Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 21: Ilithid ingenuity

As Aruget slowly made his way out of the bottleneck and into the next chamber, the rest held back, with the normally curious Lestok tempered by the fear of that hideous scream.  Kayde called for a pause and proposed that he slip into his shadow form and be the one to do the scouting.  Jak and Lestok grudgingly agreed to the plan, while exhorting Kayde to be overly cautious, with the memory of the last time he’d scouted an enemy still fresh in their minds.  

Kayde disappeared into the shadows.  He was gone for quite some time, which didn’t do much for his friends’ anxiety.  He eventually returned with good news, and bad news.  The good news was, he’d found the moon pool!  It was beautiful!  The bad news: it was guarded by many dolgrims and dolgaunts…and an illithid.  Aruget, being from Droaam, was familiar with illithids and aware of just how bad this news was.  The party quickly got down to debating the best way to approach – sneakily, attempting to parley with the illithid from the ridge above, or to just charge in spells blazing.  Jak was concerned that the person whose scream they’d heard might still be alive and in need of help.  Kayde, on the other hand, proposed they only worry about the task at hand: he would go into the shadows once again, grab Zaraani’s Solitaire (wherever it was), and sneak back out, with no one the wiser.  After much back and forth, the party agreed to go in quietly and let Kayde do his thing, but be in a position to have his back if things went sideways.

Before continuing ahead into the moon pool cavern, Lestok furnished each member the party with a clever invention he’d managed to replicate: a tube with a lens at each end that allowed you to see far distances – but, he warned, don’t look in the opposite end, or it would bend the very fabric of reality itself!  Moving on, the party came to a ridge full of stone columns, with a staircase at one end leading straight down to the moon pool – a beautiful, clean-cut, octagonal pool lit in an otherworldly glow from the ceiling above.  This beautiful view was defiled by the sight of the illithid working intently at some sort of alchemy table littered with arcane apparatuses and strange liquids..and about a dozen assorted dolgrims and dolgaunts who seemed preoccupied with the ilithid’s work, just as Kayde had reported.  As Quentin and Jak looked through their S.C.O.P.E.s, they were able to make out several captives hanging from the ceiling in manacles, with pieces of skin flayed off of their necks and arms.  Perhaps mercifully, they showed no sign of life.  Kayde’s first thought was that the illithid was flaying off dragonmarks, and a better look at a dwarven captive confirmed his horrible suspicions.  Unlike the others, Kayde noticed some subtle movement in the dwarf’s chest.  Aruget, focused on the illithid, watched it turn around…exposing a large, yellow gem hanging from its neck.  Zaraani’s Solitaire, the piece of the Ashen Crown the party had come to retrieve.

As Quentin got to work calling up the winds to hasten their speed for an easier retreat, and Lestok applied G.I.N.S.U. to everyone’s weapon and C.L.I.M.B. to everyone’s boots, Kayde proposed that he go into the shadows and steal the gem right off the ilithid’s neck, then make a quick exit.  Lestok seized onto the idea and suggested that he and Jak shoot some of the volatile bottles on the alchemy table in hopes of creating a distraction at the same time.  Unsure of the wisdom of their plan but seeing no better option, everyone agreed, and Kayde disappeared into the rock wall.  A few short seconds later, the party saw Kayde’s hand appear out of shadow, rip the Solitaire right off the illithid’s neck as promised, and disappear back into the wall.

Everything happened at once as the illithid sprang into action.  Quentin brought a stalactite down on the staircase to prevent the daelkyr from rushing them.  Lestok’s shots went wild, but he guided Jak to shoot the right bottle.  Jak’s bolt found its target, and it blew up in the ilithid’s face, staggering it backwards.  As a pair of dolgrim rushed up the ruined stairs, one of them quickly lost its head to Aruget’s axe as five more illithids suddenly appeared around the one Kayde had robbed.  Sensing it was time to run, Lestok stood up tall and, much to everyone’s surprise, began speaking in daelkyr.  In a cunning attempt to turn two enemies against each other, he claimed that the party was working for Demise of the Emerald Claw, and that she sent her regards.  As the illithids and their minions hesitated, the party fled back towards the bottleneck they’d come from, with their foes sure to follow.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What is the most mystical or magical thing you have ever experienced?
  • How about that exploding alchemy table? According to the DM, even with Lestok succeeding his arcana check to identify an explosive bottle, there was still only a 25% chance the bottle would blow. He chose low and rolled an 11 on a d100, sealing the bottle’s fate. Many bennies were spent causing that explosion, and it paid off!
  • History was made last night: our first session with zero crit fails on either side of the table. Though I do have to grudgingly admit that crit fails in Savage Worlds are not terrible. :p They can add a lot to the story in the hands of a skilled GM like ours.
  • Next week starts with a Chase! I don’t quite understand how those work in Savage Worlds, I’ve never been part of one, but I’m sure it will all make sense in the moment.
  • Jak and Quentin are likely to have some survivor’s guilt about that possible alive dwarf. Jak has the “Shamed” hindrance, and while it’s unrelated to this scenario, it’s possible it could play into it some.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 20: A river runs through it

With its tentacled friend a pile of ash on the ground, the huge, crab-clawed creature lashed out wildly at Jak and Aruget.  While the paladin deftly blocked the blow with his shield, the creature ripped into Jak’s chest, coming very close to putting him down entirely.  Aruget channeled his concern into anger, quickly disembowling the creature while Quentin rushed to check on Jak and Lestok moved forward to deal with the remaining, smaller dolgrim.  Pumping his Fumigator 9000, he delivered a tremendous burst of it straight into the creatures faces and…nothing happened.  Confused and possibly offended, the old gnome stepped back in bewilderment.  As Jak retreated as best he could, Aruget stepped forward and took a big swing at the dolgrim, gutting them cleanly, and the battle was over.

As Quentin attended to the wounds made by the large creature – which he identified as a dolgrue – his magic healed Jak up enough to draw attention to the wound left by the dolgaunt’s tentacles: a mess of disgusting hairs that seemed like they were trying to burrow into Jak’s body.  Jak panicked at the sight, but Quentin calmed him down enough that he was able to stitch up his remaining injuries, and even (with Aruget’s help) deal with the crossbow bolt lodged in Quentin’s side.

As the party regrouped and continued on their way, they passed through the daelkyr’s makeshift camp and found a double door leading down a steep stairway, which looked promising.  As they started making their way down, Yeraa called Aruget again to say that they had retrieved their artifact. Unfortunately, she also had two pieces of bad news: her party’s way out was blocked, so they were continuing forward to look for a way out…and another one of them had been killed.  Aruget recognized his name as the scout the party had rescued from the Emerald Claw on their way to Six Kings, and there was a small moment of silence.

Down the staircase, the party entered a cavern with a river dividing it.  With the only apparent way forward to cross the river, Jak anxiously revealed that, having spent his entire life within Sharn’s city limits, he didn’t know how to swim.  Lestok eagerly suggested applying his C.L.I.M.B. gunk to everyone’s shoes to walk across the ceiling instead, but was ignored as Kayde revealed to Jak that his shadow power could turn others intangible as well.  As shadow swirled around Kayde, he laid a hand on Jak’s shoulder and the shadow ran down his arm and onto his friend, turning Jak intangible.  Somewhat alarmed, but trusting his friend, Jak quickly ran across the river and returned to his solid form on the other side.  With one idea rejected, Lestok was undaunted and whipped up a couple of G.N.O.M.E.S. environmental suits to protect the rest of the party from the icy water…which proved very useful when Kayde, feeling cocky, decided to try jumping the river.  Slipping on a loose rock as he ran forward, Kayde plunged into the water, and as Aruget tried to grab at him, he pulled the hapless hobgoblin in after him.  Thankfully, they were not swept too far, and both proved to be strong swimmers, emerging safely on the opposite side with Jak.  Quentin decided to play it safe, summoning a gust of air under his feet, which allowed him to safely cross over the water…and that was when the party realized that they’d left Lestok behind, to his own devices.

Never fear!  A gnome always has an idea!  Lestok proceeded to inflate his empty waterskin, tie it to a string, pick up the heaviest rock he could find as ballast, and walk along the bottom of the riverbed with his makeshift buoy marking his position.  About halfway across, he found the rock becoming hard to wrangle, so he attempted to apply some C.L.I.M.B. to his shoes…underwater, in the middle of a flowing river.  As the old gnome started getting swept away by the current, Aruget was able to throw him a rope and pull him out to safety.

With everyone accounted for, Jak and Quentin scouted out their new surroundings.  As Jak noticed mists coming off the ground down another incline, Quentin spotted an old skeleton with a satchel that, oddly, had irises and grass growing out of it. Careful not to disturb the flowers, the druid reached into the satchel and, navigating some broken glass, found three intact flasks labeled Dragon’s Breath, Ogre Strength, and Ocean’s Relief.  Lestok promptly decided to taste-test them.  The Dragon’s Breath caused him to cough out sparks, the Ogre Strength made him feel like he could have carried that heavy rock all day, and the Ocean’s Relief refreshed him.  Lestok distributed the potions to those he thought could use them best, and the party continued on to follow the mist.

It led to a cave full of red, glowing crystals – not dragonshards, but something else entirely.  Large and densely packed, Jak and Lestok squeezed between them, as Quentin remembered hearing stories of places in Khyber where reality was distorted and demiplanes were accessible…and that was when Jak noticed that the mists, the walls, the floor, and the ceiling all contracted and expanded as if the very cavern around them was breathing.  As a crystal shot up from the ground in front of Jak – more like a living thing than a rock – he yelled at his friends to turn around and run, shoving Lestok ahead of him.  They retreated back into a chamber with a blocked passage to the north, which Aruget made quick work of clearing.

Before he would let anyone pass, however, Aruget blocked the passage himself and delivered a stern lecture: after the series of mishaps at the river, it was clear that the party had to wise up, start working together better, and not be so reckless.  He made everyone swear to it, particularly focusing on Lestok.  While Jak promised Aruget that he wouldn’t let Lestok out of his sight, the old gnome cautiously agreed to be careful as long as “no stone is left unturned!”  Satisfied with everyone’s answers, Arguet moved forward and the rest of the party followed…and that was when they heard a horrible, tortured scream echo through the cave.  Already sobered by Aruget’s lecture, chills started to travel up Lestok’s spine…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: Which of your old friends do you miss the most?  Where are they?  What is your fondest memory of them?
  • Lestok’s river crossing was adjudicated as a mini Dramatic Task. This is definitely one of those “you had to have been there” moments that a recap can’t do justice. I have never seen our GM get so red in the face from laughing.
  • And yes – Lestok’s idea to use C.L.I.M.B. to cross the river was the best, wisest idea, and would have saved us a world of troubled! There’s a certainly irony that everything went to chaos because we ignored Lestok’s idea.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 19: A light in the dark

As the party settled down to recuperate from a string of fights, mishaps, and strange black mist, everyone found a different method of relaxation.  Kayde meditated, Aruget enjoyed a snack, Jak continued to play with the mysterious music box, Quentin tried to strike up conversations and Lestok got to work identifying the mysterious byeshk spear Aruget had pulled out of the mummified creature.  It proved to be a relic even more powerful than byeshk alone would make it.  One mystery solved, the old gnome’s attention turned to the locked door where the mummy had been.  With no visible lock or hinges, Jak and Kayde had been stymied by it, but Lestok remembered a few tricks from Ashtura’s tomb.  Stepping forward and puffing out his chest, he commanded the door to serve him!  It did not. 

As Jak, assisted by Aruget and Lestok, popped the door open with a crowbar, the party found yet another pitch-black passage – this one, a combination of hewn stone and rough cavern.  Making their way down another series of inclines, they found some more trinkets and a dead end until Jak noticed the faint flickering of torchlight coming from the end of another passage.  Scouting down a thin bottleneck, he spotted more dolgrim, and quickly retreated to warn the others – but not before the dolgrim heard him.  One of them immediately tried to put a bolt into Aruget, and the party began a short standoff as neither group was willing to rush down the bottleneck to their doom.  Eventually, a lone dolgrim appeared, and Jak quickly put him down with his own crossbow.  Quentin dropped a whirlwind in the tunnel in an attempt to create a barrier between them and the dolgrim, but soon, a huge aberration that looked like the mummified creature from the previous room came barreling through it.  With Kayde unable to pierce its hide even with the new spear, the furious creature wrenched the weapon right out of Kayde’s hands.  As Aruget called on Dol Arrah and Jak put a crossbow bolt right into the creature’s chest – which just made it more angry – yet another hideous being appeared, this one a mess of tentacles which wrapped around Jak, burying into his flesh.  Lestok decided this was the time to test out his newest concoction – Zom-B-Gone!  He unleashed a spray of it on the tentacled creature which, much to everyone’s surprise and against all logic since it clearly was not a zombie, easily caused it to disintegrate.  With one threat down, the party’s attentions returned to the pressing matter of the ten foot tall, clawed, extremely angry monster that remained in front of them… 

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What superstitions do you subscribe to? How strongly do you believe in them?
  • How the heck did Zom-B-Gone work on something that isn’t a zombie? Adventure cards! Of course, now Lestok is quite convinced that either a) daelkyr are undead, or b) it works on everything…

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 18: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

With the goblin spirits laid to rest and nothing else of interest in the byeshk cavern, Aruget checked in on Yeraa – who casually mentioned that she had encountered daelkyr creations in the tunnels – and the party made their way down another incline to yet more blocked passageways.  The one to the north looked like it could be cleared easily enough, and Aruget and Lestok got to work on it.  Clearing some of the rubble from the top, they noticed torchlight along with the air flowing through it, and could hear the sounds of fighting.  Clearing away more rock, Lestok cast an illusion of the blockage further down the tunnel for him and Arguet to move forward and get a better look at what appeared to be more of the phantoms they had just fought, doing battle with strange goblinoids that appeared to have multiple arms.  The room they were in was finished and had curtains hanging from the ceiling, a stark contrast to the rough caverns they had encountered so far.

While Jak was quite happy to let the two groups fight it out, Aruget pled with the party to help these phantoms find peace the way they had for the last group, telling Jak that their souls needed to be redeemed, an argument which grudgingly won over the surly changeling.  Kayde, still not at a hundred percent, was reluctant to join the fight, so Jak handed his friend his crossbow and told him to stay back while Lestok coated everyone’s weapon with his famous cutting oil.  Aruget charged into the room, leaping over a phantom to come face to face with its foe – a monstrous creature with four arms – each bearing a different weapon – and two mouths, which seemed to be arguing with each other in a hideous language the paladin could not understand.  They traded blows, with Aruget quickly dispatching it.  Jak quickly joined the fray to come to his friends aid, and looked back over his shoulder as Quentin’s hands erupted in lightning, engulfing and charring the creatures and dropping all four of them in one fell swoop.  High on that decisive victory, Aruget’s attentions turned to the phantoms…who turned their weapons on the party.

The ghosts were dealt with, but not before a very disappointed Aruget sustained nasty injuries from one of them.  With the battle over, Jak patched up one of Aruget’s wounds while Lestok eagerly busted out something he’d found on the road that he called “skunkweed” to smear on the other one.  It healed the hobgoblin well, but Lestok warned him that he was likely to smell like the stuff for quite some time.  Quentin turned his attention to investigating the creature corpses, and identified them as abominations known as dolgrim, while Lestok wandered the room and discovered a mummified, ape-like creature with claws pierced by a very interesting-looking spear…which caught his attention for exactly five seconds until Kayde called out that he’d found an interesting-looking music box, which brought the gnome running.  He wound it up and it played a song that he vaguely remembered from his childhood, but couldn’t place.  Jak tried the box and had the same experience, and then Quentin tried it and it played a song from Cyre, which caused him to become overwhelmed by emotion and need a minute to himself.  Much more interested in the spear, Aruget removed it from the mummified corpse and noted that its shiny haft had not decayed unlike everything else in the room.  Getting Lestok’s attention, the old gnome identified it as the work of an artificer, but couldn’t quite pin down what was special about it.  

With that, the party looked once again to moving forward…and hopefully finding the Moon Pool at last.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: Where in Eberron were you raised? What are your thoughts about where you grew up?
  • Lestok’s “skunkweed” was the result of his flavouring of the Whiskey and Iron adventure card, which heals all wounds at the price of (as written) a permanent scar that reduces the bearer’s persuasion rolls by 2 for a month. He decided that Aruget should be stinky instead, and everyone including Aruget rolled with it. Kayde is not amused.