Five Against The Void

 

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The Cage of Thorns, Introduction

Introduction to: The Cage of Thorns
a Realms of Edeos D&D 4E adventure for 3-6 PCs Level 7-10 (Heroic 3 tier) written by Andy Schiller
The Cage of Thorns: A Realms of Edeos Adventure
If you are playing a character in The Cage of Thorns, DO NOT READ THIS unless you want to spoil all the surprises, and take all the discovery out of your game.
Playtested at Total Escape Games, Broomfield, CO, June-August 2011.
Written by: Andy Schiller
Original Edeos Concept by: Josh Robillard and Andy Schiller
This game can be played in 4 sessions, with each ses- sion being 3-4 hours. It is a great way to introduce new party members to each other, and makes an excellent story seed for an ongoing campaign.
“Each of the four foes holds the key to the other’s demise.”

This adventure provides a great premise to start a new group, and to introduce the PCs to each other. It also provides a recurring theme that will take Level 1 characters nine more levels to complete.
Each PC spends the night at a different inn. In the morning, they all regain conciousness in a jail cell. Having never met each other, the PCs are forced to form an alliance. “Who teleported us here, and why?”. “How do we escape?”.
The party finds themselves in the lair of a quartet of ill-tempered outlaws: a disgraced knight, a necromancer, an assassin, and a shadow priest. The ‘four foes’ have plenty of minion guards. These four evil-doers are capturing unwitting travelers through teleportation as they sleep, and siphoning their essence into a “death gate”. When 1,000 souls are captured and stored, the outlaws intend to summon an other-planar being to do their bidding.
Of course, none of the brigands trusts each other. The shadow priest has a magic item that will immobilize the assassin, if the need arises. The assassin has a chisel that negates the wizard’s arcane spells, that he keeps hidden. The wizard has an instrument that stuns, then weakens the fighter, in case of confrontation. And the fighter has an item that will blind and silence the shadow priest, that he keeps on him at all times. If the PCs can learn this, they can use it to their advantage to take on the ‘four foes’ one at a time.
Inside the cell with the party is a skeleton. A brief search of the corpse reveals a diary. In this book, the deceased adventurer writes about being teleported into this jail cell numerous times, with his comrades. He describes escaping this dungeon by climbing through a pit of sand, and making plans to defeat “the 4 foes”. Of course, it doesn’t say how, except for some cryptic clues about a glass shattering ritual, and an harmonic hammer. The diary warns against “taking the southern corridor”, which resulted in losing his entire party. It also eludes to a giant cage, which he escapes by shrinking to the size of a mouse, and fitting between the bars. He talks about escaping a second time through a labyrinth of blades. After escaping, he was teleported into the jail cell again. On his third abduction, he escaped the jail cell by playing a ruse on the guards. In his wanderings through the dungeon, he came across a chasm filled with a river of molten lava. It does not say how he crossed it. Across the chasm he stumbled upon a huge, glowing glass cylander. It seemed to radiate dark magic. Perhaps his mind was just playing tricks on him, but the thought he saw the faces of his friends inside the jar.
The PCs can smell food as they sit in the jail cell. However, the guards do not bring the party nourishment. The party has no food, and keeps getting a -2 for each 8 hours spent without eating…

An Empress Betrayed, Episode 8 (Conclusion)

“Quickly! After the perpetrator! We will call a meeting of the council immidiately! Do not let the fiend escape! And be sure to bring her back alive!” The companions turn to chase the traitor. “Which way did she go?” Afton wonders aloud. Delsior groans. “That way,” he points. “Into the teleportation chamber…”

This week, we hear the stunning conclusion of this adventure. We start with the heroes witnessing the re-animation of the Empress. As she blinks and draws in her first breath, her eyes fix on Kaylee, the Elven Wizard. “It was YOU who threw that death ray spell at me! But you cannot kill me so easily, for I AM THE GODDESS MELORA! AND I HAVE COME IN TO THE WORLD OF MEN TO MEDDLE IN YOUR AFFAIRS!” And with that, a blinding light begins to shine from her body as she floats upward. “THIS LAND MUST BE RULED FAIRLY BY A COUNCIL, WHERE ALL RACES HAVE EQUAL VOICE! FAREWELL…” She continues floating up, growing more insubstantial. “DO NOT REVEAL THE SECRET THAT I WAS THE EMPRESS, OR FACE MY CURSE. AND DO NOT KILL MY ATTACKER, INSTEAD, MAKE HER SEE THE ERROR OF HER WAYS…” And with that, she disappears into the sky.

The heroes make a grab for the Elven Wizard. Poof. Kaylee blinks out and reappears on the other side of the room. She turns and runs into the teleportation chamber. The PCs persue, but the rest of the council stays. As the heroes enter the chamber with the magic circle, its glow is fading, as though someone just stepped through it. “Hurry! If we go now, we will be teleported to the same place that Kaylee went!” Afton cries.

“But where is that place? And is it safe? What if its on the other side of the world? How will we get back?” Valcora asks.

“Does it matter?” Delsior says, and steps onto the circle and disappears. Valcora and Afton follow.

The party finds themselves in a forest clearing. There, they see Kaylee, who is pulling a rusty box from the ground. She opens it, revealing three cards. “You’ll never catch me!” She cries. Tossing once of the cards onto the ground, she speaks words of magic. Six skeletons appear around her. She then turns to run.

The party rushes the skeletons. A lightning spell from Afton targets Kaylee, but the Wizard simply hold up her hand, and deflects the bolt onto one of her minions. It explodes. Delsior fires and arrow at the traitor. Again, she holds up her palm, and the arrow bounces toward one of the minions. (DM note: Kaylee has a power which allows her to deflect any incoming attack toward any adjacent ally, twice per encounter. She also casts Re-Animate on one of the slain minions.)

On the next turn, Kaylee summons and steps through a magic portal. The PCs make short work of the skeleton minions and follow her. Now they find themselves in a sewer. Across a river of sludge they see Kaylee, headed for another glowing portal. “Still after me? This should slow you down!” She tosses a second card to the ground, and two hellhounds appear. She then runs through the portal and escapes.

The party defeats the hellhounds from afar, not wanting to get close. They fire arrows and cast spells from their side of the river, keeping their distance. (DM note: the hounds have a charge ability that knocks an enemy prone, then they have an immediate reaction attack when an enemy tries to stand that knocks them prone again, then they have a damage bonus to attacks versus enemies who are prone!!!)

Now the PCs face the following decision. Take the time to find a bridge and walk around the river of sludge, or jump right in to in and head straight for the portal. The opt for the latter. Each PC that enters the sludge takes 5 points of acid damage. Valcora, with her plate mail armor, arrives at the portal one turn after Delsior and Afton.

In this third room, The PCs find Kaylee amid giant statues underground. She tosses her final card to the ground, and summons six giant leeches all around her. Then she uses a teleportation power that allows her to trade places with an enemy. That enemy is Afton. Now Afton is surrounded on all sides by six leeches, and Delsior is the only one who stands between Kaylee and her escape through the portal. Luckily, he hits with a spell and dazes her, giving the PCs another round to try to grab her. Just in time, Valcora steps through the portal. The ensuing battle is a long one. Afton gets bit several times and goes down to 5 Hit Points, but uses Delsior’s healing aura. She uses a close burst 1 power and kills most of the leeches in one shot. Delsior and Valcora keep pushing Kaylee away from the portal. And after everyone has used all their daily and encounter powers, Valcora finally Intimidates Kaylee into surrender. The entire party had about 15 Hit Points collectively by this point…

Join us next week as we meet one more time, and have a unique story twist as well as one more short battle to conclude this adventure! This will be the last time this group meets for the year, as life will get busy with a new baby coming. However, we may start this adventure in December from where we left off. There is still some unfinished business for the party. Will Afton accept an invitation to join the Council of Tenn, among all the distrust of Elves in the land? And will Valcora accept the position of First Lieutenant in General Guren’s Army? And will Delsior finally learn “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on his lute???

An Empress Betrayed, Episode 7

“I’m sending this mouse into the Citadel, to seek rumors and hearsay. Perhaps more can be learned about the comings and goings of the council members.” And with that, Afton lifted the tiny varmint to her lips and whispered into its ear. It began to wag its tail excitedly. She set it on the ground, and it immediately scurried down the hallway.

This week’s session starts with the party visiting with their hired scholars. The librarians provide the information that the ceremony involving two steps with the left foot refers to a crowning ceremony. Specifically, it is a rite of passage for the King of Sarpadia. Unfortunately, they also find out that this ceremony is happening tomarrow!

Ambassador Cedric meets with the group at the hideout. A knock can be heard at the door. Delsior opens it, and before him is the Brown Fox, who is hastily putting on his right glove. Just for an instant, the Satyr sees a signet ring with a rose emblem. The Brown Fox enters, and they discuss the clues so far.The party also gives the Brown Fox the needed gargoyle dust, and the Brown Fox says that he will begin the re-animation ritual on the Empress immidiately. It will take exactly 24 hours to complete…

The group travels through the magic circle and arrives early. After passing some Stealth checks (and Diplomacy for Valcora) the group manages to get “back stage”, and goes down a staircase to the basement of the grand hall. Here, they find ladders that take them inside the giant statues lining the parade grounds. Two of the statues have been trapped with mechanical devices. Upon inspecting them more closely, the party can tell that these machines are meant to trigger giant bows that will fire arrows directly at the throne. Unable to disarm them, the party waits in hiding.

Out of the darkness comes General Guren. His eyes are rolled back in his head, and he is walking very stiffly. The PCs manage to tackle him, and hold him down. For about 10 minutes he is completely unresponsive. A successful Arcana check reveals that he is being dominated. He soon comes around, and says that he can remember nothing. But he also reveals that his black out periods began when he started wearing a yellow pendant – a gift from Kaylee, the Elven Wizard. The heroes turn to each other in recognition of this final clue, and agree that Kaylee must indeed be the perpetrator.

The PCs emerge onto the parade grounds after the ceremony. The crowd is milling around and beginning to head for the exits. Each PC tries to follow one of the council members secretly, but all three fail their streetwise roll. The party regroups and heads back to the capitol, and walks to the citadel. At the entrance, they happen to run in to the Court Bard, Xonnith. Delsior notices the signet ring with the rose emblem on his right hand. “My, that is an attractive ring. Are there any others that are like that, or is it one of a kind?”

The Bard wrinkles his brow. “Well, there is only one like this. Why do you ask?”

“Because the Brown Fox wears a ring exactly like that. And since there is only one ring like that, you must be the Brown Fox.”Delsior says.

The Bard smiles, and looks to each of the companions in turn. “I am afraid you have discovered my secret identity. I trust that you will never reveal this information to anyone…”

And with that, the party enters the throne room, to see a magical light coming from the statue of the Empress. Her skin turns from a rocky grey to rosy pink, and she tumbles to the floor unconcious. And then… DUN DUN DUUUUN! Next week, the conclusion…

An Empress Betrayed, Episode 6

A tiny, high pitched voice made Afton and Delsior turn. “Did you hear something?” the Satyr asked. Valcora turned. “I hear nothing. Focus on the battle at hand!”

A tiny mouse emerged from between two boulders, a miniature scroll fixed to its collar. “Hello? Hey You! Over here! I’ve got a message from Allbright for you…” Afton quickly whispered in the language of magic, and a ghostly mage hand coalesced out of thin air. It swooped up the tiny mouse and carried it to her. Stuffing the mouse into her pocket, the Elf unfurled the small scroll, which suddenly expanded to full size. She looked down at a letter from her mentor, a hand-drawn map of the magic circles criss-crossing the world, and a dozen rituals that Allbright gifted to her.

This week’s episode starts where we left off last time. The party has just defeated the Ooze, and has donned the magic items found in the treasure hoard. Now they explore the cavern, and uncover a dark staircase that descends into the darkness. Afton lights the end of her staff, shedding light on the dismal stairs. The light is warm, like a hearth fire, and lets off an almost inaudible hum. The party then passes a check to recall Allbright’s description of the stairs to the Cathedral. “I’m sure it’s this way…” Afton says, as the PCs head down the stairs.

Then more stairs. And more. Exhausted, the party is forced to pass an Endurance Check, or be forced to stop and rest. Valcora rolls a “1” and plops down on the stairs. “I can’t go any further!” Lose a healing surge, DragonBorn.

Then the heroes continue down the seemingly endless flight of stairs. Three more Endurance Checks later, every PC in the party has lost at least one healing surge. And Delsior goes down to ZERO surges. Seeing an orange glowing light ahead, the party is relieved as they approach the end of the stair. The PCs emerge into a huge cavern with rivers of molten lava. Ahead can be seen a dais, containing Gargoyles.

“There they are!” Afton spots them first. The party approaches cautiously, sneaking ahead. When they get up to the gargoyle statues, shimmering figures appear. These are the spirits of the creatures that have been turned to stone. They immediately attack the PCs. Valcora soon learns that her Holy Smite works wonders against creatures that are vulnerable to radiant damage. Her dragon breath wipes out several minions in one shot. Then she dazes the leader using her SpellScar ability. In the middle of the battle, the party sees a small mouse. This tiny creature is talking to them! It claims to have a message from Allbright. Afton sweeps up the mouse and puts it in her pocket as the battle continues.

The PCs make short work of the wights. As the last ghost sputters out like a candle in the wind, a soft “ting ting ting” can be heard. The party searches the floor for a metallic object, but fails to find anything. Pulling out the mouse, the heroes command it to look in all the crooks and crannies to find any small metal objects. It emerges five minutes later, a gold ring in it’s mouth. Valcora puts on the ring, and her eyes roll back in her head. Sweeping visions of the past roll through her mind, as the ring shows her its origins. It was made by the Cult of the Dragon Egg, a secretive group that believes that this planet is actually a huge dragon egg. They also believe that some day it will hatch, destroying the world. Members of the Cult attempt to usher in this new age in any way possible, viewing it as the beginning of the world, not the end.

As Valcora returns to her waking state, she finds that her shield arm feels more lithe. She swings her shield around, and VIOLA! she knows that as long as she wears the ring, she can use the Shield Bash power once per encounter.

After making short work of the monsters in this encounter, the heroes carefully gather the required Gargoyle Dust, and head for the exit. Since the Magic Circle that will take them back to Allbright’s castle is at the TOP of the staircase, the PCs figure that they will have to go all the way up the stairs. That means climbing back to where they were, PLUS going that much further as well. In no mood for more stairs, Afton flips through the Rituals gifted to her by Allbright. She finds one in particular that allows the party to travel at an increased rate. The heroes patiently wait a few hours for her to study and learn the ritual. Then she completes it, allowing the PCs to climb the entire staircase in an hour, without tiring.

At the top of the stairs, the party finds the top of a mountain that has been sheered off in a perfectly flat plane, by some divine force. Here awaits their magic circle. Stepping into it, they are instantly whisked back to Allbright’s house.

And there, the heroes see a table with a note addressed to them. This sits right next to the front door. Apparently, this is the only exit, because the rest of Allbright’s tower is surrounded by a glimmering magic shield. This must be protecting his belongings while he is away…

The group approaches the table. Afton picks up the note and reads it aloud. “Dear Valcora, Afton, and Delsior, please place the jar on the table, and speak aloud its contents. Your reward will appear. Thanks. Allbright.” After reading the note, they pull out the jar given to them by Allbright. Setting it on the table, the group intones the words “Gargoyle Dust”, and 500gp magically solidifies in front of them. Just when the party is divvying up the loot, there is a knock at the door. “Allbright, are you home?” speaks a male voice from the other side of the closed door. The party elects to hold perfectly still, until the guest goes away.

Back at the hideout, the heroes meet with the scholars that were hired to look up information at the library. One scholar found that the General of the Army is indeed the next in line to the throne. If something were to happen to him, then the council would elect one of its own members to rule. The party also finds out that the feather is Elven (again). And, they find that the godess Melora has been known to take human form, and intercede in the affairs of mortals, in order to defeat evil.

The party is much closer than they think to uncovering the mystery. Won’t you tune in to next week’s Episode: Unmasking the Brown Fox…

5th Edition???

Everyone is buzzing about the possibilities of 5th edition. What’s it going to be like? Well, this old school gamer has one single suggestion, and only one.

Gone are the days when a newcomer to the game can pick up a blank character sheet and a pencil and literally “draw up” a character. Playing 4th edition means using the computerized character builder. No one plays from a character sheet they’ve filled out with a pencil.

Oh, the goblin chieftan took your armor and magic sword? What’s your armor class now? What’s your bonus to attack? Hang on, let me log in to Wizards.com. Uncheck a few boxes. Hit preview. Now I’ve got it!

If you need a computer to play the basic game, it is a huge, gaping flaw in the mechanics. Yes, I understand that having that convenience makes it easier and faster sometimes, but we’ve gone beyond that into RELYING on the computer generated sheets to play. Many DMs at Wednesday night encounters I’ve been to won’t let you play UNLESS you have a printout from the online character builder.

My suggestion is this: make the game mechanics and character sheet simple enough to let any player with a pencil create their character on paper AGAIN, and play the game without the use of the online aids, if they choose to do so…

Oh, and I almost forgot. Where along the line did role playing get removed from this role playing game?