- Twenty-Third Session – Spires of Xin-Shalast Part I
- Twenty-Fourth Session – Spires of Xin-Shalast Part II
- Twenty-Fifth Session – Spires of Xin-Shalast Part III
- Twenty-Sixth Session – Spires of Xin-Shalast Part IV
At long last, we find the way to the fabled city of Xin-Shalast in Part I. Following some ancient lore I unearthed, we travelled far to the northeast into the Kodar Mountains. Far we journeyed into those cold and barren peaks. And then things got out of hand.
Luckily, our gaming group has a yearly tradition where we gather for Thanksgiving dinner and watch “Ravenous.” So, perhaps unfortunately, the cannibalism and Wendigo were not a total surprise to us. Once the haunting gave way to the fighting, I had to pour on every new 5th level spell I had. None of my summons could touch the thing, even the Amnizus’ quickened fireballs. I liked the haunting, it was cool, though as some other folks have noted on the Paizo site it would be nice if haunts were a bit better defined especially regarding magical countermeasures; I thought my Prot from Evil not helping against feelings of needing to eat my comrades was weak. “Well, it’s not mind *control*…”
That darn ice swamp nymph came close to buying it. She tried to baleful polymorph Valgrim as “a joke.” Sorry, a fifth level transmutation spell that can destroy your mind (when we’re heading out after someone we know to be a powerful transmuter, Runelord Kharzoug) isn’t all that funny, so we started swapping save-or-dies. She failed her disintegrate save but apparently had an assload of hit points so didn’t quite go under. My dwarven +2 to saves vs spells saved me from the finger of death. Then, acceding to the pleas of my party, I talked her down – that took quite a Diplomacy check I will note.
The fasting and “vision quest” aspect of finding the lost city was very cool. Unfortunately, it took so long for the rest of the party to get sufficiently starved that my Planar Bound glabrezu left. But not until after being stuck on the other side of the divide from me for a while. He had strict instructions not to hurt anyone, but apparently teabagging the cleric whenever he fell asleep didn’t count under that clause. So now Roscoe’s all pissed at Valgrim. I wasn’t even there, it’s not my fault!!!
In Part II, we infiltrate Xin-Shalast and start some trouble. We decided to ally with the local lesser giants, although I still liked my plan of loosing a whisper demon into their camp. We killed yeti (no big deal), met the local mole-men and killed their tentacled oppressor (medium hard) and then fought the local dragon (very hard!). I Planar Bound a glabrezu demon for the occassion – it did OK. The session summary makes it sound more bad ass than it was, but it held its own. My voor yugoloths are getting too low level; they couldn’t hit the Master. I used their multiattacks to get rid of its Mirror Images at least. And the fiendish crocs did well against the yeti. One of the more powerful parts of Summon Monster is being able to drop something wherever you want and have it attack immediately; I used my crocs to flank the first wave of yetis and also shield the party against the second wave. And now I’m level 14! Woot!
It had to happen – Valgrim finally summoned some good creatures in Part III. He tries not to do that, but party peer pressure and the fact they were going up against devils (combined with the tastiness of the +2 HD limit on Planar Binding from being a Malconvoker) means he called – a planetar, baby! That’s right, the angel of angels. 17th level cleric spellcasting. Earthquake. Implosion. It agreed to help us, but only against the devils and Lamashtu-worshipping clerics. But not against the Runelord of Greed, returning from the dead to spread sin in the world, as that’s “a mortal concern.” Dude, your and those deities’ happy asses revolve around us humans, and don’t forget it. That’s another reason I bind evil creatures more often, they’re more hands on. Apparently an ice devil thought coming to help Kharzoug was a lovely idea. But the angel doesn’t like dealing with it. Fricking god-pigeon.
Anyway, we decided we’d just roll into that big devil-haunted arena and rise up the gladiator lift and declare our intentions. No sneaking around this time. It was a bit of a fight, especially with the dread wraiths, but Holy Word (erroneously Word of Good in the session summary) put the whup on most of our opponents. (In retrospect, I see that it’s only a L7 spell and Roscoe could have cast it! Not sure why he didn’t!) I kept with the “good” theme and summoned an avoral guardinal, which the ice devil mulched in one round even though it had max HP and then some from my Ring of Mighty Summons and other talents. I summoned a three-headed leskylor (flying celestial white tiger) to flank, and it surprised me by hitting with all three heads (one critting) and putting down the devil.
The rest of the party was scared of actually fighting the lamias; every one we meet nearly kills us and there was a big temple full of them. So I told the angel, “That’s where the Lamashtu worshippers live. Head over there, and Earthquake, Implosion the first four big ones to come out, and then enjoy yourself, you’re free to leave for the nearest convenient parallel dimension if things get dicey.” Then we rested since everyone had like half their CON drained by the damn wraiths.
And then our party braved the Pinnacle of Avarice. The dragon shaman communed with the spirits and learned that Kharzoug and the Runewell weren’t there, they were up in the eye of Mar-Massif, but the way to get to them was. We got through its magical defenses and I teleported us inside, and that’s when it got dicey. Wave after wave of cloud and storm giants assailed us, and we had to end the session halfway through. I had planned ahead for this so lots of Confusion, Freezing Fog, and Cloudkill kept things at a manageable rate for our fighters. But there’s more giants, probably some of those 30′ tall rune giant bitches we have heard about, and some lamia harridans that’ll hit us next time!
Part IV was indeed the climax of the AP. The big combat continued, with named opponents coming after us. The dragon shaman faced off one on one with the Champion of Greed, a woman wielding an artifact-level scimitar. My Brilliant Aura spell, which made everyone’s weapons brilliant (aka light sabers), pretty much kept that, as well as the rest of the fight, on “easy mode.” Since we could hit so easily, it was mainly an effort to deal out as much damage as possible every round, and that’s where our heroes are Vikings. And my amnizu devils, with their Int-draining touch attacks, could kill one rune giant a round from ability damage.
After a quick cleanup fight with some high level lamia spellcasters, we found the route to the Runelord’s lair (standard teleporter type thing). We were thinking that once we teleported there’d still be some dungeon crawling before the Runelord, so we didn’t buff right then – that was a mistake! We teleported in and there was Kharzoug, the Runelord of Greed, fully buffed and waiting for us. Also there was a “keep my demiplane together” crystal, and his rune-pool or whatever. He wasn’t screwing around, he Meteor Swarmed and Time Stopped us and Prismatic Sphered us in (with a Cloudkill for good measure); I teleported us out of that and we all went to work.
I summoned some Amnizus but didn’t have time to summon anything else as we had to work fast. He blasted us and blasted us. I tried a Greater Dispel Magic but his Spell Turning tossed it back at me (as we didn’t have time to buff, that wasn’t a big deal, but his buffs were intact). Pretty much amnizu fireballs, everyone’s weapon damage, and me doing as much direct acid damage as I could took him down. Some of the meleers attacked the crystal instead, but as it turns out that was mostly wasted effort. But in the end, a good combined-arms assault overcame him! Credits roll.
And that was the end of Rise of the Runelords! I wish we had done a little more denouement, it’s a little lame for the last blow falling to end a year-long campaign, but that’s me; I like playing the characters, not just fighting. It was a great set of adventures; I’ve played since 1e days and in my opinion this stacks up against the great supermodules of yore.