Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Secret of Runeforge (02/28/2015)

The heroes had cleaned out the last great hall in Runeforge, the Halls of Wrath. They now had in hand all of the magical components they were looking for, so the remaining task was to present these components back at the runeforge pool in the main hall to create the weapons necessary for their eventual final fight with Karzoug's forces, and maybe even Karzoug himself. That, and find a way out of Runeforge, all while avoiding an Ancient White Dragon who had been stalking them. What could go wrong?
Vraxeris had hinted in his notes that there was a way out of Runeforge for those “not of the blood” that was located in the Halls of Wrath. It took a little investigation, but soon Reynard was able to determine that the great Sihedron Rune on the floor of the Hall of Testing was indeed a two-way portal:
Calling: Once per day, the master circle could be commanded to call a single creature, functioning as a Planar Binding spell. Only one called outsider may be active at a time via this effect. It is this use that Highlady Athroxis was able to call forth the glabrezu to her defense.
Travel: If any teleportation effect is used while the caster is standing within the circle, the teleportation energy will instead absorbed by the master circle, which then opened a gate to the center of the Sihedron Circle on the lower slopes of Rimeskull. The gate was a two-way portal, and would remain open for one hour before closing.
Before returning to the great hall the heroes decided to use the Wand of Clairvoyance/Clairaudience to determine if they could spy upon Arkrhyst, but the great beast could not be found at the locations they specified. After a rest to recover health and spells it was decided they would use the components to create the weapons of power, with the intent of creating the weapons before the certainly inevitable fight with Arkrhyst.
Runeforged Weapon Components
 As the heroes entered the great hall they were alone. Arrayed around the hall were the seven statues of the great runelords of Thassilon:
Karzoug: The party had seen his statue several times previous. He was depicted as a towering man with gems set in his forehead and hands, dressed in rich robes, and wielded a burning glaive. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Greed and his primary school of magic was Transmutation. His opposing schools were Enchantment and Illusion.

Krune: A short smiling man with a hooked nose and beady eyes, wearing robes and wielding a spear. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Sloth. His opposing schools were Illusion and Evocation.

Belimarus: A heavyset woman with a sneering visage and an imperious stance, dressed in a flowing dress and wielding a halberd. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Envy. Her opposing schools were Evocation and Necromancy.

Sorshen: A voluptuous woman with a seductive look, large eyes, and long flowing hair; this statue is nude and wields a double-headed guisarme. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Lust. Her opposing schools were Necromancy and Transmutation.

Xanderghul: A strikingly handsome man adorned with a close-cropped beard and a charming expression; his form is dressed in extravagant clothes and wields a lucerne hammer. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Pride. His opposing schools were Transmutation and Conjuration.

Alaznist: The party had seen her statue once previous. A gothic beauty with wild hair and a somewhat insane expression, this woman wore a long flowing dress and wielded a thorny ranseur. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Wrath. Her opposing schools were Conjuration and Abjuration.

Zutha: An obese man, his flesh rotten in places so that the bones show through, wearing a ragged robe and wielding a scythe. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Gluttony. His opposing schools were Abjuration and Enchantment.

As the heroes stepped toward the pool a dark, deep voice rumbled out from the darkness. “I see you have been successful in gaining the components you need. I did not think you were worthy. But you are still not worthy of me.” The large ancient white dragon revealed himself – Arkrhyst. “Before I kill you I have an offer. Put down your components, leave, and never return. Just walk away, and I shall not pursue you. The late Jordimandus, the one you didn’t kill, has provided me the secrets of this place, the same secrets he revealed to you. You have no chance of completing this quest. So please, go home, and live your puny and worthless lives in peace. Or die here now. It makes no difference to me.”
The heroes were not fully prepared for a battle with the dragon, the one they had fought twice previously and had been forced to make an opportune escape to avoid its wrath, but this time heroes knew they had come too far to simply walk away. The party scattered about the room and began their attacks. Many of Kheo’s arrows simply bounced off the tough hide of the old wyrm, but some got through. Selinor’s and Reynard’s spells had similar results – some merely bounced off and did no damage, but some did get through. Stike roared forward with his mighty sword and delivered a few good blows, but then the dragon turned his focus to Stike and in one turn the large fighter was down.
Even so, the heroes had by now put a dent in the mighty dragon and continued their furious attack without Stike. Selinor summoned a Devourer who joined the attack and kept the dragon on the defensive. Kheo was the next to take a mighty blow from the dragon, but narrowly avoided being put down himself. Just as things started to really look bleak Arkrhyst took his last breath and collapsed to the floor.
The remainder of the party grabbed Stike and quickly drug him away to what they hoped would be a safe spot. Selinor was able to use his only Resurrection and then a Greater Restoration to get Stike back on his feet, and as soon as that that was completed it was decided to visit the pool in runeforge again, enhance their weapons, and leave this place.
As the party drew near to the runeforge pool with the seven components the waters began to come alive, to bubble and hiss, as if they knew their true purpose was about to be utilized. Unbeknownst to the party though was that while Karzoug was not yet truly awakened, he had reestablished his link with the runeforge pool, and when the pool was in the presence of the components necessary used to craft runeforged weapons, he felt it. Karzoug knew that dominant weapons in particular were a threat to him, and as soon as the pool came alive he acted. From deep within the Eye of Avarice high above Xin-Shalast, Runelord Karzoug reached out to use the runeforged pool himself.
With a sudden explosion of water, a beam of golden light burst from the pool to bathe the statue of Karzoug. Immediately, the towering statue animated, transforming into an enormous stone golem. It stared down at the party and spoke, the voice the same they heard issuing from Mokmurian previously. "You. Again. I can't help but be inspired by your optimism, but alas, your weapons will never reach Xin-Shalast. Your fate is death, here in Runeforge."
Karzoug's Statue Animates
The party immediately scattered to avoid the mighty blows of the slow moving golem and to begin their attacks. Magic spells simply melted off of him with no affect, so Stike and Kheo knew it would be up to them to take down the monstrous Karzoug golem. But Karzoug could only maintain the golem's animation for a few rounds. On the fifth round the statue spoke: "This ... this is not the last … come then, heroes. Seek me atop Mhar Massif, if you value life so poorly. You should be honored to be the first fools executed under the banner of Shalast in ten thousand ... " Karzoug was unable to finish his taunts, though, and the golem reverted to inanimate stone. It did not attack again.
With peace once again restored in the great hall the heroes restarted their study of the runeforge pool. After some deliberation they determined that in order to infuse a weapon with power from the pool and transform it into a runeforged weapon they would be required to dip their weapon of choice, not with all of the components, but with only the two components that would oppose the particular school of magic they wanted to be the focus of the weapon.
During Thassilon's height, many of the empire's greatest soldiers, mercenaries, and arcane assassins wielded weapons infused with two allied schools of magic that worked together to grant the wielder additional prowess over practitioners of an opposing school of magic. Weapons steeped in enchantment and illusion magic, for example, held great power over wielders of transmutation. Such weapons were often banned in Thassilon, so wary were the runelords of their propagation, yet all seven kept champions and assassins armed with runeforged weapons targeting their enemies' weaknesses in secret.
Each runeforged weapon opposed a school of magic. Besides a +1 bonus to the weapon itself the wielder would gain a +2 morale bonus on all saving throws against spells from the weapon's opposed magic. All runeforged weapons were, to a certain degree, empathic. They enhanced the sin or virtue in those who wielded them, so a fighter armed with a dominant weapon would become more domineering than before, for example. Anyone wielding a runeforged weapon would take a -2 penalty on all Diplomacy checks, as their vices or virtues are magnified at the expense of personality. No weapon could have more than one runeforged weapon quality at a time, and any creature that carried two runeforged weapons (even those of the same type) would take a -5 penalty on all attack rolls, Will saving throws, and skill checks, as their mind would be constantly assailed by multiple empathic urges.
Each of the seven Thassilonian schools of magic was opposed by a single runeforged weapon quality - each of these being the combination of that school's opposition schools. The seven correct component combinations and the type of runeforged weapon each combination created are listed below. Note that the first name for each type of weapon listed is its sinful name the second is the name a virtuous character can use to refer to the weapon. In any event, a runeforged weapon would function the same, regardless of whether it magnifies a wielder's sin or virtue.
A wielder who was considered sinful or virtuous with the same type of sin/virtue as a runeforged weapon he wields becomes more aware of danger around him - gaining a +2 insight bonus on Initiative checks and a +1 dodge bonus to AC (DM Note: Sinful and Virtuous are a part of the adventure that I had chosen to ignore). The specific effects of each of the seven types of runeforged weapons are listed below.
Any weapon could be made into a runeforged weapon, but the process of creating such weapons was much more difficult than for most magic items - runeforged weapons could not be created by the use of the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat. Instead, they must be created by infusing the selected weapon in the waters of the Runeforge itself, a large magical pool at the center of the arcane laboratory bearing the same name.
Before the runeforge pool could enhance a weapon, two runeforge components must be immersed in the pool. If the two objects both share the same opposition school, the pool itself glowed golden, and wisps of energy writhed up out of the pool to caress any weapons within 30 feet of the pool's surface. The first weapon to be immersed in the pool glowed brightly as several Thassilonian runes etch themselves on the weapon, permanently making it a runeforged weapon. The runeforge pool currently has enough latent energy stored to effectively enhance one weapon for each of the heroes, and as the fourth weapon became infused the waters of the runeforge pool “went back to sleep” as if they had no more magic to offer.
Runeforged weapons:
Covetous/Charitable (opposes evocation): A union of conjuration and abjuration magic, a covetous weapon functioned as a bane weapon against evokers and creatures with the fire subtype. As long as the weapon was wielded, the wielder gained fire resistance 5. Selinor’s scimiator was now such a weapon.
Dominant/Commanding (opposes transmutation): A union of enchantment and illusion magic, a dominant weapon functioned as a bane weapon against transmuters and against creatures with the shapechanger subtype. As long as the weapon was carried, it could absorb up to three harmful transmutation effects (such as Baleful Polymorph or Petrification) inflicted on the wielder per day. Stike’s longsword was now such a weapon.
Jealous/Trusting (opposes necromancy): A union of abjuration and enchantment magic, a jealous weapon functioned as a bane weapon against necromancers and against undead created by necromancy spells (not against self-manifested undead or undead created by the create spawn special ability). As long as the weapon was carried, it can absorb up to 3 negative levels inflicted on the wielder per day. Reynard’s staff was now such a weapon.
Miserly/Generous (opposes illusion): A union of transmutation and conjuration magic, a miserly weapon functioned as a bane weapon against illusionists and creatures from the Plane of Shadow. The first three times each day that this weapon struck an illusion it automatically makes a Dispel Magic attempt to dispel the illusion.
Parasitic/Symbiotic (opposes enchantment): A union of necromancy and transmutation magic, a parasitic weapon functioned as a bane weapon against enchanters and against creatures that were charmed, dominated, or otherwise under another creature's magic control. The first time each day that this weapon struck a creature under the effects of an enchantment spell, it automatically made a Dispel Magic attempt to dispel the enchantment. If the attempt was successful, it siphoned that energy into the wielder and healed her of 6d6 points of damage (hit points in excess of maximum were gained as temporary hit points that last for 1 hour). Kheo’s longbow was now such a weapon.
Sadistic/Compassionate (opposes abjuration): A union of evocation and necromancy magic, a sadistic weapon functioned as a bane weapon against abjurers and any creatures with an active abjuration spell effect. A sadistic weapon shrouded its wielder in an aura of mock magic - when the wielder was subjected to a dispelling effect, that dispelling attempt instead targets only the aura of mock magic. If the aura was dispelled, it replenished again in 24 hours.
Tyrannical/Liberal (opposes conjuration): A union of illusion and evocation magic, a tyrannical weapon functioned as a bane weapon against conjurers and summoned monsters. The first three times each day that the weapon scored a critical hit against a creature with the extra planar subtype, the weapon cast Dismissal at the creature struck.
With their runeforged weapons now in hand the heroes went to check on Jordimandus, but found that Arkrhyst was correct – he was dead. With no other halls left to visit this now meant that after 10,000 years all of the lords of runeforge were now dead. The heroes poked through Jordimandus’s possessions and found:
Gear: Rod of Absorption, Cloak of Resistance +3, Handy Haversack, Ring of Protection +2, diamond dust worth 500 GP, ivory plaque worth 50 GP, silver mirror worth 1,000 GP, and numerous spellbooks. The combined spellbooks contained all 1st through 7th level spells from all schools except Illusion and Evocation. They also contained two 8th level Conjuration spells: Incendiary Cloud and Summon Monster VIII, and two 9th level Conjuration spells: Gate and Teleportation Circle. Also revealed in a secret drawer in his throne was a few magic scrolls (a Scroll of Planar Ally, a Scroll of Teleport, and a Scroll of Stone to Flesh) and a Manual of Gainful Exercise +2 that Jordimandus had never put forth the energy to read.
With nothing left to find in runeforge the heroes returned to the Halls of Wrath and exited to center of the Sihedron Circle on the lower slopes of Rimeskull. From there Reynard would be able to teleport them back to Sandpoint, but before leaving they had one last bit of business to complete – Arkrhyst’s dragon hoard inside the mountain:
TREASURE: This massive pile of treasure consisted of 39,500 CP, 9,410 SP, 3,500 GP, and 250 PP. Mixed in with the coins were tapestries, small items of furniture made of precious woods, delicate pieces of jewelry and fine works of art, silverware and candelabras, six Everburning Torches, and several decorative boxes spilling pieces of jewelry worth an additional 16,000 GP in all. Buried in the coins was a quiver of 14 masterwork arrows and two Greater Dragon Slaying arrows, a Belt of Giant Strength +4, a teak box holding a felt cushion with six round depressions each containing a Thunderstone, an ivory set of Lesser Bracers of Archery, a +3 Dark Wood Buckler carved with the symbol of Kyonin on its face, a Chime of Opening (5 charges), a Cloak of Resistance +3, Flametongue, a masterwork suit of full plate decorated with onyx ravens perched on the shoulders (each raven was worth 200 GP), a suit of 3 half-plate with a wolf motif, 6 vials of frozen holy water, a Pearl of Power (1st-level spell), 17 Potions of Cure Light Wounds, 6 Potions of Cure Moderate Wounds, 3 Potions of Cure Serious Wounds, 2 Potions of Resist Energy 20 (cold), two Small +1 Mithral Shirts, a Scroll of Globe of Invulnerability, a Scroll of Heal, a Scroll of Remove Blindness/Deafness, a Wand of Bear's Endurance (38 charges), a Wand of Cure Light Wounds (46 charges), a Wand of Magic Missile (CL 5th, 8 charges), and a +1 Adamantine Warhammer.
This completes Sins of the Saviors, Chapter 5 in the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path. For tonight’s effort the party earned 44,800 XP, giving them (686,750 + 44,800) 731,550 XP earned so far, with 890,000 XP required to reach Level 16.
This next section is a recap of what you have learned and is included here as part of the set-up for the final chapter:
More than 10,000 years ago, the empire of Thassilon was ruled by seven tyrannical despots known as runelords, powerful wizards whose magic was aligned on what have become known as the seven mortal sins. When the empire crumbled, these runelords were prepared. They escaped death (or worse) by various methods, entering states of hibernation from which their apprentices and loyal followers would revive them when the right time came. Yet the fall of Thassilon was far more complete and decisive than even the most pessimistic runelords anticipated, and none survived who could free them in the centuries of darkness to follow. In time, they have been forgotten by the world and its heirs.

Runelord Karzoug ruled a land called Shalast, and as the lord of greed, his realm was the most decadent. His capital city, Xin-Shalast, lay nestled in a valley in the mountains, a place of golden streets and silver roofs sprawled in the shadow of volcanoes and watched over by one of the tallest peaks in the world – the mysterious Mhar Massif. When the end drew near Karzoug charged his agents in Runeforge with developing a method for him to escape the fall of the empire, and they responded by taking the location of his palace into account. For the Spires of Xin-Shalast, as his palace was known, were perched at the summit of Mhar Massif, where the boundaries between worlds are thin. Karzoug's agents transformed the source of his eldritch power, a device known as a runewell, into a portal of sorts into the void between these worlds. When the end did come, Karzoug stepped through this portal and into a state of suspended animation in this extra-dimensional vault, caught between the Mhar Massif in this world and the terrible dimension known as Leng in another. And without surviving apprentices to revive him, Karzoug remained there for millennia.

The tale of Karzoug's awakening, of his slow return to Golarion, has been told over the past five chapters. Karzoug is now nearly ready to step back into this world, his powers restored and his city resurrected, to raise the empire of Thassilon from the ashes. Yet there is still time. Karzoug is awake, but though his mind has been hard at work, he cannot yet physically leave the demi-plane hidden between this world and Leng - a place known as the Eye of Avarice. While the stone giant Mokmurian was his primary agent in Varisia, in Xin-Shalast, Mokmurian would have been but a captain in his army. The denizens of the ruined city have aligned themselves to Karzoug's banner, and though they bicker and fight among themselves, they are ready to serve him. Among these minions are devils, dragons, tribes of deadly lamias, creatures culled from the madness of Leng, and armies of giants led by powerful rune giants. With his rune giant minions, Karzoug's influence over the giants of Varisia will become complete.

Yet these are not Karzoug's only agents in Xin-Shalast, for he has selected new generals, new champions, and even a new apprentice to serve him. The stage is set for the runelord's return, and only one group of heroes stands between him and Varisia.

Seeking Xin-Shalast

The heroes had determined that Mokmurian discovered Xin-Shalast’s location with the aid of books and maps he recovered from the hidden library under Jorgenfist, but he destroyed those sources after committing them to memory. Yet traces remained. The heroes have researched Xin-Shalast in the library of Thassilon and have learned much of the city's location:
  •      Xin-Shalast was located on the towering mountain of Mhar Massif, in a valley that lies at the headwaters of the River Avah.
  •       Mhar Massif itself was said to serve as a bridge to strange realms beyond Golarion.
  •      Anyone who could find the River Avah could follow it directly into Xin-Shalast.
The problem was the fact that this entire region, from the River Avah to the summit of Mhar Massif, lay in a realm where reality had frayed at the edges. In order to reach Xin-Shalast, the heroes would require a guide of some sort, or some other sort of information who has been to Xin-Shalast before.

After having exhausted their search at the Library of Thassilon the heroes decided to re-visit Brodert Quink, the old sage who resided in Sandpoint. Previously Quink had been quite daft, and while he was certainly interested in the stories the party had to tell, it was sometimes hard to tell where Quink’s information was helpful or simply fanciful.

Upon reaching Quink’s residence in Sandpoint, the heroes were greeted by Quink, but not the same Quink they had come to expect. Gone was the doddering old fool, as now Quink appeared to be quite in his senses. He quickly ushered the heroes into his parlor – which was still a mess – and bade them to tell him what they had discovered. He knew the heroes had gone to look for Runeforge, and he had many questions.

Unfortunately, Xin-Shalast was as much a legend to Brodert as it was to any other scholar of things Thassilonian. Yet when asked about Xin-Shalast he grew thoughtful for a moment, then snapped his fingers as he remembered an old account of a pair of dwarven brothers who claimed to have discovered the route to the fabled city. After he rooted through his many books and scrolls for a few minutes, he emerged triumphant with a letter he received from the author of the definitive cyclopedia on the region of Varisia and the Storval Plateau: Cevil "Redwing" Charms's well known (and well-criticized) volume, named “Eidolon.” He allowed the heroes to read the letter but won't let them keep it – Redwing was one of his favorite authors he considered the letter a personal treasure.

The letter concerned the escapades of two dwarven brothers, Silas and Karivek Vekker, who journeyed into the Kodar Mountains and supposedly discovered the route to Xin-Shalast. Brodert had done his own research and could confirm that Silas and Karivek Vekker did indeed abscond with a fair amount of invested capital into the mountains. The common theory in Janderhoff was that the dwarves used the "discovery of Xin-Shalast" as a cover for a con, but those who knew the Vekkers personally held them in quite high regard. Brodert suspected that they did indeed discover Xin-Shalast, and their secrecy was one born of necessity rather than malice. For if they had discovered the great city, until they could return with proof, it would only be wise to guard the discovery. Brodert theorized that the Vekkers met some sort of foul end in the Kodars, and that if their base of operations could be found (along the banks of the Kazaron River, according to Redwing's letter), perhaps clues to the city's location could be found therein.

Redwing's Letter

Salutations Mr. Quink,

Thank you again for the kind words and drink. It’s always a pleasure to speak with readers of my work, especially those well-read and civilized enough to know of my writings beyond Eidelon. Alas, I was unable to procure a copy of the early draft from my personal files. It would seem it has gone the way of so much of my earlier work, lost forever to the gulfs of time and narrow-0minded publishers unable to grasp the import of a young Pathfinder’s work.

Fortunately, my mind is as quick now as it was in those early days of my exploration of your fantastic homeland. I recall the evening I first heard the story of Xin-Shalast, while seated on a log in a Varisian camp, sharing ruby mead with an enchanting young woman. Ah, but that’s a story for other times.

I was intrigued by the tale, though. All peoples have tales of “cities of gold,” yet with Xin-Shalast, the Varisians had no tradition of explorers seeking it. They viewed the place as one of evil, a place to be feared and forsaken. As far as I could tell none of your indigenous people ever sought out the ruins before the advent of Chelish rule. But there was mention, come to think of it, of two dwarven brothers Vekker, I think their names were. Claimed to have found the route to Xin-Shalast and convinced several tradesman in Janderhoff to support and supply their plan to establish a base of operations on the low Kodar Mountains along the Kazaron. Their vanishing into the Kodars bankrupted all but one of their ancestors, I hear, and even today, the Vekker name is generally accompanied by a litany of rousing dwarven profanity when it comes up on ‘Hoffian tavens.

In the stead of enclosing a copy of the early complete draft of my work, though, please find a signed copy of Eidelon with this missive. I trust it will look quite handsome on your shelf.

In good health, Redwing.

Quink reminded the heroes that the Kodar Mountains were one of Golarion's most intimidating and massive mountain ranges. Few places in the world were more inhospitable to life than these mountains, yet life had endured there. The extremes made for equally powerful monsters and denizens, of course only the strongest could survive for long in this region, known to the Shoanti as the World's Roof. Quink suggested that the heroes start at Janderhoff, but that they be careful with what they say – dwarves are known to have a long memory and if someone was still particularly unhappy about their families long lost investment there could be trouble.

DM Note: We will pick it up on the outskirts of Janderhoff next time. Please make sure you have your weapon created, and we will discuss cold weather preparations, plus any sort of shopping trip you night wish to go on before you leave for Janderhoff.

Technical note: The last 200+ blog posts were done when using Firefox as a browser for accessing Blogger. I have recently been cheating on my old browser girlfriend with shiny new browser named Chrome. I am creating this blog post from within Chrome, and while it shouldn't look different, something tells me it will. I usually do my original draft in MS-Word, then copy it to MS-Wordpad or MS-Outlook - it seems to strip out unnecessary HTML code that MS-Word puts in there - and then cut/paste that into Blogger. This may require some further experimentation.

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