So I started a new Pathfinder game with a group of players, and tracking the progress of the campaign on a blog makes sense. It’s a classic module series, the Arabian-nights themed Legacy of Fire path. I’ll keep each of the six books of the adventure as one separate entry each.
They were a motley group of merchants, animal handlers, and sellswords assembled by Garavel. The sand-blown trail toward his mistress, a Merchant Princess named Almah, was long and weary. Roshin was a fighter slave sold to Almah with the promise of freedom through servitude, who shared overly embellished stories over the nightly campfires. Not to be outdone, Bethir was a bard with martial disposition, who matched each tale with a legend from history. Kazim was more private and quiet, a cleric of Sarenrae who prayed at exactly dawn each morning. Two gnomes traveled with them as well. Duzo, a merchant-minded sorcerer who specialized in enchantments and smoked copious amounts of Pesh, and Tarb the White, a ranger garbed entirely in white who spoke frequently of his hunt for the Katapeshi white lion. Garavel himself was a servant of the mysterious Pactmasters of Katapesh, and had a strange metal bolt protruding from his temple that he kept mostly hidden under his keffiyeh.
They arrived at Almah’s camp to find a scene of chaos–one of the caravan’s wagons on fire, the fire spreading to the landmark tree called the Sultan’s Claw, and animals running about in a panic. Bethir, Roshin, and Kazim rushed to help move other wagons away from the burning one, while Tarb calmed animals and Duzo used ice magic to stop the spread of fire to the tree. With the crisis over, Almah greeted them and they went over the terms of extended employment: 200gp to each of them for their assistance in liberating the town of Kelmarane from marauding gnolls that took up refuge in the long-abandoned town. Their first task, though, was to find out what started the fire. The wagon had been Almah’s fortune teller’s wagon, and he had produced a dire warning to her just before: unluck, a betrayer in her midst, and the coming of the cyclone–an omen of destruction, fire, and tumult that was mixed with a prediction that still included a successful liberation of Kelmarane. Almah suspected foul play in the fire accordingly.
The band of adventurers started questioning and exploring the area, encountering the two animal handlers for the caravan (Hadrah and her husband Hadrod), the kindly halfling cleric supplying magical potions and poultices for the expedition, the remaining caravan guards (the talkative Trevvis, the muscle-bound Utarchis, and the dour Dullen), and the strange “gnoll expert”: a man named Dashki. The latter told a tale of gnolls killing his family and village, and his learning to hunt them by learning everything he could about their ways. His stench and strange mannerisms certainly raised suspicions amongst the other caravan members that he was behind the fire. Yet Duzo questioned further, learning through his Speak With Animals ability that one of the goats was missing: Rombard.
Searching the ring around the caravan circle, Kazim found a strange trail: a goat’s reluctant footprints along with a set of tiny two-legged dog footprints. With jokes about baby gnolls, the adventurers followed the path into the dark night and cactus fields beyond. As the cacti grew thicker, and a feeling of strange foreboding settled about them, they heard the nervous bleating of the goat ahead–in the middle of an extremely dense cacti field. Some maneuvered their way, while others slowly chopped a path, but all were beset by the worst luck they could imagine. Anything that could go wrong did, ending in punctured water skins, broken scabbard clasps, and ample cactus needles embedded in most. The finally reached Rombard, finding the goat in a panic. As they started to free him, a strange creature emerged and started firing arrows at them.
Their luck continued to be poor until Bethir’s sword finally caved in the chest of the small creature. Examining it, they realized it was a Pugwampi–a strange doglike fey that brings great unluckiness to all around it, and delights in setting up situations to watch others suffer the ravages of ill fortune. The small critter had some singed Harrow cards, a likely sign that it was in the burned fortune teller’s wagon–who knows what sort of unlucky circumstances led to the beginning of the fire. They brought Rombard and the corpse of the Pugwampi back to camp, and explained things to Almah and those gathered. Dashki took the corpse, tied it to his staff with a noose, and began stamping the staff around the camp to “ward off other pugwampis, as an infestation would be the worst that could happen.” Satisfied that the fire source had been found, Almah tasked the adventurers to head out into the desert tomorrow morning to a nearby shrine: the Church of Saint Vardishal, a long-abandoned monastery of Sarenrae that their group could use as a staging area to conduct their liberation of the nearby town of Kelmarane.
The adventurers journeyed to the abandoned monastery and found it in rough shape. Searching the more mundane quarters first, they found a basement door that seemed to be obstructed, as well as a library in ruins. They encountered two more Pugwampis, seemingly cooks, boiling a massive spotted egg. The battle was full of misfortune again, with broken kitchen implements and awkward tumbles off countertops, until the two creatures were slain. Exploring further, the adventurers found a series of carvings detailing the Templars of the Five Winds, genies that were involved in the great war between genies that caused the Pale Mountain region to be formed in the way that it was. One of them, Vardishal, was slain on the spot of the monastery, and there were a number of carvings depicting his spiritual form advising the priests of Sarenrae through the generations. Oddly, the frescos and carvings of the priests were all purposefully defaced. Leaving a brush-filled courtyard till later, the adventurers finally entered the main chapel. Kazim was saddened to see it defiled with a huge, hanging mound of gnoll skulls arranged like an obscene altar. As they started to try and take the skulls down, they found themselves beset by a large number of Pugwampis–and their leader, King Mokknock.
While he rushed into combat battering knees and clobbering shins with his silver hammer, the others lurked above and peppered the adventurers with arrows. Again, extreme unluckiness plagued the adventurers–with the pugwampi king proving to be a nasty foe when protected by the unlucky aura of his kind. Finally the adventurers managed to triumph by tripping the king and surrounding him. Upon his death, the last pugwampi started to flee. Duzo tried to freeze him in place with a cold spell, even managing to hit the creature and overcome its spell resistance, but the damage wasn’t enough. With a shake of it’s little fist, the creature slipped away gibbering no doubt about seeking revenge.
Having cleared most of the upper levels of the monastery, the group decided to take a rest and resume the following day. They rose an hour before dawn, seeking to use as much of the cool morning as they could before the desert heat rose. As they struck their camp, they saw four figures approaching. It was the three mercenaries, Trevvis, Utarchus, and Dullen, escorting a gnome woman with striking pink hair. They introduced her as Roxi, who had been hired by Almah as an infiltrator to join their expedition party. She had missed Garavel’s departure with the rest of the group, and had ridden along and caught up with Almah’s main camp last night. After introductions, the group started some tasks. They sent Trevvis back to report their progress to Almah, and tasked Utarchus and Dullen to start doing some clean-up heavy lifting in the sanctuary righting the tumbled stone benches.
The group then investigated the basement, pushing their way through a door that was crusted shut with an abundant growth of mold. Beyond they found a strange laboratory, which was entirely encrusted in mold. Seems to have been the monastery’s alchemical laboratory at one point, tho now absurdly overgrown with a variety of molds and fungi. As they started to explore, Roshin drew close to a large cylinder of glass–but didn’t notice the movement inside as he stood next to it. Suddenly the glass burst and a huge slime mold oozed out and attacked. Roshin was quickly enveloped by the mold, which acted strange for such a creature–almost strategic. It flowed up toward his face as it gripped him. Unfortunately, Duzo tried to put the mold to sleep and only succeeded in causing Roshin to fall asleep. As he did, the mold flowed down into his mouth and nose with rapidity in horrifying fashion. They managed to wake Roshin with a dose of created water dropped on his head, who got back up with a sputtering cough. After that, the mold was easily dispatched–instead of fighting effectively it merely lashed out at the closest target.
Roshin started acting a bit strangely following the encounter, as he had a vision that he couldn’t really relate to the others. He just knew that something was buried in the courtyard above that would help him. He dashed upstairs, with the others following, back to the strange pile of vegetable matter and scrub that choked the courtyard. Finally cutting into the mass, they discovered that it was actually a nest of sorts. They broke a couple of eggs, but managed to take one intact thanks to Roxi and Tarb’s steady hands. Given the size of it, whatever bird nests there must be huge. Tarb set a trap to try and snare the bird, affixing the tether to a massive masonry column.
After getting to the bottom of the next, some digging revealed a buried trunk. Within, an ornate heavy flail. When it was finally passed, with no small amount of concern, to Roshin, a strange and sudden thing happened. A sheath of mold formed around his hand and wrist. When he dropped or passed it to others, it went away, but suddenly returned each time it was held. Standing in the courtyard with all the images from the monastery depicting the reasoning, the group started to discern what this might be.
Vardishal, the saint of the monastery, was one of the Templars of the Five Winds that defeated an ancient evil in this area. While he died in the process, his spirit continued to manifest through the heads of the monastery. With them all mysteriously gone, the group surmised that he did his best to stay manifest through the mold that was growing in the lab in the basement–the only sentient thing left at the time. Given that the images of Vardishal they found showed him wielding the ornate heavy flail, it seems that this connection is somehow passed to Roshin. What that might mean going forward, they didn’t know.
They searched the remainder of the monastery, finding that a battle had taken place in the catacombs. Roshin had flashes of memory of it, perhaps triggered by whatever was now inside of him. It seems that the monks were attacked and slaughtered by the village populace–but for what reason, they could not make out.
Having cleared the monastery as a base, the group headed back to Almah’s camp to report and move their base of operations. They shared the information they knew with her and Garavel, and had Father Zastoran do some healing and clerical inquires to judge whether the mold influence on Roshin was going to be a problem. He concluded that there are some magical ways to remove it, but that as of now it seems like it wasn’t going to get worse.
The next morning the full group Almah had arrayed made their move to the Monastery to use as their staging area for liberating the nearby town of Kelmarane from gnolls. Everyone, from the animal herders Hadrod and Hadrah to Almah herself found a spot to settle in. The only disturbing thing was that the trap Tarb had set seems to have been sprung. By something big enough to fly off with a 600-pound hunk of masonry roped to it–as the column was cracked and half (plus the rope) were nowhere to be found.
Setting a careful watch of the skies, the group then decided to cross the pesh fields and start to investigate Kelmarane. They decided to start on the side opposite the river, sending their more stealthy members along first. After finding an empty common house, they ventured further. The three gnomes proved to be quite stealthy, but Bethir was less so. When passing a building with one collapsed wall, he alerted a guardian that seems to have been placed at this end of town: a massive constrictor snake. The thing snatched Bethir up and nearly squeezed him to death until Roxi managed to finish it off. Signs that the gnolls have been feeding the beast by tossing it prey were around the area, and the group readied themselves for further exploration of the town’s extremities.
Advancing further into the town, the adventurers reached what had once been a stable that was attached to the town mill (using the power of horses to turn the central mill grinder). As they explored the linked buildings they made two simultaneous odd discoveries. First, a human man hiding underneath the hay in the far stable, shaking with fear and dying of malnutrition. And second, a strange nest in the open rafters of the mill, from which emerged a strange beast that was part wolf, part eagle, and part stag: A Peryton. The beast soared into the air and the source of the fear became evident–as it passed above people it stole their shadows from them and inspired deep dread. The creature was vicious, and despite its deadly bites and goring horns the group managed to finally defeat it.
After the battle, they found the hiding man to be much less afraid–yet still quite malnourished. He explained that his name was Felliped, and he was part of a group of five adventurers who arrived here to Kelmarane nearly two weeks ago. The group was captured and locked in the slave pens of the Battle Market. He managed to sneak his way out, but encountered the strange creature and developed uncontrollable fear from him. He hid successfully, but was paralyzed with fear and slowly starved to near-death because of its magical control over his captured shadow. He thanked the group profusely, and helped heal some of their wounds.
The group pressed a bit further, seeking to use some of the ruins across from the mill as a vantage point to see further into the city and further monitor the Gnolls’ haphazard patrol schedule. However, a clumsy turn of an ankle and some shouts alerted one of the patrols they had noted. At first, they thought it merciful as it was only the solitary goat-man they had seen patrolling about. But with a roaring squeal it charged their number with tremendous speed. As they engaged the beast it continued squealing, yet in their minds formed cold and calculated statements of pure dread that seemed to be the thing’s voice: “I will dine upon your toes,” “Your suffering will be legendary”, etc. While they triumphed over it, the creature’s strange halberd seemed to inflict some terrible disease within some of their number. Both Roxi and Roshin suffered from the disease, quickly growing a vile whitish fuzz over the wounds.
The group decided to retreat to the monastery, bringing the emaciated Felliped with them. Father Zastoran took Roxi and Roshin into his extended care (including shaving the fur from their wounds routinely). With two of their number seriously ill, the group had no choice but to rest up. This becomes more difficult for them as in the far distance of Kelmarane, they observe through the spyglass Almah set up an execution. One of Felliped’s companions is brought forth and horrifically (and slowly) disemboweled, his screams lasting for nearly 20 minutes of time. They watch the execution, powerless to help out.
The next day was also spent in recovery, and yet again in the evening a prisoner was brought forth from Kelmarane for an execution–no doubt the Gnolls realized that they’re being attacked at the loss of some of their monstrous defenders, so this was their answer. This time, however, they brought the bound prisoner out into the Pesh fields between Kelmarane and the monastery. Four gnolls with great log-like poles led her there, and then reaching a clearing began pounding the earth. They circled about and began expanding out, and one of the adventurers finally realized: “They’re summoning something”. The group decided they had to do something, and dashed out to try and rescue the person. Having to run a mile through the Pesh fields took time, and as they neared one of the Gnoll “pounders” howled with glee. At this, the four of them began running as fast as they were able back toward Kelmarane. As the adventurers reached the captive, they found out why the Gnolls left with haste.
With a sudden rumble of shifting soil, the bound woman suddenly disappeared into the earth. At the same time, great tentacles rose from the sand and began flailing about at the adventurers and fleeing Gnolls. Bethir rushed forward to the spot where the woman disappeared, with Tarb following behind stringing a rope with him. Both were swallowed in a single gulp, revealing a strange maw of a beast in the ground. Bethir tried to shout “I’m Bethir and I’m here to save you, but could barely utter it before the pressure of the stomach and seething acid of the beast started to damage him.
While the others fought the tentacles above, Bethir managed to carve his way out of the stomach. However, he chose the wrong side and found himself outside the beast and pressed into the sand beneath it–going from swallowed to suffocating. Tarb had to act quickly, and chose to rescue his colleague Bethir by carving a hole and tugging him back through into the stomach. However, that meant that the swallowed woman finally perished with the stomach acid. Outside the stomach, Roxi and Roshin lay serious damage into the beasts’ tentacles until it finally perished, its death spasms vomiting up the swallowed party members.
Meanwhile, Duzo had focused on the retreating Gnolls–managing to put one to sleep with a magic spell. Roxi tied up the creature, and Roshin (who speaks Gnollish) questioned it to no avail. Duzo tried to hypnotize it into presenting them as potential slave buyers, but the language barrier proved to be a problem. Bethir finally ended the being’s life. They pulled their wounded back to the Monastery to rest further (and get more medical treatment of disease by Father Zastoran).
That night, Targ noted Dashki the Gnoll Expert stealthily exiting the camp. Without alerting others or Dashki himself, Tarb slipped out and followed him. Dashki wound his way out deep into the Pesh fields, and then found a spot to wait. Tarb hid in silence, watching a line of three faint torches come down from the nearby mountain range to the west of Kelmarane. When they drew into view, Tarb was stunned. There were three Gnolls, and they greeted Dashki like a fellow Gnoll: growling, play fighting, and even sniffing each other. He conferred with them briefly, then made his way back to the Monastery–with Tarb following quietly, certain he knew who to inform if not what to do.
In the morning, with Roxi and Roshin fully recovered from the disease, the group purchased some potions from Father Zastoran while Tarb quietly informed them of what he saw. They resolved to speak to Almah about the situation, but upon arrival at her quarters in the reclaimed monastery, she requested a private audience with Duzo first. Almah explained that since her harrow card reader perished, she has been operating without divination, and thought that maybe Duzo would have some insight. He recognized to himself that he had no special divination powers, but he did have some very strong personal supply of Pesh. So he decided to leverage that as his “fortune telling” method, giving Almah an ample quantity. He then spun the prediction (lie) that: “Soon Kelmarane would be under her control, but she should always remember those who helped her establish the town.” After coming down from the high, Almah spoke with Duzo asking him to not only open a shop in her Battle Market when they reclaim the town, but also offering an extra 300gp to each of the adventurers for their services upon success (except Roshin, who is bound by pact to get his freedom only). An angry Roshin vowed to head back and see the terms of her Pactmaster agreement in Katapesh, but was mollified by the group offering portions of their increased share to him.
Tarb then explained to Almah what they observed of Dashki and the Gnolls. She agreed to keep a close watch for now, as the group wanted to travel back to the city and make progress on its liberation. They chose to foolishly travel during the hottest part of the day, leaving them tired and Tarb suffering the effects of true fatigue.
Exhausted but ready to investigate Kelmarane further, the group started searching the lower buildings of the town. One appeared to be a tannery, but given the frequency of the patrols of gnolls the group chose to send Roxi ahead to investigate stealthily. She peeked inside, seeing a strange creature busy at work amid a number of boiling cauldrons. The creature was a harpy, a strange half-woman half-bird. The cauldrons held strange concoctions, including some that seemed to contain humanoid body parts. As she was prepared to slip away, the harpy spoke: “were you peeking at me, dearie?”
Roxi was stunned by the comment, giving the Harpy time to approach. “Oh do come in,” she said, her voice simultaneously laden with seduction and malice. She introduced herself to Roxi as Undrella, and she asked what brought such a little thing to her home.
Roxi started with the simple statement that they were seeking the leader of the Gnolls. As they conversed about the city, it became clear to Roxi that Undrella had a complicated relationship with the Gnolls’ leader: Kardswann. Recognizing the name as one of the Templars of the Five Winds, Roxi endeavored to be as interested in Undrella and her past as she could be. Undrella revealed that she and Kardswann were lovers, but that he changed when he came to Kelmarane. After taking over the Gnolls and exploring the ruined church in the south of town he grew crueler and darker in moods than he had ever been.
Undrella then said to Roxi that if she would find her a new lover, she’d betray Kardswann. Roxi smiled (uncomfortably) and excused herself to speak to her group. The group agreed to at least hear more from Undrella, so all went to speak with her. They learned more of Kardswann and his control of the tribe, as well as the names of those in the battle market. She promised to help them and betray Kardswann, but again renewed her need for a new lover–from among their number.
The group agrees, and plots Roxi as the one to court Undrella–faking a “gnomish mating ritual” to give Roxi the chance to get her help without having to actually sleep with the monster (or at least make it less miserable if they do). They arrange for the date that evening in the Pesh fields, out of sight of the town. When Undrella arrived Roxi gave her flowers (which she promptly ate), then bathed the filthy beast in a “traditional gnomish bath”. Next Roxi nervously went for a moonlight stroll with the beast, and found the remainder of the evening actually just a little bit charming. Undrella proved to have moments of stunning brutality, but also was funny and kind in her way. Having completed the date, Undrella was good as her word: she gave them the schedules of the patrols (including that the patrols avoided the graveyard area of the town), keys to the back door of the Battle Market, and the idea that the two smugglers who work within the market may be potential allies. She also agreed to convince Kardswann to not kill any more of the prisoners. Of course, she also said she was looking forward to her next date with Roxi–where they would do a Harpy mating ritual.
They plan to rest another daytime, and then return to the town to plot their infiltration of the Battle Market. The crept up at night to the abandoned church and graveyard on the southern end of Kelmarane. As they got close, there seemed to be a priest of Sarenrae tending the graves. Yet as they approached the priest’s flesh melted away, revealing a strange undead being. They battled the thing, suffering its terrible ability to fight through the most grievous of injuries. Finally they finished the creature, and took time to explore the ruined church.
Inside the church they found it deserted except for a strange seal on the ground. There seemed to be some sort of lower level sealed and warded beneath the church, certainly what had been hinted at by both Almah and Undrella in her description of Kardswann. While they could not penetrate the seal, the group realized that the church made a perfect staging ground for assaults upon the city and the Gnoll forces.
They moved on, sneaking their way through the ruined city. At the sound of a patrol approaching, the group ducked into a nearby building. Unfortunately, they chose the exact spot where one of the beasts that Kardswann used in the gladiatorial fights was chained: a massive boar named Old Bonegrinder. He immediately started straining his chains and bellowing. With Gnolls outside and a rioting boar inside, the heroes found themselves in a desperate combat. His chains stretching he gored Kazim, and then Tarb’s use of Dancing Lights to illuminate the battle inside drew the Gnolls’ inquiry from outside. Quickly, they devised a plan: using Obscuring Mist to cover themselves they shouted “Old Bonegrinder is free” in Gnoll. It worked to draw some Gnolls closer while others fled, but then the great beast added reality to the ruse by breaking free of his chains. It rushed out past the group, goring a number of Gnolls and allowing the party to sneak off in the other direction.
The group used the confusion provided by the boar’s escape and even more Gnoll patrols seeking it to make their raid on the Battle Market. They split up, one group (the gnomes) heading inside sneakily while the others waited outside to watch for approaching Gnolls and to enter quickly if the alarm was raised inside.
The group outside started to discuss escape options, prompting Bethir to sneak across the way to the northern cliff of Kelmarane to tie a rope for a quick escape down the cliff face if needed. Unfortunately, he chose the outside of a guardhouse to tie the rope–and found himself tucked behind a bush as a patrol of a Gnoll with three tracking hyenas emerged. And one seemed to catch his scent!
Inside, things didn’t fare much better. The gnomes were too short to see into the cells that lined the rear hallway of the battle market as Undrella had described. They contented themselves with locking any that were unlocked, and unlocking any that were locked–presuming that they would free prisoners and keep any gladiators locked away. However, they didn’t count on the fact that the most fearsome of the Gladiators, Hurvank the Strangler–a massive ogre, would be locked up for everyone’s safety. Freeing him, he immediately attacked Roxi.
With battle joined inside and out, Kazim and Roshin rush in to help their smaller allies against the massive Ogre. In the process, Tarb frees another prisoner, a woman who seems to recognize Kazim and leaps to assist them in their fight against the great brute. Finally they manage to knock the fighter unconscious, but not after he gives a savage beating to some of the smallfolk. They check the remainder of the cells, but learn from the woman (Haleen) that the other new prisoners were moved elsewhere by Kardswann. They also learn that she knows Kazim, that they’re of the same clan. She reveals that she’s on the run due to a great debt, so the reunion is strained to say the least.
Outside, Bethir finds himself alone and beset by tracking hyenas. He does his best to escape, but their trips prove to be too much. He decides on a risky strategy and simply rolls off the cliffside. The hyenas prove puzzled by this, and he is able to use Feather Fall to drift to the ground and hide himself amid the buildings along the river shore.
The group flees the Battle Market, knowing that their commotion has likely alerted other Gnolls within the structure. They dashed to where Bethir tied the rope. Finding him gone, they have no choice but to climb down to escape. Bethir, badly hurt but watching from the ruins, meets with them and the group flees into the Pesh fields, before looping around back to the abandoned church. They planed to rest up and continue their assault, and meant to have some stern words for Undrella–as the prisoners were not safely in their cells.