dozen small cells with rusty bars before coming to an east-west corridor. With no obvious danger, Awg called for the rest of the party to climb down the rope, and they were soon all chest deep in water (except Chaff, who floated along on a door Corvus had been using as a mantlet.)

The party now decided to split up, with Abdul el Abdul and Awg Wahman headeing left down the corridor, and the rest checking out a door at the east end of the corridor. Corvus forced the door, which opened into a huge water filled chamber. Probing forward, he noticed the water got much deeper, so Kwinsea volunteered to go for a swim and check it out. She discovered that the water was about 15' deep, but had little chance to search more as she was surprised by the appearance of three albino sharks. Two clamped down great bites on the aquamancer before she was hauled out of the water by Corvus, who then slammed the door shut to keep their attackers barred in the room.

Meanwhile, Abdul and Awg followed the flooded corridor, coming to spot where the passage continued up a short staircase to a platform above the water level. The platform was only about 20' long, at which point stairs led down into the water again. At this point, hearing Kwinsea's screams, the two backtracked to meet the rest of the party.  After binding the aquamancer's wounds, everyone decided the continue along the corridor rather than risk the door and the sharks again. Coming again to the platform, the front rank of Abdul el Abdul and Rodrigo were just starting to descend into the water when they noticed a frenzy of activity below the surface. They retreated just as a pair a giant piranhas broke the surface and madly hurled themselves half out of the water at the two warriors.  The pair stood their ground, slashing away at the toothed fish. Chaff, meanwhile, cast instinct on the two, forcing one to forego attacking the fighters to instead try putting some moves on the other piranha.  Alas, it's place was taken by a previously unseen third fish, and the already weakened Abdul el Abdul was taken down by vicious fishes before the rest of the party finished them off.

TOTAL XP
7220

GAINS
5 gems
3 gem inlaid bowls
gold and coral statue of some sphincter-mouthed monstrosity

KILLS
2 Native Warriors
3 Giant Albino Piranha

LOSSES
Abdul el Abdul

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Far Isles Session #57 - Taboo Temple Assault, Part Deux

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar Pretty Bird
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 5)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

The paralyzed members of the party recovered as Jaz, Rodrigo and Corvus rowed across the lake. By the time the two dugouts came in view of the village, the party was fully awake and functional. Their appearance on the lake immediately provoked activity in the village, and a line of spear-armed warriors soon appeared, standing knee deep in the water and along the veranda of a large building on stilts which stood in the lake. The party stood, showing their weapons free hands as a sign of peace. This was answered by a volley of spears from the warriors, all of which fell short and splashed into the water.  The party stopped rowing, and Kwinsea did her best to say "We come in peace" in the doggerel pidgin she'd used on the temple natives. After a little while, a pair of older men appeared on the veranda. They were the "Talking Chief" Faro and the witch doctor Umlat, and they beckoned for the party to come ashore in peace.

The Chief
The party landed, offering the captured Oltau as a peace offering. As they turned the bone warrior over to the villagers, the party noticed everyone they saw was either older or very young. Even the warriors who had confronted them on the beach were well past their prime. As Umlat and the villagers hauled Oltau up the beach where a large bonfire was being prepared, the party questioned Faro about the absence of young people. Faro replied the party must come with him to consult with the true chief. And with that, the old man led them to the large council house out on the lake. There, Faro reverently approached an alcove at the end of the hut, where sat a small well worn statue of an old man. Faro proceeded to address this 'chief', asking him for guidance on what he should tell the party. He seemed to get some reply (although the party heard nothing), for after a few minutes Faro agreed to tell the party about 'Taboo Island'. For generations, the tribe has not gone to the island; he offered no reason beyond 'it is taboo', but did note it was once the abode of old, evil gods. Some months ago, a group of young warriors broke taboo and crossed the lake. At first the tribe assumed they were destroyed by the taboo. But then the raids began. Groups of the renegade warriors would sneak into the village at night and take the young and strong, until the tribe was left as it was today.  Faro, knowing the party had already been to the island, asked if they would return and deal with the renegade tribesmen. He was unclear if he wanted them captured and returned or simply killed off; taboo, it seemed, prevented him from being precise about that.

Abdul el Abdul, meanwhile, has stayed on the beach to watch the proceedings there. In addition to
the bonfire, the rest of the tribe started cooking fires, and soon had a feast of fish, baked yam and turtle soup ready to go. Umlat had supervised the bonfire, which was fanned to blazing hot and forced to burn down quickly, leaving only warm grey ash. Into this Oltau was thrown and rolled around in the remains of the fire until he was coated in grey ash and mild burns. Umlat put one hand on Oltau's face and muttered some words. The witch doctor then declared the warrior 'purified', but still under some kind of enhancement. The witch doctor ordered him bound until he could call on the power of the Lord of the Sky to break the enchantment in the morning.The party was then feasted by the village and scattered among the village huts to rest until morning. 

Next morning, Umlat once more went through some rituals with Oltau and broke the charm which held him in thrall. Questioned, the bone warrior revealed that when he was captured in the one the first raids, he had been brought to worship in front of a statue. The statue depicted a vaguely amphibious humanoid with a smooth head, large eyes and a tentacled, splintered mouth.  After that, the bone warrior become a servant of the 'old gods', charged along with the rest of the renegade tribe with reviving the gods cruel empire.

After hearing the story, Faro once more asked the party to deal with the renegade tribe. To which the party agreed; they were going that way anyhow. Faro offered anything the village could provide to help, but no warriors would accompany them. The taboo still held. The party did get some samples of paralytic poison, as well as  antidote to help protect against the poison of the renegade tribesmen. They then chose to wait until nightfall, and carried their dugouts away from the village, fearing they might be observed by those on the island if they left from the village proper. Reaching the island, they ignored the obvious entrance, and landed on the opposite side. From there they trekked back to the temple, looking for the smoke hole which opened into the main temple chamber. They found it hidden away behind some tumbled ruins. Glancing below, they could see the net back in place. Huddled around the fire were a number of sleeping forms, mostly woman and children. Pacing around were also 4-6 alert guards. The party decided to try a little surprise this time. Rodrigo would stay at the hole, and drop down a few small bombs made using the party's remaining gunpowder. Taking advantage of the confusion caused by the explosions, the party would rush the temple through the main entrance, and take control of the balconies. 

Initially, all went according to plan; bombs exploded, confusion ensued, and the party rushed the balconies. Kwinsea, Corvus and Awg hit the north balcony; Chaff, Jaz, Rodrigo and Abdul el Abdul hit the south. This time they found no one there, but did observe a number of doors leading to who-knows-where. Down below, the guards started to lob spears, while the woman and children ran for the exit; the party responded with laser and crossbow fire. Rodrigo also cut part of the net free from above, and swung down to join the fray. At the same time, the rest of the party cut the other ropes, dropping the net onto several of the warriors below. 

At this point, the plan started to go south. Out of a door on the south balcony burst the chief, his henchman and the witch doctor. Before the party could respond, the witch doctor cast a spell on the northern balcony, holding all three party members there. In response, Chaff cast a web, trapping the witch doctor and one of the henchmen; the witch doctor was eventually hacked to death. Abdul el Abdul, isolated on the far side of the web from the rest of the party, charged in to fight the one henchman facing him. Jaz, Rodrigo and Chaff turned their attentions to the chief. [Chaff also sent Pretty Bird to examine the giant human face carved in the wall over the exit tunnel; the familiar found holes in place of the eyes and observed another dust filled room beyond.] The fight against the chief was going well, and the big warrior was soon slain; but more danger arrived. On the floor below, the entangled warriors got out from under the net and charged the south balcony. One struck Chaff and paralyzed the sub-tall vivimancer.  Meanwhile, one of the doors on the north balcony opened, and a half dozen archers appeared, surrounding the held party members. They made signs that they would kill the prisoners if the party continued to fight, so a truce was called. After some back and forth pantomime, the party offered to trade the webbed chief's henchman for Kwinsea. The warriors agreed, and the tense trade was done. As soon as the archers backs were turned, however, Jaz grabbed the wand of fear from Kwinsea's hand, and loosed some magical terror on them. Most of wariors turned and ran back into the room from which they'd emerged. The chiefs henchman and one other warrior ran into the tunnel leading deeper into the temple complex, while two others tried to jump off the balcony and join them, but broke their necks in the fall. With the great hall temporarily in their control, Jaz, Rodrigo and Abdul el Abdul gathered up their held and paralyzed comrades, then retreated to the chief's room, barring themselves in to await their companions recovery.

TOTAL XP
1040

GAINS
nil

KILLS
5 Native Warriors
1 Renegade Chief
1 Chief's henchman
1 Witch Doctor

LOSSES
nil

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Far Isles Session #56 - Fear Factor

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 5)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

As the late afternoon sun began to dip low over the crater rim, the party tied ropes around some of the stone ruins so they could to lower themselves over the side of the hill to the temple entrance below. As the rest of the party descended, Rodrigo and Corvus elected to remain above to watch their backs. The party found themselves standing at the waters edge, with a pair of dugout canoes tied to rickety bamboo piers behind them, and two wide steps in front that led to a landing lined with pillars. Beyond this were a trio of narrow steps leading to another landing and the entrance itself. Shoved into cracks in the red marble of the landing were a series of bamboo poles topped with shrunken heads, skulls, and the odd unidentifiable jawbone. Climbing up to the second platform,  on either side of the steps there was a large stone foot, the remains of a statute that once straddled the stairs. An opening led from this platform into the side of the hill, and a bas-relief of a human holding a lighted brazier was carved in the cliff face to ether side. Abdul el Abdul went over to the left carving to size it up and noticed there were small openings in place of the eyes. Chaff shuffled over and sent Pretty Bird up to have a look. Inside was a very dusty and cobwebbed room, obviously not touched for a millennia. That seemed like a good place to check first, so the party formed up and marched into the darkness.

They did not get far before a pile of debris narrowed the tunnel to a single file squeeze. There was no obvious sign of a ceiling collapse, so they surmised the rubble must have been placed here deliberately. "It's a trap!" exclaimed Awg. Chaff shielded the light coin to let Jaz look ahead with her infravision. Far ahead, at the limits of sight, was a faint glow of fire. Close at hand, beyond the rubble, the elf could see a trio of figures lying in wait. With this new intelligence, the party formed their plan. Kwinsea cast a seasong to lull the three guards into slumber, while Chaff cast meld flesh in an (unsuccessful) attempt to bind them together. No matter; the heavily armored Jaz was ordered forward through the gap to take care of the dozing men. But as she passed the end of the rubble pile, a spear thrust out, glancing off her armor. It would seem they missed one guard, a mighty champion clad in bone armor. Abdul pushed forward to join Jaz in combat. The native warrior was tough, fighting the two even after being hit several times. He also landed a solid jab with his spear on Jaz, who immediately froze; paralyzed. At this point, one of the dozy guards awoke and joined the fray. Worried for the elf's life, Abdul pulled her out of combat, while Awg slapped on his/her demon mask, summoned the power of the new cutlass to levitate above the fight and opened up with laser fire with his/her pistol. This took out the newly awakened guard, while Chaff pushed forward to cast the instinct of fear on the champion. That caused the mighty warrior to turn and run down the tunnel away from the party.

The party paused briefly to dispatch the last two natives. When Jaz did not recover right away, she was left in Pretty Bird's care near the entrance as the rest of the party pushed on without delay. Once more they did not have to go far, bursting into a huge fire-lit chamber. The fire burned in the centre of the room, below an opening in the ceiling covered by a huge net. A balcony ran along the perimeter of the chamber, accessible by stairs on either side of the entrance. It was high enough that it was difficult to see what, if anything, was up there.  Clustered just beyond the fire was a line of native warriors, spears pointed menacingly at the party. Beyond them in one corner quivered the feared champion, while a cluster of woman cowered in the opposite corner. Retreating a little to stand in the entrance, Kwinsea tried speaking to the wariors. And surprisingly, they understood her mismatched native pidgin well enough to communicate. As Awg levitated menacingly and Chaff cast a sparkly cantrip on himself, the aquamancer alternately threatened them with 'mighty magics' and questioned who they were and what they were doing in the ruined temple. She learned they were there to serve the gods of the temple, and they were awestruck enough to lower their weapons and offer to take the party to see the gods, so they too could serve them. After a murmured discussion, the party decided to trust them, and started to head across the room.

They made it as far as the fire before the native perfidery was revealed. Hidden at the corner of the balcony, four men cut the ropes holding the weighted net, such that it dropped onto the party below. Awg, Chaff and Abdul el Abdul were trapped in the net, while Kwinsea rolled out of the way just in time. The native warriors advanced to stab at the trapped adventurers, and on the balcony above there appeared a line of bowman, as well as what appeared to be the chief and his henchman, plus the tribal witch-doctor.  Abdul el Abdul was able to untangle Awg from the ropes, while Chaff cast a web spell on a pair of attackers. The trio then started to crawl out from under the net, but each was stabbed and paralyzed, just like Jaz. This left Kwinsea, who first cast a lightning bolt to cut down most of the attackers on the main floor (and scorching the still cowering champion in the process).  She then whipped out her wand of fear, crying "fear our mighty magic!!" and took aim at the chief. He, the witch-doctor and one of the henchman turned and fled back out of sight. This threw the bowman into disarray, and they too pulled back from the edge in confusion. The two remaining chiefs' henchman were not perturbed, and rushed at the wand wielding wizardess. Kwinsea dodged a blow from one, and then drove both off with successive blasts from the wand.

Danger for now averted, Kwinsea started to pull her paralyzed companions down the tunnel and back to the water's edge. There she found Jaz just awaking, and the two started to load the rest of the party into the dugouts to escape across the lake. Just as they were finishing, the bone clad champion burst onto the steps, followed by five more tribesmen. Kwinsea was struck and paralyzed. The elf dropped the five natives with  sleep spell, but the bone warrior advanced to attack. He was already well battered, however, so the elf knocked him out cold with the flat of her sword and then securely tied and bound her fallen foe. With that, Jaz hauled Kwinsea and the bone warrior into the last canoe, swung around the headland to pick up Rodrigo and Corvus, and then pulled hard for the village on the mainland.  

TOTAL XP
1320

GAINS
nil

KILLS
1 bone-armored champion (captured)
1 chief's henchamn
12 native warriors

LOSSES
none (not permanently at least)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Far Isles Session # 55 - Up, Down, and all Around

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy

Due to the increasingly cool and dry air, Awg's amphibious skin needed immersion to regenerate. With Abdul el Abdul along as a guard, the calmonari retreated back to the waterfall pool for a good long soak. In the meantime, the rest of the party focused on finding a way inside the cone; one that did not involve a half-day airlift with the ebony fly. Running low on food, they elected to leave the four crossbowman at base camp and tasked them with hunting up some vittles. The rest of the party decided to investigate the few areas of woodland, scavenging nuts and berries as they went, hoping to find a hidden way into the volcanic crater. They had little luck in their exploration. Two days of wandering from copse to copse uncovered nothing. Except the creepy way the trees retreated from their campfire on the first night; they elected to camp in the open after that.

Mastodon
The party spent the next couple of days gathering nuts and berries while exploring the open grassland of the plateau. The sky remaining clear, they were able to check the view off the northern and eastern edge. To the north, there was nothing to see except more rugged mountains. The view to the east was more interesting however. They could see the upper course of the main river below, including the multiple cascades that poured off the mountains. All this water spilled into a flooded sunken valley nestled between the plateau and the mountains. More interesting were the obvious signs of intelligent life; the flooded valley was crisscrossed by a square grid of raised causeways, and at about a dozen intersections there rose large, steep-sided mounds. Some appeared to be topped with 'man'-made structures. Figuring they could at least get some information from he inhabitants, the party decided to loop back to base camp to pick up the mercenaries, then head back across the bridge and down into the valley. Along the way, they encountered a herd of 7-8 mastodons grazing near the edge of the plateau. Chaff, in a mischievous mood, summoned the ebony fly and proceeded to buzz the herd. This set off a a wild panic among the woolly pachyderms, and Chaff started to coral them towards the cliff edge. Without slowing down, the huge bull at the head of the herd tumbled over the edge with a bellow, which was enough to frighten the rest away from danger. The herd split in two and ran north and south along the precipice. Chaff, meanwhile, triumphantly flew out over the edge hoping to see his kill, having forgotten it was a 3000' drop to the base of the plateau. All dreams of mastodon steaks over the campfire were forgotten.

Pteranodon
Back at base camp, the party found they were short one crossbowman. Apparently a boar hunting trip went wrong, leaving Alfred the crossbowman gored and dead.  The hirelings did manage to catch some smaller game, so the food situation was a little less dire than before. Packing up camp, the party headed for the rope bridge. Crossing it was a little more challenging this time; halfway across, a pair of huge pteranodon approached from across the valley, quite obviously with hostile intent. The two winged reptiles took turns diving at the trapped party. Thankfully, they did little harm; one of the hirelings gained a new scar, and both Corvus and Chaff had close calls. The usual barrage of pistols and lasers, bolts and arrows inflicted terrible damage on the terrible beasts, plus a command rope from Kwinsea and web from Chaff sent the two plummeting into the gorge below.

The party got to the end of the bridge, then crossed the river to the north side once more using the ring of water walking. After a few more hours of climbing, they came to the crest of the ridge and found themselves looking down on the flooded valley. Heading downhill, they picked up the end of one of the causeways and headed towards an 'inhabited' mound. As they got closer, they noticed several raised farms in the flooded water. On one, figures could be seen hoeing, weeding  and so on. Kwinsea, being the linguist of the group, called out a greeting in all her known languages. But there was neither response, nor acknowledgement. Observing the  people more closely, the party now noted while they seemed fairly well dressed, physically they were in hard shape. And a shift of the breeze brought a smell of rotting flesh; they were zombies. That made everyone nervous, so Chaff sent Pretty Bird aloft to check out the mound before they walked into a trap. Through the parrots eyes, the vivimancer could see a cluster of stone buildings atop the mound. They seemed to be of ancient construction, patched and repaired more recently. In a clearing there was a large party forming up; several formations of zombie soldiers, a palanquin similar to the one they encountered in the main river valley, and a cluster of better dressed and apparently alive people. As Chaff/Pretty Bird watched, this formation started down a steep set of stairs towards the causeway and the party.

Not sure what to expect, the party stepped off the causeway and into the shallow water as the
T'sin, Lord of Moku
palanquin and guards approached. The procession stopped when they reached the party, and the zombie bearers set the palanquin on the ground before lifting the flaps. Inside sat an older man, well dressed and with dusky skin. He raised a hand to the party and spoke. It was difficult to understand him at first, but Rodrigo soon figured out the language was vaguely related to that of the Tanaroa natives. The speaker's name was T'sin, leader of the Moku tribe. A conversation ensured, and the party learned there were four others tribes of the Q'uitchin in the valley. They all lived on separate hill/mounds, and used zombie labour to do all the hard work while the living had a life of luxury. The dead became the property of the tribal leader to be brought back for a 'second life' to serve the tribe. They had lived this way for many many years, since the days of the 'empire of the masters'. When questioned about the masters, T'sin showed a medallion he wore, depicting a bulbous inhuman face with pupil-less eyes and a sphincter-like mouth surrounded by tentacles. The tribe had had no contact with 'the masters' in many generations, but still followed their commands. One of which was to maintain the rope bridge, but taboo prevented them from actually setting foot on the plateau. When asked about the inhabitants of the volcanic cone, T'sin expressed surprise than there was anyone there.  The party also asked about any caves or tunnels that lead up to the crater, and were disappointed to hear there were none.

The Moku seemed friendly enough, and Chaff inquired if the party could stay the night and get some supplies as well. After consulting with his advisers, T'sin agreed, asking only that, if any of the party fell in their coming exploration of the crater, their bodies would become property of the tribe to be brought back for a 'second life'. That made Rodrigo nervous, with visions of daggers in the night and the party entering an eternity of zombie servitude. Convinced by the swashbucklers paranoia, the party decided to backtrack to the ridge above the river to camp for the night. As dawn approached and Chaff stood watch, the little vivimancer noted movement in the bushes below. He awoke the rest of the party, who formed up just as a trio of huge dire wolves burst out of the brush. Swords flashed, tidal force and instinct were cast, and in the end the party had one dead dire wolf while the others had fled.

Given their food situation, the party spent most of the day making dire wolf jerky, before once more crossing the rope bridge. Picking up Abdul el Abdul and Awg along the way, they once more marched to the base of the volcanic cone. Having exhausted their others options, the party decided the best way in was to take the chance running shuttle service with the ebony fly. So much of the next day was spent flying back and forth, until by mid-afternoon the whole party was on the island in the middle of the crater lake without incident. They'd chosen to arrive out of sight of both the village and the temple, hunkering down amidst tumbled stone walls and weather worn statues. Once everyone as finally in one place, the party carefully wove their way across the ruins to the cliff above the temple entrance ....


TOTAL XP
3790

GAINS
nil

KILLS
1 mastodon
2 pteranodon
1 dire wolf AKA wolf jerky

LOSSES
Alfred the Intrepid Crossbowman

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Far Isles Session # 54 - High Cliffs and Volcanic Cones

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 5)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

The next morning, the party took a few moments to bury the dead crossbowman before walking through the ash to the shallow valley the zombies had started from. There they found the remains of a campsite buried under the same grey ash. There was some suspicion that the campfire could have been responsible for the ash, but closer investigation confirmed it emanated from a smoking cinder cone on the other side looming peaks. Since no one wanted to wait around to see if the volcano erupted again, Chaff sent Pretty Bird aloft to scout the way. The parrot came back to report the river split into three streams ahead; a small fordable stream to the north-west, and a pair of roaring torrents to the north-east and east, both of which emerged from deep canyons. It looked possible to follow both larger streams by climbing the ridges above, so the party elected to cross to the right bank of the river, ford the small stream and head north-east towards the purported position of the plateau. 

As the parted started to climb up the side of the gorge, Awg spied possible danger to the east. There,
Dino Attack!!!!
coming down the ridge above the second canyon, was a covered palanquin carried by 8 human or humanoid figures. Of more interest, however, was the giant dinosaur stalking behind it. As the party watched, the great saurian beast grabbed one the figures in it's maw, and after a moment of two of gnawing, flicked the now partly dismembered body away. It repeated this three more times, while the rest of the bearers continued on, unaware and unconcerned. The dinosaur, apparently not impressed with the potential meal, stomped past the palanquin and proceeded ahead of it down the main river valley, towards the ships and the sea. There was some debate within the party whether they should try capturing this impressive dinosaur, but in the end the logistics of hauling it back to the "Purple Haze" convinced them to wait for easier/more accessible prey. There was also some discussion of going after the palanquin, but the risk of running into the massive dinosaur nixed that idea. 

After an uneventful night perched above the canyon, the party continued to climb. When they crested the highest point of the ridge, they could see their goal ahead. A cliff wall, rising high into the concealing clouds, lay ahead of them. Crashing down the side was a waterfall, which appeared to be the source of the river they followed. A lightly wooded meadow slopped up to the base of the cliff. As the party headed across the valley, they passed a copse of trees on their left, between them and the river.  Stumbling out of the treeline came a smaller, yet still vicious-looking dinosaur. It noticed the party, and headed away from them, limping along. The party, worried about what might follow it, ducked into the trees. As they did, however, there came crashing through the undergrowth towards them three more of the nasty creatures. The party reacted quickly, with a cloud of bolts and arrows all concentrated on one creature. Kwinsea used tidal force to push two back, and Chaff dropped a spore cloud on one, which unfortunately did not seem to have an effect. The third slashed out at Corvus with tooth and wicked hind claws, doing grievous damage to the henchman. The crossbowmen then shot down one of the tidal forced dinos, while an insect swarm from Chaff allowed the swords of Awg, Abdul, Rodrigo and Corvus to cut down the individual that chomped on Corvus before it could do further harm. At this point, the fourth 'injured' beast crashed towards them, but a last flight of arrows and bolts convinced the two survivors to turn and run.

Raptors Attack
The party let them go, then proceeded to butcher the fallen to retrieve an impressive collection of teeth and claws. They then continued up the meadow until they reached the base of the waterfall. It ended in a deep pool of water, from which the river emerged. A quick scout around the base of the waterfall revealed no obvious way up, so Awg dove into the pool to look for a passage behind the falls (but to no avail). With the sun dipping low, they set up camp for the night. Next morning, the scouting continued. Chaff sent Pretty Bird up the cliff to scout again. The familiar returned a few hours later to report no signs of a way up the wall. At the top was a grassy plateau, cooler than it was down below. A web of streams crossed the flat surface of the plateau, and in the centre rose a volcanic cone; quite tall with snow and ice at the top. Hoping to find a way up, the party broke camp and marched east around the base of the plateau. There was a short fight with some tiny carnivorous dinosaurs chasing rats, which ended much as the previous days' fight; skillful use of tidal force and two dead dinos. These didn't provide nearly as many interesting trophies though.

Shortly after mid-day, they spied ahead of them a rope bridge. It started on the opposite side of the raging river, and arched overhead before disappearing into the thin cloud that surrounded  the top of the plateau. So the party had to get across the river somehow, unless they wanted to backtrack a few days march to the raft. In the end, they used Corvus' ring of water walking, ferried back and forth by Pretty Bird, to get everyone to the other side. While waiting for everyone to cross, Abdul took the time to look around. There was a faint path running along the edge of the river to the east and west of the bridge, obviously man-made but not heavily traveled. He did see faint signs of recent travel; perhaps the palanquin?

Temple Ruins
After another night in camp, the party arose and tackled the bridge. It was in remarkably good shape considering it was apparently little used. They crossed without incident, and found themselves on the plateau. It was cooler, just as Pretty Bird described. Moving towards the volcanic cone, the party crossed several streams that seemed to merge before tumbling over the edge as the waterfall. Reaching the base of the vlocano, they once more encountered a jagged cliff wall with no obvious way over it. Grumbling, the party spent the day circumnavigating the cone, looking for a way up. By the time they got back to the start, they'd found nothing of interest except for a pair of mastodons in the distance. Chaff then summoned the ebony fly, and Rodrigo volunteered to fly into the volcano to see what there was to see. After a chilly flight, the swashbuckler descended into the unknown. There he found a lake filling most of the crater. On the near edge was a small village of thatched huts, while in the lake itself there was an island covered in ruins. Most of it was just tumbled stone, but on the side facing the village was a temple or similar structure carved into a rock face, with a wide series of steps leading into the side of the hill. There were several canoes at the base of the steps, and more on the beach by the village itself.   Rodrigo then buzzed the village, sending women and children running for cover, while the warriors formed up between the huts and hurled spears at him and the fly (all of which fell short). The warriors then proceeded to shout and jump and  wave their arms at Rodrigo as he banked away and flew back over the ridge to return to the rest of the party ...

TOTAL XP
920

GAINS
nil

KILLS
2 raptor-like dinosaurs
2 small carnivorous dinosaurs

LOSSES
nil

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Far Isles Session #53 - In Search of the City of the Gods

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 4)
Aug Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

Before making a decision on future plans, the first order of business for the party was to sort through the treasure and split up the 'kool loot'. In particular, the pirate cutlass was revealed as magic by Chaff's Kalandrian sight. After some discussion, it was decided that Awg should have the weapon, since his/her only enchanted weapon was the cursed scimitar. The calmonari was surprised, however, when he/she picked up the cutlass and immediately found himself/herself struggling mentally for control of the weapon. It was a sentient sword, inhabited by some gruff buccaneer's spirit. It did grace Awg with the ability to detect metals and levitate, but the calmonari could feel he/she was just barely holding its' will under his/her control.

Sentient Cutlass
With that done, they now needed to decide what to do with the remaining pirates and the captured villagers. Oh, and how/if to honor their deal with the sea dragon. They started with the pirates, giving them a stern talking-to about their evil ways before burning the remaining outrigger canoes and stranding them on the island.  The party also questioned them regarding the whereabouts of their fled captain, and we're told there was a small boat hidden on the other side of the island which he'd probably sailed away in. As for the villagers, the party decided to return them to their homes, and hope that would earn them goodwill and good information from the natives. And on the way, they would meet with the sea dragon and split the loot. After much debate, in the end they decided honesty was the better part of valor, and planned to offer the dragon half the loot recovered from the pirates. They didn't tell the natives about their stop on the way home though, since they seemed to fear the dragon as some blood-thirty god to be placated and best avoided.

Raising sail on both the "Purple Haze" and "Loreman's Passage" (with Corvus and Rodrigo aboard) they headed out to sea. They were still within sight of the island when the dragon's head broke the surface alongside them. Awg, using aquatic telepathy, sensed the greed in the beast once more. The dragon brought it's head down to deck level, and started to sniff the piles of treasure there. It then proceeded to sniff out the rest of the ship, and the "Loreman's Passage". When done, it returned to the "Purple Haze"; Kwinsea cast speak with aquatic animals and started to negotiate. On behalf of the party, she offered half the treasure. The dragon, after a moment of indecision, accepted, and gestured that it should simply be dumped overboard. As the rest of the party took care of the coinage, Awg decided to rid himself of the cursed scimitar and tossed it into the sea as well.  With the transfer complete, Kwinsea asked if there were any other land-treasures they could help it recover. The dragon indicated no, so they prepared to depart. Before doing so, Kwinsea told the dragon about the pirate captain's escape. Awg immediately got a sense of rage, and when pointed in he right direction, the dragon immediately dove and swam off in search of it's foe, leaving the two ships in it's wake.

It took only a day to get back to the Isle of Dread, and to the main village of Tanaroa. It lay on an isthmus, separating the inhabited lower peninsula from the monster infested bulk of the island. A massive stone wall, 50' high, stretched across the isthmus. The village itself lay south of the wall, and consisted of four sets of huts, fields and graveyards, surrounding an earth mound topped by a truncated pyramid. The party, let by the freed captives, was meet by wary crowds. On top of the pyramid stood the village chief (a wizened old woman by the name of J'kai) and the war chief (a massive, scarred warrior named Bakora). In halting Common, J'kai thanked the party and offered the hospitality of the village in payment. The party, however, was more interested in information on the Isle of Dread. J'kai noted the villagers rarely went north of the wall, and then only a few days journey to the tar pits, to gather material for waterproofing and to fill the defensive pits of burning pitch behind the wall. The wall itself was obviously well beyond the technological ability of the natives to build (as were the numerous statues scattered about the village). J'kai stated it has been built by the gods, who once dwelt in a magnificent city on the plateau in the centre of the isle. Now the village relied on it to defend them from the terrible creatures (flying lizards, dinosaurs, cat people, etc) and cannibals north of the wall. She could tell them little about the rest of the island, and when asked, indicated the coast was much like the party had already seen; mountain, swamp and jungle with few good landing places. She did tell them of a great river that flowed out of the centre of the isle, and the party latched onto that as better way to access the interior than slogging through impassible terrain on foot. It also seemed to be a more direct way to the fabled city, so they put dinosaur hunting aside for the moment  to search for another ruined city to loot.
The Wall
After a brief rest in the village, the party set sail north to the river, reaching the spot in one day. They couldn't find the river, however, just a swampy delta. Chaff sent Pretty Bird aloft to scout, and the familiar returned to report the river could be seen a few miles to the north-east, beyond the delta. It flowed from the north-east, down a valley of open meadow and light woods nestled between volcanic peaks. Rather than walk, the party decided to take the raft upriver. And rather than row it themselves, they offered the 5 captive mercenaries from the "Loreman's Passage" 100gp each to come along on the expedition as extra muscle and manual labour. This they accepted, and loading up the raft with two weeks of supplies, the party headed inland, leaving the two ships under Lynessa's command. 

The first day passed uneventfully, at least until the sun began to dip below the western peaks. The river passed close to a talus slope on one of the mountain flanks, at the top of which were a number of cave openings. From which could be heard the sound of bestial roaring. The party decided to stop and explore, spreading out along the slope and climbing up to the caves. They reached to top of the talus, and then had to proceed single file along the edge to approach the caves. As they did so, a smallish cave bear emerged from behind a pile of boulders. It fell upon Abdul el Abdul at the head of the line, slashing with claws and snapping with it's powerful jaws. The crossbowman just behind the fighter spread out down the slope to get in position to engage, while Jaz noted two more bears ambling out of the darkness of the cave, towards the rest of the party. While Abdul and the crossbowman dealt with the first bear, the other two were assailed by a sleep spell from Jaz (no effect), insect swarm from Chaff (which summoned a swarm of biting insects to harass one bear) and tidal force from Kwinsea (which pushed both back into the cave). By this time Abdul and the crossbowman had taken down the first bear, and now joined by Rodrigo and Corvus, turned their blades on the other two bruins, These two were likewise quickly slaughtered, and the party proceeded to explore the caves. These were empty except for bones and scat, and the party decided it would be better to spend the night on the raft.
Cave Bears

Next morning after a breakfast of bear bacon, the party headed upriver again. Again it was uneventful until evening, when they reached the point where the river was too rapid and shallow to continue on the raft. They pulled their transportation up on an ash covered bank, said ash field stretching right up onto the mountain slope above them. And in a hanging valley on that slope was a group of ash covered people, sitting in a circle. That made everyone nervous, so Abdul el Abdul ordered the crossbowmen to fire a volley.  Several bolts hit, raising a cloud of dust from the figures. And caused the figures to now rise themselves and start shambling down the slope. The party formed a firing line, and started laying down a barrage of arrows, bolts, sling stones, pistol shots and laser beams. The figures just kept coming, but some just started to fall to the missile swarm just as they reached the party. Who them proceeded to slash them down, while Chaff entangled some in a gooey mass of web and Rodrigo used his simian sword to summon a trio of baboons out of the hills to tear into the rear of the ash zombies. One of their crossbowman fell, but before too much longer all of the ashy attackers were down.  Examining the bodies, they found they were natives of some sort, wearing tall black wooden masks. And obviously now undead, although it was not clear what if any role the ash played in that circumstances. But all the same, the party once more decided to anchor the raft in midstream to spend the night before proceeding on foot in the morning. 

TOTAL XP
1813

GAINS
nil

KILLS
3 cave bears
17 ash zombies

LOSSES
1 mercenary crossbowman

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Far Isles Session #52 - Dragons and Pirates

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 4)
Aug Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

There was animated discussion among the party regarding where they should first land on the island. The rugged mountains weren't going to work, and Abdul el Abdul, for one, expressed a visceral hatred for any further jungle slogs. They summoned Pablo, the sailor hired off of the "San Lorenzo", to pick his brain. He confirmed this island looked like the one he'd visited on the dinosaur hunting trip. He informed the party that the terrain stayed much the same in both directions; mountainous to the west and jungle/swamp to the east, at least until it also turned mountainous. The "San Lorenzo" did not go all the way around the island, but only a day's sail to both east and west before finding their dinosaur, capturing it and returning to Xin. Based on that information, the decision was made to circumnavigate the island and find the best place to land. First, Rodrigo and Corvus transferred to the "Loreman's Passage" to keep their erstwhile foes in check. The two ships then proceeded east around the island. Staying somewhat offshore to avoid the reefs, they sailed past more mountains, jungle and swamp, as well as signs of villages along the south-eastern edge of the island.

Sea Dragon
Here, they risked a closer look by sailing into a large bay.  As they crossed behind ae barrier reef, however, their exploration was interrupted by a disturbance in the water, several hundred yards ahead. A few moments later, a serpentine head rose above the surface. Turning, it spied the pair of ships and began to swim closer. As it did, Awg Wahmn blurted out "sea dragon!", which gave everyone a chill and sent them scrambling for weapons. The calmonari used his/her aquatic telepathy to determine the creatures intent. Thankfully, it seemed more curious rather than hostile, so Kwinsea cast speak with aquatic animals and, as soon as it pulled close to the "Purple Haze", engaged it in conversation . Although intelligent, the dragon could not speak, so questioning had to be of the 'nod for yes, shake head for no' variety. They learned the sea dragon knew little about the island itself, and that there was another not so friendly sea dragon that dwelt off the northern end of the island. When asked if there was anything the party could do for it on the land, Awg Wahmn sensed a change of emotion to greed as the dragons eyes flashed and it began to get excited. It started to swim, stopping a few times as if to signal the two ships to follow. This they did, and the dragon led them out of the bay to a group of small islands to the west of the main island. Reaching this at sunrise the next day, the dragon started swimming towards the shore of one particular island, then looped back towards the two ships. Awg Wahmn also sensed an increase in the greed emotion, so the party got the idea that there was treasure on that island that the dragon wanted.

Taking the hint, the two ships slowly approached the shore, taking care to not run aground. Which
seemed prudent, for once they were a few hundred yards offshore, they noted an old shipwreck at one end of the beach. Along that beach lay four outrigger canoes, flanked by a pair of watchtowers. A third tower could be seen further inland, atop a low knoll. In the valley between beach and knoll was a collection of grass huts. From their now closer vantage point, the party could see little activity among the huts, but there were definitely people in the towers. Chaff sent Pretty Bird scouting around the edge of the village. The parrot found a thorn fence about 5' high surrounding it, and much more activity as the watchers in the tower started to rouse the rest of the village. After noting one larger and fancier hunt, and dodging an errant crossbow bolt, the bird returned to Chaff to report. It appeared this was not native village; there were no children and everyone looked more like sailors and cutthroats than headhunters.

Shipwreck
Armed cutthroats began to rush to the beach, overturning two of the canoes for cover, and started to lay a barrage of crossbow fire on the "Purple Haze". Lynessa ordered the crew to bring the ship out of range, as the party responded with a catapulted ball of burning pitch (which fell short) and a flight of arrows and bolts (which scored a couple of hits). Aug Wahmn and Kwnisea slipped into the water over the stern and started swimming towards the wreck on the beach. It appeared to have been here for some months at least, as it was partly buried in the sand. There were also signs of salvage, with planks, supplies and sails missing. The duo slipped ashore behind the wreck, and now that everyone's attention was drawn to the two ships off shore, started to move inland towards the fancy hunt, .

Back on the water, the "Purple Haze" lobbed a second ball of burning pitch at the beach. This one scored a direct hit on one of the overturned canoes, and flaming pitch splashed over the sheltering crossbowmen, burning them to cinders.  At about this point, two pirate crews rushed to the remaining canoes and put them in the water, pulling hard to reach the "Purple Haze" before she could do much more damage. As Rodrigo swung across to the "Purple Haze" from the "Loreman's Passage to help (leaving Corvus to keep an eye on the captured ship and crew), Jaz cast a sleep spell. That knocked out the rowers in one canoe, which started to drift back towards the beach. A tall man, obviously the leader, stood in the bows of the second canoe, encouraging the buccaneers to row harder.  Meanwhile, the catapult was ready again. The approaching canoe was too close, so it was fired at the beach, hitting the second overturned canoe and likewise burning the pirates sheltered there to death. The man in the approaching canoe looked at the devastation on the beach, then turned back to look at the "Purple Haze". Reaching over his shoulder, he drew a big two-handed sword and dropped it over the side. He then raised his hands in the air, and his crew stopped rowing and likewise made signs of surrender.

As the rest of the party accepted the surrender of the pirates and started towards the beach in the ship's boat, Awg Wahmn and Kwinsea got into the large hut. It was non-descipt except for the large locked chest to one side. Awg Wahmn was about to pick the crude mechanism,  but inside they found nothing but sails. They then moved on to the inland watchtower, which was deserted. From there, they could see the rest of the party gathering in the surrendering pirates. They also noted a cave opening just to the east of the tower. The two headed back to the beach to meet the rest of the party, and Kwinsea discovered she could understand the pirates strange speech enough to converse. Asked about the cave, the pirate leader indicated their treasure was hidden in there. That was enough to get Chaff, Awg Wahmn and Kwinsea headed that way, with the pirate leader marching point, as Rodrigo, Jaz and Abdul el Abdul tied up the prisoners bad started to check out the rest of the huts. Chaff cast a dim light cantrip on the leaders hat, so when he entered the cave they could see it was pretty much as described; a 40' wide cavern with a large iron box to one side. Suddenly however, the leader dropped to the floor, and a half dozen men swinging cutlasses jumped out of the shadows and fell on the three adventurers. Chaff took a bad hit, and Awh Wahmn was cut down one attacker with his sword. The three then made a tactical retreat, as the pirate leader and 5 survivor men ran deeper into the cave. They didn't get far though, as Kwinsea loosed a lightning bolt into the cave and cut down the 5 pirates. The leader, though hit, kept going, disappearing into a small tunnel dug at the far end.

The Escape Cave
By this time, Rodrigo and Abdul el Abdul arrived. The swashbuckler used his sword of simian summonding to call for some monkey assistance, and sent the hooting pack into the tunnel after the pirate leader. The rest followed, crawling down a tunnel hundreds of feet in length before emerging into a cave, open to the sea, on the far side of the island. There was no sign of their quarry, and the monkeys now drifted back into the jungle, so everyone headed back to the cave. Chaff, having earlier relived the leader of a a key and ring (which turned out to be a ring of water walking), unlocked the chest. Inside was a pile of copper, silver and electrum coins, as well as a fistful of gems, a sword and a scroll case. Puting their prisoners to works, the party started to bag the treasure and carry it back to he ships boat and thence onto the "Purple Haze".

Meanwhile, further search of the huts by Rodrigo had uncovered almost 40 prisoners chained inside. These were natives, captured from the villages the party had recently sailed past, and destined for a life as slaves. Questioned, they revealed dinosaurs could be found on the northern end of the big island, which they called the "Isle of Dread". They also told a tale of  ancient city built in the central highlands of the island. A city built by the gods and said to be filled with treasure beyond imagining ...  


TOTAL XP
4650

GAINS
2000cp
3000sp
4000ep
17gems (1300gp total)
ring of water walking
cutlass +1 [Detect Metal, Levitate 3/day] with a creepy pirate voice 
Scroll - 1/Shield

KILLS
17 pirates (+24 captured)

LOSSES
none