Tim's Run Notes: Madness in Freeport

This page collects the session summaries and other notes about my run of Madness in Freeport, which I posted on the Green Ronin forums from February to May 2002. (The original thread can be found in the forum archive at Ronin Army: https://roninarmy.com/gr-forum-archive/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=50)

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February 11, 2002

My group has *finally* started "Madness in Freeport," so here's the first installment of my run notes. First, a quick brief on the group before MiF: They're five 4th-level characters; at least one is likely to reach 5th partway through MiF (and I'll let them level between segments, 'coz they'll likely need it to survive). They consider Thuron/K'Stallo an ally, but are unsure of his motives beyond wanting to foil the Brotherhood. During TiF, they also made contact with Sister Gwendolyn and got the clue from her write-up in MiF at that time; going into MiF, she is the single other authority figure in town they trust.

I'm anticipating about one session for each of the four parts. (My GM style isn't the fastest, and they have been spent much of this trilogy confused and dithering.) Here's a quick synopsis of how Part One went yesterday (2/10/02):

The PCs have been anxious to find a way out to the lighthouse, but are uncertain yet what they can do about it. The invitations arrived and made them even more nervous--now they're sure Drac knows who they are, and soon everyone else in town will, too. After checking in with Thuron and Gwendolyn, they decided to go to the ball, meet the other Councilors, and see what more they could learn.

Soon after the PCs received their medals, Gwendolyn introduced them to Arnig, who wished to consult with the bookish cleric/wizard PC. They found a sitting room to talk, and the cleric soon realized the significance of the diagram the old gnome showed her. (While away from the crowds, she also used Detect Magic on her medal, just to make sure it wasn't enchanted. She had done the same with the invitations earlier. Drac has them very paranoid!)

The other PCs introduced themselves to some of the Councilors, finding a few (in both factions) who were sympathetic to their worries but who had little new knowledge to share. They did, however, learn from Fricke that no local artisans had been involved in work for the upper levels of the lighthouse, which expanded on part of Arnig's news about the crystal. (They suspect enough that most of the remaining clues were redundant anyway.)

Captain Brock approached them, as detailed in "Drac's Gambit." The cleric managed to cast Detect Thoughts before talking with him, so easily picked up on his insincerity but couldn't glean his real motives (beyond hoping they would fail spectacularly to kill Drac). The party expressed their doubts about doing anything to Drac here, and asked for time to think about it. Once Brock left, they decided it would be best to inform Thuron and Gwendolyn, and with their help, try to circulate Brock's news. They would concentrate on remaining quite visible for the rest of the ball, so that they could not be suspected if someone else tried to kill Drac tonight.

While they were still briefing the two priests, the prophet of Yig made his entrance. The cleric/wizard recognized the Jade Serpent reference from her recent lessons in Valossan with Thuron; the others merely recognized the rhyme as clues to a way to stop the Brotherhood. They readily agreed to meet Thuron at the temple; in fact, most of them followed him there immediately, comparing snatches of verse they could remember on the way. They made a point of letting none of their group leave the ball on their own. We ended there, at the close of Part One.

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Session #2 (2/24/02)

The party gathered at the temple, where after some time for a quick search, Thuron presented them with the diary of Black Dog, and his belief that the door described therein led to the resting place of the Jade Serpent. They received some help from Sister Gwendolyn, in the form of two Water Breathing scrolls. The party rogue used his information-gathering skill to find out more about Black Dog, and to locate his surviving crewman, Gareth. Following Gareth's directions, the party found Black Dog's Cave, and entered.

I'll confess to going a little easy on them in this part, because if they're going to die horrible deaths, I (and they) would rather it be later in the adventure. So, when the tojanida attacked, I allowed them to get to the beach within a couple of rounds (it also rolled miserably on the few attacks it made), and it didn't pursue due to the allip's presence. The cleric handily turned the allip (surprising us all, as she's flubbed most of those rolls to this point), and I decided that it would not immediately pursue after the turning wore off (even though they took its cursed sword with them). They will have to deal with it on the way back out, however; hopefully, they'll discern the fact that discarding the sword will allow them to avoid further attacks.

They systematically followed the circumference of the caverns, and found the beaches with the Sea God's font and the spike traps. They did not go ashore at either, because neither had the snake-covered door they sought. They do, however, intend to look for Black Dog's treasure on the way out, but that's a goal for after they acquire the Jade Serpent. (And if they fail to find it, they'll seek out the hoard in the hopes that it will give them something for their efforts, and a means to leave doomed Freeport behind to seek out a safer home.)

They found the snake door, the cleric translated the glyphs, and they soon deduced what the Test of Fangs involved. The party fighter tried first; he failed his Will and Reflex saves, but made his Fortitude saves, so took no poison damage. [New note for my errata/notes pages: No Fortitude save is given for this trap, but the poison used normally allows one--and it's vastly easier than the DC 20 Will and Reflex saves given for the pain and venom stream.] The cleric reluctantly tried next, and easily passed the test.

[The party's cleric is a perfect example of a bookish Mythos scholar--perfect loremaster material--and is taking every opportunity to learn about the Serpent People. She has been translating the books they took from the two cultist temples, and recently learned Valossan from Thuron after he revealed his true nature in TiF. If the PCs succeed in acquiring the Jade Serpent, she will almost certainly beg to carry and study it. Ditto if they find the Serpent Person egg. She might even welcome the changes that come from attuning oneself to the Jade Serpent (see Focus #7)--or at least not mind them overly much.]

The party entered the temple, and used the first Water Breathing scroll to pass through the water-filled floor. Before continuing on, they searched the room, and saw the amulet. They left it there--the rogue was paranoid about taking shiny objects after the allip encounter.

In the next level, they encountered Alisstar, and learned what they needed to bring him in order to receive the Jade Serpent. They guessed correctly that the amulet in the water room was one of the four items, and went to retrieve it. Once again, the rogue was attacked by something shadowy as soon as he took the treasure. The party's magic weapons (esp. the ranger's Ghost Touch sword) allowed them to handily defeat the shadow serpent.

They brought the amulet to Alisstar, and he suggested they keep it until they found the other items --it would bring them luck. They continued downstairs, and were attacked by four serpents upon opening the first door. Two PCs took Strength damage before they managed to defeat the monsters.

The session ended there, with them trying to determine how soon to turn back and rest. The party cleric has used most of her best spells (some of which have yet to expire), plus a few turning attempts. She gets to renew those at dusk, which is in just an hour or so. She'll need to prepare some Lesser Restorations then, to heal her companions' ability damage. (The PCs have not yet realized that getting drained to 0 Strength will kill them, because they're not that badly hurt yet.) She does, however, have several unused scrolls of Cure Light Wounds and a couple of Bull's Strength. [In addition, the ranger will level--just barely--as soon as they take a break to rest and reflect.]

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Session #3 (3/10/2002)

The stakes are getting higher, and the game is getting weirder!

The party continued to search the fourth level of the sunken temple. Some of them entered the prayer room with the Eyes of Yig, but made their Will saves, so warned the others not to come in. The Valossan-obsessed cleric grabbed the book, naturally.

The next room was the one with the wraith. They killed it, but 3 of the 5 PCs took Con drain. (Ouch!) Rather than continuing down the ramp, they searched the rest of the level.

They found the infirmary, and got the information on the Scales and Fangs. The news that they would have to face a nigh invulnerable priest and an avatar of Yig to retrieve these items did NOT improve their morale. They fulfilled their part of the bargain with the incapacitated priests, and slew them with the ranger's ghost touch sword.

The last room of the level held Vrosh. They managed to surround and flank him, and he concentrated on the party fighter as the most dangerous-looking opponent. This fight took quite a long time, because 1) I rolled poorly for Vrosh's attacks, and he did very little damage the 2-3 times he did hit, and 2) the PCs had difficulty hitting his vulnerable spot (two PCs required 19-20 to do so at all, even with flanking). Once Vrosh was dispatched, the party took the Scales of the Serpent upstairs to Alisstar, and took some much-needed rest.

The party cleric renews her spells at dusk, which came about a half-hour after they broke off for the day. She prepared and used as many Lesser Restoration spells as she could (3), to offset the worst of the party's ability damage. Because they have no way to heal permanent ability loss in the time left before the lighthouse is dedicated, I decided to make the wraith's Con drain temporary instead, just like all the other ability damage meted out in this temple. Even after the healing, two PCs still had low HP due to Con drain, and 3-4 still had Str damage. Now that the party was resting, I allowed the ranger to gain 5th level (she had the XP for it last session). I quickly calculated and awarded XP for this session so far, and between the Eyes, wraith, and Vrosh, the entire party just barely leveled. We took a longish break to update the PCs accordingly.

After a night's rest, the party continued downward to the fifth level of the temple. By chance, they entered Sseth's room first. [I renamed him Thess, because we have a player named Seth.] They answered his (rather easy) riddle, and set out to look for the statue he spoke of. (His directions were a little vague, however.)

They next entered the mess hall, and had to fight the four shadows there. They were still weak from the previous day's battles, and hadn't prepared enough protective magic before the fight, so two PCs (the gnome ranger and elf sorcerer) were slain by the shadows. The others finished off the shadows, and examined their fallen comrades' bodies. They were dead, and...changing. The cleric realized that because they were drained by shadows, they were becoming shadows themselves. However, their killers had been destroyed, so she was uncertain whether they would evil slaves, or free-willed. The fighter tried to coup-de-grace the dead ranger, but failed--she had already become incorporeal. Just as he picked up her ghost touch sword to try again, her eyes opened. She sat up, and saw that the world looked foggy and indistinct, with only herself, the elf, and the ghost touch sword looking real and solid. We stopped there, with the question of the party's further reactions to their now-undead comrades uncertain.

In the interest of allowing us to continue the adventure, I'm ruling that the two dead PCs have become free-willed undead. Unlike normal shadows (always CE), shadow serpents may be any alignment, so the PCs will keep their original alignment--for now. I will be spending some time between now and next session figuring out just how much their stats will change, and how much of their former abilities they will keep, so that I can brief those two players properly next session.

This session also gave me a tricky out-of-game issue to deal with. The ranger's player (my wife) was rather upset by her character dying and becoming undead. She has been playing RPGs for a few years now, but this was her first character to die in game. (It's happened to her in LARPs, but those were all one-shots with pregen characters, so "don't count.") She's warned me that her ranger will NOT be happy about becoming an unnatural abomination, so is likely to turn suicidal. The other PCs (or me, through an NPC such as Alisstar) will need to convince her otherwise, or lose her aid entirely. It has occurred to some of the other players (in post-session discussion) that the condition may be reversible if Yig's curse is lifted--or at least, that that would allow the shadow PCs to be laid to rest, and they could then have them resurrected. I haven't decided exactly how to handle that final fate yet. I'm leaning towards Yig keeping them in this state long enough to give them a chance to acquire and use the Jade Serpent. (After that...? Well, enabling Yig's vengeance may earn them a boon of new life [though possibly as a Serpent Person?] or a peaceful death.)

The elf's player's reaction is more like, "Wow, that was nasty...but hey, he's died once already, and I haven't played anything like this before!" The cleric PC is not overly bothered by her companions becoming undead, as long as they don't turn against the living PCs. She worships Tamash, whose brother Zo-Kalar *prefers* undead and shadow servants; both gods are members of the generally benevolent Great One pantheon. (See [https://sites.google.com/site/windsoffreeport/past-lives/gods-of-the-dreamlands]* for my notes on gods of the Dreamlands.) The fighter and rogue are undecided, edging towards paranoia, but *might* be swayed by the cleric to wait and see....

[* Updated link (original URL no longer exists).]

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March 20, 2002

I've worked out the details of the new free-willed shadows, and given those two players a partial briefing. Basically, I did it as a hybrid of the MM Shadow entry and the Ghost template. After we see how it works out in play on Sunday, I might post more details.

If the party succeeds in helping Alisstar complete his ritual to lift Yig's curse, then the 2 shadow PCs (if still around) will need to change yet again. My current thoughts are that, unlike the antediluvian priests, Yig may convert the PC shadows into normal ghosts (per MM) so that they can continue to fight Drac. (Looks like we may a get a chance to try out the Rebuke Undead rules, heh heh.) Then, assuming the party makes it through the whole adventure, they'll be free to go on to their final reward, be resurrected, or continue existing as ghosts.

BTW, while figuring out shadow stats for those PCs, I noted that Shadow Serpents get +4 turn resistance, while MM Shadows only get +2. Assuming that's not an error, it could be justified as part of Yig's curse, but OUCH! No wonder our party's cleric hasn't managed to turn one yet.

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Session #4 (3/24/2002)

The fighter paused in confusion as the gnome and elf's shadows separated from their corpses. The cleric, woozy from Strength damage, opined that if they could find the items they sought and lift Yig's curse, then they might be able to restore their fallen companions. After quickly interrogating the new shadows to confirm that they didn't intend to "suck out our souls," the fighter returned the ghost touch sword to his dead friend, and the party continued to search the fifth level of the temple.

They found the quarreling shadow serpent roommates. The shadow sorcerer PC was sorely tempted to cast Burning Hands on them, but agreed to leave them to their feud.

They found Alisstar's room, and the gnome ranger took an incorporeal peek inside the chest. Seeing something coiled within, that was snake-like and solid-looking to her, she jerked away, and left it in peace. The elf went upstairs to ask Alisstar about the snake, and learned that it was his pet. (Alisstar was somewhat dismayed to learn that his pet snake had also fallen under Yig's curse, and that two of the PCs had as well.) The sorcerer also asked about the "avatar of Yig" that the party had heard of from another shadow serpent. Alisstar explained that that the avatar was a huge serpent, honored here as the living image of Yig, but otherwise it had been a normal snake in the old days. He had no idea what effect Yig's curse had had upon the beast.

The party pressed on to the lowest level. They carefully avoided the beam of light at first, having no idea what effect its touch might have on them. They found the replica of the Jade Serpent, which boosted their flagging morale. Even if this sculpture turned out to not be the one they sought, it was a huge chunk of precious stone, which might go a long way to helping restore the two undead PCs. The party also found the hatchery, and noted the single intact egg.

The rogue went close enough to Yig's statue to notice the movable eyelids, and closed them, shutting off the beam of light. The party looked into the room that was revealed, and saw the giant snake. They did not enter the room immediately, preferring to get a good look at it first. The ranger reported the roomful of zombies, and they decided to retrieve the Fangs first.

They were very thankful to finally have a *corporeal* enemy to fight. The ranger whacked on the snake with her ghost touch sword, the sorcerer shot volleys of magic missiles (which I ruled would affect material targets, since the force effect works the other way, against incorporeal targets), and the rogue threw alchemist fire. The fighter moved into the room, and was almost immediately hit for critical damage by the snake, who then grabbed him and started to constrict. The cleric managed to keep him alive with cure spells until the others destroyed the snake. (He was very lucky here, because he briefly went unconscious as it was, and would have died if he had taken a second round of constriction. Note that the snake will usually crit if it scores a threat [+13 attack bonus!], and has a huge grapple advantage over any human, even a strong one.) They helped the fighter out of the snake's coils, and collected the Fangs.

The ranger and cleric then disposed of the humanoid zombies quite handily. (The cleric was relieved to find her turning attempts worked against *something* again.) The ranger checked the door that leaked silt, and verified that a large open watery space lay beyond.

They returned to the level above, where the cleric scanned (then took) Alisstar's journal, and found the scroll in the former library. The rogue carefully carried the chest upstairs without opening it, in order to not disturb the snake within. They returned to Alisstar's ritual chamber, and persuaded him to coax his pet out of the box so that they could safely collect the treasure.

The serpent priest then explained the sacrifice of blood needed for the ritual, and the possibility that the building might collapse shortly afterward. The cleric agreed to contribute her blood, but delayed helping with the ritual until the party could move their gear and loot, and the bodies of their two comrades, outside the temple and into the boat. The rogue waited there with the animals (who had been left on the top level). The fighter stayed with the Strength-impaired cleric in order to carry the Jade Serpent when it appeared. The two shadows stayed with them to watch, as they had nothing to fear from a cave-in. The ritual was completed, the Jade Serpent appeared, and the party ran for the exit as the building collapsed behind them. Outside, the two shadows were still ghost-like, but appeared more solid. (Perhaps they were becoming more like ghosts than shadows?)

The party still had to navigate the hazards of Black Dog's Caves. The shadows scouted ahead, and discovered the allip waiting in the tunnels a short distance away, muttering about its sword. They handily dispatched it (with ghost sword and incorporeal Burning Hands) before it could do more than hypnotize one of the living PCs behind them. They avoided the dead-ends that they had seen before, leaving them for a return trip after saving Freeport.

Out in the main cavern, the ranger scouted around for the thing that had attacked the boat earlier. The tojanida ambushed her instead, but failed to do any damage against its incorporeal target. She kept it distracted while the party rowed across the chamber. Demoralized by prey that it couldn't hit, and missiles from the boat, it fled under cover of an ink cloud.

The party exited the caves, and returned to Freeport late in the morning. They saw that the lighthouse's scaffolding had been removed in preparation for its christening that night. The party pulled into the dock next to their captured ship, and hired a cart to carry them, their loot, and the bodies to the temple of Nasht.

As Thuron/K'Stallo arranged to have the party healed of their wounds, and their dead preserved until they could arrange for their resurrections, they reported what they had found in Black Dog's Caves--including the Jade Serpent and the egg, which they produced. K'Stallo was awed at the sight of the egg, and expressed his belief that if it were viable, then the hatchling would almost certainly be blessed of Yig, and be a great boon to his mission to restore Yig's worship among his race. They agreed to leave it in his care.

He was not entirely sure what the party should do with the Jade Serpent, but was fairly certain that they needed to take it to the lighthouse tonight, and that they would discover what to with it when they got there. He reminded them that tonight would have no moon, and that a small boat might be able to sneak past the patrol ships in the dark. The rogue left to procure alchemical items that might be useful in their raid, and then he and the fighter treated themselves to a very good "last meal," just in case. The two shadow PCs left to scout out the lighthouse (which we will play out next time).

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March 28, 2002

Due to the events of session #3 (see above), two PCs became shadows themselves while in the Sunken Temple of Yig. Here is the template I created in order to allow them to continue the adventure as free-willed undead:

Valossan Shadow-spawn

Size: Same as the base creature

Hit Dice: Increase to d12

Initiative: Same as the base creature

Speed: Fly 40 ft. (good)

AC: Natural armor is the same as the base creature but applies only to incorporeal attacks. Ghostly armor and shields (see below) apply only to incorporeal attacks. The shadow gains a deflection bonus equal to its Charisma modifier or +1, whichever is higher.

Attacks: Same as the base creature, although those relying on physical contact do not affect corporeal creatures. Shadows gain an incorporeal touch attack (see Special Attacks, below) that uses the shadow's Dex modifier for attack rolls.

Damage: Against incorporeal creatures, a shadow uses the base creature's damage ratings. Against corporeal creatures, the shadow's incorporeal touch attack does 1d6 temporary Strength damage (see Special Attacks below).

Face/Reach: Same as the base creature

Special Attacks: The shadow retains all the special attacks of the base creature, although those relying on physical contact do not affect corporeal creatures. They gain the Strength damage and create spawn abilities:
    Strength Damage (Su): The touch of a shadow deals 1d6 points of temporary Strength damage to a living foe. A creature reduced to Strength 0 by a shadow dies.
    Create Spawn (Su): Any humanoid reduced to Strength 0 by a shadow becomes a shadow under the control of its killer within 1d4 rounds.

Special Qualities: A shadow has all the special qualities of the base creature, and gains the undead type, incorporeal subtype, and +2 turn resistance:
    Undead: Immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.
    Incorporeal: Can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better magic weapons, or magic, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. Can pass through solid objects at will, and own attacks pass through armor. Always moves silently.
    Turn Resistance (Ex): When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt, added +2 to the shadow's Hit Dice total.

Saves: Same as the base creature

Abilities: Same as the base creature, except that the shadow has no Strength or Constitution scores.

Skills: Same as the base creature

Feats: Same as the base creature

Alignment: Same as the base creature

Ghostly Equipment

When a shadow forms, all its equipment and carried items usually become incorporeal along with it. The equipment works normally against incorporeal objects or creatures but passes harmlessly through corporeal objects or creatures.

The original material items remain behind, just as the shadow's physical remains do. If another creature seizes the original, the incorporeal copy fades away. This invariably angers the shadow, who stops at nothing to return the item to its original resting place.

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April 23, 2002

Sigh...the closer we get to finishing this puppy, the more the gods seem opposed to us doing so. I've run a session to start Part 4, but it had to be cut short due to overlapping commitments a couple players had. So we got through the planning of the assault, the initial scouting (both kind of lengthy), and the first couple of rooms, but we still need one full-length session to finish up. I refuse to run the finale without all 5 players present, but I can't seem to get them all together at once anytime soon. So, right now, I've no idea when I'll be able to post the rest of this run note series. Just wanted to give my readers a heads-up; sorry about the venting...

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May 6, 2002

Well, I *think* we've solved the scheduling problem, and can run the last session soon. So I'm belatedly posting the notes on last session (4/14/2002), which was the beginning of the 4th and final part of MiF. That session was shorter than usual, and ended in the middle of a fight (a *very* annoying place to have to wait weeks to continue--another reason I hadn't posted earlier).

The two shadow PCs flew out to the Lighthouse of Drac to scout the building and surrounding terrain. They bypassed the patrol ships by traveling underwater for the entire trip, surfacing only to renew their bearings. They saw no guards near the lighthouse, so carefully entered to recon the interior. Because it was still day, they found no people within, and nothing particularly suspicious except for two things: the dead thief on the shrine level, and the bones and offal coating the floor above it. They found no trace of what had caused either scene. They did not spend enough time searching the upper stairs to notice the (inactive) Yellow Sign bricks, but did notice that the depression on the empty pedestal in the topmost room looked just the right size for the crystal from the sketches Councilor Arnig had shown them.

While there, the ranger looked out the skylight at the surrounding countryside. It was nearing dusk, and she could just make out tiny figures approaching the lighthouse from inland. She and the sorcerer went to see who the new arrivals were, using the ground as cover as much as possible. On closer look, the figures appeared to be about a dozen men in heavy cloaks, many of them with hoods drawn up to hide their faces. They recognized the leader (Drac), but no others. None of the men openly carried or wore cult items, but their cloaks hid their clothes, and most carried bundles. One of the hooded men glimpsed a shadow, and alerted Drac; the PCs fled before the procession could do more.

The scouts returned to the Temple of Nasht to report to their companions. The others finished their preparations, which included wrapping the Jade Serpent for the fighter (the only beefy PC) to carry. Seeing the statue again made the ranger realize that the pedestal's depression would also fit the Serpent. This finally gave the heroes some clue of what they needed to do with the artifact.

The heroes used the moonless dark night to slip past the patrol ships, though it was a near thing. (The shadow PCs had planned to attack the crew of any ship that spotted the boat, as a fear-invoking distraction allowing the others to finish the trip, but that was not needed.) The shadows scouted the ground level, and spotted the guards. The elf sorcerer attracted their attention while the gnome ranger fumbled with her ghost touch sword to move the bar and let the others in. As the corporeal heroes rushed the guards, one ran up the stairs to sound the alarm. The ranger flew after him, catching up just as he reached the door at the top. He was unable to go through the door without drawing an attack, so shouted the alarm and tried to withdraw. Meanwhile, another guard fled the building entirely after being attacked by the elf shadow. The others were dispatched.

The shadows scouted ahead, and attacked the priests who had hidden themselves for an ambush in the Sea God's shrine. The party finished them off, and burst into the War God's shrine. (We had to end here, fight in progress.)

[Now, off to pray to the God of Pirates that we can actually finish this thing soon...]

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Session #5 (5/12/2002)

PRAISE YIG! IT'S OVER! We were finally able to run another session of MiF yesterday, and completed the adventure!

A couple brief notes before I begin: My group does not have high hp for their level (5th), so I've lowered the levels for N'Tal, Maeorgan and Gorn by one. I left Drac as is, because he deserves to be rather scary. I also replaced the gibbering mouther with another monster, because one of the players in my game used one in his own game just a few months back. The Call of Cthulhu d20 RPG came out before I could run that level of the lighthouse, so I chose a replacement appropriate to the Unspeakable One's cult: a byakhee. It's a lower CR than the 'mouther, so I gave it a couple extra HD. Now, on to the conclusion of our run of MiF:

The party finished off the cultists on the second floor, and searched the shrines to figure out how to get into the secret room (which the shadows had found on their initial recon). While they did that, the shadows scouted ahead into the third floor.

The shadows dealt with the byakhee quite handily. When the badly-wounded monster realized it could not harm them, it tried to escape through the trapdoor in the ceiling. It was too Strength-damaged by the elf shadow to do more than open the trapdoor, allowing the yellow light to pour in from above. The elf finished it off just before the others found the way up. (The cleric used Detect Secret Doors, but it took time to figure out the switches.)

The elf took a look through the trapdoor, and saw Drac and several serpent people far above. Drac hurled a skull, which missed badly, so came nowhere near the trapdoor. As the elf took cover again, Drac ordered N'Tal to deal with the intruders, and moved upstairs.

While the party debated how to get past the serpent people, the byakhee rose as a shadow-spawn. The elf was pleased to find that it obeyed him, which meant that his plan for a diversion might work. He, his new friend "Spike," and the gnome ranger flew out through the wall and took up a position just outside the top of the stairs, finding a small porthole through which they could see the serpent people. The rogue took an invisibility potion, climbed into the room, and began sneaking up the stairs. The fighter and cleric remained below to wait for sounds of fighting to break out.

After giving the rogue some time to climb, the shadows burst through the wall, and started terrorizing the serpent people. The ranger concentrated on cutting bowstrings with her Ghost Touch sword, while the elf and byakhee simply dealt Strength damage and boxed in the serpents on the stairs. The mage flew across the tower to get some maneuvering room, and the byakhee pursued (having orders to "kill all serpent people"). The rogue managed to hurl a thunderstone at the wall nearest the mage's new position, circumventing his Shield spell and deafening him. The fighter and cleric climbed up into the stairwell, taking advantage of the serpent archers being distracted. The pair took some long shots at the mage, but seeing the effect of the Shield, started running up the stairs to get closer to the fight.

N'tal's Shield kept the byakhee at bay, but he fumbled his Lightning Bolt spell, and his Burning Hands spell failed to harm the incorporeal monster. He placed a Fireball in the open center of the tower, in order to hit the byahkee but not himself; this meant that he also caught one serpent who had broken free of the other shadows and fled down the stairs. The byahkee survived; the serpent guard did not. This left a burning section of stairs blocking the path of the rogue, fighter and cleric.

The gnome ranger broke off from the fight with the archers to help "Spike." N'Tal (who was seriously wounded by now) got off a volley of Magic Missiles (not quite finishing the byakhee), and then a Darkness spell. The ranger made her Listen check, and knocked the mage unconscious. Meanwhile, the elf tried to keep the remaining serpent people from fleeing upstairs; he immobilized one (Strength too low to move in chainmail), but another escaped to the top floor.

As the material PCs ran across the flames, the shadows scouted the room above. Maeorgan noticed the elf, who ducked below, and called to "Spike" to go upstairs and "kill the man holding a skull." Drac noticed the gnome, and successfully rebuked her, putting her out of the fight for now. The byakhee shadow arrived, but Drac had set down the skull-bomb to rebuke the gnome, so he had no target. Drac then rebuked the byakhee as well.

The elf's return drew Maeorgan away from his readied attack at the trapdoor, and he wounded the shadow. (I had changed his dagger to magical +1 to offset the dropped level and the shadows' advantage.) The elf prudently moved away, and watched the fight from above the skylight until the others came up.

The cleric went up first, and was attacked by Gorn, who waited invisible by the trapdoor. However, he rolled a 1 and utterly failed to get near her. The fighter came up next, and maneuvered between Gorn and Maeorgan to avoid getting pinned by the trapdoor. The rogue came up next round, and also neatly dodged Gorn's inept attack.

Drac finished casting some spells on himself and engaged the fighter. Maeorgan got double-teamed by the cleric and rogue, neither of whom could easily hurt him. (The PCs all mostly avoided Gorn, who didn't get a single decent attack roll.) The surviving serpent guard took up position by the crystal, out of the immediate fight.

The elf sorcerer dropped back down into the room to start lobbing Magic Missiles at Drac. Between that and the fighter's hits, Drac was slowly beaten down. However, he got some solid hits on the fighter before going down. Meanwhile, the rogue got a lucky crit on Maeorgan, dropping him to about 50% of his hp. However, the Councilor immediately got a crit in return, and knocked the scrawny rogue unconscious (and near death).

With Drac down, the fighter, who was carrying the Jade Serpent in his pack, ran towards the pedestal and knocked the crystal aside. He had to dodge Maeorgan, Gorn and the other serpent person while doffing his pack and pulling out the Jade Serpent. The cleric couldn't reach the rogue with the villains in the way, so healed the fighter (who was hit once while wrestling with his pack). He got the statue into place on the pedestal, and the green light blasted the cultists. The cleric ran to the rogue, healing and stabilizing him--only a split second before he would have reached -10 hp!

"Spike" went the same way as the cultists, while the elf and gnome collapsed to the floor. When the light faded, the cleric examined them, but could not tell if they were alive or dead. However, they were material again, though inert, nude and a sickly grayish color. The cleric finished reviving the rogue as the fighter used a Quall's Feather Token to send a message to Thuron: "Have defeated Drac. Have saved city. Am leaving now. Send someone to pick up." The rogue stored the lighthouse crystal in his Glove of Storing, but they decided to leave the Jade Serpent on the pedestal at least until they could speak with Thuron.

The three standing PCs cloaked their fallen companions and carried them down to the base of the lighthouse. About an hour later, a small boat arrived carrying Marora (the boat's owner, a half-orc druid), Egil and Thuron. The PCs told Thuron the results of their adventure, showed him their casualties, and told him where to find the Jade Serpent. Once Thuron and Egil had recovered that item, the boat returned to Freeport, and the group as a whole went to Thuron's offices to talk further. Thuron promised to study the elf and gnome further, and pray to Yig for guidance, and hoped to have more information the next day. The three heroes took their leave, and splurged on a victory feast using the money they had taken from the cultists on the lower levels.

The next day, they met with Thuron. He had learned that Yig had granted a boon to these two heroes who had fallen in His service. The nature of that boon would be their own choice, and would become apparent once he touched the Jade Serpent to their bodies (which Thuron had covered with fine green shrouds). The gnome ranger awoke, apparently in full health, though very confused. The elf, however, rose as a serpent person! Each had had a vision of three pedestals, on one of which was an egg. In the gnome's vision, the other two had held a cat's skeleton and a sleeping newborn kitten. Being a worshipper of Bast, and lover of animals, she had touched the kitten, and awoken here. The elf's pedestals had held an egg, an acorn, and a tiny golden-tinted sapling. Guessing that Yig was somehow involved, he touched the egg, and thus was "hatched" anew. [In game terms, the gnome was raised; the elf reincarnated. Both lost a level, but got enough XP from this adventure to regain 5th level and *almost* to 6th.]

So, the party has been reunited, mostly intact, and has several magic items to identify and other treasure to appraise, and plans to make about their future. They gave Thuron/K'Stallo the Jade Serpent but kept the nonmagical replica when he showed no strong interest in the copy. They also hope to go back into Black Dog's Caves to find the hoard there. The cleric, fighter and rogue have reached 6th level, and get to choose new feats. The cleric is debating between item creation feats, and hopes to get a large share of the loot to use in making new tools for herself and her friends. All in all, a successful conclusion to a harrowing adventure.

(And they will have more adventures someday, after I get a badly-needed vacation from GMing, to recover from scheduling-induced burnout.)
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