Chains Unbound

Blade of Thy Father (Hazarak's Story) Pt. 1
The Gnoll Hunters; Hitting the streets for information

As the story opened, the Grey Wolves (a detachment of Balasar’s Avengers led by Conan) were returning from Wheloon, a prison city in the nation of Cormyr. They were to infiltrate the walled and magically protected city, rescue an associate of their patron, and leave the city with him. Unfortunately, the mission was a failure, due to some bad information on their patron’s part that led the Wolves into an ambush. The group was angry, and not looking forward to explaining to Balasar why they had just failed.

Up ahead of them, at the fork of the road, the group spotted the most obvious ambush ever laid in the history of mankind: a wagon with a “broken wheel” sitting right in the middle of the path, and a lone “wagon driver” under it, attempting to “fix” it. Laquel and Althea flanked the road and stealthily walked in the forest, while Conan and Hazarak (who had his face hooded) walked in the middle of the road. The “wagon driver” stood up and began to say hello (and, presumably, to offer a business proposition or collect a “toll”), when he saw under Hazarak’s hood and yelled into the forest, “Gnoll!”. Suddenly, the man’s partners in crime began pouring out of the woods, weapons and spells focused on Hazarak.

The battle went quickly, however, and seconds the group had subdued the bandits. Althea forced a surrender out of the leader, who called off his allies. Conan had not yet had his fill though, and as a sickle-armed warlock walked by him, he brutally cut her down. After frantic urgings from Althea and Hazarak, however, he calmed down, and the entire group began interrogating the bandits (this battle was worth 600 xp for the four participants).

The party learned that these bandits were planning on robbing what they assumed were two men walking down the road, when their leader saw under Hazarak’s hood and realized that the bounty on gnolls in this area would make a nice addition to whatever was in the group’s pockets. He bit off more than he could chew, however, and was forced to beg for parley when he and his fellow bandits were almost cut down. It was then that, while searching the bandits’ possessions, Hazarak noticed a familiar looking sword.

Hazarak mentioned this sword to the bandit, and demanded to know where he got it. He had recognized it as a poor replica of a sword that his father, Grel, once carried into battle. There were two important differences between the two blades, however: this blade was made out of steel, whereas the original was made out of starmetal; and the original was a masterwork blade, obviously made for the hands of a gnoll, whereas this one looks like it was forged for a gnoll’s hand as imagined by a human. After further questioning, Hazarak was directed to look in a backpack owned by the leader, in the wagon. Amongst the travel gear, he found a letter of credit for 3000 gold, signed by one Darren Vanus.

This caused Hazarak to seethe in rage, and he demanded to know where these blades came from. The bandits said that they didn’t know, and that they just picked them up from a drop point in Tilverton Scar, and were told to leave them in areas that the gnolls were known to frequent. They hadn’t done this one yet, and that letter was from their last job.

Conan had heard enough, and had the rest of the Wolves strip the bandits naked, then made signs that said “bandit” and forced them to wear these across their chests. He then lashed them to the wagon and had them pull it while everyone else rode. Althea pointed out that four humans pulling a wagon was not only a very good way to get stopped and questioned (and possibly reported to the authorities), but was also a very slow way to travel. Conan relented, and the bandits were tied up and thrown in the back of the wagon, and the group’s horses made to pull the wagon.

Once the group arrived on the outskirts of Tilverton Scar, a city in the Gnoll Pass, they tied the bandits up to a tree and bribed a guard to get into the city. Conan found lodgings for the group at the Grey Goose inn, and immediately began boozing and whoring. Hazarak and Althea hit the streets to look for both information and a shop, with Laquel leaving the inn after sunset to wander the streets for information as well.

After shopping and gathering information for the evening and into the next day, here is what the group learned:

  • Another group was paid 500 gold to do the same job as the ones that ambushed the Wolves on the way here.
  • There is a blacksmith in town that is able to make fine arms and armaments that rival enchanted equipment, but without magic. He identified a maker’s mark on another replica sword that leads to a smithy in Castle Crag, in the middle of the Gnoll Pass.
  • Althea and Hazarak found a curio shop, which bought and sold magical trinkets and archaeological treasures. Hazarak bought a Hat of Disguise here, to blend into the gnoll-hating population.
  • Gnolls have been attacking the towns in northern Cormyr, looking for the blades like the one Hazarak destroyed on the road. Legend has it that whomever unites the two blades in the set will rule over all the gnoll tribes, and push the humans out of Cormyr for good.
  • Conan’s constitution may be legendary, but even he is not immune to infection from an unclean whore.

When we pick up this plotline next time, we will continue with the group in Tilverton Scar.

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Queen's Gambit: Epilogue

Marpenoth 24th, 1479 DR

It has been four hours since the mercenary band – nay, heroes – of Balasar’s Avengers has returned triumphant from the sliver queen’s hive. The mood in the camp is lighthearted and joyful, and there are small groups of men and women laughing and sharing rations and drink around bonfires. The group that returned came covered in blood, guts, and other unsavory substances, but now most of them laugh and join the men in their revelry. One of the sorcerers from the academy casted a brief ritual on those that were willing, and now they are as clean as if they had just come from the baths. Truly, today is a day of miracles, great and small.

It has been a long day for us, however, and I was glad to pitch a tent and get into my sleeping bag. Now, I would jot down these thoughts and drift off to a peaceful… A noise outside, an alarm has been raised. I must go…

Seems it was a false alarm. A large sliver force, at least 30000 strong, tailed by a huge black dragon that could only be the ancient wyrm from Chelimber’s marsh that the legends speak of, was spotted headed north, about a mile from our position. Tension was high for a bit, and it looked like we would be fighting the entire horde, bent on revenge over the death of their queen. Oddly enough, they completely ignored us, as if they had some other task before them

Damnation, I thought this was over! The slivers move to some other place, leaving devastation in their wake. Will we have to kill every one of the vile creatures one by one? I doubt even the Avengers are up to this task. And where were they going, anyway? Well, as long as they’re not living in the Vale, it is little of my concern. With any luck, they’ll go up into Netheril and consume the remains of that empire of shadows.

—Journal of Kimit Clearos, Lieutenant of the guard, present at the battle of the sliver queen.

* * *

“Another leg of lamb, Shaia,” yelled Ender, eager to gorge himself on the best that the keep had to offer. “We’ve no legs of lamb left sir, you’ve eaten everything we had,” Shaia said, eyeing the massive plate of bones on the table before the rotund Halfling. “By Sune’s magnificent rack, iss is how the keep treats its heroes?” Ender bellowed, an odd sound for a small humanoid, although few in his hometown would have called him “small”. “Ahh, forget it, looks like the captain’s abou ‘ta make a speech. “

*Conan and Blaze make their speeches, rousing a great cheer from the assembled soldiers and civilians*

“Well, that was inspirin’,” Ender mutters to himself. “Inspirin’ me to go snatch that fullblade outta Blaze’s room and sell it for a copper! Has he forgotten who was handling all the logistics of the guild while everyone was out killin slivers and GETTIN’ PAID? I swear, Balasar had better tap someone else for this guild clerk job, I’m sikka it. Ever since Jarvis left with the res ‘ta the Resplendent Blades, sayin’ sumthin about a “great evil” a commin’, I done nothing but bookwork. Ah whatever, at least I get ‘ta raid the guild’s larders whenever I want.”

*Across the room, Ender spots Ibok, master of duels at the academy, rousing the mages off of their table and off to their rooms. One of the mages, drunk on spirits, complained and threatened Ibok, but after a few calming words, Ibok sends them all out of the dining area laughing like schoolkids. Which, in reality, they are.*

“Feh, mages. Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out! An’ take that crazy bitch Azaerai with ya!” The revelry continued through the night, with much singing and dancing, food and drink. Soon enough, the other Avengers and soldiers trickled out of the dining hall, leaving Ender alone, passed out on his table, dreaming of plates of lamb served by beautiful Daughters of Sune.

* * *

Kill the two-legs. Leave none alive.

Zamira, former court mage at Feyshadow keep and current queen of the sliver hivemind, sent her servitors into the academy. They’d already sounded the alarm, but it mattered not. Zamira knew that Marovic, the headmaster of the academy, would have hedged his bets against Feyshadow keep falling, and would have cut off all communication and transportation via the schools portals with the mages in the keep. Therefore, there would be no one to reinforce the academy against what was about to come.

The mages fought hard to protect their beloved school, but all of the arcane might in the academy was no match for fifty-thousand slivers. In the space of an hour, the entire school’s population had been decimated. The survivors, fleeing for their lives, were quickly caught by the sliver horde and devoured on the spot. What few that managed to escape did so by hiding, fleeing into pocket realms or skipping ahead in the timestream.

Amidst the mayhem, Zamira sought out Headmaster Marovic. He alone could open the vault where the school’s most prized artifacts, including the one that she came to retrieve, lay. She sent waves of slivers against him, but he set up an arcane circle against fey creatures and mounted a counterattack, sending out shockwaves of kinetic energy to blast the slivers to pieces. Zamira finally tired of this, and sent her champion, the ancient black dragon Kazmonix in to subdue the powerful mage. Once captured, she imposed her will on him, and forced him to open the vaults. She raided the vaults and took various items, including a dagger that had been used to imprison a powerful being she’d accidentally summoned while a student at the school.

In the school’s Founder’s Hall, she analyzed the dagger briefly, and figured out how to release the being. Once freed, the being said, “Sorceress, you have freed me yet again from an earthly prison. The terms of our last bargain have not yet been met on your end, give me a reason I should not strike you down and leave this place at once!” Zamira replied, “Strike me down, mighty caliph, and you will never return home. However, I am now prepared to send you back there, but I need but one more favor from you.” “And what would this be? I tire of your games, mortal,” replied the being. “Lend me a portion of your power, that I may complete a ritual linking the school’s portal with one within the plane below permanently,” she said.

So the being granted her this power, and she casted a ritual on the school’s great portal. Instantly, slivers as far as the eye could see were reduced to ashy replicas of themselves, and a gate sprung into being. Then the being, Zamira, and Kazmonix entered the gate, and passed into what lay beyond, leaving only corpses and the frozen ruins of the academy to witness her departure.

* * *

“Damn, the snow is heavy in this area. Isn’t it almost Spring yet?” Azaerai thought to herself, as she rubbed her hands vigorously under her cloak to keep them warm. The small group of mages, as well as a few heroes from Balasar’s Avengers, had been traveling for almost two days through the Feyshadow Forest to get back to the White Lotus academy. The winter hadn’t been particularly harsh, but the group had gotten caught in a blizzard and was forced to find shelter or risk injuring the horses. The faster they got back to the academy and into a heated building, the better.

Up at the head of the column, Ibok, the bardic master from the academy, called a halt to the group’s march and had everyone rally. “There’s something not right here. You see that column of smoke?” he said, pointing to a thin line of smoke in the distance, about two miles away. “We’re well outside of the school’s disguising ward, we shouldn’t be able to see any signs of its existence this far out. Tomil,” he said, pointing to a young warlock at his right, “go up to the school and see what’s there. It’s probably nothing, but I’d rather not be walking into a trap. Look around briefly and come back.”

The young students of the arcane, including Azaerai, dismounted and tended to their horses. One of them, an Eladrin swordmage named Zirlina, sniffled and let out a small sneeze, and was quickly shushed by a few of her classmates. Tension among the group grew with every passing minute until Tomil returned. One look at his face as he barreled headlong into the group told everyone that something was definitely not right at the academy.

“Master Ibok! The school has been overrun by the slivers! I found not a living soul within the compound, and the shielding wards seem to have failed as well.” Tomil untied a pouch from his belt and handed it to Ibok, who took a look inside and passed it to Azaerai and Ella. “What is it,” Azaerai said, passing the pouch to Ella. Tomil replied, “Some kind of ash, Lady. All of the slivers I found in the compound had transformed into the stuff where they stood.” Turning to Ibok, Azaerai said, “Could this have been part of the academy’s defenses? A spell unleashed by one of the senior mages to kill all the slivers?” Ibok considered this, then said to Tomil, “How many slivers did you say there were there?” “Thousands, sir. They were spread out over the entire campus,” he replied. Answering Azaerai’s question, he said, “No, I know of no mages in the school strong enough to kill thousands of enemies at once, especially if they were surprised. And they must have been surprised, or they would have called us at the keep for help. But I suppose that explains why we couldn’t open the great portal back to the school from the keep.”

“Tomil, is there any danger in the school now,” Ibok said. “Didn’t seem like it, sir. School grounds were quiet as a grave – er, sorry,” Tomil said, as some of his classmates began to glare at him. Addressing the group now, Ibok said, “Well then, let’s head up to the school and look for survivors. Once we’re there, split up into pairs to search. We’ll meet at the Founder’s Hall with any survivors in an hour.”

The group quickly made their way into the school and spread out, looking for survivors. Although a few survivors were found amidst the rubble, there were far more corpses, which bore the distinctive slash marks of a sliver’s victim. Eventually, the group met up at Founder’s Hall when one of the students let out a shriek near that building.

Azaerai ran up to the building, moving as fast as her chainmail would allow. When she passed through the doors of the building, she let out a gasp and immediately brandished her weapon. A bluish-white gate, 20 feet across and emanating freezing cold winds and snow stood in the middle of the ruins of the hall. Small elementals whirled around the gate, or trudged through the snow at its base. Azaerai brushed her hand back over her head, removing her fur-lined hood and exposing her short, bristly hair, and charged the elementals. The other students roared and followed suit, as did Azaerai’s compatriots from the Avengers. Soon enough, not a single elemental moved within the shell of the building [note: no xp for this for Hazarak and Ella –NT]. Ibok moved quickly, and with all of the mages’ help, casted an Arcane Lock ritual on the gate, sealing it temporarily.

Azaerai eyed the locked gate warily, and knew that it would not hold against a determined force from the other side. “Master Ibok, that can’t last long. What should we do about it now?” Furrowing his brow, Ibok said, “Sealing the gate is beyond my ability, even with everyone else here. We need to find someone that knows the proper ritual to seal a portal for good, and is strong enough to cast it on this one. Azaerai, return to the keep with the other Avengers and tell them of this. We will set up a beacon here, so that any that managed to escape can return. We will wait here and research a way to seal the gate permanently, as well as rebuild the school.”

Ella voiced an objection, claiming that she had come here to study rituals, but Ibok silenced her with a glance, saying that rebuilding the school and dealing with the gate took precident over that. He invited her back once they managed to clean the grounds up and account for everything. Azaerai reported what she saw back to the rest of the Avengers, then the three guildmates began the long trip back to Feyshadow Keep.

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Queen's Gambit Finale pt. 2 for 20100705 (Remainder of Marpenoth 24)
The queen knights Laquel, then falls.

As the battle continued, the Avengers found themselves in a bad place. Laquel, Hazarak, and Lady Tron all fell under the control of the sliver queen, and immediately began attacking each other and themselves. Hazarak and Lady Tron shook it off, but Laquel lost ground in the fight for her mind, and eventually succumbed to the queen’s influence, and turned on her companions. Fortunately, Conan and Kerrick showed up to reinforce the group. Unfortunately, they both had a nasty run-in with the sliverlings, and trailed in a group of seven of the creatures total.

Both of the newcomers quickly learned about the eggs, the crystals, and the large portal-like construct in the middle of the hatching chamber. They also learned that the slivers, when slain, released a burst of random elemental energy, searing all those nearby with fire or burning them with acid. They both set to work on the sliverlings around them, and made their way towards the queen.

They didn’t have much moving to do, as the sliver queen took off towards them after they let loose a bevy of attacks on her. Meanwhile, Tempest and Hazarak chased down the queen, while Tron struggled to remain conscious amidst the onslaught of the sliverlings and Ella made her way towards the gate. The adventurers, along with the random elemental energies emitted by the gate, managed to cause the unstable sliverlings to blow up, taking their newly hatched kin with them in a chain reaction. With most of the sliverlings destroyed, the majority of the group concentrated on the sliver queen.

Sensing an imminent defeat, the queen made for the passage that most of the party entered the hatching chamber through, and started her escape. Tempest managed to get a tenuous hold on her with his weapon, but she easily broke his hold and fled further down the hallway. While Conan, Tempest, and Kerrick pursued closely behind her, and were pursued in turn by Laquel, Hazarak, Tron, and Ella took a different route to try to cut off the queen’s escape.

Conan ripped into her with his blade, causing her to bleed out. She fled further still down the tunnel and let loose a huge gout of the same chitinous material that lined the halls and formed the slivers’ armor plates, filling up the hallway with a hard wall from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Undaunted, Conan hacked into the wall, nearly destroying it in a single blow, and Kerrick followed up with a thunderous attack that shattered the already damaged section. Laquel managed to catch up to Conan and Kerrick and sank her blade into the latter, which drew some questioning glances from Conan and Tempest, and much swearing from Kerrick himself. This kind of thing is almost normal for the group, however, and Conan thought nothing of it. Eventually, they pursued the queen through the hole made in her wall.

Further down the tunnel, Conan managed to get in front of the queen by running his hardest and being pushed further through Tempest’s commands. Both he and Hazarak surrounded the queen, to which she replied with a shriek, dominating the two of them and sending them after Kerrick. Further back, Laquel managed to catch up to Tempest, and she took him out of the fight with a huge gash in his belly.

Both Conan and Hazarak made it to Kerrick’s position, and Conan hit him fairly hard, but both were eventually able to shake off the queen’s influence and turned around to chase her anew. Kerrick worked on a way to manipulate one of his spells to disrupt the queen’s hold over Laquel, and managed to seize control of her mind for a few seconds, just enough to keep her out of the fight for long enough for Lady Tron and Conan to weaken the queen and Ella to finish her off.

After the queen was felled, a light returned to Laquel’s eyes. Conan and Hazarak weren’t buying it, however, and they continued to beat on her, while Tron and Ella yelled at them, demanding an explanation. Eventually, they subdued her and tied her up, and explained what they think happened to her. At the end of the session, the group heard from Azaerai that the slivers were all pulling out of both the main hive and Feyshadow Keep, and heading north. It would seem that the threat to the keep, at least, was over.

Next up: Queen’s Gambit Epilogue. Also, we will determine what you do in the immediate aftermath of the last two battles in the campaign forum. As for your characters, all characters are now at 26000 xp, the beginning of level 11. Level up and pick your paragon paths, then submit the new character sheets either here or to my email.

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Queen's Gambit Finale pt. 2 for 20100621 (Marpenoth 24)
The Queen's Hive

The Avenger’s began the assault on the queen’s hive at dawn on Marpenoth 24th. Five squads, led by Hazarak, Ella, Lady Tron, Tempest, and Laquel, plus two backup squads led by Conan and Azaerai rushed the entrances to the hive. While Conan and Azaerai distracted the other slivers and led them on a chase away from the hive entrances, the other five penetrated into the tunnels that led deeper into the sliver lair, dodging the deadly spikes and bile hurled by the sliver hordes, and planted their rods of psychic agony in the hard ground. As soon as they were activated, most of the slivers in each horde were destroyed, their heads caving in and blood oozing from every pore. The drones were the only survivors from each horde, and they flew as fast as they could, barreling through the squads and being ripped to shreds as they fled. Once the tunnels were secured and the slivers prevented from burrowing to the aid of their queen, Azaerai and Conan coordinated the defenses of the tunnels while the others ran off to find the queen.

Each mercenary individually found their way through the caves. They used clues such as an increase in the ambient air temperature, sliver workers carrying food, and the slope of the tunnels themselves as clues to guide them towards the queen. Hazarak took a different tack, and first attempted to find another one of the Avengers, eventually stumbling across Lady Tron. The two of them navigated the tunnels until they ended up in the queen’s chamber, not more than 25 feet from the mammoth beast. The others all separately found their way to the same entrance into the spawning chamber, and with everyone assembled, the battle began in earnest.

Lady Tron and Hazarak rushed the large, slow-moving queen and quickly found that she had a long reach as she tore into them during their charge. They then laid into her, their weapons tearing wounds in her body that strange, misshapen sliverlings burst forth from. These sliverlings tore into the the two warriors with large bursts of light, searing them through their attacks. They found this puzzling, but this was but a taste of the nightmare to come.

At the other side of the spawning chamber, Laquel ran along the wall towards the sliver queen, passing some of her eggs as she ran. The eggs, disturbed by her passage, split open and poured forth more sliverlings, who took a swing at her, but missed. Tempest and Ella saw this, and attempted to avoid the other eggs as they passed. Ella tried to remain stealthy as she moved past the eggs, but they somehow sensed her and burst forth, attacking her anyway.

Despite this rocky start, the Avengers managed to get into decent positions and began ripping the sliver queen apart. Just when they thought she was dead, however, her entire body split in half, and a smaller, more heavily armored and more agile sliver queen broke free. She immediately took to the air and blasted her assailants with a gout of fire and spheres of acid. She then landed near some eggs, which caused them to hatch.

Meanwhile, while this part of the battle was going on, a strange, gate-like object in the middle of the room began glowing. It shot off lines of fire, necrotic, and cold energy in all directions, hitting anything that got in the line’s path. One bolt of necrotic energy hit one of the red glowing crystals that littered the room, turning it black and causing the eggs near it to wither. Another bolt of cold hit the sliver queen that had landed near it, causing her to slow down. The bolts of energy flew in no predictable pattern, but Ella deduced that one might be able to control it’s energies for a short time if one were adjacent to it.

After the sliver queen landed, Laquel, Lady Tron, and Hazarak all moved in to flank her, and were flanked in turn by her deformed children. This seemed to be the opportunity that she was waiting for, however, as she released a huge burst of psychic energy just as she was surrounded, shocking her assailants and temporarily taking control of their minds at the same time. Tempest and Ella saw this, and frantically began preparing for what their allies would soon unleash on them.

All this took place within a 16 minute, 36 second timespan. This group has not heard any updates from the keep since the battle began, so the fate of their comrades and employer remains a mystery for now. All they know is that they must hasten the death of the sliver queen, or the keep will fall, and with it their chance of being paid.

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Queen's Gambit Finale pt. 1 for 20100607 (Marpenoth 24)
The Last Stand, part 2

The second wave began with a whisper as but a few manipulator slivers crawled out of the ground and ran around the walls of the keep. The Avengers’ squads took turns taking pot shots at the solitary slivers, easily killing them off. These were just a precursor, however, for the main force of the second wave, consisting of a mix of pestilence, manipulator, zombie, spined, and horned slivers, as well as some bullettes acting as living siege engines. These hordes, which were only barely spotted tunneling beneath the surface by Oligar before they surfaced, immediately began attacking already-weakened portions of the wall, but failing.

The party was prepared, however. Orriana, Oligar, and Urgarr set up a perimeter along the north, west, and south walls that consisted of an exploding minefield 25 feet out from the wall on those three sides. Hanzo took up a defensive position near the damaged section of the south wall, Althea was on scouting duty from high above the keep, and Ping, Balasar, and Hazarak covered the the north and east walls. When the slivers burst forth from the ground, the keep’s defensive forces were ready.

The groups easily wore down the sliver hordes, who were both caught up in the minefields, and later locked down by the lightning bolts from the tower mages. Althea, after scouting around the keep for a couple of minutes and determining that there was no immediate threat incoming, landed and joined the battle. She sacrificed her squad’s safety to trigger a lightning bolt that had a couple of sliver hordes pinned, and was rewarded by a lucky lightning strike that missed her group entirely and hit only the slivers. Hanzo set up an impenetrable defense near the weakened southern wall, and the slivers that were unfortunate enough to challenge his group were butchered mercilessly.

On the northern front, Hazarak and Balasar were caught in a blast from a psionic sliver-led horde, which momentarily dazed them. Once they shook it off, Ping came up from behind them and provided covering fire while they maneuvered around the horde, picking it apart and eventually destroying it. Ping then ran along the north wall and moved to assist Althea’s efforts on the slivers there.

Eventually, there was a lull in the battle in spots, and Balasar and Hazarak managed to get some rest time in. This rest proved to be short-lived, however, as another wave took everyone completely by surprise. After the battle had been raging for a total of 17 minutes, flying sliver drone-led hordes, along with more psionic and pestilent sliver hordes tunneling in on the outside and flying in from the top. The first attack by the drones riddled Orriana’s body with acidic spikes, killing her instantly and taking out a group of acolytes that were in Oligar’s tower. Oligar and Urgarr miraculously managed to avoid volley after volley of acid spikes, and after making one last desperate attack against the forces massed outside, abandoned the towers, taking the survivors with them.

Seeing that they were outnumbered and about to be quickly overrun, Balasar relayed an order to all the squad leaders, which was repeated to everyone on the battlefield: Retreat to the inside of the keep, and take up a defensible position inside the kitchen. The civilians inside ignored this at first, and unbarred the gates, which let Balasar, Hazarak, Ping, and Hanzo in. Balasar roared for everyone to get back into the keep or face his wrath, which they did, and Hazarak and Ping reasoned and cajoled more calmly for them to get into the kitchen, as it was their last hope. Eventually, the four squads organized the civilians into teams and herded them into the keep.

Meanwhile, Althea had managed to teleport to the walls and assisted J’tal in attacking the slivers on the outside. Eventually, J’tal placed one of her troops into the north catapult and ordered her to fire on the mass of slivers that was gathering about 100’ from the north wall. Her orders had a decent effect, and managed to take out tens of slivers and bullettes. Althea, seeing nothing more that she could do here, headed into the keep to look for Duke Windsor.

After Oligar and Urgarr managed to retreat from the towers, they met up with a group of civilians that were semiorganized into a fighting force, and these people were holding back the slivers in a hallway inside the duke’s manor. Most of the slivers seemed to be more intent on digging a hole in a section of rock than fighting off the humanoids, however. All at once, every sliver inside and outside the keep screamed and froze up, allowing the two mages and their new squads to pass and flee downstairs towards the kitchen.

Later, after the manor had been cleared out of humanoids, Ping arrived at the door and witnessed the carnage left behind by the slivers: walls and furniture melted, twisted bodies of dead servants lying everywhere, broken up by a few dead slivers. Althea arrived immediately afterward and beheld a disheartening sight: the mangled corpse of their employer, Duke Lars Windsor. With this news, the groups led by both adventurers retreated towards the kitchen.

Up on the roof, J’tal bore witness to the evacuation of the sliver horde from Feyshadow Keep. The drone-lead hordes flew from the tops of the towers towards the remainder of the horde north of the keep, who then sprouted wings and flew north, to parts unknown. Bewildered, J’tal and her handful of daughters of Sune stood staring at the retreating slivers, then collected themselves and went inside the keep.

Next session: Securing the hive entrances.

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Session notes for 6/7/10

So this is the end of the battle at Feyshadow Keep. As I mentioned to some of you, this battle set the baseline for how long you have to find and kill the sliver queen. At the beginning of next session, the timer starts, with all units just arriving at their appointed entrances into the hive. Below are some highlights from the battle, by turn. Keep in mind that these turns are in whole minutes, not standard tactical 6-second turns.

  • Turn 1: First sliver wave. Althea spots the second wave about 10 minutes out.
  • Turn 5: Most of the sliver hordes are defeated. Urgarr, Oligar, and Orriana take a short rest.
  • Turn 10: Second wave arrives, consisting of single manipulator slivers.
  • Turn 12: Main body of second wave arrives, consisting of zombie, spined, manipulator, and horned slivers, and bullettes, led by psionic and pestilent slivers.
  • Turn 16: Most of second wave, except for a few hordes on the south side, are destroyed.
  • Turn 17: Main body of third wave takes the keep by surprise, burrowing to the walls on the outside and flying in to attack the mages from above the towers. Orriana killed by an acid spike volley.
  • Turn 18: Balasar calls a retreat into the keep kitchen. The slivers kill some civilians.
  • Turn 20: Everyone except the mages, Althea, and Ping are inside the kitchen. The slivers continue their rampage, but are stopped inexplicably and stunned for a round.
  • Turn 22: J’tal witnesses all the slivers flying out of the top of the towers and joining up with their northern forces, then flying north.

In other news, remember that we won’t be playing next week (the 14th of June) because I’ll be out. Due to other obligations, Mike, Chris, and Mac will no longer be gaming with us, and Ken will be out until the end of this month. That leaves us with a pool of 7 players, and the moratorium on new players is still on, so don’t invite anyone new. I think we have enough players to finish up the story arc and go into the first two levels of paragon.

Speaking of paragon, levels 11 and 12 will be reserved for character development, so if you have any background ideas for your character, please post them in your character bios on this site. I’ll check them and work on mini storylines for every character.

It was Chris’s last night with us, so I hope everyone said goodbye to him. He was a good player and will be missed.

Ok, see you in two weeks!

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5/31/10 session notes

If anyone has questions or issues with the current rules related to squad-based combat, let me know. I’m trying to streamline the rules as much as possible before next week.

I’m adding Roy to the player roster. He will be playing my characters or NPCs until a spot opens up for him, which I anticipate will be in about three weeks, when Chris leaves.

Keep updating your profiles with stats, background stories, pics, and wish lists! I like what Ken and Matt have done so far; go check out their characters for ideas.

Mike and Mac: if you check here, you both are in danger of being dropped for lack of attendance. It sucks, but you two aren’t contributing much to the group while you’re not here, and there are players that could be more active waiting to get into the group. Get back to me by the end of the story arc if you think you can make it more regularly (or not).

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Queen's Gambit Finale pt. 1 for 20100531 (Marpenoth 23-24)
The Last Stand

The entire senior membership (and a few new recruits) of Balasar’s Avengers assembled at Feyshadow Keep after Balasar and his group returned from Queen Morgan’s forest. When they arrived, the found that the situation was grim: thousands of slivers have been spotted headed towards the keep and milling around a large area in the northern Feyshadow forest. The keep will likely be under siege within 32 hours, with slivers pouring in from the forest itself and from the Marsh of Chelimber, to the west. It looked like the time for the final battle with the slivers had come.

The Avengers immediately began planning a two-part offensive and defensive strategy. Hanzo, with his genius-level intellect, took charge of the operation, with guidance from the rest of the group. The plan was as follows: Form small units, consisting of about 10 troops and a commander, and have several head up to the sites that the slivers were spotted at in the forest. These squads would take the rods of psychic agony and plant them inside the tunnels that the slivers were spotted in, then defend the entrances to said tunnels while a small team made up of senior members of the Avengers infiltrated the hive that was presumed to lie below, and hunted the sliver queen.

Meanwhile, a large bulk of the keeps defenders and allies, led by more of the Avengers, would stay behind to bolster the defenses of the keep. They would be aided by scouting reports from the sky via an aerial squad led by Althea, and magical support from the two mage towers of the keep, manned by Oligar, Urgarr, and the court mage Orriana. This group would need to hold the keep against the oncomming horde until the sliver queen could be dispatched by the attacking group.

Duke Windsor, the master of the keep, put all of the resources of the keep at the Avengers’ disposal, and Hanzo began planning out the logistics of the operation. He coordinated with the White Lotus acolytes, one of which set up a temporary portal back to the academy, to get much-needed ritual scrolls made. These rituals, chief among them the rituals of Shadow Steeds, Eagle’s Flight, and Arcane Circle, were needed to transport the raiding party to their destination, provide a scouting unit, and defend the front gate, respectively. Other rituals were commissioned to reinforce the keep’s gate against attack, and provide a way for Althea to keep everyone on the battlefield informed of the conditions in areas that they couldn’t see (Ironwwood and Battlefield Elocution). With the preparations made, Conan’s group headed north, towards the main hive, while Balasar’s group set up camps outside the walls to wait for the battle to begin.

At daybreak, the battle of Feyshadow Keep, part two began. The slivers showed up with a massive force: Seven hordes of mindrider slivers lead by sliver myrmidons, 6 hordes of mindriders lead by raidleaders, and 4 hordes lead by psionic slivers. The myrmidons hit the north wall hard, taking out huge chunks of it with their mighty talons. The defenders on the north side attempted to counter, making some attacks that made the hordes more angry than anything else. Oligar let loose with bolts of lightning and blasts of frost, which manage to trap the myrmidon-led hordes at the base of the north wall, stunning and freezing them in turns. This bought some time for Blaze, Balasar, and Ping’s (once he finally grew a backbone) squads to move in and begin taking apart the enemy’s northern front.

On the southern front, Hanzo and his squad of dwarven defenders and lotus acolytes held their ground inside of a massive arcane circle, tuned to keep fey creatures out. This confused the hordes, as they surrounded it and attempted to attack it, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Hanzo had his troops run in and out of the circle attacking the slivers that got too close to it, and J’tal maneuvered her squad around and blasted the hordes with orbs of acid. Orriana supported both this group and those on the east side with lightning and frost attacks from the tower, and Urgarr assisted the southern defenses by placing magical mines around the battlefield, surprising and stopping the oncoming slivers.

The eastern front saw action as well, with Ender laying into the slivers there solo at first, then supported by the cowardly Ping, whose troops wondered how he ever became a temporary officer. Althea saw that her troops would be of more use on the ground than scouting for now, so she landed and sent the eagles up into the air to stay out of the melee. Both her and Ender, with occasional support from Ping and J’tal, and magical support from Orriana in the tower and the catapults on the walls, managed to clear their side of slivers first. They then moved around to the north and south to support the efforts there.

The battle was fast and furious, but the keep’s defenders managed to defeat the first wave in seven minutes. This was so fast, in fact, that Oligar, Orriana, and Hanzo had enough time to take a little break, with Hanzo making noodles for his troops. There was no rest for the hardworking troops outside the wall, however, as the next wave is only three minutes out.

Next session: the hordes throw everything they have into their push into the keep.

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Queen's Gambit story update and game discussion for 5/24/10 (Marpenoth 17-22)
The Queen's Game

The day began with Althea and Hanzo awakening in the acorn room of the mushroom maze, refreshed and ready for whatever was to come. They gathered up Ping and Balasar and slipped them into the bodybag, then ran through the wooden gate between the two oak trunks that had sprouted from the giant acorn. As they ran through the gate, they heard a light female voice say, “Let’s play a game…”

When the group emerged on the other side, they found that they were standing on a hard, smooth surface which was divided into a 16×16 grid, with the outermost squares glowing with a white light. On those squares were situated a number of colored pawns, in the same colors as the elemental maws and gates from the mushroom maze. At the other end of the “room” stood three eladrin, a female and two males. The female introduced herself as Morgan, queen of this forest, and asked the group why they had entered her forest. Althea explained the situation regarding the slivers and said that they were sent to request her help, as some slivers were found disoriented outside of her forest. Morgan considered this, then said that she would lend her aid if the group would challenge her to a round of the Queen’s Game. They agreed, and the game began.

Morgan explained that the rules of the game were as follows: Each side has a monarch, who will wield their team’s respective weapon. The object of this game is to knock out the opposing team’s monarch. The pawns along the edge of the board move on their own, and are to be considered mobile terrain and obstacles. Wherever they stop, they will change the tile below them to their color, which will have various effects on whomever ends a movement or begins their turn on those tiles.

Althea immediately found that she had been chosen monarch temporarily for her team, as a blade named the Kingblade appeared in her hand. This blade was a +3 vorpal rapier with the added property of halving any damage that was not caused by it’s counterpart, which Morgan wielded, called the Save the Queen. Just before the game began, Ping did a combat roll out of the bodybag, squawked once, and looked around confusedly. Althea quickly told him that they were in a game who’s object was to defeat the opposing monarch, and pointed at Morgan. She also told him that they had to defend her, as defeating her was the other team’s way to win. Ping nodded and immediately ran away from Althea, cloaking himself in a cloud of darkness.

Althea swore at the cowardly Kenku, then ran towards him and hid in his cloud. Hanzo, who had been casting spells while Morgan and Althea were talking, began by moving an image of him covered in flame towards the queen’s judge, Bishop. The other image of him remained behind to guard him. His attack singed Bishop, who retreated and began firing spells off at the cloud. Rook, the queen’s guardian, ran directly into the cloud until he bumped into Althea, then swung at her. She parried his attack easily with the Kingblade, then set up for her own attack. Once she was in position, Balasar did a combat roll out of the bodybag, and the Kingblade appeared in his hand, marking him the team’s monarch, which brought a smile to Morgan’s lips.

Morgan assessed the board and found that both of her allies were busy going for the opposing queen, so she decided to take out the one target that she could see: Hanzo. Reaching out with her powers, she touched the revenant’s mind and bent him to her will. He then ran straight at his own image, which caused him to burn briefly, then he shot a magic missile at Balasar and ran out of mental energy, dispelling his own images.

The pawns began moving over the board, lighting up the squares below them, and in some cases occupying spaces with members of the Avengers. Balasar found this out firsthand, as Bishop whacked a yellow pawn, which sent it careening into him, causing him to bleed out and trip. He got up and shook it off, and was back in the fight.

One by one, the group found out what some of the pawns did. Red ones, and their squares would set you on fire for a while; yellow ones made one bleed and trip; white ones healed and blinded their victims, and purple ones caused psychic damage and teleported a held item elsewhere on the board. Both Nightblade and Morgan fell victim to this particular pawn, with the former losing his double sword to a stray pawn and the later losing her sword after someone knocked a pawn into her. Morgan was able to call to her sword and have it return to her hand, but Nightblade, being unconscious, was not.

Through the combined might of six of Balasar’s Avengers, the queen and her guardians fell. After losing, the bodies of the three fallen eladrin reformed at the end of the board that they started on, and all the pawns were cleared from the board. Morgan then threw two pouches to Althea, saying that these would help the group in the fight against the slivers. One was a bag of holding, which contained magical trinkets and some spare change (see comments for loot list), and the other was a normal sack that contained five Rods of Psychic Agony.

The group were expelled back into the forest’s prime material counterpart, in the clearing where they left the griffins. The group packed up and left on the griffins towards Feyshadow keep, where they were immediately greeted by the court mage, Orriana, and ushered into a meeting with the rest of the members of the guild and Duke Windsor. Plans began immediately for ending the sliver threat once and for all.

We will continue next week with part 1 of the Queen’s Gambit finale, the defense of Feyshadow keep and the deploying of the rods of psychic agony.

Game discussion:

For this session, everyone got 500 xp. I am assembling an item list for the loot, but do not have current wish lists for Ping, Balasar, and Nightblade. I’ll just give Chris something for Balasar, but I need lists from Mike and Frank by tomorrow, or you get random items. Matt, looks like your list needs updating out to lv 14; I only have items on here up to lv 9.

For the rest of this week, I’m going to be sending out info on the resources that the keep has to defend itself, and some of the goals you need to accomplish during the defense of the keep and the assault on the hive queen. If you get the chance, read/look over the material and think of some ways to accomplish your goals together, so that the planning phase of the next session doesn’t take too long.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100517 (Marpenoth 16)
The Mushroom Maze, pt. 2

The party contuned to explore the mushroom maze in this session. Three more people woke up and jumped out of the bodybag in this session: Nightblade, Hazarak, and Althea. All three headed out in different directions from the river room, and all three encountered the elemental maws and were hurt and teleported. Nightblade and Hazarak both tested out some of the maws by jumping into them, and ended up just falling into a hole. It seemed to take a while for the maws to realize that there was something to eat inside of them, but once they did, they wasted no time in chomping on the two warriors, and teleporting them all over the maze.

Meanwhile, Lady Tron had been inside of the hourglass room for at least 8 minutes, and hadn’t seen Urgarr fall out of the celing yet. It also seemed that the wait was too much for Ping, who was standing next to her, and he fainted. She finally decided that she had enough, and picked up the kenku’s limp body and ran off down the hallway, until she was stopped by one of the maws in her path.

After having been nommed by the maw, Hazarak was sent to a dark hallway occupied by yet another maw. He thought of running past it, then decided to climb the soft stalks of the mushrooms that made up the walls and go over it. He climbed up the wall about 15 feet and looked down at the maw below him, as he contemplated his next move…

Nightblade also got nommed by one of the maws, and was teleported into a long hallway filled with brambles up to about waist high. He immediately thought, hey, I could do that again, and jumped into the maw next to the spot he appeared from. The maw just sat there, with Nightblade inside of it, apparently contemplating what to do about this new intrusion…

Hazarak, possibly still under the influence of the sliver horde, heard a little voice in his head saying, “Poop in the maw! It’ll feel so good!” Unable to resist the urge, he moved his armor aside and released a load right into the maw on the floor, which promptly disappeared…

... and reappeared right above the hole that Nightblade just jumped into, landing on him and soiling his clothes and gear. Needless to say, he was most displeased, and he climbed out of the maw and began furiously washing himself off with the water from his everlasting rations. He then took off through the brambles, tearing his skin and clothes, and scraping some of the gnoll poop off of him in the process.

The maw that Hazarak had just defiled seemed to take offense at his actions, and began sliding up the side of the wall. It then tried to nom him, but missed. Hazarak then dropped to the ground and took off around the corner, with the maw in pursuit.

The rest of the group went about trying to figure out what to do with these maws. They were chased throughout the complex and nommed numerous times. Eventually, the maws began congregating in the giant maw room. Althea, who was there at the time, noticed that the yellow maws, which left bruises on the bodies of whomever the nommed, fused together and became some sort of standing gate. She immediately ran into it, and was teleported into a hallway only about 15 feet from the gate. She then ran back into the giant maw room to continue testing.

One by one, the maws were drawn to the giant maw room. When they got too close to each other, either nothing happened, they blew up, or, if they were of the same energy type, they fused together and formed a gate. The gates seemed to be linked to each other: psychic to physical, necrotic to radiant, fire to cold, and they chased anyone that came near them. If no one was near them, they started moving towards the gate that they were linked to. Hanzo and Hazarak noticed this, and devised a plan to lure the gates that were linked to the ones that had already chased them into the acorn room into the sky and river rooms. Hanzo took off towards the sky room, and Hazarak took off towards the slime floor room, which was on the way to the river room.

Once Hazarak reached the slime floor room, he saw that although no gates were following him (the psychic energy gate had already followed Hanzo, and the rest of them were harassing Althea in the acorn room), a radiant energy gate had formed near Balasar in the slime floor room. He quickly told their leader of the plan, and the two of them took off towards the river room.

Hanzo had lured the psychic energy gate into the sky room with minutes to spare before the sun was directly overhead. Now he just needed to figure out how to keep it there. Using his arcane knowledge, he guessed that using the opposite type of energy on the gate might have some effect on it. He then pulled out his katana and bashed the gate, which rooted it in place for a minute. He then relayed what he had learned through the gates to the rest of the party, who began working on rooting the rest of the gates in the acorn room. Nightblade anchored the necrotic gate with his radiant attacks, and Hazarak stumbled on the idea of rooting the physical gate by passing through it while attempting to use his bluetooth implant, which had been causing the whole party to have headaches and earbleeds when they tried to use it in this area. He ran through the radiant gate into the acorn room and through the physical gate there into the sky room, while using his implant. The plan worked, and he then went to help Nightblade and Balasar get the radiant gate into the river room, while leaving Althea to tend to the physical gate.

Eventually, through the party’s teamwork, the gates were all moved into place. The necrotic and radiant gates supplied water to the acorn, which had been buried by a bag of holding full of soil pulled by Hanzo from the hourglass room. The acorn then absorbed the sunlight that streamed in via the physical and psychic gates, and the acorn instantly grew into a giant oak tree with two trunks. Between the trunks stood a wooden gate. Wasting no time, Hazarak and Nightblade ran through the gate, where they heard a voice whisper to them, “Let’s play a game, tee hee!” The rest of the party rested outside the gate, while Hanzo watched a small patch of energy begin to slowly coalece near the base of the tree, where the maw had been when he was first teleported into the room.

Next session: The Queen’s Game.

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