Posted by : David Guyll August 20, 2017

Cast
  • Helga (level 1 dwarf fighter)
  • Lydia (level 1 human bard)
  • Taverick (level 1 human cleric)

Session Highlights
We were supposed to do Adam's A Sundered World-But-With-Black Book campaign, but stuff happened, he wanted me to run something, and I figured this adventure could use more playtesting with more people/different characters, anyway.

As before the party was hired to deal with a harpy that had been attacking a village. The handful of witnesses that managed to either avoid the harpy, or happen to be there when it carried off someone else, believed that it was coming from a mountain range about a day or so away.

Following the villagers' directions, the party ventures to the mountains and discovers an ancient tower jutting from the peaks. It's surrounded by smaller towers, each connected by a narrow bridge, and decorated with numerous, incomplete skeletons clattering in the wind. While hiking up a fragmented trail leading to the tower, they notice numerous horizontal slits running up about half the tower's height.

They're several feet wide, and they can hear groaning and cracking echoing from within. Helga climbs up and peeks inside, and discovers a massive wind turbine made from stitched hide stretched over a wooden frame. It's steadily turning due to all the wind, though she has no idea as to what it's for.

Continuing their trek, they make it to the tower's entrance, fortunately without any sign of a harpy. Even better, there's no door. The curved passage inside leads both to the basement and up to the roof; they opt for the latter, because really the roof sounds like the kind of place you'd expect to find a harpy.

Near the top of the stairs they hear what they assume is the harpy, muttering to herself and scratching into the stone. Not wanting to take any chances they all rush onto the roof, blasting her with divine light, clobbering her with a maul, and if Melissa wasn't so unlucky she'd also have gotten tp stab a few times: fortunately Helga and Taverick get in a few crits and the harpy goes down without so much as a scratch.

On any of the party members, that is: she only managed to get in a single attack, but her talons couldn't tear through Helga's scale armor.

Mission accomplished, they decide to explore the roof some. Each of the smaller towers has a single stone obelisk on it, and each obelisk has different number of discs: two, three, four, and five. Each disc has the same fourteen runes carved into it, which leads Taverick to suggest that it's some kind of combination lock.

At the base of each obelisk was an arcane circle, and lines engraved into the roof all pointed towards the pit at the center. They also found what they assumed were many combinations that the harpy had already tried (which explained what the scratching was). Even so, given the number of discs and symbols even if they picked up where she left off they'd probably still be there for awhile.

A very, very long while.

Lydia decides to check the pit. It's filled with bones, but she figures there might be treasure in there, so has Helga hold onto a rope while she goes in. She doesn't have to go far before she finds an alcove about halfway down stuffed with coins and jewelry. Judging by the claw marks surrounding the alcove, probably the work of the harpy.

The party heads back to town. They exchange the harpy's head for a bunch of silver, and return the plainer pieces of jewelry that they assume belongs to the villagers (they did, and the villagers gave them another 25 sp and a mending potion for their honesty). Only a few villagers are aware of the tower's presence, but the only thing they can recall is that it was used a long time ago for a sky-burial ritual.

Hoping that they'll at least find something of value, the party buys some more food and returns to the tower to check out the basement. There they find a pack of dire rats with human faces randomly growing out of them, but before Lydia can obliterate them with her magic a ghoul shows up and offers to trade them information if they spare him and the rest of his...er, children.

Helga and Lydia are all for free information, and not picking fights with weird rats and demons, but Taverick eventually agrees and the ghoul, who introduces himself as Baraz, shows them the rest of his humble abode.

Baraz first brings them to the turbine room, which contains a pair of chains dangling from the ceiling that he can't reach. Helga manages to climb up with the help of rope and some spikes, but it takes the combined weight of her and Lydia to get the chain to budge. They hear stone grinding on stone for a bit, but don't see anything happen.

They do the same to the other chain, and when they return to the roof see that the pit is now sealed by two half-circle stone slabs that combined form an elaborate arcane circle. They're certain that the obelisks are the key to making the pit-circle do...something. Baraz claims to have no idea what, but mentions that there's an archive in the basement filled with crumbled scrolls, tablets, and cylinder seals.

While rummaging about the archive, Taverick spies a cylinder seal seemingly stuck to the ceiling. Helga climbs up to retrieve it and realizes that it's not stuck, but floating. Checking the symbols it's clear that they match those found on the obelisks, just mirrored. They roll it across some soft earth, and it creates four rows of symbols: one has two symbols, another three, then four, and finally five, obviously corresponding with the number of discs on each obelisk.

Lining up the symbols on each obelisk, the runes begin to glow, magical energy flows towards the circle at the center, and a spherical portal pops into existence above it. They can see a distorted image within, and gusts of wind issue from it. Taverick suspects a trap, but Baraz says it smells like home. Helga thinks it's much to elaborate for a trap and hops in, and after some hesitation the rest of the party follows...right before the portal collapses shut behind them.

Design & Development
Party was able to defeat the harpy the first time I ran this adventure, though they had more trouble because they didn't ambush it and Melissa had a string of bad rolls. So, I think the harpy is fine as a first-encounter monster for even a party of three to confront. Might even recommend two for a four-man team.

Didn't get to see much bard magic in action, so more playtesting is needed to see if the 2-round casting time is too crippling/annoying. Might swap out her charm effect since I doubt that will be of any use in this adventure.

Adam felt that the puzzle was doable albeit a bit annoying to solve (though that might have been because we were playing over hangouts and I didn't have any visual aids of the obelisks and symbols handy). In the original adventure there was a sylph NPC that can help translate stuff and kind of explain things, but they ended up befriending the ghoul so she wasn't necessary.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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