This session of our Rise of the Runelords campaign begins immediately where the previous left off, with Grodok having smashed through the force field that protected the room containing the anima focus. Since I wanted to ensure things moved on quickly, I had the inhabitants of the room immediately open the doors and engage the party in combat.
They are led by the huge lamina the Most High Ceoptra, who has the last (and most fanatical) of the lamia and giant followers that still guard the Pinnacle of Avarice. Within the room can be seen a 30ft diameter golden sphere of fire (the anima focus itself), but this is quickly obscured when Esheire puts up a Hungry Darkness spell to shroud most of the room (and start biting and gnawing at those within it).
The two lamias are slain quickly, and as is one of the giants, and Grodok charges in to attack Ceoptra after shrugging off a Destruction spell from her. Unfortunately for him, she claws at him with her Wisdom draining attacks, taking him down to zero and out of the fight. The remaining giant hides in the opposite corner, and puts up a Fog Cloud on the door to try to mask his location – an act of desperation that actually worked quite well.
Eventually Ceoptra was taken down, as was the final giant who had tried to throw rocks at Esheire but completely failed to hit her. What they did notice was that the death of each of the creatures resulted in their souls being sucked into the anima focus, being used to power the awakening of Karzoug.
That left the looting of the bodies and the examination of the golden sphere. Amongst most of the party there was a strong desire to stay away from the sphere, though Grodok desperately wanted to poke at it. I did try to suggest poking it would be interesting, but he didn’t entirely bite. They got the distinct feeling that Karzoug was ‘within’ the sphere, and could tell that it was an artefact of some kind, but weren’t entirely sure of its exact nature.
The party decided to spend the night camped near the room, hidden in a Magnificent Mansion as usual. Being especially paranoid, they set guards outside throughout the night, though the angel Ayruzi refused to stand watch with Grodok, having become incredibly annoyed with him, who had not only been threatening to play with the sphere, but had been insisting on talking about pies. Ayruzi may have been rescued from the bindings of Karzoug’s apprentice, but she was seriously considering leaving them despite the importance of their quest.
Over night, I removed 3 of the four green markers I’d collected for Karzoug, which he’d gained from the group’s encounters with his images. This isn’t good for the party, but Karzoug still isn’t entirely back to full strength.
By morning nothing had tried to attack them, so they began a discussion of what to do with the sphere. The date by now was 28th Pharast, and tonight was the first night of the full Moon, when it had been predicted was the first night that Karzoug could possibly escape from his self imposed prison.
The chance of him escaping is currently low, but I will be rolling an ever increasing chance each night. The chance will start higher than it could have been, since I’ve applied bonuses for each of the major servants of Karzoug they have killed rather than defeated and let go (which means pretty much all of them).
Probably they will meet him and kill him today, but there’s always the chance they will fail and either die (a TPK is possible) or retreat and try again a following day. I think the timing has turned out reasonably well, though I’d prefer that things had taken a little bit longer, just to add a bit more risk to their mission.
With the party rested and healed up though, they are ready for what will probably be the culmination of the campaign next session. I’m hoping they succeed, but I don’t intend to make it easy for them. After all, he is CR 21, and they are still only 17th level, which normally suggests a high risk of deaths without decent preparation.