Curse of the Black Pearls.
This session began by figuring out what to do when they beat Nine-Fingers and found the proof promised of the collusion between the Cloudreavers and the Legion. I mostly listened to this and tried not to intervene as much as possible, except to stress that there were valid approaches either way (getting the Cloudreavers thrown out of the Court would advance the PCs cause equally as well). Either way, the players eventually decided to go to the blackmail route: But they needed the proof in question. Advancing down boldly into the below deck region of the skiff, they opened up the door with the light under it (protip: Want to get someones attention, make one door lit and the others not) and confronted Nine-Fingers. Thinking they had a distinct advantage the players had not gone into the other smaller rooms, until they turned around only to see two furious hellhounds burst forth from two of the crew cabins!
With the PCs bunched up and the breath weapons of the hellhounds running hot eventually this happened:
Narvarie and Kasswok went down hard,which the Paladin is getting a bit of a reputation for despite his high AC and considerable amount of HP (51). Meanwhile everyone else was at least badly burned or considering why everything smelt like pork suddenly. The Hellhound recharging his breath weapon on the second round was a huge moment and led to the above directly. Nine-Fingers (a modified gladiator) went at the PCs hard and managed to down the paladin a second time after he got healed (if you are keeping score, this means that the paladin has received two permanent wounds in two sessions!). Thankfully for him there was still plenty of healing and the fight soon turned once one of the hellhounds was finally dispatched. Knocking out Nine-Fingers and the final Hellhound dead, the players found the evidence they needed and were able to… “Convince” Nine-Fingers that they should really be helping out against the Legion.
Funnily enough at the Court the next day, looking a lot worse for wear, Nine-Fingers conveniently showed evidence not only showing Legion movements in seas not controlled by Rygar, but that assassins from the Legion had been sent against members of the court. Surely not dear friends! Surely not! With this proof, the Court now agreed that something had to be done and the PCs now had the full backing of the council: But first thin was first. They wanted to see one of these pearls for themselves and after studying the sea chart the characters had, the nearest one was in the land of Q’Barra, a place filled with dense inhospitable jungle, dinosaurs and lizardfolk.
Here of course I needed to direct – AKA Railroad – the game a bit. Unfortunately due to life, time and other things I couldn’t really make the game “Open” at this point like I had planned to do. Originally I intended to make things more open and with many more approaches to take, but instead as I have already finished 90% of “Coils of the Serpent Lord” I decided to use that adventure first, instead of being like “So where do you go now?”. This was regrettable on my part, but ultimately it’s a massive amount of work to allow characters to go literally anywhere off the bat like I was hoping. Especially because I am still balancing a fun crew and upgrade system for the ship – so in many ways while this was always a part of the game the direction to explicitly cover this aspect of the campaign first was required just to get time to finish elements to my liking.
It’s better to do a bit of railroading if you’re being ambitious than to throw in half-baked or poorly thought out ideas, which will always have a much worse effect on the game overall.
In any event, Newthrone was the next destination and it’s an immensely fortified port city. I made a point of having a harbormaster board the ship and query the PCs about why they were there, as well as emphasizing the high walls and fortress like nature of the city. Newthrone is under immense pressure from a very large and organized army of Lizardfolk. Upon reaching the House Tharashk meeting hall (Pathfinders Guild*) the characters soon encountered a large half-orc engaged with an argument with a human, who believed that a large “Serpent” carrying something she thought looked like a large black pearl was to blame. Naturally he thought this was nonsense and that the Lizardfolk had banded together before and it was something that will be dealt with swiftly after they smash themselves against the walls to their doom once again.
This naturally caught the PCs attention and they rapidly threw in their support for the woman, Moira, who was most appreciative. Normally charging a huge fee for adventurers wishing to go into the jungle, Moira gave them a choice: Help her find out what is happening to a Dragonborn village that she has had friendly interactions before and has lost contact with due to a blockade of aggressive lizardfolk, or pay her 10,000 gold to go straight to the source. The PCs decided to go help her find out what happened to the village and thus began their journey into the jungles of this strange land.
After a few days travel, mosquitos and worse, the players came across a rushing river where a large tree had fallen across it forming a makeshift bridge. Slippery and with a fast flowing river below, they began to cross when several blackscale lizardfolk came out of the jungle. I had already implied that they were being followed for some time, but now the Lizardfolk had decided to make their presence known and battle began. The first turn allowed the characters to maneuver a bit and otherwise get across into the Lizardfolk, where they picked one of them off without much of an issue: Then on the second turn my trump card for the encounter arrived, a massive T-Rex with a Blackscale Lizardfolk Shaman upon his back (He does have a name, but the players haven’t learned it… yet).
The T-Rex didn’t have the best effect on his turn, but given that the shaman is already employing heat metal and some other… interesting spells soon I feel the rest of this combat is going to be great. Unfortunately I ran out of time here and I decided to call it off until we meet again (in two weeks, I have a romantic wedding anniversary night to attend soon <3) in two weeks. I shall leave you with a T-Rex being ridden by a lizard, being ridden by another lizard (courtesy of Narvarie’s player for drawing him):
I so cannot wait to talk about the upcoming Temple, I feel it’s some of my best ever dungeon work…