Monday, 31 July 2017

IV.34: The Corrupted Watcher

Masvirik’s Prison, in Khyber
Lharvion 6, 997 YK

Going in to what I think will be the final confrontation here, while nothing is set in stone—and plenty of things have happened in the course of the campaign that certainly were never planned in advance—I have a few possible outcomes in mind and the dice can lead to any of these:

  • Anaya cleanses the taint from Rhashaak, who becomes an ally.
  • They fail to cleanse Rhashaak, but do kill him.
  • Rhashaak defeats the party.
  • The Overlord’s taint affects them and deters them from their purpose.

Let’s Play to find out what happens

As Rhashaak’s challenge reverberated through the vast cavern, Anaya slung her longbow onto her back and began walking along the edge of the chasm that had opened up across the floor of the cavern. The once-smooth slope here was riven with cracks and, at intervals, hot sulphurous gasses vented through fissures that had been opened by the Blackscales’ magic. The chasm narrowed and ended about thirty yards beyond where the fighting had taken place; Vaalyun joined Anaya as she picked her way across the broken cave floor, and together they went around the chasm and walked along it to rejoin their friends.

Now that they had fully descended the slope, the floor of the cavern stretched out before them: a quarter of a mile expanse of rough stone carved out by forces natural or arcane over a million years ago. The towering silver flame at the centre of the chamber burned just as brightly as when they had entered, unchanging and untouched by the blood that had just been shed by the mortals fighting to own or enter the cavern; for a hundred thousand years it had burned in this place, holding the Overlord Masvirik trapped within. As they walked, Anaya glanced over at the cavern’s most recent prisoner; now that they were on his level, Rhashaak looked massive—certainly much larger than the dragon Taliesin that they had encountered in Newthrone—and the strands of the Silver Flame knotted around him seemed barely enough to contain such a powerful creature.

Cast a Spell(Cure Moderate Wounds)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 6) +1 = 8 Partial success.
-1 forward to casting; heals 2d8=8 hp
Familiar Prey(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Easy information: Black Dragons can breathe acid.

Esthana and Nyseris both looked a little battle-weary as they approached, and Nyseris was just drawing on the power of the Flame to heal themselves. The lizardfolk had many visible wounds, and burns covered part of one arm and shoulder—no doubt from facing the shaman here.

Esthana asked, “How close do you need to be?”

Anaya glanced anxiously towards Rhashaak. “I am not sure—but closer than this if I am to target the taint and drive it out.”

“Then we will need shields,” said Nyseris. “Black dragons can breathe acid.” The ranger discarded their broken spears and retrieved a shield and a fresh spear from one of the many Blackscale bodies scattered around them. Esthana copied her, sheathing her sword and taking up a shield.

Anaya shouldered her longbow and took her shield again. “A dragon this old may be a master of magic as well. We must approach cautiously.”

They began their approach, walking forwards across the cavern floor towards the dragon. Esthana and Nyseris led in front with Anaya behind them, and Vaalyun followed a little further back.

Rhashaak spoke again, his voice loud and rasping; it echoed in the vast chamber. “My servants are weak, but I had not thought them so pathetic that they could be beaten by so few.”

The huge dragon now loomed over them, and the shadow that he cast, as his great form blocked the light of the Flame behind him, fell across them.

The dragon is terrifying.

Defy Danger(Wis)(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +1 = 4 Failure!
You cannot approach

Well that’s going to be a problem. His involvement is required to do this without harming Rhashaak. It’s possible that Vaalyun’s cowardice gets everyone else killed here. Did I ever write the plan down here? The idea is that Vaalyun’s shadows-and-darkness dragonmark can pull away the darkness that envelops the dragon, and Anaya can then Sever it. But the party failed their planning roll to figure that out, and they can’t do it if he is hanging back.

“You are the first human that I have seen, Templar,” said Rhashaak, voice booming still. “My followers tell me that some of your kind now dwell at the edges of my domain. It is interesting to see one at last.”

“This is close enough,” said Anaya to Esthana and Nyseris. Raising her voice, she addressed the dragon: “You are Rhashaak?”

“I am. I have lived longer than your kind had existed, human. Do you really think that you can kill me? The bearers of Flame may have been able to bind their enemies for a time, but they have never had the strength to overcome us.”

“I did not come here to kill you.”

Rhashaak’s eyes opened wider, their deep red orbs staring down at the party with ill intent. “Then why come so far?”

Defy Danger(Cha)(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Worse outcome; Rhashaak doesn’t know why you’re here, but knows it has to be something bad for him.
Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(1 3) +3 = 7 Partial success.
Lose the spell; +1 forward for Esthana

“You have forgotten why you came to this place; it is time to remind you.”

Rhashaak snorted, jets of green vapour emerging from his nostrils. His head, like his body, was covered in black scales.

Speaking quieter, Anaya spoke to Esthana. “I will need to focus my energy on channelling the Flame. Shield me as well as you can.”

Esthana nodded. Channelling the Flame, Anaya put a hand on her friend’s shoulder and, once more, Esthana was surrounded by silver light. “The Flame guides us, as always.”

Defend(Esthana): 2D6(5 5) +2 = 12 Success!
Hold 3

Rhashaak breathes acid at Anaya.

Spend hold(Esthana): Divert attack to self, halve damage to target. Deal damage: 2d12k1+4 = 16 damage, 1 piercing; Esthana halves that, 2 off for armour, so 5 damage.

Esthana is at 17/26.

Seeing her draw on the Flame was enough to provoke Rhashaak into action, however. Lifting himself as much as he could, bound as he still was by strands of the Flame, he spewed forth a blast of acid that engulfed the Templars. Esthana had positioned herself in front of Anaya and took the full force of the blast, sheltered by her shield and plate mail, but the acid found the joints in her armour in places and she let out a grunt of pain.

I’m making this take some time, since this is the final challenge of the campaign, and it would be too easy if Anaya could end it quickly with a single roll. Think dangerous: no-one has ever been strong enough with the Flame to attempt this, so it has to be a big deal.

Spend hold(Esthana): Halve damage Deal damage: 2d12k1+4 = 16 damage (max again), halved to 8 but applied to Esthana and Anaya this time. Anaya takes 7, Esthana 5.

Anaya at 7/17, Esthana at 12/26.

“Cursed bearers of the gul siksta! The Overlords will wipe you from the face of Eberron!” roared Rhashaak.

Anaya was drawing on more of the Flame’s power now; some of the bonds of silver fire that encircled the dragon split, and strands reached out to where the cleric was standing, attaching to the silver flames that now surrounded her. Roaring in anger, Rhashaak tried to crouch and swipe at them with one of his clawed arms, stretching to try to reach beyond his bonds. But the Templars were out of reach, so he breathed in again and spewed forth more acid. Esthana’s shield was eaten away in the blast, and she was not able to fully shield Anaya this time; both Templars were engulfed in the spray, and Anaya felt a sharp pain as acid ate through her gambeson in places.

This is the big roll. A failure here probably means that everyone dies—Rhashaak would break free, and everyone is low on HP right now.

Cast a Spell(Sever)(Anaya): 2D6(5 2) +3 = 10 Success!
It begins

Fighting back the pain, Anaya raised her holy symbol and shouted, “Be cleansed by the Flame!”

The cords of silver fire binding the dragon suddenly became mobile. Attaching themselves to the light around Anaya, Rhashaak’s bonds expanded and reordered themselves at her command. Willing them to close, Anaya quickly brought them tightly around the dragon and continued to pull tighter, driving the energy of the Flame into the dragon’s body.

Think dangerous: dragon in agony flails around, threatening to crush those nearby.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Nyseris): 2D6(5 6) +2 = 13 Success!
You avoid getting crushed by the flailing dragon

Rhashaak’s head rose into the air, roaring in agony, his eyes rolled back in his head. No longer bound physically, he rolled onto his side, thrashing around wildly. Nyseris, who had circled around to that side of the dragon, had to turn and run to avoid being crushed.

Deal damage: 2d6=3 damage to Rhashaak; he is at 13/16 HP. Reveal an unwelcome truth: The party’s goal is to keep Rhashaak alive, but they don’t know how. And they have broken his bonds; if they release him without completing this, he is free to kill them and spread evil over Q’barra.

Esthana stayed close to Anaya, shielding her in case the dragon came too close, but Rhashaak’s attacks were no longer directed at the party; the huge creature writhed in agony on the stone floor before them.

“Is it working?” shouted Esthana.

Anaya did not know. She could feel the spirit of the dragon, ancient and dark, as if it were in her grasp. The Flame burned at the corruption that ran through the creature, both in body and spirit. The power flowing through her was immense, and as the dragon struggled it strained at the cords of energy that bound them together.

“I can cleanse the evil—but I may kill it in the attempt,” she shouted over the dragon’s screams.

As the dragon is disabled, Vaalyun can start to play a part again.

Discern Realities(Student of the Prophecy)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
Who is really in control here? Anaya.
What is about to happen? Anaya may lose control of this, and Rhashaak is no longer bound; her ability to get control is key.
What here is useful or valuable to me? The taint on Rhashaak is a shadow on his soul, which you can manipulate with your dragonmark.

+1 forward now from his Discern Realities, since he knows Anaya is in control (for now).

Defy Danger(Wis)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 3) +1+1 = 8 Partial success.
You can get closer, but not very close—not that you want to.
Defend(Esthana): 2D6(1 6) +2+1 = 10 Success!
Hold 3

Deal damage: 2d6=4 damage. Rhashaak is at 9/16.

Defy Danger(Con)(Anaya): 2D6(1 4) +0 = Failure! Turn Their Move Back on Them: You lose control

Uh oh.

Rhashaak screamed once more in pain, as dark blood and silver fire leaked out between his scales. The dragon jerked to one side, pulling sharply on the energy that tied her to him, and Anaya barely managed to keep control. She strained to maintain the cords binding the dragon against the pain from his last attack. Then the dragon spasmed again. Anaya was thrown to the ground before she could react, hitting her head on the rock floor of the cavern. For a few moments, she lay there, stunned.

“I will kill you all!” roared Rhashaak.

Deal damage: 2d12k1+4 = 10 damage; Esthana halves that, -2 for armour so 3 damage. Esthana is at 9/26.

Anaya felt the thundering of the dragon’s steps on the cavern floor before she realised that the bonds had broken. Rolling over, she saw Esthana standing over her as the dragon charged. Anaya rolled aside, scrambling to her feet, hearing Esthana’s cry as the creature crashed into her.

“Templar,” shouted Vaalyun, who was about fifty yards away. “We can do it! The taint on Rhashaak can be lifted!”

+1 forwards again for acting directly on another answer from his Discern Realities.

Dragonmark(Shadows and Darkness)(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 2) +2+1 = 7 Partial success.
Short duration

Confused, Anaya turned back to Rhashaak just in time to see the dragon turn to her again. He reared up, preparing to strike, but seemed to stop at the moment of attack. Staring at each other in confusion, Anaya saw the form of the dragon become blurry, as the shadows cast by the light of the Flame seemed to writhe around it. The shadow seemed to struggle and began to peel away from the creature itself.

“Now, Templar!”

Defend(Nyseris): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Hold 1

Spend hold(Nyseris): Divert attack to self Deal damage: 2d12k1+4 = 10 damage, 9 after armour (Nyseris also had a shield).

Nyseris is at 4/22; there was a good chance for that attack to be fatal.

Shaken from his momentary confusion, Rhashaak narrowed his eyes and moved forward to attack. The cleric raised her shield, but it was Nyseris that jumped in front of her just as the dragon exhaled. The ranger stood their ground as the blast of acid engulfed them, shielding Anaya from the blast. The cleric reached out to the Flame again, drawing once more on its power, and now her target was the shadowy form detaching from Rhashaak.

Now their plan can succeed.

Cast a Spell(Sever)(Anaya): 2D6(1 5) +3 = 9 Partial success.
Lose the spell; you sever Masvirik’s evil taint from Rhashaak.

This time, tendrils of silver fire separated from the giant Flame at the centre of the room, drifting over to surround Rhashaak at Anaya’s command. Rhashaak turned his head to one side, raising a claw to shield his eyes from the dazzling silver light that now shone around the cleric. Reaching out with the Flame, she pulled the bonds tighter, closing in around the shadowy taint that hung over the dragon. The fiery cords cut through the shadow’s connection to Rhashaak; the mighty dragon’s eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the floor, the booming thud echoing through the Khyber caves. Separated now from its host, the taint was entirely exposed to the Flame’s power; Anaya closed the bonds of Flame around it, burning the shadow away into nothing.

The cavern was quiet at last. Releasing the power of the Flame, Anaya staggered, exhausted with effort and feeling the pain of her wounds. The fallen form of Rhashaak lay sprawled on the cavern floor ahead, but the slight rise and fall of his back and the dust kicked up around his nostrils showed that he was still alive.

“It’s alright Esthana,” she called, seeing her fellow Templar approaching the fallen dragon. “He is—”

Cast a Spell(Cure Moderate Wounds)(Nyseris): 2D6(3 1) +1-1 = 4 Failure!
Deal Damage: d6=6 damage

Think Dangerous: I had decided before I made the roll that the consequence for failure would be further damage. Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment: you can’t just take off your acid-covered armour when it’s your skin. It’s unlucky for Nyseris that both the move roll and the damage roll are bad for them. Nyseris is at 0 HP.

Her eyes fell to Nyseris, who was lying sprawled on the ground just a few feet in front of her. Anaya fell to her knees beside the ranger; their skin was horribly burned down one side.

“Did we do it, Anaya of the Flame?” Nyseris asked. The ranger never wore a helmet, and Anaya saw that the top of the ranger’s head had been exposed to the acid blast; they were blinded, and worse.

“Yes. We did it.” Tears ran down Anaya’s face as she leaned over the ranger; the cleric tried to call on the Flame, but she was exhausted after the struggle with Rhashaak. In any case, Nyseris’ wounds were far beyond her healing powers.

Last Breath(Nyseris): 2D6(1 4) +1 = 6 Failure!
Your fate is sealed.

Even the +1 from Anaya’s Scales of Life and Death doesn’t save them. Sadness.

“Keep my people safe.” croaked Nyseris. As Esthana knelt down beside them, Nyseris breathed their last breath.

“We will,” said Anaya quietly. Removing her silver flame pendant, Anaya laid her holy symbol in the lizardfolk’s outstretched hand. “Be one with the Flame; may you burn brightly.”

End of Session(party): Overcame a notable enemy, +1 XP for all. Anaya and Vaalyun’s mutual bond is resolved; I would replace it, but there’s no need as the campaign is essentially over. Anaya and Esthana met their alignment goals.

Anaya: 1 failure, 1 bond, alignment goal, 1 session goal; at 12XP.
Esthana: 0 failures, alignment goal, 1 session goal; at 6XP.
Vaalyun: 1 failures, 1 bond, 1 session goal; at 7XP.

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