- Lyra Cinderfield - Human Staff of Defense Wizard
- Berylis Lindelenon - Elf Panther Shaman
- Unit 27 - Warforged Weapon Talent Fighter
- Rozzle - Elf Brutal Scoundrel Rogue
- Zeus - Dwarf Wrathful Invoker
The PCs began this session continuing their journey down the river, eventually coming to a small clearing that led into a very old and overgrown cemetery. As Nero had warned them, the party circles around the cemetery to find Midos' grave near the back. Rozzle and Berylis scout ahead to keep an eye out for danger. It's too bad they didn't have tremorsense; as they follow Nero's tracks skeletal hands burst out of the ground and knock Rozzle prone, as well as grabbing him. The party is soon beset by several more skeletons, two of which can hurl fire from range. Given the undead theme of this adventure, we'd really missed Zeus last session. Unfortunately, his dice were extremely cold tonight (actually, he was borrowing mine, and that's usually one of my hottest D20s), and he missed with his first 4 attacks. Disappointing to be sure. Ultimately we were able to protect Rozzle (who had only 2 surges remaining) really well, but at a huge cost to both Berylis and Zeus (Zeus used 4 surges in that combat, and Berylis ended up down to only 2 as well).
I continue to be impressed by the Shaman class (in the Heroic tier at least, Spirit Hunt and Twin Panthers end up being equivalent to optimized striker powers). I'm finally starting to get used to the "splash heal" style of Healing Spirit, which was really useful for healing up what little damage Rozzle took without dipping into his two remaining surges. Despite the fact that I don't normally like strikers, it's nice to have hefty damage in your back pocket, in addition to all of the fun positioning and control tactics that the spirit companion entails. My trend of "not feeling" the Wizard recently continued tonight (at least in combat; she proved invaluable OoC later). Missing with Charm of Misplaced Wrath sucks quite a bit, and it seems to happen quite a bit. My multi-target control power (Icy Rays) has been serviceable, but unless I blow a daily it's usually the most interesting thing I have to do. At-wills have tended to be underwhelming; I don't think I've used Beguiling Strands this whole level, and the best thing about Winged Horde has been its minion-sweeping utility (the Rogue is mobile enough to avoid OAs on his own most of the time). I'll be glad to get back to playing a Druid again, though I'm sure I'll pick Lyra back up at some time during this campaign.
Into the Tomb
The PCs find the gravestone they're looking for, and Unit 27 unceremoniously picks it up and tosses it aside to expose the tunnel. Berylis and Zeus notice that the tunnel was only dug within the last year or so. It opens into a hole in the floor, which leads into the tomb's interior. Lyra sends Helo, her Dragonling familiar, down to scout it out and make sure the room is safe (which it is). It's a large room with an altar at the center. The altar has a round well and a square well on it, with a round and square lantern on a nearby table. A glass sphere (actually, it's more oblong) hangs from the ceiling above the altar. Two pillars flank a sealed black door (which presumably is the front entrance that we were warned by Nero to avoid). The pillars do not reach the ceiling, and dials on them cause gas to emanate from the tops. Opposite the black door is a purple door with a symbol of the sun above it. On the remaining walls are a door each; one red, and one blue. After playing around with a pebble that had Light cast on it (carried around the sphere via Mage Hand) it became obvious that a light placed on the line between the glass sphere and either pillar caused a beam to focus on the sun symbol above the purple door. Since the PCs were warned to beware the blue door, they started with the red one. Behind it was a large room with a red flame burning on the opposite side. Being paranoid, Lyra simply used Mage Hand to carry the lantern across the room and sweep it into the flame. The lantern lit, and she placed it onto the pillar with the dial turned (focusing a red beam of light above the purple door). It turns out that by using Mage Hand and not entering the room, the party was able to avoid a combat encounter altogether. Sweet!
The blue door revealed a long (25 square) hallway, which was only 3 squares wide. The floor was made of extremely slippery tile, with a pattern of blue tiles winding back and forth across a matrix of red tiles. Lyra had her dragonling step on one of the red tiles, which triggered a dart trap (which missed the familiar, not that it would have mattered). Crossing the hall without triggering red tiles looked to be extremely difficult, as evidenced by the body lying near the opposite end (at which a blue flame burned). Though this flame was out of range for Mage Hand, Lyra simply cast the Familiar Mount ritual and flew across the hall on Helo (recovering the body, which turned out to be Nero). The heroes lit the blue flame which unlocked the purple door, and placed Nero's body in their bag of holding. Once they were finished here, they would give him a proper burial, including fare for the boatman.
The purple door revealed a simple room with a long, stone bridge across a subterranean creek. The bridge led to another door, which Lyra opened via Mage Hand and sent her (now large) Dragonling to scout out. Helo poked his head it to find 3 women sitting on a large bed, and a man that looked to be in his 30s reading a book at a desk. The man looked shocked to see Helo, who retreated. Lyra used Ghost Sound to imitate the sound of a large army crossing the bridge toward the room (succeeding her Bluff check to fool the occupants), and the party entered. The man seemed excited to see the PCs, exclaiming that it's not often that he receives visitors. When questioned about his diary, he explains that Emaf (the PC's current employer), Gibs (the adventurer-turned-zombie, Athos (the farmer whose daughter the party rescued earlier), and himself were once an adventuring party themselves. They discovered this very tomb, and within it woke the relic of a mysterious deity. They were each granted 1 wish. Emaf wished for fame and glory, which he was granted via knowledge of many ruins which he plundered for their artifacts. The deity, it turned out, was not benevolent, and turned each wish against its recipient. Emaf eventually looted all the ruins that he could find, and sought to once again find the tomb where they now stood. He had lost knowledge of it, however, and it had driven an insane obsession (which eventually led to his hiring of the party). Gibs just wanted to retire, settle down, and live a quiet life. He was given a nice house in Deadwood Falls, but he never specified that where he settled down would need to remain forever safe (obviously he paid his price for that). Athos wished for good health and longevity for his family. While his daughter reaped this award, he himself was killed.
When the party asked Viral what his wish was, he kept trying to evade the topic. They worked out that he was trapped down here (had a lot of time to read), and he let slip an implication that perhaps he sought immortality. The party asked why he couldn't just walk out, and whether the women were free to do so. When he finally admitted that it was the creek that kept him in his chamber, the PCs knew that they were dealing with a vampire. They suspected that he was feeding on the women, and so they kept questioning him without letting him know that they were on to him. He kept pressing them to stay, but they wanted time to regroup and think things over. They tried to let 27 (who has no blood for a vampire to feed off of) stall him with conversation while they went back into the hall to talk things over in private, but the door slammed shut. Two invisible creatures (Pale Reavers) materialized near it, and the party immediately rolled initiative.
The fight turned out to be fairly difficult, and quite appropriate for a final battle. After 1 initial attack the party focused their status effects on Viral (the most effective which was Zeus' Silent Malediction). The women turned out to be minion Pale Reavers who could take human form, and halfway through the battle more Pale Reaver reinforcements showed up. Berylis, Rozzle, and Zeus all had a fairly typical encounter, with all of them performing their roles admirably. Unit 27 and Lyra had a quirky fight. First of all, it should be mentioned that the Pale Reavers could drain healing surges, which was extremely dangerous for Rozzle and Berylis, who each had only 2 left. I was extremely surprised to learn halfway through the battle that Unit 27, in contrast, had TWELVE surges yet! It hadn't occurred to me before this, but he really wasn't suffering very many hits at all before this, and this encounter was no different. This was partially because he was being missed (there were many rounds where he dutifully protected Rozzle), but a lot of the time he was off on his own going toe-to-toe with a single enemy. I think that the player controlling him was more focused on running Rozzle overall, and he often just got somewhat forgotten. He was usually locking down minor enemies instead of the biggest, baddest target that a defender should be going after.
After suffering a nasty blow, Lyra took her second wind early on (round 2 I believe) and then activated Fire Shield. Her plan was to move away from the Pale Reaver that was causing her trouble, and park herself adjacent to one of the minions who happened to be backed into a corner. She was going to provoke an OA to deal Fire Shield damage to it, and after all why not? The Reaver was marked, she had her defense bonus from Second Wind, and she hadn't used Shield yet. Her effective AC was 29 (at level 6), without accounting for the Mark (so it was actually 31). Simply put, the Reaver could only hit her with a natural 20, and if it took a swing it would be sucking fire damage. Well, it took the swing and it made that crit, leaving Lyra with a scant 10 HP. Fortunately, the cornered minion tried attacking her, killing itself with Fire Shield damage (I think the DM felt sorry for Lyra's luck, lol). But the shenanigans didn't stop there. It was during this round that the Dark Reaver reinforcements arrived, and two set themselves up in a flank with Lyra. I dared the DM to set them up that way, knowing that I still had my second wind bonus (and Shield was unused). Before CA they could only hit me on a natural 20, and including CA into the equation doubled their odds (19-20 would be a hit). The DM rolled ANOTHER FRICKIN' TWENTY!!!!! Poor Lyra took 30 damage, while she only had 10 HP remaining. This was two away from her negative bloodied value of 22. Talk about a close call! Sucks that my "fire tank" strategy backfired so badly, but who expects 2 crits in a row after becoming nearly untouchable thanks to second wind + shield?
In any case, the party was mopping up by the time Lyra got an opportunity to act again. It was pretty late by this point, and we all decided to call it a night immediately after the fight without RPing the conclusion. We'll probably take care of that next session. Overall, it seemed like we were all running a little slow, and there were a lot of distractions (the cats and dog were being quite rambunctious). It was a fitting end to the adventure though; an unexpected plot twist (we figured Viral was dead, not undead) followed by a suitably challenging final encounter. I'll certainly remember Lyra's terrible luck for a good, long while after this.