Sunday, January 19, 2014

RL #13: Illusions Unmasked

(Thirteen must really be unlucky, because I had almost my entire post written when a single keystroke inexplicably wiped it out with no way to recover. This is attempt #2.)

Thursday night, after three arduous sessions, the party finally brought closure to the dealings in Morningsong. Upon their return from the forest, word of Dowding's demise spread like wildfire. A gathering ensued, and Lady Silva was quick to implicate the PCs, claiming Alaric's red talon mark a baleful omen. Jorah and members of the travelling party dismissed the notion and tempered the governess, though it was evident that fear of a desolate winter had begun to set in amongst the villagers.

Of note, as the gathering dispersed, the PCs caught hearsay that Silva had fallen ill and bedridden the previous day. Apparently the Lady suffered from some chronic ailment whose onset was sporadic and usually short-lived. (If the party's suspicions of Silva weren't heightened already, they most surely were now.)

In much need of rest, the PCs slept until early the next morning. At sunup, they located Rooks, one of the hunters who accompanied them previously, and enlisted him as a guide. Together, they delved back into the forest, reaching the first outpost at midday under a veil of light snowfall. Deciding to remain for the night, the PCs dispatched Rooks to the village, bidding him to return on the morrow with any able bodies willing to join.

A fire was built hours before dusk to battle the wintry winds, and when night fell, Alaric and Leiliana kept watch while Aginot and Nora slept. Shortly thereafter, Leilana became aware of (and rebuked) an attempt to infiltrate her mind. The party was wakened, and Alaric, on a hunch, pinpointed the location of an invisible presence using detect evil.

Leilana cast faerie fire to magically outline their foe, and Alaric and Nora advanced. In the ensuing rounds, Leilana cast entangle, and after a series of thwarted attempts to control and poison the PCs, the foe became caught in the twisting branches. At long last, both armed with magical longswords, Alaric and Nora ran the creature through. As it convulsed and died, its invisibility subsided, revealing the visage of the mute, Azrael, before transforming into the body of an imp.

The companions waited out the night until Rooks returned with a small contingent at midday, then they all returned to Morningsong, where Lady Silva was nearly comatose in her cottage. When Alaric's attempt to detect evil was met by chaotic visions of a swirling black mist, Leilana used detect magic to reveal a powerful illusion aura upon the woman's face. Pledging his trust in the PCs, Jorah presented Aginot a clerical scroll inscribed with dispel magic.

Aginot uttered the incantation, and a thin, black mask peeled away from Silva's visage. As it did, her features transformed to those of another - Lord Hanwey's (supposedly) long-dead daughter, Ellidora.

She awakened.

DM's Commentary

In the little she was able to offer in terms of explanation, Ellidora revealed that, in the waning days before Azrael's control over her became absolute, she imparted the details of her condition unto her older sister. Subsequently, Angelina's "attack" on Ellidora, regarded as an act of jealousy by the village, was actually an attempt to exorcise the imp from her sister's mind. But when Azrael used his powers to feign the younger sister's death, Angelina's grim fate was sealed. Ellidora succumbed fully, and later would don the guise of Lady Silva (a purely fictional persona) by way of the magical mask.

Overall, this was s very successful session for the group. Alaric had some outstanding revelations, particularly in identifying the common thread between the men-at-arms' behavior in the forest and the conflict between Hanwey's daughters. Equipping Nora with one of the party's enchanted longswords was key as well. In addition, a few critical dice rolls landed in the party's favor - notably, the random chance to detect evil in Azrael's direction (25%), Leilana's racial resistance to charm (30%), and the two final attack rolls against the imp.

Protection from evil was paramount in the combat with Azrael. While the effect is generally useful against most malevolent enemies, it really shines against otherworldly creatures like an imp, preventing physical contact with the protected individual. Without protection from evil, it's likely that one or more characters would have perished.

Despite all the good, one thing the party needs to sort out going forward is Leilana's use of entangle. The lack of coordination between the caster and her allies when it comes to this spell is a ticking time bomb, surely to kill at least one PC before long. Entangle is an extremely powerful spell in woodland environments, but one that needs to be wielded tactfully and with the utmost care.

XP

Really glad to finally be able to award some well earned XP. The spoils:

  • Saving the Morningsong men from Azrael's mind control - 700 XP
  • Defeating Azrael - 1,200 XP
  • Freeing Ellidora from her imprisonment - 1,000 XP
  • Recovering the black mask - 3,000 XP
That's 1,475 XP each, and Aginot has attained 4th level. Nora, as a newcomer to the party, is starting at 5,000 XP, though her 10% bonus for high Dexterity should catch her up with the others in due time. Updated totals are below, and also posted on the right.
  • Alaric - 7,054
  • Leilana - 7,054
  • Aginot -7,004
  • Nora - 6,622

A Reprieve

With real life events soon coming to the forefront for one of our players, it may be a while before we play again. I hope not too long - the campaign's going strong, and everyone seems to be having a lot of fun. We're at a decent stopping point now, with the party readying to strike out for Stangengrad before the early-season snows make many roads and trails impassable.

Winter is coming.

3 comments:

  1. Updated the post title. "Unmasked" is a WAY more fitting word. :)

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  2. This was a very satisfying story arc. The way we were roped into it was really interesting--I like that it was never fully explained. The town was just creepy enough to make me not want to live there, but the NPCs were real enough that I felt a real need to help them.

    We guessed the villain correctly somewhat early on, but totally had the details wrong. I almost invited Azrael, who turned out to be the demon, into my room, where it surely would have found me alone and killed me!

    The resolution was, to me at least, completely unexpected, and very satisfying for it.

    Well done, Matt!

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  3. Thanks, these were a fun few sessions. The campaign is strong as ever, and we have a solid group that's really into things, with a good mix of veteran and new players. Morningsong and its history/details are my own creation, so it was particularly satisfying to watch the mystery unravel.

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