The best laid plans…
…are foiled by flu and fires.
We had grand plans for Pi day. We would all gather to play Pathfinder and eat Pi(e). A good day. We were also going to rescue Numesti from the dungeon, liberate the kingdom from it’s tyrannical leader, and defeat said tyrant and his pet wizard. And yeah, things worked out in the end DESPITE our terrible plans.
Our witch struck down by plague
Poor Eric caught the flu. By Saturday he was doing a bit better but still contagious. Like a trooper he showed up anyway, but over Google Hangouts. I was pretty impressed with Hangouts. It lasted for 10 hours, only dropping once. Eric cold hear us all, we could hear him, and he he could see three of the four of us. Not bad!
Plans to rescue Numesti
Here were a few of the things we did in preparation to rescue Numesti, or die trying:
- Set up a smuggling route with Dario between Fort Drulev and Tazzleford to get goods into the town and people who want to escape free.
- Between Santinder, Dario, and Merrowyn’s new “Black Market Connections” rogue talent, a scroll of silence, 10 longswords, and several potions were purchased to help with our infiltration, five each of:
- Blink (CL 5)
- See Invisibility (CL3)
- Invisibility (CL3)
- Darkvision (CL3)
- Disguise Self (CL1)
- We rounded up equipment for Numesti to look presentable. Clean clothes, a razor, to shave with, goodberries to feed him, and plenty of healing potions to get him up to full strength.
- Merrowyn showed Miquela the little proclamation she wrote her, to which Miquela replied indignantly “You wrote me a speech?“
- We rounded up any vermin we could: cats, rats, pigeons, and a box of puppies which was thankfully never used. The former, however, would be fodder to draw attacks from oozes, slimes, puddings, and cubes!
Entering the Dungeon
Santinder led us out of the city, down to the docks and past, to a small seaside cave, hidden unless you knew just where to look. The cave wreaked of fetid water and was pitch black. Darkvision potions a go!
As we moved up through it, herding animals in front of us and having more discussions of “just what exactly are they here for” we made our way through the winding tunnel until it opened to a large natural cavern. Up ahead the tunnel continued, but off to the side we saw a giant deposit of quartz. Above the quartz was a ledge that looked quite large, and above that were burn marks on the ceiling. Tad identified them as the scorch form alchemist fire.
We moved forward to investigate and FWOOMP, a black pudding fell on Miquela’s noggin. Thankfully she got out with minor burns, but that started us scrambling up the ledge, as Olivetta recalled that the black puddings were averse to quartz. A few animals sacrificed and we were safely on the ledge, where flaming sphere and alchemist fire rained down on our gelatinous foes.
Treasure after Treasure
After the puddings were popped, we had a moment to survey the ledge and on it we found the skeleton of a man who had been dead a long time. He saw cross legged with a fine mithral Aldori dueling blade resting across his lap, untarnished by time. He also had a book in pristine condition, and a satchel rotting away.
The man (we determined from the book) was none other than the infamous and wretched Nathanal Sordello, notorious for marrying Savia Alodri and later murdering her brother Snadro Aldori (who was brother of Estran Aldori. This was all during the time of Choral the Conqueror and the decline of the Aldori family. He is a hated enemy of the Aldori now… and this was his remains.
The sword was an ancient mithral Aldori dueling blade, made by our family! The book was a diary, magically enchanted to hold thousands of pages and be protected from the elements, it was the journal of his life from 15 to 75. Inside the bag were rotted rations, empty canisters that once held alchemist fire, and wrapped in now rotted cloth the famous emerald jewelry set that belonged Savia including a necklaces, earnings, hair pin, bracelets, broaches, rings. More than you could wear at once…emeralds for every occasion.
These weren’t treasures…they were historical artifacts!
- The jewels of Savia Aldori. Lost for almost 200 years. Sirian the first gave these to his wife! [30,000 of jewels, not that we’ll ever sell it]
- The mithral sword was Aldori made. Not just made in the fashion of the Aldori, but actually one of the family swords. [+2 Mithral Aldori Dueling Sword]
- The book chronicled a time that history has lost, the time before Brevoy, before Choral the Conquerer, and before the feud between Sordello and Aldori…in fact a time when the families were bound by blood!
Breaking into the Castle
Further along the tunnel we came to a locked gate and when Merrowyn failed to pick the lock, Miquela and Tad had a good idea to make use of those dead black puddings. Some sizzling and popping later and we were in!
Further inside were several get away packs.
- Bag of Holding (Type 1)
- 4 x Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (CL 9)
- 4 x Potion of Fly (CL 9)
- 4 x Some kind of skunk smelling musk (purpose unknown)
The Caverns continued to another locked door. Black pudding used it, this one had to be picked
The Treasure Room…How all dungeon delves should start
We broke in and found that Drulev’s escape hatch was also his treasury! Hell yeah:
- Golden Yellow Topaz (500gp)
- Deep Blue Spindle (400gp)
- Amethyst (300gp)
- Chrysoberyl (100gp)
- 5 x Fresh Water Pearl (500gp total)
- 8 x Moonstones (4000gp total)
- Jeweled Crown (700gp)
- Artifacts from a Tiger Lord burial ground (2500gp)
- Greenwood ring depicting a snake entwined with each other [Ring of Evasion]
We also found a separate stash with a few items that looked like they to a single person
- Breastplate +2
- Longsword +2
- Masterwork Composite Longbow (Str +3)
- 60 Arrows
- Masterwork Dagger
- Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (CL 7)
- Potion of Lesser Restoration (CL 7)
And finally a wine cellar
- Containing 119 bottles worth some 6600gp
A stairwell lead up into the castle and one door led to the dungeon. We slipped in, Merrowyn imbibed a potion of see invisibility, and we investigated the dungeon. All the cells were empty except one at the end. In there was the decrepit figure of Terrion Numeski. We found and and laid out plainly.
“We’re here to set you free, overthrow Drulev, and put you in charge of this nation. There is a party full of nobles going on right now and we want to clean you up, take you up there, and rally them to stand behind you. You in?”
He was game. Well, sort of. Numesti knew that once Pitax got wind of the revolution, his daughter would be in danger. So, yes, he’ll stand by us, if we stand by him and go rescue his daughter from Amaug. Sure, assuming we survive tonight!
We fed Numesti a goodberry or two, healed him, gave him new clothes, shaved him and game him back his gear (the stash we found in the treasure room).
Up the Rabbit Hole
We took the secret stairs up two flights and found again two more secret doors. One, clearly to the banquet hall, from the other side of it we could hear the sounds of a party. The other, to a library.
This is where our plans went south. We were going to drink the potions of disguise self, impersonate Pitax enforcers, and make our way to the party. Buuuuuttt… Stroon’s familiar, a Dust Mephit was resting on a bookshelf. He heard us come in, watched as we examined Stroon’s work (experiments on weaponizing black puddings into grenades that weren’t going well), summoned another Mephit to distract us and the teleported away to warn his master. Unbeknownst to us, at that point Stroon cast a scrying spell on Miquela so from here out, all of our plans were known to him.
We panicked a bit, set the library on fire in an attempt to lure Stroon there, then put it out when we realized it was going to gut the whole castle!
A fair bit of indecision and “the jig is up” conversations later, we decided to check on the party itself. Merrowyn imbibed a potion of invisibility and a potion of blink and popped through the secret door and into the party…where she found all the nobles except the ones we came to thwart. From a quick glance she picked up that the Stroon siblings, Drulev, and his mistress had all left the party in a hurry, leaving their guests confused and anxious.
The situation wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t the worst outcome either. Without Stroon or Drulev to challenge us, Miquela entered the great hall and announced our presence, decried Drulev, and asked the nobles to stand with us and with Numesti!
And it mostly worked. Some came to our side and picked up the swords that clattered to the ground from nowhere in front of them (Merrowny still invisible, pulling them from her bag of holding). They agreed to hold the keep, fight off the guards and Pitax enforcers, and watch our backs.
The kingdom was ours! (you know, except for an insanely paranoid duelist and a crafty wizard somewhere in the castle waiting to kill us).
The Hunt is On
How do you search through a castle for a wizard and a duelist that could be anywhere when you don’t want to be detected? Why you drink a potion of invisibility and then turn into an earth elemental and earth glide through the floors and walls of the stone castle until you find them! Go Elara go!
Meanwhile Merrowyn’s potion wore off and she was recognized by one of Cobb’s agents who said “this place is terrible, I want a new post!” Also “I tried to send reports but the giants ate my ravens.” Merrowyn told him to see out Dario and that if they didn’t survive the night, Dario would get him back to Aldoria.
Elara came back and reported that she found them on the fourth floor, their shouts at each other could be heard from the main hallway!
We tried another plan, and it sort of worked. Except of course Stroon was scrying on us so he knew all about it. Merrowyn drank another invisibility potion and made her way up the secret stairwell. Elara earth glided up through the walls. Olivetta flew outside and would crash through a window. Miquela, Numesti, Tad, and Santiago went up the main stairs. The plan was crash in when the room is suddenly silent (Merrowyn was going to cast a Silence spell from a scroll).
The reality was everyone crashed in and Stroon countered the spell as Merrowny was casting it!
Showdown in Drulev Town
We fought, we won, the wizard and his dead sister got away, but here are the highlights:
- An 11+ level fighter with the Swordlord archetype and the counterattack ability plus the flanking foil feat is really, really dangerous. Like, attack everyone who hits him dangerous. Drulev messed us up something fierce and I think only because Merrowyn started her attack invisible, did she get in a good hit.
- Grappling a wizard with Freedom of Movement cast isn’t dangerous, but it doesn’t work.
- When a crazy lady who loves her doggy more than anything accidentally throws it at you, and you’re standing in front of a broken window, and the only reason the dangerous wizard isn’t blowing up the room is because that crazy lady is his sister, maybe you should catch the dog…otherwise it might go out the window and the crazy lady might just be crazy enough to jump after it and then shit is on!
- After Drulev went down there was a tense pause, where Stroon knew our beef wasn’t with him and that his sister was probably dying or dead outside. He readied an empowered fireball and gave us once chance to “get out of here now”. Merrowny didn’t take it. She tried to reason and reason meant Fireballs! It did a LOT of damage, but evasion paid off (for maybe the first time ever) and it was on!
(Before then we had been trying to avoid directly attacking Stroon in the hopes we could negotiate with him).
- Stroon got away, with his dead sister and her dead dog. When defeat was immanent, he cast dimension door to pop outside to his sister, and then teleported away with her.
Some notable treasure looted off Drulev’s body (and who took them!):
- +2 Defending Mithral Aldori Dueling Sword (Miquela)
- +1 Amulet of Natural Armor (Santiago)
- Belt of Physical Might: +4 Strength and Constitution (Merrown, Hell yeah!)
- Cloak of Resistance +2 (Santiago)
- 4 x MW Handaxes
- Mithral Full Plate of Speed (Miquela, and hell yeah there too)
- Ring of Protection +2 (+1 Ring given to Santiago)
- Rod of Splendor (Miquela)
Dang, that is the first treasure trove where we went HELL YEAH to all of it. Okay, we’ll sell those hand axes. But really, that was some hot shit. Just sad we didn’t catch Stroon, I bed his garb would have looked mighty fine on Olivetta.
A day of rebuilding
Well, Stroon got away, but he wasn’t our enemy. We can live with that. The kingdom in the hands of Numesti is what we wanted. That night and the next day we did a lot to leave the town in better shape than we found it:
- Merrowyn sent for the Aldorian Second Infantry to come from Ogelton to guard the town.
- Terrion responded that an outside army, no matter what their intent will look line invaders unless…
- We agreed to annex Fort Drulev (nation is getting a new name as soon as we can think of one!).
- Miquela and Tad stayed up late reading the journal of Nathanal and found out that as young man he was quite a nice guy. He saw Savia, and older woman, and fell in love at once. He made it his life’s goal to win her favor. Later, on accident it seems from the account, he met her brother and the two of them became fast friends.
- Elara through spells like soften earth and stone, transmute mud to rock, stone shape, and wildshaping into an Earth Elemental, greatly improved the “we never finished building the wall” situation we found the town in.
We found in Stroons notes that he had been tracking Armaug, who was on a quest to find the “Overbane”. We knew where Armaug was as of yesterday (the last time Stroon scryed on him) and Merrowyn, Tad, and Leccio put their heads together about Gorum, the first Armaug, and realized that Overbane was old Khelid and translated loosely to “the enemy of all enemies”. Given that everything Gorum makes or that stands for him is a weapon, we figured it had to be something pretty dangerous.
As the GM said “When an barbarian warrior gets an artifact of Gorum, it doesn’t mean the death of your party, it means the death of your nation!”
Yeah, let’s stop that.
We also knew that Pharasma and Gorum have long been at odds. Pharasma wanting to get her due, and Gorum denying her his followers. The Boneyard is the place where souls are sorted out and Armaug soul never made it there!
Put on your hiking boots
With no horses still alive in the fort, we set out on foot, up north and traveled for three days. Along the way we encountered a batch of zombies, but not the typical “I just killed a village and raised them to do my bidding because I’m a megalomaniac necromancer” kind of zombies. Old zombies dressed in ancient tiger lord funeral garb. Nice work Armaug, cracking open burial mounds and letting the vermin roam free!
Eventually we got to the camp site of Armaug and his 36 barbarians. The encampment was nestled in a small box canyon, with a forest behind it (filling up the canyon) and an excavation into the side of the cliff side.
First Elara scouted as an eagle, spying the five women in a cage in the center of the camp. The looked well enough from a distance. Surrounding them were yurts and a large number, though not quite 36, of barbarians in high spirits. This was it!
No sign of Armaug though, so with the aid of a spider climb spell Merrowyn walked down the canyon side behind the camp, snuck in to get a closer look. She couldn’t understand them (Note: Learn Khelid at next level) it was clear that they were excited…almost like they found what they were looking for. There were two unoccupied. By the cover of night Merrowyn snuck in to see what was inside them, using her wayfinder as a source of light but letting just barely a crack out from under her cloak.
In the first she found some boots (big boots), articles of travel, and a map depicting Tiger Lord burial grounds. Several of them were crossed off, while one (the one that we were currently at) was circled many times. Merrowyn did a quick sketch of the map noting the other locations that weren’t already crossed off, and then slipped out of the camp.
Determined that Armuag was inside, that rescuing the hostages now would mean leaving him to find the Overbane (which would be very bad) we opted to go in after him. Via wolf in gaseous form, Merrwyn lowering Miquela down with a rope, and then spider climbing down herself, Elara and Tad flying, we snuck past the encampment and into the cave.
We entered the natural cavern and found their crude excavation broke way into a large man-made chamber. We also noticed that the stone around the chamber looked like iron running with veins of blood. The scholar in our group recognized that as God Touched ore. One of the materials Leccio had advised us would block out magical scrying. Most likely also teleportation. When Merrowyn pulled out her wayfinder, it was spinning like crazy when it should have been pointing due north.
The chamber itself featured three alabaster statues with Khelid warriors. Each of them magnificently sculpted and paying close attention to anatomical accuracy, if perhaps exaggerating. One brandished a bastard sword and buckler, another a spear, and the third just an inviting glance that reminded Merrowyn of Marcus. Merrowyn’s like of “This is a sacred tomb, disturb nothing” quickly turned to “We should take these home… out of respect.”
Elara and Miquela noticed a sound in the chamber, someone else was in here with us, though there was nothing to be seen. Quickly Merrowyn and Miquela drank see invisibility potions and saw the figures of three priestess of Gyronna.
The fight was over really fast. The started summoning demons but each of them was interrupted by swords or explosions in the face. The then channeled negative energy and wracked our souls with pain. It was bad. They each did it. Twice! Santiago, in gaseous form was almost destroyed by the negative energy. But after that, we sliced them to ribbons.
On them we found:
- 3 x MW Breastplate
- 3 x +2 Keen Dagger (what is it with priests of Gyronna and keen daggers?)
Test of Strength
The chamber had two giant double doorways leading out of it. Each of the doors made of a single bone. What bone of what creature could possibly be big enough to make a 12′ door? Oh, the cranium of an Ancient Wyrm Dragon is what. Bajesus.
Opening the door the sisters had been standing in front of, we saw a long room with four boulders of increasing size, and four ledges with indentations appropriate to each boulder’s size. The corridor was only large enough for two of us to work in it, so together Miquela and Merrowyn got to rolling them. Olivetta cast Enlarge person on both of us first, which helped out mightily. The boulders all made it it to their locations…but man what an exertion it took. We used:
- Miquela’s Help (+2), Enlarge Person (+1), and a strength surge from the Blood Reservoir of Physical Prowess (+4) to move the heaviest one.
- Miquela’s Help (+2), Enlarge Person (+1), Rage (+3) and the Auspicious Mark (+3) to move the second one.
- Miquela’s Help (+2), Enlarge Person (+1), Post-Rage Fatigue (-1) and a lot of luck to move the third one.
- Miquela’s Help (+2), Enlarge Person (+1) and a decent roll to move the fourth and lightest one.
Doors opened and we proceeded. Miquela pointed out that if we call just flew, we probably cold have made it as well. Cheating? Probably also the Gorum way.
Test of Endurance
The next room featured a large metal plate with a wheel in the center and columns going up into the ceiling. We attempted to be crafty and have Elara take the form of an air elemental to fly over and use her vortex to turn the wheel, but it was clearly not engaged with the gear below…if only there was some weight on the plate to push it down.
Okay we’ll bite. We all leapt onto the plate (concerned touching the floor might be bad and as soon as we did the doors closed behind us and every surface of the room was covered in a foot of ice. The room got freezing cold instantly and Miqeula furiously turned the wheel (now feeling it engage) as we all endured the cold.
Test of Audacity?
The next hallway we entered split into a cross shape with narrow passages opposite each other leading left and right. Each passage led to small room with burial treasures left behind. Khelid artifacts. Nothing stood out as particularly valuable but Merrowyn did spot a pipe with silver inlay and etching on the inlay that was gratuitously erotic. Marcus would love it. In the bag! Santiago also strutted out with an intricately scrimshaw bone in his mouth. Waving it proudly.
Test of Prowess
The end of the main hall led to stairs up to another set of doors. Inside was a large circular chamber with a giant iron statue in the center. An depiction of Gorum. Tall, brutal looking, spiked on every edge, and menacing.
Merrowyn and Santiago just started walking up to it. Greatsword out and Teeth barred. We just knew this would be a fight. Once everyone entered the door slammed shut again and we heard a booming laugh from above. To our little surprise the statue came alive and we were faced with an IRON GOLEM.
Okay, I’ve gotta stop here. There are a couple of canonical monsters that it is every dungeoneer’s desire to say they have vanquished. Dragon, Beholder, Mind Flayer, Lich, and Iron Golem. They are five monsters that ARE Dungeons & Dragons (even if the game we’re playing is Pathfinder). We had already faced a Lich, but it was a greatly weakened one. Facing an Iron Golem (at even greater than full strength in this case) is like the sign that we have graduated to BIG DAMN HEROES.
The fight was mostly about smashing each other hard, but some very cool things happened worth noting:
- Miquela just got the Coordinated Charge teamwork feet and shared it with us. This meant that when Santiago charged Miquela, Elara, and Merrowyn got to charge as well! This meant that on our own actions we could move around the Golem to get a flank and lay down some heavy pain. AWESOME.
- On the first round the Golum emitted a poisonous gas (I forgot they could do that) but because Elara was an air elemental at the time, she dispersed the gas quickly. Awesome!
- Olivetta dropped a lightning bolt on the beast, which slowed it down. Thanks Knowledge (Arcana)!
- Gorum laughed at us as we fought his creation. For the followers of Gorum (Merrowyn, but I think maybe Santiago too) we also heard a mocking “good try, but not good enough” and the second time “better, but still not good enough”. Mocking yeah, but still pretty cool to have your god talking to you. Oh, and then he cast 10d6 Make Whole spells to restore the Iron Golem to health.
- Iron Golems…hit like a truck!
After the fight was over we hacked away any took his head. Taking that thing home to craft craft into an adamantine greatsword (even if it’s just the hilt!).
We ended the session there. It was very late and while our characters might have a ring of sustenance to share between them, we don’t. We’ll have to face Armaug next time.
XP: 39,600 (Most we’ve ever gotten). 5100 till 11th level. Damn.
Thoughts on this Game
First off Dennis is a machine for running non stop for 10 hours. I mean we took breaks to eat but it was Pi day. All our food was pie, which was quick to serve and easy to eat while gaming.
Speaking of Pie, Regina made and super delicious quiche and Karen made a chocolate pie that I could have eaten all of. Such yummy good.
I got frustrated during the game when I felt like our plans fell apart, but after some thought (here) I realize a lot of that is because of my own expectations, not the game. We was stymied when we were detected by the Mephit (and therefore Stroon) and our element of surprise was shot. A little bit as well when we brought animals into to the caves to act as aberrant detectors and the first one dropped on Miquela. Here’s some thoughts on that:
Sometimes there are clues when you’re about to make a mistake. Noticing scorch marks on the ceiling should have triggered a thought that something on the ceiling was being attacked and we should look for that. More subtle but still there was knowledge that if we enter a wizard’s library the chances that it will be trapped/alarmed/guarded is high, so we shouldn’t just walk in. In retrospect this all seems reasonable, in the moment it didn’t occur to me until too late. In my head I blamed a perception vs. stealth check, but really, we could have been smarter to just not go in there in the first place, or to have used some of the additional tools at our disposal (Blink/Earth Glide and Invisibility) to do so without setting off alarms.
I think as players we’re used to the idea that a threat will be obvious and all methods of resolving it will be equally challenging (c.f. Apocalypse Engine games where all rolls have the same difficulty, it’s only what’s at stake that differs). So we think that if we want to get a pie from an ork it is equally difficult to get it by sweet talking the ork, hitting the ork with a stick, or sneaking around the ork. The fallacy is that in Pathfinder those things aren’t equally difficult, and finding the right method usually takes either doing it the wrong way first, or spending a ton of time at the table exploring every option. The former is our standard, but sometimes we spend forever debating about how to do something and then still get it wrong, which compounds exasperation with frustration.
We have another reason for taking brute force methods as well. Our characters (and the game in general) are built for them. Consider the ork’s pie again. We know that sweet talking and stealth both have binary outcomes (we succeed or fail) whereas hitting with a stick uses an ablative resolution system (we both keep hitting each other until one side falls down) and we assume we have more resources to burn than our opponents. So… rather than take the chance that our plans will fail and we’ll be boned we often muscle through. Using brute force methods should come with the expectation of brute force results.
I also think my frustration was unfair because I wasn’t accounting for all the things that had gone just as we wanted them too, or better:
- Darkvision in the tunnel made traversing it no problem.
- Clothes, food, etc for Numesti make him presentable.
- Our argument that he needed to aid us and lead the people was convincing.
- Tad’s distractions kept the giants at bay
- Being invisible and using Blink/Earth Glide allowed us to survey the castle undetected.
- One of the black puddings did get distracted by our animal distraction.
- Despite the gig being up on us, when all our enemies ran away from the party, that left the nobles at the party a captive audience.
Also… crap. I should have realized the moment Stroon Dimension Door’ed away that he was going for his sister. Kicking myself right now for not just taking the chance and jumping out the window sword swinging wild. I would have happily taken 7d6 damage to get another shot at Stroon.
For that early-game frustration I walked away from the game totally excited. We had just killed an Iron Golem! But before that we also completed feats of strength and endurance judged by Gorum! My god yo! I play Merrowny with a daddy complex. She always wants to impress her dad, but she can never see eye to eye with him and so always veers a bit off course. I realized that she really has two dads in her mind. Edward, who is a good man, stands up for what is right, and is in every way honorable (Lawful Good) and Gorum who kicks ass across the planes (Chaotic Neutral). Merrowyn isn’t exactly like either, but she wants to impress both (Chaotic Good).
Early on in the Kingdom building, when Merrowyn wanted to face Chall Fingo and couldn’t she started studying under her father to become an advocate (though it was down time, she spend a year doing that). Between that and the responsibility of running a kingdom (things like having a trial for Girgori) she really started seeing Edwards perspective. She was even the voice of reason in one discussion about straight up assassinating one of our prisoners. Out on the road though, violence is often, even most of the time, the solution. We see a problem, we kill it. A lot of times that problem is evil as shit, or attacks us first, so there’s little moral quandary, but it’s still very much the Gorum way.
Anywho, Merrowyn (and in turn me) rarely gets to feel like she’s fully living up to either dad’s expectations, and it was pretty awesome to literally muscle though Gorum’s challenges to impress him.
 Oh wait, not boulders. Petrified ancient wyrm dragon testicles. Keeping it classy Gorum.