Another large group joined me at the Reaper Game Store on Saturday 8/23 to complete the assault on the pirate base that was buried in the cliffside of Nabor. Dallas returned to play Anallia (Elf CLC/RGR) and Barlyn (Dwarf CLC); Steven continued the adventures of Alex (Half-elf FTR/Acrobat) and Cain (Human M-U); Don ran Barton (Half-elf M-U/THF); Joe played Polcathir (Elf-Orc RGR); Derek played Gerhardt (Human PAL); Matt returned with Darthos (Elf FTR); and Ray played Vorrk (Human MNK). This was the same size group as the previous time, but one character (Nate) had essentially been replaced with another (Darthos).
When we last left our heroes, they had eliminated a pair of higher level orc and elf-orc opponents (along with a large number of orc cannon fodder), and freed about 40 captives/slaves of the Red Flag pirates, and were in the middle of the base. Barton in particular was at the end of a short stretch of corridor, with doors to his north, east, and south, and with his mirror image still active. He examined all the doors, finding no traps or locks, and opened them in succession. The door to the south led to an empty officer’s quarters (one of the ones slain previously); the door to the north led to stairs going up, and the door to the east was supposed to lead to some fun — for me.
When Barton opened the door to the east he saw that it led into a large room with all the walls covered with weapons, and the middle of the room covered with orcs armed with bows as well as spears. The orcs fired, but of course 3/4 of the shots were aimed at mirror images; the ones aiming at Barton himself missed. He shouted and slid further into the room as Cain came running. After another volley of arrows which were mostly ineffectual, Cain had his innings, which consisted of one fireball placed in the center of the orcs’ formation. A quick examination of the area of effect showed that all the orcs were within it, and as the damage rolled was high enough to kill even any who saved, the battle was over before it had fairly begun. How disappointing!
However, as the group began to enter the room, a previously invisible foe cast his own fireball from the far end, seriously injuring several characters (but not killing anyone) and then ducked out a door on that side, slamming it shut behind him. Barton went in hot pursuit, with a number of others on his heels.
Once they opened the door they found a short corridor with a bend to the south, and doors on both north and south (a mirror image of the side they had entered on; what can I say — I tend to draw things symmetrically.) Not knowing where the mystery mage had gone, Barton began to pursue around the bend to the south, while a number of other party members went back the way they had come, on the (correct) assumption that the corridor bent around into the long east-west corridor they had already explored. Unfortunately, they found no evidence of the presence of the mystery mage. Looking into the doors they found more stairs up on the door to the north, and another empty officer’s quarters to the south. In the officer’s quarters they found an empty potion bottle with a tiny bit of liquid on its lip, indicating that it had been taken previously. (In fact, what had happened here was that the evil goomer had gone into the room, taken a potion of invisibility, gone through a secret door into the armory, and made his escape through a means to be described later.) A quick look through the two quarters chambers revealed desks, beds, chairs, and footlockers.
Still in a hurry to clear the base, the group met back in the armory to plan their next move. After some discussion, they decided to split up, with five characters taking the stairs up to the west, and the four others taking the stairs up to the east. Although Alex had some reservations about splitting the party (“it’s always a bad idea,”) Vorrk countered that argument by pointing out that some 3% of the time nothing bad happens. I suppose the expression “Never tell me the odds!” comes into play here…….
The western group consisted of Barton, Barlyn, Gerhardt, Vorrk, and Darthos. They went up the stairs until they came to a door. Opening the door they came face-to-face with a large elf-orc in heavy armor, another orc in armor, and a human wearing a dress. (Darthos wanted to know, “Is she hot?” Oh, she was hot all right, but not in the way he meant…) Barton immediately case a web at the group, and trapped the two armored ones; the woman managed to skitter out of the way and send a lightning bolt directly at them, killing Gerhardt and Vorrk outright and seriously injuring the other three. Barton, now seriously angry, case silence on the woman, and using his ring of free action strode through the webs to engage her in combat. Due to the effect of the silence she was unable to cast any of her spells, and her dagger didn’t match up well with his sword or Darthos’ arrows, especially with the special spider poison on them from his previous adventures. Shortly thereafter the orc was dead and the elf-orc captured.
Meanwhile, the eastern group of Alex, Cain, Anallia, and Polcathir went searching for their 3% of success. When they opened the door they discovered a human and an orc wearing splint mail, and a human behind them in leather. Polcathir immediately engaged with the orc, while Anallia fired arrows at the human. Alex had taken some of a potion of invisibility he had on him and was maneuvering for a backstab. In the meantime the human in leather drank a potion and became invisible himself! While the human fighter continued to advance on Anallia, who continued to retreat, firing at him, and Polcathir continued to hold off the orc, the human (who was an assassin) maneuvered himself behind Cain and made an assassination attempt — successfully! Cain was down at 0 hit points. Alex, however, maneuvered himself behind the assassin and made his own backstab attempt, and managed a successful kill of his own. (Cleaving the foe, like the Scottish thane of Glamis, from the crotch up to the head!) In the meantime, Polcathir was beginning to suffer in his fight (he is only 3rd level, and his opponent was 7th; he was doing well to hold up as well as he did) when Alex ran to the assistance of Anallia to steal her kill for once (backstabbing successfully once again) and Cain, though shaky after having a potion of healing poured down his throat, used his wand of missiles while urinating on the body of his assailant, saving Polcathir.
Fortunately for the dead party members, the orc in armor from the western fight was a cleric who had a scroll of raise dead with two iterations on him, so a badly wounded Barlyn was able to resurrect the two of them and heal them. At this point the observation was made that the 97% probability of bad things happening to a split party really does happen a lot more often than the 3% probability of good things. In addition, Darthos had removed the head of the female mage as a trophy, and was playing with it (including once using it as a bowling ball) through the rest of the mission. (He plans to have it shrunk or something to use as a trophy.)
The group searched that floor and found it contained officers’ quarters and two more stairs up; the stairs up apparently led to the guard posts on the surface that had previously been sealed off. They went back and searched for some secret passages, and found two additional ones, on the east and west, which led to the surface. Going up — all together this time — they found patrols of orcs at the top of each which were dispatched almost effortlessly. They re-entered the base, still concerned about the mystery mage and the means by which the illusion of the cliffside had been maintained. The group decided to send Gerhardt and Vorrk to the surface to order the marines and Lamitha to unseal the exits while they searched for more secret passages. Gerhardt and Vorrk encountered a patrol of three orcs, and each of them one-shotted one orc, and then slew the third as he attempted to figure out how to escape without running back into the marines. (Note: It’s actually pretty impressive when a 1st level monk one-shots an orc!)
There were in fact two more secret passages at the lowest level, which was the storage area. The one on the east led to nothing but an exit. The one on the west led to a small cave containing a small dinghy, a post where a second dinghy appeared to have been tied up, and a regular depression in a stone which appeared that some sort of device had been inside it. They also noted that the illusory cliffs had vanished. Cain cast strength on Darthos, putting his strength up to 23, and Darthos and Barlyn took the dinghy out to sea, where the group attempted to catch up to an odd irregularity they saw on the ripples of the water. Meanwhile, Barton, Anallia, and Cain ran along the beach to try to catch up. The two groups rapidly closed the distance on the odd ripples, and when Anallia put a flaming arrow into the middle of it the phantasmal force that there wasn’t anything there dissipated, revealing the dinghy and two unarmored men rowing for all they were worth. The boaters caught up and rammed as Anallia and Barton finished off the mystery mage with arrow fire, and the other apparent mage dived into the water, dropping a leather pouch at the same time. Darthos retrieved the pouch and discovered it contained an odd metal device that apparently should fit into the hollow in the stone back at the cave.
At this point interrogations revealed that the surviving mage was actually an illusionist named Targath, and that the device was used to amplify and make permanent a phantasmal force spell to create the illusion of the cliffs. Interrogations also revealed that none of the survivors knew the location of the pirate headquarters, as they seem to keep information tightly compartmentalized. The group obtained a large number of trade goods, a fair amount of gold, and no fewer than three spell books, and Targath, after some discussion, agreed to go to work for the side of the angels, as long as it could be made to appear that he was dead, as the pirates were holding his family hostage. At this point the group determined that they might want to keep the base for themselves, but not wanting to leave an understrength garrison, they decided to booby trap it and sail back to Kajalla, where they can repatriate the freed slaves. In addition, there was a sixth fragment of the Lemuriad, which appeared to give at least one character a little more of a clue to what is going on.
There still remains an ancient dwarf temple on Nabor that will need to be explored, with its possible clue to the location of the ancient dwarven hammer. The group will need to find the location of the pirates’ headquarters. In addition there are other mysteries going on, such as the crown and scepter. It seems reasonable that the group might want to take their new friends (Gerhardt, Darthos, and Vorrk) to the Silver Spring on Atras for its benefits, and Atras is always dangerous and exciting.
[Note: In addition, some encounters need to be created for the lower-level members of the group to get them some more experience and levels. I had thought that they would reach 2nd level after this adventure, but they didn’t quite get there, nor were they close enough that a “100 points for roleplaying” bonus would help. All of them are effective characters for their level, but there is simply the issue of 1st level characters adventuring with 6th level ones. sigh