The level 13 Elsir Vale heroes for this session
Phoenix, Tlinget lineage (human barbarian);
Seck, no particular lineage (human rogue);
Cat, Teulon/Fey lineage (human warlock)
Ably assisted by NPC-this-session Ulric, Teulon lineage, human paladin now using the Oath of Vengeance; and Lothair, hill dwarf lineage.
The heroes begin with 1,876 xp and gain 5,975 plus 5% story bonus
On watch and on Ulruf
Now they know what to look for, the high temple tower that conceals a chute down is a matter of minutes not hours for the triumphant – but weary – party to pick out. The few remaining undead keep their distance from the rope-up operation. This affords them a reasonably secure chamber in which to await Cat’s report on the passage down.
This is a well-formed shaft, not particular broad, which curves about 200′ down. The curve is highly polished and suggests a chute.
Up above Lothair counsels a rest. Ulric pays no attention as he broods over his brother Edwin. Phoenix munches some old rations he finds in his purse. “The warlock has his own lady to think of, and will be keen to push on,” Seck warns.
“Ah when a lady’s in the question the loins speak loud, I myself have no seen a fair one for over two years – not counting that hobgoblin woman – and my word, that one!”
Lothair seems particular stricken by this “fair formed” hobgoblin and eyebrows are raised.
Cat returns to report that he has left Dis, his familiar, to discern more about what appears to be a very solid metal door, angled down. He also has a theory that whatever granted Durlag vampiric immortality may still be down there. Then departs once more.
Dis has been leveling up with the Rituals and in this case, over the next 40 minutes, works through Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, and Identify. The door has both Communication and Divination magic on it, and the script about it, in Gnomish and Dwarvish, reads:Dunwhortle Hogstruck and Durlag Trollkiller warn those that enter: You will not be the same once you see what lies beyond
As the delays as Cat’s familiar works her magic mount, Lothair once more raises the thought that Phoenix, at the least, needs a rest. He himself is not too bad. Ulric admits that a full rest will allow him a suite of holy magic. When Cat is once more available, he surprises everyone by soberly agreeing that going in with anything less than full spells would be idioticLothair has one problem though: all this time he has been using his powers to keep the six-face sphere from shifting about in the lead box. He does not want to take any chance of the thing escaping once he is resting.
I explain that Mage Hand inside a box creates a gearing effect, trapping the sphereDM
A number of creative ideas are mooted. Eventually the solution is to rest Ulruf on the lead box and the person on watch sit on Ulruf’s haft, which will provide plenty of leverage.
This does rather rely on an undisturbed watch, but as it happens, they are safe in the tower of passage. At length, everyone has had their
Long Rest: all level 13 gains taken!
By the time Cat brings Lothair down to join the others, they are all ready for the gate to open as the sphere comes near it. And such is the magic of communication that the gate parts, allowing the party through to a level tube – rather in the manner of a very flattened U – ending in a similar gate. The tube is unlit. Cat sees two sets of writing.
“What do those say, Lothair?”
Lothair walks over. “This one of the wall says ‘be sure to sanitize’ but the script about this gate says ‘The great work of Durlag Trollkiller and Dunwhortle Hogstruckle.'”
As Lothair once more produces the sphere – which now behaves itself – the gate revolves 90 degrees and the whole tube creates a sudden sense of weightlessness, then a steady grinding descent.
After a short time, counter-weights can be heard moving past the other way. And then with another uneasy lurch the tube ceases moving and with a further 90 degrees turn, the gate parts into…
The colors! The colors!
To most of the party a weird purple light, in effect obscurant, illuminates a sense of vastness. Cat shifts to Dis’ senses and beholds an amazing scene.
A multi-sided battle takes place across a cyst some 100′ in height, dominated by a vast black stepped pyramid rising from the floor. Swirls of fey magic and wild magic coalesce and part. A shimmer of opalescent spores falls steadily from the roof, where Myconids cling. The spores seem designed to disrupt Mind Flayers, floating or co-riding vast black Nightwings, being jockeyed by armed Duergar. The Mind Flayers and Duergar seem more intent on raining death on combat squads of dim-seen Svirfneblin, which seem to be attempting the sheer pyramid sides. Hook Horrors scramble up the sheer cyst wall, trying to reach the Myconids. And all across the cyst floor the carpeting dead are harvested by scavenger creatures: and among them stalk all manner of Underdark weirdness: multi-limber, with no eyes or too many eyes, and all in praise of Death, Death, Death!
Seck can see fairly well in the weird haze, and warns Cat – who stands entranced – that he is about to be consumed by a vast black ooze! Even now the ooze finishes subsuming four Svirfneblin and moves to whelm Cat!
Ulric rushes to defend Cat, and finds that Kinslayer is effective! One Svirfneblin tumbles out, acid-burned and lacking clothing and gear.
“I didn’t think you were listening when I said I can attack first and give everyone advantage,” Seck grumbles, hurling Maelsauga. The force damage ravages a gaping channel in the thing, and another deep gnome tumbles out. Phoenix slices with Mocair, which does disappointingly little damage.
As Lothair advances to try pidgin-gnome, Seck catches the sounds of dismal croaking-like chanting. “We have spellcasters somewhere nearby,” he warns.
DM Note: I recall ruling that Seck, who speaks Primordial, can swap that out for Undercommon. That is still an option, we can hand-wave this by saying he was rusty.
Cat powers up a (literally) shiny new gift from Titania: Crown of Stars. Seven bright motes begin revolving about his head, attracting all enemy with light equivalent to a lantern. One mote rips into the ooze and it falls apart, spilling the remaining two deep gnomes.
The Svirfneblin are grateful (thanks to Phoenix donating his Inspiration to Lothair!) but don’t explain much, and definitely don’t reveal the full hand of their alliance! They fade back into the cyst wall.
The gnome alliance has Hogstruckle’s golden plate of instructions. That’s the least useful of the three artifacts, but still relevant for understanding maneuver capabilities. If the airship is simply used as transport, it can be got by without.
Stoney-gnome and gold sprinkle good, tentacle-face and bat-thing bad!
Equipped with a rudimentary grasp of the war for the pyramid, Cat points out a Nightwing and Seck hurls Maelsauga at this target. To most of the party all this is beyond their range of vision. The first shot bloodies the Nightwing, and Cat uses a mote – and three Repelling Blasts – that destroy it! A luckless Duergar jockey hurls a javelin into Cat, then tumbles 80′ and does not rise. Ulric attempts to block the javelin but it strikes home, a small rip in Cat’s clothes. Cat resists the poison easily.
This marks the start of a purple patch for Cat’s player’s dice, after weeks of threatening death or worse for them.
The idea that they ought to be getting on is given more urgency as a hungry Xorn smells Cat’s hidden lucky ruby and tries to chow down on him! Erupting under his feet it misses its chomp but slams him pretty hard with tentacle-clubs. It is soon dealt with despite its stony skin, leaving Cat rubbing his bruises.
Then before they can do more than decide how close to the paladin they all want to stay, the source of the chanting appears, moving counter-clockwise around the perimeter.
This is a ritual warrior squad of Kuo-Toa, worshiping their new god, the pyramid. Unluckily for them, the heroes assume that anything that ugly must be hostile, and kill them.
Strange ascent, part one
“OK Phoenix, it’s the rope routine again,” says Cat, lifting his strongest comrade 25′ up over the bottom ledge. Phoenix pays out Seck’s rope as Cat descends.
Phoenix and Cat select the queer track that runs up this face, as the most useful point to begin with. It is not a series of steps, more like a mine-rail, but at a steep pitch.
They have already beaten the nearest Svirfneblin squad, one face counter-clockwise. Then a mind-blast strikes!
INT SV DC16! Cat makes it
Phoenix (burning a Luck) is struck by a similar wake-up shock from Mocair; Cat hurls a mote but the Mind Flayer reads his intent and plane-shifts.
I’m going to rule here, in hindsight, that if Phoenix burns a Luck, Mocair definitely shifts his Condition,DM
Phoenix peers back down: “Ulric! Jump away!”
Ulric makes a fine DEX SV to avoid a psychic gray ooze bubbling up around him, hammers it, and as the others pitch in it dissolves.
Meanwhile Cat spikes the returning Mind Flayer with Agonizing Blasts; and Phoenix lowers Seck’s rope. Lothair moves to grasp it.
Cat raises Ulric as far as the edge of the first step, and the powerful paladin manages the rest himself with the help of the rope. By that time Seck is right behind him: first step cleared!
Strange ascent, part two
As a flight of Nightwings, drawn here by their Mindflayer masters, swoops around, one rider detaches and enlarges as he makes landing.
“Duergar!” Lothair hisses, levelling his crossbow.
Javelins lance down, then Nightwing swoop. Amid the battle Cat catches sight of the mastermind, wearing a gilt gauntlet studded with gems, lurking above.
“Prime foe!” Cat hollers, pointing him out – though only Seck can make any use of the information, at this distance. A mote zips at the Ulatharid Prime and makes contact!
I make a couple seat-of-the-pants changes to this setup, and the main one is to have the Prime fully present, unable to plane-shift because it is controlling so many forces. This means that if they defeat the BBEG they get the gauntlet.DM
The others hammer at the monster Duergar and it falls. Seck snorts. Small beer. Phoenix churns up to the next pyramid level. The mini-steps between the rails may suit gnomes, but they are just awkward for him. Then the Prime Ulatharid mind-blasts him, and he stops, stunned.
Nightwings swoop on the stunned target but have very little success. (Phoenix’ hp drop to about half – bloodied!) Cat throws the Prime back out of sight with a Repelling Blast.
Ulric clambers up to help shield Phoenix and the battle shifts to that level. Now, instead of lantern-bright, Cat is merely emitting candle power. Lothair has some difficulty, Seck helps him with a fine Athletics check. The four remaining Duergar-ridden Nightwing swoop again, Cat hammers a mote into the riderless one, Seck teaming up with him: it retires badly hurt.
Ulric looks at Phoenix: he is still stunned.
Now out of javelins, the Duergar land. They may be doughty, but they have neither the excellent armor of the hobgoblin, nor the resilience of the orc: and are swiftly dealt with. Cat withstands a deadly necromantic attack from the Prime. Then the Nightwings, recalled by the Prime, return! As one last Duergar advances, Lothair targets it, spraying a cone of colors: the Duergar slides helpless down the track and off.
Ulric looks around, assessing the battle: Compelled Duel seems indicated. But Phoenix is stalled. The paladin grasps his comrade Phoenix and restores him with Lesser Restoration: “We need to advance!” He suits action to word. Lothair rages and clambers up, too.
The DM belatedly remembers that the party has been under psychedelic spore attack all this time: everyone is fine. Ulric makes 33!
Cat and Seck hammer at the Nightwings, swiftly reducing one to shreds. Lothair waits for one to get close. Ulric uses Compelled Duel: and it resists!
“Bah! I knew it! I need true foe for such a spell!” – Ulric
Then Lothair hits a wounded Nightwing with Color Spray, it falls at Ulric’s feet, and he slams Kinslayer down again and again, using Thunderous Smite, finishing it. Meanwhile Cat has been slashed by Nightwing claws and his fine clothing, already soiled and pierced, needs replacing!
Seck and Cat continue teaming up, while Phoenix and Ulric grimly work their way up. Cat’s aura fades: he is down to a couple of motes. “With me!” Ulric calls, advancing…
The battle for the launchpad
“There’s something up here!” Ulric yells, goggling in amazement.
Inits: Lothair/Ulric, Seck/Cat, Ulatharid Prime, Phoenix
A shimmering silver ship dominates the whole top. It seems to be resting on a complex platform that the track runs into. Two large throw-levers are visible. In form, the ship is sail-less, and somewhat akin to a fish in outline, with flaring sides that remind one of fins. It is very obviously not designed to function on the material plane.
As to height, the blunt end tapers down to no more than the height of an average Teulon. Ulric leaps, vaults, and slides down into combat with the Prime! Lothair is up with him, but uses the track and ship for cover, creeping closer to the Prime.
Cat throws Blight! The Prime uses a Legendary Save, takes half damage, and is slightly uncomfortable. Seck too advances, spots a target. Phoenix finishes the advance to the platform, then spots the Prime. He too vaults athletically over the shimmering silver vessel: casts Zealous Presence: hammers Mocair down: then falls under the Prime’s sway. His boss is being threatened! Lothair is the enemy!
Ulric (thanks to Cat’s inspiration) is still in the fight. He brings up Vow of Enmity and hammers the Prime with Kinslayer! A feeble crit! The Prime drops to double digit hp. Lothair creeps closer and awaits his chance. Seck keeps an eye on Phoenix, who seems to be ensorcelled, but slides into combat range behind the Prime. He stabs with Maelsauga, as Cat hits the Prime with Shocking Grasp, preventing retreat!
INT SV: DC 20, as the Prime blasts a cone of Psychic Damage. Lothair is fine, Ulric is stunned!
Phoenix bristles as his buddies attack his Best Friend! He decides to pick on the warlock that has just Shocking Grasped! <Cleave Him> comes the command and though Mocair protests the command wins: Phoenix wrenches Wild Maguc out of Mocair: teleports: chops: Cat is deeply wounded! The warlock Misty Steps, just on his feet!
Lothair looses off his Color Spray piling Sorcery Points in to make it effective, and the Prime uses his last Legendary Save! Cat and Seck are ready to act: the Prime shrinks, decaying from Cat’s Blight effect, then Maelsauga slices home: it dies!
Aftermath (with apologies to players that want to cover the details)
There are two switch-levers on the platform: “Return” and “Release.” Lothair, relaxed now that he is top of the hill and in possession of the gauntlet, admires the ship.
“With this gauntlet, now… I believe we may rescue my folk and be on the way to that Dark Tower ye spoke of.”
Cat directs Dis onto the job of investigating the bejewelled gauntlet the Prime wore, as, gradually, surviving deep gnomes and a very few Myconids assemble to review the terms of settlement.
Lothair makes a nat20 on persuasion but since he doesn’t speak pure gnome, the Disadvantage turns into a dirty 21. The Svirfneblin are happy with the ship being released, so long as it never returns. They hand over the Plate, which includes instructions.
The gauntlet requires Attunement: once attuned, it affords direct control of the key (the six-face sphere) with understanding of how the faces work:
The six faces of the key are gnome deities:
- Callarduran, the material. When inserted the key automatically snaps into place with this face up.
- Baervan, the fey. This trickster is tight with Puck. Dis gets bad vibes from it.
- Segojan, the earth. The ship can “sail” through earth, but at no more than walking rate. Monsters are still randomized from the earth-eating classes.
- Baravan, the shadow. This badly designed face lands the ship in the Shadowfell. It will not return.
- Urdlen, the destroyer. The ship “engages” with a new realm using this face, the chaos plane. (just switching to another makes the ship crash.)
- Gaeral, the defender. The ship is designed to fly using this face.
A discussion of who attunes the gauntlet follows. Cat is amenable to Lothair taking on the job of attuning, providing he swears to fulfill Cat’s quest the the Dark Tower.
“I’ll do better than that!” Lothair rashly promises. “I owe ye! And my sept owes ye for pulling us out of shame into glory! So long as ye rescue my folk and bring us home to the Hammerfasts and show off this bonny ship, I’ll be your pilot! As long as ye need me!”
With all aboard, and both levers thrown, the ship slides down the track and down, into the stone!
The DM rolls a d12 encounter as the ship noses up towards the upper levels of the Gorge: OK clear!
“Hold tight! I’ve no idea what happens if we hit river!?!”
Lothair rolls a 6 on Navigation, and since he has the Plate he warns the passengers that river menaces are able to attack.
Random river encounters: OK clear. The pike scatter as the ship (name TBA) sweeps up through it and berths at the underwater dock for Nainhold.
The astonished Nainhold dwarfs learn that rescue is at hand, and, their scavenger Lothair has saved them!
Odenfrith is hard to convince, at first, but seeing is believing. (Also, Lothair makes nat 19=22 Persuasion.) He orders his small warband into the vessel.
“Aye, bless ye, we are twenty all told – can we all be crammed in?”
“Aye chief, so long as ye don’t pack furniture, all twenty of us can squeeze in!” So promises Lothair. Odenfrith’s trusted minions lug in a hefty treasure-chest and the basics of weaponry, enough not to shame themselves. Then:
The watch make an adjusted 05 on Stealth, the hobgoblins realize that the rampart/glacis is unmanned!)
With hobgoblins hard on their heels, the dwarf band evacuates with no time to spare! They bring only one golden boar – the clan treasure – out! (And Odenfrith’s personal loot, naturally!)
Random earth-eater encounter: nil
Wailing and cursing and wishing Ulric could lay waste to their enemies, the score surviving Windtop sept batten down and look quite green about the gills as Lothair operates the sphere. The airship SHIFTS through the chaos plane and rises into the air!
“So – Give me a direction – Ye’ll be at the Dark Tower sooner than ye know!” – Lothair
Next session: The Dark Tower sub-arc begins
Technical notes: It is soon evident that Durlag built the ship for stability. It is Resistant on flanks and base. Shifting off Flight mode allows a “drop attack” on creatures below – but passengers are affected in much the same way as an elevator suddenly released from its brakes. The airship creates a stable platform from which to attack creatures at or above the horizontal. Equally, creatures in the airship can be picked up, targeted or attacked, in the same round they attack.
Flight speed is 60’/round, or 6.82 mph. After a “shift” of 12 hours it must recharge for 12 hours. Operating radius is, taking into consideration finding a decent landing site, 69+d6 miles/day.
DM Note: aside from illusion Cat has disadvantage on social, his clothes suggesting he is indigent.
Next: The Dark Tower! Stay Tuned!