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April 30, 2022

Superstar! and the Kingpin's Payout

The action below took place between April 9th and June 1st, 2193.

Theft-focused raids have been a longstanding problem in the Medegia region of Western Cromwell, but recently a group has abruptly started killing people, which has led Cromwell to feel it was worth of bringing them to the attention of outside bounty-hunters. “Sneak in and steal food” has turned into “sneak in and murder a whole farming family and their workers in their sleep, vanish with all their stuff”. They have been deftly avoiding engagement with actual security forces, and have been harder to spot and track. They are thought to flee into to the mountains to the southwest. Superstar! was hired by the government of Cromwell to look into these attacks and deal with the threat. With decent horses and carts, we expected the journey out to take just over a month.

Pheraguat decided to fly out to Medegia on his hippogriff for some advance scouting, actually doing this while Magic Lad was identifying items from the party’s prior encounter. He ran into someone he knew at the nearby Cromwellian military outpost (Saer Hills Depot), a “special forces” woman named “Spider”. It was noted that Jennifer Hookhill, a human fighter and Regent’s courtier, and Site Bowlength, an elven fighter/magic-user and Regent’s courtier, were about a week north of here fighting drug dealers**, and could be available for aid if needed.

[** = see also, the Ninth Telvar Open, taking place in Towlemere in the Salt Sea region of Western Cromwell, in which both of these figures appeared.]

Unfortunately, the aid was needed a little closer to home. While Pheraguat was waiting for the party to meet him in Medegia, the party got ambushed on the road halfway there, rendering his actions and most of this engaging backstory largely moot.

We were riding through an orchard when Star suddenly got a sense of extreme danger. We stopped and started to take some tentative actions. Sorcery Girl sent a crow ahead to scout, and Alison and Magic Lad started to dig out out scrolls of “hold person”. As we looked around, we saw a single figure off ahead and to the left of the road about 60 feet away casting a spell, which Chiaro identified as a “hold person”. Rangorn, who was actually the first to see the figure, shouted out, “Spellcaster!” and shot them with an arrow, ruining the spell. Wanda finished turning herself “invisible”. Star using his “dream sight” for two segments managed to get himself a pre-cognisant glimpse of the spell that was about to hit the party (an “ice storm”), allowing himself a saving throw against a spell that doesn’t normally allow one (unfortunately, he failed, as did his 40% magic resistance, despite diving under a cart). The “ice storm” hit the party for 24 points of damage. Rangorn, as he had started to charge at the initial spellcaster, had actually sprinted to outside the area of effect. Star and Zippo were badly hurt, but still standing. Chiaro, Lewis, Wanda, and Alisan were down, along with Chiaro’s toads, Alisan’s dogs, and all the horses. Magic Lad and Sorcery Girl were dead. [Note that this was an absolute whopper of a 3d10 “ice storm”. A more typical damage would have left Chiaro, Lewis, Wanda, Alisan, and the toads all still standing, and Magic Lad still alive – a vastly different circumstance than the one the party found itself in.]

The still-standing party members looked around for any sign of the spellcaster, but there was no one in sight. Quickly, Ceres warned Star that he was being charged by three invisible foes, and that there was an additional (non-charging) invisible figure behind them.

Rangorn, now in point-blank range with the visible spellcaster, blasted him with a +4 arrow for serious damage. As the guy was the only visible opponent, Zippo charged him as well. The man shouted, “I could use a little help here!” to his companions. Star got to his feet, keeping the cart between him and the three charging opponents, and turned himself invisible with his ring as he did so. Zippo swung at the cleric and missed, but Rangorn wounded him with another arrow. Star unleashed a psychic blast at his invisible assailants, and it was super effective, as all three stopped in their tracks, highly disoriented. At this point, the fourth invisible figure started casting another spell, but remained invisible as he did so. Star charged at him, and as he did, it became clear that the man had his own invisible familiar creature perched on his shoulder feeding him info about Star’s position – pseudodragon vs. imp! Place your bets!

Meanwhile, Zippo missed the cleric again, but Rangorn’s next bowshot completely skewered him, killing him instantly (he never did get “a little help”). Rangorn, still seeing no visible opponents, went to bandage Alison and Wanda, preventing them from bleeding to death in the nick of time. Zippo, at Rangorn’s encouragement, went to Chiaro to shove his potion of extra healing down his throat.

The invisible wizard finished casting his spell, only to find he couldn’t target Star like he intended, as Star’s mind was cloaked by his “mind blank” ability. He switched his target to Rangorn, who suddenly found himself favorably inclined towards some person he couldn’t see. Star aimed a second psionic blast at the wizard and his familiar. The wizard was slightly dazed, buying Star some valuable time. The familiar was actually supercharged by the effect! Star circled around the wizard so that with his next, and final psychic blast, he could get all four invisible people in the cone. A couple of the formerly charging people were further dazed, but the dramatic effect is that the blast killed the familiar, causing massive damage to the wizard himself. As Rangorn finished his ministrations to Wanda, planning to enter the fight against the invisible people, Star blasted the wizard with a beam from his Circlet of Radiance doing massive damage and actually killing him!

Suddenly, two of the three remaining figures popped into view. One was wearing plate armor and another banded mail. It seems that the third figure was the anchor for an “invisibility 10’ radius” spell, and had moved more than 10’ away from the others. Rangorn shot at the plate armor guy (missing) as Star opened up a scroll of ‘hold person”. The third guy had fled out of range by the time Star finished reading his scroll, but the other two were successfully “held”. At this point, Chiaro, having been healed by the potion, finally got to his feet and was itching to enter the fight only to find out that Star and Rangorn (and Ceres) had pretty much taken care of business!

Knowing that we would like to track and take down the invisible, fleeing (at a 15” movement rate) guy, we put “invisibility” on Ceres and had the trusty pseudodragon fly after him to keep tabs on his location. We took about half an hour to gather loot, recover arrows, and heal up (Chiaro getting plenty of use out of his “gloves of healing”) and then decided to send a stripped-down-to-move-18” party of Rangorn, Star, and Chiaro after the fleeing man. Rangorn was able to track him, and as we got within 200 feet, Ceres made contact with Star to tell us we were getting close. Chiaro cast “detect invisibility”, “non detection”, and “invisibility 10’ radius” and the party closed to within 30’ of the man. Chiaro could see that he had only two daggers, a robe, and a small backpack. He first resisted a “dominate” attempt by Chiaro and was then slightly stunned by a follow-up “psychic crush”. Chiaro then revealed the man with a “phantasmal force”, opening him up to be targeted by Rangorn and Star. Rangorn shot him and Star started a light spell to attempt to blind him. When the man recovered himself, he fled, now running. He resisted the “light” spell. Rangorn ran after him, but unfortunately missed with his next two shots. He then hit him twice with his next two shots. At this point, they had run out well ahead of Star and Chiaro. The man used dust to make himself disappear again, but Ceres was still keeping up and able to track him. He reported to Star that the man had quaffed a potion and continued fleeing. Rangorn then continued tracking and we managed to get within 200 feet again. The man was now visible and seemingly uninjured. That state of affairs did not continue for long, as Rangorn shot him again. Unfortunately, once again, he used another dose of dust to make himself invisible, and then drank yet another potion. Again, Rangorn tracked him down. This time, we changed up our tactics: Star and Chiaro moved in closer behind him under the cover of a “cricket song”. Rangorn grabbed the guy’s arm, restraining him. Chiaro then blinded him with a “color spray”, which was quickly followed by a successful “hold person” from Star. And with that, the great chase came to a close. His backpack, it turned out, was full of valuable gems. Apparently this guy we had hunted down was a courier for a drug kingpin. Star fed Ceres a few of the gems for being such a very good boy.

The decision was made to send Rangorn back to Sutton on a fast horse with Magic Lad’s body so he could be “raised” (no 9th level priests there, but they would have a scroll). Splitting the party worked so well once, why not do it again? Rangorn made it back without incident, the party following him back more slowly on foot did not.

Two nights after starting back, Wanda and Zippo were on watch when three burrow worms suddenly burst out of the ground and attacked them. Zippo was bitten for 9 points of damage by a bug that quickly realized he tasted very bad, owing to his “ring of bad taste”. Wanda was bitten twice and quickly dropped unconscious, but her screams woke everyone in the party except (ironically?) the ranger, Lewis. As Star, Alison, and Chiaro got to their feet, Zippo swung his scimitar at one of the giant bugs but missed. His second attempt was more successful. Star aimed a “psionic blast” up at the three beasts with widely varying results: one was put in a coma, one had no effect, and one had the effect of “ferocity”, getting significant bonuses to hit and damage. Lewis started getting up around this time. Alison read two “cure light wounds” spells off of a scroll to heal Wanda. Chiaro read a “color spray” off a scroll to try to knock out the ferocious one, but it shook off the effect. The remaining bugs didn’t want to bite Zippo, so they both blasted him with sprays of acid. He partially dodged, but they did enough damage to bring him down. Chiaro read off another “color spray” and this time, the bug was knocked unconscious. Lewis swung at the one bug left standing and fumbled, dropping his bastard sword and exposing himself for a free attack from the bug, which bit him for 10 points of damage. It dropped him with another bite soon after. Chiaro blasted the bug for heavy “damage” with a “spectral force” “fireball” that it appeared to believe was real, while Star put “light” on its eyes, blinding it. Wanda, finally back to her feet, then dropped it with a barrage of “magic missiles”. Fortunately, that little encounter was the only hiccup on the trip back.

On a good roll from Rangorn to negotiate a “raise” price, Magic Lad was raised for 11,500 gp. He ended up recovering one day before the rest of the party showed up. Effectively, the party reconvened in Sutton on June 1st. Naturally, given the ongoing loss of life among the farmers in Medegia, we immediately set out again for the region at top speed.

Ha ha! Just kidding! We spent the next month training and identifying our loot. (It’s tough being a hero.) Taking stock of the goods recovered from the debacle: we had 39,550 gp in cash and gems, 35,000 of it coming from the backpack worn by the courier.

We found:
• Scroll of cure light wounds x2 (level 6) (???)
• Scroll of magic missile x3 (level 7) (Wanda)
• Scroll of magic missile x3 (level 7) (tax)

• 2 potions of healing (Rangorn, Magic Lad)
• 2 bandages (Rangorn)
• Potion of ghoul control (Star)
• Potion of heroism (Zippo)
• Potion of cure disease (Pheraguat)

• Robe of wizardry (2 bonus second level spells) (blue with stars) (Chiaro)
• Ring of fire resistance (Alisan)
• Ring of authority (adds 3 to command level for fighter, steward, captain) (tax)
• Ring of protection +1 (Wanda, paying the party 5kgp)
• Dagger +1 (tax)
• Dagger +1/+4 vs. humans (Lewis)
• Longsword +1 giant slayer (+3 and double damage vs. giants) (Zippo)
• Footman’s mace +1 (tax)
• Dagger +1 (tax)
• Medium shield +1 (tax)
• Large shield +2 (tax)
• 11 +1 first-flight long arrows (split Rangorn, Pheraguat)
• Bracers AC 7/7 (Wanda)
• Gauntlets of 16 strength (Star)
• Belt of swagger (immunity to fear, +4 on intimidate) (Pheraguat, paying the party 8kgp)
• Tuning fork of knowledge (you bang it on a lock or trap and it imparts knowledge) (bag of holding)
• Robe of pockets (sixteen, 35 cw pockets) (Wanda)
• Wand of bug control (30 charges) spellcaster uses (bag of holding)
• Staff of striking (21 charges) (temporarily held by Wanda or Zippo?)
• Helmet of anticipation (+1 to AC and reflex saves) (Rangorn)

• The unidentified hat from last time: hat of anonymity (makes people tend to forget your face) (tax)
• One final item was overlooked in the identification process: one remaining pouch of magical dust we took off the courier that we are almost certain is “dust of disappearance”.)

XP was 1656 for Alisan and Lewis, 1821 for Zippo; 980/2200 for Magic Lad; 4086 for Pheraguat, and 7298 for Rangorn, Star, Chiaro, and Wanda. This was enough for Alisan, Zippo, and Lewis to all level. Star and Rangorn trained each other’s henchmen (+200 and +300 XP, respectively) and we found a fighter trainer in Sutton for Zippo.

At the adventure’s close, our party roster:
Rangorn, 7th level half-elf woodsman, 65 hp, played by Joel
Pheraguat, 7th level high-elf woodsman, 60 hp, played by Andrew
Chiaroscuro, 7th level human illusionist, 22 hp, played by Aaron
Star, 6th level human cleric, 37(43) hp, played by Kyle
Wanda, 6th level human mage, 19 hp, played by Jay

Zippo, 4th level dwarf fighter, 41 hp (gained 7 hp), henchman of Star, played by David B.
Lewis, 4th level human ranger, 33 hp (gained 8 hp), henchman of Star, played by Alan
Alisan, 3rd level half-elf cleric, 19 hp (gained 2 hp), henchman of Rangorn
Magic Lad, 2nd /2nd level cleric/illusionist, 13 hp, henchman of Chiaro

We eventually learned that the party that attacked us was from the drug gang, “The Yellow Streak”. There was a 1000 gp reward for killing the courier, who we nicknamed “El Chapo”. Perhaps next we will take on “The Brown Smudge”, before moving on to “The Cyan Splotch”? But most likely we will take another crack at the mysterious murderous bandits in Medegia.

April 23, 2022

Superstar! and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Horse

After the Circle of Ayrless adventure, wherein Superstar defeated the Final Cut (rather brutally at that), the party returned to Depwood in June 2192 and met with its Druidic and Ranger colleagues. Treasure was divided, cash and some minor magic items were handed over to the Druids as payment for the use of some of their items in the fight against the bad guys, arrangements were made for henchmen training, and finally the topic turned to a reward for our help with the small matter of the Circle.

The Druids offered some choices:
1. The Amulet of Spiritual Strength, which gives +1 to Turning and provides 1 hp/level of the cleric. (Cleric only)
2. A folding boat (a small handheld boat which can fold out into a small row boat or a ~dozen capacity small sailing boat)
3. A Robe of Stars, which has some save effects and protection on the astral plane, as well as giving a unique weapon when the stars sewn onto the fabric can be grabbed and thrown as moderately powerful and fast missile weapons.
4. They also had a number of woodland cloaks and boots, which give ~50% bonuses to hide in shadows/move silently abilities when in woodlands or similar environs.

We also discussed the previously offered "weird familiar-like" choices (sprites, etc.) but there were essentially two options: a Wise Old Bird friend for Star (which he could not actually receive until he was 9th level) or they could offer us a chance to be introduced to a Pseudodragon. The chance of success was decent, but by no means guaranteed. If we chose the Pseudodragon the druids would consider throwing in a pair of boots and a cloak or similar.

We talked about the abilities that Pseudodragons have (see invisible around them, provide magic resistance to their friend, scouting with perfect telepathy within a short range, etc.), Star and Rangorn realized they had met one before--this was what Thurmond (Ludo's friend from the Stone Soules) was! We never knew the proper name for this type of creature, but we had most definitely adventured with a Pseudodragon before. Based on this knowledge, the party decided to ask the Druids to attempt to introduce Star to a Pseudodragon.

And, thankfully, the introduction was successful (exact roll needed!) and Star welcomed a new friend into the party, Ceres. [AC 2, mv 6"/24", 2 HD, 12 hp, 35% magic resistance, chameleon 80% invisible, see invisible creatures with a certain range, 240' range telepathy with Star, a slow-regenerating sleep-poison attack from his tail, and a weak bite attack, also, he eats gems]

We also picked up both the Boots and Cloak of the Woodlands for Rangorn; with these he can be nearly undetectable in forests! (He passed his Cloak of Protection +2 on to Chiaro, who was very grateful for the upgrade.)

We also had nine mithril bars to trade for magic items from the Circle of Ayrless adventure. We traded five bars plus Star’s chainmail +1 to upgrade him to banded mail +2. We additionally traded the remaining four for Star to get the Amulet of Spiritual Strength from the Druids.

At this point, Chiaro decided it would be a good time to pick up a second henchman, and he managed to find a terrific candidate! “Sorcery Girl” is an elven magic user and druid. Her two great passions are magic and birds. She has a vulture familiar, and her druidic animal friends include two crows and two owls to help with guarding and recon. With such a good overlap between her interests and the themes of Superstar!, her future with the party is sure to be bright!

We finished training and preparing some scrolls (CLW and “hold person” batteries, mostly), purchased Holy Water, and some other gear from the Druids (e.g., Potions) and were ready to decide our next adventure by about October 2192.

Because of our success in eliminating the Final Cut, the word had gotten out to others with troublesome groups they could use help with. There were some minor local bounties, but they seemed beneath our notice. Two major bounties were brought to us: an evil ambush party operating out of the jungle near Port Elizabeth in the Indicara Jungle, and another small hit-and-run group in Western Cromwell, Chaotic Evil, with a number of archers expected.

We arrived in Sutton in Western Cromwell on March 30, 2193. Where we met up with two agents of the Cromwellian government who would guide and assist us in our efforts: Wanda Cooper, a wizard with many years of service in the government, and Flyer Pheraguat, an elven woodsman archer who rides a hippogriff!

Our party roster:
Rangorn, 7th level half-elf woodsman, 65 hp, played by Joel
Pheraguat, 7th level high-elf woodsman, 60 hp, played by Andrew
Chiaroscuro, 7th level human illusionist, 22 hp, played by Aaron
Star, 6th level human cleric, 37(43) hp, played by Kyle
Wanda, 6th level human mage, 19 hp, played by Jay

Zippo, 3rd level dwarf fighter, 34 hp, henchman of Star, played by David B.
Lewis, 3rd level human ranger, 23 hp, henchman of Star, played by Alan
Magic Lad, 2nd /2nd level cleric/illusionist, 13 hp, henchman of Chiaro
Alisan, 2nd level half-elf cleric, 17 hp, henchman of Rangorn
Sorcery Girl, 1st /1st level mage/druid, 5 hp, henchman of Chiaro

In Sutton, we also met a Nevronian Cleric named Noelle, who gave us a rundown on the circumstances surrounding the first bandit group:
1) They attacked transport wagons and small caravans. They didn’t leave survivors, and bodies of guards were generally full of arrows.
2) They seemed to have an uncanny ability to select targets, passing up wagons carrying little of value, but hitting the ones that were secretly carrying great loot.
3) When “speak with dead” was tried, dead bodies reported that they lost their vision immediately at the start of the combat (and then they got shot with arrows). “Silence” was also in effect in some cases.
4) They had been attacked from fairly good ambush sites terrain-wise. Government agents sent to scout the routes had missed these sites and they were officially reprimanded.
5) At the scene of the attack, the horses that were pulling the wagons were found to be decapitated.
6) A “divination” indicated that the bandit group did not show up as being too powerful. Noelle suggested that they might be something to the effect of “glass cannons”.
The third point in particular caught our attention. We didn’t know of any spells that could cause localized blindness on many targets at once. Of course, it could be accomplished with area-darkness spells, but then how did the attacking archers see their targets? Could our bandits have the ability to see through darkness? A necromancer with skeleton archers? Considering the possibility that the bandits were layering large numbers of darkness effects on their targets, we convinced Noelle to lend us 10 continual light objects that we could whip out to counter such an attack. The fifth point was awfully weird as well. It had the smell of a ritual from an evil religion or evil magic item or something. Star tossed off some speculation about an “evil hobby horse”, but we didn’t really know what to make of it.

Our plan was to head out to the area where the attacks were happening as secretly as possible (cover of invisibility, night), wait for an attack to occur, and then leap into action to investigate and pursue. There was a government warehouse where we could take shelter and wait, which we reached in 4 days. We didn’t have to wait too long for an attack, as the next one happened just 5 days later. Luckily it was just 25 miles away, off to the northeast, and we managed to hear about the same evening as the attack (which happened during the late morning).

We decided to have Pheraguat fly out to the attack site to get as fresh a tracking look as possible. The rest of the party would be following along on the ground (at our normal 9” movement). We couldn’t get there in a single night, so we would have to shelter in a random farmhouse during the day, paying the owners some gold for the trouble .

Pheraguat got to the site in about 4 hours. He landed and decided to track around in cougar form (using his Cloak of the Cougar). He observed that about 6 guards were killed and their bodies moved off to the side of the road, as had the large cart. There were many tracks, including another cart; it seemed clear the site had been searched since the attack. He found one set of tracks going south along a hedgerow and it seemed like a small-to-moderate party, about what we were expecting of the bandits. He followed those tracks for a few hours, before getting to a place where he smelled blood. He approached cautiously, climbing a tree to get a good vantage. What he discovered was a camp of eight humans. Only one was sitting up keeping guard. Most seemed to have leather armor, swords, and bows. Pheraguat decided to observe them for a couple hours. He did notice an odd religious-looking staff next to one of the sleeping people. He also noticed that the guards looked a bit on the older side, maybe in their 50’s. By now, dawn was approaching, so he decided to head back and follow some cart tracks that led away from the attack site. He tracked them to a farmhouse on the edge of a nearby hamlet, before deciding to go back near the attack site and take a nap so he would be well rested when the rest of the party got there. In the afternoon, he was awoken by a startled farmer, but Pheraguat was able to show his government papers and explain the situation. After getting a little more rest, he decided to get on his hippogriff and try to find the bandits from the air. They had moved on from the last night’s campsite, but he found them again further to the southeast. He then turned back to meet the party as they reached the site.

Pheraguat described the situation to the party. Star recognized the description of the strange staff, thinking the markings on it resembled the unholy stylings of Imberdarla, a chaotic evil god of darkness. At this news, we concluded there was a good chance they had some magic that would let them see in darkness. We decided that the best way to catch them was by moving at a 12” rate along their same path. This required Sorcery Girl to stay behind with Chiaro’s giant toads (following behind at 9”), and for many party members to put their armor and extra gear in the Bag of Holding. At this 3” speed advantage we were able to get within a few hundred feet of the bandits by the next evening.

We sent the pseudodragon Ceres ahead to scout the enemy position. He reported that the bandits had stopped and were setting up camp on a small hill. We waited several hours for the bandits to go to sleep, and then implemented our ambush plan. The party ascended the hill under cover of “invis. 10’ radius” and “cricket song” (which was placed on an object in Zippo’s possession). Zippo and Pheraguat had individual invisibilities. Alison pre-cast a “bless” and Chiaro pre-cast “detect invisibility” and “non-detection”. Pheraguat and Rangorn flanked around the camp to be on the opposite side as the rest of the party. We observed that there were two archers on guard, and six men asleep.

We got the party started with Zippo charging in, bringing “cricket song” to the camp, and slashing at one of the guards. He got two segments of surprise, but missed on the swing. That was the signal for the woodsmen to fire. The two archers both shot at the same watchman, skewering him for a total of 40 points of damage and dropping him. Lewis came in right behind Zippo, swinging at the remaining still-upright guard, and landed a solid blow. Chiaro cast a “phantasmal force” creating an illusion of seven additional attacking adventurers, (five of them reading scrolls), to draw attacks in case any of the sleepers were to wake up. At this point, Star, Alison, and Magic Lad, all finished reading the first “hold person” spell off each of their scrolls, targeting the alert guard and the sleeping cleric near the staff. The guard was paralyzed.

Our efforts then turned to delivering coup-de-grace attacks to the 6 people on the ground. While killing three of the bandits, one of the remaining three scrambled to his feet and began to flee. Pheraguat shot him as he ran. Chiaro attempted to “dominate” the man, but noticed that he seemed particularly immune to the effect. The woodsmen pursued him. Alison and Star shot at the figure but both missed. After their shots, the fleeing man turned invisible, but that still left him within sight of Chiaro, who proceed to point out that he had whipped around to the backside of a tree and was climbing it at a rapid pace. The pursuers started to converge on the tree. The man then started to swing between trees to get away. Pheraguat took a shot at the moving branches (at horrible penalties) with a “continual light” arrow and hit, marking the target! Rangorn finished his coup-de-grace and joined the chase with his falchion. Chiaro cast a “spectral force”, creating an image of the man overtop of his actual form, so that he was now effectively visible to everyone. Pheraguat shot him again, right before Wanda blasted his location with a fireball. The man was not felled, however, and he drank a potion as the party continued to shoot arrows at him. A series of hits dropped the man unconscious, and he fell out of the tree, dying instantly on impact with the ground. Two segments later, he turned gaseous. Meanwhile, Zippo and Lewis had killed the remaining sleeping bandits, and Magic Lad tied up the paralyzed guard.

We wanted to make sure the “gaseous formed” person was really dead and not fleeing as a vampire or something, so Star used his “empathy” ability on the area. Interestingly, he found a mind not in vaporous form, but concentrated in the man’s backpack. As we waited, we noticed that the pack began rocking a bit. Alison cast a “detect evil” spell and informed us that there was something neutral-evil inside. Star used his psychic-precognition abilities to contemplate opening the backpack, and got the sense that he would be “surprised, in a really perverse way”. With the party gathered around, Star opened the bag. Moving a couple objects out of the way, he finally found the rocking item: it was a small hobby-horse.

As the party sat around stunned at Star’s earlier “prediction” having come true, the hobby horse itself extracted itself from the bag and began to flop away from the party very slowly. Rangorn grabbed it to stuff it back into the pack, and as he did so, he felt the toy contact his mind. It informed Rangorn that it had “vast power” that could be used to help him and his friends. When asked to elaborate, it told Rangorn that it could do so, but Rangorn would have to “adopt” it first. Eh… maybe not right now.

The next phase was the interrogation of the bandits, both living and dead. There was a living, bound bandit who promised he could give us useful information if we agreed to spare him. Since he didn’t appear to be one of the leaders, we agreed. The story he told us is that this particular bandit operation had been around for a while. The four people with the money and magic items were, as expected, the ringleaders. The deal they made with a revolving set of archer lackeys is that said hirelings could obtain great wealth (through banditry) in exchange for ten years of their life (aged through “haste” spells). He himself had been “hasted” three times. The evil hobby-horse would tell the owner of the horse (“Thorwin”) when and where to attack. This was also the guy who executed the horses after the fights and appeared to be the leader. They had a wizard who used a magic vase to alter the terrain and build better ambush sites. To start the fights, the priestess with the magic staff would use the staff to blind the guards, and the archers would shoot them to death. If there was any significant resistance, the wizard would “haste” the archers. He had never been to their “home base” but he thought Thorwin had a place fairly far away, maybe a mansion. He had been with the group for about 3.5 months and participated in about a dozen ambushes. We let him go with food, and then turned to the ringleaders to ask questions via “speak with dead”.

Asking of Thorwin’s associates (in the field):
Q: “Where is Thorwin’s mansion?”
A: “Burned to the ground, in the war.”

Q: “Where does Thorwin keep his valuable possessions that he doesn’t have on his person?”
A: “I think back at the ruins of his old guildhall.”

Q: “What is the location of the ruins of Thorwin’s old guildhall?”
A: “Barleyton. But no one knows where in Barleyton.”

Q: “Where is the location of the ruins of Thorwin’s old guildhall in Barleyton?”
A: “Pretty extensive, but 20 to 30 feet down.”

Q: “How do we access the ruins of Thorwin’s old guildhall in Barleyton?”
A: “Use the secret entrance through the mansion ruins.”

Q: “How does one open the secret entrance to Thorwin’s old guildhall in the ruins of his mansion in Barleyton?”
A: “I don’t know the combination.”

Asking of Thorwin (back at Sutton):
The first two “SwD” questions were questions the Cromwell government wanted the cleric at Sutton to ask about Thorwin’s allies. Thorwin basically confirmed that they are all dead.

Q: “Where is the location of the ruins of your old guildhall in Barleyton?”
A: “It’s a distributed facility.”

Q: “How would I find valuables remaining in the guildhall”
A: “You wouldn’t. You killed the last person with access.”

Q: “What triggers the access?”
A: “A combination and a psychic impression.”

Q: “A psychic impression of whom?”
A: “A full member.”

Q: “What is the combination?”
A: “57-2-101.”

Q: “From the entrance to the Barleycorn Palace (a landmark in Barleyton) what are the directions to your ruined mansion?”
A: He gives us some directions. (Not clear how easy they how are to follow).

Q: “What is the cardinal direction of your ruined mansion from the front gate of the Barleycorn Palace?”
A: “Southwest.”

We had a one-to-two month timeframe to hit another group that Cromwell had alerted us to, but we decided to take the time to have Magic Lad ID the items from this first group (17 days):

• Hobby horse (evil) – “Horsing Around”. Detects hoofed creatures. Detects what they’re carrying. Large radius. Powered by ceremonial killing of horses (1 each week). Yes, this bad horse was feeding Thorwin info on which pack animals were carrying good loot! It also talked to anyone who got within a couple feet of it and tried to convince them to join with it.
• Priest’s staff (evil) – “Plunge Into Darkness”. Light manipulating staff. 20 charges / week. Used for “darkness”, “blindness”, and “shadow summoning” (1, 2, 3 charges each).
• Medium shield +1 (tax)
• Short sword +1 (tax)
• Short swords +1/+4 vs lawful (tax)
• Footman’s flail +1 (tax)
• Vase of Arranging (rearrange terrain based on flower arranging proficiencies) (tax)
• Dagger +1 (Zippo)
• Eversmoking Bottle (Pharragut)
• Hat (unidentified by Magic Lad, also failed by the sage. This has been sent away for ID.)
• Robe is a Plate Mail-Robe, takes 2 segments to transform from one to the other. (keep in Strangorn, somewhere).
• Plate armor +1 (in Bag of Holding for when Rangorn may need it)
• Bracers of “wrath” with (4 charges) (+4 to damage counts for wounds) (Zippo)
• Ring of shocking gasp (9 charges, 12th level) (Anybody can use. Lewis)
• Ring of invisibility 5 charges (Star)
• “Clothes of walking around” (add 3 inches to movement rate, fill armor slot) (Wanda)
• Bracers (5/10) (Pharragut, who transferred his Braces 8/10 to Sorcery Girl)

• Cleric scroll – clw x2 at level 7 (Alisan)
• Mage scroll – “magic missile” x3 at level 6. (Sorcery Girl)

• Potions(4): Healing (Zippo), extra healing (Rangorn), speed (Pheraguat), neutralize poison (Bag of Holding).

• Traveling spellbook: det magic, read magic, sleep, magic missile, shield, spider climb.
• Traveling spellbook: web, levitate, stinking cloud, haste, dispel magic, lightning bolt (pool ball)

We left formal resolution of salvage tax until after the next mission, since our plan is go after another bandit group for Cromwell next!

Pheraguat was ready to begin scouting the next adventure on April 18, 2193, with party then departing on April 30th to join him.

Next: “Superstar! and the Kingpin’s Payout”