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Second Darkness – Episode 33

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Disclaimer

This is a summary of my Pathfinder group’s game sessions. The group, the Guardians of Golarion, have been at this for over a year now and seem to be enjoying themselves so far. I don’t know if people are interested in this sort of thing, but I thought I’d post it for the sake of practice if nothing else.

Also, if you’re one of the players in my group… well, stop Googling your character’s name. It’s the only way you’d find this page. Also, it’s creepy. Creepy ain’t a crime, but it can get you into trouble. The kind of trouble that might ruin things for your GM… and, consequently, you. This is not a threat, this is just a friendly reminder not to read what I post here.  The World Anvil campaign summaries are all you’ll need.  What I post here may include potential spoilers for our Second Darkness Paizo Adventure Path, or at least my spin on it. I have made several changes to this particular Pathfinder Adventure Path, because reasons.

 

New Faces and Birthday Wishes

Characters of Note

  • Sir Godric (Male Aasimar Paladin of Iomedae) – Of the four who started the campaign, Sir Godric is the last original full-time member of the Guardians of Golarion. Currently in possession of the Helm of Suffering and keeps it tucked away in his bag. He also possesses a holy longsword named Heartseeker whose lineage is rumored to be traced back to the time of Iomedae herself. He does not know the true name of the spirit that powers the sword, but it does not seem fond of the drow. Learning the spirit’s true name may unlock further powers of the sword.   
  • Reh (Female Human Bard / Swashbuckler) – Reh’s “uncle” approached the Guardians to watch over the girl and keep her safe. Hours later she was in the middle of a war between elves and drow over control of Celwynvian. She has been training with Sir Godric, hoping to develop her skills with the blade but is in no hurry to get any closer to the action that is necessary. Reh is the brains and support of the group.   
  • Buck (Male Human Gunslinger) – Found a gun in an abandoned house. Took it. Wants to make a positive difference. Very much a man of mystery. Claims to have joined the Guardians because he heard they “fought the good fight.”
  • Rooker Shango (Male Human Shaman) – From the Mwangi Expanse. Ally of Kwava, who sent him to help the Guardians.  Has an owl familiar named Jobu. Follower of Desna, a fan of the stars and opposes eternal darkness.  Jobu showed him a vision of a man made of stars who warned of great darkness coming. Has trouble remembering parts of his past.    
  • Venture-Captain Shevala Iorae & Pais (NPC) – Shevala got her start as an adventurer exploring the crumbling ruins of ancient Thassilon in her native Varisia. When the decemvirate requested her aid, she traveled to Absalom and was seduced by the city’s allure. Like Varisia, the Isle of Kortos is littered with ancient ruins, its many Siege Castles standing just outside the city’s shadow. The mile-high Spire of Nex immediately commanded her attention, and Shevala spent several years searching for a way into the sealed tower and collecting lore about Nex himself before finally succeeding in unlocking its door. Despite her stern demeanor, Shevala is an adventurous soul at heart. Pais was an aspiring wizard and a hopeful member of the Pathfinder Society. Much like Shevala, Pais has often been known to associate with some questionable characters but continues to pursue a career within the Society. Her relationship with Shen fell apart when Shen became obsessed with discovering the secrets of Khaylin Cirdanas and his discblade. 
  • Maly & Anen (NPC)– Maly, the owner of Maly’s Wonderous Vault, has run the shop for years while raising her daughter Anen. One would suspect that it would be dangerous for a single mother to run a business and raise a child in a place like Riddleport. But Maly does not fear the city or those who prey on its citizens. “Every vault has its protector,” Maly is fond of saying. “Including this one.”

Session Summary

On the way back to camp, the Guardians of Golarion were ambushed by a masked man brandishing two abyssal-charged firearms, and eight Ashblood Grunts. 

During the fight, the archer Kuuro interjects her presence from high up in the trees. The orcs were burned down in short order, but the masked man proved to be more challenging. Attacking while invisible, dominating the wills of both Sir Godric and Buck,  the masked man forced Godric to hand over the Helm of Suffering and then fled. 

Frustrated and disappointed, the Guardians returned to the staging camp. They presented the saddle and sword to Eviana , who is almost moved to tears at the sight of her uncle’s items. But Eviana was not alone. Shevala Iorae and the wizard Pais had come to the camp to warn Shen Stroheim that he may have been walking into a trap. 

Buck presented Shen’s near-headless corpse and offered his condolences. 

Shevala had come to warn Shen that Barretto was found dead and his body mutilated, his face removed. It was unclear how long he had been dead, but it was well over a week. Judging by the lack of blood and smell, he had been killed elsewhere and his body was returned to the Grand Lodge in Absalom. He had been killed by a drow wizard, one that had tortured him before and was able to escape. The removal of Barretto’s face was most likely used as a disguise for some spell. Barretto, or who Shen thought was Barretto, could have been leading them into a trap. 

Eviana stated that Kaerishiel and Fjord had not returned from their mission yet. They were supposed to return by sundown last night but there has been no sign. The Guardians admit that they found what appeared to have been the site of an ambush, and after discovering Kaerishel’s dagger they believed he had been dragged away. Kuuro admitted to having found the same site and had followed the tracks. She told Eviana where the path had led. Eviana took the saddle, summoned the spectral griffin known to her ancestors as Cloudclaw, and flew to the site for reconnaissance. 

Shevala offered, with Pais, to teleport the party back to Riddleport so they could sell their wares at Maly’s Wondrous Vault and possibly resupply before they were needed again. Shevala offered to take Shen’s body back to Absalom so his family could bury him. Once they arrived at the Vault, they discover that it is closed despite being mid-afternoon. Maly Brontes opened the door and gave Shevala a hug. Everyone was invited in. Once inside, everyone could smell the distinct odor of something baking. Shevala realized that she had forgotten today was the birthday of Maly’s daughter Anen. 

After a delicious meal and some conversation, the Guardians were invited to spend the night. Rooker and Buck bonded as they slept under the stars on the roof of the Vault. Buck gave Rooker a necklace, one bearing the mark of the Associates of the Iron Shield. Reh Kuuro chatted until they fell asleep, Reh noting that something dangled from the rafters where Kuuro slept. An extra limb of some kind, perhaps? 

Godric had a dream that seemed more like a vision of the past, reflecting on the history of his sword. An elven man and his celestial wife were hoping to avert a disaster foretold in a vision. During a ritual, the woman became part of the sword and her husband called her, and the sword, by their given name… Veressa.

 

GM Notes

This was a tricky session. We were introducing my nephew’s new character, Kuuro. He’d wanted to play it close to the vest, keeping most aspects of his new character a secret from the other players. Even after she was introduced, he played everything close to the vest. Kuuro was quiet, shy, skittish, and very slow to trust.

Of course, then the question becomes – if the character is slow to trust people, why would she be involved with this new group of strangers at all?

I’m a big fan of backstory for characters. It keeps them from simply becoming a stat block. I like weaving the character’s backstory into the campaign to get the players more involved and make it feel more like their story.

Sometimes, though, that backstory seems to work against the campaign. Or, the same kind of backstory keeps coming up – parents tragically killed, can’t remember their past, edgy and mysterious, and so on. Given the right framework, all of those can be effective storytelling jumping points. Usually, though, it’s more of “my stats are cool but I can’t think of a good backstory so they’ll just be a mystery”.

So you take a character that is hesitant to get involved with other people, someone who has been a loner for years, put them in the middle of a warzone where they have little affiliation with either side, and have to integrate them into a random adventuring party… it can be a tough sell. Generally the players “get it” – you have to introduce the character somehow right?

In the last session, when the group was deep inside the dragon’s lair, there was no real opportunity to introduce someone new. That meant I had a player who had to sit out almost the entire session. They ended up playing the character of one of the PCs who hadn’t been able to show up, so at least they got to roll some dice.

When I was prepping for this session, I spoke with the player about his character. I had some hesitations about a few aspects, but in the end, I got over it and decided to let the player go with the character they wanted. But when he told me about the backstory, I asked how they could fit it into the current campaign scenario. I started putting out ideas but stopped when I started to feel like I was railroading the character into directions that might not exactly fit into their backstory.  I told the player how the next session was going to start, what was going to unfold and let them come up with suggestions as to how their character could get involved. Hence, the introduction listed above. It felt a bit forced, but it got the character introduced.

Introducing someone new to the party can be tough. Tying them into the campaign can seem forced, and unless there are some RP sessions that build connections between characters, that “tight group chemistry” can be lost. Hopefully, with some more interaction scenarios, the character can build that bond with the rest of the party.

Have you ever had to introduce a new character into an RPG campaign that was already underway? Ever had to get that replacement toon rolled up because your last one died, unfortunately? Let me know in the comments how you did it. I’m really interested in getting some fresh ideas on it.

(Image by Michelle Tolo)

Second Darkness – Episode 32

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This is a summary of my Pathfinder group’s game sessions. The group, the Guardians of Golarion, have been at this for over a year now and seem to be enjoying themselves so far. I don’t know if people are interested in this sort of thing, but I thought I’d post it for the sake of practice if nothing else.

Also, if you’re one of the players in my group I suggest you not read these summary sessions. Stick to the summaries on our World Anvil campaign page. What I post here may include potential spoilers for the Second Darkness campaign. More accurately, my take on the campaign. I have made several changes to this particular Pathfinder Adventure Path, which I will discuss in another post.

If you are interested in previous session summaries, you can check out the World Anvil page I mentioned above and catch up by clicking the episode links there. This will be a work in progress, and I will evolve these posts over time.

 

Dungeon and Dragon Part Three

Characters of Note

  • Godric (Male Aasimar Paladin of Iomedae) – Of the four who started the campaign, Sir Godric is the last original full-time member of the Guardians of Golarion. Currently in possession of the Helm of Suffering and keeps it tucked away in his bag. He also possesses a holy longsword named Heartseeker whose lineage is rumored to be traced back to the time of Iomedae herself. He does not know the true name of the spirit that powers the sword, but it does not seem fond of the drow.   
  • Reh (Female Human Bard / Swashbuckler) – Reh’s “uncle” approached the Guardians to watch over the girl and keep her safe. Hours later she was in the middle of a war between elves and drow over control of Celwynvian. She has been training with Sir Godric, hoping to develop her skills with the blade but is in no hurry to get any closer to the action that is necessary. Reh is the brains and support of the group. Seems to have struck up a fast friendship with Fjord
  • Buck (Male Human Gunslinger) – Found a gun in an abandoned house. Took it. Wants to make a positive difference. Very much a man of mystery.
  • Rooker Shango (Male Human Shaman) – From the Mwangi Expanse. Ally of Kwava, who sent him to help the Guardians.  Has an owl familiar named Jobu. Follower of Desna, a fan of the stars and opposes eternal darkness. During his talks with the spirits, he spoke with Alyuin’s spirit. She told him about the Guardians and what they were dealing with.  Been helping the elves with their war against the drow by providing them with wands. Had a vision of a man made of stars who warned of a great darkness coming.   
  • Shen Stroheim (Human Psion NPC) – Strong with psionic power but weak on social skills or confidence, Shen lost his eyes when he put on the Helm of Suffering. The helm increased his psionic power but the helm’s visor grew spikes that gouged out his eyes. Been with the Guardians since the beginning, and other than Sir Godric is one of the few original members left.
  • Nolveniss (Drow NPC) – Nolveniss is a high-ranking member of House Azrinae, and one of Matron Sallevrah‘s most trusted arcanists. He led the research team in Celwynvian for a number of years, and now, just as his research was reaching completion, the elves came to ruin everything. As a result, he is in a particularly foul mood.
  • The Apprentice (Drow NPC) – The masked drow who had been tasked with retrieving the Helm of Suffering from the Guardians. His friend Jozzu had been killed by Nolveniss, which shifted his focus from retrieving the Helm to getting revenge on his master.

Session Summary

Staring down two drow mages casting Fireball spells, Shen Stroheim and Rooker Shango braced for incineration. The casting was halted by the intervention of Nolveniss Azrinae and the masked man the Guardians of Golarion had met previously. 

Nolveniss studied Rooker and Shen, then told the masked man he called “apprentice” to take Rooker below to join the others. The mages held their action, the trigger word hanging on their lips, ready to blast both Rooker and Shen if they stepped out of line. The apprentice took Rooker below, leaving Shen with the leader of the drow incursion in Celwynvian. Nolveniss looked into the pit and saw the body of the recently deceased Ella. He commented that she appeared to be one of his earlier experiments. That was a long time ago, and since then he had fine-tuned the ritual used to create ashblood orcs. He then spoke a command word, and Ella rose to her feet. She then exploded. Nolveniss was amused. 

Below, the apprentice reminded Nolveniss that Lasdo did not want the Guardians killed. Nolveniss agreed, then reminded his apprentice that he had been tasked to retrieve the Helm of Suffering from the group. He pointed out that the apprentice had so far failed to deliver, which had prompted Nolveniss to kill the kobold that had been partnered with the apprentice to eliminate any further distractions. 

Nolveniss then turned his attention to Shen. He told the young man that it had been he who had removed the tongue of Master Barretto and recently had done more than that. He produced what appeared to be Master Barretto’s face. Blood began dripping from Shen’s blindfold. “This is for killing my dragon,” Nolveniss said coldly.” 

In a telepathic rush, Shen’s last thoughts flooded Sir Godric’s mind before Shen’s head exploded. Meanwhile, Sir Godric and the Guardians had begun to attack the apprentice. Godric then turned his attention to Nolveniss, but it was too late to either save Shen or stop the mage from teleporting away. 

With the apprentice gravely injured, the Guardians began questioning him. 

  • The apprentice hated that Shen and Ella were killed. He knew what it was like to lose a friend. Jossu, the kobold that the dragon killed, was his only friend.
  • The apprentice removes his mask, revealing himself to be a drow. He said his people do not put much stock in friendship. It was seen as a weakness.
  • Dragon Shard – when Zalatas attacked Golarion, Algolon fought it with the help of several powerful entities from Golarion. The dragon’s body was shattered into shards. Its essence was trapped in a crystal created by the demon lord Abraxas, which was then locked away somewhere deep within the bowels of the planet. The shattered body created Dragon Shards, which were used back in the Age of Darkness and Age of Anguish to create powerful artifacts like the Helm of Suffering.
  • Lasdo didn’t want the helm for himself. He wanted to test the apprentice against his Chosen Ones. Lasdo wanted the helm so Nolveniss could remove the dragon shard within it and become a Draa’kyl.  Lasdo and Nolveniss were like brothers.
  • The drow generally do not like the draa’kyl because they’re seen as abominations. But the Twilight Empire was not concerned with what drow society approved of. They remain somewhat loyal to House Azrinae, which gives them a position of power but tend to operate as they see fit.

The injured drow wanted revenge against Nolveniss but did not expect to survive the attempt. While the Guardians went to examine the rest of the cavern, the drow disappeared into the darkness. 

Heavily laden with treasure, the Guardians rested within the dragon’s lair. The next morning they returned to the surface and started to make their way back to the elves staging area. 

As they made their way through the city, the Guardians came across the remains of a recent ambush. There was a great deal of blood, but no bodies. However, they did discover the dagger belonging to Kaerishiel who had been on a supply mission with Fjord somewhere in the city. The Guardians chose to return to the camp, unload their supplies, then return to search for survivors of the ambush.

(Image by Ilya Nazarov)