10 August 2017 @ 10:28 pm

Oh snap, Rise of Tiamat: actual adventuring edition! We rejoin our heroes at the battle in progress: facing the dread chuuls who have emerged from a pond to menace them. We begin as we inevitably must: with initiative. Also with a discussion that has nothing to do with anything.

Eben: Wasn’t Haggar – they all three had slightly different animations, I thought Haggar was trying to blow out the dynamite.
DM: That’s probably true.
Maldrake: I miss the arcade, I miss the putt-putt…

The lesson is probably that the DM needs to work faster. He quickly drags them back to the game, as best as anyone can.

DM: Lualyrr! You are the first to act, facing these crustacean monsters with tentacles writhing out where mouths should be.
Thalynmar: “All right, lads – clarify the butter!”
DM: Decanter of Endless Butter.
Thalynmar: BOOM! “AH HA HA HA HA HA!”
DM: What will you do, facing these monstrosities, these… aberrations?
Lualyrr: Globstrosities.
Thalynmar: Makes golden showers not sound so bad, honestly.

The pool is terribly deep, and if not for their water walking the adventurers might actually have to deal with this terrain. Instead, they face down sudden empowered maximized caltrops with energy admixture, chained. Thalynmar looks for sword sound effects. It quickly gets out of hand.

DM: Shit just went down.
Thalynmar: Apparently…
DM: Thalynmar just takes off Maldrake’s head, ‘cuz he was busy fucking around with his weapon.
Thalynmar: It’s all the same goddamn sound. Sword flash. (same sound) Sword raise? (same sound) Ooh, sword clash! (slightly different sound)

Lualyrr attempts to fire Thunderwave into the melee fighters again, then lobs a Vicious Mockery at a chuul to great success. The battle erupts in a flurry of attacks and whatnot, you know, the usual crap.

Thalynmar: Cool sword?! (same sound)
DM: Thalynmar, you take 25 points of damage. The great claw of the crablike chuul reaches out, and as you ward off the other one it snaps shut, catching you perfectly around the waist, right where your breastplate meets your lower parts of your armor. Its serrated edges penetrate your armor and drive into your stomach. However, you are grappled. He pulls you in, the tentacles from his mouth lash out and course over you, doing no damage but you must make a Constitution saving throw. Against poison!
Thalynmar: Oh boy, advantage!

To no one’s surprise, Thalynmar passes. Raven is up, rolling his attack – albeit not to spectacular result.

Raven: That’ll be five fire damage and five physical damage.
DM: You slash out. The water still clinging to its carapace seems to protect it, thus explaining your low damage, but you know, not being a result of any mechanic or anything, that is purely flavor text to explain why you did not strike with a heartier blow. Because if I didn’t say that, you’d think they had some sort of water shield thing going on.

Raven smashes away, and then Thalynmar enjoys the greater freedoms of 5E grappling to crit with his glaive. Lualyrr wanders off, because it’s combat, but she and Eben get whomped on and Eben is poisoned and thus paralyzed by the chuul. Maldrake and the DM get into a weird conflict over his actions; the paladin retreats out of combat and cures Eben’s paralysis. Raven is grappled, but saves against the poison.

DM: They quest at you for a while, but are unable to penetrate your plate mail and give up. Eben!
Thalynmar: And they saunter back into the ocean.
DM: Only the tentacles gave up. NOT the MONSTERS.
Thalynmar: Oh.
DM: And they you guys look at me when I’m going into specific detail on how I’m being flavor-textful and not some crazy water shield…
Thalynmar: (cracking up and clapping) I wasn’t being serious! I wasn’t being serious, I knew what you meant…

In 5E, grappling ends if the grappler is forcibly moved out of range of the victim. These leads into an immense rules argument as Eben unloads his eldritch blasts into his attacker.

Eben: Are they able to be crit?
DM: Yes, everything can be crit in this edition. I sense lingering trauma.

Attacks erupt around some more, pincers shutting on the players and paralysis saves being made rather easily.

DM: You pass, handily! Your paladin resolve steels you. You refuse to be paralyzed by—
Maldrake: That’s just a good roll. Paladins have nothing against poison.
DM: It’s FLAVOR, oh my god… You refuse to be paralyzed by these evil creatures! You have to bring them to justice… at the end of your flail.
Eben: That’s justice! ‘My flail is justice!’
Thalynmar: Ooh yeah, name your flail ‘Justice’ now.
Eben: I – I think you have to. That’s awesome.
Maldrake: I’d rather name it Vengeance.

Lualyrr hits a grappling chuul with Dissonant Whispers, forcing it to run. Thalynmar, through a poor choice of words and muttering, turns into Krixxix; all are traumatized.

DM: This chuul, looking distinctly annoyed with how this has all gone down, steps forwards. Fails to seize Thalynmar.
Thalynmar: Yay!
DM: Succeeds in seizing Thalynmar!
Thalynmar: Wait a minute.
DM: Tentacles writhe over your face, seeking bare skin to poison you, but are unable to penetrate your beard and must withdraw.
Thalynmar: I’m gonna find something in my beard later.
Lualyrr: He practices safe beard.
DM: The chuul leans backwards, a sandwich now clutched in its tentacles. It looks down at it, looks up at you, shudders a bit.
Thalynmar: ‘Gimme back my snack!’
DM: It does not understand your words.
Thalynmar: I gain the ability to RAGE.

Raven kills a chuul, and then Thalynmar delivers another crit. The DM openly debates getting Thalynmar’s d20 tested at this point, as the dwarf drops the chuul. Eben takes some damage and remains paralyzed from a poisoning earlier. Lualyrr throws a Vicious Mockery. Thalynmar crits again, dropping a chuul, and keeps plowing on through.

DM: ‘Oh no, now you’ve got my weapon!’ You now have a pincer instead of a glaive.
Raven: Good job. What’re you gonna do, pinch people?
Thalynmar: Yes.
Raven: You’ll be great for St. Patrick’s Day…
DM: Maldrake, give me a Medicine check.
Maldrake: 17.
Thalynmar: You guys have blue blood. You could sell that for fucking dope-ass money.
DM: Thalynmar is giving you bad advice. I was going to tell you something else, but he wasted it.

The DM tells him the poison is very short in duration, a merciful hint to not burn healing on paralysis cures. They butcher the final chuul, as the DM notes their water-walking spell completely neutered the main combat threat of being paralyzed and dumped in the water to sink. The gem is theirs and they head back out, returning to the compass once again. The party spends a long time considering their options and which way they had already gone, and also take a short rest to recover. Eventually, they decide to go on the path between the two the arrows point at.

Thalynmar: Fuck it. Let’s just try it. It’s another encounter. And no experience because we get it between chapters.

Off down the path they head, bemoaning their inability to game the sundial with markers and crap.

Thalynmar: And then, the tarrasque appears! Crap.
DM: I was out of ideas, guys.
Maldrake: I would say thank god it’s over.
DM: Damn, you guys don’t like my campaign any more.
Thalynmar: This isn’t even your campaign.
Maldrake: I like the campaign, I just don’t like this part.
Thalynmar: I just feel stupid for some reason.

The DM draws erases the mat – and then draws new arrows on their sundial map, or tries at least. The marker gives out on him. Three shadows point in different directions, in a Y shape.

Eben: That looks like an old World War 1 underwater mine.
Maldrake: So we followed the arrow last time. Then the second time we didn’t, we went between them, so this time we have to do something…
Thalynmar: Just as asinine. The DM checks his notes. ‘Yes, just as asinine.’
Lualyrr: I get up on the sundial and dance.
DM: Not this one. I’m going to be honest, it gets more asinine over time.

The players settle in for a long debate over what to do and which path to go down. The DM finally takes a poll to get them moving, and they settle on a direction, which is at this point completely unclear because they’re talking compass directions on a transcription, and moreover, none of them know which direction is which.

Maldrake: So from now on this over here is north, Raven.
Raven: So we’re going south.
DM: Let me help you with that. (drawing a curved arrow and labeling it N)
Eben: Wow.
Thalynmar: At least he’s able to laugh at himself.
Eben: I – I – yeah.
Thalynmar: I was not expecting that.
Eben: I just left the low-hanging fruit there… I actually wasn’t even thinking about it.
Thalynmar: Yeah, seriously!

They head onto the southern passage, which is between the fork of the Y, and come around to YET ANOTHER SUNDIAL. The sundial now points in four different directions.

Thalynmar: Now we’re fucked.
Maldrake: You know what? Let me just get this out of the way. Let me get this out of the way real quick, calm down… Notice how this one’s offset? I think he’s trying to tell us something.
Thalynmar: I’m like, this one is kind of rounded…
Maldrake: All right, we got it out of our systems, commenting on the artwork… That’s what we need to pick up, some protractors and stuff. Protactors, rulers, compasses…

Eben attempts to transport to the tower. He grabs Cell first, so he ends up on King Kai’s planet.

Raven: So I got a crazy idea. Um, now that the compass average is who the hell knows, what about the average of the directions we’ve already gone?
Thalynmar: Ohhh.
Eben: But how do you average that?
DM: As you take a moment to look at the shadows and debate, you notice they are starting to move.
Raven: Aaand out goes my sword and shield.
Eben: You’re gonna attack the shadows?
DM: The longer you look, the faster they spin, round and round the outside of the sundial, until at last they begin to shorten. Finally they collapse into the gnomon, and the sundial shows no shadow at all.
Maldrake: We waited too long. We lost our chain bonus.
Thalynmar: There was a shadow in the beginning.
Maldrake: We’re at negative progress. (moving his miniature onto the sundial)
DM: Maldrake, you step onto the sundial and immediately pass through it, falling.
Lualyrr: I was on there too!
DM: That was last time.
Lualyrr: I’d do it again.
Raven: I was about to do that, damn it!

The group hops onto the sundial, and fall harmlessly next to… another sundial. Eben declares this a boat adventure, while the DM just sighs in relief that Krixxix isn’t here and the group is therefore actually capable of progressing. Maldrake declares something incredibly unwieldy as a die tower.

DM: Great. There’s a fucking precedent.
Eben: So what did he find?
Maldrake: 17 is 17!

Still, Maldrake’s investigation comes up blank. Shadows point at every path. Raven hops onto the gnomon, injuring himself on an invisible Mario block somehow. Maldrake proposes they repeat their correct steps. The DM asks them for Intelligence checks; Thalynmar rolls a natural 1, but enough other people pass that the DM gives them a challenge: a three-by-three set of dots, connect all of them with 4 lines without lifting the pen. The gimmick is that the lines must go outside the implicit boundaries of the dots, which is not forbidden by the rules but is likely inferred to be by the viewer.

Maldrake: Oh! Oh! Climb check! I’m going to climb outside the maze!
DM: Maldrake lunges at the bushes, trying to climb them, only to sink into them and vanish from sight!

Into the bushes they go, and abruptly find themselves on a path. There is motion in the tower as it looms above them!

Thalynmar: It’s a giant death laser.
DM: Abruptly, you see a human male dressed in black robes on the balcony, waving something over his head. Hard to make out what it is, but it might be a blue mask. “Heroes! They saw you in the village! I’ve taken the mask but they know it’s missing! Look for me beneath the tower, it’s the only place I have a chance to hide! THIS is the key that will teleport you to the dungeon.” He holds aloft a second item, which is some sort of white, shimmering hourglass. “I’ll leave it behind after I use it, but others may find it before you do—“ and he comes to a sudden halt as another figure dashes out onto the balcony. There’s a blinding flash, a clash of blades that all sound remarkably the same, and then you suddenly see a figure falling off the balcony. The one who spoke to you runs back into the tower.
Thalynmar: Feets, don’t fail me now!
DM: You hear a heavy thud just as you round the final curve of the passageway. The body of a dead cultist lies sprawled on the ground next to a teleportation circle outside the foot of the tower. Behind you, the path you came off is perfectly straight. It leads back to the sundial intersection, and past that you can see another intersection that ends at the exit of the village.
Thalynmar: Well, at least getting out’s easy.

They step into the safety circle, after some coaxing of Raven, and immediately reappear in a round room. Which is weird, because the tower is square on the outside. They spot another body right away.

Maldrake: Oh my god, I hope we meet what’s-her-name again.
DM: There are a pair of balconies set above the floor.
Maldrake: That’d be cool, I wonder if she’s still mad at us.
Lualyrr: Rezmir? You think so?
DM: Those of you who are standing in the circle still yet note on the wall behind it is a metal panel inscribed with symbols.
Maldrake: I’m going to Medicine the dead person, find out cause of death.
Eben: Drowning in own blood.
DM: This cultist was killed by a dragontooth dagger.

They search the body and come up with A NEW CAAAAAAR! And generally nothing of interest. A few extra rolls tell them that the tower is built much in the style of Maztica, which… has no relevance, apparently. The DM describes numerous symbols on the metal panel by the teleport circle.

Thalynmar: The chair probably represents the dining room!
Maldrake: Star. Observatory. Top.
Thalynmar: Push the star! I’ll push it, fuck it.

They appear in the observatory, a giant telescope dominating the scene and wizardly paraphernalia all about. A door lead to the balcony, so Thalynmar heads over to check it out.

DM: You open the door to the balcony.
Thalynmar: (miming that, violently)
Maldrake: He Dirked it. He Dirked it. He Dirked it.
Thalynmar: I kinda hit myself hard.
Maldrake: Why?
Thalynmar: I wanted to get the noise so he could hear it… I am stepping out.
DM: Okay. You’re attacked.
Thalynmar: Oh okay. …am I really?
DM: Yes. Yes you are.
Eben: Down you go. A dwarf comes out of nowhere and PUSHES you off the balcony!

Thalynmar blows a Wisdom saving throw, and is paralyzed! Cultists swarm him, casting spiritual hammers and plunging daggers into him. Then, a bolt of fire strikes him! The damage is all relatively trivial, adding up to 39 damage or so over everyone. A long delay ensues as they try to draw the map.

DM: DM rules, DM decides!
Maldrake: All right, well player rule, player leaves the game!
DM: Gee! You know, a guy could get offended about how quick you are to quit my game every single time… Don’t I bust my hump trying to give you a good adventure?
Thalynmar: Yeah, we love it!
DM: Don’t love it enough not to quit every goddamn session.
Thalynmar: I don’t think we’ve ever quit. Yet.
DM: You’re just biding your time. The encounter with Tiamat. First round Tiamat goes, does some damage to you guys, you all stand up and shuffle upstairs. Even Raven, somehow.

Initiative ensues, as do imprecations, but no one quits. The team is not top on initiative, though!

DM: The cultist in front of you, seeing that your armor is warding off even the dagger strokes that strike true, speaks an invocation—
Thalynmar: And pulls a rust monster out of his pocket! You son of a bitch.
DM: He speaks an invocation and just barely manages to hit you despite your paralysis.
Thalynmar: Welp, it’s good I’m soaking up the damage instead of Lualyrr. Point is, I can take these hits. At least for a few more rounds.
DM: You take 51 points of necrotic damage—
Thalynmar: ONE more round.
DM: As he lays his hand upon your chest and the Inflict Wounds punches through your body, wracking you with shuddering pain.

Spiritual weapons attack Thalynmar, one missing and one doing little, and then a second Inflict Wounds misses Thalynmar entirely despite the advantage paralysis grants. Lualyrr tries to lob a Confusion spell into the mess from point-blank range, rages out when she’s informed she will Confuse herself by doing it, then backs up and does it when she’s out of range. Thalynmar blows his Wisdom saving throw against confusion, but hey, he’s paralyzed. The balcony erupts in a flurry of blows, as a mage stabs a cultist!

Eben: What kind of dagger?
DM: A normal dagger…
Eben: Oh.
DM: …sorry…

Thalynmar shakes off his paralysis, but not his confusion! A cultist lets his hammer fall and tries to paralyze Thalynmar again, but the dwarf saves.

DM: Poor mage, he was gonna unleash some awesome arcane devastation on you all.
Lualyrr: For once, I’m effective!
DM: You did a good job of throwing their ranks into confusion. Literally!
Thalynmar: It’s great, they’re all near me, I’m going to be attacking them anyway.
DM: Until you get ‘move in a random direction’. (miming Thalynmar going over the balcony’s edge)
Thalynmar: Ha! That would kill me at this point.

Eben spends a while trying to find a position that will give him shots at the cultists, while in the background Lualyrr and the DM bitch.

Lualyrr: ‘I’m crushing your Faerun dreams, Lualyrr!’
DM: I don’t like Waterdeep! I don’t like Forgotten Realms! I never have! I’ve given you the chance to change my mind and you haven’t.
Lualyrr: We’re through.
Thalynmar: It’s been overused.
Eben: Drizzt.
Lualyrr: Even I don’t like Drizzt.

Eben continues to debate, so the rest of the group reminisces over StupiDuel. At last, the warlock lobs a Shatter which ultimately ends with Thalynmar confusedly flying directly into the ground, where he quivers comically to a halt. Thalynmar gets to act normally, so he kicks a guy over the balcony to finish him, then burns Second Wind and Action Surge to both survive and kill as much as possible while he’s in control of his faculties.

Thalynmar: And I crit!
DM: And he’s dead too! Another one goes down to join the first two bodies at the bottom of the stairs.
Eben: Wilhelm scream!

Raven moves up and joins the slaughter, and Maldrake patches Thalynmar up some more. Lualyrr rolls for the mage’s actions and gets ‘no actions this turn’. The DM gives up.

DM: You butcher the mage. He can’t survive that. He just stands there and takes it. You kill him. There’s no way he can survive that onslaught – I take that back.
Thalynmar: Oh. Yeah. I’m still confused.
DM: Roll a d10, Thalynmar, let’s see what happens.
Thalynmar: Uh, 5.
DM: You don’t do anything. So you guys are gonna butcher him. Fucking god damn this mage. May I read you a selection of the spells he has available to him? Fireball. Ice Storm. Cone of Cold. How many spells did he get to use? Jack and shit. Thank you. Good work, Lualyrr.
Thalynmar: Yay! Two encounters completely shut down.
DM: Oh, when you killed the mage, he dropped to the ground and out of one his pockets—
Thalynmar: Drops a gem!
DM: Rolls the hourglass-shaped key you saw.
Thalynmar: Oh. I was like, ‘another precious gem? Crap.’
DM: Sundial!
Maldrake: Oh God. That would have been hilarious if we’re all here, and we’re like, ‘We’re done here, and—‘
Thalynmar: Sundial.
DM: I have rules for insanity over here… I’ll give you guys sundial-related traumatic disorders.

Stallone is invoked for some reason. The DM starts awarding madnesses because he can.

Thalynmar: Uh, 20.
DM: You experienced vivid hallucinations of sundials.
Lualyrr: What are we rolling?
Maldrake: That’s a 3…
DM: You feel compelled to repeat a specific activity over and over. You just – polishing your armor, frantically trying to rub out the memories of the sundial.
Lualyrr: 38.
Raven: 97.
DM: You regard sundials with intense revulsion.
Thalynmar: 97 for Raven.
DM: You’re unconscious. Straight out fucking catatonic.
Raven: I think I got the best result then.

Seizing the key, they search the bodies with lust for loot, but to no avail. They head back to the teleporter, recognizing that the panel had an hourglass-shaped icon on it.

Thalynmar: I like the way you think: logically.
DM: I praise you for the very good thought of ‘star=observatory, let’s not go to any of the other places that are laboriously detailed in this adventure.’ It’s just like one of my home-brewed adventures! ‘Oh, there’s a lot of shit there, we’re not going there. On we go.’ Except this time you guys have a reasonable amount of hit points left after this first encounter in the tower, so it’s not perfect.
Maldrake: I’m sorry, if I saw he was near the top, I’m going to the top!
DM: So. You return to the teleporter and press the hourglass symbol—
Maldrake: Was the mage who made this illiterate or something? ‘I can’t write anything, so I’m doing symbols for my dumb ass.’
DM: Maybe he just like symbols.
Lualyrr: Maybe he employed some barbarians, who are illiterate fucks.
Raven: Maybe the wizard is secretly a barbarian who has grander dreams of being a wizard.
Thalynmar: He goes to his library and just starts crying.

Touching key to symbol, they are transported down to the dungeon. Three dead bodies litter the floor nearby; one has been stabbed! A trail of blood leads them further on into a room with two earthen and one flame figure.

Lualyrr: Frickin’ elementals!

The cultists combine their powers to summon Captain Tiamat, and then the group complains that Captain Planet’s weakness is exactly what he fights. The DM encourages them to retreat like big old chickens.

Maldrake: Is that an option?
DM: Is it? Is it, Maldrake, Paladin of Vengeance?
Maldrake: No!
DM: It turns out Maldrake has been Chicken Boo this entire time…

The DM really enjoys describing this scenario in great detail, in which hatred of Chicken Boo-Maldrake unities Tiamat and Faerun in peace after they run him out.

Thalynmar: You need to get a rogue with a high Bluff. Like Sir Bearington.
DM: No. A high Disguise. That’s all Chicken Boo had going for him. And, you know, skills in whatever he was doing, because he was always super-competent.
Maldrake: And someone nearby always rolled a 20. His save was like a 45, but someone always rolled high.
DM: If we ever do a high-level campaign, I’m doing that.

The game ends with quick research on just what the Decanter of Endless Water would do to a fire elemental. (It turns out it would hurt it quite a bit!) They enjoy picturing this.

Thalynmar: ‘Take that, ya bastard!’
DM: ‘This is much better than using me glaive, which would do more damage!’