Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #2: Featherclaw, Terror of the Sands

Every few decades, that dreaded abomination, the Tarrasque, reawakens from its long slumber. At such a time, the world's greatest heroes must defend the world from its nigh-insatiable appetite. Sometimes these heroes fail, and civilizations fall. And even when they succeed, the lands in the Tarrasque's wake are changed forever.

(Previous Session: #1: New Companions)

The heroes had one more day to spend in Zahallan before Midorichal's caravan departed. Fatou met a wizard who worked as a scribe at the Temple of the Moon who was willing to copy a few spells from his spellbook for the usual fees. Edel sought news of his homeland and heard of the Virren family, an sorcerer and his bowyer daughter, who came from Fendorlis. He learned how to find them, and will do so when he returns to town after this job.

The caravan left town, heading north into the desert towards the Burburan Oasis. A couple days into their journey, Jubair did not check his boots carefully enough in the morning and was stung by a scorpion. Lucretia grazed it with an arrow and Fatou zapped it with a force bolt, but not before it stung the rogue again. Jumari checked the wounds, and judged that the weak poison had run its course. [Greensting scorpion venom briefly sickens the victim rather than doing any ability damage.]

Two days later, ZhaZha spotted vultures circling a short distance from the caravan's path, so she and some of the other PCs veered off to check it out. Once they reached the crest of a nearby dune, they could see what had attracted the carrion birds: the corpses of three giant-sized humanoids. An immense vulture, nearly the size of a horse, fed on the largest of these bodies, while a small flock of normal vultures pecked over the other two, giving the larger bird a wide berth.

The PCs were curious about the bodies, so decided to shoot the large vulture to try to drive it off. That merely made it angry, and it took to the air to retaliate. ZhaZha charged forward on her camel and dealt the vulture a strong thrust with her lance. It failed to stay airborne, and Jubair and Jumari leaped forward to flank it. Lucretia and Edel, who had stayed with the caravan, saw the vulture once it attacked, and both ran to help. By the time they arrived, the bird was badly hurt enough to try to flee. but could not evade ZhaZha and Jumari's attacks and crashed to the ground dead. Jumari examined the body, and warned the others not to touch or eat its flesh, as it was obviously infected with some sort of disease. The party was very lucky to have avoided taking any damage from its massive hooked beak! Many of the party did, however, take some feathers as trophies--the pinion feathers were as long as a sword--but Edel was sure to use his cantrips to thoroughly clean them first. Jubair promptly gave the great beast a name and posthumous title: "Featherclaw, Terror of the Sands."

Jumari, Jubair, ZhaZha (mounted), Lucretia, Edel, and Fatou vs. the giant vulture.
They were then free to examine the other bodies with no interference from the other vultures. The two smaller giants were about 9 feet tall, and had skulls with a single eye socket (now empty, thanks to scavengers). Both wore the remains of crude hide armor, but any valuables had already been taken. The larger giant was about 15 tall and more slender, dressed in full desert robes and keffiyeh, with a notched greataxe lodged deep in its side. In life, this giant would have looked like any human native of this region except for size. Nearby were two scimitars, once very fine but one had a broken blade; they took these, hoping to sell them later as curios. 

The party found a pouch tucked deep inside the larger giant's robes, which held a number of coins and a large sandstone disk. This object was carved with a ring of four circles around a fifth, central one, with some foreign script around the edge and on the back. None of them recognized the language, but guessed that it was Giant. Fatou identified the design as a version of a holy symbol of the Gods of Meda, a pantheon of elemental gods very rarely worshiped in this part of the world. Once Lucretia heard this, she added that the Medan gods are popular in the Sword Islands, far to the northwest of here; most giants that she knew anything about were from there or even farther north, so she was very surprised to find any here.

Having learned all they could, the PCs returned to the caravan and reported the fight with the vulture and the scimitars they had found. They decided not to tell Midorichal about the giants' bodies or the stone disk, preferring to keep that mystery to themselves to puzzle over later.

They reached the Burburan Oasis the next day. The human and halfling nomad tribes of the Lokoran Desert had founded a semi-permanent town here to guard the water, provide a trading post, and cater to the needs of travelers. Midorichal had made arrangements to meet with the local halfling sheik, Hafiz Barakat, to do some business.

That evening, after the caravan was settled, Edel found a crowd to perform for, presenting his latest tale: the comic story of Jubair and the pesky scorpion that took an entire party of adventurers to squash. Meanwhile, the rogue challenged his companions to see who could find a speaker of Giant first. Jumari was the most successful there, hearing of a halfling scholar, Sulma Malak, who worked with a group of treasure-hunters led by Allara Fawk. She learned where to find their favorite drinking establishment. She was told there that "Allara's Diggers" were not in town, but were expected back within a few days.

The next morning, the PCs escorted Midorichal to his meeting with the sheik, which was quite long but seemed to leave both men feeling very pleased with the result. After seeing their boss back to camp, the PCs were free to explore the town. They split into pairs to do this, having a number of tasks to accomplish.

Jubair and Edel took the large scimitars to a weapons dealer who recognized them as giantish work (and not just because of their size). He told them that the desert giants were nomads known for fighting with paired scimitars, avoiding human settlements, and vigorous defending their privacy. He offered them a good price for the blades, confident that he could find a buyer despite the condition of the broken one.

Fatou had heard that Burburan had no temple, per se, but that some priests of Jorilin served the faithful here. Fatou explained to her companions that Jorilin was the shadowy trickster god of the Javanian Pantheon, but unlike the void god Asmolon, was openly worshiped alongside His/Her parents, the sun and moon. Lucretia accompanied her, and the two women found the priests working as moneychangers in the marketplace. The two priests, a male human and a halfling of indeterminable gender, wore gray robes with black hoods that identified them as priests. Fatou's religious training made it easy for her to strike up a rapport with the holy folk. When she produced the disk and told how they had found it, the smaller priest took them into the tent behind the booth for privacy. The halfling confirmed that it was Medan, but could not read the script. The priest had seen this version of the symbol in connection with the ruined city of Tibul in the desert to the west, but knew little about the site other than it predated humans and halflings arriving in the region.

Meanwhile, Jumari and ZhaZha visiting the watering hole to see if the Diggers had returned. They had not, but the proprietor agreed to pass on Jumari's message that they seek someone who knows the Giant language, and where their caravan is staying. The two half-orcs waited there a while longer, having arranged with their friends to meet here after all their errands were complete.

The Time of the Tarrasque, verse 2 
[by Edel Naergon [Chris LoBue])

En route to the oasis, brave Jubair
Put on his boot and found a scorpion there.
Days later, in the night, our party heard,
Eating the dead, a huge carrion bird.
While I stayed back, the half-orcs bold did fly
To battle and knocked it out of the sky.
Threat gone, we checked the site of their repast
And found giants, some one-eyed, breathed their last.
Their blades and holy symbol brought to town,
We met with a local of much renown.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Hey, look, a Dungeons and Dragons ride!"

Presto the Magician, Eric the Cavalier, Sheila the Thief, Diana the Acrobat, Bobby the Barbarian, and Hank the Ranger

Back in the 1980s, there was an animated TV series about a group of six children from our world who were magically transported to "the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons." Armed with potent magic weapons given to them by the Dungeon Master, these shanghaied heroes wandered the land in search of a way home. Along the way, they faced many challenges--including frequent clashes with the arch-villain Venger, and occasional appearances by the five-headed dragon Tiamat--and eventually became confident, powerful heroes in their own right. The show was pretty corny, both in premise and in execution, though later seasons featured more serious, mature stories by writers such as Michael Reaves.

The complete series was released on DVD in 2009, in a boxed set that included a D&D v.3.5 adventure based on one of the show's episodes. Stat blocks were provided for the six children as 7th-level characters, with gear appropriate to their level. This equipment included a number of minor magic items, because Third Edition assumed the accumulation of such gear as part of its advancement and Challenge Rating system. The wealth system also limited the value of a character's most powerful item, which puts a serious crimp in just how awesome the series' signature weapons could be. These quirks of the wealth rules make the stat blocks read like reasonably effective and competent D&D characters, but they bore very little resemblance to their namesakes from the TV series.

D&D Fifth Edition provides a simpler rules set that can more easily model the TV series' characters. I haven't worked out the full stats for each character (yet), but will make a first stab at establishing them here. I chose to build them as 3rd-level characters to start with, because that allows all of them to have chosen their subclasses. I decided to use the optional human traits rules, preferring to give them each a feat at 1st level instead of raising all of their ability scores. (They are only teenagers, after all--or younger, in Bobby's case.) I used the array option for ability scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) except for Hank and Diana (neither of whom seem to merit an 8 in any score).

Each hero has been gifted with a single very rare or legendary "Weapon of Power" by the Dungeon Master. These powerful magic items allow them to face challenges that would normally be deadly dangerous for characters of their level--but also makes them targets for villains who want that power for themselves, such as Venger. However, unlike other high-magic campaigns, these characters can never expect to acquire other magic items, except briefly in order to fulfill a specific quest. The Weapons of Power represent the whole of their wealth for their entire career, which can pose unique challenges for both players and DMs, because it works directly against the assumed magic item economy of the game. Fortunately, this is less game-breaking in Fifth Edition than Third.

Overall, this party is neutral good in alignment. Hank, as the conscientious leader, is lawful good; Bobby, always impulsive, is chaotic good; and Eric, the most selfish member of the gang, is neutral (though by the end of the series, he is more solidly neutral good).

Hank the Ranger
3rd-level Human Ranger (Hunter archetype, Folk Hero background), LG
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14
Feat: Sharpshooter
Skills: Animal Handling +3, Athletics +2, Perception +3, Stealth +5, Survival +3
Tools/Languages: one type of artisan's tools, vehicles (land); one language (Orc)
Saves: Str +2, Dex +5
AC 15 (studded leather, Dex); longbow +5 (1d8+3 piercing)
HP 25 (3d10+3)
Class Features: Favored Enemy (orcs), Fighting Style (Archery), Hunter's Prey (Horde Breaker), Natural Explorer, Primeval Awareness
Spellcasting: Spell Slots 1st (2); Save DC 11; Spell Attack +3
Spells Known (2): 1st--ensnaring strike, hail of thorns, hunter's mark

Bow of the Ranger: This +2 longbow deals radiant damage and sheds light as if it were a sun blade (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 205). Instead of producing a luminous blade, it produces a glowing bowstring and arrow. While activated, the bow produces an endless supply of ammunition, but all such arrows vanish after either hitting or missing their targets, and cannot be given to another character.

Hank is the acknowledged leader of the group, and takes that job completely seriously. He coordinates tactics in battle, mediates arguments between his friends, and pays close attention to everyone's safety and morale.

I have given him the Sharpshooter feat at 1st level, and he should take the Inspiring Leader feat at 4th level. The Folk Hero background represents the general populace's inclination to react well to both needy children and to Dungeon Master's chosen pupils, particularly with the humble, honest Hank as their spokesman.

Rangers gain spellcasting at 2nd level, but Hank never exhibits any skill with magic, except for certain stunts he can perform using his bow's energy bolts. For that reason I've chosen ensnaring strike (which manifests as bands of energy binding his target), hail of thorns (a blast of light), and hunter's mark for his spells known.

Sheila the Thief
3rd-level Human Rogue (Thief archetype, Urchin background), NG
Str 8, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 12
Feat: Skulker
Skills: Acrobatics +5, Deception +3, Insight +4, Investigation +4, Perception +6, Sleight of Hand +5, Stealth +7
Tools/Languages: disguise kit, thieves' tools, one other tool or language
Saves: Dex +5, Int +4
AC 14 (leather, Dex); unarmed +5 (1)
HP 18 (3d8)
Class Features: Cunning Action, Expertise (Perception, Stealth), Fast Hands, Second-Story Work, Sneak Attack (2d6), Thieves' Cant

Cloak of the Thief: This item is a standard cloak of invisibility (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 158).

In the series, Sheila is referred to as a "thief" only once, when Dungeon Master first bestows the cloak of invisibility upon her. As a highly sensitive and empathetic youth, she is the least likely member of the party to abuse her power, using her rogue skills solely for reconnaissance, rescue missions, and sowing confusion among her opponents.

The TV series never explicitly says so, but often implies that Sheila and Hank are romantically involved--or are very close to being so. She clearly admires him, and trusts him implicitly, even more so than the others do.

Bobby the Barbarian
3rd-level Human Barbarian (Berserker path, Outlander background), CG
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10
Feat: Charger
Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival
Tools/Languages: one musical instrument, one language (Sylvan)
Saves: Str +4, Con +5
AC 15 (Dex, Con); greatclub +4 (1d8+3 bludgeoning)
HP 35 (3d12+9)
Class Features: Danger Sense, Frenzy, Rage (3/day, +2), Reckless Attack, Unarmed Defense

Club of the Barbarian: This magic greatclub grants a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. It also holds 6 charges, which can be used to cast thunderous smite or thunderwave at the cost of 1 charge. It regains 1d6 expended charges daily at dawn.

Bobby is a tough, headstrong kid who still has much to learn about controlling his emotions. He is the only party member who welcomes a close-quarters fight, typically changing into battle with a furious scream.

Bobby is very loyal to his friends, especially his big sister Sheila and his best friend "Uni," a young unicorn filly who he met mere moments after first landing in the Realm. His Sylvan language represents his ability to converse meaningfully with Uni.

Uni is a very young unicorn who has not yet learned how to use any of her innate spellcasting, healing, telepathy, or teleport powers. In combat, she can be represented as a pony with the celestial creature type, AC 12, a horn attack (as hooves, but does piercing damage), and the Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunities of a unicorn. She understands but cannot speak Common.

Presto the Magician
3rd-level Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic origin, Sage background), NG
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 10
Feat: Lucky
Skills: Arcana +5, History +5, Insight +4, Investigation +5, Sleight of Hand +4
Tools: --
Saves: Con +3, Cha +2
AC 12 (Dex); unarmed +4 (1)
HP 17 (3d6+3)
Class Features: Font of Magic (3 Sorcery Points), Metamagic, Tides of Chaos, Wild Magic Surge
Spellcasting: Spell Slots 1st (4), 2nd (2); Save DC 13; Spell Attack +5
Cantrips Known (4): light, mage hand, minor illusion, prestidigitation
Spells Known (4): 1st--expeditious retreat, fog cloud; 2nd--gust of wind, web

Hat of the Magician: This conical wizard's hat functions like a wand of wonder, but has no chance of being destroyed if its last charge is expended.

The Wild Magic sorcerous origin seems to fit the extremely fickle nature of Presto's magic more than any wizard tradition does. In the TV series, he is rarely shown using direct-damage spells; he is a kind, gentle soul who abhors fighting. He favors spells that mislead or inconvenience his foes long enough to allow him and his friends to escape danger. Presto has the Sleight of Hand skill to represent his mundane skills with stage magic, which are often more reliable than any of his spells.

Eric the Cavalier
3rd-level Human Fighter (Cavalier archetype*, Noble background), N
Str 16, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 8
Feat: Shield Master
Skills: Acrobatics +2, Animal Handling +3, History +4, Insight +3, Nature +4, Persuasion +1, Survival +3
Tools/Languages: one gaming set, one language
Saves: Str +5, Con +4
AC 18 (chainmail, shield), 20 vs. ranged; shield bash (improvised weapon) +5 (1d6+3 bludgeoning)
HP 28 (3d10+6)
Class Features: Action Surge (one use), Born to the Saddle*, Combat Superiority* (four, d8), Fighting Style (Protection), Second Wind

Shield of the Cavalier: This magic shield acts as an arrow-catching shield (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 152). It can also be raised above the user's head as a reaction to cast a hemispherical wall of force once per day.

Eric uses the cavalier archetype presented in "Unearthed Arcana: Kits of Old," despite the fact that he rarely has any mount available to use. In the TV series, Eric very rarely bears any offensive weapon, but his shield can be wielded as an improvised weapon roughly equivalent to a mace.

Eric is selfish, sarcastic, and abrasive, which in truth is a defensive mechanism against getting hurt when people inevitably disappoint him. His fellow party members are the only true friends he has--and he is more grateful for that than he would ever willingly admit.

Diana the Acrobat
3rd-level Human Monk (Way of the Open Hand tradition, Entertainer background), NG
Str 13, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10
Feat: Athlete
Skills: Acrobatics +5, Athletics +3, Insight +4, Perception +4, Performance +2
Tools: disguise kit, one musical instrument, navigator's tools
Saves: Str +3, Dex +5
AC 14 (Dex, Wis); quarterstaff +5 (1d6+3 bludgeoning), unarmed strike +5 (1d4+3 bludgeoning)
HP 21 (HD 3d8+3)
Class Features: Martial Arts (1d4), Open Hand Technique, Ki Points (3), Unarmored Defense, Unarmored Movement (+10 ft.)

Staff of the Acrobat: Upon command, this short magical rod can extend to the length of a quarterstaff, in which form it functions as a staff of striking (Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 203) except that it is never destroyed if the last charge is expended. A user trained in Athletics can use the staff of the acrobat as a vaulting pole to gain advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks made to jump, and can retain hold of the staff after using it in this way.

Diana is a highly competent gymnast, but her competitive streak is balanced by an easy-going, cheerful personality that takes everything in stride. Even Eric's endless grousing rarely elicits more complaint from her than a bit of gentle teasing.

Diana's proficiency with navigator's tools represent her knowledge of astronomy, which her parents teach.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #1: New Companions

Every few decades, that dreaded abomination, the Tarrasque, reawakens from its long slumber. At such a time, the world's greatest heroes must defend the world from its nigh-insatiable appetite. Sometimes these heroes fail, and civilizations fall. And even when they succeed, the lands in the Tarrasque's wake are changed forever.

As I've mentioned in a past post, I've been wanting to run a campaign featuring the Tarrasque for quite some time. About two years ago, we started gearing up for it in earnest, but I wanted to finish the Freeport campaign I was running at the time on a high note before starting a new long-term game. That took rather longer than initially planned, but we finished that up in August, then my wife Erika ran a mini-campaign for us while I focused on recharging and prepping. During that hiatus, I met with each player individually to finalize their characters and work out a bit more background--including how they arrived in the area where the campaign proper begins.

This campaign uses the Pathfinder RPG rules. The "Lands of the Sun" pages on my "Time of the Tarrasque" wiki give character creation guidelines and background information for players in my game. I've shared the campaign teaser in a previous blog post here; I suggest reading (or rereading) that before you continue. In my columns about this campaign, I will frequently link to relevant pages on that wiki, or to past "Studded Plate" columns, that give additional information.

Back row: ZhaZha (on Zafira). Front row (L-R): Lucretia, Edel (with Marta), Fatou (with Nochaesh), Jubair, and Jumari.

The players characters are starting at 1st level, and include:

Edel Naergon, a high elf bard, was born in the high elf kingdom of Fendorlis. He fled his homeland in the wake of an invasion by kobolds of the Zolothi Compact (so-named because of their fealty to the green dragon queen Zoloth). After leaving Fendorlis, he eventually ended up in the Shield, a human stronghold in the shadow of the Dragonspine Mountains. In his travels, he has picked up a pet cat who he named Marta.

Lucretia Scavola, a half-elf monk (zen archer archetype), was born in the matriarchal human Empire of Thovalas. After finishing her training, she started traveling the world to learn more about other nations. After spending some time in the wood elf kingdom of Allasimar, where she learned more about her elven heritage, she sailed south to the Shield to study in a Thovalan-style martial academy there.

Fatou, a human wizard (evoker), was born into a magical family in Almazur, the capital of the Emirate of Kobara. She is deeply religious, worshiping the Javanian moon goddess Yaziel, but has seen little of the world outside her school and home city. She has an owl familiar named Nochaesh.

Jubair, a human rogue, grew up in the desert near Zahallan. He scavenges in the wastelands for anything he can sell for food and other supplies. His solitude has made him rather awkward socially, which frequently causes trouble for him--particularly around women. 

ZhaZha, a half-orc cavalier, is also a native of the nearby desert. She grew up among half-orcs, but she finds far too many of them to be exactly the sort of savage beasts that others see them as, so has decided to try her luck among other races. She has a camel mount named Zafira.

Jumari, a half-orc inquisitor, is an albino with pasty grayish skin and startling red eyes. She is notably close-mouthed about her own beliefs and background, but is dedicated to investigating the death cult that operates in secret on the frontier.

We have now had our first group session, so "Time of the Tarrasque" is--finally--underway! 

Edel and Lucretia met when they signed on to a caravan organized by a human merchant, Lucan Midorichal. This caravan started in Pax, capital of the Shield, crossed the Dragonspine Mountains, then traveled east through northern Khaldoon and the southeastern fringes of the Lokoran Desert to the city of Almazur in Asasor. When Lucretia learned that Edel was from Fendorlis, she encouraged him to tell her more about his homeland, as she plans to travel there to see for herself what state the conquered kingdom is in. He has had little news from that region for the past several years, since the initial elven diaspora following the conquest.

In Almazur, Fatou signed on with the caravan because she was eager to get away from her home (for reasons she has not yet shared). Midorichal and his entourage continued on north to Zahallan, a town on the edge of the desert, where they stopped at the Blind Camel, a caravanserai run by an immensely obese halfling, Gathmir the Fat. Midorichal planned to stay in Zahallan for a few days to do more trading, and to recruit more guards for the next, more dangerous, leg of the journey, into the Lokoran Desert.

This is where Jubair, ZhaZha, and Jumari joined the caravan. All three are from this area, so are experienced in desert travel, and familiar with the most common dangers of the area--notably, the orc tribes who claim much of the neighboring wastelands. (In fact, Jubair was rather surprised to see half-orcs signing on as caravan guards, given the race's usual reputation. But upon getting to know them better, he found them more agreeable than expected.)

Over the next day or two, the PCs used their off-duty time to explore Zahallan. Fatou made a point of visiting the Temple of the Moon to worship her goddess. (Unlike most settlements in Asasor, where the Javanian pantheon share a single temple, Zahallan has separate temples for the moon goddess Yaziel and sun god Talitar.) 

Edel followed Jubair's recommendation for a reputable tavern to perform at. Lucretia had adopted the habit of accompanying Edel on such excursions, partly to enjoy his work and partly to watch his back. This time, his performance was the story of a hobgoblin attack during their journey here; his description of Lucretia's archery skills was quite flattering.

The next night, while Jubair and Fatou were on duty, the wizard noticed a halfling woman who was skulking about, watching Midorichal and his employees and goods. When the halfling moved in the direction of their employer's rooms, Fatou alerted Jubair and followed her. When the small robed woman stopped to listen at the boss's door, Jubair confronted her. That precipitated a fight, though Jubair found himself unable to attack the tiny sneak-thief, and was then frightened away by her. [She cast sanctuary followed by cause fear.] Meanwhile, Fatou's spells wounded the intruder, who tried to escape but underestimated Jubair's ire when he shook off her spell. Between Fatou's owl hooting an alarm and the sounds of fighting, the other PCs were soon drawn to the scene (except for Edel who, alas, was too sound asleep). Lucretia arrived first and awoke Midorichal. Jumari arrived just in time to see Jubair take down the halfling, but the inquisitor quickly stabilized her for questioning. 

Jumari also stripped and searched the unconscious woman, finding an ebony disk that Fatou identified as an unholy symbol of Asmolon, a death god and especial enemy of the Javanian deities. The half-orc immediately smashed the symbol, but retained the shards as evidence.

The caravanserai's chief of security arrived moments later. After hearing the PCs tell what had occurred, he took custody of the unconscious intruder while a message was sent to the temples. 

The next day, the authorities informed the PCs about the results of their interrogation. The halfling, Rozhelle, was indeed a death cultist, and the PCs could expect a reward for her capture. She had been hired to steal black onyx gems from the merchant; these gems could be used to animate the dead. She knew little about her contact, a half-orc named Izaz, except that she suspected the name to be an alias. 

The fight and this report prompted a discussion among the PCs about death cults. Jubair was deeply confused about what could motivate someone to subscribe to such beliefs. He has resolved to help track down more death cultists so that he can ask them for himself. Meanwhile, Jumari made it clear that she intends to simply find them and stop them. The others, with the exception of the more cautious Edel, all leaned towards looking into this threat as well, once free of their commitment to Midorichal.

The subject of the Tarrasque also came up, because both its cult and Asmolon's are popular among the orc tribes of the Lokoran Desert. ZhaZha explained to Jubair that many orcs idolize the Tarrasque for its awesome strength and indestructibility, which made much more sense to him than adoring a nihilistic death god. Except for Edel, the PCs knew little substantial lore about the Tarrasque. He informed them that the beast's last known appearance in the world was in the heart of the high elf kingdom, where it devoured the last king nearly three decades ago. That rampage weakened Fendorlis enough that armies of kobolds led by a green dragon were able to conquer it several years later. Lucretia wants to see what became of the kingdom. Edel wants to return with enough swords to reclaim his home.

Next time, the PCs will accompany the caravan into the desert. One of my players opined that they were not yet a "party," at least not until they stop being hired guards and start adventuring on their own. Their new interest in dealing with the death cult seems the most likely motivation for that change.

To close, I offer a verse written by my friend Chris LoBue, who plays the bard Edel. He hopes to write one of these for each session for as long as his bard lives.

The Time of the Tarrasque, verse 1

A cultist of the god of death did creep
Up on our boss, with Edel fast asleep.
She sought his gems that they might raise the dead,
But mage and scout did battle her instead.
With blade and spell, they brought the crook to heel
That temple justice soon this thief would feel.
Awake at last, this humble elf did share
His tale of woe with new companions there.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dreamlands Pathfinder Bestiary: Wenelian

These monsters have been converted from The Complete Dreamlands, a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. They appear in the adventure "Lemon Sails" in that book.

This creature resembles a man-sized bloated leech that flies without any visible means of support. Its body is colored in a subtle pattern of golden yellow, mouse gray, ocher, and emerald. One end of its body ends in a wrinkled, tubular proboscis. Just above the proboscis sprouts a pair of ear-like fins and two eyestalks.

XP 400
NE Medium aberration
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +6
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 19 (3d8+6)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +3
Speed fly 25 ft. (perfect)
Melee slam +2 (1d4)
Ranged dart +5 (1d8)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 1st; concentration +3)
At will--obscuring mist
Str 10, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 11
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 13 (can't be tripped)
Feats Animal Affinity, Point Blank Shot[B], Weapon Focus (dart)
Skills Fly +16, Handle Animal +5, Knowledge (any one) +7, Perception +6, Ride +7
Languages Aklo, Wenelian
Environment any apace (Yundu)
Organization solitary or band (3-18 plus 1 phosphorescent monster)
Treasure standard

The wenelians are alien pirates from the planet Yundu. They fly through Dream space riding horrible green gliding monstrosities, raiding other worlds.

Wenelians are immune to the frightful presence ability of phosphorescent monsters (see below), and suffer no penalty to Handle Animal checks with them. Teams of wenelians regularly use the aid another action to maintain control of these behemoths.

A wenelian uses obscuring mist to cover its approach and retreat, and darts in and out of the mist in order to confuse prey and protect itself from return attacks. Its most effective method of attack is firing tiny calcite darts from its proboscis (range increment 30 ft.), so it prefers to avoid melee combat. If cornered, it will attack with a body slam (treat as a slam attack).

Wenelians are pirates and thieves, so their leaders are usually warriors or warrior/rogues. They do not appear to have spellcasters except for rare adepts (one per band at most).

This monster has an elephant-like body with spindly bat-like wings that do not look like they can support its immense bulk. Its head appears to be little more than a gigantic gaping mouth ringed with teeth. The entire creature glows with a sickly green light.

XP 4,800
N Gargantuan magical beast
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +12
Aura frightful presence (30 ft., DC 16)
AC 14, touch 4, flat-footed 14 (-2 Dex, +10 natural, -4 size)
hp 126 (12d10+60)
Fort +13, Ref +6, Will +4
Speed 15 ft., fly 120 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +23 (3d8+10), 2 wing buffets +17 (2d6+5)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks swallow whole (3d8+10 bludgeoning damage, AC 15, 25 hp)
Str 30, Dex 6, Con 20, Int 1, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +12; CMB +26 (+30 grapple); CMD 24 (28 vs. trip)
Feats Endurance, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (bite), Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Perception +12, Stealth -34; Racial Modifiers -20 Stealth
Environment any space (Yundu)
Organization solitary
Treasure none

These creatures have been domesticated by the slower-flying wenelians to serve as mounts and beasts of burden.

When angered or frightened, phosphorescent monsters simply try to scoop up as much in their huge mouths as possible. They are quite stupid, and are as likely to try swallowing buildings, other large objects, or unlucky wenelians who get in the way as they are legitimate threats.

These behemoths are bioluminescent, shedding dim greenish light equal to a candle. This glow cannot be dimmed or concealed except by magic, so should be treated as a continual, nonmagical faerie fire effect. (The penalty to Stealth is included in the stat block above as a racial modifier.)