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June 08, 2005

Felix Summary #4: The Revenge of the Zem

Party Roster:

Felix, 9th level half-orc fighter, 87 hp, played by Alex
Rathbane, 6th/6th dwarven fighter/cleric of Clangeddin, 53 hp, played by Katherine
Donald, 9th level human mage, 48 hp, NPC
Hendel, 8th level dwarven thief, 47 hp, played by Joel
Gates, 7th level dwarven cleric of Moradin, 44 hp, played by Jay
Nakumanu, 6th level orc fighter, 42 hp, played by Alex

[events in Charlotte, 14 May 2005]

When we last left the dwarfy party, they had just survived an epic battle with frost giants in the ruined ancient dwarven capital. After training the entire party, we plotted and schemed. First, it was realized that we had missed the obvious; if this was a ruined dwarven city, the dwarves of Shabrund surely had maps of it, including, most likely, the citadel in the center. Indeed, for a small fee, we were able to gain access to all the relevant maps. We learned, for instance, that the citadel had two entrances, and only two entrances.

One, at the bottom level, appeared to be a deathtrap. In order to enter this way, one immediately had to cross a vast expanse along a single platform in full view of arrow slits, murder holes, and somehow survive this long enough to open the gate at the far end.

The other, at the top level, appeared to be a deathtrap. To enter this way, you get in a stone elevator/lift and have someone crank the elevator down, where it descended into a cage surrounded by iron bars and a large round chamber where defenders could pick you off at their leisure while you tried to escape said cage.

Yum. This was going to be a blast.

Now, we weren’t sure that anything would actually be MANNING said defenses—after all, these flying mattresses (“Zem” for you Hitchhiker’s Guide readers) probably weren’t traditional dwarven defenders. Still, it seemed unpleasant.

In addition, we learned a few things about the inside. Most notably, there was a throne room, settled in the spherical inside of a giant geode. The throne sat on the central platform in the exact center of the room. Below it was a pit of spiked geode bits, and a small walkway led from the landing to the throne. It was said that one of the defenses of the throne was a single button (that did NOT, as Alex suggested, launch the person sitting in throne above ground like a jet-boosted ejector seat) that dumped the user into the Ethereal Plane, thereby allowing him to slip out easily in case he was trapped there. A powerful one-shot defense that could still be operational and used to screw us up.

As a side trip, Hendel mentioned to a group of dwarven thieves that there happened to be a dozen noblink wandering off from Shabrund with fully 12000 gp on them, and that Hendel could show them where they were… a few days later, 1200 gp mysteriously arrived in Hendel’s account and was surreptitiously inserted into the party funds. Very smoothly. (In fact, the noblink had escaped with the 2400 gp they could carry and still run with, but 9600 gp ended up with the thieves, and Hendel had received his cut…)

So with that, we rebuilt our scroll library (Curex3, Slow Poison, Dispel Magic, Cure Serious, etc.) despite some ghastly rolling by Jay, and traded for some interesting magic items. We picked up new dwarven platemail for Gates, plate mail+1 for Rathbane, and then traded the handaxe+2 and 17000 gp for one of the craziest weapons I’ve seen. It was called “Too Sharp for Your Own Good”, and it was a bastard sword +2. It also inflicted an extra 1d20 damage on a critical hit… or a fumble… to whoever you were targeting. It also has a very small chance of a vorpal type effect (ie. Chopping off limbs). It also has the unique ability to fumble even with Prayer spells up. It’s lovely. And Rathbane has it. And Hendel stays very, very far away.

So with that additional bit of excitement, we headed off down the corridor back to the ruined city. Almost immediately, bad things happened. Three days out, we bumped straight into a rust monster. Unfortunately, the little critters move quite fast and Rathbane was forced to face the thing with his brand new magical platemail. And sure enough, it was trashed pretty badly. This brave but financially frightening act bought us enough time to hammer the metal-eating creature with Magic Missiles, back ends of spears, crossbow bolts, the kitchen sink…

With Rathbane now unarmored for fear of damaging the platemail further, the party stumbled back toward town. But then eight ghouls came charging down the corridor at us. The closing distance was quite significant, but not quite long enough to allow for a full turning attempt against the hideous paralyzing creatures, so Felix, Hendel, and Nakumanu stepped forward to buy time in the overly wide corridor. It became apparent that these creatures were much worse than ghouls when Donald lobbed a fireball at the squad, killing none of them. At this point, we were pretty sure they were ghasts, which was quite a bit more dangerous. This was proven as the eight ghasts converged on the front line and swatted at them… paralyzing all three fighters! (Not particularly unlikely, as it turns out. Ghasts are really nasty.) A few of the ghasts remained behind to start eating limbs off the fallen fighters, while the rest advanced menacingly on the spellcasters.

Rathbane was unable to turn away any of the “ghouls” but Gates drove three of them off. This saved Felix and Nakumanu from nasty munching death, but Hendel was still being used as a snack. A Lightning Bolt from Donald reduced their numbers to three, and then they attacked the back end of the party. Battle ensued…. Rathbane started wailing on the ghasts as Gates tried to turn again. Rathbane dropped one and Donald continued his spells. Finally Gates managed to turn the rest of the ghasts. When they were far enough away, Donald fireballed them again, which brought them back to us, for a quick and easy final rest. Ultimately the first three to be turned escaped, but the rest were destroyed.

The party returned, somewhat dispirited, to Shabrund. But fortunately we were able to repair the magical platemail, and so we hadn’t lost very much by the expedition—mostly our pride.

The party set out once again, and in a bizarre turn, made it all the way to ancient ruined dwarven city without a single incident. (So in the end, I rolled pretty well, it just started badly)

While deciding whether to assault the citadel from the top or the bottom (and how to do it—this was going to be very nasty for us no matter what we did), we decided to scout out the cave exits to the city that were marked on the map we’d found back in Shabrund. The first cave was empty and looked like a good place of retreat if needed. The second…

We rounded the corner and found, to our surprise, an angry and just awakened polar worm (remorhaz). This is a 35 foot long hideous worm creature with a stomach like an industrial furnace that instantly consumes whatever it swallows. If Donald could only get a Wall of Force between us and the creature, we could escape it, but there wasn’t enough time…

Someone would have to be sacrificed. Despite great sadness it seemed the most expendable party member was Psue, Rathbane’s pet mimic. The creature had learned to speak a basic level of dwarven and was starting to feel like family to the Clanggeddin cleric, but this was about as grim a situation as could be imagined.

And it turned out not to matter at all. The creature used its long neck to reach over and try to eat the unfortunate party leader, Felix. The jaws closed on the fighter with a tremendous crash (68 damage and a TEN times wound…) but Felix was not quite engulfed. Rathbane slashed mightily at the creature with the dangerous bastard sword, but missed. Psue grabbed hold of the jaws of the worm, or Felix’s legs (whichever was closer), and then Hendel piled on, but they couldn’t seem to yank the jaws open. Felix was bleeding to death rapidly, but he gave one final yank and ripped the jaws open, falling desperately out. The worm lunged for Felix, but Donald dropped his spell…


The worm’s head cracked against the Wall of Force.

Hendel turned to Donald. “HOW LONG DOES THAT LAST?” he asked without any strain in his voice whatsoever.

It turned out to be about fifteen minutes, which was enough time to bandage Felix up and escape into the tunnels where the worm would not follow.

After that scare ruled that particular escape tunnel “a bad choice unless we were being pursued by a lot of guys,” we set to planning our assault on the citadel. We were going to enter at the top, descend the elevator shaft, use Knock to open the bars as quickly as possible, go in invisibly, cut the security cameras…

Who was that shadowy figure that just said something to us?

“Can you turn off the lights? You can keep your weapons out if you like.”

It was one of the darkling guides we had encountered in our earlier missions to the city. Feeling a slight bit of chagrin, we put away the lights and the creature came up to us. It explained that it was negotiating on behalf of the creatures in the citadel, the mattress things, the “lulls”. They knew we were going to attack, and we would all be killed, but it seemed that they feared they might suffer losses, and offered an alternate proposition. They knew we sought the belt on the leader of the dwarven expedition. And they knew what had happened to it.

We were suddenly all ears.

It turned out that the dwarves had charged in through the bottom entrance, and had fought their way into the citadel, but most of the low-level dwarves had fallen away from the lulls fear and other mental effects, leaving only the top officer to continue the fight. He charged into the throne room… and didn’t come out. Something terrible happened inside, and he became a creature of shadow. It is unclear how, but we suspect it has something to do with the special power of the throne to toss someone into the ethereal plane. Ultimately it turned out to be the portal to the plane of shadow that the lulls used to get here.

The trouble was that we didn’t know whether this was a “shadow” in the style of the undead shadow, or if it was a being of shadow that retained its mind (but became evil), similar to a lich. This would have some effect on what could hurt the creature, Donald informed us. In any case, the lulls would allow us free passage to the throne room and allow us to keep whatever we found there, if in exchange we would leave them alone.

Now, the lulls are also extremely alien minds and they make very little sense even to the darkling, so the creature wasn’t sure whether they would stick to their end of the bargain. Still, we decided that if the enemy already knew we were coming, unless they had badly underestimated us, it would be a very ugly attack. So we agreed to the bargain and prepared our spells appropriately for an assault within the day. The darkling warned us that the dwarf was accompanied by some strange moths that would drive dwarves insane if they got close—in fact they seemed to have particular strength against dwarves specifically. Why this could be was never made clear to us, but it seemed prudent to dispatch them early on in the combat.

The pathway was indeed clear of any hindrances, lull or otherwise, when the darkling led us to the throne room. We descended into the outer room, where the darkling informed us that the dwarf could not escape the room until we opened the door. Then he hopped up the stairs and wished us good luck.

As we were prepping spells, the stairs behind us suddenly folded up, the walls closed in, and weird oil sprays began slicking the walls. We heard a tiny voice just before the walls shut, “Have to be careful that he doesn’t escape…”

”We’re docking your tip for that one!” Hendel shouted desperately, and the walls slammed shut.

Well, we had to go for it now. Nothing for it but to try.

We cast our preparatory spells (strength early on, then aid, and a protection from evil, 10’ that spanned the area by the door and would protect us just inside, and two dust devils that would be used to try to scatter the dangerous moths and keep them away from the dwarves) and prepared our initial actions as we threw open the door. Inside we could see that the throne room looked like the spherical inside of a giant geode, spiky bits on all the walls and ceiling and floor. The door we peered through entered the area at the midpoint of the room’s height, and a small ledge/outcropping at the entrance narrowed to a thin walkway leading all the way to the throne… or what should have been the throne, on a separate platform in the center of the room. But instead of the throne, we saw a giant swirling portal with swirling fireflies and massive distortion, making it impossible to see if there was a throne buried in there or not.

Standing in front of this distortion was a dwarf shaped shadowy figure, as if someone had taken a normal dwarf and drenched his skin in black paint. He had very strange armor and was wielding a battleaxe.

Without hesitation, the party acted. Donald hurled a fireball into the room, exploding and instantly annihilating all of the moths, but having zero effect on the surprised dwarf. Two Prayers erupted, but it became apparent that the dwarf had magic resistance, as they also seemed to have no effect on him. The dwarf growled and yelled, “Traitors! You work for the lulls!”

Hendel protested, “We’re from Shabrund!”

“Die Shabrundian traitors!”

So the fight was on. The dwarf came zooming forward and Felix moved to intercept, spear-wielding Nakumanu just behind him, while Rathbane, Gates, and Donald began chanting. Hendel nailed the dwarf in the chest with a vial of holy water, which had a noticeable effect. The dust devils charged in, but as the moths had immediately been destroyed, they instead focused on the nearly impossible to hit shadow dwarf (Donald called the creature a “shade” which was something like a lich, but with a shadow). The Spiritual Weapons came flying in and enjoyed surprising success against the defensively strong creature.

Then the battle was on. The dwarf slashed at Felix, holding him at bay and doing minor damage. But the dwarf was incredibly fast with his weapon (speed 2!) and continued to smash Felix, although the Protection from Evil actually helped the poor half-orc evade a blow. During this opening Felix struck back powerfully, and the dwarf snarled and dashed backwards. Felix did not pursue, and although Hendel pelted the dwarf with another holy water vial and the Spiritual Weapons continued to pound him, the dwarf downed a potion of some sort, and simultaneously sped up enormously. He then zoomed forward to attack Felix once more. He again missed, and Felix hit him, but it appeared to have no effect. Undeterred, the battle continued as Nakumanu dealt a blow, and Dispel Magics hit the dwarf, one appearing to drop his Haste spell.

But the dwarf simply reactivated the effect seconds later and came at Felix once again (speed 1!). The dwarf had sustained quite a bit of damage and appeared to have lost his protective barrier. That was when Hendel nailed the dwarf in the chest with the vial of extra-corrosive acid (doing almost 50 points of damage!). Donald tried Magic Missiles, having some success, but Rathbane and Gates were forced to continuously heal Felix, starting to burn through their scrolls in their haste to keep the durable but clearly outclassed fighter alive. (The dwarf was hitting Felix almost every segment)

Felix realized he would die and called for help. Rathbane quickly sidled in and began taking blows in earnest from the dwarf, who couldn’t pursue immediately. Rathbane’s tanking saved Felix, as just before the cleric himself collapsed, the dwarf finally died from his wounds (well over 240 points of damage)!

We looted the corpse and began a quick search of the geode room. As we were finishing this task (Hendel was being lowered on a rope around the room) suddenly the moths popped out of the portal once more! Gates got the dust devils to slow the moths down, as we realized we could be in trouble and ran for our lives, throwing the door shut and breathing a sigh of relief.

“You can open it, we won!” we shouted.

Sure enough, the stairs opened and we exited without incident (despite, according to Edwin, the significant chance that the alien lulls would just attack anyway for no good reason).

Success! We made it back to Shabrund easily and divided up the loot. The treasure was quite nice, including:

Belt of Dwarvenkind!
Battleaxe+2 of swiftness (speed 5, 30 cw) “Easy as Slice of Pie”
“Imposing”-- +2 Land Dragon Armor of Presence (AC –1/ type 3, gives 16 cha or +1 cha, +1 command level)
Gauntlet of Giants (not what you think—it gives you 1 rank in all giantish languages)
Ring of Bad Taste (creatures spit you out)
“Dope-on-a-Rope” – 35/100 hp left, trap springer (60 cw), a little garden gnome that waddles forward and triggers trap by pretending to be a lifeforce, wacky item

We paid the battleaxe+2 in salvage tax and then began a very long downtime. It began in early 2187, with Felix putting on the belt and slowing transforming himself into a dwarf, continuing the thread of his conversion to Clangeddin. Felix no longer could wear his old armor, and so he picked up the land dragon armor (an awesome trade), and is still looking for a new shield.

Out of character: The good news is that the dwarf stat changes merely layered with the old stat blocks, so he suddenly gained +1 con, -1 cha, -1 com. But Felix decided, on his own, to donate the baseball sized diamond Clangeddin had gifted him with when he originally pledged himself to the dwarven god of battle. It was lost, but the charisma/comeliness penalty from being a half-orc vanished, as did Felix’s stone curse. This didn’t add any hitpoints to Felix directly, but it will in future levels, his strength isn’t screwed, and he’s now VERY charismatic to dwarves and others. And thanks to the armor and his leadership feat, Felix’s command level is now 12th, which should let him command hundreds of dwarves very effectively, should the need arise (and we think it will on Lendore Isle…)

Nakumanu officially retired and received the Belt of Dwarvenkind when Felix finished his transformation, and soon the blue orc became a blue dwarf (just kidding, I think he looks reasonably normal, although ugly to a dwarf). (And yes, that does make Felix a dwarf AND a half-orc… half-dorc?) In the meantime, Nakumanu began his training as a scholar specializing in anthropology and orcish culture. Gates, Rathbane, and Hendel began working around town to pass the time. Donald decided he had enough time to burn all of his extra proficiency slots and become an excellent alchemist. Alchemy turns out to have a very limited window (high level wizards and clerics with lots of extra proficiency slots and a decent initial income, and a year to train it in), but Donald fit the bill perfectly. And under these constrictive conditions, Donald prospered, ultimately providing the party with both income AND magical treasure.

What he did was learn the recipes to Hill Giant strength and Healing potions. He is high enough level to be able to make those easily, and although he didn’t have a lab, he could rent one and knew how to collect the components well enough. In this case, all that was needed was essence of a dying giant. He also learned how to make Potions of Healing, which requires troll blood. All of these creature types are not uncommon in the area Felix’s party adventures in, and so eventually this provided the basis for a fun afternoon of profit and battle.

In addition, it turns out that if you make potions in six-packs, they take a lot longer to gestate (maybe 18 months) but obviously you end up with more of them. Thus Donald could trade the gestating six pack for a brand new couple of potions (and include the cost of renting the lab in there) and we end up with a bunch of strength potions and the alchemist ends up with even more potions that will glut the market a few years later. It all worked out very nicely… assuming we could find some nice juicy giants to slaughter over the winter/spring of 2188.

Nakumanu is likely officially retired (this will net Alex/Felix a feat, hey!), so the remaining party is Felix, Donald, Gates, Hendel, and Rathbane. Psue was being trained to guard the Clangeddin temple by pretending to be an armoire. A vicious guardian!

On March 4, 2188, the party was once again reunited (minus Nakumanu) and decided to pass a bit of time for fun and profit. We tracked the dwarven patrol reports for signs of giants or trolls. Two weeks later, we heard the story of three hill giants demanding tolls…

The party spotted their cave from a distance, and decided to approach from above, scaling down the cliffside. Hendel was given a Levitation spell, and the rest of the party slowly clambered down on ropes, with Gates and Rathbane on one rope, Felix and Donald lumbering behind, and Hendel hovering and pulling himself down the rock. Unfortunately the giant on watch spotted us while we were still quite high up, and called an alarm. He couldn’t have anticipated how fast Gates, Rathbane, and Hendel would descend on him.

(The goal was to have the fighters land first but be ready for the mountaineers to be able to rappel quickly if trouble started. The giant had a pet wolf and the clerics each took on an opponent.)

The clerics dropped to the ground and began battling the wolf and giant while Felix and Donald hastily began climbing down in earnest. With the hill giant distracted by the clerics, Hendel pulled himself onto the lip of the cave entrance and hovered, waiting for the other giants to emerge…

The second giant came out, and attacked Gates. But in doing so, he turned his back to Hendel who, in what I consider to be a very cool-looking move, leapt from the top of the cave, landed on the giant’s back, jabbed both daggers into the giant’s shoulders, killing him, and leapt back onto the cave top (thanks to the levitation) as the giant fell. The second giant emerged, but found himself face-to-face with Felix. Rathbane was dueling his giant quite successfully as well, but poor Gates had been hit and couldn’t move to help the Clangeddin cleric. Fortunately Felix and Hendel brought the second giant down rather messily, and Rathbane dealt with the third, and it was all over before Donald could really contemplate any more spells. (By the way, Hendel still thanks Rathbane for that strength spell!)

Three giants dead… and a tidy profit of 2400 gp, plus three potions of Hill Giant strength. A month later, the party heard about a single frost giant that seemed to have fallen behind its brethren (who were retreating into the mountains for the late spring/summer). We tracked the giant down, and found him walking rather slowly, and rather comically dragging a huge bag of treasure. The giant turned out to have a lamed leg (from a cave-in), and was trying to take what he could from the collapse back to the kingdom. It was not be, although he did manage to launch a single boulder at Donald. Having missed the wizard, Hendel sped ahead and zipped around the giant to his backside, forcing him either to turn his back to the dwarven thief, or to the obviously devastating dwarven version of Felix. Felix then sliced through his other hamstring, dropping him instantly.

We managed to carry 16,400 gp off (but had to give 400 of it to some extortionate Northerner tribesmen who claimed the battle had been fought on their land). 5000 gp was given to Nakumanu to start up his library as a parting gift. Nakumanu kept virtually all of the gear he had received from the Defenders and the Felix party (although the party borrowed the Gauntlet of Giants for practical reasons). This netted us another potion and 3 loaves of giant healing bread.

A few weeks later, we heard about two fire giants and a group of trolls, but realized it would be dicey to reach both of them. We decided to go for the giants first and try to catch the trolls on the way back (unfortunately Teleport wouldn’t help us much here because of its limited capacity). We set up an incredibly nasty ambush for the fire giants.

The poor things walked right into a box canyon, setting a perfect shot for poolball lightning bolt from Donald. First the wizard cast a Wall of Force behind them so they couldn’t escape (unbeknownst to the giants), and then he dropped the lightning bolt on them. The clerics prepped Prayers and Strength spells, and Felix and Hendel charged. The second Lightning Bolt nailed them, and one of the giants simply collapsed without a fight. The other was brought down impressively quickly as well.

We couldn’t carry all the treasure and fly to track down the trolls, so we left 2000 gp buried in the ground. Unfortunately, despite our efforts to hurry we lost the trolls and they escaped to be killed another day. In one stroke of good luck, though, the 2000 gp remained undisturbed and we reclaimed it a week later.

In the end, we ended up with several potions of frost giant strength, hill giant strength, one potion of frost giant control to replace the one used in the ruined city, plus 3 loaves of frost giant bread, 2 full potions of invisibility, and we were still left with 9000 gp even after donations, money owed to Felix, and an 80 gp drinking binge.

Tune in next time for more Felix Adventures!


A note on timelines and future plans:

There are some interesting possibilities for the future now that Felix’s main mission is over. Felix plans to lead the exiled Hardaway clan back to Lendore Isle to reclaim the kingdom they had lost to the Burrower-worshipping dwarves. Although these dwarves will likely prove implacably hostile, it is still their duty at least to offer the possibility of surrender without further punishment. In any case, Felix will have to storm the dwarves lair, and the main lead he has is from… Balinor of the Defenders.

Or rather, he WILL have it. And therein lies the problem, or the time paradox. Balinor has already adventured in this location in early 2191, so unless Balinor’s party actually killed a member of the Hardaway clan instead of an evil assassin dwarf, Felix is somehow going to have to wait. This works out fine from an XP/treasure point of view for Felix’s party and can even be justified in game. Fortunately since Felix is now a dwarf there is little problem with burning through three game years and then reuniting two of the three front-line fighters in Defenders. We ultimately envision a party that will form out of this mission that conservatively looks something like this:

Felix, fighter 9 (short sword/spear) (10 by that time?)
Balinor, fighter 9 (hammer/bastard sword)
Donald, mage 9
Morty, fighter 7/thief 6 (7 by that time?)
Tarplin, druid 8/mage 5
Robynne, woodsman (bow) 5
Bodkin, fighter (spear) 5
Leo, cleric 4
Morhion, cleric 2 (3 by then?)

This would be a really great party, except for the complete lack of a high level cleric. So if we imagine moving forward to 2197, we can gather Cassian and her band and make it a true Defenders reunion. I think it could be a great party, and one that is quite capable of tackling Morty/Balinor/Tarplin’s mission of destroying the evil Reaver weapon in the Adventuring Reserve. In the meantime, the weapon would likely stay in storage. Also, I’ve looked into getting Balinor the anti-aging feat (which would likely add about 6 years to his middle-age adventuring career and reduce the possibility of old age really messing with him). We’re all very excited about the many possibilities the future holds!