Spires of Xin-Shalast 21

The previous session left things with the characters talking to three huge spiders from Leng, though none of them really knew exactly what it was they were talking to. The spiders seemed to have settled themselves near the top of Mhar Massif, and were interested in talking to the group.

Well, talking is probably the wrong phrase. They made demands of the group that they seek out and destroy a certain Device that their enemies from Leng had constructed. The spiders didn’t know what it did, only that if activated it would cause them harm. And therefore it had to be destroyed.

I wanted to play the spiders as somewhat overbearing and annoying, and I think I succeeded. Grodok especially came very close to simply attacking them. They didn’t provide much information on exactly what the Device was, or how to destroy it – partly because they didn’t have that information themselves, and partly because they didn’t feel they needed to explain themselves to a bunch of tiny symmetrical creatures. They ordered, and so the lesser creatures must obey.

The group left the spiders to it, and Wind Walked up to the spires at the top. As they did so, they noticed that Grodok was beginning to fall behind, and was struggling to keep up. Out of the four, he was the only one not wearing a Sihedron Ring. Since they only had three rings, he was forced to switch to a Sihedron Medallion which they knew would allow Karzoug to track him, but they didn’t have much of a choice. Wearing it, they were all able to proceed to the top and into the Occlusion Field.

One they found a safe place amongst the empty, oversized buildings, Grodok took off the medallion and was immediately hit by a blinding headache caused by a pulse of energy only he felt. A minute later, he was hit by another pulse. Fortunately each time he made the two saving throws required, but at two saves every minute he was going to be failing at least once every ten minutes simply by rolling a ‘1’. So he put the medallion back on to protect himself from them.

Searching the lower buildings, they found that they were empty – abandoned centuries if not millennia ago. They only gave each building a very cursory glance, so whether there was anything special hidden away in them they never got the chance to find out. On finding three tall, thin towers of ancient prison cells, they did spot some golems still patrolling after all these years. They avoided them, partly because they realised they were a waste of time to fight, and partly because I was upfront and told them they wouldn’t get any experience for fighting them.

Which left the highest building there – a 200ft diameter dome set upon 2000ft of pillars, with a central set of steps spiralling up into it. They headed straight for the stairs, materialising out of their Wind Walk near the top to enter the dome on foot.

What followed was I think one of the most balanced combats we’ve had for a while. I think D&D (and therefore Pathfinder) combat works best when they are a fight of attrition – both sides losing hit points until one side is defeated. Guarding the entrance were four cloud giants (each CR 12) and a rune giant (CR 17).

The first cloud giant dumped a Fog Cloud on the back of the party, then used its Awesome Blow to knock Grodok back down the stairs rather than just trying to hit him with a standard melee attack. This forced the others to manoeuvre to see around the fog, and Serena’s summoned Zuishin had to be summoned in on the wrong side of the cloud. This gave the giants time to arrange themselves and move into combat.

Grodok started taking a lot of damage, and even Esheire was hit by a rock thrown by a giant at the back. Gradually the giants started going down, and the Zuishin were mostly on full-time duty trying to heal the PCs back to health to prevent them from dying.

When the rune giant turned up, Esheire hit it with a Maze – which had worked so well before, but failed this time. She realised that there was something here disrupting the teleportation nature of the spell. When questioned as to whether it was a teleportation effect, I pointed out that I’d been planning on using it against them, but realised I couldn’t. For some reason the players decided that this was a perfectly reasonable trade and questioned me no further…

This time the rune giant had a chance to use its breath weapon attack, which even though it took down one of his own side, it did damage to a couple of Zuisin, the two Tyrannosaurs which had now been summoned in, and Grodok and Solassar. A fair trade.

At the start of the combat I rolled a d10 to see where the time was at, and got a ‘6’. So on round four, all the summoned creatures had to make saves against the blinding pulse of energy that affected anyone not protected by a sihedron item. None died, by a Tyrannosaur lost some wisdom.

As the fight was drawing to a close, Solassar decided to risk getting into actual hand-to-hand rather than using his spring attack, and suddenly found himself the centre of attention as far as the giants were concerned, since he was so much fleshier and easier to hit than Grodok.

Eventually, with Serena mostly out of spells, the Rune Giant went down and only a single cloud giant was left. It was then that the door opened and a Storm Giant who had heard the commotion came in, blasting most of the group with a chain lightning. Esheire and Grodok were highly resistant to electricity, but it still hurt.

The cloud giant, which had managed to put out the fires which were burning it from one of Esheire’s spells and seemed to now be shouting about “get out of my head” was finished off by Grodok, and the party were able to concentrate on the Storm Giant, which went down reasonably quickly.

Karzoug the Claimer

As a fight, it used a lot of party spells and had churned through a lot of hitpoints. At one point Solassar, and maybe even Grodok, were getting worryingly low on hitpoints, possibly within a round of dying – something which has been quite rare recently. Though the Spectres from last week had been dangerous, that hadn’t been a real physical fight.

Just as we were beginning to wrap up for the evening, Esheire took a peek out the door and spotted a figure standing there – a robed Azlanti man holding a staff – Karzoug. It was at that point that it seemed a suitably dramatic moment to end things.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this session, and the players seemed to enjoy it as well. As I mentioned previously, the fight was a lot more balanced, and didn’t require any deliberate exploiting of party weaknesses through the use of incorporeal energy drain attacks (though given the resources of a city at their disposal and a lot of knowledge about the PCs by this point, the enemy are very justified in being able to put together traps suited to match their weaknesses). The fight is not quite over yet though, and I have the week to figure out where it’s going from here.

Samuel Penn