Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Sorrows

Last time, our adventurers made it back to the Doomguard's headquarters only to find it had been
Dallas Kasaboski
looted. Making their way to Ruber, they passed through the old Nerathian city, The Sorrows, to see if reports of an old teleportation circle were true.
The party did not sleep very well that night. Camped on hard ground, in an old ruined building surrounded by ghosts, who would? Groggy, trying to pull themselves together, the party gathered their belongings and set out. Tong, waking up last, but still early, woke from a dream with his Master.

[Tong] "Master, it is good seeing you again."
[Ting Tang Wong Gong] "Yes, you have learned much, have been testing yourself, and your friendships."

[Tong] "Yes, it has been a rewarding journey."
[Wong Gong] "You remember that one technique that you could never master?"

[Tong] "Of course, I..."
[Wong Gong] "You could NEVER master it! Hahaha, so you learn something else instead. It is the most intense version of the supreme avalanche condition which we call...the supreme avalanche condition, use it, use it right, don't be stupid!"

And in what was really a short instance of time, Tong was able to learn and master the technique in what seemed to him a lifetime.

Alvyn could tell there was magic ahead, likely the teleportation circle, and Kalgar suggested leaving the horses as they were getting more and more spooked by the ghosts.

On the outskirts of the city, the ghosts were harmless, if chilling. Repeating the last moments of their lives, in silence, they didn't notice the party at all. However, as Tong, Alvyn, Kalgar, and Shizuka moved closer and closer to the city's centre, some ghosts started to pay attention to them, and some seemed to be following the party, at a distance.

At one point, Skizuka pointed to the sky, and there everyone could see ghost-like silhouettes of dragons! It seems that the human forces were able to take down a dragon or two. These dragons were re-living the last moments of their lives, burning buildings that weren't there, dying, and coming back to "life" to repeat the cycle. The dragons were high up, so the party knew they would be safe from them, for now.

At this point, I would like to show appreciation for our DM's creativity and the work he puts into his campaigns. As you can see below, our party's journey toward the teleportation circle was clearly illustrated and this added to the excitement of moving through the city. It was a giant battle grid, and the variation of the environment allowed for a lot of interesting perspectives. While D&D can be really fun even in a square, spartan room, it is really fun when there are more opportunities for danger, improvisation, and suspense.
The ground is red because of the bloodgrass mentioned last time!
The party came to one spot where a nearby building had fallen down, blocking much of the path (top left of above image). As they stopped there, Kalgar pointed out 2 guard-like ghosts. They seemed to be wearing full plate armour, helmets, and be armed with longsword and shield. Moving about between them was a mage, but Kalgar did not get a very good look at it.

Seeing that they did not look friendly, Tong leaped to action! He ran up to the first guard and performed a series of flying kicks and punches. As Kalgar made his way forward, he was blasted with a blue fireball which sent him flying. When he got up, he noticed that he could see through his hand! The blast had given him the phasing condition, but also allowed the mage to shoot through walls (save ends).

As a player, I have to admit that this was a neat condition. Phasing allowed Kalgar to move through obstacles, getting to his foes quicker, and it allowed him to move over difficult terrain like it wasn't even there. In-game, the reason for this was that, to the ghosts, the walls and rubble weren't there! They saw things before the dragon attack, and thus moved about, being blocked by walls the party couldn't see, and moving along paths that weren't there anymore.

The party quickly dealt with this first group, although the mage had moved through a wall and disappeared before Kalgar or anyone else could get near him. As they converged on another set of guards, we realized we were being followed by a group of civilian ghosts, armed with torches and pitchforks. Giving the situation added tension, this drove us forward. At one point, a mage fled away, leaving only one guard. Turning the entirety of his attention toward the guard, Kalgar summoned everything he learned about inspiring fear. He raised himself to full height, spoke in a slow but booming voice, and said, "Dragons may have ended your life, but if you continue to fight, it will be dragonborn which end your existence!" Dropping his longsword, the guard put his hands behind his head and surrendered. Ordering the guard to run away and fight another day, the party moved onward.

At one point, we noticed that the mage was with two other guards, and between us and them was a group of ghosts reliving the last moment of their lives, being buried under rubble. (in the middle of the above picture) We had also noticed that one of the ghosts had acted like a door was in place even though, to the party, it was an open doorway. Using this to our advantage, Tong leaped upon a wall and scouted out the location, while Alvyn and Shizuka (using a longbow), fired at the mage. To the ghosts, arrows and magical blasts were coming through the door, and just then a dragonborn charged after them!

Kalgar noticed that these ghosts, the ones who fought us, could just barely be heard. When Kalgar divinely challenged one of the guards to fight in Kord's name, the guard responded in an old version of common, saying, "Challenge accepted, Arkhosian."

The fight was going well, save for Shizuka. Expressing concern before we had even started the fight, he said that fighting ghosts was all too familiar, reminding him of his past. His shots with the longbow were uninspired, and at one point Alvyn told him he should switch to his katana as he wasn't helping very much without it. As he slung the bow across his back, he was hit with a blast from the mage, forcing him through a wall and out of view of the party. (on the bottom right of the image)

No one was quite happy about this. As avid adventurers, they knew the risks of splitting the party, and for one of them to be off on his own, well, this did not bode well. With quick thinking, Kalgar knelt by a fallen column, ready to give a leg up to anyone know wanted to vault over. He feared that going around would take too much time.

Tong quickly took the hint and attempted to vault over the column unaided. With a raised brow, Kalgar saw that Tong was not going to make it alone, so he lifted him up at the last minute. There, Tong could see Shizuka fending off some ghosts, doing well, but in need of help.

Alvyn was dealing with ghosts of his own, and thanks to some recent training, was able to blast creatures adjacent to him faster than they could provoke a response. He had turned invisible and scouted ahead. Unsure of where to go, Alvyn used ghost sound to assure him to go ahead. With khopesh on one hand, and rope in another, he used the curved end of the khopesh to hook on to the top of the column, pulling himself over. Leaping down, he joined Tong and Shizuka.

Alvyn spotted two ghost guards talking amongst themselves. Knowing that to delay was to lose ground, he ran toward them. Thanks to his years of training to keep himself hidden, he was able to sneak by them with barely any notice. The guards realized someone was there, but they had no idea where. Sidling around a corner, Alvyn ran, vaulted off the ground and rose just high enough to see the situation over a fallen obstacle.

There, he saw Tong, Kalgar, and Shizuka attacking with great ferocity. Tong's hands were moving faster and faster and faster, and his latest kick let him flip off a guard, not that easy considering the guard was a ghost. Kalgar was roaring in the face of one ghost, taking the hit of another, and slammed another back, as Skizuka's katana zipped through the air with such finesse that he might as well been a painter.

At the height of his leap, Alvyn saw all this, drew his two wands, and let loose bolts of fire which rained down on the scene like a hailstorm.

Ushering everyone in, the party quickly realized that the ghosts could not enter the room. It was lined with obsidian and the ghosts ran into the open doorway just as they had before, as if a wall was present. As the ghosts threw themselves against nothing, the party, taking a breath, glared at the ghosts, ever at the ready.

Once the ghosts realized they couldn't get in, they moved on, and the party took the chance to treat some of their wounds and catch their breath. In the middle of the room, (as you can see from the above picture!), was the teleportation circle. It was fairly large and had glowing, circling runes around it. These runs were suspended above the floor and, when Kalgar bent to take a closer look at them, appeared to be invisible when viewed along their edge. It was an old version of common, which none of them could properly read, but Alvyn knew the magic in them was still strong. Documenting the runes exactly, Kalgar picked up a stone. Looking at the circle and then at Alvyn, he shrugged and tossed it in. Just before it bounced, Alvyn used prestidigitation to make it invisible. Kalgar took a wary step back, his knowledge of magic was very limited. Alvyn laughed, turned the stone visible again and said he was just messing with Kalgar, and that one had to invoke the right ritual to make the circle work again.

Off to one side of the room, Tong noticed a hole in the floor covered mostly with a fallen piece of obsidian. He also pointed out that while the other buildings had been destroyed and had fallen in upon themselves, this building was different, apart from the piece of obsidian blocking the hole. It looked as if the roof and any upper floors of this building were ripped clean off.

Kalgar, Tong, and Shizuka pushed together and were able to move the rock, making enough room to see down the hole. Casting light, Alvyn could see a steep staircase. Urging Kalgar to go first, the party eventually made it down to the bottom, where they found a vault door, partially open.

Lying next to the door was a broken mechanism of some type, and Tong noticed scratch marks all along the wall of the vault door, as if something was scratching to get in. Kalgar asked Alvyn what he thought, unsure if there was magic about or if the vault door would simply open. Alvyn pretended to give it some thought and said, "Why don't you just try the door?" In truth, Alvyn was just messing with Kalgar, knowing his ignorance of magic, but he also couldn't get a good sense of what was inside. He did warn that there was a lot of magic all around, but he couldn't tell what it was.

Pushing the door open, the party saw a large room, full of dust and cobwebs. Alvyn quickly realized that the dust on the floor wasn't all bad, most of it was residuum! The entire floor was covered in what was probably a fortune in residuum which even Kalgar realized could be used to make magical items.

The room they entered opened to another room as as they looked over, they saw a terrifying sight: a ghost dragon, scratching at the floor and roaring, though his roaring was oddly quiet. Shizuka pointed out a pile of bones off to one side of the room, and the party realized they were dragon's bones.

Readying themselves, Kalgar noticed the dragon was scratching at a gold coin on the floor. Since it was a ghost, this dragon could not get to the coin. Trying to talk with the dragon in Draconic, the dragon pleaded for help. In an old, but still understandable, version of Draconic, the dragon asked Kalgar to help him move the coin back up to a raised platform in the corner. Alvyn used his mage hand to lift the coin and move it. Just then, he noticed something odd about the dragon. It appeared to not be a fully grown dragon, but it had a rather angular snout. Looking quickly at the ghost and at the bones, he realized it had been an orium dragon, and that these dragons were normally obsessed with knowledge, not wealth. He quickly put together that the dragon probably got locked in here when the other dragons attacked and had gone insane trying to get out. (This was all gained through an impressively high knowledge check).

Just as he was about to warn his comrades, the dragon, now happy and sitting upon its coin, looked at the party and said, "You touched my horde!" and charged!

Unprepared, Kalgar was knocked back, but Tong had readied an action to strike. With a quick roundhouse kick, he managed to push the dragon back and deal some damage. Like the other ghosts, this dragon was insubstantial and thus Tong's attack made less of an impact. Rearing its head back, the dragon roared, stunning all but Alvyn, who had slipped to the side of the room, unseen. Its breath weapon, Alvyn had realized before, and the party was realizing now, was not as damaging as most dragons, but it did have the awful side effect of creating a minion which could attack the party.

Alvyn cast sleep, hoping to finally knock something out that wasn't a fish, or an ally, but no luck, the dragon was slowed, but did not fall unconscious. Recovering themselves, Tong and Kalgar kept the doorway blocked, while Shizuka and Alvyn attacked behind them.

Not doing much damage themselves, Tong and Kalgar were able to keep the dragon away from the others, and Alvyn decided a little control was in order. Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out different wands and cast Stinking Cloud and Grasping Shadows. Not only did these have the benefit of blocking line of sight, making the party concealed from the dragon, but it damaged the dragon for as long as it stayed inside the burst. After several turns, the dragon grew frustrated and tried for the other door, the party could not hold him back this time and he dealt quite a lot of damage with his claws and bites.

Tong, having helped in the defender category, had taken quite a beating. Kalgar prayed to Kord for strength and lashed out at the dragon, swinging his khopesh where the dragon's neck should be. While Kalgar had felt Kord's presence before, topside, the obsidian seemed to be masking Him from down in this room. Still, as Kalgar attempted to show the dragon that it wasn't the only one with a frightful presence, thunder was heard in the room, and Tong suddenly felt some of his wounds close up. Feeling renewed, he joined the fray.

Alvyn was doing well keeping distance between him and the dragon and was doing his best to move the bursts he had created to trap the dragon again. Shizuka, still having trouble with his bow, switched to katana and was helping fend off the minion and dragon at the same time. At this moment, his noticed a gold coin on the floor by his feet.

Tong's attacks allowed him to move the dragon back, and to constantly switch places with Kalgar and Shizuka. This confused the dragon but also kept the damage spread out amongst the party so that no one person was taking the brunt of the dragon's fury.

Growing more furious, the dragon decided that it was time to end the party. With a couple of quick slash attacks, it knocked Alvyn down, ending the bursts, and threw Tong aside. Shizuka slashed back at the dragon, missed, changed his step and tried again, missed, tried to parry an attack, missed and was knocked out cold.

The party was falling, and Kalgar's strength was waning. Suddenly, he heard a booming voice inside him shout, "I'm not done with you yet!", and he leaped back up. Thanking Kord, he made his way over to Tong, grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to get up, using his Lay on Hands ability. The last use of that power expended, he pulled a potion of Cure Light Wounds out from his pocket, sidestepped the minion and was making his way to Alvyn when he was tossed aside. A couple of quick acrobatic leaps here and there, and Tong was able to revive Alvyn while Kalgar took a moment to try to sense the dragon's energy, as Shizuka had sensed his. With a quick step, and renewed focus,
Kalgar challenged the dragon and kept it busy. With the party back up, they managed to push the dragon back to a corner.

Finally, after missing half of the combat with his bow, and some of it with his katana, Shizuka slipped in, slashed quickly two times and the ghost of the dragon disappeared.

With it gone, the party patched themselves back up and took a look around. Alvyn had collected the various coins strewn about the room remarking on their excellent condition and how they were dated back to before the Great Betrayal, not surprisingly. He gathered as much residuum as he could, and with that, the party made their way back out. Alvyn sent word using his new Vex's Sending ritual back to the Doomguard that the area was full of ghosts, including a dragon one, but the circle was there, and that they should investigate further.

Leaving the Sorrows, it was on their way to Ruber when Alvyn heard a voice coming from his bag hissing, "My coins..."

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