Monday, April 8, 2019

Play Report: Return to Land's End - Sessions 6 & 7

Well, it's 8:30 PM in Edmonton and the sun is just about to set. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or "half the year" as we say around here) has wound down, it was +14 C and sunny this afternoon, Zakgate seems like a distant memory and the Oilers' season ended in ignominious defeat - just the way I like it. The calendar's nigredo is over, and as the heat increases we climb toward the red of summer.

The home games have been thin on the ground for a minute with the boys taking vacations, getting sick, visiting family, etc. We had some short sessions so far this year and I want to blog about how it's been going and what I'm doing right or wrong in my game. I hate to make promises but I'll have two more sessions' worth coming up soon. Work was quite slow for the last two weeks, leaving me plenty of time to brainstorm cool new shit which will also pop up here this year!



Vuk Thuul - 2nd level half-elf serpent oracle
Nahash - 2nd level lizardman barbarian
Leliana Vess - 2nd level witch

Newly minted to second level, egos boosted by doubling their hit points, the party returned to the jungles. Opting never again to visit the fungus-infested goblin cave and not as interested in the eastern swamplands as previously suggested, they instead bore east towards the "stone forest" on their map.

[Finally they failed a navigation check and veered off track, while I rolled a few hex encounters. The party doesn't get lost much because normally they stick to known landmarks, like the river. Smart move boys, but now you're in my house.]

[My tables still result in really infrequent encounters! I am rolling once per hex. Rereading the "Hexcrawling" series in the Alexandrian, I realize Justin rolls an encounter check once per four-hour 'watch.' That will spice things up! During these sessions, it was crowded if I rolled a single encounter on a three-day journey.]

The first odd location was a small clearing where the driving tropical rain slackened to a mild drizzle. At the center stood an ancient stone carved with mysterious letters. Boldly using Read Magic to interpret the runes, both Leliana's and Vuk Thuul's eyes rolled back and they collapsed into fits...

In the dream, I walk through a great darkened hall. Long-necked beings in voluminous robes work on strange constructions of metal and glass. Their purposes are known to me, but I don't have the words to explain them. The robed beings recognize me as one of them. One turns, and I see it's a green-skinned man with the head of a snake...

This bizarre dream or vision was ended by Nahash slapping the two awake, splashing them with rainwater. After a short rest the party moved on, wondering at this strange portent.

[Lots of significance, as we'll see shortly.]

Further to the southeast, the party ran straight into an encampment of wildmen, different from the last. Instead of wearing wolf pelts, they had inscrutable masks of alligator skin. Lucky for the group they were friendly and open to talking. Leliana was able to translate and along with a few gifts of metal weapons they were able to pump the warleader for information.

[Reaction rolls are one element I'm happy with. I gave the PCs a bonus because the Caiman tribe believes in helping out strangers (I rolled for this). My language rules are tricky but again it worked well. Leliana knows the Wild Speech, which shares a common root with the primitive tongues of the neanderthals, giving her +5 to communicate with them. Adding to her high INT bonus, it was a slam dunk. If she had failed hard we could have played charades I guess!]

The PCs spoke with the Caimans' leader Jeregosh long into the night and learned much about the jungles to the south. Stories of the black-robed men, skeletons, a giant castle, some barrow-mounds, a cursed pit, the forbidding white towers, the stone forest. His people were even aware of the ancient demons known as forvalaka. He said the Caimans were menaced by them generations ago, and almost nobody believes in them anymore.

In return, the party agreed to head west and find one of the Caiman womenfolk who went missing while looking for edible plants. She had been gone several days and things didn't look good.

Hunting for the missing Caiman woman took the team to the west, back towards the Barrier. They found her (with the help of Leliana's fox familiar) barely staving off starvation by stealing honey from the hive of some giant jungle bees! Unfortunately for her the honey also had hallucinogenic properties and she was rendered insensible. While rescuing her, they noticed a few giant bees floating around what looked like a large flower with humanlike plant-arms and -legs. What the heck?

[No encounters here, I wonder if the guys will ever come back and try to steal honey from the giant beehive? The hive itself is from d4 caltrops' 100 wilderness hexes, which fits perfectly because I already had giant bees on my encounter table. I took the orchidmen from False Machine, they're too good not to use in a jungle. They've never seen one before, random encounters have been so rare.]

With the party's successful return, Jeregosh declared a great feast! There were games, contests and feats of strength. Vuk Thuul competed in the wrestling event, and almost had the win but was pinned. Leliana (hopelessly) attempted the footrace, but was quickly outdistanced by the hunters. Nahash on the other hand dominated in the strength contest, lost at the javelin throw, and then put everyone under the table in the eating contest. The Caimans flavour their food with painfully hot jungle spices, making that part no picnic!

[I wanted to create some fun downtime events that might affect the tribe's views of the PCs. I feel that mechanically they weren't interesting and needed some more tactical elements. For all the annoying complexity of Pathfinder's grappling rules (I have to use flowcharts), they are terribly boring in isolation because there are no choices to be made. All the contests were basically I-roll-you-roll type affairs except for the feats of strength - highest STR wins. This wasn't very exciting. Next time I'd either gloss over it faster with one or two rolls, or spend a bit of time beforehand expanding the rules of the contests. Make the wrestling match more of a full combat and the like.]

For his victories in the contests, Nahash was presented with several of the silver finger rings that all the Caimans wear. Their significance wasn't exactly clear, but he accepted them graciously.

The team was interested in Jeregosh's tale of the forbidden white towers to the southwest. Apparently they were covered in strange carvings and runes as well. Could they be related to the standing stone that granted visions of snake-men? Vuk Thuul especially was determined to find out, in case they held clues to the unexplained origins of the brand on his face and the snake-powers he had been granted.

[Whadda YOU think?]

The next day with full stomachs and warm hearts despite the rain, they bid the Caimans farewell. A few hours' march brought them to a great clearing in the jungle with the white towers rising up ahead. Wonder of wonders: there wasn't a cloud in the sky here! The party relished the chance to get out of the rain and see the sun for the first time in almost two weeks.

Climbing over the ruined walls, they approached the towers. To Vuk Thuul's satisfaction, they were covered in the same runes and scribbles as the standing stone! Strangely, the taller tower was surrounded by dense plants and undergrowth while not a blade of grass grew around the shorter one. No doors presented themselves, but Nahash managed to get his rope up to an open window in the taller tower.

They climbed into a room crowded with dusty glass tanks. Eighteen in all (plus the shattered remains of a nineteenth), they each contained a creature preserved in cloudy, foul-smelling fluid. Human, dwarf, gnome, goblin, pig-man, gnoll, tsathar, lizardman and stranger creatures too - a massive humanoid pressing against the walls of its tank, an ape with green skin like a plant, a merman, an elf with cartoonishly exaggerated features, etc.

From upstairs a sickly mottled light shone, changing from green to purple to pink and back again. Downstairs led only into darkness. Hoisting his torch, Nahash led the group into the depths...

[I am really excited about this dungeon. Built by the snake-men millennia ago, the towers are filled with secrets, dangers and treasure from a long-lost culture. If he's lucky, Vuk Thuul might even find a clue about himself!!]


PS: Wow! 21 followers! 20 was my goal for last year, and now I can confidently declare that I've 'made it' in D&D blogland. Next stop kickstarter!

[I would never do that to you guys.]

PPS: Apologies, I am posting this from an unbelievable shit-box of a macbook at my girlfriend's house. No pictures and definitely no youtube videos. I'll link to some smokin hot tracks on my next post, don't worry.


  1. Thanks for the shout out about my Hexes :) I'm always excited to hear how they work out in other people's games!

    1. You bet! I have crammed tons of them into the forest regions, so more will come up soon enough I'm sure.