The players, readers and carpal tunnel of Thirdwaller have all requested a “cease and desist” on full session recaps here on Thirdwalling. So instead, beginning with this entry, we will cover highlights of unique mechanics or fun encounters – including notes on setup, research and background.
Last night, the Long Shots were exploring the Heart of Korrigan – the glacial center of the dwarven capital of Korrigan as part of the Trials of Everrun campaign. Some of what happened last night is still waiting to unfold – so we’ll be light on the details until the players have fully explored the in-game mechanics behind the ritual they encountered – but they’d gotten wind that a ritual was taking place underground, involving a being called “Nef” that everyone seemed to be terrified of. As they approached the site of the ritual, the local Ia (ice trolls) and Eira (ice goblins) were more intent on fleeing the scene than standing to fight.
After taking out the door guards – and the Cold Ones – they Bran-ed (that’s a verb, now) their way through the door (Drip Dry had stepped out for a phone call, leaving the Leg-up to figure out the puzzle of the gate) and into the Ritual Site. Look beyond the More Link for more write-up on the mechanics of the ritual –
As they approached the door, the magic-users in the party (and the enemy) found the difficulties of their spells being increased by a situational modifier. Successful spell were going off, but their effects were being stripped – the energy being carried down into the ice and into the gate. This was really played out with the attacking casters showing signs of frustration and calling out to “Nef” in anger. After opening the gate they found a swirling maelstrom of magic – their spells had been fueling a ritual in progress. Wind was howling and carrying debris.
In the center of the massive room was a Wyrm skeleton, with a bare-chested third-grow dwarf in its maw. Floating in the room’s exact center was an icy blue sphere of energy – wreathed in (and embattled with) a ring of fire being cast by the dwarf. It flew over an altar where the first component of the ritual – a dwarf girl – was being held by an Ia and two Eira. At the four corners of the room were columns of ice, carved with arcane runes and smeared in blood. Before each were beast men (a recurring enemy in the campaign thus far) also carved with runes who seemed to be completely captivated by a deep, resonating chant – barely audible above the howling wind and magic of the Dwarf’s spell. Each of the beast men were attended by one Ia and one Eira. The beastmen and the dwarf all had names, which won’t be revealed here until the Party actually discovers them so we’ll just call them Beastman 1, 2, 3, 4 and Caster. There were four Eira with bows climbing around on the skeleton to impede anyone from simply climbing up to interrupt the dwarf at the top.
The whole room was both a puzzle and a ritual – and the mechanic worked down like this:
The magic that was being cast was a containment spell on the blue sphere of ice – trapping the spirit of the Ice Wyrm (whose name meant “Father Ice” in dwarven, but we’ll call him Blue) to siphon off it’s energy to fuel a spell that would re-animate Nef’ium. The turbulent nature of the ritual was causing a whirlwind in the room, centered on the blue sphere. Therefore, any ranged attack (arrows, throwing axes, etc) had increased difficulties depending on how close to the center the shooter or target was. The room was 18″ across, so those within 3 inches (0-15 feet) of the center had a +20 to ranged difficulties, 3 inches outside(15-30 feet) of that had +15 to ranged difficulties and 3 inches (45-60 feet) outside of that were at +10 difficulty.
I took the highest, so someone shooting into the center would be at +20, and someone shooting from the middle ring to the outside would be a +15 to their difficulties.
The Magic Barrier:
The ritual itself was using up all of the available magical energy in the area. Because of this, spells within the room were at +20 to their difficulties to cast. Successfully casting a spell based on it’s un-modified difficulty meant that the spell went off – but was sucked up into the Maelstrom providing a role-playing effect overhead (see The Conflict below). Spells that failed normally were just normal failures – and succeeding over the added difficulty meant the spell went through. This was hinted at as they approached the gate to the door, as the difficulty to cast magic was steadily increasing, and the few magical artifacts they had on themselves (a quiver on Kaderin, a ring of Family Ties that every member of the party has, etc) lost their effectiveness.
High above, Caster and Blue were engaged in a huge struggle for power. Caster was trying to keep Blue encased in fire until the ritual being cast in the room could go off. This was largely a role-playing / scenery effect. I’d roll two quick opposed rolls (one for Caster, one for Blue) every round and describe the scene above as the “battle” turned in one direction or another based on the outcomes. If I was to do it again, I would have given some bonus to either side (maybe just a +2 morale bonus to all actions that round?) based on who was winning up above – with any spell eaten up by the “Magic Barrier” adding to Caster’s opposed roll that round.
There were two phases to the ritual. The first phase took 5 rounds – and it involved bringing Nef’ium’s spirit back from the Outside (the infinite area outside the plains – similar to the Void in some games, or the Ethereal plane if I’m understanding Pathfinder right). That step could be delayed or even stopped entirely by removing the dwarf girl from the altar or from the spell’s view. There wasn’t much to this phase, and not real clues as to what was going on – and that was deliberate. This phase was basically just a fight against the many goblins in the room – as the trolls ordered them in to stop the Long Shots from interrupting while the beast men continued their ritual.
The dwarf girl on the altar was one that the party knew and had saved from another ritual in the last dungeon. She’d been traveling with them for a while and they were attached to her, so I figured they’d try to save her without my having to hint that she was part of the first phase. If I was running this in a different game or with a different “victim” I would have had some indication that she needed saving to stop the ritual – a spectral form floating over her or another caster handling the first part of the ritual beside her. I had the mini and the stats for a second caster, but decided last minute to leave them out and this was a good call. Interrupting this phase would not have ended the ritual, but it would have added 5 additional rounds to phase 2. To interrupt it they could have stopped the second caster (had their been one), killed the dwarf girl or removed her from the altar or erected a circle around her to separate her from the ritual’s magic.
Phase two also took 5 rounds – and began at the end of phase one (obviously). During phase two the four beast men took feedback one at a time – killing themselves to fuel the ritual that would move Nef’ium’s spirit out of the Runeforged body and into the remains of the much more powerful Ice Wyrm. Each beast man that was able to successfully sacrifice himself would raise the overall stats of The Avatar of Nef’ium by +1d each – meaning if they failed to stop the ritual the Avatar would be pretty insane when it came into being. To interrupt this phase, they could have stopped the four casters from sacrificing themselves. Killing one of the casters while he was sacrificing himself would have actually been aiding the ritual. To signal this, the caster actively sacrificing himself would lift up off the ground and a column of red fire arched from him to the wreath above.
Interrupting the first Phase of the spell would cause a backlash that added 5 rounds of casting time to Phase 2 – giving the players another few rounds to kill the 4 beastmen.
Interrupting the second Phase – by killing the dwarf or killing more than 2 of the beast men – would result in a backlash. The spell Caster was weaving would explode – knocking everyone back. Blue would then slide back into his body in the form of an undead Ice Dragon to eat faces. For stats on the Ice Dragon I took the Wind Dragon from the Creatures book and tweaked it to be Ice based. Easy modifications.
I was really happy with how this played out.
Jerrede went straight for the dwarf girl on the altar, and after carving up some Eira and decapitating the Ia that was holding her down he finally got his hands on her right on the 5th round when Phase 1 was ending. She was stuck to the altar and became the Runeforged – I replaced her mini with a “warforged” one that looked like a suit of armor with a hammer.
Bran went for Beastman 3 and spent 4 rounds going back and forth with the Ia that was protecting him. The Ia was going straight defense every round – adding 15 to the difficulty for Bran to hit him was enough to keep him from doing it until the 5th round, when he managed to grapple him back into the beast man and interrupt the second round of the second phase. When the Ice Wyrm showed up, Bran failed his Meddle check and “rapidly and courageously withdrew” to the safety of the hallway to “regroup”.
Kaderin stuck to her proverbial guns, sending arrow after arrow into Eira. She shot at some of the Eira with bows and the Ia standing over the dwarf girl but the added difficulty of ranged prompted her to switch to her melee weapon (a quarterstaff) in the last round. When Roxas went down, her Heal roll saved his life.
Roxas had initiative on his side. For the first four rounds he stuck to chopping off Eira limbs with great success – I think he killed 3 in pretty rapid order – but in the 4th round he cast an un-memorized Miracle. Specifically the book-based “Disrupt Spell”. It started with a base difficulty of 25, increased by 5 because he didn’t know the ritual for a total of 30. He used feedback (25 points of damage!) to lessen the difficulty to 5 and used a fate point to double his roll. He has 29 HP, so when he plunged his Kukri into his leg to accomplish the terms of the feedback, it sent him into shock and he collapsed unconcious after casting his spell. His total roll, with the Fate Point, was a 7. Plus 25 for the hitpoint damage and he beat the difficulty of the spell by 2 points. By the way the rules of the encounter were laid out, the Magical Barrier sucked up the magic before it could work.
But it wasn’t just magic – it was a Miracle. Roxas’ deity (Raxxas the Traveler – named independently, I swear!) is the god of judgement. Part of The Traveler’s duties involve taking the souls of the dead to be judged in the afterlife. So when he granted the spell – one that he’d never seen Roxas cast before – and saw that it was being used to prevent someone from trapping a dead soul (granted, an ancient and powerful Wyrm soul, a soul none the less) it piqued his interest. I took Drip Dry aside and gave him an offer; the Miracle would be successful if Drip Dry would allow Roxas to take a Disadvantage – represented as a very bad limp favoring his right leg – of -1D to his Agility score. This Disadvantage couldn’t be removed – and even spending the character points to raise his Agility score he’d still be at -1D.
Roxas agreed, so the spell backlashed. To add a bit of flair and show that the party had been responsible for the ritual’s backlash I had Justin (Raxxas’ avatar – a 15 foot tall Grim Reaper like character) show up to “harvest” Ice Father’s spirit. Instead of simply taking it to be judged, though, he put it back into its remains and brought it to life – to teach Caster and the beast men a lesson about stealing souls. Nef fled the scene to rear his head another day – taking with him the earthly remains of the dwarf girl he was possessing at the time.
After Kaderin stabilized Roxas’ wounds, she called out to the gods (all of them, by name) to protect the injured Paladin. The “gods” – being the still, observing Justin/Raxass – responded by moving him (via a quick teleport) out into the hall and away from the soon-to-be-rampaging Wyrm. Roll credits – see you guys next week.
I’m always looking to improve my work – so if you have any thoughts, comments or questions about the system I used for this encounter, please take it to the comments!
Thanks as always. See you next week!