Between sessions the characters went from level 8 to level 10 (actually, to about 200 xp short of level 10, but I decided that prepping an adventure for level 9, after one encounter, 10 would be an unnecessary headache, and put them at level 10 minimum xp instead), and despite my best intentions, we didn’t start dealing with this level-up until about an hour before game time.
Due to printer errors, a new character needing to be rebuilt to fit the theme desired by a player, a last minute need for snacks, a player half-asleep after a marathon 36-hours of consciousness, and my sometimes frightening compulsion to dig through hundreds of miniatures for, “that human who looks so much more like a roguish, human lackey (a minion, whose life span will be roughly fifty-five real-life seconds), you know the one who you’ll probably fight four sessions from now, than the other roguish human lackey in my hands right now”, and the necessity for me to play an absent player’s character;
due to all that, we all arrived at my home two hours earlier than game time, and began gaming an hour (at least) late.
After all the drag, I didn’t want to drag things out even more, so I glossed over some of the more roleplay-heavy elements leading up to the big reveal: Imura, once the party’s somewhat enemy, was now a member of their school, an important one even, and he had a message from their school manager, Krusk; we need a stronghold if we are to continue to grow.
At this point I let the players see the extensive strong-hold building rule-set that I had spent hours converting from a 3e book, and as I somewhat expected they said,
“look can we just assume that we give our school accountant 10k gold, and if it’s a bit off that we’ll adjust our school funds on our sheet after we’ve had a bit of not-at-the-table time to look over all this crap?”
to which I of course said,
It was on to the meat of the session!
A man who had sought out Carric for his acclaimed skill as a bounty-hunter was surprised to see him fighting in the arena among the Beasts of Flame and Steel, but had a job for him nonetheless; find the Dragonborn bandit Gharesh, and bring him back dead-or-alive for a moderately substantial reward.
Gregg thought the reward was a bit low, and asked if alive was worth more, the man considered this and revealed that though the bounty, a government issued reward could not be altered, he had a personal stake in seeing Gharesh brought to justice. The man offered an additional reward if Gharesh were brought back alive, as the prospect of the Dragonborn’s humiliation enticed the man.
Gharesh was known to prey on caravans traveling the road between Caltha and Orus. Different options were discussed, such as pretending to be a trade caravan, or pretending to be a new recruit, but sneaking up on the bandit’s camp after tracking them through the forest was settled upon.
Between Carric, an elf ranger built to hunt bounties, and Cliff, a shifter warden with an ability to re-roll nature checks made to track, defeating the skill challenge was a simple task, only Carric lost any healing surges, and he only lost one. The party came upon only a half-dozen bandits, none of whom were a dragonborn, and their rage-drake pet. Gregg did some scouting, using his rat-form armor, and could find no additional bandits, and saw that the few there were, were haggard and hungry looking; totally on edge.
The party positioned itself for a shock and awe attack, hoping to quell the bandits after Gregg knocked out one, and an invisible (thanks to Ro’jhi’s magic) Cliff appeared in their midst, arrows flew from a hidden Carric, and fireballs flew from an angry githzerai wizard.
No plan ever goes accordingly for my poor party, unfortunately, and Cliff tripped several feet from his target. After a moment of thought on what to do, his character announced that he would just stab out at the bandit.
A battle ensued that resulted in…
-All the bandits tied up.
-The rage drake submitting to the Cliff after he jumped on its back and wrestled it to the ground.
-A new skill challenge, “The taming of the Drake” to be carried out in once a day checks, whenever the player has an appropriate idea to earn the drake’s trust, until the drake is either tamed, or pissed off enough that it attacks the party again.
To say the least, the party was pretty happy with themselves. Unfortunately, the Pyramid of Shadows comes with a big middle finger for players who try to get information out of their captured bandits, and I, in one of my lesser moments as a DM, followed my book, instead of my heart.
A holographic tiefling wizard appeared and summoned bolts of lightning slay the helpless bandits in an attempt to “help” the party with their foes. The party was rightfully miffed with the wizard, and yelled at him for a bit before demanding the whereabouts of Garesh Vren, their target.
The wizard summoned a shoe-box sized, black pyramid, informing them that, “all answers lied within.”
After sleeping on that, the party decided to fiddle with the pyramid, and as suspected, it grew to giant size, trapping the party within.
The party appeared in a pit of half-century old corpses, strangely un-rotted, and had to battle the welcoming crew; an Ettin with a thing for collecting heads, and the carrion crawler pets he kept to dredge up prefferable specimens from the pit.
After not-so-handily defeating their foes, the party proceeded to “where’s the loot” the place, discovering an orb containing the visage of a bodiless eladrin maiden named Vyrellis, who filled them in on the following…
-They were in a prison built for the tiefling wizard, Karavakos
-He was imprisoned because of a contract he had made with a devil from the nine-hells who had granted him an invincible devil army. The imprisonment was punishment for leading the army to defeat, which was only accomplished by taking them into the feywild, where they were no longer invincible.
-Going to the feywild was Vyrellis’s idea. Attracted to Karavako’s great power, she had become his bride, and convinced him to strike back against the winter-fey who had stolen her home from her noble family. When Karavakos was trapped in the pyramid, he severed her head and trapped it in the orb as punishment.
-Karavakos has been split by the prism-like effect that the pyramid had on his life force. There are three parts to him within the pyramid, and if all are slain, escape should be possible.
With all this learned, the party set watches, and bedded down for a much needed rest. Preparing to explore the rest of the pyramid in the “morning”.