Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"The Solution is Fireballs" - Chapter 5 of the Dwellers of the Forbidden City

Inza, the Shadow
The party defeats a force of tasloi with a fireball. The party encounter some tough Yuan-Ti. Aline is impaled by a giant wasp and almost dies. They finally get a chance to rest. The next morning, Aline does an aerial reconnaissance of the city while invisible and the party encounters a departing caravan. Fireballs ensue.

The Group:
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior (Monk 6/Sorcerer 1)
  • Randalf Azul, Human Abjurer (Wizard 7)
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina (Cleric 7)
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage (Wizard 7)
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian (Barbarian 7)
Not Present this week:
  • Duma, bestial jungle hunter of orcine*** parentage (Ranger 7)
* Elf
** Halfling
*** Half-Orc

An Unknown Encounter
Aline's eyes shot wide open as if waking from a nightmare.

She was sitting cross-legged in a cavern, her fingers joined in the complicated knot-work used to enter meditative trance. Indigo, her blue-skinned imp familiar, stood near her. He flapped his leathery wings and helped her stand.

She looked around. Lodar, the diminutive barbarian from the northern plains, stood panting and sweating with his back against the wall of the cave. He stared glassy eyed into the distance. He looked as if he'd stared fear itself in the eye. He calmed down and regained his senses.

"What just happened?" Aline asked.

"I.. I.. what?" replied Lodar as he blinked and looked around the cavern, as if only now conscious of his surroundings. "I.. how did I get here? What's going on?"

Aline looked at Indigo. The devilish creature merely shrugged.

Aline said to Lodar, "We should probably rejoin the others." She gathered up her things and the trio left through the only exit.

The Charge
In the wide corridor that served as the subterranean entrance into the Forbidden City of Sinopia, Inza, Randalf, and Gravy prepared to receive the oncoming charge of dozens of short hair humanoids, a primitive cross between chimpanzee and goblin, and their ophidian masters.

Duma had run off down a side passage on his own private quest. Suddenly, Aline and Lodar appeared from that same side passage. Aline asked Inza what was going on.

Inza answered, "Same as always."

"That bad, huh?" was Aline's response.

DM Note: Not really, but that line is just too awesome not to ret-con in. 

The charging mass had emerged from their hiding place four hundred feet down the passage and were running at top speed. When they were within a hundred feet, the first rank threw javelins that clattered harmlessly around the party.

Aline prepared a spell and launched a flaming orb into their midst. The orb exploded with fiery death, killing most of the hairy humanoids instantly.

Inza ran as fast as he could at the remaining force, then stepped into a shadow and appeared near the female spell-caster in the rear. Lodar charged off after him, screaming the bloodthirsty battle yell of his people. He engaged the remaining primitives and the serpentine warriors that accompanied them.

A short battle ensued but the entire oncoming force was soon defeated.

The Final Defense
After the battle, the party continued up the corridor, which made a 30-degree bend before climbing some stairs and opening to daylight. The party emerged from the corridor into a wide entrance covered in vines and foliage but whose entrance was kept clear. A ruined city stretched before them. Crumbling buildings, toppled monuments, cracked columns, walls with no roofs, and wide paved boulevards were encircled by a three-hundred foot wall of obsidian and stone. Massive trees rose in the distance.

It was late afternoon and the city seemed quiet, hushed. The only sound heard was that of the dozens of giant wasps, each the equal of a pony, that patrolled overhead.

The party cautiously emerged and crossed the stone platform to descend some ancient stairs to the boulevard below.

Suddenly, they were set upon by hidden attackers! Four hideous cross-breeds, part man and part serpent, attacked from hiding. Each was more hideous than the last. The first was human but covered in snake scales. The second was human with the head of snake. The third possessed two snakes for arms. The lower body of the fourth was replaced with the long sinewy tail of a giant snake!

Two engaged Lodar while a third fought Inza. The fourth remained disengaged and fired arrows from a bow. One looked deeply into Lodar's eyes as if trying to hypnotize the demi-man. Lodar ignored the stare, screamed his barbarian war-cry, and attacked with greater zeal!

Meanwhile, a fourth managed to mesmerize Inza, ordering him to kill Lodar. Inza then set his deadly sights on the tiny barbarian, using his knives to stap Lodar in several key pressure points, stunning him. Lodar was then grabbed by one of the serpent-men hybrids while two others attacked.

The fourth tried to cast a spell of darkness over the wizards of the party hoping to eliminate their spell-casting ability, an arcane stratagem which Randalf was quick to dispell.  The same serpent-man hybrid moved to engage Randalf and Gravy while Aline used her broom to fly up and out of the cave.

Aline cast an attack spell on the guard controlling Inza and managed to break the serpent-man's concentration. Inza shook off the effects of the beguilement and attacked, freeing Lodar from the constriction grip of the serpent-man with no legs. They soon made short work of the three they were fighting.

Meanwhile, Gravy engaged in hand-to-hand combat with their attacker, like some kind of myrmidon or something!

Soon all four of the serpent-men were killed. The party was just beginning to take stock of their situation when Aline's body jerked as if seized by a great spasm. She looked down to see the tip of the stinger of a giant wasp protruding through her torso! For just a moment, her brow furrowed in a quizzical expression of confusion, "Huh..."

She fell limp from the sky, landing on the cracked paving stoned with a wet thud.

DM Note: Failed Awareness check followed by a critical hit from the wasp stinger! BOOM! Aline was at -23 Hit Points and was very nearly dead-dead. It made for a fantastic scene, as I described it exactly like above!

There were two of the giant wasps. Gravy grabbed the silver medallion in the shape of a crescent moon he wore and prayed to Thumina, the lunar goddess of healing. Suddenly, everyone in the vicinity were healed of many of their wounds.

DM Note: And Gravy for the save. Good job Gravy!

As the party prepared to do battle, Aline, now restored to consciousness, raised herself on one arm and said, "No. They're mine!"

She extended a finger at the two wasps, who as it happened were in more or less a straight line, and a bolt of lightning crackled into the sky. The peal of thunder echoed from the great cliffs that encircled the city for some time as entire flocks of birds took wing from their hiding places in the crumbling buildings.

DM Note: Great comeback by Aline, but subtle she ain't.

The two wasps were killed.

If the party was hoping to make a covert entrance into the forbidden city, they had failed.
Uh, did I just save everybody?

Camp for the Night
The party explored the nearest boulevard, taking the first side street to the left. The party made camp in an abandoned structure, possibly an ancient bath-house, as the sun set beyond the high rim of the crater that surrounded them.

The night was filled with the sound of croaking frogs, roaring predators, tropical birds, and the occasional snippet of strange chanting far far away, but was otherwise uninterrupted.

The party talked about their goals and discussed their plans.

Indigo kept trying to talk Aline into donning the Crown of Urgence Evergreen, a suggestions he declined. Randalf, annoyed with the impudent fiend, offered to destroy the imp. To that offer Aline also declined.

Invisible Reconnaissance 
The next morning, Randalf gathered everyone and performed a magical ritual that endowed them all with the ability to breathe water for the rest of the day.

Aline then magically turned herself invisible, sat on her flying broom, and flew above the city, staying clear of any patrolling giant wasps.

She made a circuit of the city, noting the large marshy lake to the northeast, the hills surrounded by a bamboo palisade nearby, an area of town that appeared to be constructed of junk, a massive tree, what was once a city park now filled with jungle-like flora, and a wealthy manor house in good repair. She returned to report on the findings.

The party decided to check out the manor-house. They donned their gear and proceeded to walk down the wide open boulevard to their destination.

The Caravan
As they neared an intersection where another boulevard joined theirs at a 30-degree angle, the sound of a large caravan could be heard from around the corner. Gravy managed to find cover in an abandoned building but the rest were too slow and were caught out in the open as a large caravan came onto their street.

The caravan consisted of thirty frog-men, perhaps sixty of the primitive simian goblins, a handful of lizard-men, two bald women with skin like snake scales, and a human woman wearing wizard robes! The caravan included half-a-dozen carts pulled by giant lizards. The carts were laden with boxes and barrels and tarp-covered cargo. The entire procession was making its way to the gate from which the party emerged the afternoon before, on their way out of the city.

The snake-skinned women shouted orders and the frog-men began leaping towards the exposed party. Likewise, the simian goblins charged forward, hooting and screeching.

Aline cast a fireball spell at them. The center of the simian goblinoids exploded in fiery death, leaving their burning corpses littering the boulevard.

Lodar engaged the frog-men while Inza ran to engage the snake-women. Gravy emerged from his abortive hiding place and joined the fray. Even Randalf ran forward to be within range of the spell-casters.

Meanwhile, the lizard-men and non-engaged frog-men were ordered to save the cargo. They began retreating with the carts and grabbing what crates and barrels they could carry and leaping and running away.

Aline called out to Inza, "Capture some alive! We should question them!" Inza sighed and incapacitated the two snake-skinned women and the human wizard.

Lodar killed the remaining frog-men that guarded the retreat of their companions. The rest of the caravan managed to escape with most of the cargo.

The cargo that remained seemed to include several infant hybrid creatures of a magical nature in cages and crates. Also included were some containers of treasure: coin and jewels, as if intended for payment.

The Interrogation
The party took the three prisoners back to their hiding place in the ancient bath-house. The prisoners were blindfolded and gagged. Gravy used his ring of telepathy to read the thoughts of the prisoners as they were asked questions.

The two bald women with snake skin were not entirely helpful. They revealed that her people were called the Yuan-Ti. Their base lay in a ravine in the southwest of the city and that they wished to return the world to the control of the Nagina Samrajya, the empire of the great serpents! They had shape-changing agents in positions of power in various cities, plotting to overthrow the kingdoms of the mammals!

The human woman, they learned, was named Kwairno. She was a student of alchemy and transmutation, apprenticed to the wizard Horan.

Aline froze at the name. Horan was her teacher at the Wizard's College in Yon. Horan was a pompous jerk who made her life hell. She managed to have Horan expelled from the collegium when she learned that he was conducting forbidden experiments, a fact that she exposed only after barely escaping his secret laboratory where she, herself, as about to be transformed into a grotesque hybrid.

Kwairno explained that her master came here, where no one would interfere with his work. Also, he had a ready source of experimental subjects courtesy of Anuran, the god of the swamp.

Aline the Recently Impaled