Saturday, January 11, 2014

Reaching Jorgenfist (01/03/2014)

The Friday Night Group hasn’t met since before Thanksgiving due to a severe bout of holidayus interruptus but were glad to be back together to start 2014. We have been playing as a group for a little over a year and are looking forward to seeing what madness may lay ahead in the second half of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

The party has continued their pursuit of Teraktinus and the remaining stone giants following the giant’s assault on Sandpoint. The party has been convinced that Teraktinus is aware of their presence as two different parties have been left behind to waylay them. The second of these groups almost did the job last time as two of the party members were knocked unconscious before the remainder could finish off their foes. Time was running short though. If Teraktinus should reach his master Mokmurian in Jorgenfist they would certainly lose their element of surprise, plus who knows exactly what Teraktinus found in the ruins of the old lighthouse and what its value to Mokmurian was.

The party had estimated it would take 12-14 days to reach to Storval Stairs from Sandpoint, which would in turn lead the party to the Storval Rise, home of the mysterious giant fortress, Jorgenfist. By their estimation the heroes knew they were approximately half-way there, but while they had made good time in catching up with the fleeing stone giants they also knew the stone giants would have the same sense of urgency as they drew closer to their goal. The party had been able to track the stone giants easily so far based on the path of destruction they had left behind, but as they have continued their pursuit it is obvious the giants are trying to make time as they continue their escape.

After several more days of pursuit the party came upon a campsite where the embers in the large campfire were still warm – they were getting close. The tracks were rather muddled, but best guesses where that there were 8-10 remaining giants, still pulling the wagon of the Scarnetti’s possessions and the loot pilfered from Sandpoint, along with 10-15 human captives that were either being herded or toted along. Now recovered from the injuries suffered during their last battle, the heroes prepared themselves for the fight that was sure to come.

As the party came around a bend they could see a small town ahead. An inn, 7-8 dwellings, a stable or two, along with several near-standing farms. The town was located at the cross path of two roads, a logical location for a town to rise. Even from a distance of about a quarter of a mile it was obvious to see that a group of eight giants were reigning havoc in the town. The screams of the citizens could be heard, and a plume of smoke had started to rise from one of the houses.

Given the open ground surrounding the town there wasn’t much of a chance for the party to surprise the marauding giants, so it was decided that Reynard would cast a Fly on himself and drop a few Chain Lightning’s on them to soften them up a bit. The first Chain Lightning announced to the giants the presence of the heroes, and from his vantage point Reynard could see Teraktinus direct the other stone giants to not bunch up and to prepare for the arrival of the remainder of the party.

As soon as he got close enough Selinor added to the spell attacks, Kheo began his barrage of arrows, and Stike stepped to the front with his swinging swords. Teraktinus continued to direct the actions of the remaining stone giants from his location in the center of town, but as the final members of his stone giant army began to fall Teraktinus decided it was time for him to duck out and continue on to Jorgenfist on his own. Reynard tracked him from the air though and was able to place a Wall of Force around the escaping giant leader and trap him inside. From there Reynard and Selinor dropped in a few more spells to finish off Teraktinus and bring an end to the stone giant assault force.

The party inspected Teraktinus’s “treasure” and found only a cornerstone from the base of the ancient light tower from back in Sandpoint. Further inspection only revealed what the party had seen previously – there was nothing inherently magical about the stone itself, although it did retain a faint magical glow from when it had originally been shaped several thousands of years previous. Perhaps the stone giants really did have some way of talking to stones, but the party knew that this particular stone would not now make its way into the hands of Mokmurian and reveal its secrets.

The townspeople had already put out the fire and had started bandaging up the citizens that had been hurt in the giants attack. They stated they had heard stories of the giants, but really didn’t believe it until all of a sudden the giants were in their midst. They were extremely happy the heroes had come along when they did and set about preparing a big feast in celebration. This gave the opportunity for the party to decide what to do with the captives from Sandpoint.

Selinor used his Teleport to immediately return Scarnetti’s granddaughter and two of the more infirm captives to Sandpoint immediately, knowing that this would further earn Scarnetti’s gratitude plus to let the town know the rescue had occurred. The party then set the remainder up to return to Sandpoint via the wagon and via horseback.

Among the possessions of Teraktinus the party found: +2 Hide Armor, +1 Dwarf Bane Heavy Pick, +1 Light Pick, Ring of Protection +1, war horn, Amulet of Mighty Fists +1, gold-and-amber ring (worth 500 GP), and a silver armband (worth 2,500 GP). The giants had also accumulated a few bits of treasure from their raids, apart from the loot they absconded with from Sandpoint: a chest filled with miscellaneous jewelry and gold and silver pieces worth 600 GP.

Among the items loaded into the wagon back in Sandpoint there were four woven silk tapestries worth 1,200 GP each; three chests of silver and gold-inlaid tableware worth 1,000 GP in all; barrels of wine, brandy, and olive oil worth a total of 1,400 GP; and a teakwood desk inlaid with silver and gold worth 600 GP. All of these belonged to the Scarnetti family but were to be included as part of the reward if the heroes could save Scarnetti’s granddaughter. The only one of those items Scarnetti wanted returned was the desk, a family heirloom.

Out of curiosity Kheo began to poke around the desk and found a hidden compartment. There they found several letters addressed to Titus Scarnetti from local crime lord Jubrayl Vhiski that revealed not only that Titus had hired Jubrayl to burn down several mills in the region (ensuring Scarnetti's own mill in town would gain more business), but also that Jubrayl has reversed the attack and was now blackmailing the Scarnetti family for regular payments, lest he reveal to Sheriff Hemlock that Scarnetti had paid one of his boys to light those fires. Several copies of the letters were made while the party discussed which would be more profitable – turning in Scarnetti for a reward, or not turning in Scarnetti for likely a larger reward.

The next morning the heroes saw the survivors off as they started their long trek back to Sandpoint and then the party resumed their trip to Jorgenfist. Reynard used his Shadow Walk spell to hurry the advance of the heroes and they soon found themselves at the bottom of the Storval Stairs. The Storval Rise was one of the most unique and infamous landmarks in Varisia; the change in terrain from the fertile lowlands to the rugged and stony scrublands of the plateau above marked the lands of giants and barbarians with an unmistakable boundary. The rise itself often reached dizzying heights of 1,000 feet or more, but at the location known as the Storval Stairs the cliffs were only 400 feet high and the top featured an ancient Thassilonian monument once used by armies of enslaved giants for easy foot travel between the lowlands and the plateau.

The Storval Stairs rose in 2-foot steps, and at the top were flanked on either side by immense statues of Runelord Karzoug (although the southern statue has finally begun to crumble and erode) and walls of ancient towers, buildings, and dwellings. Until relatively recently it looks like things like harpies and trolls had dwelt along the steps, but now the lower portion of the stairs seems to be all but abandoned.
The Storval Stairs
Rather than take the time to climb the 400 feet worth of stairs and potentially leave themselves exposed during the process, it was decided that Reynard would Teleport the entire crew to the top of the stairs. It only took a second, but as soon as they reappeared they found themselves surrounded by six equally surprised hill giants. The hill giants had been obviously tasked with guarding the stairs, and the party could see piles of rocks sitting off to the side for them to use as part of their defense against anybody that tried to climb the stairs. But at this distance the hill giants waved their mighty clubs and waded in to take out the invaders of their domain.

Reynard and Selinor took to the air so they could cast their spells and Kheo tried to put some distance between himself and the giants so he could safely use his arrows, leaving Stike to take the brunt of the giant’s wrath. The rest of the party was able to soften up the hill giants but not before Stike took one (or five) too many blows and was knocked unconscious. It wasn’t easy, but the hill giants were eventually finished off, and Stike revived.

The giants had gathered a fairly respectable stash of treasure for themselves, mostly taken from the harpies and trolls they defeated over the past month. They kept this treasure in a mound in the back of their temporary home. The treasure consisted of 3,306 SP, a carved mammoth bone statuette of a much smaller mammoth worth 700 GP, an eye patch with a mock eye of black star sapphire and moonstone worth 900 GP, a mithral anklet worth 1,000 GP, an official looking jeweled gold crown worth 4,000 GP, a +2 Defending Bladed Scaif, a leather pouch containing seven potions of Cure Moderate Wounds and a potion of Remove Disease, and an Efficient Quiver containing 16 +1 Undead Bane arrows and one Greater Monstrous Humanoid Slaying Arrow.

DM Note: According to Google, a scaif is: a polishing wheel infused with a mixture of olive oil and diamond dust used in the diamond cutting industry. In the Herolab tool I find there is such a thing as a Bladed Scarf. We'll assume this is just a typo and go with +2 Defending Bladed Scarf.

From there it took a few more days to reach Jorgenfist, their party’s advance as they took care to avoid various patrols and foraging parties along the way. The party was feeling good that they had made good time, that their presence was still likely undetected, and that they were in good health in preparation for whatever may befall them ahead.

As the party approached from the west they reached the Valley of the Black Tower, home of Jorgenfist. Here the mountains gave way here to a wide valley perched on the upper edge of a cliff overlooking the Muschkal River. At the western edge of the valley entrance a lone watchtower stood upon a low hill, but this structure was overshadowed by the larger one that loomed in the valley proper.
Here stood a ring-shaped stone wall, fifty feet in height and surrounding several buildings, the most impressive of which is a looming black tower with bladelike crenellations that faced south and overlooked the river gorge. Within the ring, a one-hundred-fifty-foot tall stone spire rose, surrounded by three low buildings. Apart from the black tower, five smaller towers were built into the fortress wall - one of these towers was wider than the others and seems to be the only gateway into the courtyard within.

The fortress was not the only sign of life in the valley, for surrounding it were seven large camps of towering tents, yurts, and stone shelters. Smoke rose from campfires and the sound of grating laughter and the clash of weapon training fills the air, competing with the periodic trumpeting of large and angry-sounding animals from somewhere within the fortress itself. From their vantage point the party could make out the following tribes:

BLACK FIST: This tribe consisted of 32 hill giants

RED SHIELD AND NIGHTSHADE: These two allied ogre clans had banded together to form one tribe

MAIDENS OF MINDERHAL: This tribe of stone giants was unusual for its composition. Entirely female, this tribe had a reputation for being among the cruelest and most excessive in its vile ways

JORMUNSIR: The Jormunsir numbered 20 stone giants strong

VALISSGANDER: This tribe of stone giants numbered 18 strong

CRANNOCH: The 22 stone giants of the Crannoch tribe were the most efficient hunters in the region - as a result, this camp was usually empty save for a few giants while the rest were out hunting. A dozen dire bears rounded out this tribe's inhabitants

KAVARVATTI: Another large contingent of as many as 20 stone giants

In the valley to the south of the tower several wyverns could be seen slowly flying around in the breezes in and out of the depths of the Muschkal River valley. From their vantage point the party could see most of the 400 foot walls of the river valley.
Valley of the Black Tower
A frontal assault doesn’t seem likely, so for the moment the heroes have remained hidden as they review their options, and we’ll pick it up there next time. For tonight’s efforts the party earned 62,800 XP, giving them (155,000 + 62,800) 217,800 XP earned so far, with 220,000 XP required to reach Level 12 (315,000 XP for Level 13).

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