Chains Unbound

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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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100511 (Marpenoth 15-16)
The Mushroom Maze

After leaving Ormus’s tomb/college, the group headed north, towards the forest maze where a fey queen named Morgan lived. On their first flyover of the forest, they noticed some slivers wandering around aimlessly near the edge of the forest line, but decided to scout inside the forest first. They passed over the forest, which looked fairly normal, if exceptionally vibrant for a forest in the middle of winter. They also noticed that this forest still had its wildlife, which was a stark contrast to the Feyshadow forest, where the slivers had eaten every living thing larger than a bug. Hanzo and Ping, the only two conscious members of the party, landed the griffins in a clearing and walked towards the heart of the forest.

After a three hour walk, they reached what they estimated to be the center of the forest. It seemed even more vibrant and full of life than the rest of the forest, and Hanzo decided to extend his arcane senses to see if he could figure out why. He found that the wall between this world and the Feywild is thin in this entire forest, and in the heart of the forest in particular. Both of them decided to look for an entrance into the Feywild, and determined that an entrance would likely be to the south. Off they wandered to the southern border of the forest.

At dusk, the two adventurers made it to the forest’s border, where they saw the slivers that they had seen from the air earlier. Feeling brave, first Hanzo, then Ping stepped out. The slivers wandered around, and some of them wandered up to the pair and looked at them confusedly. Suddenly, Hanzo’s white raven familiar alerted him that there was a second group of slivers headed towards them, so the two immediately readied themselves for battle.

The sliver group near the forest was made up of sliver types that the group had already seen: psionic, raidleader, spined, flamewrought, and manipulator slivers. The new one, a large, winged creature, was not any of those types. Wherever it went, the slivers that had been stumbling around in a fugue suddenly shook off their stupor and began attacking with renewed purpose. Fortunately, the rest of the group woke up and spilled out of the bodybag. The non-idiot slivers moved in, but were stopped temporarily by Hanzo’s shadow web. One by one, the slivers moved in to kill the group, but they couldn’t shake off their fugue fast enough, and the party made quick work of them.

After the battle, the group took a nap. During the rest, Hanzo spiderclimbed up a few trees that were not within the forest proper, and found that these trees were both enchanted, but he could not identify the source of the magic or what its effects were. Eventually, the party rested up and, with some apprehension, headed into the treeline…

... and found themselves in an odd cavern, where the walls and ceiling were made of huge, thick mushrooms. The way that the group came through was also gone, forcing everyone to move forward and explore their new surroundings. The hallway initially split off to the left and right, so the party split up and looked in both directions. To the left was a room that stank of rotting meat and was populated by four human-sized mushrooms with teeth and long tentacles. The group that explored this side decided that they would leave this passage alone for a while and joined the other group, who had found a room that was like the inside of an hourglass, with rich soil falling from an indeterminate height, and forming a whirlpool in a depression in the ground. Ping wanted to check something, so he picked a mushroom cap from the ground and threw it into the pool of soil. Two minutes later, he saw it falling in the column of dirt that came from above.

J’tal also explored this room, and was ambushed by a hole in the ground that suddenly grew teeth and bit her. She managed to dodge it and escape to the other side of the hole, but the next person that got near it was not so lucky. Hanzo walked up to the hole and it nommed him in a flash of purple light, then he disappeared. When J’tal later moved, the hole, now a toothy maw, slid along the ground and followed her.

What followed was a lot of experimentation. In the hourglass room, Urgarr jumped into the dirt and reappeared four minutes later in the carnivorous fungi room. The party was nommed by the various maws that the found in the complex, and teleported to random rooms. J’tal found a room with a huge toothy maw in the center of it, 9 times the size of the other ones that were encountered, and it grabbed her with its tongue and nommed her, doing cold, fire, necrotic, radiant, physical, and psychic damage. She was also teleported away after this. Hanzo was the next one to find this room and took a running dive into its maw, taking the same damage and being teleported.

While exploring, the group came across many strange rooms. One was filled with briars, except for a patch in the center of the room. Another had a river that seemed to begin and end at two black holes. Others were covered in slimy mold, or open to the sky, or had puffball mushrooms growing on the floor. One room, which Hanzo found himself teleported into, had a giant acorn rooted to the ground, with a small, sickly looking sprout sticking out of the top of it. He shot a few magic missiles at it, and ripped a chunk out of the side of the acorn, but couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.

After all this experimentation and exploration, the group now knows the following: the maws do at least psychic or fire damage, except for the large one, as mentioned above. They will teleport you somewhere else within the complex if they bite you. There is some sort of portal at the bottom of the dirt vortex in the hourglass room that has the same effect as being bitten by a maw, but without the damage. And this place is made entirely out of fungus.

Next week, we will continue with the exploration of the fungus complex.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100503 (Marpenoth 14-15)
The Hall of Fallen Heroes

We rejoined Balasar’s party just as they were about to challenge the final part of the legendary bard Ormus’s test: a battle with the statues of the fallen heroes in the college’s statuary room. The statues moved stiffly but packed a mighty punch, as they knocked back anyone unlucky enough to be hit by their attacks. Urrgar and Nightblade both moved in and started pummeling the statues, but quickly found that their energy-based attacks were either harmlessly dispersed upon connecting with the statues, or simply passed around them. Althea and Balasar fared no better with their rapier and shield attacks, as they only managed to knock some dust off of the statues. If the group couldn’t figure out how to defeat or bypass these statues, they would soon be smashed into a pasty mush.

Hanzo began looking for a way to defeat them, based on his arcane knowledge and keen insight. He realized that these statues were probably simulacra of the heroes that they resembled, and that the common theme between all of the statues was that each hero had a fatal flaw which eventually lead to their downfall. He quickly shouted this out, and Althea and Balasar bit on it. Using clues that they had gained from browsing the library, they identified the statue nearest to them as Kvesh Iron-Talon, a Tiefling warlord of great reknown that hailed from the Creel-controlled ruins of Guecumar. He led his tribe to great glory, but was corrupted by the influence of the Abyss and eventually betrayed his own tribe, earning him the nickname Kvesh the Fallen. Balasar realized that this moniker, when inscribed on his single prominent horn, would weaken him. He and Althea eventually managed to knock the statue down and Althea wrote “Fallen” in Supernal on his horn, causing the staute to shrink and turn into a hide armored warrior.

So it went with the other fallen hero statues: Cludda of the Underdark, Tefali, Loktar Dual-Fang, Tevin the Skulk, and Graxis the Elemental Blade. One by one, the party recalled the stories about their lives and how they fell, and used the knowledge to figure out what word, in what language, and scribed in what location on the statue, would cause the statues to become vulnerable. Once the statues cast off their stony forms and became more human-like simulacra, the party brought all of their considerable battle talents to bear, and the simulacra began to fall. The first to fall was Tevin, destroyed while attempting to run for cover behind one of the other statues by a magic missile in the back from Urrgar. Once the attack landed, blood sprayed out from Tevin, soaking his clothes and the ground around him, then his eyes went completely white, with no pupils or any sign of life in them. He began walking towards the stairs, then up them to the conservatory. Nightblade, sensing an easy target, dropped a powerful light-based attack on Tevin, which passed through him harmlessly. Hanzo followed up by placing a wall of hellfire on both him and the statues of Tefali and Graxis, which did not faze them at all, but burned Nightblade, who was caught in the inferno. Nightblade continued to attack Tevin as he made his way to the conservatory, but finally gave up when he realized that the halfling simulacra posed no threat. Indeed, once he got to the conservatory, he picked up an instrument and began playing it.

The rest of the statues followed this pattern, of stone, then flesh, then music-playing ghost. In the end, the six fallen heroes became ghosts, and played a concert in the conservatory. The group realized after a while that they were listening to that which they had sought here, the Aria of Rebirth. They quickly made a note of the instruments played and strived to memorize the tune, then after four repetitions of the 10-minute aria, the ghostly heroes-cum-musicians vanished, and their statues reappeared in the statuary.

Convinced that they would forget the tune before returning to Kiniro, Nightblade got everyone except Althea to assist him in scouring the library for the sheet music for the aria. What they found instead was a diary detailing the building of the hero’s test that the group just finished. The notes, penned by Ormus himself, said that it is not enough to simply read the music, it must be felt and experienced. To that end, he designed the heroes’ test to pass on this song to a worthy group of heroes, so that they may experience it as it should be, and hopefully come away from the experience wiser and better able to face future trials. The group meditated on this overnight as they rested, and woke up on the morning of the 15th refreshed, and ready to tackle their next task: navigating the forest maze and negotiating with Morgan, the fey queen.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100427 (Marpenoth 21-22 and 14th)
Ella soothes the savage beast; a crystal golem; betrayal from within; Balasar's group reaches the great bard's tomb

We picked up the story with Conan’s party in the middle of the Marsh of Chelimber, facing down the black dragon Kazmonix. Ella managed to smooth over Kazmonix’s ruffled scales, and convince the dragon to not eat the entire party. The party then quickly left the scene of the battle and walked east, towards Feyshadow Forest. Eventually, it got late, and the group was forced to make camp in the middle of the swamp.

Asgard had the first watch shift, and as luck would have it, something odd approached the camp while he was on duty. A large golem-like creature made of crystal approached the group, and began a conversation with Asgard. He immediately asked the creature what, if any, god or gods it worshiped. This began a 3-hour long conversation that lasted until Asgard passed out from exhaustion, which is the state that Ella found him in when she stepped back into the camp via the portal stone. She then relieved him on watch, while eying the strange creature warily.

The group woke up or came out of meditation the next morning, stiff and still weary. They found that resting in a damp, vermin-infested swamp in the middle of winter is less than ideal for restoring one’s powers. Conan gave the crystal golem a short interview and deemed it semi-worthy of traveling with the group, and so everyone trudged on through the swamp and eventually made it back to the keep.

At the keep, the group found that the sliver attacks had not let up since Balasar’s group had defeated that first massive sliver army. Sections of the walls lay in ruins, and many of the keep’s inhabitants were either dead or wounded. The guards, recognizing the mercenaries by the devices they wore in their ears, opened the gates and let the group in. They were first greeted by Duke Windsor, the keep’s lord, and then by the court mage Zamira. They learned that even with the reinforcements from the White Lotus academy, the slivers were still a grave threat. Not all hope was lost, however, as a group of 20 Dwarven warriors from Highrock Hold had just arrived shortly after the Avengers to reinforce the keep. The duke asked that Conan’s group stay and train the keep’s guards, as well as assist in repelling the slivers until Balasar’s group returns from the north with aid from Morgan, the fey queen of the forest maze.

Before the group retired for the evening, Zamira also had some words for them. She had a gash between the scales on the top of her head, and a swollen eye. She explained that another one of the court mages, Rhava, was spotted fleeing from the keep with a package in her hand after assaulting her. She warned that the characters should be on the lookout for her.

...

Balasar’s group left the White lotus academy on the morning of the 14th, riding their mixed group of mounts. After a day and a half of travel, the griffin riders spotted a barrow in the side of a hill at the northern edge of the Feyshadow forest. The group moved in to investigate… (this part is where Mac’s character came in through a portal. I may just edit it out when he brings in his actual character), and Althea opened the door, an ornately carved rose-colored marble creation, and peeked inside. The door led into a foyer lined with the same kind of stone that made up the door, with matching benches along the walls. At the other end of the room was a pair of statues, one of a human male, and the other of a tiefling female, both holding everburning torches. Hanzo figured out that these could be removed and placed into empty sconces along the walls of the other rooms and the staircase to ignite the other everburning torches in those areas.

Exploring further, the group found a library and conservatory. The library was stocked with history books and folios filled with sheet music. The books detailed the lives of many famous heroes throughout the ages, and were written in all the major languages of Toril. The music consisted of epic balads, tavern songs, and other miscellaneous musical works, but none had the segment of the Song of Eternity that Kiniro sent the group here to find. The group also looked into the conservatory, and found it stocked with many different types of musical instruments. It was at this point that Hanzo realized that this was a bardic college.

While the others gorged themselves on the books in the library, J’tal went downstairs, and found a statuary room. The statues in this room were also those of famous heroes, and all seemed to be glaring balefully at her. The walls in this area were also carved with scenes depicting the acts that made these people famous. J’tal went to get the rest of the group, and when they all arrived, the statues all spoke in unison, demanding to know who sought out the resting place of Ormus the Polyglot. The characters identified themselves and the statues then demanded that they prove that they were worthy. The first test was a bardic challenge, which (Mac) was barely able to pass by playing an instrument and singing an epic ballad in the conservatory. With this test passed, the group was then challenged to prove that they had what it takes to be heroes. The statues groaned and began to move from their pedestals…

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