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May 16, 2007

Felix Summary #6: Are you on the List?

Party Roster:

Felix, 9th level dwarven fighter, 87 hp, played by Alex
Rathbane, 6th/6th level dwarven fighter/cleric (Clangeddin), 51 hp, played by Katherine
Donald, 9th level coastlander mage, 48 hp, NPC (played by Alan this time!)
Hendel, 8th level dwarven thief, 47 hp, played by Joel
Gates, 7th level dwarven cleric (Moradin), 44 hp, played by Jay
Aral, 1st level Northerner woodsman, 17 hp, henchman of Felix (played by Rhonda this time!)

[Events of March 3-4, 2007; Game World June-December 2189, in Charlotte]

The Dwarves of Eralla

When we last left the Felix party, they had just arrived at South Village at the southern tip of Cromwell, a nice little village with a river that leads up into the mountain ranges. From there, a two week trek up a trail through the forest would lead the party to the remnants of the dwarven kingdom of Eralla. There the party would apparently attempt to solve a problem of a summoning gone wrong involving a shadow creature that threatened the dwarves.

Some notes about southern Cromwell:

South Village is tiny, with a single palisade used for warning against invasion by creatures in the forest (bugbears, giant lizards, spiders, and in the cold weather ogres and frost giants occasionally). There are a number of small guard posts around, but the town is a frontier village. (Similar to Restenford on Lendore Isle, actually.)

The nearest large city (with over a hundred thousand beings) at about 200 miles distant is the city of Endkin, referred to as “the Pittsburgh of Telvar.” Much ore mining, production and transport is done there, and dwarves would be considered freakish weirdos, not to mention the Northerner and the Coastlander.

The party set out through the forest without incident, and arrived 11 days later at the entrance to Eralla. Or at least, something that could plausibly have been it.

The Eralla dwarves live in a very dangerous neighborhood—with ogres and frost giants living above, and the nastiness of Limgut the Psychopathic Druid, the Southern Wilderness, The Pit, and the Gnoll/Flind kingdoms to the south, their hold on the terrain is tenuous and consists of long periods of boredom followed by brief moments of terror. As such, they aren’t all that well adjusted to outsiders.

Eralla itself is built into an almost comically tall and thin mountain. Apparently formed by a volcanic eruption about 5000 years ago, this tall pillar of rock held its improbable shape because the rock seems to be unusually tough.

What we saw when we approached was a huge pair of stone doors with no obvious opening mechanism behind a bellpull. Nearby were hundreds of large cairns with single markings of giantish clans on them, according to Hendel.

We pulled on the chain, and waited. Eventually the door swung open and we saw a forty foot long corridor with another pair of stone doors at the other end. We walked inside. The doors shut behind us, and there was no obvious way to open either pair of doors. So we shouted, “Hello!” in dwarven, and waited, hoping we weren’t going to be trapped forever. Had the dwarves all perished suddenly? Or fled?

Eventually there was a response, in grunted dwarven. “Yeah, just a minute.” It came from somewhere high above.

We waited. And waited. And waited. Apparently we had “gotten this dwarf out of the shower” according to Rathbane.

Finally after about twenty minutes, the doors finally opened to reveal an interesting scene. In front of us was a river of lava and a tubelike metal cage, and a gathering of about a dozen dwarves. One of them approached and identified himself as Thar, the Door Warden. He told us to cross past the metal cage, which retracted smoothly behind us as we went. Clearly, the dwarves took security rather seriously.

All the dwarves were in extravagantly nice gear, especially given their apparent lack of rank. Furthermore their armor seemed to be alloyed with strange metals. Perhaps meteorite steel, in part, but it seemed more exotic. Hendel couldn’t help but notice dozens of traps in the corridor as we walked.

Finally we entered a large cave. Inside were two different types of dwellings: high on the cliffs were pueblo-style houses, and down in the “valley” was a dwarven stone house village that would be more typical of an above-ground town, with guards patrolling continuously. As we walked through the village, we could see at the far end a magnificent basalt fortress. The dwarves in the village seemed to be unused to outsiders, and were spotted gawking at the party, especially at the two large humans.

We reached the basalt fortress and a huge set of beautiful detailed doors, apparently made entirely out of adamantite! Not even adamantite leaf, but apparently a six inch thick door of adamantite. Needless to say, we were flabbergasted.

The doors swung open by themselves, and inside were just as gaudily decorated mithril inlaid walls. This place clearly enjoyed its metalsmithing.

We were taken to a reception room with beautiful but uncomfortable furnishings. We were met there by Bem, the protocol dwarf. He told us that we would have an audience with the king, and we were under no obligation but could hear the information about the shadow creature before agreeing. We also learned that the cairns outside were honored burials for those giants that had died attacking Eralla. The dwarves take this very seriously. “Wealth makes fools of many men.”

Additionally two noblink muttering what might supposedly have been “dwarven” and in servile fashion served us drinks and fled.

We were also told that not helping defend the place in case of attack was a severe crime, as was stealing, which typically involved mere amputation. Friendly bunch. “We have little to laugh at and take most things with deadly seriousness.” Next time they come to Shabrund, Hendel is arranging for a standup comedian to roast them. We’ll see how that goes:

“The King of Eralla, or as I like to call it, ‘Errata’ is here with us tonight. Take a bow, let’s see that thick skull of yours. This is a man who hasn’t cut his beard since the Kraken came, and they didn’t touch him because they figured only an undead horror could be so dry.”

Hendel will also be appearing in the Horn of Iguilve at Happy Hour.

Anyway, the party was brought into a sort of “astronomy dome” with unfamiliar stars, lined with mithril. Before us sat the King of Eralla, an incredibly old dwarf with a beard down to the floor, encased in adamantine full plate, perched in a simple carved throne. We all bowed, and then the king told us to rise, except for Felix, to whom he then bowed equally. It was a good start to diplomatic relations.

Then the king told us of the troubles of the Eralla dwarves. They were of course always under siege from various things, and couldn’t really control the area outside of their domain very well. Long ago, a wizarding tower was built into the back of the mountain by humans, now referred to as “The Folly.” It has since long been abandoned, taken over, abandoned again, taken over by something even more horrid, and abandoned again, etc. Inside are a set of summoning circles built into the structure. On this particular occasion, someone summoned a shadow creature from the Elemental Plane of Shadow, and it escaped. On the wall of the tower was inscribed “Sorry” in Human. (Probably didn’t have time to write “Our bad” In blood.)

The creature attacks whenever the dwarves open the South Gate. They discovered that it is a non-corporeal three-headed beast that can large range area-of-effect level drain breath weapon (that can be activated at least twice in fairly rapid succession), and although the effect is temporary, anyone killed by it will rise again as a shadow thing. It seems NOT to be undead, but a negative material extra-planar creature. It can strength drain with its undeniably nasty melee attacks, as well as fly rapidly about and flit through cracks. It seems to have an animalistic level of intelligence in that it just stops to feast on prey rather than continuing its attack. The Plane of Shadows implies that it is a combination of positive and negative material energy, and could be considered “undeadlike”. Divination spells suggest it is “very powerful.” The creature appears to be “influenced by the Dark God of the Rakshasa.” Disturbing. Apparently these creatures are associated with the wandering peddlers of doom in some fashion. Light spells affect it to at least some extent, in that it appeared to scare the creature.

The Shackles we acquired last game seemed tailor-made for this. But they were damaged—would we destroy them if we used them? After our audience with the king had ended, we spoke with five military dwarves, who provided more details. Could we leverage the repair of the shackles as a sort of reward for successfully destroying the creature? It had no treasure, we knew, and there was no official reward, but this was something the dwarves could do for us. They agreed to repair the shackles at half-price (21,000 gp!) upon “success or honorable failure” using their incredible metal-crafting skills for a fortnight. The shackles, they claimed, were the work of a minor godling.

It was discovered that this place was also the “birthplace” of Peacemaker’s physical body, which was interesting, as the dwarves recognized their own handiwork. The blacksmith seemed disturbed by the possibility of meeting one of his own forged items.

In the meantime, we decided to get a “cow” as bait for the shadow creature, hopefully to distract it if we needed to run away. But there were no herd animals, so we wandered back out into the forest and caught a bear. As there are no druids in the party, absolutely no one objected when we polymorphed it into a rat for easy transport, with the plan of polymorphing it further into a cow when we arrived at the South Gate after three days of cave travel.

Personal quote: “Hey, there are no druids around. Quick… destroy the ozone layer!”

Additionally there was a beautiful temple to Dumathion built in a forest of crystals. Hendel was quite impressed and consulted there, sharing a secret.

A final note about the place: apparently in the ancient halls, wounds sometimes heal by themselves over time, even grievous injury. This may be due to the magic of the ancient dwellings that predate the dwarven kingdom. Even they do not know what causes this or who occupied these caves before.

Chasing the Shadow

We traveled through the tunnels with our bear-rat in tow, and without incident, led by one of the military dwarves. When we reached the south gate, the dwarf explained that there was a corridor with the same double locking mechanism as the gate we entered. He would open the door in half an hour. Hopefully we would not all be undead at that point.

At that point it was realized that it would be suicide for Aral to be involved in the mission, and so he was left behind with the dwarf. We turned the rat into a cow (resulting initially in a bear-cow that attacked Felix for a point of damage) and then rested up. We memorized enormous numbers of light spells, as well as negative plane protection and protection from evil and prayer, hoping that if we layered enough bonuses we could avoid most of the worst effects. It turned out to be a very good decision.

Strength spells were cast, Felix and Rathbane drank potions of giant strength, and we moved into the corridor, prepared for immediate battle. We opened the gate, and nothing immediately happened. We found ourselves outside in a fairly open field. We set up away from the gate, and precast what we could, knowing the shadow would probably appear within half an hour. We prepared for battle.

(Jay: I’m ready with a full load of you-know-what!”)

Sure enough, about five minutes later the being came rocketing toward us from somewhere in the ground. It flew high into the sky and buzzed us, dropping its first area-of-effect level drain… and affecting no one! Light spells crashed into the creature from Donald and Rathbane and Gates, and they proved quite effective (fireball damage, save for none). The creature was visibly injured! Still we couldn’t actually fight it in melee combat, and so a fly spell was cast on Felix in the hopes of forcing it into battle. But it was too quick, and soared past once more, failing again to affect anyone with its nasty invisible and large area breath weapon. Light spells, magic missiles, spiritual hammers, and lightning bolts rained down on it, and it began to look noticeably injured, but it was incredibly tough!

The prep spells were proving supremely important so far, and finally on the third charge, someone actually failed a save… Donald lost a level (and a few spells from memory, unfortunately) and waves of icy cold slammed into him. Still, he survived and continued to launch magic missiles and LIMMs at the beast. Finally the damage brought it crashing to the ground, and Felix and Rathbane moved to engage. Hendel bounced a crossbow bolt off the thing and discovered that he was pretty much useless. Rathbane suggested he fling his continual light coins at the beast.

At this point we thought we were in good shape. Felix approached and unraveled the shackles and tried to snap them on. The creature went to town on the poor fighter, smashing him and sapping his strength as well (interestingly it took Felix’s strength from 21 to 15, so the potion worked sort of a like a strength “aid” in this case).

Rathbane slashed at the creature with her menacing sword, cutting deeply. Felix managed to snap the shackles on one leg on his second attempt. The shackles began to enlarge to reach the other leg of the creature, but it would take time for Felix to make another attempt. Thinking quickly Rathbane grabbed the other end and tried to fasten it herself, but it seemed she would take an attack routine before it was completed.

Hendel took his only successful action of the combat and bounced a light coin right off the creature’s head. It was unharmed but visibly stunned long enough for Rathbane to lock on the shackles! At this point the creature became more corporeal and slowed down. Felix and Rathbane began to savage it. After about 300 points of damage, the creature dropped to the ground, bleeding to death!

Remembering what had happened last time, we backed off… and sure enough, the shadow exploded!

The shackles were once again damaged, but the creature was permanently destroyed! Mission successful. Treasure, not so much.

We returned triumphantly to the Eralla settlement. The bill for the shackles this time was another 12,000 gp, making it a rather costly mission, but quite profitable in other ways. Because of the permanent destruction of the creature, XP was roughly doubled for this section: Hendel to Donald ranged from 5200 to 11000, and Aral picked up a token 50 for trapping the bear-rat-cow. Which, incidentally, was roasted on a spit after the shadow was defeated. Which meant we had bear. I’m fairly sure about this. The bear, undoubtedly, was more confused.

(Aaron: “Transubstantiated Ursine Eucharist?”)

At this point many of our party members were very close to levels. We began to look at additional missions for the dwarves, realizing that improving diplomatic relations would be a plus for both the Shabrundian dwarves, and for Felix and Hardaway clan should they restore the Lendore kingdom. The dwarves’ access to rare metals and spectacular metalworking capabilities would prove quite valuable to their brethren, if friendly relations could be established.

The Wyverns

There were a number of options, but first we decided to tackle the mission that required almost no travel. A nest of half a dozen wyverns was located ludicrously high up in the extremely sheer peak of the mountain spire. The dwarves couldn’t really tackle them very safely because it would require mountain climbing to reach the nest. Whereas we had one huge advantage: Donald and his flying feat spell. The plan was to ride the magic carpet up to the cliff, hop off, cast prep spells and attack. The clerics would keep slow poisons to avert the main threat from the wyverns’ claws.

The plan really went about as smoothly as could be imagined. After about a day of preparation, we floated serenely up to the top of the mountain (hoping that no rocs or particularly nasty wind gusts would knock us off). Sure enough, there was the cave. We descended to the mouth and hopped off, catching the wyverns by surprise and hurtling ourselves into melee. Felix and Rathbane began tearing wyverns up, while Aral fired his nasty hand cannon into the things. Hendel managed a rather sad backstab and then backed off to allow Gates to engage, an opportunity which he took to with great glee.
Even Donald ended up tanking at one point, unfortunately missing wildly with his longtooth dagger after inflicting severe damage with a lightning bolt. Rathbane of course stole Hendel’s kills, as is his wont. (I’m not sure if dealing 25 points to something that Hendel hit for 3 is kill stealing, but we won’t quibble. Hendel won’t, anyway.)

Considering the ease of the operation, the treasure was rather nice! We found about 1500 gp in gold and gems, plus a magic shield (and found some gems down the gullet of one of the things…). The shield was interesting: shield +0, of offense (+1 to your weapon’s hit and damage when held). Kind of like a strength raising shield. As Gates had a nonmagical shield, this actually was an upgrade for him.

But the main treasure load was the eggs, which turned out to be worth 6000 gp!

And the XP was enough to level Aral, which was excellent. Several other people likely qualified as well, but it was decided that since Aral’s training was quick we would just burn three weeks and then tackle the next mission. He gained 10 hp to stand at 27.

Hunting the Hill Giants

Next up was a cave full of hill giants that were ambushing travelers in the area. We set off with our usual preparations, and after a few days bumped into a pack of 25 gnolls. They demanded we pay them a toll, Hendel blathered about and stalled, and we paid them with one fireball. 18 of the 25 perished instantly; the remaining 7, including the leader, dropped in the following lightning bolt. Treasure was 320 gp!

Next we bumped into a single solitary hill giant. Needless to say, he died almost immediately, but what was strange was that he was wearing leather armor covered almost entirely in mousetraps. And had a dead cat slung over his shoulder. (Goodkittens, perhaps?) Hendel took a point of damage disarming the various mousetraps. The treasure 150 gp and a sack full of rotting, smelly cheese.

We decided to track the giant back to its lair, and after 10 hours found a cave that seemed a likely choice. We wandered inside, and there we found a single human with a lot of rats. He was named Frederick Hendrulson, he was ludicrously old and sitting on a stool, and he rambled on and on about being from some town in Cromwell named Sanford and being exiled and living here. It was actually quite a sad story. And the man was obviously a wererat. It was totally unclear what we should do.

At some point we kind of decided we should put him out of his misery. Donald began casting a spell, and the old man chucked a piece of metal at him… and Donald was nearly killed! Apparently the old man was an assassin too. The whole thing was kind of crazy. The man didn’t even react after the first attack, but slowly he decided that we were hostile and started to strike at us. He tried to take out Felix with a shiv that shattered against his helmet. The whole thing seemed harmless, but the man was evidently a master of assassination and nearly killed several party members before we brought him down.

The whole sad episode came to a close with all the rats lying burned on the floor and the old man dead on the ground. We were nonplussed. Also, his gear was worthless: he had 35 spiked metal balls, 6 shivs, and a steel plate strapped to his back. He was covered in red and black tattoos that seemed to indicate he was a guildmaster of some massive assassin/thieves’ guild! Although many of the tattoos were defaced, which made the whole thing even stranger. Maybe there’s a legend about this guy?

We searched around the place, and found 35 more mousetraps and a beartrap under the hill giant’s bed.

We were at a total loss, but the place seemed to be cleared, so we continued on our way to the giants’ lair that we had originally been targeting. We found it in short order, and Hendel scouted under full spell coverage. He noted a few giants in the entry and several more sprawled around tables in the living space, as well a few wolves… and at the back, another room with a different occupant. It appeared to be some sort of diseased hill giant, as he had weird protrusions and pustules on his skin. Hendel backed off in case the thing could spot him (it reminded him of a fomorian and they can see invisible people quite easily). He scrambled back to the party and Donald set him straight: it was a half-troll half-giant hybrid.

This would be interesting. We formulated a plan, and snuck up invisibly and dropped a silence coin ahead to prevent the main group from noticing as we slaughtered their guards. We killed the first guard, but the second noticed the commotion and ran into the main room to warn his fellows. Donald dropped a brutal cloudkill into the room killing, as it turned out, all seven wolves.

Mass carnage ensued. The remaining injured giants charged out in dribs and drabs, and the results were quick and efficient. A pair charged, Hendel backstabbed it, and Rathbane brought it down while Felix slew the other. Then two more showed up, and Rathbane and Felix made quick work of them in melee, while Aral fired and Gates hammered spiritually. Finally the half-troll thing came out and we took it down after it missed Felix on its only attack routine.

It was almost anticlimactic, but we weren’t complaining! Loot from that portion was about 9500 gp! Then we searched the cave extensively, and discovered a secret passage in the back. The search required working through the unpleasant trailings of the half-troll in the back room. The meta-conversation that took place:

Joel: Does Hendel have to search for a secret door?
Party: Hendel needs XP.
Joel: "That argument has been used to justify many atrocities."
Katherine: "But it always works!"

And in the end, seven hours of mucking about in sewage revealed a secret door hatch (and became 150 XP for Hendel).

And we found a skeleton in the closet. Literally. Standing just inside the entrance to the secret passage was a skeleton of dwarf, carrying huge sacks of money and burial trappings.

Edwin: “Piles of platinum pieces fall out of the sack.”
Joel: “We double-bag it.”

It was comical. The dwarf had a full set of rotted gear. Clearly he had been trapped inside the tomb. Hendel realized that there was no obvious way to get out once inside, and so instead of splitting the party, we propped a very big object and Hendel worked at temporarily disabling the door.

The place itself seemed like a tomb, but Aral thought it was more of a place of remembrance. There was a set of spikes and rotted ropes leading from small ledge into the pit, wherein lay a sarcophagus of some kind. It was open, and clearly after some spelunking many traps had been disarmed.

The sarcophagus was empty, but a pile of smashed human bones lay in a pile in the corner. Inscribed on the tomb in Northerner: “Micral died here.” As this meant nothing to us, we made light of it. Edwin: “Some Northerner died here.” Katherine: “What’s-his-face lies here.”

The dwarf’s equipment included a magic cloak, magical dwarven leather armor, a magic wand, a magic potion, a magic shortsword, and more than 10000 gp in gems and platinum and gold. Also there was a magical feather headdress.

Laden with treasure, we tried to return to Eralla to claim our mission success. Of course we ran into every desperate bandit group in the area. First four ogres demanded we give them ten percent of the treasure. They died soundlessly, and we became 138 gp richer.

Then we found 30 gnolls stopping for lunch. Aral blew one of them away, and the rest exploded from another of Donald’s fireballs. (Leading us to ask the Heroes influenced question: “Are you on the List?” With the supplemental: “Does Aral get bonus damage against these?”) 290 gp graced us with its presence.

A trapdoor spider tried to grab someone, and we killed it quite easily. 55 gp followed.

About fifty noblink demanded a toll for helping keep the roads clear of danger. They had slain several threatening creatures. We pointed out that since we had just eliminated a huge pack of hill giants, it was actually THEY who owed US money. They didn’t really understand, but figured it out quickly enough when Hendel directed Donald’s fireball into the center of their group. Twelve died from Donald’s record 42 point fireball, and the rest fled.

This netted us 82 silver pieces. We were less than impressed.

At last we were left alone and returned to Eralla, nearly 25000 gp richer and with plentiful magic items in tow for the first time in the adventure! The XP gain was about 7500 for the main party members, and everyone reached their goal level. Aral, who had already trained prior, is now actually even closer to the NEXT level (something like 350 XP away). The rest of the party is now quite settled into their new levels and won’t be training again anytime soon.

Training costs and IDs drained the monetary profit away, but we came out a lot stronger. Hendel gained level 9 and 5 hp to stand at 52; Gates gained level 8 and 8 hp to stand at 52, Rathbane gained level 7 fighter but had poorer fortune and only gained 3 hp to stand at 54, and most impressively Felix gained 13 hp to stand at exactly 100! Making him the first member of any of the Cornell groups to achieve that total, I believe.

Felix trained in wrestling, while Hendel gained the feat Weapon Focus: Dagger (and an additional backstab modifier) which should greatly enhance his combat ability. Perhaps even more importantly Rathbane gained the two-thirds speed modifier and just became a lot more devastating in combat. And Gates has two proficiency slots to fill as well, for next time.

Although we were financially in the hole, we gained a number of interesting magic items:

Potion of Rainbow Hues (Camouflage Potion), Wand of Secret Door and Trap Detection (large number of charges), Dwarven leather armor of missile protection+3 (+3 vs. missile weapons), cloak+1, short sword "Garden snail" -- +2, non-glowing, perpetually but very gradually drips slime, resists weapon destruction, adds 1 to AC when drawn, +1 to hit when backstabbing, but when drawn movement rate is 3" (!), headdress of tangles -- grants rope use x 4 while worn.

Here’s how the treasure was split amongst the party:

Cloak+1 to Hendel
Potion of Camouflage to Hendel
Wand of Secret Door Detection to Felix
Headdress of Tangles to Donald
Medium shield of offense to Gates
Dwarven leather armor -- salvage tax
Garden snail -- salvage tax

As much as we liked the wacky and cool shortsword, without any shortsword users other than Felix we really couldn’t justify hanging on to it. Still, there quite a few new resources gained by the party.

There was a blizzard on December 16, 2189, and the party wintered in Eralla, plotting its next move.

Final party status:

Felix, 10th level dwarven fighter, 100 hp
Rathbane, 7th/6th level dwarven fighter/cleric (Clangeddin), 54 hp
Hendel, 9th level dwarven thief, 52 hp
Gates, 8th level dwarven cleric (Moradin), 52 hp
Donald, 9th level coastlander mage, 48 hp
Aral, 2nd level Northerner woodsman, 27 hp

It’s a pretty dangerous party. Future plans are being determined, and probably Alex should write a supplement about this, as he has some ideas. But it seems as though a BMTFD game is not far in the future…