Thursday, August 20, 2020

Session 18: Foiled

The Cranes start this weeks session by handing the bound Kaevia to Rasool, who picks her up and follows the party as they head south. After they cross a corridor, they find the pantry. At the east end of the corridor, they dimly view a larger chamber, in which two halflings seem to be boxing. The pantry contains nothing of interest, so the party starts heading back to the entryway to continue their exploration of the Sanctum. To their surprise, Manshoon awaits them in the corridor. He appears gracious, and invites them to follow him on a tour of the sanctum. In the foyer, he walks across the mosaic depicting a flying snake biting a coin. Once he stands on the coin, an alarm sounds, and battle is joined.

The fight initially doesn't go too badly for the Night Cranes. Parsain is able to grapple Manshoon, while Me turns into a giant toad and grabs the wizard with their tongue, preparing to swallow him. Xarca uses magic to turn Manshoon's weird iron hand red hot. However, after hearing the alarm, reinforcements arrive for the head of the Zhentarim. Two martial artists from the east, and a fencer and a songster from the west. The Cranes flee to the teleportation circle on the outer landing, some of them barely hanging on to life. Parsain attempts to bar the door, but the bard's shatter spell leaves it in ruins. Marty managed to teleport them out as Manshoon readied a lightning bolt. Thinking about how the search for the Stone has gone so far, the Cranes decide to sell Trollskull tavern and seek their fortune elsewhere.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Session 17: To Infinity, and Beyond! (Hopefully not beyond)

Tarsahk 3 continues in Kolat Towers. The Night Cranes pause to attune to their shiny new wand of binding and plot their next move. They decide to investigate the room guarded by the spectator. Shan and Mr. Me turn invisible, and carry a sheet into the room. They drape the sheet over the spectator, rendering it blind! The party rushes in to take pot shots at it, and it almost manages to eat the sheet off of itself, but only manages part of it before Jeramiah Stel Eo blasts the orb away with a lucky hit. Just then, flying snakes swoop down from the rafters, and almost make a meal out of Shan. Marty is able to take one out with an arrow, while Parsain grabs the end of the sheet and turns the beholder-kin into a morning star, knocking another snake out of the fight. Shan turns one into a flaming lantern, while Mr. Me kills the last one after finally getting a hit in with his shillelagh. 

Jeweled Shilleleagh
Eat it, USC

After the fight, Parsain tries to pick the locks but, despite thinking he was doing really well, isn't able to get them open. However, a mage hand reveals them to be illusory, and they loot the boxes. Marty investigates a magic circle in the center of the room, and determines it to be a teleportation circle. After some experimentation, nothing they have seems to be the key. Meanwhile, Shan goes downstairs to investigate Dulakh's library, and is rewarded for his efforts with an attack by a swarm of books. Marty has his back though, and they are able to quell the book uprising. The Cranes head back down to the room with a mimic to check out the outbuildings and discuss strategy.


The door from the mimic room leads into a shabbily decorated reading room, where a half-orc is reading Volo's Guide to Monsters. He seems friendly, so the party engages him in conversation. His name is Yorn, and he's been working for the Zhentarim for quite some time. He doesn't mind the change in leadership, as long as he gets paid, and Manshoon has been keeping him quite busy. He's annoyed, too, because he has to climb the tower to get to the teleportation circle every time Manshoon wants to see him, and he finds the empty tower creepy. Parsain says that the party has a meeting with Manshoon, but got lost. Yorn says that the lieutenants have a ring that lets them access Manshoon's extra-dimensional fortress. One is upstairs sleeping, and the other two are downstairs.

Believing that stealing from a sleeping man is the easiest course of action, the party heads into the next room. The apprentices look like the same ones as were summoning the demon. Marty notices that they are wearing rings that look like the teleportation rings Yorn described. Parsain ethers one and takes the ring. They leave the empty bottle of ether next to another apprentice. After taking a short rest to rearrange magical items, they teleport to Manshoon's Extradimensional Sanctum. 

The Cranes appear on a balcony surrounded by swirling purple mists. There is a figure watching them from a window through the mists, and once she sees they have noticed her, announces that they should wait for their host before vanishing. The party decides not to wait for whatever Manshoon has planned, and Parsain picks the lock to the door. They enter a large room with masks on the walls, a Zhent sigil dominating the floor. Jeremiah, Shan, and Groot try on the masks and are rewarded with shocks, but undeterred, they proceed into the room where they saw the woman. Parsain grapples her and Marty ties her up, and the rest of the party enters the room, hoping to avoid what they fear is a chilly reception.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Session 16: The Two Towers

Later on Tarsahk 2, Parsain hooks up with House Jhansczil, the horse breeders, pretending to have a letter of introduction. He uses their library to research the demon they saw. It's a Barlgura, a lesser ape-like demon that can turn invisible. Barlguars tend to not be very good for horse breeding, as they aren't very bright, and the invisibility can cause problems at the finish line.

On Tarsahk 3 the Cranes go to the guild of masons and try to convince the agent that they are visiting architects looking for Kolat Tower plans. They don't buy it and ask for a bribe. Marty offers 5 and the clerk looks insulted, so Marty offers 6, then 7. The clerk says they should leave before she calls the cops.

Groot goes to investigate the Towers from outside. There are two towers: the main tower is six stories, second tower is four. There are also some attached buildings that are 3 stories. People walking casually in and out, do not appear to be challenged. The Cranes go in, acting like they belong and consider their approach. The first room appears to be storage. They hear voices in the next room, so they decide to leave and go to Yellowspire to use the teleportation circle there. They continue their exploration of the empty towers. Marty wonders why, for someone's house, it seems to be so abandoned. The demon summoning room is empty. The next room up is blocked by a closed door, but the door is not locked. The room appears to have a detachable floor. Shan tried to explore the room, and the scraps of iron form themselves into a suit of animated armor. Then Shan, Marty, and Rasool move in, careful to stay to the edges for when the floor collapses. Parsain pulls the levers, and the floor flies upwards, crushing half the party against the ceiling. Mr. Me entangles the construct, almost catching Marty. A moonbeam from Xarca finally connects. Eventually, a crossbow bolt from Marty and a glaive strike from Rasool do it in.

On the next floor the party finds a flesh golem. They test it with an illusion, and it swipes at it and growls "not dulahk". Parsain uses the hat of disguise to make himself look like Dulahk Kolat and get them through. The next corridor has a rune at the end. Marty finds a secret door. Parsain figures out the mechanism for the secret door, but no one can figure out what the rune does. The door leads to a bedroom. Flameskull! Rasool charges, Marty restrains it, it shoots fire rays out of its eyes at Parsain. Rasool bonks it, and Parsain gets it in the eye. Parsain finds a secret compartment with a wand of binding. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Session 15: Flumph Mating Rituals

The Cranes continued their exploration of Kolat Towers. Past the bridge, they entered the second tower to find a room that was largely lacking a floor. Parsain jumped across, but the gap was too large for most of the party, so after some discussion, they decide to climb down into the room below. This turns out to be a library, and once the party starts examining the shelves, they find out that the library has guardians -- two gargoyles. Their stony hide is largely impervious to conventional weapons, and they get some good hits on Rasool. Eventually, mainly due to Groot's thorn whips, they are whelmed into submission. While Rasool bandages his wounds, Parsain completes the exploration of the tower and finds a spellbook concealed inside a book of Flumph dating rituals. Why Parsain wanted to look at a book on Flumph mating rituals is a mystery we are content not to explore. Contained in the spellbook are arcane lock, burning hands, comprehend languages, counterspell, darkvision, dimension door, find familiar, levitate, sending, and unseen servant. The party dumps the gargoyle corpses in the bottom of the first tower. Parsain buries the bodies under trash. 

Back on the story with the open floor, Parsain notices an opening in the ceiling. Groot goes to investigate and manages to find an invisible staircase. The staircase leads to ransacked laboratory -- the floor is covered in broken glass and there is an overturned table. Groot, in gecko form, finds more invisible stairs up and sees wizards summoning a Barlgura. Back down, the party searches a third platform in the room with an open floor plan, a platform with treasure chests. Parsain tickles one of the chests with his mage hand, revealing it to be a mimic. He then jumps, and tries rummaging in the other chest. In this one are various arcane foci, and he grabs a crystal for Shan. Eschewing the chance to disrupt the demon summoning, they decide discretion is the better part of valor, and leave the towers to return to Trollskull manor.

On the way back home, they see members of the Fishmonger's Guild brawling with Guild of Trusted Pewerers and Casters. Riff from the Fishmongers Guild is dating the sister of Tony from the Pewterers, and Tony thought he wasn't good enough, so a fight broke out. Rasool buys some hand rolls. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Session 15: Oh, the Towers You'll Climb!

It is Tarsahk 2. Given the new membership, the party decides to rename themselves the Cranes, and the tavern the Night Crane. Sailors have been carousing in the Night Crane all week, and that plus the excitement of a robot has led to a small but respectable profit. The Cranes recognize that someone is going to be coming after the eye, so have a lengthy discussion about how best to hide it. Some suggestions include baking into a loaf of bread, hiding it in the basement, or parachuting it. They decide to buy a lead statue, and hide it inside. Marty is able to find one at a nearby antique shop. While Marty is shopping, Azazel uses his knowledge of the mystic arts to investigate the eye. It appears to have no special properties while it is apart from the Stone of Golorr, but it definitely has an abolethic feel to it.

Having hidden the eye in the statue, the party decides to fully investigate the tower of Yellowspire. Mr. Me turns into a cat to scout it out, and it appears to have been abandoned, though whoever abandoned it left the body of a middle-aged Shou behind. Azazel looks into the cellar, and finds a locked door which Parsain unlocks. Behind it is a teleportation circle. Shan notes that the circle needs a 'key' to be useful. Marty examines the body, and finds out it's been dead most of a tenday. There is ink on his fingers, from which he deduces that he must have been a newspaper man. The body is covered in stab wounds, the probable cause of death. In the fireplace, Shan finds a charred wand of magic missiles and singed note that reads:
Seccent—I have nothing but contempt for what you have done. I don’t know what foul rites you hope to perform, but the more traditional rites of Brindul Alley would have surely wrung any information this broadsheet publisher might have had. Nonetheless, Manshoon’s word is my command, and so I present to you Shan Chien. May you choke on him. – Avareen
From this, the Cranes conclude they might be able to use Avareen's antagonism to their advantage -- at the very least, they should check out the house in Brindul Alley.

The Cranes venture back out into the rain and head to the Tradesward. There, in an unmarked building down a dark alley, they find the Zhentarim safehouse, and break in. They con their way in by asking for help finding their friend "Shan". As the discussion proceeds, they claim that Seccent is trying to frame Avareen for Shan's death. This doesn't get them anywhere, so Mr. Me leaves against the advice of the rest of the party, who want to murder. They then try to decide how to get back inside. Azazel tries to ask to use the bathroom, but Avareen tells him to go in the alley, so he does. Eventually, the Cranes figure out the the door is still unlocked, so they walk in and attack. Avareen suddenly finds everything very funny, and her bodyguard Zorbog is Held. The party demands to know how to get to Manshoon, and Avareen hands them a small crystal she had carried around her neck that would allow them to use the teleportation circles. Parsain then cuts her throat.

Exploring the two-room house, the party finds a torture chamber in the back, undoubtedly home to the "traditional rites" the earlier note referenced. There is also an arcane circle and a note. The note is signed by Manshoon, and exhorts Zorbog to "gather the usual gang" and kidnap a man named "Fenerus Stormcastle" who lives in Quill Alley, and is "a known associate of these new meddlers in the Grand Game." Zorbog is to squeeze Fenerus until he reveals everything he knows. The Cranes set up a fake torture scene, remove the lower jaws of Avareen and Zorbog, and leave a note implicating Zardoz Zord. Then they teleport to the Kolat towers.

Upon arriving at the towers, a magic mouth intones a warning. Mr. Me turns into a cat again to explore the tower. It is largely empty, with the exception of a Spectator beholder kin guarding a teleportation circle and several treasure chests on the top floor. The Cranes decide to leave them alone, and instead cross the bridge on the floor they arrived to the second tower.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Session 14: Enter the Arena

With but a few days remaining before the big fight club event, the gang has to hatch a plan to crash the party and hopefully they will be able to snatch the Eye of Golorr while everyone is distracted by the feats of strength and daring-do.  First Marty did some research on the Stone and in his digging was able to uncover cryptic writing about how this Abolethic orb has three eyes and definitely holds secrets, but may also cause forgetfulness.

Meanwhile, Parsain cases the town for clues as to who will cater to this big event and discovers Orb Confectioners down in the Southern Ward. Could this be the entree for the Trollskull Gang? On the other hand, sitting around the tavern, someone suggested impatiently beating up the goblins found in the sewer. In the end, the crew decides to go with the less half-baked plan of offering to help with the catering.

Upon arriving at Orb Confectioners, which was quite close to the entrance where they had delivered the musical instruments in their prior encounter. the lovable firbolg druid quickly recognizes this location as another point of access to the cellar complex. Azazel tried to talk remuneration but was too transparent for the goblin, who replied, "If you are good at setting things on fire, you should be able to bake" In the end, Marty offers to help out with the catering, an option which would both get them closer to the Stone and would also give an ability for the Trollskull pastry chef to introduce a new delicacy that they'd been developing: Cake Pops. By hook or by crook, the lowly epicurean goblin agreed to hire the gang and told them to return on Thursday, two days hence.

Speaking of Cake Pops... What are these magical treats on a stick? How could they be made by mere mortal hands? Maybe the gods favored our favorite adventurers? Maybe it was a complete accident, but they were certainly well-received at the bouts. Did this even assuage the rowdy attendees when they found out that the much-hyped Rasool was a no-show? While this may be the case, our gang left early, unaware of the events upstairs, as you will read below.

With two days remaining, more investigation takes place. The team learned that Grinda Garloth would be supplying the armor and weapons. Beyond that, they were easily able to learn the identities of the entrants: Minsc is good, Rasool might enter, and the Goblin champ is Knifethroat. The odds-on favorite, though was Erik the Red, the combatant from Icewind Dale who has been sponsored by Cassalanters.

Cake pop/catering training montage

When Thursday finally rolls around, the new caterers proceed to serve cake pops to the attending crowd, as the sparring gladiators jabs and parrys proceed before them. When the adventurers arrive on the scene, 100 gnome-sized horses vs. 1 horse sized gnome are engaging in heated battle. Although the poor gnome appears to be outnumbered, he also turns out to be unmatched and wins the bout handily. Recalling his ability to assume the shape of various animals, our intrepid firbolg finds a quiet spot to change into a rat and starts exploring. Finding a beholder zombie guarding a passage to the north, the druid who his friends also call Tom Bombadil for some reason (he failed the arcana check), calmly scampered off in the other direction.

Almost out of clear options, our sneaky rat explores another hallway that they had overlooked upon their arrival. Surprised and nearly trampled by an acrobat doing handsprings and cartwheels down the hall. One look into his haunted eyes and a kind word was all it took and the stuntgnome, Flutterfoot Zipswiggle, pleaded for us to take him with us. Heading in yet another direction, with the funambulist more- or less-quietly following, they arrived at a room with a giant fishtank and a dwarf named Ott feeding the giant goldfish swimming therein. With this fellow clearly terrified and threatening to raise an alarm, Parsain's owl flew up and snatches Otts' hat and the party surrounds him.

Someone thought to look more closely at the fish tank and discovered a chest inauspiciously sitting amidst the ruins of a scale model of an old sunken ship. Upon retrieving this loot, an Eye of Golorr was discovered within! Having recovered the Eye, the adventurers proceeded to sneak out, masked by the chants for Rasool coming from the fight club main arena. On arriving back at Trollskull Manor, the Cranes debriefed Flutterfoot. Flutterfoot had befriended a Zhent prisoner in the dungeons, and learned that Manshoon is based in Kolat Tower. He's not sure exactly how to get there, but he knows there's a way through Yellowspire.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Session 13: A New Hope

By Daniel Jolivet -, CC BY 2.0,
Ches 28 dawned gray, with a light rain reflecting the mood of our heroes. Little did they know a new group was coming in to replenish their numbers. Marty and Rasool, the survivors of the Marpenoth Massacre, were unavailable. They were still mourning their friends in their own way, so the green members explored town, looking for Renaer and enjoying the sights. Their first stop was the Yawning Portal, where Durnan suggested they check out the wandering statues. Shortly after leaving the Yawning Portal, the party was attacked by a group of thugs, but Shan talked the thugs out of it. They went to look at the Honorable Knight and then turned north. As they walked north, they were passed by a well-appointed carriage. From the carriage, a lord in a mask peered at them from inside.

After passing the Swordmaiden, they decide to see if Renaer is at Trollskull Manor. There, a surly dwarf tells them that he isn't there, but he might be at the House of Inspired Hands. Seeing the looks on the party's faces, he adds that it's a temple of Gond. On the way to the temple, there is a congested intersection and a city watchwoman directing traffic. Me and Xarca almost walk in the way of a carriage drawn by two okapi, but Parsain is able to keep him from being run over. Parsain cleans them off. Me thinks Parsain is flirting with them, and Xarca is somehow immediately filthy again.

The party arrives at the House of Inspired Hands, and wander the grand hall looking at the exhibitions mounted on marble pedestals. Several stand out:

A 4-foot-tall working model of a clock tower rings at the top of every hour. It is made of wood, iron, bronze, and glass, with brass bells and delicate hands formed from solid gold.
A wooden flying machine has wings that flap when it becomes airborne.
A miniature model of a mechanical dragon turtle has a brass plate affixed to its pedestal that reads, “Big Belchy. Sank in Deepwater Harbor on the Day of Wonders in 1363 DR.”
A functional “waking helmet” equipped with small, articulated metal arms and hands that gently slap the wearer if he or she falls asleep.
A miniature model of a red submarine shaped like a manta ray has a brass plate affixed to its pedestal that reads, “The Scarlet Marpenoth. Lantanese submersible. Launched in 1489 DR.”

The model of the Scarlet Marpenoth looks accurate. Xarca teleports into the flying constraption, but he climbs out sadly when he is admonished by the priests. They try to lecture him, but he gets distracted as they are lecturing and wanders off. Renaer is still nowhere to be seen, so they decide to head back to Trollskull Manor.

On the way back to the manor, they see a carriage careening down the street. It hits some sort of bump and crashes, sending brass instruments scattering across the pavement. A little green woman jumped off the carriage at the last minute, and as she flees the scene of the accident, Xarca puts her to sleep. The goblin is transporting instruments for Xanathar. She tells the party that there are going to be gladitorial games in a few days, and Xanathar wants to make sure they are held with the appropriate amount of pomp and circumstance. The party offers to take the instruments down to the Xanathar guild and she accepts with relief, saying that she hasn't been able to spend time with her husband and children in some time. The party picks up the instruments and imitates a brass band poorly as they head into the sewers.

Wandering through the sewers, they are jumped by a pair of desperate wererats. Xarka casts moonlight, damaging one, while Parsain shoots an arrow through the gut of another one. Parsain's owl superbly swoops through the moonlight, distracting the first wererat, and Parsain shoots him in the fact as Mr. Me finished the second off with his shillelagh. They continue towards into a cellar complex, where Parsain oils a rusty door to enable the group to sneak in. They tell the goblins they find there that they are here to deliver the instruments. The goblins take delivery, and sound excited about the games. Apparently everyone is going to be there, paying very close attention to the games and nothing else. They pay the party 200gp for their trouble, and the party heads slightly further into the sewers, where they find the old hideout where Floon had been tortured almost a month ago. Groot-me and Shan are able to use their sense of direction to figure out where on the surface corresponds with this subterranean locale, and they head back to Trollskull Manor, hopefully to meet with Rasool and Marty and compare notes.