Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cassilda Tillinghast

Cassilda Tillinghast is a character that I created for playing The House on Hook Street, a module that is being run in campaign mode at my local Pathfinder Society venue over the next couple of months. We were strongly encouraged to make characters with psychic magic (from Occult Adventures) due to the usefulness of occult skill unlocks in investigating the adventure's mystery. I chose the mindblade magus (an archetype that makes that class's spellcasting psychic) because it fit a character concept that I already had in embryonic form.

The GM asked us for some character background, including a few specific questions, so that they could work personalized hooks into the story. My answers follow the stat block below.

As her surname may suggest, Cassilda was in part inspired by my old Buffy RPG character Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, who I've posted about here before. Some of the details below were based on specific parts of Trick's history; others are new, in order to integrate Cassilda into this very different setting. I think of her as a sort of "alternate universe" Trick.


Cassilda Tillinghast
(original art by Tim Emrick)

Cassilda Tillinghast

Female human magus (mindblade) 5 (Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Magic, Pathfinder RPG Occult Adventures)
CG Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses Perception +9

21, touch 15, flat-footed 17 (+5 armor, +1 deflection, +4 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 38 (5d8+10)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +5

Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 keen rapier [mindblade] +9 (1d6+2/15-20) or
    alchemical silver kukri +7 (1d4/18-20) or
    cold iron kukri +7 (1d4+1/18-20) 
Ranged masterwork composite longbow +8 (1d8+1/x3)
Special Attacks pool strike (2d6), spell combat, spellstrike
Magus Spells Known (CL 5th; concentration +14; melee or ranged touch +7)
2nd (3/day)--cat's grace, invisibility, see invisible, spider climb
1st (5/day)--expeditious retreat, feather step[APG], shield, shocking grasp, true strike
0--acid splash, detect magic, disrupt undead, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic

Str 13, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 19
Feats Bodyguard[B], Combat Casting[B], Combat Reflexes, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (rapier)
Skills Climb +5, Craft (leather) +7, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (arcana) +11, Knowledge (local, religion) +4, Knowledge (planes) +7, Perception +9, Ride +8, Spellcraft +11, Swim +5; Occult Skill Unlocks Phrenology (Knowledge [arcana]), Read Aura (Perception)
Languages Common, Orc, Shoanti, Thassilonian, Varisian
Traits Focused Mind, Seeker
SQ psychic access, psychic pool (6 points, +2 equivalent weapon)
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, potion of cure moderate wounds, acid (1) [acid splash focus], 20 alchemical silver arrows, 20 cold iron arrows; Other Gear +1 mithral chain shirt, alchemical silver kukri, cold iron kukri, masterwork composite longbow (+1 Str) and 20 arrows, amulet of natural armor +1, belt of incredible dexterity +2, cloak of resistance +1, ring of protection +1, traveler's any-tool, belt pouch, flint and steel, journal, masterwork artisan's tools (leathercrafting), masterwork backpack, prismatic crystal[OA], scrivener's kit, silk rope, spell component pouch, waterskin, whetstone, 47 gp, 9 sp, 8 cp

Cassilda Tillinghast is a young Korvosan woman of mixed Chelaxian and Varisian descent. She is tall for a woman, slender and athletic, with large hazel eyes and fire-red hair that make her more striking than pretty. Apart from a bow and a couple large knives (kukri), she carries no obvious weapons, but as a mindblade magus she can manifest a magical weapon at will--usually a rapier. Similarly, her armor (a mithral chain shirt) is not immediately obvious under her usual street clothes.

Cassilda's father, Thales Tillinghast, was a sellsword and gambler who fell hard for a pretty young Varisian fortune-teller. Camilla Lupescu's family of wanderers took an instant dislike to him, but Thales' ability to keep both his honor and his good humor during their extended hazing amused and impressed her enough that he eventually earned her kinfolk's grudging respect. Cassilda was born a year or two later, and spent much of her early childhood traveling the Varisian wilderness with her parents and extended family. During that time, she learned some basic magical lore from her mother and the rudiments of fencing from her father.

Shortly after Cassilda entered puberty, her family's caravan was attacked by orc raiders. Cassilda was ordered to hide in the wagons with the other children, but a raider found them. She shielded the others with her own body, and in her desperation somehow manifested her mindblade for the first time--and in a lucky blow, mortally wounded the orc before passing out herself.

The raiders were driven off, but many of Cassilda's kinfolk were injured, and a few slain. The clan was forced to stop wandering and live in a city for a time, until the roads were safer or they could find another band to join. For various reasons (including a plague in Korvosa that claimed some of her clan a few years ago), this temporary measure became more or less permanent over the next few years.

With a city full of trouble to explore, Cassilda grew up into something of a back-alley bravo with a few magical tricks up her sleeve. She has learned the hard way to be careful about she works for, or with. However, she has never forgotten her first real fight, which has left her with a driving need to continue defending the defenseless.

She is also insatiably curious about psychic phenomena. She has little talent for the kind of divinations and blessings her mother practiced, but has picked up some ability to read auras--and regularly uses it before agreeing to work with other adventurers. But once her trust is given, she's fiercely loyal to her allies.

Greatest success: The rescue of young Twilda, whose uncle Glindelmire, a gnome cleric of Desna, made enemies through his charitable mission work in the slums of Korvosa. The priest, normally a pacifist, hired Cassilda to help him get back his kidnapped niece. Her swordplay and his spells kept them both alive long enough to find the girl and fight their way out. The gang members who survived found the locals now rallied around the priest, and were forced to find some other neighborhood to bully.

A failure: Being defeated by a ghoul and a dhampir swordsman on the same night. While investigating some undead attacks, Cassilda came across a man bent over a fallen body in an alley. When he looked up at her, she saw long fangs, so attacked. The man was a dhampir, and a far better swordsman than she was. Their duel was interrupted by ghouls, one of whom struck and paralyzed Cassilda. The dhampir quickly dispatched the undead, then turned back to the fallen man, his friend who had been mauled by a ghoul and was near death. The swordsman tarried just long enough to make sure Cassilda could move and defend herself again before vanishing with the unconscious man slung over his shoulder. Her sword arm still bears a long scar from his blade, where she now knows he struck to maim, not kill. She uses it to remind herself to be more careful about which fights she picks. 

A person you have a positive relationship with: Alishaya, a Qadiran dancer (and sometimes thief) who Cassilda helped free from servitude to a pimp in a nasty neighborhood in Korvosa. The two women are now lovers, sharing the magus's tiny garret room above her Uncle Vigo's leatherworking shop. Cassilda still feels occasional guilt about taking advantage of Alishaya's gratitude, but the other woman seems content, and is well-liked among the Lupescus.

A person you have a negative one with: Konrad Leafsong, a half-elven minstrel with whom Cassilda had a brief fling a couple years ago--until she discovered his drug habit, and grew sick of his chronic shading of the truth. They had a very public row, which both of them have had difficulty living down--Konrad because he was humiliated by an berserk woman, Cassilda because the bard takes petty revenge by mocking her in song.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Time of the Tarrasque: Dust Mantis

The following monster appeared in session #16 of my "Time of the Tarrasque" campaign ("Gorza's Well").

The dust mantis is a giant mantis with the dust creature template applied, plus one additional change: its environment has been changed from temperate forest to temperate and warm deserts.


This horse-sized creature looks like a giant insect made out of sand, with two large scythe-like claws.


XP 1,200
Dust giant mantis [Advanced Bestiary 131; Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 200]
N Large outsider (air, earth, elemental, extraplanar)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +6
16, touch 11, flat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +5 natural, -1 size)
hp 38 (4d10+16)
Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +3
Defensive Abilities air mastery; Immune elemental traits, mind-affecting effects
Speed 30 ft., climb 20 ft., fly 40 ft. (poor); airborne
Melee 2 claws +4 (1d6+1 plus grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks desert blast (20-ft. line, 2d4 slashing, Ref DC 16 half, 1/1d4 rounds), exude dust (DC 16), lunge, mandibles, sudden strike
Str 12, Dex 15, Con 18, Int --, Wis 14, Cha 9
Base Atk +4; CMB +6 (+10 grapple); CMD 18 (22 vs. trip)
Skills Climb +9, Fly -4, Perception +6, Stealth +2 (+14 in desert); Racial Modifiers +4 Perception, +4 Stealth (+12 in deserts)
SQ air breather, airborne
temperate and warm deserts (and Elemental Planes of Air and Earth)
Organization solitary
Treasure none
Special Abilities
Air Breather (Ex)
A dust creature can breathe air, even if the base creature breathed only water.
Airborne (Su) At will, a dust creature can walk on air as though with an air walk spell. In addition, it always falls as if affected by a feather fall spell. When falling, the dust creature can be moved on the wind as noted in the description of the air walk spell.
Air Mastery (Ex) Airborne creatures takes a –1 penalty on attack and damage rolls against a dust creature.
Dust Blast (Su) Once every 1d4 rounds, as a standard action, a dust creature can emit an abrasive jet of dust-filled wind that damages objects and other creatures. This wind takes the form of a 5-foot-wide, 20-foot-long line that causes 1d4 points of slashing damage per 2 Hit Dice (minimum 1d4, maximum 20d4). Any creature caught within the area may attempt a Reflex save for half damage. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Exude Dust (Su) At will as a free action, a dust creature can exude a cloud of dust that surrounds its body in a 10-foot spread. This cloud functions like an obscuring mist spell, except all dust creatures can see through it normally. Any other creature caught within in the cloud must succeed on a Fortitude save or be blinded by the stinging dust. Creatures that close their eyes or have them covered before the dust could affect them gain a +10 circumstance bonus on the save roll. A creature that enters the dust cloud with its eyes closed or covered need not make a save against blindness unless it opens its eyes while within the dust cloud. A creature blinded by a dust creature's cloud of dust regains its sight 1d4 rounds after its last exposure to a dust cloud with its eyes open. Blinding exposure of even a single eye blinds all eyes supernaturally. This is a blinding effect. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Lunge (Ex) A dust mantis's limbs are capable of reaching much farther than normal for a creature of its size. As a full-attack action, it can make a single attack with its claws at double its normal reach. When a giant mantis attacks with a claw in this manner, it gains a +4 bonus on its attack roll. A giant mantis cannot make attacks of opportunity with its lunge.
Mandibles (Ex) A dust mantis that grabs a foe can make a bite attack against that foe as a secondary attack. The mantis's bite is a -1 attack that inflicts 1d6 points of damage on a hit.
Sudden Strike (Ex) A dust mantis is particularly adept at moving quickly when its foes are surprised. During a surprise round, a dust mantis may act as if it had a full round to act, rather than just one standard action.

Time of the Tarrasque #16: Gorza's Well

Our heroes include:
  • Edel Naergon, high elf bard (archivist) 3.
  • Fatou, human wizard (evoker) 2/cleric of Yaziel 1; and Nochaesh, owl familiar.
  • Jumari Boneface, half-orc inquisitor of the Lost Egg 3.
  • ZhaZha, half-orc cavalier (order of the dragon) 3; and Zafira, camel mount.
Last time, our heroes started their journey north from Zahallan to the Burburan Oasis to seek more information about the death-worshiping Ghost Fist Clan, and the area of the Shalash Escarpment near The Stairs that tribe calls home. They made a detour to visit ZhaZha's home village of Gorza's Well, but before they reached that settlement, they came across the scene of a recent battle between orcs and hobgoblins. They encountered some surviving hobgoblins who were looting the bodies, and dispatched them.

Soon afterwards, the party entered a region of more rocky desert. ZhaZha easily followed the landmarks to find the way to her home, despite having been away for over a year. However, when she came within site of the cluster of large boulders that screened the southern entrance to the ravine in which the village lay, she found signs of trouble. A half-orc body lay some distance from the rocks, and she caught glimpses of something large hiding among the rock. She dismounted to check the body; it was Kazar, one of the village guards. He had been slain by something with a serrated slashing weapon, as well as a bite.

Edel caught sight of the thing in the rocks, and used a sift spell to get a closer look. It was a dust mantis: an elemental that resembled a horse-sized giant mantis made of sand and dust. He began a litany of advice to his companions for how to fight it, and fired his bow at the rocks.

The mantis produced a thick cloud of dust around itself, obscuring it from view. When the cloud moved forward out of the rocks, ZhaZha charged it, but failed to strike the thing with her lance--or even see it in the cloud. (She did, however, avoid being blinded by the dust.) Jumari followed suit, on foot, and managed to close with it and shout its location to the others. Fatou cast shocking grasp and moved into the cloud until she could deliver the spell--which hit, and left a small glassy patch in the beast's sandy body. ZhaZha dropped her lance to draw her pick and move close enough to see the giant insect. Edel kept up his naturalist lecturing, but failed to hit anything with his bow.

Inside the cloud, the dust mantis spat a stream of sand at ZhaZha and her camel; she was only slightly injured by the attack, and Zafira was left unscathed. [As a mount, she has evasion.] The mantis stepped back into the cloud, so Fatou cast burning hands at it. She then circled around the rocks to find it again, without getting in the way of Jumari or ZhaZha following it more directly. The cavalier found an easier path through the rocks, and struck it down with her pick. The cloud began to settle, but very slowly. While it did so, Jumari struck the mantis a couple more times, until it collapsed into a shapeless pile of sand.

As the dust cleared, the heores could see the gate beyond the cluster of rocks. An orc poked his head out from cover above the gate and asked (in Orcish), "Is it dead?" ZhaZha recognized him as Zakar, cousin to the dead half-orc outside, and informed him that both the bug and Kazar were dead. She promised to bring in the guard's body, and Zakar opened the gate for the party. He stared openly at the two non-half-orcs with her, before leading them to a second gate further up the ravine, where two more half-orcs stood guard. "ZhaZha is back, and she killed the thing!"

Beyond the second gate, the ravine opened up into a larger space that housed the village itself. The population here was almost entirely half-orcs; full-blooded orcs or humans were rare sights, and no other races were visible. Near the gate, the right side of the ravine housed stables--based on the pungent stink of camel--while the left side held caves from which people carried water.

Almost immediately, a middle-aged half-orc man approached, with a handful of younger warriors in his wake. The older man wore no armor, and walked with a confidence matched by his muscular physique. He accosted ZhaZha with two questions, in Orcish: "Did you kill it?" (Yes) then "Who are your friends?" She introduced the others, using Common to indicate that they did not all know Orcish. (Edel is still learning the language.) The man introduced himself as, "Father Abghat, mate of the Women of the Well, and war leader here." When ZhaZha informed him that she and her companions were fighting a death cult, he suggested that they go somewhere out of the sun, and out of earshot of the whole settlement, to talk. But first, he shed his escort by tasking them with carrying Zakar's body "to the usual place, until Mother Shogar can tend to him," and stabling the new arrivals' two camels. (The one who led Zafira away did so with exaggerated care, as if he knew her or her rider's reputation all too well.)

Abghat led the group into one of the left-hand caves, where Fatou soon had to pull out her everburning torch to be able to see her way. They passed through a larger chamber in which a large hole was surrounded by a low stone wall and multiple machines for drawing water--some of them rather sophisticated for such a small desert settlement. Many other tunnels opened into this room, through which a number of villagers passed in order to draw and carry water. Abghat crossed the chamber to a tunnel without any foot traffic, which led to a small antechamber with a few benches facing two more comfortable chairs. He sat in one of these, and gestured at the benches.

(ZhaZha knew the other chair was for Mother Shogar, the Woman of the Well and the village's spiritual leader. A passage beyond led to the two leaders' private quarters, and to the cult sanctum beyond. Few natives--and no outsiders--ever went further than this meeting room, and the sanctum was even more taboo.)

At first, Abghat asked questions about the monster the heroes had fought outside the gate. Edel did most of the talking for this, with Fatou adding in details as needed. During this talk, everyone except Jumari noticed that the war leader's worn, chipped wooden amulet was a symbol of the Tarrasque.

The war leader then asked to hear more about the death cult that the group was hunting. ZhaZha summarized their adventures so far, leaving out certain details such as Jumari's family and faith. She explained that there was evidence that the cult was growing in influence, encroaching on places it hadn't before, and making allies to help it work unhindered. The party now sought any information they could find on the Ghost Fist Clan, and the region near the Stairs that they controlled. Abghat replied that he knew little about that tribe or its lands. However, Mother Shogar's new apprentice was a recent arrival from the north, so may know more. When ZhaZha told him about the Ghost Fists being led by a human warlord, this disturbed the elder. The Ghost Fists "worship the wrong god," he replied, glancing briefly at Fatou's Javanian holy symbol. (The cleric understood the veiled slight, but did not rise to the bait.)

As the others talked, Jumari remained perfectly silent, with her veil firmly pulled up to her eyes. Being surrounded by so many orcs and half-orcs roused her paranoia. She used her inquisitor powers to try to determine Abghat's alignment, but it didn't register to her senses. Abghat eventually turned his attention to her, and asked which tribe she was from. ZhaZha tried to deflect his questions without disrespecting her elder, but he persisted. Jumari told him, "I have no tribe." She did not know what happened to them--and her tone implied that she didn't care. Abghat asked to see her face, so that he would know it when he saw it again. She complied, and the elder showed no sign of recognizing the significance of her birthmark.

Abghat relented in his prying, and asked ZhaZha how long they planned to stay here. The cavalier replied that it would not be long, as they were eager to find out more about the cult's activities, which would require more travel. She was pretty sure that her father would give them lodgings, so Abghat promised to send the apprentice, Kelk, there to speak with them later.

ZhaZha led the way to her family's cave, which was conveniently on the edge of the settlement--the better to keep her friends from drawing too much attention. ZhaZha's father, who was freakishly tall like his daughter, addressed her consistently as "Zultana," but the cavalier warned her new friends to never call her by that name. ZhaZha's brother, her only other living relative, was the runt of the family at only a few inches over 6'. ZhaZha was able to smooth over the awkwardness of bringing strange outsiders home after being away for so long, and dutifully did her share of bringing water from the well. She helped her friends continue teaching Edel Orcish during their meal and the long rest break during the hottest part of the day.

As the evening approached, Kelk arrived at the family cave. She was a full-blooded orc, much more attractive than most, with her hair shaved into a mohawk. Her eyes were somewhat filmy, though it didn't seem to impede her mobility. She told the group that she was born into the Snakespear Tribe, whose territory was near the Ghost Fists'. She left because the death-worshipers killed most of her tribe. She knew one of their warriors was a human, whose scythe cut a bloody swath through her kin. (While a scythe is appropriate to a death god, Fatou and Jumari knew that Asmolon's Javanian priests favor the flail. So they still did not know if this Yazdanyar was a priest himself or simply a warrior of some kind.) Kelk didn't know about any other leaders among the Ghost Fists, but did say that a few of the orcs who attacked her people were no longer alive. She also didn't know the enemy's numbers; her own tribe had been slightly larger than the Gorza Well settlement (upwards of a hundred), but she feared the Ghost Fists numbered many times that.

Kelk survived by fleeing, but nearly died in the desert. She was found by Mother Shogar--or rather, she was led to her, by a lizard. ("Why a lizard?" "It was the first food I'd seen in three days.") That was nearly half a year ago--well after ZhaZha last left Gorza's Well.

Jumari asked if the Ghosts Fists ever had any peaceful interactions with anyone. Kelk gave her a skeptical look--it's the way of orcs to take what they want, if they can. The 'Fists often attacked merchants on the trade routes to the Stairs. They and other tribes who live near the Shalash Escarpment dwell in caves, which are common in those cliffs.

(Kelk also wore a Tarrasque talisman, one much newer than Abghat's. Jumari failed to identify this one, too, but sensed chaos in the apprentice's aura.)

ZhaZha asked the orc woman if there was anyone she wanted them to look out for, or avenge. Kelk showed them the snake tattoos on her arms, and said they would know a member of her old tribe by similar marks. The cavalier asked if bringing any other survivors here would be a good idea. Kelk replied that before she came here, she would have said that Gorza's people would not want them. Now, she did not know--but the Woman of the Well would be wary of any large group coming here.

The heroes thanked the apprentice for her information, then discussed their next move. They decided to stay for a day before continuing on to the Burburan Oasis.

Fatou took advantage of the delay to scribe a couple of scrolls. ZhaZha took a shift with the village's guards. Jumari stayed out of sight at first, but then ZhaZha offered to spar with her, and decided to help train the village's youngsters while she was at it.

Edel explored a bit, and was propositioned by a brawny half-orc woman. She was not nearly as attractive as ZhaZha or Kelk, but the bard had been without companionship for quite some time, and he was perversely curious. He accepted, but found the experience far less pleasant that he had hoped; he was left exhausted and very sore afterward.


I'll be posting the stat block for the dust mantis very shortly. [Edited to add link.]

After my usual awards for the fight and roleplaying this session, the PCs ended up only about 30 XP short of what they needed for 4th level. I decide to increase the award just enough to get them there, so they are now advancing their characters in preparation for next time. Once they reach the Burburan Oasis, they will be able to convert their hobgoblin loot to cash, so they'll need to consider how to spend that soon, too.

Appendix: Previous Sessions

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#Inktober2018: Days 27-31

Here are the last few days of my drawings for #Inktober2018, plus a short spooky story for Halloween.

To see all my #Inktober2018 drawings, see this folder in my DeviantArt gallery.

Day 27: Thunder

From a photo reference (here).

This drawing is a tribute to Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, one of my characters from a long-running Buffy/Angel RPG campaign.


Day 28: Gift

Drawn from a photo reference (here).

Eva Amurri Martino was "cast" as my character, Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, in a Buffy/Angel game many years ago. The drummer in my "Thunder" drawing was a tribute to Trick, so I decided to draw her again today.

Day 29: Double

Day 30: Jolt

Day 31: Slice

The oldest dream that I remember was also one of the scariest. It was before we moved to a new, larger house during my kindergarten year, so I must have been 4 at the time, or possibly 5. My room was tiny, with barely enough room for my twin bed, a small desk, and a dresser. In my dream, I woke up in the middle of the night, and looked around my room. It was the middle of the night, but in the moonlight coming through the window, I could see a pile of letters and papers on the floor between the bed and dresser. While I looked at them, the papers stirred, swirled around like a miniature whirlwind, then rose up to form a roughly humanoid shape. This thing grabbed me and held me up in the air with an arm made of letters and envelopes. Its other arm ended in a blade made of paper, and it began to cut slices off of me, starting at the toes and working its way upward. I could see each piece falling away, looking just like when a cartoon character gets chopped up into steaks. I couldn't move or scream--at least, not until I woke up just before it reached my neck.

Friday, October 26, 2018

#Inktober2018: Days 21-26

I played a little catch-up last night, and had a couple others I hadn't posted yet.

To see all my #Inktober2018 drawings, see this folder in my DeviantArt gallery.

Day 21: Drain

Day 22: Expensive

Day 23: Muddy

I tried to draw a scary Mudkip, but it didn't work, so I drew it the way it wanted to be seen.

Day 24: Chop

Day 25: Prickly

I started out trying to draw the cactus petrifern from a past session of my "Time of the Tarrasque" game, but it came out as its own unique monster--perhaps a desert vegepygmy?

Day 26: Stretch

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Time of the Tarrasque #15: Give Me a Clear Charge Line

Our heroes include:

  • Edel Naergon, high elf bard (archivist) 3.
  • Fatou, human wizard (evoker) 2/cleric of Yaziel 1; and Nochaesh, owl familiar.
  • Jumari Boneface, half-orc inquisitor of the Lost Egg 3.
  • ZhaZha, half-orc cavalier (order of the dragon) 3; and Zafira, camel mount.

Last time, our heroes parted ways with the newly reincarnated Jubair, then found Fatou's brother Balban waiting for her at the Temple of the Moon with a letter from their father. After the siblings spent some time catching up, Fatou went to report to her mullah, Jenana Nasrud.

After Fatou finished telling the mullah about her adventure in Spine Hollow, Jubair's death and return, and the news from her family, Jenana was sympathetic to Fatou's strained relationship with her father. She supported Fatou choosing her own path, but also knew how important family ties were.

Since Fatou's last departure from Zahallan, Jenana had led a small group to investigate the death cult shrine that the younger woman and her companions had discovered while traveling with Lucan Midorichal's caravan. They had purified the site to the best of their ability, and the mullah had broached the subject with the imam of the Temple of the Sun to determine what else to do about the site. The mullah's research had yielded more information about the half-orc folk hero Gorza. He was murdered by a legendary assassin, Ras Radaz. This death cultist had eventually been found and slain by a group of Javanian priests, but many of Gorza's signature possessions (such as his black axe and horned armor) had never been recovered.

Fatou shared her party's plan to learn more about the region around the Stairs, so that they could locate the rest of the Ghost Fist orcs. The mullah agreed that the best source of information would be the Burburan Oasis, because that town lies on the same caravan route that goes up the Shalash Escarpment at the Stairs, so they would be the first to hear news of any threats there.

Jenana referred Fatou to the temple's archivist to learn more about the history and religion of giants, so the young wizard gathered her friends and paid that scholar a visit. Mansur, a halfling priest, was intrigued by the stone disk they had found on the dead desert giant's body, and provided a brief lesson on giantish history and religion. An ancient giant civilization once flourished in this part of the world (the continents of Hemut and Iath), but little remained of it by the time humans or halflings ever arrived here. As giantkind grew more diverse, many of them turned away from the balanced worship of all four elemental gods, and only honored the patron of their own subrace. As some giants grew corrupt and evil, so did their religious practices. Many now worship only evil aspects of their subrace's favored god. However, the elemental gods themselves, as worshiped by the earliest giants, were neither good nor evil, but forces of nature. When humans arrived in the Bronze Sea region, found the old giant temples, and began recreating that religion, they followed those older beliefs. If any giants alive today still worship all four gods, as the stone disk suggests, it would be the first time that Mansur had heard of such a thing--and he would dearly love to learn whatever the party is able to discover on the subject!

The young heroes then parted ways briefly, as Fatou visited with the scribe Ashraf, and Edel visited the bowyer Naladella to commission a more accurate [masterwork] bow.

The party then spent the next couple of days preparing for their journey north to the Burburan Oasis, buying tents, rations, and other necessary gear for a desert trek. They agreed to take a detour to visit ZhaZha's people at Gorza's Well, because she wanted to inform people there about the shrine depicting their hero's downfall, and ask around for any additional information that might help her party's quest against the death cult. (Those needs outweighed her concerns about how her friends might be received by the secretive half-orc village. Jumari bought a disguise kit to help make herself less outlandish looking.)

Fatou and Edel decided to split the cost of a camel so that they could keep pace with ZhaZha's steed in the desert, so the cavalier took them to see Kaggath, a half-orc camel trader she knew. ZhaZha then began giving them lessons on how to properly care for the animals.

The party followed the northern caravan route for a couple days before veering away towards Gorza's Well. A day or so later, they encountered a patrol coming from roughly the direction they were heading, with a body slung over one of their camels. These were soldiers from Fort Malakir, just outside Zahallan. They had discovered and killed several hobgoblins, but lost one of their own, and warned that there were almost certainly more in the area. Fatou identified herself as a cleric and offered water and healing to the injured men. They accepted gratefully, and their captain, Nashwan, asked the adventurers' names so he could report their assistance to his commander. The two groups then parted ways.

Shortly after dawn the next day, the party noticed a large number of circling vultures somewhat west of their intended route. Wary about encountering another "Featherclaw," they went in that direction to investigate. What they found was the site of a recent battle, with the corpses of many orcs and hobgoblins--at least a dozen of each--scattered about.

ZhaZha skewers a hobgoblin.
Fatou spotted a figure crouching over one body, and alerted the others. It appeared to be a hobgoblin with no armor. She also spotted movement behind some rocks further away. The hobgoblin heard the party approach, so hurriedly donned a bulging backpack and hid behind a nearby rock. Jumari cast expeditious retreat and rushed forward to get behind the looter, who she could now see was female. In Orcish, she growled, "You could surrender now." ZhaZha rode up, struck the hobgoblin with her lance, and demanded in Common that she surrender. The goblinoid woman spat, "Filthy orcs," as she took a defensive stance, then bellowed, "MALGRIM!"

Jumari struck her down, then went closer to the second moving figure, who turned out to be a male hobgoblin wearing a breastplate and a tattered cloak decorated with flame patterns. He clutched a talisman of a flaming sword while casting a spell, and his greatsword ignited in flames. [This was a sun metal spell, from Ultimate Combat.] ZhaZha moved closer and Fatou plinked him with a force bolt. Edel heard hoofbeats approaching and warned his friends: "Rider!"

The hobgoblin priest moved to engage Jumari, keeping her between him and the mounted cavalier. She struck him as he closed with her, but he returned the favor with interest. [He rolled a crit, but thanks to her inquisitor's judgment, she ignored the extra fire damage.] Fatou channeled energy to heal Jumari from a distance, while Edel began orating about how to fight hobgoblins. [This was the naturalist ability from his recently-changed archivist archetype.] ZhaZha flanked the priest and took him out, leaving his sword sizzling in the sand.

A second hobgoblin woman, wearing red robes, appeared and attempted to use a burning gaze spell on ZhaZha, who resisted. Fatou tried to magic missile the enemy wizard, but her spell had no effect due to the woman's brooch of shielding. Her owl familiar swooped down to harass the hobgoblin, and actually managed to inflict a minor wound while avoiding taking one herself. ZhaZha moved in and finished off the wizard.

About that time, the party could see an armored hobgoblin rushing toward them on a massive horse. ZhaZha moved to ready a charge of her own, and challenged the rider. Edel shot the rider, and narrowly dodged a blow from the rider's sword. Fatou failed to affect either the rider or horse with a sleep spell, so closed and delivered a shocking grasp. Jumari engaged the rider, and hit with her falchion, but ZhaZha's lance glanced off the other rider's shield.

An enlarged Jumari pursues the fleeing horse.
The horseman [Malgrim, the leader who the first hobgoblin had hollered for] sensed that the half-orc cavalier was the most dangerous foe he faced, so focused his and his horse's attention on her. The horse struck ZhaZha's camel hard with both hooves, knocking it out, and ZhaZha went sprawling in the sand. Jumari struck him, rendering him unconscious, but he remained in his military saddle rather than falling. ZhaZha picked herself up, and soon realized that this brutish horse was too hostile for anyone but its master to control. The horse kicked at Jumari as it moved away from its foes, but the half-orc sliced it with her sword. Fatou finished casting enlarge person on Jumari, then magic missile on the hobgoblin, hoping to kill him if the horse got away. However, the inquisitor charged and killed the horse with her giant-sized weapon.

The party then beheaded the hobgoblins to make sure they were dead, and looted the bodies, while Fatou distributed some healing (including reviving ZhaZha's camel). They then moved away from the battlefield some distance, and made camp to wait out the hot part of the day before continuing on towards Gorza's Well.

Hobgoblins: ironskin monk, fire wizard, cleric of Heladon

We handled the finding of loot over email after the session. Some of the hobgoblins carried wound paste (Advanced Race Guide), which can stabilize a dying creature, and is used by that race to keep conquered foes alive for use as slaves. Other interesting items included a campfire bead, the brooch of shielding mentioned above, and a spellbook with a couple of spells above Fatou's current ability to cast. 

The priest's unholy symbol was also of interest, as it showed that these goblinoids worshiped Heladon, the evil aspect of the fire goddess Lutoran, for which Mansur's lecture gave them some helpful context. Heladon is popular with hobgoblins and fire giants, who once allied to create the evil Empire of Rizagarn in the Dragonspine Mountains. The nation known as the Shield was founded in Virtanen's Crusade, which successfully shattered Rizagarn 50 years ago.

Malgrim, hobgoblin fell rider cavalier

Appendix: Previous Sessions

Monday, October 22, 2018

#Inktober2018: Days 17-20

To see all my #Inktober2018 drawings, see this folder in my DeviantArt gallery.

Day 17: Swollen

Day 18: Bottle

If you're as confused as this gnome is, read here about Klein bottles. (You might very well still be confused after reading that page.)

Day 19: Scorched

Yet another Pathfinder goblin. They're great fun to draw!

Day 20: Breakable