Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alligator Staffs and Shadow Pterodactyls - guest post

A while back I posted about the weekly email one of the players in my 4e group sends out after the session; he usually puts a brief recap in the email and puts out the next date for group confirmation.  I have to post this weeks email - it picks up right where my last post left off, and Mike does a great job of describing all the crazy twists that happened last session.  So I will sign off here and let Mike (Tilia's player in my 4e group) take it away - Carl

Heya all!

Wow...what a session!

So, it all starts with us sitting around deciding on what to do? After a lot of debating over island, other cities, inventing things, we manage to make our air ship a hover ship with some of the rituals we learned from the golden flying shield Antillia received. We also managed to mount some of the insect leg rail cannons we created on the sides. Then we used a huge chunk of battery meteorite metal and attached lightning rods to charge it in the upcoming storm! Shortly after that we headed out to meet the Song People who supposedly know a lot about the island we need to head to. Tit'sua told us that it was their spirits that inhabit the island and keep the Fierce People away. Talking with these people is our number one priority, because they are also responsible for some of the celestial magic. However, on the way to them we ran into a patch of forest where the trees appeared dead and they had huge burls growing in the middle of them. The only remnants of life were three shadow peacocks, which we appropriately dubbed "Shadow-Cocks" and some grass shoots that came up out of the ground when we touched down. ‘Tillia, being the ever curious botanist, decided to touch one of the shoots and try communicating with it. (Rolling a Nat 20) She was sucked in to the Shadow World, inside one of the burls, and found out that the plants in the area had all their roots in the shadow world, twined together into those huge burls in the trees. Amazed she began to examine them and found out the burls were the control center for all the plants in the area. She immediately stopped the shoots of grass from growing, as they apparently grew into creatures that would attack the party.

While messing around in the shadow world however, Antillia began to feel a presence. It was trying to shunt her out of the shadow, how rude! It turned out to be an old looking man with an alligator staff. He apparently owned this section of trees and was offended someone was “trespassing” into his creations in the shadow world. So, ‘Tillia used one of the dark nuts to unleash a Bor along the line he was trying to force her out with and attempted to use the nut to suck him in, kind of like a trap. The party had begun to wonder where ‘Tillia had gone, so Bob touched one of the shoots of plant and began to work on making a psychic link with her. She got it and everything he thought to her was SUPER fast. ‘Tillia’s return responses were incredibly slow, this gave us an idea that time moved different in the Shadow World. ‘Tillia had thought herself gone only 12 seconds, but it had been 10 minutes on the real world. This gave us excellent insight to the time changes and also let the party know ‘Tillia was ok. She was then pushed out of the Shadow World and realized our loveable Chmee had set the nearby trees on fire. She looked around the burl and noticed all these crazy plants growing up into it, so she harvested some. (The coolest description being the corn, with each kernel being a face in either extreme agony or pleasure, twitching like a Hellraiser movie) She then harvested as much as she could, coerced one of the Shadow-cocks (with Beautiful Bob’s telepathic help) into being her friend so she could jump down onto it and ride it away. Meanwhile, Bob and Hammer rocked the other two Shadow-cocks and Hammer managed to harvest their feathers. ‘Tillia put out the fire with her ice form and we all quickly hopped onto the air ship with out new shadow-cock pet. I told them of the old man and we all decided we should confront him, so we turned the ship in order to do so…and WHAM! He was coming straight for us! Slightly worried we moved towards him in a calm pace, Hammer and Chmee sighting him in with rail cannons as soon as he was in range. It turns out he was riding a mind-controlled shadow-pterodactyl. After Chmee and Hammer let loose with a mighty blast, he leaped off the beast and began using his staff to fly around us, attempting to flank us with the pterodactyl.

Whew…what a fight it was! Chmee (having fallen asleep) was down and out. The pterodactyl was destroying us from one side and the old man was on the ship doing crazy knife fighter maneuvers. He took Hammer and Bob to extremely low health (actually knocking Hammer unconscious at one point) and his staff dominated ‘Tillia for a few rounds and made her pop her Kariki’Kalos horn bubble that she was flying with. She plummeted and the old man managed to continue tearing up our crew, but Hammer lit into him with some mighty swings of his electric charged axe and had him running. Bob had used his coercive strikes to keep the pterodactyl chewing on it’s master. It turns out the old man’s dagger was draining life, so thankfully we got Hammer back to his feet before the old man could suck out his soul. With one mighty swing, Hammer got the old man fleeing for his life. He leaped over the edge onto the staff…at which point ‘Tillia had used her golden shield to keep herself from making a new indent into the earth and flew up within range of the air ship to blast her Kariki’Kalos horn’s call to battle effect. She did so and managed to stun and knock prone the staff, the pterodactyl(who fell onto the ship) and the old man. He saved just before hitting the ground and ‘Tillia dropper herself with the shield, trying to land on top of him. Even Hammer threw the unconscious pterodactyl down to try and hit him with no luck. He ate some of that wicked corn, turned into a little pig, and lunged at ‘Tillia with his evil dagger for one tooth. However, just before he reach ‘Tillia, Chmee’s player woke up…and sate those fateful words. “I fire the rail cannon at the pig. Nat 20.” And so…the pig took 110 damage and was burnt to a crisp before it could touch ‘Tillia. There was a huge release of tension and many relieved sighs let out, but ‘Tillia had a feeling something might be up so she grabbed his dagger and stabbed it into his chest, sucking out his soul before it could escape.

This being done, we all sat around and realized that…we may want to talk to this guy. The alligator staff flew off to get his wife, the pterodactyl was set free as a good friend, and let us know he HAD a wife for the staff to run to. We sat around with the soul sucking dagger, pondering how to bring the man back to life to chat with him and had a discussion on if he was REALLY evil and not just misunderstood. Also, there was talk of who shot first…us or him?

Well, we decided, in the end, to use the dagger as a focus for a raise dead and bring him back to life. So…awesome dagger in hand, was now pounds of residuum and a much weakened old man. We told him his staff had flown off to find his wife and he immediately freaked out…so…that is how the session ended. Us with weakened old man, answering questions, and suddenly being panicked when he learned his wife was on the way. If she’s tough enough to scare him….well…I’m shacking in my boots a little right now.

What did we learn?

The Shadow World time moves slower than real world time.
Alligator staves with giant white glowing spheres can dominate and ruin your life.
Air ships that can levitate are useful.
Falling hurts.
Shape-shifting were-pigs are deadly.
Wives of shape-shifting were-pigs are deadlier than their husbands.
When one of our healers is asleep, someone falls unconscious.
Rail guns are the new way to cook pork.
Knowing is half the battle, unfortunately, doing things right is the other half.

So….who’s on for the 4th of February?! Whew…that was a lot of writing and a damn good session last time. Let’s get some answers and gtfo before his wife goes crazy on us.

-Mike P.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Magical Circuitry pt. 1

I have been having a blast lately exploring how magic works in my 4e game with some very receptive players.  I touched on the foundations of a logical understanding of magic in this post a few weeks ago; last session, I introduced a new wrinkle to the subject - shadow transformations of magical energy.  The party had already figured out how to create magical "circuits" with organs that they harvested from the larval spawn of Kariki-Kalos (man, I really need to write a post about how the party accidentally freed Kariki-Kalos and started the end of days happening and all that...); if you point the energy-emitting "light organ" at the "dark organ", the dark organ converted the energy into invisible broadcast energy that could be used to power devices within range.  The two organs, when joined in this fashion to create a circuit, seemed to be capable of generating and broadcasting raw magical energy indefinitely.  As long as the light organ was within about five feet of the dark organ when it was first shined at the dark organ, the circuit would be established and the two organs would begin hovering in place.  As long as the circuit remained unbroken, the two organs moved as one and maintained the same relative position in relation to each other that they were in when the circuit was formed.  The party subsequently created some magical items that relied on this broadcast energy for power, most notably a magical propeller and air heater for the party's hot air balloon.

Last session, the party learned some much more sophisticated ways to create magical circuitry.  A tiny, very fast and very powerful magical monkey (tsoro-tsoro) that the party had rescued from certain death had been collecting spirit beetles (the most powerful single use "magical item" that I have introduced into my campaign, spirit beetles grant wondrous boons when eaten or powdered and smoked but are HIGHLY addictive) for the party in repayment.  The date had come for the party to collect on the debt, but the little tsoro-tsoro was not to be found at its sentient tree home when the party came a knockin'.  The tsoro-tsoro had left them a message with the tree though, regretting to say that he had been ordered to return to the cloud city with his entire spirit beetle stockpile; apparently the elder tsoro-tsoro sorcerers foresaw some calamity coming and were circling the wagons.  Only four spirit beetles had been left behind for the party, but this initial disappointment was soon forgotten when the tree revealed that another object had been left behind as well - a great curved golden shield, inset with an inward curving circular mirror at the top, in the center of which was a great faceted ruby.  The object, buried in the dirt beneath the forest floor for thousands of years, radiating magical energy, had caused this tree to become self-aware after hundreds of years of feeding on its energy through its roots.

The party set to examining the object, and soon were very confused by it.  It weighed far too much and was too tall to be useful as a shield in battle.  A strange tube like structure on the back seemed to indicate that the device could be mounted on something about the diameter of a telephone pole.  Two matched sets of small rubies and black pearls adorned the back of the tube, and an indented square with four circular depressions was set on the inside edge of the tube.  Two structures that seemed to be handles protruded out from the top of the tube to the edges of the shield, and upon grasping them, the party realized that the entire thing was flexible and could be twisted 45 degrees around the central tube (despite it being made of magically hardened gold).  Squeezing the handles caused a visible beam of light to emit from the large ruby in the mirror - this beam shifted slightly to fall on a startled squirrel in a tree, then tracked the squirrel as it ran for cover.  The party surmised that this was some sort of assisted aiming system, and soon verified that through further experimentation.

Tilia examined the object with her Goggles of Arcana (magical glasses she made from the small dark crystal lenses she found behind the eyes of the larval spawn of Kariki Kalos) and realized that a powerful U-shaped magical battery was inserted into the base of the tube and linked to the four small gems, and then to to the large ruby mounted in the mirror on the front of the shield.  Following the path the magical energy took from the battery, Tilia traced it first to the small rubies (two separate magical circuits, one on each side of the tube), then from the rubies to the dark pearls.  From there, the energy seemed to disappear and reappear in the large ruby; Tilia surmised that the black pearls must perform a similar function to the dark organs and broadcast power.

At first, no one was able to figure out what the four circular indentations on the inside of the tube were for - they each had a bunch of tiny raised dots on their bottom surface, which felt soft and organic.  When Tilia completed the ritual requirements to become a shabori of the fierce people a few sessions ago, she summoned a hekura to live inside her chest.  Her hekura was a nature spirit, and grants her the ability to speak with plants and animals (and take the better of two throws on Nature checks).  Tilia stuck her finger in one of the holes and instantly realized that the textured surface was some kind of mycelial structure.  Speaking with the tissue, she realized that it was a control interface with four separate "communication channels" running from the four indentations.  There was also a fungal "brain" node that seemed to contain a basic physics engine.  The purpose of the mycelial structure seemed to be to activate and control two separate functions of the large ruby; Tilia, after some difficulty in communicating with what was apparently an alien fungal species (which of course made the party think of the satellite footage they had seen while inside the energy ship under the hidden shrine of Tamoachan, when they saw mushrooms sprouting from a fallen meteor, then releasing spores which grew into yuan-ti!), determined that the object could be used both to shoot out a laser blast and to fly, and the propulsion for the flight seemed to be some kind of force ray emitted from the ruby.

Tilia was confused by this, as the ruby itself did not seem to be working any differently when looked at through arcana goggles when in flight mode or when it was blasting lasers.  Tilia could observe nothing at all different in the way the magical energy from the battery was being routed and manipulated in the object on the way to the large ruby that would explain the differing effects.  But there was that gap in the circuit, where the energy disappeared after entering the black pearl and reappeared in the large ruby...  the party had initially assumed this was simply an energy broadcaster or repeater.  But when they attempted to observe the energy as it left the black pearl, they realized that unlike the invisible energy broadcast by the dark organ (which the party could observe by detecting magic), the party could not detect any energy leaving the pearl at all.

Whatever was causing the ruby to emit propulsion rays one moment and laser blasts the next must be happening in the unknown gap in the circuit.  Now thoroughly intrigued, Beautiful Bob cast a ritual that allowed him to see five images from the objects past.  After seeing snippets of its creation, its use in battle (the strange tube part fit over the anaconda like lower body of the yuan-ti) and the spectacularly destructive last few moments of its former owners life, the party had a few more insights into the yuan-ti artifact.  The party had observed yuan-ti scientists carefully using dark-crystal implements to weave shadow sigils over the dark pearls.  

Tilia got out some incense that (in addition to creating a long lasting euphoric and mildly sedated state) granted bonuses to Arcana and Religion and soon followed the magical energy into the spirit world.  Looking beyond the spirit world for the first time into the shadow world, Tilia realized that the energy was leaving the pearl and going into the shadow realm, where it traveled down one of two different paths before returning to the physical world in the ruby.  The shadow sigils traced by the yaun-ti artificers had laid down the path that the energy traveled on, and that path transformed the energy as well as transported it.

At that point the session broke down into a think tank, as the party rapidly grasped the promise of this shadow circuitry and started planning on what they were going to do with this new magical "technology".  But first they would have to get their hands on some more black pearls...
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