Epiro: Episode 109

Sometimes you can judge a book by its
cover. Its terrible, scarred, vicious cover.
  • Corvus (human ranger 4)
  • Iola (wood elf monk 4)
  • Perseus (human paladin 4)
  • Yllian (high elf wizard 4)
  • Josh's Human Wizard (human wizard 4)
After an almost two-month long hiatusmostly due to conflicting scheduleswe finally managed to get back to Epiro, our D&D Next playtest campaign that admittedly does not always play by the playtest rules.

No one ever said being an adventurer was easy. Or simple.

They had finally hit the last stretch of the journey when they saw a plume of smoke in the distance. After dealing with wights and manticores they would probably have preferred to ignore it, but it was near the road anyway so what could it hurt? From a distance they could tell that it was a caravan not unlike their own, except for the part where it had been torched. This was bad enough, but when they got closer they could see that the charred elven remains had been partially eaten. Ominous enough, but no one could be sure if they had been cooked before or after whoever was responsible decided to chow down.

As Corvus busied himself peeling some valuables from the remains, he noticed tracks leading away from the wreckage. Gnoll tracks, to be specific, which explained the chew marks. There were quite a few of them, so he would have little trouble finding them...assuming they wanted to. Normally they would not, because gnolls are pretty horrible creatures that like to eat you, but figured that there might be survivors. The rest of the caravan did not want to stop, because on one hand they had already been delayed a couple of times, and on the other hand gnolls, so told them to be careful and catch up later.
"Unless you get eaten. Then please stay dead, or at least 
do not come back as a super-powered zombie that 
somehow gets powers based on being partially eaten."
Their destination was a tower in a field a couple miles away. Pretty idyllic, really, except for the numerous corpses mounted on crosses scattered about. From a distance they could see shapes moving about the rooftop, and figured that sneaking would net them better chances. Thanks to the tall grass and my allowing Corvus to make a group Stealth check they were able to sneak up to the keep undetected. At the tower's base Corvus could hear muffled screams coming from within; hopefully when they found whoever was being tortured there would be enough left to make this rescue worthwhile.

Crovus took point trying to scale the wall, using his climbing kit to make it easier on everyone else, but dislodged some stones about halfway up. A gnoll peeked over, getting an eye-full of arrow, and was dead without the 2d10 + 1d6 damage the combination fall and spikes would have dealt. As Corvus tried to orient himself another leaned over the ledge and took a shot at him. Given that he was dangling from a rope he was a pretty easy target, but at least it missed his eye (and failed to drop him 20 feet onto a cluster of spikes). Iola flew up the side of the tower, and with a well-placed spinning kick pitched him over the edge as well.

By the time more gnolls arrived the party had made it to the top. One of them grazed Yllian with an arrow, and he responded with a salvo of magic missiles. It did not kill them, but came pretty close, and allowed the rest of the party to polish them off with minimal effort. While Corvus stopped to pick up his ball bearingsbecause Kamon not only purchased but remembered to use them at some pointand the rest of the party fished about for loot, Yllian did not miss a beat, casting light on his sword and charging down the stairs.

The first room he found was a bedroom judging by the piles of furs and the wet-dog stench. The smell was bad enough on its own, but there were also a pair of surprised-yet-armed gnolls waiting for him. As before one landed a hit with a spear, but before he could respond with some more magic missiling Corvus rolled a bunch of bearings down after him. Fortunately they were more effective this time, but unfortunately this increase to efficacy swung both ways, sending everyone toppling to the floor. Yllian got back to his feet first, and with a souped up pair of missiles took them out in a method that Xykon would have approved of (more so because they did not teleport away).

This routine of gnoll-icide continued for a couple more rooms: Yllian would find a room, kick open the door, get hit, and magic missile whatever was inside. The last room was a, uh, room where live captives were "prepared" and stored for later, and Yllian barged in just as a gnoll had finished giving a human the good old Kalima. He took a cleaver to the chest (in retrospect I really should roll for disease), and to add insult to injury (literally) everyone else in the party bum-rushed them before he could decide with spell slot he wanted to use next.

The only survivor was the as-yet-unnamed freshly generated wizard. Elves were pretty rare despite the party composition, but he also recognized Yllian's family signet and mentioned that he was traveling back to Delos with them as part of a failed diplomatic mission. With no one else to relay the news, Yllian realized that he needed to find his people and explain to them that they would not be getting any help from Epiro against the hobgoblins. With that he said his goodbyes, gathered some supplies, and started making his way back to Sidon so he could catch a caravan to Delos. The new wizard was more than happy to tag along, what with the recent wizard vacancy and all.

As they gave the place a once over before leaving the new wizard on the roster noticed an axe on the ground. It looked like it was made from bone, blackened metal, and a pale, leathery material. Probably human skin, because that is how fiends roll. He cast detect magic on it, revealing a dark, sinister aura, and then picked it up so that he could better examine it, which is generally not a smart move when it comes to things bearing sinister auras. Nothing really seemed out of place to himeven the stuff that should haveand he decided to keep it, because who knows when a hellish axe might come in handy?

Behind The Scenes 
Josh wanted to switch up his wizard from illusions to evocations, which meant that we had to find a way to get his new character in the game. Given that I had planned almost nothing for today's session this worked out fine, because it gave me something to work towards. Initially I figured that I would kill him in some spectacular/anti-climactic fashion, like falling off of the tower onto the spikes below, but since everyone was expecting something like that I decided to buck the trend and have him survive to maybe come back another day.

This session went really fast and loose, with nary a mini or grid in sight. Iola got to fly, which was nice, but otherwise really just punched things, which was boring. I let Corvus make a group Stealth check so that they would at least have a chance to sneak up on the tower. It took a lot longer, was a bit harder, and probably not too "balanced", but I had long since gotten tired of the heavy armor guy ruining everyone's fun the second or third time running my homebrewed version of Keep on the Shadowfell.

As with the last session I let Josh use a combination of detect magic and Recall Lore (magical lore) to try and figure out what a magic item did. I like that Recall Lore gets a shout out in the Magic Items pdf, but think that there should be more reliable methods besides a specific spell. It would be pretty simple to build items so that some properties can be intuited using skill checks, especially if a character spends time examining them during a short or long rest. Specific spells could be useful for an immediate bypass or if the check fails, maybe for certain cases.

Here is an example of what I mean, using the cursed axe from the session (which I just made up on the spot):

The Pincer of Namtar 
This axe was given to a gnoll chieftain by a glabrezu named Namtar, but it was taken when he was betrayed by an up-and-coming member of his pack. It is powered by the blood of sentient creatures, become inert if it goes for more than a day without any. Namtar can communicate through the axe, offering anyone who wields it power, usually in a time of desperate need. He might want your soul, but could just as easily require that you kill someone or destroy something, because as a demon he is not so much about deception or long-term planning. At night the wielder dreams of using the axe to achieve greatness.

Divine Sense: The axe can be detected by divine sense as a fiendish presence.
Detect Magic: The axe is gripped by a dark, sinister aura. It seems to resonate with murderous intent. A Recall Lore (forbidden lore) check reveals that this aura is demonic in origin.
Examination (forbidden lore): Due to the construction of the axe—a combination of bone, flesh, and blackened metalit is likely that this axe was forged on an infernal plane.
Short Rest (forbidden lore: This axe is definitely otherworldly, specifically wherever demons come from. Blood empowers the axe, especially that of angels and the devout. If it goes more than a day without quenching its thirst it grows dormant.
Extended Rest (forbidden lore): A glabrezu created this axe, which serves as a focus for it in the material world. Anyone who bears the axe can speak with Namtar...and vice versa.

(Particularly high checks might reveal more, such as the demon's name.)

Curse: With the exception of uneasy memories and nightmares, viewing the axe is harmless. Once you touch it however, you will not willingly remove it, instead making any excuse possible to hang on to it. If you examine the axe with magic and determine that it is demonic or evil, you will not divulge this information, simply stating that it seems strange.

Property: The axe thirsts for blood. When the axe has been fed at least one drop of blood from a living creature, it gains a +1 bonus to the attack and damage rolls for the rest of the day. This bonus can increase depending on the bargains made and how well you serve Namtar.
Property: When you kill a living humanoid creature with this axe, it deals +1d6 damage for the rest of the encounter. If the creature was a good celestial, or otherwise the divine servant of a good deity (or otherwise notably devout), this bonus increases to +1d8. This bonus increases along with the enhancement bonus (so at +2 it deals +1d6 damage, +3 deals +3d6, and so on).
Property (Attuned): You can cast chaos hammer once per day per attuned property you have with the axe (including this one).
Property (Attuned): You can use the axe to carve through magical effects. This functions like a detect magic spell, except you must strike the object with the magical effect in question (so it may not be good to use in all situations). This ability works once per day per attuned property you have with the axe (including this one).
Property (Attuned): Once per day the axe can shout a word in Abyssal, which functions as a power word: stun, except that it does not work on fiends.
Property (Attuned): Once per day Namtar summons demons to assist you. You are representing Namtar in this instance, so if you embarrass him or treat them poorly then you will have to answer to him.

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