House rule: Grappling, while being a huge pain in the backside, is lacking a few rules; specifically how to attack a person who is in a grapple/has the grappled condition when you’re just standing there ungrappled, with a battle-axe, but also things like flying and swimming grapples, which would be nice to know. The rules are there to tell you what you can do and how to do it, rarely are the rules there to tell you what you can’t do. That’s an important distinction. There are no rules that say you can’t wish yourself into being a Celestial Unicorn Sex Machine, but it would be silly to imagine that means you can, otherwise this would be a different game really quickly. This leaves the rules – even as comprehensive as D&D has typically tried to be – missing some areas of regulation, in which case it is up to the GM to figure out something that is fair, simple and in keeping with other rules.
With regards to attacking a grappler: it seems silly that someone firing a missile weapon at two combatants spread across a 15′ area (let’s say angry cannibal with a spear and angry Uun with a spear, as they are considered in a melee despite the 5′ of nothing between them) will incur a -4 penalty to hit (because of the danger of hitting their buddy), while someone who swings a two-handed flail at two grappling people (so closely together as to prevent the use of one arm each) can do so with impunity – in fact, due to the grappled condition, it would get easier to hit the person. They’re not even at swords length from each other – at least one limb is sharing space with the other person – even if they remain mostly in different squares. I think this unfairly penalizes missile weapon users and magic ray-slingers and rewards people who go for the big, high damage weapons, who honestly have a great time the rest of the time.
I’m inclined to let the precedent of the “firing into a melee” mechanic and cover mechanics as a guide for what to do when making a melee attack into a grapple:
25% chance that an attack is allocated to someone other than the intended target; unless the attacker uses a Light weapon or a one-handed melee weapon with the Piercing type. Where the attacker is in relation to the grappler has no bearing on the penalty, just as shooting into a melee is not modified when the angle is tighter/wider.
Okay, two sessions with not too much combat, but a fair amount of exploration and plot movement. Which is good because everyone is really ready to get off this island.
The party was poised to venture into a narrow tunnel that led further down into the cave complex when a terrifying cacophony of shrieks scattered the party, sending some running for their lives, while others gritted their teeth and manfully/crowfully pressed on.
Victor lit a Bullseye lantern, since their source of light had fled, gibbering, holding his robes above his ankles. Malicia crept forward and found an opening at the end of the tunnel. While the cave tunnel they moved through was entirely natural, just a split in the rock that had eroded over time, the area it led to was crafted, or at least parts of it were. A combination of collapsed building, cave and intact hallways, the complex beyond them was a tangle of level changes, corners, creepy-ass snake carvings and narrow vents in the roof and ceilings.
Snake motif. Okay, got it.
Speaking of which, as the crew arrived, they saw something grey-ish leap across a crossroads in the passageway, but when they showed up to check it out (carefully!) they found just a small alcove type area with a narrow vent in the ceiling. Percy cast Sunmetal on his greatsword which lit the area up while they waited for something to rush them. When nothing came, they took a left, to where the leaping being had come from. Victor descended some stairs that led down to a finished corridor, but as he did so, he got a shin full of wooden bolts, fired from a trap hidden among the carved snakes on the walls. Malicia located the trap and stuffed some cloth in the little viper mouths that had spit them out while Percy cured Victor.
At this point though, they were jumped by Festrogs, who ran up to where Victor and Malicia were was standing and ineffectually flailed their barbarian-felling claws at him. Floki was quick off the mark, hurling a throwing axe that he had been holding over his head for a while. He threw a second axe as Malicia skipped out of the way of the pustulent creatures. They fell on Victor biting through a weak spot in his armour and tearing themselves of a chunk of the Other Other White Meat; Paladin. This seemed to cause the axe wound to knit up and sprout more pustules. Victor healed himself with Lay On Hands as Percy channeled and cast Light, which helped everyone. The Festrogs had no more luck against Victor who fought defensively to keep his delicious skin all to himself and then unleashed a whopping great stroke with his sword that finished off one undead gross-out machine while Malicia and Floki picked off the other with arrows, which is a pretty good way to kill these pus-filled pinatas.
They did not linger in this chamber, but proceeded as fast as they could with Malicia searching for traps. She found one, by setting it off into Floki’s leg and she apologised while he fought off the effects of Greenblood Oil that had coated this darts. I have written on my turn by turn sheet “Trap Fiasco”.
Speaking of fiascos, Floki’s luck didn’t improve in the next large chamber because when they arrived there, they were jumped by a trio of lacedons, one of them a spellcaster. And the first spell she cast sent Floki running for his life through the dark passageways. Victor advanced into combat, his Veil of Positive Energy… hiding his modesty. I can’t remember what this does…. oh it makes the super hard to hit Paladin even harder to hit. That makes a lot of sense, because he was very hard to hit. Victor and Malicia moved into position (eventually) but not before both fumbling. Then they laid some hurt down on the spellcasting lacedon. Percy meanwhile struck down the first lacedon that came his way and then used his Spiritual Weapon to get stuck in without actually sticking himself in. The spellcaster channeled negative energy and Percy channeled positive energy. It was some real primal yin/yang shit going on. It came to and end when Victor struck her, then Malicia stuck a blade into the undead’s skull, then Percy finished her off. Teamwork! There is no “Terrified Viking” in team however and Floki was carefully feeling his way back through a clever application of Knowledge: Dungeoneering.
All that was left was to search through the midden heap of corpse parts that were piled in the middle of the room and the belongings of the undead spellcaster: a magical ring, which I don’t think they identified and an Amulet of Natural Armour +1, which is nice. After that they checked out the rest of the little lair and other than finding what looked like a small altar carved with snakes that came to life and bit Floki, found nothing to hold their interest. However, they were satisfied that the lair was cleared and so returned via the caves, to the surface, where they met up with their bashful comrades.
Content that they had both cleared the cannibal camp around the lighthouse and the undead warrens beneath it, they settled in for the night. The following morning they had a day to kill before Aerys came back with (hopefully) the other castaways.
There comes a time in every young ranger’s life when he must go out into the world and seek an animal bride companion. So Floki went looking for that special something in the jungle, communing for a full 24 hours with the jungle around him. One good way to attract dangerous creatures is to go sit alone in the jungle overnight, so one way or another, he was likely to get his wish.
Orny and Nobody, meanwhile tried to think of ways they could improve Nobody’s gun. Lacking the proper tools, materials and facilities, they’d have to come up with something pretty lightweight and not to crucial to the gun’s working. What they came up with was a flash suppressor mounted at the end of the barrel which will allow the gases to escape without making a visible sign.
Uun spent the day relaxing with his negative levels and Percy wracked his brain over what the pictographic poem might mean, for all the good that did. Victor went looking for dangerous traps around the cannibal camp, but went looking the way Paladins do, which is to walk right through them and hope they survive. He did find many simple tripwires rigged to make noise, so he did his best to string those back up after trampling through them.
Not long after night fell, Rolifsson and Gelik arrived in camp ahead of the main group, who were hauling their gear. Pezzock had elected to stay at his crab. Excited and glad to be reunited they cheerfully recounted the tale of their hit and run distractions against the cannibal raiding parties that had left the camp before the PCs raided it. By all accounts, they did not expect any cannibals to return to the lighthouse. The distracting group regaled the – let’s call them the straight-up-massacre group – with how they continued to trick the enraged cannibals and then pick them off when they were fatigued. Each spoke glowingly of the other’s abilities and formidable talents: Rolifsson, Jask and Gelik had confused the cannibals with illusions and diversions, while Sasha and Ishiro had ambushed the isolated and fatigued groups and dispatched them with vigour. Throughout the story telling though, Uun thought the joviality was maybe a little forced and Percy saw that the distractors were eyeing each other warily when each new story started. They were hiding something and unless Percy was completely wrong – which he didn’t think he was – it was something of which they were very ashamed. Tengu cleric said no more on it but mulled it over as they all turned in for the night.
The next morning, as the group gathered to discuss what to do next, and decided that the Sasha should accompany the PCs, while everyone else stayed at the Lighthouse to a) fix it up a bit, maybe move burned corpse mountain somewhere else, wash the stiff pillows and furs in Klorak’s Passion Palace; b) defend it against whoever may show up; and c) keep an eye out for ships. Great, that was all decided, but while he had everyone in one place… Percy faked casting a Communal Endure Elements spell and cast Zone of Truth on the distractors and asked them what they weren’t telling about their ambushes of the cannibals. Without exception they all failed their saving throw, which is fitting since Sarenrae’s portfolio extends to the virtue of honesty, even if it has to be dragged out of you. Sasha botching her save completely replied “We’re trying not to tell you about that guy we started eating.” Souls unburdened with the weight of this sin, they retold the story of their first ambush, this time with the real ending. Where yesterday they had said they just celebrated with some curtly professional high-fives and chest bumps, this morning they revealed that it hadn’t gone down like that. No, indeed; the first ambush had been a tough fight because the cannibals weren’t fully exhausted and the last cannibal standing had fought like a bastard. However, he collapsed when Ishiro severed his spine and as the man died, Sasha, Ishiro and Gelik had fallen on the dying man and begun tearing at him with their teeth, savaging him while he still lived. They snapped out of it with Jask’s help and quickly agreed that they must never tell anyone about it, they told the horrified listeners. Aerys in particular seemed shocked by the revelation. Everyone agreed that this was probably an effect of the island, not a rational decision to consume flesh and Uun, who loves nothing better than biting opponents, was particularly forgiving. Abashed, it didn’t seem like Sasha, Gelik or Ishiro had entirely forgiven themselves. Just after all this had gone down, Floki wandered back into camp with his new buddy, a young sneaky-eyed jungle leopard who wound its way around Floki’s legs, facemarking his boots, making a kind of sawing noise in its throat and generally appearing content.
Making it clear that there were no bad feelings about this momentary indiscretion, the party decided to leave Aerys with these cannibal monsters and take Sasha with them, along with what they were pretty certain was dried goat jerky and preserved fruits for supplies. With food enough to get to the Red Mountain they set off eastwards. The journey was largely uneventful as they travelled the trough-like cannibal path east and made good time under Floki’s guidance. Sasha was naturally delighted to be out and about going to see fabulous things, rather than staying near camp depopulating the island of goats/whatever else was at hand.
They spent an uneasy night out in the jungle, their dreams full of dark places and slithering movement that they could never focus directly on. Something always seemed to be silently moving out the corner of their eyes as they dreamed of wandering, lost and in the dark. The experience was shared by all of them and they discussed it the next morning before doing a spot of foraging then setting off again. Before too long they stood at the edge of the mountain slopes and encountered a gorge that cut deeply into the side of the peak. The cannibal path led to a rickety looking rope bridge that spanned the 50′ wide gorge. One by one they made their way across the gorge, the old bridge creaking and making disconcerting snapping noises as they passed over. The boards gave way here and there, but nothing that amounted to more than just being dumped onto the remaining boards/mild heart attack.
Continuing over the gorge they began to wind around the mountain, the island’s tallest peak. But Floki wanted to search for a waterfall, since the clue-poem-puzzle-boondoggle mentioned water. They left the path and quickly found a vantage point that let them look down upon an inlet, fed by a waterfall. Furthermore, back down the mountain, overlooking the inlet, an outcropping capped with several standing stones was visible. The party began clambering down the small steep slope that led to the outcropping, some more successfully than Nobody, who landed on his backside, but all more successfully than Orny, who didn’t try because he is sick of fucking climbing. No sooner had they dusted themselves off and laughed at Nobody, but a screaming monster appeared around the mountainside, swooping in from the sky and pouncing on Percy.
The Red Mountain Devil had attacked them once before while they were trying to figure out Ishiro’s dig site, so one thing is obvious: the creature is summoned by annoying puzzles. Floki, Percy and Nobody had shots at it ahead of it closing with Percy, but only Percy’s Spiritual Weapon made contact, no matter how gravelly Nobody’s one-liner was when he tried his Dead-eye gunslinger trick. Then boom, the thing barrelled into Percy, grappling him. Hooray! Grappling! Uun dashed in an clawed at the ongoing melee, hitting Percy a bit and the Devil a bit (see house rule stuff below). Victor dived in to help with the Grapple and then Orny successfully put the thing to sleep with Slumber Hex, a well-worn tactic that newbie Sasha was unfamiliar with, so she ran forward and woke the devil up by poking it ineffectually with her rapier. Floki’s leopard leapt at the devil, but couldn’t harm it, but Percy’s Spiritual weapon and Nobody’s flash suppressed shot did. The creature acrobatically launched itself into the sky, twisting in the air and roaring before flying over to the standing stones. Percy’s Spiritual Weapon hit again and both Floki and Uun nailed it with missile fire. The thing roared again and sped off through the air, into the jungle on the other side of another gorge-like river outflow.
The party healed up as necessary and then started fiddling around with the standing stones. There were four tall stones, surrounding one wide, pyramidal stone. The pyramidal stone had a small bowl at its peak, with channels running down each side to another small bowl like receptacle. They fannied around for a while, filling the bowl on the top of the pyramid with blood, then more blood, then more blood. That didn’t do anything. Sasha (GMPC TO THE RESCUE!) examined the standing stones and found snake symbols cut into the stone. When someone got around to searching these, they found that the mossy growths inside the shallow grooves of each symbol were still damp with blood. Oh ho! They volunteered some more blood and daubed it on each of the snake symbols. Lo and behold the snake symbols began glowing with a green light and a rumble of thunder overhead signalled the start of some very fast storm clouds gathering.
They now moved on to the second part which seemed to do with water and metal and purity. Orny tried shouting the name of the long-forgotten god of the mythical Serpentfolk, to no avail. They tried pouring water from a metal object, then they tried pouring purified water from a metal object and then they repeated those a few times, running back and forward to waterfall to gather falling water. With more prodding by Sasha (GMPC TO THE OHGODTHISISN’TFUN!) they eventually struck on trying sea water on the stone identified by orny as the Wavestone. Oh ho! The storm clouds began to flicker with lightning. Finally Orny shouted the name of Ydersius, eldritch entity from the edge of prehistory and BOOM, the skies split with a series of lightning bolts that knocked them all flat. Everyone was able to twist away from the momentarily searing column of white energy except Orny and Percy who were temporarily blinded. The crackling discharge of lightning struck the pyramidal stone for several seconds When it stopped they heard the terrible grinding sound and saw the waters rapidly recede from the inlet and swell in the distance.
From their outcropping, now high above the exposed sea bed, they could see a sodden shipwreck, several dozen surprised sea creatures awkwardly making their way back to the several pools that littered the sea floor. But most importantly they could see an imposing set of double doors; their carven stone dripping with sea water and weeds, set below the waterline into the cliff to the south.
Edit: For Dave and everyone else who forgot that Ishiro buried your treasure way waaay away from the Lighthouse camp…