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Three Against the Serpent's Skull

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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2016 3:28 am    Post subject: Three Against the Serpent's Skull Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

For the past six months or so, I've been part of small group playing through the Serpent's Skull adventure path with a couple friends. I haven't kept detailed campaign notes, but after a great in-person session I decided to start.

Cast of Characters
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Notable NPCs
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(This space reserved for a timeline of past events - coming eventually to a forum post near you!)

By this point we're most of the way through Book III. The troglodyte priest, rakshasa, and high girralon are dead. We drove the vegepygmies from their sacred spire. We've befriended the boggards and the Radiant Muse with gunboat diplomacy and regular diplomacy, respectively. We've taken control of or made treaties with every district in the lost city of Saventh-Yi... or so we think. There's still a few surprises waiting for the party, and we need a little more XP before taking on the final boss of this adventure.
DSMatticus wrote:
I sort my leisure activities into a neat and manageable categorized hierarchy, then ignore it and dick around on the internet.

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Last edited by rampaging-poet on Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:34 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2016 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Some Notes
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When we last left our heroes, they had delivered the boggard oracle's message -that the voice of the swamp had commanded him to studying history - to Chief Garluu. However, on the way they encountered some suspicious members of the Free Pirate's League carefully studying engraved pillars in the Temple District. Tomoko believed that the apparent leader of the pirates, Ahab, was under a domination effect. Not wanting to let a mind-altering magic user roam free, the party returned to investigate.

Soraneus offered the pirates cash in exchange for some of what they've learned. They immediately declined. He told his friends that he'd like to capture one in Sylvan, and Ahab called him out for speaking in languages he couldn't understand. Soraneus tried to play it cool, claiming he'd just made a casual remark to his friends. Against all odds the pirate believed him, and said it was rather rude to exclude him from the discussion like that. The wizard agreed.

By this time, Sorkil was already in motion. Unconcerned with the lives of the pirates, he threw a firebomb into the center of their group. The unfortunate hand at the epicenter was immediately knocked unconscious from the pain, but the priceless Azlanti pillar he was decoding was completely unscathed.

Seeking to avoid further bloodshed, Soraneus flew a few feet up and directed a fear spell on the remaining pirates. They ran screaming in terror. Meanwhile, Tomoko had tackled Ahab to the ground. With the help of the skeletons, she subdued him and tied him up. The party looted Ahab and the crispy corpse of his comrade in arms, then tied him onto Skelesuchus and swam back to camp. On the way, they encountered a pair of charau-ka clinging desperately to a log. Hidden currents had pulled them into the middle of the lake, and they could not swim. A swarm of megapiranha reached them as the party swam past, viciously devouring them as Soraneus spurred Skelesuchus on.

As they approached the camp, Soraneus called a halt. He used the power of his bonded ring to cast dominate person himself. Ahab fell under his sway. Questioning the pirate revealed that his master was a female serpentfolk wizard, and the pirates could contact her through dead drops at a lake to the south. He also gave up the location of the pirate's camp. However, his master's willpower prevents Ahab from disclosing any of the secrets they had discovered so far.

After blindfolding Ahab, the party returned to camp. Soraneus informed the guards that anything he saw or heard could be known by his master, so they shouldn't say anything sensitive near him.

The party then set out for the dead drop location. As they approached the edge of the pool, three gibbering mouthers emerged. Their flesh was strangely transparent, but none of the party recognized the source of their ailment. Sorkil was briefly confused and Tomoko blinded, but the party still made short work of them.

The pool was fed by two sizable rivers. The party explored the southern one first, eventually reaching a small opening in the side of the mountain. Unable to explore further, they turned around and rode Skelesuchus up the eastern river. They soon reached a smaller, deeper pool. Soraneus descended to the bottom and realized the floor was an illusion, but before he could inform the others the serpentfolk wizard they were warned of appeared and dominated Tomoko. The kitsune backstabbed Sorkil just as Soraneus reached the surface.

The serpentfolk wizard successfully dominated Sorkil as well and directed them both to attack Soraneus. Soraneus asked Skelecuchus to grab the mind-controlled alchemist. The gigantic skeletal lizard twisted and held him in its jaws while Arms, Legs, and Tomoko clung to its sides. Meanwhile, Soraneus threw a snowball at the enemy wizard, only to see it pass through her harmlessly. Knowing the true wizard must have line of sight to both the illusion and his allies, he dove to the bottom of the pool.

Tomoko dropped her ancestral blades into the water so she could grab her bow. She took a pot shot at Soraneus, but it flew wide. Sorkil was too busy trying to escape Skelesuchus to interrupt. However, when Soraneus flew through the false bottom of the pool he just saw another empty pool. He took a quick look for hidden caves, but saw no sign of the enemy wizard nor any place for her to hide. Cursing his failure to prepare see invisibility that day, he dismissed shadow projection to return to camp.

When his body awoke, he ran to his genie simulacra. He wished for several useful buff spells: mind blank, protection from evil, true seeing and water breathing. He then wished himself back to the side of the pool.

When he arrived, he found his skeletons had been destroyed. His friends were swimming in the pool. Their skin had the same sickly transparent cast as the gibbering mouthers they'd encountered earlier. His true seeing spell also revealed two more layers of illusionary floors on the bottom, along with several hidden caves. He dove into the pool as his allied attacked.

Soraneus took two hits from Sorkil's acid bombs before he was able to spot their true foe. Unable to withstand that kind of DPS for long, he returned fire with a _maximized intensified snowball_. Sorkil fell unconscious and sank to the bottom of the pool. The "wizard" then appeared in its true form - an aboleth - and attempted to dominate Soraneus. Fortunately his magical protections held, and he continued his attack on it.

Another gibbering mouther emerged from the bottom of the pool and began swimming up to Soraneus. The aboleth charged at him and smacked him with one of its tentacles. Its oily grip turned his skin slimy and transparent like that of his comrades. He retaliated with another snowball. By this time Tomoko had reached him as well, but his bracers of armour turned her blade.

The aboleth flailed wildly with all four tentacles, striking Soraneus twice more. The gibbering mouther grabbed him, preventing him from casting that round. He invoked his dimensional steps spell-like ability to teleport fifty feet higher and out of reach. The injured aboleth charged again and slapped him on the side, sending him reeling. Barely conscious, the wizard cast one last snowball. The immense impact instantly slew the aboleth, freeing his friends and the gibbering mouther from its control.

Soraneus began to quip, "Sometimes if you want something done right, you have to do it your-"
"Is it dead?" Tomoko interjected.
"Yeah, and I know how to fix-"
"Is it dead!?" she asked again, more insistently.
"Yes, Tomoko. It's dead."

Tomoko descended upon the aboleth's corpse with unmasked fury, hacking out one of its eyes and attempting to sever its head. Meanwhile, Soraneus checked on Sorkil. The alchemist was still breathing, so he propped him up and poured a healing potion down his throat. The tiefling immediately regained consciousness.

After Tomoko calmed down, Soraneus explained the effects of the aboleth's musk and slime. The party is stuck in the water for the next several hours, so Sorkil set about preparing healing infusions. He also brewed several castings of remove disease to cure the uncomfortable skin condition. Soraneus took this opportunity to search the aboleth's lair for treasure. It didn't seem to hoard gold, but there were several magic items on its person which he quickly identified.

Tomoko wanted to save the aboleth's head as a trophy, but the others convinced her it was too unwieldy. Instead, they resolve to pickle its brain. A few hours later, the (now air-breathing) party returned to camp, reformed skeletons in tow.

The party discussed what to do with Ahab. The aboleth's hold on him was gone, but Soraneus still had control of him for the next eight days. Tomoko thought they should send him back to his camp, but Soraneus didn't want to spy on the Free Pirates. Sorkil agreed: having him walk into camp and declare "I'm free" in the monotone voice of a dominated creature would not inspire confidence. Tomoko still objected to keeping him prisoner. Soraneus retorted, "We're not hurting him, we're just mildly inconveniencing him for the next few days by showing him reasonable hospitality against his will!" Tomoko reluctantly agreed, so Soraneus ordered Ahab to stay in their camp and keep out of trouble.

Reflecting on their recent experiences, everyone realized they'd picked up some new tricks (leveled up to 10). Soraneus hastily scribbled something in his spellbook, then challenged Arms to an arm-wrestling contest to test his new theories of mind over matter. Sorkil _wished_ up some smelly unguents and retired to his lab. He happily informed his partners that that they'd literally be seeing a lot more of him next week when his clones grew up. Meanwhile, Tomoko realized invisibility came so naturally to her that even true killing intent could not disrupt her vanishing trick.

The rest of the evening was spent catalog shopping. The party convinced the quartermaster to ship some of their excess magical items (including the troglodyte priest's scythe) back to civilization along with several non-magical trinkets and jewels from the city. In exchange, they will receive some basic stat boosters and a cloak of displacement for Tomoko.

With all apparent threats eliminated, the party decided to begin studying the city in earnest. They started in the mercantile district. Despite keeping well clear of the shadow-filled bank and the giant bat's sinkhole, they managed to learn a little of the nearby spire's power. It appeared that anyone nearby became slightly more skilled in influencing others. Soraneus remarked that while it was an impressive effect, it was currently wasted because there was nothing in the Mercantile District worth talking to.

The party spent a couple more days poking around the Government District. They uncovered the Azlanti's laws regarding arson - priceless archaeological evidence, but nothing of immediate use. After that, they went to the Residential District. As previously promised, Soraneus went to see Egzimora in person along with the others. She served tea and roast vegetables, and the party regaled her with stories of their recent adventures. After that pleasant breakfast, everyone set out to study the surrounding ruins.

After a few hours reading etchings made by the Sargavan soldiers, Soraneus received word that one of their patrols had disappeared. A group of ten men standing guard to the east of the spire hadn't checked in at the appointed time. He briefly conferred with Sorkil and Tomoko, and they decided to take a full head count. While gathering the remaining troops, they realized six more men from the southern patrol were missing. To avoid further loss of life, the party ordered the soldiers to fall back and report to Havilar while they searched for the missing men.

Soraneus speculated that they'd been lured off by some fey creature. He suggested they try to track the larger patrol in the east. While searching their expected route, Sorkil spotted flecks of fresh-dried blood on the street. He followed scuff marks from the scene to a nearby door. Using his newfound strength, Soraneus kicked in the door. The first thing he saw was a long, eight-legged lizard, and he cried out in panic: "Basilisk!" Fortunately his undead minions made short work of the beast before it got a second chance to petrify him or his allies.

Despite his keen elven senses, Soraneus found no sign of the missing soldiers. His comrades, however, stopped short and cursed as they entered the building. Many of the plants and mold patches in the overgrown building were suspiciously humanoid, and closer inspection revealed human limbs and organs grafted to the trees. Circumstantial evidence confirmed they'd found their men, and they were horribly, horribly dead. No signs of the killer could be found at the scene.

The party resolved to scour the district in search of the mysterious killer. They began by returning to Egzimora to warn her. She offered her house as a base of operations, and they gladly accepted. Soraneus set his skeletons to guard the hill. He then lay down inside and projected his shadow to search while the others stayed behind to keep watch. Tomoko scurried up onto the roof as a lookout while Sorkil kept Egzimora company.

Several hours later with Soraneus's soul well away from the building, Egzimora suggested that Sorkil and Tomoko take a nap. When they came to, they were stripped and bound in a dark basement. They were surrounded by more failed humanoid-plant hybrids like the corpses of the Sargavan soldiers. Soraneus's body was similarly bound beside them. Tomoko quickly slipped the ropes, but Egzimora returned before she could free Sorkil. Tomoko demanded her swords back. Egzimora interrupted her speech about the symbolic importance of the twin blades by revealing herself as a green hag and attacking.

Egzimora suggested that Tomoko should stand still. Tomoko had no choice but to comply, but she still had other options. She turned herself invisible and reverted to her true form. Egzimora took a moment to buff herself, then cast entangle to pin her down. The vines briefly held her, but that aggressive action freed her from the compulsion to stay put. Tomoko rushed to Sorkil's side and untied him.

Despite his bindings, Sorkil evaded the tangling vines. He sprang to his feet and took a bite out of Egzimora. She responded by summoning a swarm of spiders to engulf him, hoping to catch Tomoko as well. The spiders had little effect, and an unexpected bite from the kitsune ninja broke her concentration on the spell.

Sorkil ran past Egzimora in search of the party's equipment. Tomoko's jaws fell just short of Egzimora as she pursued. Sorkil didn't immediately see anything, but he kept searching despite heavy fire from Egzimora. Tomoko continued to attack the hag, savagely tearing a chunk from her side. Egzimora struck Sorkil with a pair of scorching rays, but it was too late. He threw open a nearby chest and found the ninja's twin blades at the top. In one smooth motion he turned and threw the first one. The sword's magic guided his hand, and it pierced straight through her heart. The hag coughed, stumbled, and fell over dead.

Tomoko and Sorkil recovered their equipment and dressed themselves. Sorkil used his fire bombs to destroy the hideous experiments in the basement. He nearly forgot to recover Soreneus's bound and sleeping body, causing much out of character laughter. The two patiently waited for the wizard to return. In the meantime, Sorkil perused Egzimora's research and identified the magic items on her person (ring of force shielding, ring of protection, and an amulet of natural armour plus some potions).

As sunset approached, Soraneus dismissed his shadow projection. "It seems a bit drafty in... here?" he remarked as he noticed his nudity. "What happened? Why am I naked?"
In lieu of an answer, Sorkil lightly bopped him on the head with one of Egzimora's notebooks and exclaimed, "Science!" The confused wizard had no response.
Tomoko turned to Sorkil and asked, "Why didn't you dress him?". Sorkil shrugged.
"Why didn't he dress me? Why didn't YOU dress me!" said Soraneus. "Also, why am I naked? Where's Egzimora?"
"Because I didn't care. Also, because I was busy trying to wash the taste of evil and green peppers out of my mouth." She then held the hag's severed head aloft.
"Really?" said Soraneus. "I trusted her..."

While Soraneus dressed himself and recovered his spellbooks, Tomoko examined Egzimora's wardrobe. She found several well-kept dresses to she claim as her own. She offered Soraneus some of the hag's lingerie. Soraneus declined, saying "I know full well where that's been." He reluctantly sterilized it with prestidigitation, and Tomoko stuffed it in her bag. She also took the hag's head with her back to camp, intending to have it shrunk as a trophy.

Finally, the party returned to camp for the night. General Havilar was revealed to hear his men had been avenged, but disgusted at the adventurers' savage behavior. They make it up to him by having the genie horde resurrect the fallen soldiers.

Shortly thereafter, Soraneus visited the camp's library and paid the quartermaster for access to a second-level spell: Blood Transcription. He then went to Sorkil's tent and used his new spell to learn Speak with Plants from Egzimora's head. Scales and tails had started forming on the alchemist's half-grown clones. They would be ready for battle in just a few more days.

The next two days were spent exploring the Farming District. They discovered that if the spire there could be activated, it would provide food to all creatures within the district as a ring of sustenance. A second day of focused research revealed the rituals required to turn it on. The party gathered the boggards, and Sorkil lead them in planting seeds along the furrows in front of the ziggurat. A steady green beam erupted into the heavens. The boggards took this as a sign of the Green God's favour. There was much rejoicing, but unknown to all a terrible evil was waiting to strike... (OoC: the DM told us he'd be starting the run-up to the final boss of this book next session).
DSMatticus wrote:
I sort my leisure activities into a neat and manageable categorized hierarchy, then ignore it and dick around on the internet.

My deviantArt account, in case anyone cares.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

With the Farming District's spire activated, the party returned to camp for the night. When they arrived, a messenger from the Tribe of the Sacred Serpent was waiting for them. They'd found an outsider in their territory. She was acting strangely, and Osond didn't know what was wrong with her. He wanted our advice both because we were outsiders and because Soraneus and Sorkil were clearly skilled magic users.

The party agreed to see her that night. Soraneus's shadow projection was nearly out of time, so he took a moment to fetch his body. Meanwhile, Sorkil decided to leave his behind. His clones were ready, so he transferred his belongings to one of them and left his true form in camp. The party decided to take one of the efreeti simulacra in case it could cure whatever ailed the woman. Everyone (including the messenger) piled on to Skelesuchus's back and they swam across the lake.

On the way they encountered a drowning degenerate serpentfolk clinging to a the remnants of a shattered boat. Soraneus had the efreeti put it out of its misery with its scorching rays. Tomoko was annoyed at the others for killing a helpless creature instead of offering assistance. Soraneus apologized and said, "We probably shouldn't have burnt him." Sorkil disagreed: "I'm in favour of the burning!"

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. Soraneus parked Skelesuchus on the beach, and the others followed the messenger into the plaza beneath the spire. Osond greeted them as they approached. He lead them to a nearby building where they'd confined the half-elf. When they looked inside, they saw a half-elf woman in tattered clothing. She smiled when they approached and let out a happy whine. Tomoko introduced herself, but the half-elf's only response was another meaningless whimper.

Soraneus took a moment to cast detect magic and study the curse upon her. He soon declared that she had been feebleminded, destroying her ability to reason or meaningfully communicate. He tried to wish her better, but undoing such a mighty spell was beyond the simulacrum's power. (OoC: We had previously agreed to go along with the railroad, and the efreeti's low caster level was the excuse we'd come up with for the spell failing).

Soraneus told Osond and the party that he could not yet break the curse. He also informed them that while he did not know how to cast feeblemind, it was within his power to do so. Clearly she'd encountered a sorcerer at least as strong as the party or a trap left behind by one.

Tomoko asked for more information on how she'd been found, and Osond sent for the guards who'd first spotted her. They said they'd found her wandering to the southeast. She seemed happy to see them, and didn't put up any resistance when they lead her to the plaza. However, before they could answer any more questions another guard ran into the plaza and said, "Osond, come quickly!" He immediately followed the warrior.

The party took a few moments to decide what to do. In the end, they left the skeletal girralons and the efreeti to guard the befuddled woman while they took off after him. As they approached the top of the long staircase leading to the water, the familiar sounds of battle rang through the air. An undead horde was charging up the steps. Osond and the watchmen had already engaged, raining spells and arrows down on them. However, there were clearly too many for them to stop alone. One group broke through their lines and rushed to engage the adventurers.

Sorkil didn't much care what the undead were capable off. He responded to this threat the same as any other: by lighting it on fire. He landed a direct hit on the lead figure - a dry, lumbering, bandaged thing - lighting its wrappings on fire and scorching the others nearby.

The attackers comprised three distinct types of undead. Soraneus was unable to recognize the bandaged thing. He knew to be wary of the ghasts in the rear, for even elves are vulnerable to their paralyzing touch. The group that scared him the most were the four wights in the middle. If they reached the civilian population behind him, all would be lost. "Stop the pale ones!" he yelled before creating a pit beneath two of them.

Tomoko turned herself invisible and ran forward to meet them head-on. However, terror gripped her as she approached the bandaged figure. Try as she might, she couldn't force herself to move. All she could do was stand stock-still and pray that thing wouldn't find her.

The surviving undead charged straight past the invisible ninja. One of the wights struck Soraneus in the head, and a pair of ghasts managed to scratch Sorkil. The alchemist retaliated with another bomb, destroying the entire cluster. The only survivor was a wight stuck in Soraneus's pit which the wizard quickly finished with an acid blast. The main force attacking the guards broke and ran shortly thereafter, driven back by Osond's lightning and the appearance of the Radiant Muse.

After the undead ran, the party used the simulacrum's remaining two wishes to heal themselves and the tribesmen injured in the battle. Soraneus and Tomoko prepared to take the half-elf back to camp. Sorkil decided to stay behind to defend the tribe, and the others left the efreeti with him.

Soraneus worried that the undead might be targeting the mysterious half-elf. He decided to disguise himself as her so that any potential assassins would have two targets to choose from. Fortunately the trip back cross the lake was quiet, as was the remainder of the night.

In the morning, Sorkil briefly returned to his body so he could inform the others that nothing else had happened to the Tribe of the Radiant Muse that night. As literally everything he owned was across the lake with his clone, this involved walking through camp stark naked. Soraneus jokingly suggested that Tomoko should lend him one of Egzimora's dresses so that he's have something to wear. He declined and returned to his cabin, then sent his soul back to the clone to await our arrival.

Talking about clothing reminded Tomoko that the half-elf woman was essentially dressed in rags. Tomoko offered her a dress as well, but in her feebleminded state she simply grabbed it. Tomoko guided her into it. While changing her, the ninja noticed that her body was covered in scars. More importantly, she had a tattoo of the Open Road, a major Pathfinder symbol, on her right shoulder. She relayed this information to Soraneus. The two decided they would seek out representatives of the Pathfinder society later that day. First, however, they had to track down the source of the undead horde from the previous night.

Soraneus commanded one of the other two simulacra to guard the Pathfinder, then settled in to cast his shadow projection and false life. His shadow and the ninja set off across the lake. They found Sorkil waiting for them on the beach where Skelesuchus had been parked before. He trivially tracked the horde back to their lair - a ruined mansion with a domed hall just to the south of the tribe's territory.

When they reached the mansion, Tomoko and Sorkil decided to scout ahead. Sorkil took few minutes to brew up extracts of invisibility and gaseous form. The two then turned invisible and entered through the front door. They trivially bypassed a few skeletons and soon reached a hall where the surviving undead from the attack were gathered. There was a second bandaged humanoid there, but neither of them succumbed to its aura of despair. They easily avoided notice and carefully slipped through a door at the end of the hall.

Tomoko and Sorkil found themselves in the large domed room. An impromptu magical laboratory had been set up inside, and a serpentfolk ghast was puttering about. He turned around after they entered and announced, "I know I have intruders. How rude of you not to show yourselves." The two fled before he had a chance to do anything else. "Leaving so soon?" he called after them.

When they returned, they explained what they'd seen to Soraneus. He suggested flanking the serpentfolk by teleporting through the side of the dome, but the others pointed out they'd have no escape route that way. He agreed to the new plan of walking through the front door and destroying anything that opposed them.

Tomoko went ahead to take out the skeletons. When she gave the all clear, the party advanced. Skelesuchus was much too large to fit in the building, so Soraneus ordered it to stay behind. When the reached the domed room, the ghast was waiting for them. He sent forth a lightning bolt to electrocute the party and raised a shield to defend himself. The other intelligent undead had taken up defensive positions scattered around his room.

Soraneus was the first to act, throwing a snowball past the necromancer's shield. Sorkil chose to focus on the other undead, setting fire to the mummy and clearing out a few of the ghasts with the splash. The necromancer countered with waves of fatigue, causing Tomoko and Sorkil to feel like they hadn't had a good sleep in days. It proved to be his final spell. Soraneus's perfectly-aligned second snowball hit like a Mortal Kombat fatality, sending icy bits of disintegrating ghast flying across the lab.

Tomoko decided to summon her lions to help mop up the remaining undead. Shisha finished off the scorch-marked mummy while Shiki destroyed one of the regular ghasts. The remaining undead managed to paralyze one of the lions, but the party made short work of them. The latest threat to peace in Savinth Yhi had been destroyed.
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With the undead defeated, the party decided to search the area for clues about where they'd come from. Unfortunately the ruined laboratory held nothing of interest. However, there was a small pile of useful items where the necromancer last stood. Soraneus claimed his spellbook and a few hundred gold pieces worth of onyx. Tomoko took the ring of protection +2 and handed her ring of protection +1 off to Sorkil. He also had a scroll of Create Undead at caster level 15. There was some debate about what to do with it because it only creates evil undead, so the party decided to hold on to it for now.

On their way back to camp, the party stopped to inform the Tribe of the Sacred Serpent that the undead menace had been destroyed. Osond thanked them and said that the Radiant Muse wished to speak with them. She helpfully informed them that there was a necromancer on the loose and asked them to destroy him. Soraneus replied, "Don't worry, we took care of him." She was pleased and offered the party a reward: a scroll of heal with which to cure the half-elf. They thank her and returned to camp.

Nobody in the party could use the scroll directly, so they asked Jask to cast it for them. He obliged, and as the spell completed the light of understanding returned to the woman's eyes. She thanked everyone for saving her, and immediately requested aid on a nebulus fate-of-the-world quest. Tomoko introduced everyone and asked her name. She said her name was Juliver and that she was a Pathfinder from the Grand Lodge of Absalom.

Tomoko asked Juliver how she came to Saventh-Yhi, prompting an infodump about another Pathfinder, Iando Kline, and their plan to ensure that sleeping serpentfolk cities never wake. Soraneus and Tomoko agreed that such a threat must be stopped at all costs. Tomoko warned her about Sorkil's bombs and amount of fur she'd lost to them. Sorkil replied, "Explosions are well known for their life-saving properties." (a running gag)

Soraneus cut the other two off before their argument could get out of hand. "If you're OK with a little friendly fire - literally - we'll follow you."

Before setting out, the party asked Juliver more about what happened to the expedition and how she got to Saventh-Yhi. Her party encountered more serpentfolk than expected in the city beneath this continent, and her companions were all captured or killed. She escaped and fled through the Darklands.

When asked if she knew the way back, she replied "I broke it." Her flight took her through a magical gateway. To ensure the serpentfolk couldn't catch her, she destroyed several important-looking crystals around the edges. Shortly thereafter, she encountered an undead serpentfolk man, and after that her memory became hazy.

Because Juliver couldn't remember where she'd been while feebleminded the party decided to follow her tracks backward from where the Tribe of the Sacred Serpent found her. Before they left, however, Sorkil asked to take some time to sleep and recover his spells. Between the necromancer's spell and his night-long vigil he was completely exhausted. While he rested, Juliver took the time to re-equip herself. General Havilar gave some magic weapons and armour from the company armory. She also kept Egzimora's dress.

The party set out in the middle of the afternoon. The guards who'd first found Juliver lead us to where they first saw her, and Sorkil quickly picked up her trail. After many twists and turns through the surrounding jungle, they reached a massive, vine-covered double door set into the side of a cliff. One side was wide open, revealing a deep, dark hall within.

As everyone approached the entrance, Soraneus spotted a kech lurking just inside. Unfortunately his snowball missed, and the kech fled into the darkness.

The party briefly debated correct marching order for the dungeon ahead. The entrance was large enough to accommodate Skelesuchus, but there was no guarantee it could traverse the deeper passages. Soraneus eventually elected to leave it behind as a rear guard. Arms would take point with an everburning torch, while Legs would defend the spellcasters from behind. With the marching order settled, everyone began to enter the dungeon.

The cool flame of the everburning torch showed that the walls and floor were covered in the thick layer of black dust or soot. The twenty-foot-wide hall split into two passages half that size at the edge of the torchlight. The party quickly advanced, kicking up and breathing in some of the soot.

As soon as Arms, Juliver, and Tomoko were through the door, a large statue fell across their path. Half a dozen arrows rained down on them, and Tomoko felt the bitter sting of their poisoned tips. Tomoko turned invisible, but couldn't see her attackers. A second volley soon followed targeting Juliver and Sorkil.

Soraneus shouted, "Everyone get back!" Sorkil lobbed a bomb up at the attacking kech and beat a hasty retreat. Juliver quickly followed. Tomoko whispered "I'm here." as she ran past the wizard. With all his allies clear, he unleashed a mighty cloudkill on the cave entrance.

The elite kech warriors survived the spell, but it drove them out of hiding and into jaws of the undead below. Soraneus cast haste. Tomoko and the skeletons quickly cut them down. The few survivors were finished by a second bomb from Sorkil. Everyone looted their bodies, finding a few gold nuggets and some valuable poison.

Soraneus's cloudkill blocked both of the deeper passages. Neither Juliver nor Tomoko would be able to pass through for the next few minutes. Sorkil and Soraneus decided to scout ahead with the skeletons, turning left at the fork. Tomoko paced anxiously, waiting for their return.

The two spellcasters soon stumbled upon the corpse of a bat-like humanoid covered in arrows. Soraneus identified it as a sabosan. The body had already been stripped of valuables, so they continued on.

The next room appeared to be some kind of apothecary full of aromatic herbs (along with the pervasive black dust). Eight kech were milling about inside. Surprised, they turned to attack. Soraneus dropped four of them into a hungry pit before they could advance. Sorkil badly burned the others with a fire bomb, and the skeletons took a few bites out of them as well.

The kech couldn't hurt Soraneus's shadow form, but they could hurt Sorkil. They charged past the skeletons to reach the tiefling, lightly wounding him with their teeth. Arms and Legs quickly turned on them, tearing two down with their massive claws. Sorkil's second bomb finished off the other two.

Meanwhile, the four kech in the pit desperately tried to escape. One was smashed to pieces, and two others fell to their deaths from the midway point. A single ketch reached the top of the pit only to fall into the jaws of the skeletal minions.

Soraneus and Sorkil took a minute to loot the kech, finding more poison but less gold. They returned to their companions outside shortly before the cloudkill expired. They let the others know about the sabosan and the kech, then asked Tomoko if she'd rather continue in the direction they'd scouted or check the other passages. Tomoko briefly struggled with the decision before declaring they should continue to the left.

A short distance past the apothecary, the party reached a cavern with a wicker wall on one end. It also had several living sabosan who were less than thrilled with the intruders in their lair. One of them let out an ear-piercing scream while another took flight and kicked up dust. The other four charged.

Sorkil opened with a fire bomb. Arms took one down, and its master's snowball felled another. The sabosan in the back continued to scream, so Tomoko yelled "Stop yelling at me!" back as she stabbed its companion.

Sorkil's second bomb killed two bats, but he and Juliver were bleeding heavily from the bites they'd already inflicted. Soraneus's second snowball killed the one that was kicking up dust, leaving only the shrieker. Tomoko charged at him but received a painful bite in return. Juliver and Sorkil ran to her rescue, stabbing it with their rapier and spear respectively.

Sorkil moved quickly to staunch his and Juliver's bleeding. Tomoko elected to remain invisible and tend to her own wounds. Once everyone was ready, the party decided to leave the wicker wall in place and explore the other passage out of the room. They soon found a few more sabosan lingering near a half-way of crystal blocks and a festering mass of indeterminate organic matter.

Sorkil threw a pair of bombs into the room, instantly killing one of the sabosan and setting another one on fire. Soraneus became distracted while attempting to use his acid blast ability, burning himself from within. "I swear this has never happened before," said the embarrassed wizard.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Juliver tumbled past the remaining sabosan and ran her rapier through his back. Tomoko silently decapitated the other. The surviving sabosan flailed at her wildly, but she deftly avoided every blow. Sorkil's spear soon dealt the finishing blow.

A quick search of the area revealed a gourd full of gold dust and tiny diamonds wrapped in leaves. Soraneus inspected the pile of sludge and decided it was probably a creature killed with large amounts of acid. A closer inspection of the crystals blocking the hallway revealed they were rock salt, so Soraneus suspected they was meant to keep some form of large ooze at bay. Everyone decided to turn around and inspect the area behind the wicker wall instead.

When they reached the wicker wall, Soraneus asked Tomoko to check it for traps. She glared at him and refused to do so. Sorkil checked instead. There were no traps on the wicker, so he moved it aside and the party continued on.

The passage opened up into a larger cavern with a hole in the roof. Jungle flowers bloomed amidst several strange mud pillars beneath it. Sorkil identified the mud piles as deserted army ant nests. Soraneus examined the plants. Tomoko watched her companions, keeping her back to the wall. Eventually Sorkil said, "Tracks! Little Juliver tracks." He'd picked up her original trail through the soft dirt floor.

The party followed Juliver's tracks past a fork in the passage. They soon came to a room with a statue and three other exits. Juliver's tracks lead through a door on their left, but there were also serpentfolk tracks leading from a door to the right through the corridor straight ahead. Since Tomoko remained both invisible and uncooperative, Sorkil checked the door on the left for traps without being asked.

Soraneus stuck his shadow-self's head through the door without actually opening it. He saw a large cavern with crystalline veins throughout. The remnants of a gigantic statue lay shattered in the middle of the room, and huge murals decorated the walls. One of the murals was a smaller depiction of the room itself, and several shards of crystal are scattered around it. A closer inspection of that mural reveals a portal set into the wall with small holes - presumably from when Juliver destroyed the gate.

Soraneus returned to report his findings. Sorkil opened the door. The statue behind the party immediately lashed out at him, slamming a massive fist into the back of his head. Soraneus retaliated with a snowball shattering a chunk of its side. Due to the room's small size, everyone else was forced to engage it in melee. However, the golem's hard exterior protected it from the worst of their attacks.

Heedless of its attackers, the golem smashed Sorkil twice more. The cornered alchemist decided to play dead. He abandoned his simulacrum, causing it to fall to the ground unconscious. With its primary target neutralized, the golem turned its attention to the rest of the party. It raised its fists to strike Juliver, but before it could attack Soraneus landed a second snowball. The golem crumpled harmlessly to the floor.

Soraneus cast whispering winds (a spell he recently learned from the ghast necromancer's spellbook) to inform Sorkil that his simulacrum was no longer in danger. The unconscious clone immediately sprang to life and said, "Thank you kindly. I was punched in the face by fists the size of my face." He set about brewing healing extracts to restore structural integrity to the cloned body.

With the way cleared, the entire party examined the room with the murals. Torchlight revealed that the crystalline veins on the ways were deep blue in color. Inspecting the portal, Soraneus realized the six holes around the portal would require specially-crafted focusing rods carved of the same blue stone. He cast detect magic to examine the enchantments and noticed that a firestorm had been worked into the wall as well. Sorkil confirmed the presence of a one-shot magical trap that could be triggered by touching the portal. When Tomoko was asked if she wanted to disarm it now or wait until later, she gave a noncommittal answer. Soraneus internally vowed to ask her what was wrong once they were safely outside the dungeon.

Following the serpentfolk tracks down the passage lead the party to a room covered in a thick layer of slime. As the party pondered what exactly left the slime trail, a massive slug crept out from around the corner and spat acid at Arms. Soraneus causally lobbed a snowball down its throat, freezing it solid. The bloody skeleton fizzed horribly but stood strong.

Exploration beyond the slug's frozen corpse lead back to the room with the rock salt blocks. The party turned and followed the serpentfolk tracks through the omnipresent black dust. The tracks ended partway down the next hall. Soraneus's keen elven senses detected a hidden door. He phased through it while Sorkil searched for the catch.

The doorway lead to the remnants of a magical laboratory. The shelves had long since rotted away, leaving little but shards of glass and an oppressively thick carpet of black dust. Sorkil let himself in. Tomoko remained invisible while the other three searched the laboratory.

Mostly deprived of his sense of touch, Soraneus found nothing. Sorkil, however, pulled a well-worn book from a pile of broken wood. Glancing about nervously, he put it in his handy haversack without telling anyone. Hiding such things from notice was well outside his area of expertise, so everyone saw it immediately.

"What have you got there?" asked Soraneus.
"Nothing." said Sorkil.
"I saw you put something in your pack. Looked like a book." replied the wizard.
"It's nothing. Just a piece of glass. A souvenir."
"Why are you hiding things from your friends?"
"Are you my friends?" the tiefling asked, glaring at his compatriots.
"Was that ever in any doubt?"

Instead of responding, Sorkil turned and ran away. Tomoko immediately summoned her lions and ordered them to kill him. Juliver screamed, "Die, traitor!" and stabbed Soraneus with her magic rapier. The confused wizard retreated into a wall and cast hold person on her, but she was unaffected. When that didn't work, he trapped her in the laboratory with a wall of stone and returned to his body to inform everyone that something was wrong with Sorkil.

Meanwhile, Sorkil responded to Tomoko's attacks with lethal force. His bombs quickly took down one lion, and he continued to kite Tomoko and the other back toward the portal room. The ninja landed a few hits, but her fighting style was not well suited to running engagements. She was already burnt all over from his bombs when Sorkil deliberately set off the firestorm trap she'd refused to disable earlier. He survived the resulting explosion, but she did not. He sauntered off into the jungle with his prize.

Suddenly, the tiefling found himself a short way from the Sargavan camp. Soraneus and the two efreet simulacra he'd left there were facing him, and Tomoko's incinerated corpse was by his side. He immediately threw an acid bomb at the wizard, but caught a snowball to the face. His artificial body dissolved into a foul-smelling puddle, and he awoke to find his real body and other duplicates bound and under heavy guard. He slipped his bonds, but was not willing to try fighting his way out of camp naked - especially after Soraneus returned and set the efreet to guard him as well.

Soraneus asked Jask and Havilar to watch him in case he started acting stranger than usual after retrieving the book from Sorkil's pack. Fortunately, the book was not responsible for the alchemist's sudden betrayal. It was a journal written by Pharasma's high priest of prophecy at the time of Earthfall. It chronicled how his attempts to save the city from an unknown disaster went horribly awry after he brought a mysterious plant back from the Boneyard itself. He regularly breathed the spores of this plant and became more and more convinced of both the coming doom and others' plots to stop him from saving the city. The further he spread these "Midnight Spores", the more citizens heeded his words of warning. When the citizens finally built mighty vaults to protect themselves, he filled them with spores too. His increasingly-paranoid ramblings ended mid-sentence when the earthquakes started, but the journal did contain maps to five of the other six vaults and references to a fountain that could cure people of the spores' influence.

The wizard couldn't feasibly retrieve the fountain alone, but he could wish his friends better. He returned to Sorkil's cabin and had one of the efreeti simulacra cure his paranoia. Sorkil stopped hissing at the guards and apologized for his behavior. Soraneus fetched his things and let him get dressed, explaining what he'd learned about the vaults and the spores. They walked around the lake to retrieve the remaining simulacrum from the Artisan district so they could fix up Tomoko. Fortunately, the trip was uneventful.

Because they required more wishes than they had on hand, Soraneus had another simulacrum made. He'd spent enough time reading earlier that Tomoko's contingent reincarnation had revived her somewhere near the vault. Instead of tracking her down, Soraneus wished her back while Sorkil waited in a nearby building. A naked female kobold appeared in front of him.

"Tomoko?" he asked.
"Leave me alone." she replied.
"We'll get this fixed."
"Just turn me back already!"
"Ok." One wish later, it was done. A second cured the negative levels she'd suffered from her brief trip to Pharasma's boneyard. Soraneus gave her her Handy Haversack and turned around to let the restored kitsune dress.
"It was the spores." Soraneus said to break the silence. "They're what killed this city."
"Just leave me alone."
"Ok... Did you want another reincarnation, or would you prefer a resurrection this time?"
"Do what you want." she said, storming off.
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Soraneus decided that reincarnation was the safer option. He also realized, immediately after finishing, that he'd forgotten Juliver was still paranoid and trapped back in the vault. He set out in shadow form to retrieve her and his skeletons the next day.

Soraneus called Tomoko down from the roof she'd been brooding on. Sorkil apologized for blowing her up. She lamented her own weakness, and the others comforted her. "There are some truly wonderful and terrible things in the world," said Soraneus. "Yesterday, we ran into one of the terrible ones." They emphadisized that what happened wasn't anybody's fault, just one of the risks of adventuring.

After Tomoko calmed down, the party discussed where to go next. The other vaults were the most likely places to find any spare focusing crystals the Azlanti may have left behind, so they decided to work their way clockwise around the lake. That meant the vault in the Military District was their next stop.

The party soon arrived at a half-hidden cave strewn with tattered cobwebs. Everyone tied bandanas across their faces so they wouldn't have to breath the spores directly. As they moved toward the entrance, another dire crocodile charged forth to meet Skelesuchus. It was covered in a writhing mass of spiders. Thinking quickly, Soraneus cast command undead and ordered it to stop. He announced that he had a new pet, then ordered Skelesuchus to guard the entrance while the new crocodile lead the way into the dungeon.
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The cave beyond cobwebs was covered in the same black dust as the original vault. Tomoko noticed a change in Juliver's demeanor when she reached the spores and quietly told the others in Sylvan. Juliver called her out on plotting in a language she didn't understand. Soraneus successfully covered for her, and she reluctantly continued to follow them.

The first chamber was filled with piles of dried bones - presumably the remains of prey slain by spiders. Shortly after the party passed them, several undead boggards waiting in ambush breathed spiders all over everyone. Tomoko and Sorkil were too busy swatting at them to fight back, but Soraneus retaliated with a snowball and Spidersuchus lashed out with its teeth and tail. Juliver took this chance to flee because the others were clearly plotting to kill her.

Sorkil intentionally got caught in his own bomb's splash radius to burn away the spiders. Soraneus killed another with a snowball. The last one fell before Tomoko's blades, but she was too busy flailing at the spiders in her fur to gloat about it.

With the undead defeated, Sorkil prepared some healing spells. Soraneus used that time to search the bodies and noticed that they all had bronze armbands stamped with a toothed fish emblem. Tomoko and Sorkil split the healing extracts and made a more thorough search of the room. They soon found what they'd come for: four focusing crystals for the gate marked with the Azlanti symbol for anger.

After a quick discussion, the party decided to press on to see if more loot could be found further inside. They soon came to an eighty-foot tall hall completely filled with massive webs. A gigantic spider lurked on the ceiling. Soraneus recognized it as a Corpse Spinner just as Spidersuchus blundered into the web. They drove it off with some snowballs and a couple charges from a wand of lightning bolt, but not before it pinned Sorkil in place with a shot of webbing.

Soraneus tried to suggest chasing the corpse spinner back to its true lair the Astral Plane, but was interrupted by Sorkil. For some reason he wanted out of its webbing. After a few minutes Spidersuchus managed to pull itself free from the webbing and tear apart the strands holding him in place.

The vast field of webs made a full search impossible, but Soraneus noticed a large, gnarled stick jutting out from a shriveled corpse near the ceiling. He soon identified it as a necromancer's staff and claimed it as his own. Suddenly, Tomoko pointed across the room. In the edges of the torchlight a pair of ruby eyes glimmered brightly. Ancient powers were watching - and judging.
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I sort my leisure activities into a neat and manageable categorized hierarchy, then ignore it and dick around on the internet.

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Location: Lake Ontario is in my backyard; Canada

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I had to look up Sacred Geometry to know what it does. All that I can say is ... wow, the feat is insane. Also, allowing players to use Epic Metamagic feat on a 1st level character is hilarious as any other "bad" part of PF.

Interesting story aside from that detail.
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