offline exploits - editorials

Part 1

I'm three weeks into classes, so what's it time to start doing on the weekends again? Staying up until 3:00am playing D&D... Duh. I'm on the player side this time in a campaign in a custom realm (when a county is named Bumblefuck, it has to be good funny). The party is pretty small, with only three PCs, though the DM tossed a couple of NPC helpers in for the moment.

I can't really give a regular perspective on the campaign itself... See, the other two characters are basically doing the whole 'stave-off-an-evil-that-threatens-the-land-in-order-to-become-heros' stint. I am a neutral-evil Ranger/Rogue (1x/2x level distribution), so you can see where we differ. Of course, they think, and my character sheet reflects me being a true neutral character with an affinity towards adventuring and Pelor-worship. Really, I do my best to stay on Nerull's good merciful side, while getting paid to infiltrate adventuring parties and spy on high-ranking politicians.

Besides swimming in skill points from my first couple of levels, I've already infiltrated the PCs' party. Well... It wasn't so much 'infiltrated' as 'got the most overzealous person in town drunk and asked him to form an adventuring party.' I didn't even have to twist his arm about it. I was looking forward to arm-twisting too... Later, Blue.... Later....

So far, the sum-total of our questing has consisted of beating the snot out of Kobolds and Goblins that seem to be encroaching on one of the settlements in Bumblefuck county. It's gotten the entire party up to level two, with some breathing room for some of us evil-types who had an extra side-quest. I'm certainly scoring trust points by helping out in combat, which should hopefully make those inevitable bluff checks a bit easier...

...and I've jumped way, way ahead of myself. It's 3:00am; that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it. So far, I've got player and character alike believing the cover story, which greatly pleases me. I also have the DM's favor, which never hurts.

Right... 3:00am... Less typie, more sleepie.

Part 2

I would have updated yesterday, after an eight hour session, if it hadn't have been quarter after five in the morning.

The party started that session with a small [read: huge] mansion to clear of a few monsters and loot. We picked up....err....acquired.....uhhh.....yeah..... We went into the mansion with not much and came out with a keg of beer, some smokes, eight bottles of firewine, a ton of artwork and jewelry, and some masterwork, cold iron weaponry. Oh, and a solid diamond statue that exudes a suspicious magic aura... Can't forget the diamond statue that's larger than my head....and torso....combined....including my limbs.

Of course, getting that statue wasn't easy... It was in a small but deep river that ran through the wine cellar. We didn't see it in the murky waters too well, but some light glinted off the lock of the chest containing the statue. Naturally, I dove in, rolled an eighteen on my swim check (add four ranks, subtract my check penalty of zero, for twenty-two), and proceeded to do a quick examination of the chest before emerging with the exclamation, "JACKPOT!" The other characters produced three sets of rope, which I swam down with and attached to the chest. The lock was a DC 23, which I beat handily. Upon seeing the statue, half the party soiled themselves, since we're from a town called Berg in a county called Bumblefuck. (It was a joke originally, and then it got written into the plot. Oops.) Somewhere in there, I hit level three (Ranger 1/Rogue 2).

We hauled our loot to a nearby port city, keeping the statue in its chest, so as not to attract too much unsavory attention. Unfortunately, five ogres surrounded us on the way back. One had barbarian levels. Of the party's four characters and two NPCs, we've got two tanks... The one insistant upon leading the formation has Sorcerer levels. Two ogres (including the big one) went after him, but not before he put another one to sleep. With a 23 on my initiative check, I decided to pull of to the side, and went into backstabbity mode. Unlike Fighter, they weren't wearing full plate, so sixty-six stab wounds to the back is quite feasible.... Even with a masterwork rapier in place of a dagger. With a little help from my employer (an annonymous stranger to everyone else and a serious badass in combat), the ogres died. The party fighter had about two hitpoints left at a few points in time, but between backstabs from myself and another party rogue, and crazy badassitude from that tall guy named Simon, all five ogres bit it, and we proceeded to the port city of Laan.

We went about selling off (and buying) mundane goods before doing anything with the statue besides hide and guard it. I had the awkward job of taking a DC23 lock to a locksmith and asking for a key to be made. Kinda hard to phrase that question inconspicuously. Fortunately, most of the locksmiths in Laan are more crooked than Torgaash. They don't ask questions; I don't give answers. Just an extra silver piece on the side.

Our next major task was to find out exactly what that statue was (and for the other rogue and myself, exactly how much it's worth). The party priest made his way to the largest church he could find to get some information about the statue (being far too brutally honest about its composition). The other rogue set off to find a thieves' guild, to see what they might know about this object (being a little more careful than our naive, almost Lawful Good priest). I set off to find someone as a part of a well-travelled actors' guild that might know something about.

I struck gold with the guy I found. He knew of some group of elves (extremely rare people in this realm) in town that seemed to have quite a massive collection of historical texts. Of course, when I saw the book entry with this statue in it, my character compiled it all into "historical value == money += ++platinum;". No, he doesn't normally think in C.

When all of us met back at the inn, we kind of came to the sudden realization that we told people connected to about everyone in Laan what we had in our possession. As evening fell, an expedious retreat became the foremost thought on our minds. Considering that the only places with enough money to buy the statue or enough knowledge to handle it properly were across a bit of an ocean, seafaring became the logical choice. Now, finding someone reputable would have been nice, but reputable doesn't seem to exist in Laan, hence the need to go. The priest and fighter struck out to find a captain and ship the nicey-nice way, and I set off to find a ship with valuable cargo and rob it.....err.....find someone bribeable......err.....knifeable..... Yeah.... You get the idea. (Is it bad when your cover story is that you're just going to rob them blind?)

As players, we were all quite hungry, so with little to no convincing necessary, the DM sent the rest of the party on a food run while it was my turn to do my thing. Torgaash met up with Simon before boarding any ships, so it's a good thing that the only places open at 3:00am are about a twenty minute walk away from his apartment. My employer ended up recommending the same guy that the other two found... The only alternative was still a day off shore and would be moored for a week, and since we were looking for a quick departure, that would have been way too much of a wait. He also gave me a gold piece, another rarity in this realm.

After that, we loaded our horses, our cargo, and ourselves onto the ship and set sail. We're about halfway to where we're going to have to make port, and the trip has been pretty routine thus far. I kicked back a little more firewine than usual one night, but nothing happened, so blah. That's where we left off because a couple of us were starting to fall asleep.

Play time for that session: Eight hours.

Experience gained in that session: 600 per character for the ogres. (25 quest experience for me because I'm that awesome.)

(The mansion was actually cleared out earlier, but I couldn't make that session, so someone subbed for me and filled me in later.)

Part 3

Our DM had gotten up at 5:00am this morning, so tonight's session was just an hour or so. We also didn't want it to run too long, since two of the players couldn't make it tonight. We still managed two encounters, rolled into one.

The day went by without much event, so we chose who would go on watch at what times over the night. I took second watch, and the other rogue took third (NPCs or PCs being NPC'd assisted and covered first watch). Nothing happened in first or second watches, so I was soundly asleep when someone on-deck made a listen check to hear something moving near the port and starboard sides of the ship.

The rogue went over to the guard rail and pulled out his heavy crossbow to take a look (or shot) around. Before he could do much with the crossbow, a scrag broke the surface, and climbed the side of the ship right next to the rogue. Lana (female NPC bard; I'm slowly learning names) ran for the stairs and screamed her lungs out waking everyone up. In real life, I'm a heavy sleeper. Torgaash rolled a natural one on his listen check to wake up, so in that regard, we share a trait. The rest of the party didn't have much of a problem with the DC 0 check... Torgaash is the only one with ranks in listen. Something's very wrong here.

Bitching aside, everyone got to the deck about a round ahead of me, since I just woke up, grabbed my rapier and ran. Unfortunately, as I came out from below deck, I was the nearest thing one of the scrags saw, and it walked over to lay into me. It hit me for eleven damage, putting me at ten remaining hit points. On my next turn, I decided that combat favors the bold, and roguery favors cowards. I boldly swung my rapier for a miss and took a move action away...and got hit on the attack of opportunity for another nine damage. Around this point, the DM has us roll spot checks, which fail.

With one HP left, and a sea troll that seems to have taken a liking to me, melee combat isn't a great idea. My composite longbow was sitting below decks... Well... There's always that pouch with five vials of Alchemist's Fire that my employer gave me before embarking... Torgaash is by no means dumb, but something had to be done to distract the troll, so he lobbed a vial, damned be the consequences. It was right about this time that a boulder crashed through the deck and a tree flew past, splashing somewhere over the starboard side. It's kind of hard to chant, "Least-of-my-worries," under your breath after seeing a freakin' tree sail past like the mother of all crossbow bolts.

Fortunately for us, the captain of the ship we're on is a decent spell caster, and tossed an Incendiary Cloud out on top of the ship that was shooting at us (and which we failed to spot last time). More fortunately for us, this ship is a pretty badass warship, with heavy ballistas that tip over the edges and shoot flaming bolts.

In the same round, the burning scrag started running for the edge of the ship, my bow magically (and instantly) materialized in my hands, and everyone in the party started rolling critical hits. This is the difference between a player getting tired and a DM getting tired. Oh well... I'm not going to argue with the eight-hundred XP from the trolls and for defending the ship.

Of course, I'll have to explain the Alchemist's Fire away now that everyone's seen me use it. I've already got my cover-story for that though... See, Torgaash has been going to bed early since this journey started. This was in order to time his waking up roughly with the shift between the night watch and day watch, which can be somewhat hectic in the crew quarters of a large vessel. I just happened to nick some stuff while weary sailors' heads were turned.

Part 4

Well, tonight, we finished our journey on the ship without further event. As we had paid for, the ship's captain took care of getting us through customs without incident, and we hit the road for the city built around a major figurehead, known as the Dragonmaster. He's gotta have enough knowledge to identify a massive diamond and enough money to buy it, right?

We followed a major highway to the city through massive plains and farmland. Lots of merchants and not much else met us until we were about a half-day's travel outside of town. We heard a scream come from the other side of one of the fields. All of us, interested in testing out our brand new warhorses, charged into the brush and popped out the other side to see a woman being assaulted by a horrible man wielding a ring made of precious metal. Okay, he was proposing. I sorta wanted to see Dreck (the party tank) run someone through on his lance, but not this time.

After some of the more 'good' characters went about apologizing, and I gauged my odds of swiping the ring (not great), we began to head away, but before we were even off the property, a bunch of ankhegs popped out of the ground, charging us. Torgaash has this problem of getting mediocre HP rolls, so 'getting beaten within an inch of his life' means getting hit by an ankheg once. The full-round withdrawl action and NPC meatshields are quite possibly my favorite two characteristics within this game... Cowardice paid off this time, getting me far enough away to use my composite longbow a bit.

The battle concluded, in the absense of anyone else with the initiative to seek a reward, I went to the couple's door and knocked. After a few minutes, several locks clunked open and the door cracked. The young man, satisfied that I was not another ankheg, come to slaughter them all, opened the door and began awkwardly thanking me. A moment into that, an old lunatic shoved him aside, went on a rant about how I surely expected a reward (which I had yet to actually say anything about). He shoved a sack of 200 coppers into my hands. (It's a tidy sum in this realm, remember.) Torgaash's response? Money compensates for attitude, so he tolerated the rant and the slammed door, and to keep the guise of 'True Neutral w/ a slant toward good' went to split the cash with the party. Suckers. I'll take it right back off of their corpses later.

The rest of the trip to the Dragonmaster's city went without event. Since the day was only about half over, we decided to go for the town's inner gate and make our way to the Dragonmaster's fortress. Of course, it couldn't be as easy as walking up the hill... No, the guards at that gate informed us that the inner gate had been sealed on account of a Wyvern being loose inside. (I should note here that our DM used a pronounciation of 'Wyvern' that I had not heard before, so I thought something was inside that was much tougher. Not that it really mattered, as I was really roleplaying at that point, and Torgaash's actions wouldn't have changed.) They basically presented us with the option of going in and fighting or waiting while the town's compliment of dragon knights flushed the bugger out.

Now, I shall remind you that Torgaash is really Neutral Evil. That means that he 'looks out for number one, and number one is always number me.' Alex (Sorc/Tank), Lana (Bardess), Dreck (Tank), and the party priest decided to volunteer themselves as a sacrifice for the greater good. Rather than being logged as a suicide, I volunteered myself to sacrifice a few tankards of ale to my liver. The other party rogue, who seems to have been following in my footsteps a lot lately also stayed out of combat.

Torgaash isn't a drunkard too often, but if he goes past 'tipsy' he goes for 'wasted.' If you aren't familiar with the dynamics of drinking, when you've got cheap ale and you're starting in midafternoon, you get wicked drunk by evening. This led to an epic tale of four adventurers that were too stupid to listen to good advice and got themselves ripped to tiny pieces by a wyvern.

Logically speaking, four level three characters, unassisted, versus a wyvern, and only one character left with healing spells (two Cure Light Wounds)... Well, an epic tale of four dead humans isn't that far off-base. That is, it's not too far off-base until the wyvren goes through two consecutive combat rounds without landing a hit, only lands one hit in the third, and is destroyed by three nearly consecutive critical hits (one from a freaking scythe) from the party. My character doesn't know this, but I overheard the battle. I'll still be sure that Torgaash continues spreading the tale on his way out of the inn tomorrow (albeit with a little more of a hungover tone to his tale than a drunk tone).

Now, where I get my alone-time with the evil guys in the plot, the rest of the party gets their alone-time with some of the good guys, especially when I chicken out of a battle. There was a good twenty minutes where I was sitting out because of that, and afterward, the session was basically over.

We all got awarded quest experience for getting to the city. The rest of the party got a fair bit more for fighting the wyvern (as well they deserved) and speaking with the Dragonmaster about our massive diamond statue. Some of that was offset by backed-experience that I earned for my escapades with the bard and his elven friends in Laan, so everyone got to hit level four.

I'm now Ranger 2 / Rogue 2, meaning I finally get to dual-wield, because one weapon is never enough. Now, I just need some more sneak attack dice. I'm still looking forward to hitting level 18, taking Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, flanking someone, and making seven sneak attacks in a row. There's a little Timmy, Power Gamer in us all, after all. This is some great roleplaying, stats aside. Having an overall purpose counter to the party's is certainly a fun experience.

Part 5

Sometimes, there's a scene in a campaign that just begs to be expanded on. Normally, I don't get the time to do so, but it's been a slow couple of days in terms of work, so I had to exploit the opportunity. Here's the first version, that you've already read...

Rather than being logged as a suicide, I volunteered myself to sacrifice a few tankards of ale to my liver.


Torgaash isn't a drunkard too often, but if he goes past 'tipsy' he goes for 'wasted'. If you aren't familiar with the dynamics of drinking, when you've got cheap ale and you're starting in midafternoon, you get wicked drunk by evening. This led to an epic tale of four adventurers that were too stupid to listen to good advice and got themselves ripped to tiny pieces by a wyvern.

And now, some insight into exactly how wasted 'wasted' really means...

With a bottle of cheap wine in his left hand and too much drunken courage in his heart, Torgaash lept onto the bar. There, he paused to regain his balance and shouted, "Come one! Come all! Hear the amazing tale of four would-be adventurers, slain most horribly!" The bartender approached Torgaash, probably to cut him off and send him on his way, but a well-placed blow from the wine bottle put the bartender his back. Perhaps Torgaash was more sober than he led on.

"S-so, let me t--*hic*--tell you a wuh...wuhndorous tale of four do-gooders turned *hic* corpses!" For being so drunk, Torgaash went into surprising detail. With what little knowledge of Wyvrens Alex had conveyed earlier, Torgaash described a great deal of tail smashing, eye-gouging, and high-flying exploits of the monster. Yes, for several hours, Alex, Lana, Dreck, and 'that goody-two-shoes priestess wench' were known for being quite a bloody mess on the mountainside.

The inn was filled with raucous laughter that night. Torgaash berating his companions proved quite entertaining for all, as did his nearly falling off the bar several times a minute. Eventually, the crowd thinned, and Torgaash became irritated, both at the sudden lack of audience and lack of alcohol. Throughout the night, he would insert, "Mohre wine!" into the story, apparently not noticing, not realizing, or not caring that the barkeep was still unconscious.

Finally, he accepted that wine was not coming, and tried stepping down from the bar. Plummetting would be a more accurate description of the motion, and the landing would only add to the magnitude of his hangover in the morning. For the moment, he was numb to pain. He also had very little control of his limbs, so getting up proved difficult, and mounting the staircase to go to his room proved even more challenging.

Eventually, he did make it to his room, and tried the lock. Despite his best efforts, he could not make the key work, which could have had something to do with the fact that he was using the wrong key. It also could have had something to do with the fact that he was using the key in a knot-hole in the door. Too sloshed to remember how to pick a lock, Torgaash opted to kick the door in, which took several minutes, and would have been quite painful, had he been less inebriated at the time.

Torgaash stepped in, found the bed, and fell into it. That was his intent anyway. In his stupor, he had developed a slight case of double- (or possibly triple-) -vision, so the bed he fell into didn't exist. Fortunately for him, he was asleep before he hit the floor.

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, Torgaash was certainly NOT more sober than he led on in the beginning. It was a lucky swing into the bartender's forehead.

Part 6

After quite a hiatus, we finally got to play again tonight...

Torgaash would have rolled out of bed in the morning, if he had made it to the bed. The hangover was less than pleasant, but he buckled down and made his way to the city's inner gates. Torgaash's reputation now seems to preceed him, as the guards at the inner gate kept a close eye on him. Likewise, Torgaash kept a close eye on the guards as he passed, just to make sure he wasn't going to have a spear-wielding lunatic run him through.

I made my way up the trail to the Dragonmaster's residence, semi-actively looking for Wyvren tracks. The logic behind looking for tracks was, "Dragons have hordes. Wyvrens are like small dragons. Maybe Wyvrens have small hordes!" No dice on the tracks, but there were a few very bloody splotches on the trail, further reinforcing the illusion that the party was brutally slain. That rather made up for the hangover.

At the massive mountain-fortress that the Dragonmaster calls home, the front door was wide open. As in, the front door was wide open without my having to make a skill check (be it hide or open lock). Just to be on the safe side, I did ask one of the guards before barging on in, and he seemed to be alright with visitors coming through. There was a great deal of temptation to start making slight-of-hand checks, once inside, but given that the Dragonmaster has some (and by 'some', I mean a '-ton of') caster levels, and I'm sure his contingent of dragon knights would not appreciate my "liberating" items of particular value from the estate. All the while, I never ran into any of the other party members.

That said, I asked a servant on the second floor where the Dragonmaster might be, and he just said somewhere in the upper levels, so I found the nearest stairwell and started walking.....and walking.....and walking..... On a lark, I rolled 5d4, and the DM decided that the result of thirteen was the number of minutes it took to ascend to the Dragonmaster's personal dining hall. Once there, it was time to make the sales pitch about an item that the Dragonmaster had already seen, but he decided that leading me on would be funny. I kindly informed him that the item was a statue that could be found in a chest that my dead companions would have had with them. A locked chest, which they lacked the key for.

The Dragonmaster sent a couple of guards off to retrieve the chest, and we began to bargain. His initial offer was a scant 3000 SP (scant, even given the considerable lack of money in this domain). I added more to the description, which raised his offer ten-fold. I feigned consideration of 3000 GP, and told him of the composition and historical significance of the statue. At this point, Dreck approaches from behind, slams the chest down in front of me, and I swear a lot about him and how he was supposed to be dead. He feeds me a line of bull about the rest of the party still being dead (his untrained bluff check beat my untrained sense motive check), and how we've been tasked to drag this diamond to the Holy City [of something I don't remember].

Displeased, I left and headed back to town. The thing about not playing for three weeks, is I come up with some sick schemes, so I was compelled to go see a blacksmith after dealing with the Dragonmaster. Why? Well, I've got a bullseye lantern to act as a spotlight in dungeon-type environments. Problem is, I really, really like dual wielding. Solution? Sure, I could set the lantern down early in combat and draw my offhand weapon, but why do that when I can get my lantern attached to a helmet? The blacksmith was agast at the idea. His exact words were, "I just want to make sure you realize what you're asking... You want me to put an object containing, among other things, burning oil onto a piece of protective headgear?" Ten coppers and several hours later (I'll get to what's in the interim in a moment), the smith's tune had changed to, "If it works, you can tell people I did it. If it doesn't, you probably won't be able to tell them anyway." I tried the helmet on, and it stayed securely on my head. Of course, tossing an extra five pounds on top of your head calls for balance checks in combat, but those should be fairly easy with my obscene dexterity.

Bellana (heal bit--err priestess) and Dreck came down the mountain and met up with me shortly afterwards to tell me that Lana had gone missing. Dreck had the bright idea that I could track people, including mounted people (and Lana's horse was gone too) because of my rangery-wootness. That's all well and true, when the surface I'm tracking on isn't bare rock. Needless to say, that was a fruitless venture, but at least it filled the time that my lantern was being worked on. I went back to town to get my new helmet and rest at the inn, while Bellana and Dreck spent another night with the Dragonmaster. The next day, Lana still hadn't turned up, and no evidence of her whereabouts was presenting itself, so we (Dreck, Bellana, and myself, as Gobi went missing, and Alex entered Dragon Knight training) decided it was time to make our way back to the port city, where we could catch a ship out to the Holy City (which is a 50-ish mile island, BTW).

Not long after departing the city, about eight bugbears jumped us. Two approached me and peeled about half my hitpoints off. I swung with my rapier and handaxe, missing with both. Dreck and Bellana both made hits against their targets, and both of them had nearly twice my hitpoints. The next round, I popped off my horse and moved around to flank the bugbears attacking Dreck. He scored a critical, basically chopping one of them in half, Bellana missed with her attack, and then it was my turn. I swung for a critical with the rapier and a normal hit with the handaxe, while flanking. The funny thing about dual wielding and sneak attack is that, when combined, you deal a ton of damage. Some math...

2d6+4 -- Rapier critical (w/ STR bonus)

1d6+2 -- Handaxe normal (w/ STR bonus)

1d6+0 -- Sneak attack for rapier hit

1d6+0 -- Sneak attack for handaxe hit

5d6+6 -- Total damage

That's at level four. That's not counting my favored enemy damage (because I forgot bugbears were goblinoids somehow), or it would have been 5d6+12. That's a very dead bugbear. So was the second one that I did that to. The one that only took a rapier hit still wasn't too happy during the following round. Dreck's scythe critical was pretty impressive (8d4+4xSTR), but that was the second one he's gotten in the whole campaign. Besides that, it was hack and slash, but with these crazy sneak attacks, it was over in four rounds.

We each got 1600 XP for the bugbears, and then went for food. When we got back, we got 2300 XP for the hell of it. When it gives me a level-up, I don't typically argue. After leveling, we called it a night.

Oh, after the bugbears, we found a dog. It was going to be a person coming to save our sorry asses, but that proved unnecessary, so the person kind of transformed into a dog, and the transformation applied retroactively through time. I get to use my handle animal skill points in the near future! Hooray!

Part 7

After the bugbears, we continued our trek back to the port city. Before too long though, some hysterical woman runs into our path shouting about her husband being attacked in a nearby swamp. While I pondered the options, Dreck and Bedivel (not Bellana.....told you I'm bad with names) go charging off toward the swamp. I had little other choice but to follow.

As we approached the swamp, we dismounted. I told the dog to stay (24 on my Handle Animal check), which it did for a grand total of two seconds before following Dreck. Since even a freaking dog won't listen to reason, I wasn't even going to bother trying to convince the other two dopes how to handle the situation, so we all waded into the swamp. As we wandered, I succeeded a listen check and heard a distant groaning, which we then used to guide ourselves through the swamp. It was a veritable maze of undergrowth, which made things slow-going, but after a while, we rounded a corner into a very large partition of the swamp.

In two of the corners, the swamp waters were noticeably deeper, and at the center was an island with a dead, gnarled tree at the center. The man we were looking for was nailed up on the tree, gagged with his own intestines, and had a few other organs falling out. Dreck (with dog in tow) and Bedivel walked cautiously, but directly toward the island to examine the body. I moved slowly along one of the partition's 'walls,' since something had to string that guy up by his own entrails, and I was tired of being surrounded.

And then we couldn't see. The air began to take on an acrid, sulfuric scent (out-of-game, I immediately guessed black dragon, though our DM tried to deny it). A voice came from the darkness, asking us to state our business in the swamp. Frustrated, I called out in Dreck's general direction, "Yes, oh fearless leader! What is our business in this swamp?!" Dreck and the voice went back and forth for a few seconds, while I put my melee weapons away and drew my bow.

When the voice was clearly done talking, the darkness was dismissed, and lo and behold, Dreck, the dog, and Bedivel were surrounded, and I was not. Of course, the real problem for them was that what had surrounded them was a Pyrohydra blocking the enterance to this partition of the swamp, and a large Black Dragon that had plopped itself on the island (on the side furthest from me).

That's when our dog transformed... It's a freaking Hound Archon with a Holy Flaming Greatsword +1. (Dreck rolled a higher initiative, but decided to wait.) Without prompting, the Archon waltzed over to the dragon and laid into it. Dreck then realized, he was going to have to try to carve out the Pyrohydra's heart. The Pyrohydra took a few monsterous steps forward, putting it within reach of Bedivel, and exposing itself to me. Dreck finally got his turn, in which he braved the attacks of opportunity (all six of them) and plunged his scythe into Pyrohydra flesh. The Archon continued turning the dragon into bite-sized morsels for us, while Bedivel went about healing Dreck. I used a move action to climb onto the 'wall' next to me, and fired down at the Hydra, hitting without sneak attack.

The next turn, the Dragon used its breath weapon, and I was the only one who didn't need to make a reflex save. Good thing too, since my total bonus is only +10, and I'm certain that evasion would simply be of no use at all in such a situation. [/sarcasm] The acid hit everyone in its path, though the damage really seemed like peanuts compared to what all of the physical attacks were doing. The Archon finished off the dragon, and Dreck landed another scythe hit. I wasn't about to keep on going with this 'no sneak attack' thing, so I popped off the wall (landing outside of the partition) and made a move-action to get adjacent to the Pyrohydra's arse-end. I then shot an arrow straight through it's fleshy meats and into its heart. It then fell, splashing swamp muck onto Dreck, Bedivel, and myself.

With battle over, we approached our Celestial companion to ask some questions. I asked what he was doing in dog-form the whole time, and he basically said it was good for a laugh. The other two went on blabbing with him about the upper planes and the significance of the diamond statue that we're still hauling about. Torgaash was quick to lose interest in their chatter and went over to examine the tree for possible dragon loot.

Nothing presented itself there, so I went to the nearest 'deep end'. I dove in, taking a ten on my swim check and had a look around. (Oh, I rolled a two on my fortitude save and a four on a subsequent d4. Not that that will matter for four days, game time.) A quick check revealed a metal door and a nearby lever. I pulled the lever, succeeded my reflex save against the lame trap attached to it, and looked into the open door. It was too dark to see anything, so I went back up for air and assistance. "Bedivel! Light. Helmet. Now." (Remember the lantern-helmet.) Bedivel decided to be a sanctimonious bitch, and cast Cure Minor Wounds on herself. The Archon proved more generous, casting Continual Flame on the lantern's wick, which has the pleasant side-effect of me not having to have burning oil perched atop my cranium.

I went back down to check out the room, and yes, it was the dragon's horde. With some help from Dreck (he rolled a one on his fortitude save and his d4), we dragged the whole mess of stuff back up. Basically, we all got an upgrade to +1 and +2 equipment and money amounting to about 565 GP each. Again, keep in mind that gold is extraordinarily rare in this realm, and magical equipment isn't exactly easy to come by. In addition to my share of the gold, I got a Keen Cold Iron Rapier +1, 47 Arrows +1, and a Mithral Chainshirt +1.

We hauled ourselves out of the swamp, did a quick and fruitless search for the hysterical woman, and then got back on the road to the port city. Overnight, the disease that Dreck picked up in the swamp incubated, but since Bedivel is too low-level to cast Remove Disease and our Hound Archon isn't much of a caster, we basically had to tell him to suck it up until we could get him to a temple.

When we got to town, Dreck found his temple (and was treated as a charity case because of the swamp odor around him), Bedivel went to check on the ship that the Dragonmaster chartered (same one we came in on), and I went looking for a shop to practice my slight-of-hand skill in. The shopkeeper was suspicious of me, given my appearance, and the cost of most of the items in his store. He seemed quite intent on following me around as I browsed, so I tried a line on him, while displaying one of my newly acquired gold pieces, "You know, I've recently come into a great deal of money, but it's awfully difficult to make a selection with someone staring right over your shoulder." He made some response about a 'guilty conscience,' but he obviously doesn't know me too well. It was tempting to plunge my new rapier into his face while saying, "How's that for a guilty conscience, huh, bitch?" but fear of reprisal from the city guard was enough to stop me from doing that.

After that, I went to the lowest economic class district in town to find an inn to stay in on the cheap. Hard to beat one copper a night for a bed, which was the rate at the first place I found, so I shelled out the cash, stabled my horse, then went to find some place a little better to eat at.

Shortly after returning to my room, there was a knock. When I checked, it was a man in noble clothing, bidding me to follow him to the ship that had been chartered for us. I went with him to the ship's dining hall, where those who hadn't eaten were getting their meal. Kardrech (the captain, yar) was filling everyone in on the reality of our situation. He had been informed by the Dragonmaster of what the diamond statue was and that we were supposed to take it to the Holy City. He told us that that course of action would only be likely to get us into a great deal of trouble, as he knew for a fact that the base of the statue was not in the Holy City, and the clergy there turn into rabid dogs when it comes to acquiring holy relics. He claimed to know the true location of the statue's base and promised that he could take us to it in short order.

Everyone more or less agreed, and we set sail immediately. As soon as the port city was beyond the horizon, Kardrech called everyone to the deck, and began casting one heck of a transmutation spell. The ship's composition changed to metal, and the sails turned into red velvet. The sails then removed themselves from the masts and attached themselves to the sides of the ship like massive wings. Once the transformation was complete, we began to gain a great deal of speed and lifted out of the water. We cruised at an altitude of 1000-ish feet at a speed fast enough that we had no basis for comparison. Where it took us four days to sail from Laan to the opposite port city, it took four hours from take-off until Laan was on the horizon.

Around that time, we called it a night.

Part 8

We finished our flight without much event. Seems that even if something airborne wanted to attack us, it couldn't keep pace.

Kardrech (ship's captain) set us down near a cave at the base of a northern mountain range. Dreck kept rattling off questions about how we were supposed to be at a temple and blah, blah, blah, and Kardrech showed clear signs he wasn't going to answer. Meanwhile, I grabbed some essentials from my horse, told Dreck to shut his yap, and got everyone moving to the cave. Stupid do-gooders and their lack of initiative.

I put on my everburning, helmet-mounted, bullseye lantern (of wootacular wootness), and Bedivel cast light on her longsword. About as soon as we did that, we saw a fork in the tunnel ahead. Already having seen the power of Dreck's indecision, I said, "We're going left." He tried to question the logic, and I interupted him, "We're going left." He saw the error of his ways, and we went left. The tunnel bent and curved, but was pretty unspectacular.

Then, we hit a small room. Out of the corridor ahead, four mephits came charging at us. Now, this was a short battle, mostly because Sardreth (the hound archon) was the only one making decent rolls, not that he needed them. He just hacked the little screwballs into pieces, while the rest of us just kept missing. (I've been trying to get the DM to remove Sardreth, since he unbalances encounters, being two levels higher than us, but Sardreth is apparently plot-critical at the moment. The solution may end up presenting itself early in the next session though.)

With mephit guts on the floor, we continued forward. The curvature of the corridor became more extreme, largely because we were running out of space on the whiteboard. Not too much deeper in the cave, we entered another room, with a mausoleum constructed against the back wall. On the steps leading to its door, stood a mummy. Sardreth charged, while Dreck approached a bit more cautiously. Bedivel followed Sardreth (note that it's the dog leading a person now), and I went wide to get behind the mummy. Yeah, it's immune to criticals and sneak attacks, but flanking never hurt any rogue. Again, Sardreth was dealing the bulk of the damage, due to his combination of a holy, flaming weapon and the smite evil class feature. I landed a couple of hits, barely surpassing the mummy's damage resistance, and Dreck kept missing. Again, because of Sardreth, this otherwise appropriate encounter was far too easy... we kicked it up a notch. If you want to look at CRs, we actually kicked it up exactly ten notches, when a mummy lord with ten priest levels stepped out of the mausoleum. We hadn't had time to move, so we were already surrounding it, so we just laid into the punk. Once more, I barely poked through the damage resistance, Dreck missed, Sardreth ripped through the corpse like butter, and Bedivel tried to figure out what to cast against such a foe. On the mummy lord's first round, it almost succeeded in getting a Slay Living past Sardreth's fortitude save. He beat the save DC by about two though, which greatly disappointed me, as both a player wanting balanced encounters back and a character wanting one less celestial in the multiverse. We repeated our melee attacks to about the same effect as last time.

That was when the mummy lord cast Deeper Darkness, and we stopped being able to see. Bedivel scrambled through her spell list, but couldn't find anything available to her that would counter the darkness. I made a listen check to hear the mummy lord shuffle away, and decided to cut off his retreat by double moving back into the corridor. On the way, I took an attack of opportunity for eighteen damage and my second disease of the campaign (fortunately mummy rot takes ten rounds to incubate). Sardreth has the scent ability, so he moved after the mummy, shouted his location, and made a successful attack. Dreck moved after Sardreth and finally made a hit with his shock scythe.

On the next round, I drew my bow. John, the player behind Dreck, asked what Torgaash's intelligence score was. He did not understand that Torgaash really didn't care who was to live or die in this fight because he was near the way out, and could easily win a foot race. Back in character, I notched an arrow, and let it fly. Unfortunately, it was only a glancing blow, and I don't think the wall was really hurt by it. The melee attacks continued, beating the corpse to within an inch of its unlife. I notched another arrow and let fly. With it being dark and me firing into a melee, I rolled my d% to see who would be hit. This time it was a little too far to the right (as opposed to way too far to the left), and Sardreth took one to the head.



One more swing from Sardreth spelled the mummy lord's final demise. The darkness subsided almost immediately, and the mummy rot took hold in my system. As our surroundings became visable again, we noticed that we were not in the same place as where we started combat. Surrounding us were several monks (as in church monks, not silly core class monks), one of whom said, "Congratulations. You passed." We had to call it a night there, in the middle of a plot device, since one of our players got a call and had to demonstrate exactly how whipped he is.

Our DM was trying to figure out how to deal with the gobs of experience owed to us by killing a monster ten levels higher than us. I hung back a bit to discuss what Torgaash needed to do. Remember, he was sent to get information on the Dragonmaster for his employer. Though he doesn't have much information, he still wants what he's due, and a new assignment couldn't hurt either. I had to gripe about how we flew over Laan instead of sailing to Laan. Anyway, the DM gave the experience question a little bit of thought too, and as I was stepping out, he said he was likely going to hand us two levels to get us on par with Sardreth.

Classes are over for the semester and the dorms are locked until early January, so no updates here for a while. Well, more correctly, updates aren't likely, as we're all too lazy to drive the 30+ minutes on a regular basis during vacation days.

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