Friday, October 31, 2014

New Pantheon 3: Balthazar and the Prison Riot

Balthazar charges into the office at the same time that Semprona Coras enters the room, and a long and difficult fight begins. The warden orders an unarmed guard to break a glass panel in the wall marked "Compromised." Layric the Laugh ducks behind tables and uses acid splash to gain sneak attack. Semprona steps up to smite the Balthazar, but gets smited herself by the more powerful paladin and goes down immediately. Rache uses true strike, then disarms the paladin before getting shield bashed into pulp. Aislyn picks up Rache's cure light wounds wand, but fails to use it to revive her two dying allies and is knocked into negatives by the guard. Jephthah jumps onto a table and attempts to hit the heavily armored paladin, but it knocked into negatives.

With all of his allies dying, Layric decides to think laterally. He runs and unlocks the door separating the prison riot from the warden.

The mob spills out and devours the paladin as Layric giggles madly.

After a few threats and inspiring words by Semprona and Rache, the mob is temporarily placated and settles down a bit. However, the exit is still blocked by a single door whose key is held by a single nervous guard on the other side. Lengthy negotiations ensue, including threats and the murder of hostages. Eventually, our heroes agree to let the remaining guards go in return for the key. They honor their word, let the guards flee to a boat, and then open the floodgates. Prisoners pour into the island. General chaos ensues, including the settling of old prison grudges, the rape and murder of the prison workmen and the destruction of the immense storehouse and workmen's quarters, while our heroes decide to take it easy for a bit.

Layric, however, has slipped off. He takes Balthazar's key and enters Balthazar's private quarters. Here he finds a strange soulstone mechanism, a bed, some books, accounting documents, and a desk... as well as Balthazar's kid, Peter Corinthian. After a lengthy conversation where Layric pretends to be a friend, his guise eventually slips. Peter steps forward, draws a small great sword and smites the halfling, who flees. Peter rushes after him.

They barrel down that stairs right into the arms of the rest of the party. Semprona is immediately intrigued, relishing in the opportunity to turn a paladin into an anti-paladin. He shows Peter the corpse of his father, then locks Peter in his cell. "I'm your mother now" Semprona tells the pissed off kid.

As the prisoners tear apart Gallowhall, our heroes further investigate Balthazars room. It is determined that Gallowhall is heavily in debt. It is also determined that the pedestal controls the movement of Gallowhall, and that somehow the sacrifice of prisoners in the gallows helps to jump start the thing. Semprona decides that the best way to test this is to ask groups of prisoners who they don't like, then sacrifice the victims. A man named Aver suggests a few people, who are then hanged, but when Aver himself is suggested a fight breaks out. This devaluing of life only stokes the metaphorical flames.

The physical flames are burning high. When our heroes head out to the immense, several story store room, they find it completely ablaze. Jephthah strides in to look for weapons. The intense heat burns through his fire resistance and, after two stifling trips in which only a falchion is found, the warehouse falls apart. Thousands of gold, food, and supplies are lost.

By this point, our heroes realize that things have gotten out of control. Corpses are everywhere. Excluding the 4 high security prisoners and the 20 in solitary confinement, there are only about 80 prisoners of the 180 left. Rache gathers the remaining group, tells them to band together and stop the chaos, and murders anybody is dissents. With about 70 prisoners placated, our heroes go to sleep.

The next morning, our heroes decide to check out the high security prisoners.

The first is Thur'duKahn, a short, dark skinned man with glowing red tattoos across his body. He was the assistant to the High Priest of Fire in Narset. Kah'mat killed the High Priest of Fire and sent Thur'duKahn to Gallowhall when she consolidated power. When our heroes release the priest, he recognizes Jephthah as the God of fire and falls at his feel. He begs to be named High Priest of Fire, and Jephthah raises him to the title of Thur'Kahn. Jephthah then tells him his true name, Thur'aash.

The second is Zuz a Zul, a short, talkative gnome. Zuz a Zul worked for the drug dealer Gerbo in Kamai. When the Sartori gang started taking over Gerbo's operations, the drug dealer appeared to comply but sent Zuz a Zul to kill a Sartori leader. When Zuz was found, Gerbo denied any sort of responsibility and sent him to Gallowhall, secretly promising to set him free. That was 10 years ago. Zuz a Zul has now sworn vengeance on Gerbo. Zuz a Zul was also the wizard who actually captured Layric and put him in prison. Zuz says they are now both on the same team, and they uneasily shake hands.

The third is Krannick, a pale elf covered in scars. After it becomes evident that Krannick's tounge has been removed, our heroes let him out of his cell, only for the agile elf to jump over the side of the prison and escape.

The fourth is Norb. Our heroes can hear heavy breathing when they listen at the door, but cannot see anything. When they open it, a screaming Orc barbarian leaps out and attacks!

It is January 3rd, and our heroes played this session at character level 3, ascension level 1.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Pantheon 2: Jailbreak, or an Interview Gone Wrong

Our heroes discuss a few things over fish stew during lunch in the cafeteria. They consider ways to get out of prison, and realign their objectives to include Gallowhall as a prize to be taken. They picture the grounds, and consider possible escape routes. But they are interrupted by four large guards who suddenly loom over them.

"Gentlemen. May I have a word?"

"Certainly," replies Jephthah "There is plenty of room at the table." When this is met with a stern smack on the head, our heroes obediently follow the guards. They go through Cell Block A, through a storage room, into the corridor surrounding the prison, then into an all-purpose room. Our heroes sit on one side of a table, while the guards stand on the other.

"At about 11:30am yesterday, you and a guard were sucked into a sinkhole while mining. You emerged from a hill nearly 24 hours later. Care to fill in the gap?"

Aislyn tells the story, mentioning the guard disappearing, the Grindylows, and the restless sleep. However, she leaves out the Gods.

"Anything else? Anything you are not telling us?"

"Nothing" replies Aislyn, starting to sweat.

"Are you absolutely sure?" A sickly smile crosses the guard's face.

"Well," says Rache after a deafening silence, "There were the Gods."

The guards exchange looks. "Go on..." says the interrogator, confused.

"Yeah, the Gods. They spoke to us, and told us that we would be their redemption. We are their vessels now."

"And did the rest of you hear these voices?"

Jephthah begins to sweat. "Well, I mean, maybe." Aislyn shrugs. "Sure, there were voices I guess."
The Guards look at one another. "Alright, let's put you guys in solitary for now."

Aislyn decides to take the nuclear option. She casts freezing hands under the table, hitting three of the four guards. Our heroes rush forward doing their best without weapons and, several of Layric's Acid Splashes later, the guards are downed. Keys are taken, and clubs and armor are donned.

After much discussion, our heroes make their way south to the storage room outside the kitchen. The gather a bag of supplies and convince a few very dull cooks that they are part of the staff. When a guard strolls by, they take him down before he can scream.

Our heroes then quickly make their way south and wind up at the office. They ambush the guard, use the key to automatically open Cell block A, then rush to the adjacent armory as 7 guards run into the office. Only finding more hide armor and clubs (as well as a few bows and arrows and, upon inspection, a wand of cure light wounds) they head back out again. A fight commences, and again Aislyn's freezing hands reign supreme.

Moments after the guards are downed, a large man in full plate kicks down the door and enters the room: Balthazar Corinthian, the Paladin warden of Gallowhall.

It is January 2nd, and our heroes played this session at character level 2, ascension level 1.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Pantheon 1: First Ascension and a Bad Night's Sleep

"Wake up you mongrels!" The guard walks down cell block, hitting his club loudly on the bars. "Cell block 10, you have thirty seconds to be out and on your feet, standing at attention."

Repeating a process they have performed a hundred times before, our heroes, and the rest of Cell Block 10, scramble out of bed and stand at attention in the damp and dark hallway. They are led to the first containment zone, where they are chained together in pairs. They are next led outside and given pickaxes. It's a mining day.

And it's a glorious morning. The sun in shining, the sea is lively, and Gallowhall has docked with a seemingly unspoiled jungle island with a few cliffs and crags peeking above the lush canopy.

20 prisoners are led by five guards through the jungle towards a rocky hill. For a time, our heroes dig out the rock wall, searching for bits of iron. It is backbreaking work, but a pile of ore begins to accumulate.

After an hour of mining, a guard brings a wheelbarrow full of ore to our heroes to collect. This added weight breaks the ground beneath our heroes' feet, and the lot of them plummet into a fast moving underground river.

After being hit against rocks and thrown about, our heroes are deposited in a large underground cavern. Bioluminescent algae is everywhere, casting the room into a dim green light. Without so much as an introduction, our heroes begin working to free themselves from their shackles. Semprona the anti-paladin take a pickaxes and hacks at the ankle bindings until each pair is separated. The guard and his wheelbarrow appear to be gone.

Our group slowly proceed down a natural hallway to another large cavern. This one has three small shapes and, when Layric gets closer, he determines they are sleeping Grindylows. Barely containing his excitement, the rogue coup-de-gras one of the aquatic goblins, and the rest of the group rushes in to murder the other two before they can finish yawning. Around the room our heroes find 9 small spears, a pile of junk, medium leather armor, enough cloth and stones to make a sling, and a small box with 6 spoiled cure light wound potions (which must be choked down to have any effect, at risk of vomiting).

A man-made stone hallway protrudes incongruously down this hallway. Aislyn the sorcerer cautiously blasts some strange goo on the wall, then freezes it altogether when it turns out to be an Ooze Swarm.

The hallway ends with a closed stone door. There are three large mechanical men (same stats as a Hippocampus), all in serious disrepair. When Layric somersaults into the room, he trips and falls at their feet as the constructs slowly whir to life. Although they once clearly were dangerous guardians, these metal creatures are falling apart, and no are no match for our heroes. Semprona pushes the stone door open.

Our heroes enter a medium size hexagonal room, with 6 pedestals and 6 immense soulstones on each. The largest soulstone Rache the Inquisitor has ever seen is about the size of a fist. These are the size of a chair, large lumps of crystal that glow with the colors of the 6 elements: Yellow (Positive), Purple (Negative), Blue (Water), Red (Fire), Brown (Earth), and Grey (Air). It is dim in here, but a massive crack in the back wall appears to be letting in sunlight from above.

Our heroes sense that they are entering a council chamber, and that there is a heated discussion taking place.

They catch phrases like "Just criminals" "weak" "imprisoned" and "unworthy" but then these exclamations are drowned out by a stronger voice. This stronger voice is at the same time loud and quiet, male and female, gravely, airy, rageful and calm, fluctuating between staccato punctuation and flowing verse. As it speaks, our heroes realize that this voice is an overlap of 6 very different voices.

This voice says "We have waited long enough. They are weak now, petty, disunited and mortal. But I sense in each of them a great desire for power." There is a short pause, and then the voice says "No more discussion. It is decided."

They feel the hair on their neck stand up, and they are aware that the invisible presences in the room turn towards them.

"You stand before the gods of the old world. Cast down and broken in the cataclysm, our powers were lost but our spirits were not killed. This temple was build in a bygone era, a last resort in case of such a failing. You stand before the elemental spirits, the creators of the universe, and a Pantheon marked for death."

"We seek revenge upon those who broke us. We seek the recognition above all the powers of the multiverse. We seek worship in the hearts of man. But above all, we seek the power to take back all creation."

"We stand at a crossroads of events, a precipice of history, and if we do not act now we are surely lost. We can wait no longer. You shall be our vessels, and we shall be your weapons. In the end, we shall be as one."

"We offer you great power, unimaginable power, the power to conquer worlds and obliterate your enemies. We offer you power beyond your imagining, power beyond what any mortal has ever held, power beyond even what the new Gods hold now. But, in return, we require a covenent."

"Step forward and claim your God."

Our heroes eagerly step forward. Rache the inquisitor races for the Positive stone, cackling with glee. Semprona the anti-paladin strides toward the Negative stone, declaring "No more games!" Jephthah the fighter walks forward, trips over his own feet, and winds up face first in the Fire stone. Layric the rogue dances from stone to stone, before finally determining that the Earth stone is his. Aislyn the sorcerer approaches the water stone (as if there was any doubt).

The voice speaks again.

"Covenant the first: Your desires shall be my desires, your needs as my needs, your enemies as my enemies, your friends as my friends. We are one mind, one heart, one soul. Do you swear?"

Aislyn hesitates. Is she about to give away her free will? Become a slave? But the promise of power is too alluring. The heroes swear.

"Covenant the second: As a Pantheon we are whole, divided we doom ourselves. There shall be no lies, no secret, no betrayal between god (and on the word betrayal you hear one voice break in anger, a voice as dry and dark as death). Do you swear?"

"Of course" Says Rache, "No secrets. I, by the way, am a half-orc, and not a human as I appear." Our heroes swear.

"Covenant the third: We shall seek power over all other values, unblemished by morality or other false ideals. We shall gain dominion over the world through fear or love, and we shall crush those who will not bow. Do you swear?"

Our heroes make uneasy eye contact from across the room. They swear.

"The let the New Pantheon begin."

The power flows through them, to each of them, and the soulstones turn to opal. They feel the gods rooting around in their brains and, at the same time, an immense unlocking of energy. Their skins glow.

"Without our planes to grant us power, we will have to seek Ascension in the new ways. Worship. You shall come to understand more in time. But first, you must find a way to freedom."

There is a large crack in the back of this room, leading to a vertical shaft up to the surface. Rache pokes his head out, only to see the prisoners eating lunch under the watchful eyes of 6 guard. He and the other heroes return to the cave, determined to wait it out.

Night falls, and the prisoners and guards leave. After some deliberation, Layric determines that the Grindylow corpses are indeed edible, if cooked. Without anything burn, Rache heads into the night, quickly gathers some wood and avoids a Venomous Snake. Jephthah uses his new flame aura to light the branches and the horrid Grindylow meat is prepared and cooked.

They set up camp on the cold stone ground of the room of the Gods, and try to sleep.

Jephthah nods off on his watch at about 1am, and our heroes are each awoken by a thrown spear. Five Grindylows attack! Rache gets hit, and begins bleeding on the floor with a spear sticking through his side. Semprona rushes into action. In her zealousness she activates the vicious aspect of her new found power, completely destroying a Grindylow but sacrificing a majority of her health. Aislyn attempts to roll into an advantageous position, but a Grindylow takes advantage of her movement and stabs her before she can get off a spell. The Grindylows attack, and bring Rache down to negative hit points. Jephthah rushes into to distract the Grindylow on Rache, and Layric moves into flanking. After a few rounds of melee the Grindylows are killed. But the night is not nearly over.

An hour later Rache realizes that they are being watched. He wakes the others and the group try and frighten the lurking Grindylows away. They even scatter metal pieces down the hallway. Despite their best efforts, the Grindylows always stay out of range, and spend the rest of the night hooting and screaming. Aislyn, Layric, and Semprona get no sleep after this, and dawn breaks to a hungry and exhausted bunch.

As the sun rises, our heroes begin to make their way out of the underground cavern and up the hill. However, the guards and prisoners return within minutes to begin mining. Exhausted, Layric and Aislyn both fall down the hill and into the middle of the guards. Semprona, sensing battle, charges and then tumbles down the hill, followed by Jephthah. Rache, seeing the jig is up, makes his way slowly down.

"We surrender" protests Aislyn meekly, as the guards rush in. Our heroes fall under an avalanche of club blows, an awake bruised and sore in their cells.

We started on sunrise January 1st and we ended at January 2nd, mid-day. Our heroes played this a Character Level 1, Ascension level 1, and ranked up to Character Level 2 for next session.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Pantheon Overview

The New Pantheon Campaign was a direct sequel to the Legacy of the Martyr King Campaign.  It took place 15 game years later, after a second earth-shattering cataclysm and after Maven, King of Men, had disappeared from the world.

There were a lot of attributes to this campaign that made it a particularly interesting to run.

First, the campaign started at level 1 and went to level 20, with the characters advancing one level every session.  On top of that, they gained bonus powers as they ascended into godhood.  This was a test of Pathfinder at high levels, and also provided a rags-to-riches story.

Second, the characters were evil.  The main focus of the campaign was to secure the worship of the people through any means possible, and to stop at nothing to get their way.

Third, the game was extremely sandboxy.  The would-be-gods traveled wherever they wished with whatever goals they sought.  Given their power and moral status, nothing was out of the question.  This included both leveling disobedient cities, assassinating emperors, and, when the time called for it, doing good in pursuit of greater evil.

Fourth, this game was a sequel, with former characters acting as central NPCs/antagonists to the global conflict.

It was a blast to run, and an extremely interesting experiment in a lot of ways.  You can read the adventure logs below.

Session 1: First Ascension and a Bad Night's Sleep
Session 2: Jailbreak, or an Interview Gone Wrong
Session 3: Balthazar and the Prison Riot
Session 4: Killing Skeletons and the Trip to Salton
Session 5: Deep Sea Dragon and Ironclad
Session 6: The Apocolyte Compound
Session 7: Return to Gallowhall
Session 8: Attack on the Armada
Session 9: Death of a God and the Fleet
Session 10: Aquatic Beasties and God-like Imposters
Session 11: Assault on Kah-Mat
Session 12: Rise of Shor-Mat
Session 13: Dragon and Leviathan
Session 14: The Desolation of Varaug
Session 15: Attack on Kashmir
Session 16: End of an Empire
Session 17: To the Isle of Madness
Session 18: Varaug's Lair
Session 19: To Saffron's Domain
Session 20: Attack on the Monastery
Session 21: Ovelia of the Reclaimers
Session 22: Return of the King
Session 23: The New Pantheon