It's been a while since I have done an update on the Silver Gull campaign, but it is still going strong at 34 sessions since late January.
After my players made a deal with a blue dragon to defend the Town of Orhan for a usurious fee, they decided to bail before the townsfolk really understood the deal. They took off in the Silver Gull and headed West towards the town where the campaign had begun.
While in the air, the players got to know the new crew members that their henchmen and hired. Among them was Linna, a new player character. Linna is a bard. I adapted the class at the players request from the Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy version. Liina was intended to be a replacement for Reine who has gone into semi-retirement as she's maxed her level.
During their flight, the airship was attacked by a group of harpies who threatened to lure crewman off of the ship to plummet to their dooms unless they were paid a sum of 3,000 gold pieces.
With a new mid-level bard in the party, the harpies' song was easy to overcome. They even managed to charm one and get it to land of the deck after they killed a couple of the harpies and forced the others to land due to damage from their artillery... A fire breathing Zardoz head mounted on the bow of the ship.
Finding the idea of harpies wanting gold suspect, the player characters interrogated The charmed harpy about why she wanted so much coin.
She replied that they were trying to save up to purchase an offering for the Night Queen, an ancient black dragon living in the underworld who has come up as a topic before in the campaign. The harpy went on to tell them that an evil magician lived in secret among the people of the nearby village of New Tarvaan. This magician holds court at a ruin outside of town and bargains with the forces of chaos, trading scrolls, potions, and minor magic items in return for the plunder local chaotic monsters have taken from their victims.
The crew of The Silver Gull made the harpy take them back to her nest, where they collected up the monsters' savings and planted several land mines for when her wounded sisters returned to the nest.
Docking at the airship tower in New Tarvaan, the players made arrangements to resupply the ship.
They spent a day and during themselves to the locals with tales of adventure from Finch and performances by Linna.
Once they were situated, they followed the harpies instructions to find the sorcerer's midnight court. Using invisibility potions they positioned Reine to slay the sorcerer if things got out of hand.
Rather than arresting the sorcerer, they asked to buy some magic items and inquired about where they could meet agents of The Night Queen. After some dickering and negotiation, they offered to buy the harpies' commissioned item, a zither that could cut flash with it harmonics, as well as a sculpture that howls when a lie is told the near it.
The PCS resolved to meet with The Night Queen and make an ally, or possibly infiltrate her organization to destroy it if it proves contrary to their goal of freeing the goddess Irielle and making a fortune on magical fruit that keeps people warm during the coming ice age.
Part of the bargain they made with the sorcerer included a trade in rare monster parts to cut down on the price. They agreed to collect the hearts of cockatrices known to lurk in a nearby marshy valley and the diamondoid fangs of a Guardian Naga as part of a trade for magic items.
|D&D Cockatrice CC0 "Lady of Hats"|
Frightening and scattering the beasts required the players to head deeper into the marsh and closer to their nesting grounds.
Eventually, they found a mated pair and a flock of young (I am grateful that Swords & Wizardry contains templates for younger and particularly grizzled specimens.)
After two near death experiences, the players decide to get smart, and let Linna play her music to entrance all but one of the cockatrices, which they chased away. They then trussed up the hypnotized birds with slipknots so that as her song ended they were able to pull on some chords and suddenly have the beasts snared for quick and easy dispatch.
On the way in they found a petrified human body that had been eroded and covered in Moss. As they had long ago mastered recipe for a oil that simulates stone to flesh, they decided to de-petrify the body.
I ruled that several hundred years of erosion had become the equivalent of having most of his skin rubbed off, and so the man awoke screaming, but viable for healing.
Interviewing the man, they learned that he was a courier named Colmar, who had run a foul of the cockatrices a few hundred years earlier while taking a nap in the valley. They hired him as a crewman and expert on historical travel routes.
After a week of recuperation, meeting with the sorcerer to turn over the hearts, finding a buyer for the cockatrice feathers, and doing some historical research, the players decided to head to an ancient Temple where a Naga has repeatedly remained Guardian for several thousand years.
They also discovered having a Bard in the party capable of casting sure like wounds even once per day was a game changer. Up till this point in the campaign, they've had no spell casters. And while Reine's alchemy background allows her to make a weak healing potion, it is highly addictive in the Xen setting, and none of the players want their characters to become healing potion junkies.
The player characters headed to the Temple of the seven gods, one of a series of such temples made shortly after the Shen-maians conquered Cath bad and Borea and established their empire. It is dedicated to a Pantheon ruled over by the fiery bodhisattva who drove the imperial impulse, Maiur.
The front room of the temple was teeming with giant wasps. And the players very quickly angered the nest. It didn't take them long to figure out that the creatures were highly vulnerable to fire, as Zee had attached a flamethrower to her clockwork horror minion, and had a potion of fire breath she thought would be a useful weapon against the wasps.
The players explored the first chamber, a shrine to a goddess who opens the way, both gnostic wisdom and to fertility. They discovered a low passage hidden between her ankles that led to a ceremonial chamber for the offering of treasure. It was designed to be a terrifying, claustrophobic crawl into a pool where the supplicant would offer there gold before idols of this six deities of the pantheon, while ringed in statues of giant asps.
As the PCs explored to the temple, they discovered that this was a place where offerings of old gold coins would be melted down and re-minted into the first version of the imperial currency, then distributed to the community based on need and as rewards for service to the new empire.
Thanks to very thorough and well-described searching, Reine discovered a glyph hidden below some of the piles of treasure that matched faint glyphs on the foreheads of three stone snakes that served as the railings around the pool. The players guessed correctly that if they disturbed the treasure the snakes would de-petrify and attack.
They used their Alchemy Jug to produce enough nitric acid to melt the snakes before they disturbed the treasure. This allowed them to claim a magic ring, suit of magic plate mail, a couple of scrolls, a bowl of gems, and 6000 gold pieces. They quickly squirreled the gemstones and magic items on their persons, then stuffed the gold in a burlap sack and left it by the dungeon entrance.
The players then began a circuit of the dungeon. The upper floor was a ring with shrines. A stairwell to the undercroft was in the farthest chamber from the entrance
The first chamber they visited was a shrine to the god of disease, healing, the marshes of Shen-Maia, and vegetation. Several wasps that had fled the flame where lurking here. The players rooted them out amongst the vines using a faerie fire spell, then lit them up from a distance using a torch tied to a 10' pole.
The players continued their circuit, moving on to the shrine of an ancient Borean god of vengeance. Here a herd of skeletal horses and blessed fire war-hammers waited for those who needed to pledge vengeance.
Anyone who wrote thee name of an enemy on a strip of sacred paper in their own blood, and burned it at the idol's feet would be given use of an undead steed, a blessing to make them more deadly in combat, and a mask that once granted them special social privileges until their vengeance was complete.
The players decided that they did not want to meddle with much, a collected a record they found of the vengeances sworn here as an object of historical interest that might be valuable to local mobiles.
The fourth shrine was dedicated to Maiur, and thanks to the presence of a bard in the party, they were able to get some backgrounds on the Efreeti turned bodhisattva that founded the empire.
They decided to complete the circuit before going down the stairs into the undercroft.
The fifth shrine they visited was dedicated to the goddess of desert mirages, the moon, poetry, and women of Cathbadi ethnicity. This room had beautiful, hypnotic illusions in it that granted a blessing to those who stage to appreciate them, but also left the players vulnerable to wandering monsters. There was quite a debate over whether to finish appreciating the illusion or not.
The final shrine was dedicated to a god of artifice in the first of the Machinists who play an important role in Xennite culture. The players very wisely explored the shrine and discovered that the smithing hammer held by the deity was in fact trapped to bludgeon those who disturbed the altar. And that poison darts would rain from all directions on a defiler.
The players went about jamming up the trap using more description than die rolls. Once the traps were disabled, they collected the holy book on the altar. The Lost Book of Lead was one of two missing volumes from a series of 12 holy books of the god artifice. Quickly claimed by Zee, as it contains many lost schematics.
Satisfied that they had explored the upper Temple they headed down the stairs, where they were greeted with illusions suggesting that they were passing into the underworld, which they studiously ignored.
|Tibetan Dakini; CC-BY Jean-Pierre Dalbéra|
This battle was brutal. Most of the party was badly wounded. It was only thanks to Reine using precision explosives that they managed to escape with their lives.
Pressing on where they came to a junction and turned right to enter a chamber where an agent clockwork automaton turned prayer Wheels eternally to offer prayers to the forgotten gods of this temple. Beyond that, they came to a crucible where human beings could be baptized in holy fire too receive blessings. Given that the guardian of the temple had already demanded they leave, they decided not to risk stepping into a pool of holy fire.
Instead, they pressed on to the deep underground Fane to the nameless Buddha that enlightened Maiur, where thousands of minted, but never-circulated early imperial gold coins sat in a vast horde around the Naga's nest. The players had stealthy characters hang back, and The Bard Linna and charismatic fighter, Finch engage the creature in a battle of wits and theological discussion in order to distract it while the rest of the party took up positions.
Big Prayer Wheels by Christopher J. Fynn; CC-BY-SA 3.0
Once they were in position, and it was clear that the Guardian Naga would not give up its teeth in exchange for the players going on a holy mission, Finch shouted the go-word "Pineapples!" and attacked.
|Guardian Naga from the Pathfinder2e Bestiary|
The players used up every means of healing they had and then some. Several close shaves with save or die effects kept this battle extremely tense.
Eventually, the guardian Naga failed a morale check and surrendered. The players pulled its teeth and took the magic items in gemstones from its treasure hoard, saying they would be back for the coins.
After I missed a week because of the flu, we gathered together to finish the Temple of the seven gods. The players headed in the opposite direction they had explored before and discovered a vestry for the monks who wants maintained temple.
|Common Ragamoffyn from the D&D3e|
Monster Manual II; ©2002 Wizards of the Coast
From there, they headed to the living quarters of the monks, which is a room thoroughly infested with yellow mold. Had they not opened amongst foot locker with a 10-ft pole, it would have been very likely that they would have been poisoned by toxic spores. As it was, all but one character backed out of the room, as they burned all of the furniture and sifted the ashes for any treasures that might have been left.
Beyond that chamber was the workshop where new coins would be minted. Thanks to all the smoke in the air, it was easy for them to find a hidden chimney that took them back out to the surface. This may have saved them from a very nasty random encounter turning even nastier.
This is when rolling ahead can be very useful to do.
I had established that this dungeon was considered a 7th and 8th level location. And had rolled wandering monsters mid-week. I determined that a very old green dragon who spoke and could cast spells would be encountered by the party. Given that they had left a pile of gold at the entrance, it made sense that she would be plundering their treasure.
The players saw the dragon, who, thanks to an NPC reaction role was in a good mood as long as they didn't feel like demanding she leave their treasure alone, and parlayed with her.
The Dragon claimed their 6,000gp, but offered them information on the night queen that they were seeking. As well as some local history. Ultimately, the green dragon, Lothrin, Queen of Lies, demanded they do a job for her. She asked them to locate the sorcerer she had heard was in the area selling magic items to monsters, and arranged for him to meet her here at the ruins temple.
The player characters assented
I made a wide range of random rolls for what would happen next between the dragon and the Guardian Naga. I determined that the Guardian Naga could still cast spells, and grew itself new teeth by way of a cure wounds spell. The Naga remained hidden, spying on the dragon, as it could see all that went on in the temple.
After a day of rest and recuperation, it prepared slow poison and neutralize poison to effectively make it immune to the dragon's breath weapon, and positioned itself for the next time the dragon would visit the temple.
The ambush was very successful, and they their Guardian Naga was able to crush the green dragon to death in a few rounds of brutal combat.
Now the Guardian Naga prepares to deliver righteous wrath to the player characters. It has reanimated the dragon as an undead minion, and positioned itself for an ambush for when they return. It intends to make them a sacrifice to the god of vengeance....