Monday, July 30, 2018

Adventure: Into the Eye of the Storm

This adventure is designed for use with the Pathfinder roleplaying game; it draws the party into a plot involving a secret elven colony and wicked magic. While it is written for a party of eleventh-level characters, and intended as a sequel to the scenario Beyond the Pale, it can easily be adapted for parties with more experience and/or as a standalone scenario.

Adventure Background
Over the course of the past year, the PCs have discovering hints about a grave threat to the solar system; it seems that a hoard of demons has been working to acquire a relic known as the Godsharp, an artifact that can be used to destroy a planet. Their intention is to obliterate Homeworld, the source of many intrepid heroes who stand against the demons. To that end, one of their servants—a half-orc necromancer named Cyril—has create a ship of the dead, one that he can use his wicked divine magic to repair in the heat of battle. He apparently intends to use that ship to acquire the relic, and then stage a final assault on Homeworld. It's up to the PCs, then, to take the Godsharp from him and destroy it once and for all.

For the Gamemaster
After building his ship of the dead, Cyril set out for the asteroid belt to visit the area in which the Hiveworld once made its orbit. There he used necromantic magic to commune with the spirits still inhabiting that space, and from them learned where the azata concealed the Godsharp—in an extra-dimensional space in the middle of the everlasting storm on the gas giant planet. Luckily for him, his ship of the dead can weather the storm because he can channel negative energy to repair it in flight. Thus prepared, Cyril and his minions have set out for that planet in order to claim their prize, intending to take the relic back to Homeworld and use it to destroy that planet. It's up to the PCs, then, to discover where he's gone and then, hopefully, to foil those efforts. 

Before they depart, the PCs should also take care of any supplies, refitting or other such preparations that they deem necessary.

Part 1: The Floating Graveyard
Once they head into the asteroid belt, the PCs face a number of challenges. First and foremost is the need to find the correct place in the asteroid belt, something they can accomplish with information from the orrery in the troglodytes' ziggurat or a DC 25 Knowledge (geography) or Profession (sailor) check. Failing that, divination spells could provide that information. 

As they approach that location, the PCs face the difficulty of steering an aethership into the tangle of drifting rocks, which requires DC 15 Spellcraft or U.M.D. checks to weave through the first small asteroids, assisted by the crew's DC 15 Profession (sailor) check. Failure means that the vessel suffers a collision, causing it to suffer its base ramming damage—that is, 7d8 for a dhow, 8d8 for a bark, 9d8 for a junk and 10d8 for a merchantman or a galleon. 

The PCs are in for another rude surprise when they learn that one of the asteroids is inhabited by a somalcygot. Becoming aware of the various metals to be found on the party's aethership, it decides to attack.

Somalcygot: Refer to page 234 in Bestiary 5 for details.

Making Contact
A little further into the belt, the PCs find an area that is rich with powerful energy of an unusual sort. The destruction of Hiveworld has left behind a potent spiritual residue, one that retains some of the slain formians' memories but that doesn't manage to manifest in the manner of a ghost. Essentially, it's a huge conglomeration of psychic energy that doesn't have an outlet, and one into which spellcasters can tap by using the right spells. 

In game terms, the PCs can cast spells such as speak with dead or similar magic. While the specific effects of those spells vary, and thus it's up to the GM to adjudicate the exact result of such magic, in the end the PCs should be able to establish a connection with what remains of this hive mind. That, then, brings them to their next obstacle. Cyril and his demonic associates convinced this remnant of the formian consciousness that they intend to punish those who were responsible for destroying the Hiveworld; said claim is essentially true, insofar as the demons are planning to destroy Homeworld, thereby eliminating all of the good beings in the solar system so they can conquer what little remains for their wicked masters—and that includes destroying any good immortals who interfere with the plot. Essentially, the demons will be able to run roughshod over their ancient enemies because the good immortals will no longer have any allies to support them. 

The PCs, however, cannot rightly make any such claim. That is why they must be careful in how they communicate with the remnant. Said spirit asks them why they want to know the location of the Godsharp. Any response other than a desire to punish the azata is met with refusal. The PCs, therefore, need to spin a compelling lie if they want to learn where that relic can be found. This requires a DC 20 Bluff or Diplomacy check, depending on the nature of the argument, with bonuses or penalties assigned as always for good or bad reasoning or roleplaying. For reference, the GM may wish to consult the stat block for a formian queen.

Formian Queen: Refer to page 110 in Bestiary 4 for details.

As long as the PCs succeed, the hive mind tells them where to find the Godsharp—inside an extra-dimensional space in the middle of the great storm on the gas giant planet. Should they fail to obtain that information, the PCs may need to use powerful magic or other means to learn what they need to know.

Knowing that the PCs are not behind Cyril, the demons launch another attack against them. This one takes the form of two kalavakus demons that teleport onto the PCs' aethership and attack. After granting themselves haste, they try to command the pilot into crashing the vessel, and then tear into others with melee attacks. Should they be badly hurt, then they invoke their enslave soul abilities on weaker or more wounded enemies, hoping to rejuvenate themselves.

Kalavakus demons (2): Refer to page 78 in Bestiary 2 for details.

Once they've dealt with this challenge, the PCs can head for Thunar.

Although the PCs won't meet him until the next scenario, the leader of the demons is a nalfeshnee who possesses a crystal ball. As they have become more and more of a threat to his plans, the demon takes time to scry on them and, when possible, to sabotage their efforts. This should

Part 2: The Unending Tempest
The voyage from the asteroid belt to Thunar is, for once, uneventful, and the PCs have time to prepare for the coming confrontation.

Navigational Difficulties
Approaching the great storm on this gas giant world should be an awe-inspiring sight. After all, it is larger than all of Homeworld, and boasts slashing wind and driving rain beyond anything ever seen on the PCs' planet of origin. While the eye of the storm is a little more calm, it's still not pleasant for steering an aethership. In game terms, treat this situation as a windstorm (see page 439 in the Core Rulebook for details). This requires sailing checks with a DC of 20, just as if the vessel were engaged in combat. On a failed effort, the pilot loses control of the aethership and it is blown in the direction of the wind (roll for scatter). The pilot may try again on the following round, but being blown off course could also result in a collision. 

There's also the matter of finding the entrance to the hidden shrine, something that can be handled by casting the appropriate divination spells. The PCs might also guess that Cyril's ship of the dead is already located there, thus aiding in their search.

Here There Be Monsters
The heart of this tempest is home to a banshee, a creature gives vent to her endless rage as part of the raging winds and driving rain. Cyril was able to deal with her using his necromantic magic, in this case using his ability to command undead. While she is thus pacified, he and his minions position their ship so that they can access the extra-dimensional space in which the Godsharp is kept. When he sees the PCs approaching, he sends her to deal with them first.

Banshee: Refer to page 41 of Bestiary 2 for stats.

The banshee is a being overwrought with sadness and anger, the spirit of the azata who created the Godsharp and now regrets having seen it be used to destroy an entire word. For that reason, she guards the entrance to the extra-dimensional place in which it is being kept. Initially, she declares the PCs to be “interlopers” and attacks with all of her fury, trying to prevent them from gaining access to it. During this battle, however, those who consider the situation carefully might recognize how Cyril was able to work around her. That can be accomplished with a DC 25 Knowledge (religion) or (arcane) check. Given that information, the PCs can then try to negotiate with the banshee by convincing her that they wish to destroy the Godsharp rather than let it be used once more against Homeworld. Doing so requires a DC 30 Diplomacy check, with circumstance bonuses or penalties assigned for good or bad roleplaying or reasoning, at the GM's discretion. 

However this conflict is resolved—if the PCs can talk their way past the banshee or if they defeat her in combat—she gives them a final clue regarding how the artifact can be destroyed: “Only in the dark embrace of a black hole can its music be silenced.”

The Enemy Vessel
Cyril's ship of the dead hovers next to the entrance of the extra-dimensional space in which the Godsharp is located. What is more, the necromancer and his minions stand guard while his mother and her fellow demons go inside to claim the artifact. For his part, Cyril opens up by casting his defensive spells, until the PCs' ship arrives and he orders his undead crew to attack. Then he casts offensive spells such as unholy blight, flame strike and various touch spells via his spectral hand.

Captain Edward Morris
CR 7
XP 3600
Male human ranger 8
CN medium humanoid
Init +6; Senses Perception +11
AC 19, touch X, flat-footed X (+2 Dex, +5 armor,
+1 Dodge, +1 Two-Weapon Defense)
hp 57 (7d10+14)
Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +5
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Two scimitars +1, +11/+10/+5 (1d6+5)
Ranged NA
Special Attacks Two-Weapon Fighting
Str 18, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 13, Cha 8
Base Atk +7; CMB +11; CMD 23
Feats Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude,
Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting
Skills Climb +14, Heal +11, Perception +11, Profession (sailor +11), Stealth +12, Survival +11
Languages Common
SQ Favored enemy humanoid (orc) +4, humanoid
(goblin) +2; favored terrain urban; hunter's bond,
woodland stride
Combat Gear Chain shirt +1, masterwork cutlass,
cutlass +1, hat of disguise
Spells per Day: 2/2
Spells Prepared (Caster level 4th): Resist
elements, speak with animal

Edward Morris is something of a rarity among
rangers, one who lacks a moral compass. He is a consummate mercenary, motivated solely by the profit he can make in exchange for his service. Right now, Baron Stephano is his employer, even if the ranger has to turn a blind eye toward some of the activities in which the tiefling necromancer has been involved.
Typical Crew Members
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Shortsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts

Cyril the Necromancer
CR 12
XP 19,200
Male tiefling cleric 3/wizard (necromancer) 3/mystic theurge 7
LE medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +3
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 16 (+4 armor, +2 shield, -1 Dex)
hp 33 (3d8+3d6+6)
Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +13
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Falchion +6/+1 (2d4)
Ranged Light crossbow +6 (1d8)
Special Attacks Channel negative energy
Str 10, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 17, Wis 17, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +6; CMD 16
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Channel, Greater Spell Focus, Greater Spell Penetration, Leadership, Scribe Scroll, Selective Channeling, Spell Focus (necromancy), Spell Penetration
Skills Heal +12, Knowledge (arcane) +12, Knowledge (religion) +12, Linguistics +12, Spellcraft +12
Languages Common, Abyssal, Celestial, Draconic
SQ Orc blood, orc ferocity, weapon familiarity, aura, channel energy 1d6, domains (madness, trickery), orisons, arcane bond, arcane school, cantrips, combined spells (4th)
Combat Gear Mithril chain shirt, falchion, holy symbol, light crossbow
Spells per Day: (Divine) 4/5+1/5+1/4+1/4+1/3+1; (Arcane) 4/5/5/4/3/2
Spells Prepared: (Divine) Bleed, detect magic, guidance, resistance; bane, comprehend languages, doom, entropic shield, lesser confusion, protection from good; augury, bull's endurance, desecrate, invisibility, owl's wisdom, resist energy (usually fire); bestow curse, dispel magic, nondetection, prayer; confusion, divination, freedom of movement, unholy blight; flame strike, nightmare, spell resistance, true seeing; (Arcane) Detect magic, light x2, read magic; identify, mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shield; blindness/deafness, cat's grace, invisibility, spectral hand, whispering wind; dispel magic, fly, vampiric touch x2; enervation, fear, stoneskin; magic jar, teleport

Cyril is a strange individual, the son of a succubus who has delved into the art of necromancy in order to gain power over the undead, both to aid his mother and for his own ends. As such, he is aloof among “mortals,” as he refers to them. Even so, he has gathered about himself a cadre of fellow Lamashtu worshippers. Cyril knows that he plays a vital role in his mother's schemes, and takes pride in that fact. After all, how many new subjects will be available to him after they destroy Homeworld?

Cyril is aided by a gang of wights, which act as his boarding party.

Wights (6): Refer to page 276 in the Bestiary for stats.

In Another Dimension
The entrance to the hidden shrine is a set of marble stairs that seem to hover in the air at the center of the great storm. They have a rippling color similar to that of Thunar's storm, something that would require a DC 25 Perception check to notice them if not for the fact that Cyril's ship is pulled up alongside them. The rest of the building is not visible, since it exists beyond this dimension.

1. Main Hall
Broad steps the color of sandstone lead up to a pair of large doors; they are closed when the PC's arrive. Opening them requires a DC 15 Strength check. Inside the main hall is a long chamber with two rows of five columns that lead to a raised dais. Atop the dais stand two jackal-headed statues that animate an move to attack any newcomers. Left here long ago to guard against intruders, the statues attack ceaselessly as long as someone is present.

Clay golems (2): Refer to page 159 in the Bestiary for stats.

2. Servants' Quarters
Comfortable beds still remain in these sleeping quarters for those who once served in the palace, but otherwise the room is empty.

3. Dining Room
A broad table surrounded by sturdy chairs fills the center of this room, which was obviously used for serving elaborate meals.

4. Kitchen
The far end of this chamber is occupied by a broad hearth filled with ashes long since gone cold. There's also a spit for roasting meat, along with preparation tables surrounded by barrels and urns.

5. Bath
A short set of stairs leads down into this waist-deep pool. It is, however, empty.

6. Bedchamber
A large, sumptuous canopy bed with gauzy curtains fills the center of this room.

7. Shrine to Ptah
This chamber is dominated by an elaborate shrine, one that includes a life-size statue depicting an old man wearing regal clothing, one who has a shaved head and an elaborate beard. A DC 15 Knowledge (religion) check can identify him as Ptah, a god that some consider to be the architect of all creation. The state is flanked by trays for burning incense. A DC 30 Perception check can also reveal a secret panel in the floor at the statue's feet, and a second such effort reveals the mechanism for opening it: pulling on the statue's elaborate beard. Inside the secret compartment is the Godsharp

Before the PCs can claim this relic, however, Mistress Nora makes her move. She is lurking in this chamber using her ethereal jaunt spell-like ability. While thus protected, the succubus tries to use her dominate person ability or, failing that, suggestion, to convince the PC who retrieves the relic to giver it to her. If she is successful in doing so, then Nora uses ethereal jaunt again in order to escape. If that doesn't work, then she resorts to more direct means.

Mistress Nora, the succubus: Refer to page 68 in the Bestiary for stats.

The Godsharp
Aura strong evocation; CL 20th
Slot none; Weight 3 lbs.
This item looks like nothing more remarkable than a small golden harp with fifteen strings. Divination magic can reveal its true power, however. It is attuned to something the immortals call the “music of the spheres,” an inaudible harmony created by movements of the stars, planets and other aetherial bodies. As such, when it is played it can disrupt those movements. In game terms, it can have the effect of an earthquake spell that has the Empower, Enlarge, Extend, Maximize and Widen Spell feats applied to it. Activating this power requires a DC 30 Perform check, and the spell effect can be invoked once per round as long as the performer keeps making successful checks.
The only way to destroy the Godsharp is by dropping it into a black hole.

Part 3: All or Nothing
While the exact location of this final battle can vary depending on previous developments, a few of the more likely possibilities are addressed below.

Attack on Homeworld
If Mistress Nora managed to acquire her prize, then she immediately teleports back to Homeworld, where she has one last ally ready to help her unleash its power. This is a cloud giant named Aeolychus, one who is skilled in music and a fearsome combatant. They target the Holy City first, using the harp to unleash a wave of earthquakes upon it.

Mistress Nora: Refer to page 68 of the Bestiary for stats.

Aeolychus the cloud giant: Refer to page 147 of the Bestiary for stats.

This should make for a dramatic battle, with all manner of hell breaking loose in the city as the PCs try to recover the artifact. Refer to the previous scenario, “Beyond the Pale,” to find maps of those places.

The Lost Arkship
The only known means of reaching a black hole is through an interplanetary portal, one that was towed by an elven arkship out to an unfortunate encounter with a weird alien power. This item functions in the same manner as the one described previously, during the events of Beyond the Pale. The elves have frozen it into a block of ice, however, in order to keep anyone or anything from interacting with it. Rather than leading into open space above the planet Arborea, however, it opens into a stretch of deep space in which a wrecked arkship drifts in front of a black hole and its companion star. 

 The cause of this calamity was an entity known as a colour out of space. It dwells in this location because of the powerful gravitational effect that the black hole exerts upon its companion star, an effect that the colour finds rejuvenating. When the arkship arrived, the colour attacked its crew; the elves were forced to flee in their longboat back through the interstellar portal that they were towing, and then to seal it off from the other side. Since then, the colour has slowly been preying upon the animals aboard the arkship, driving some into a frenzy and draining others until they succumb and acquire the colour-blighted template.

Colour out of Space: Refer to pages 38-9 of Bestiary 4 for stats.

More dangerous than that, however, is the sole creature that has survived from the colour out of space's preying upon the arkship's animals and crew—Brindisi, an adult bronze dragon. It leaps up and out from the arkship's cargo hold right after the colour out of space engages any newcomers.

Brindisi, adult bronze dragon: Refer to pages 104-5 in the Bestiary for stats.

While the dragon presents a daunting challenge, PCs who succeed at a Knowledge (dungeoneering) check of DC 25, or a DC 30 Healing check, can recognize that something is wrong with this normally good dragon. With that in mind, any sort of healing that restores the dragon's drained Charisma lets it break free from the colour blighting. 

The dragon's collected treasure can be found in the cargo hold of the arkship; this includes 3007 gp, 9801 sp and 29,954 cp, along with a scabbard of keen edges and a periapt of wound closure.
Keep in mind, too, that, if Mistress Nora or any of her demon allies have survived previous encounters, then they can also make appearances here.

Destroying the Godsharp
During all of this fighting, the PCs must somehow also throw the Godsharp into the black hole. To do that, they have a variety of options; a few of the more likely ones are detailed below. 

One possibility is that they steer their aethership toward the dark mass, and then throw the instrument overboard when they are on the edge of its event horizon. This requires a series of Use Magic Device or Profession (sailor) checks, with the DC increasing from 15 upward each round as they approach the black hole. The benefit of this is that it also determines the DC for any efforts made to intercept the harp once it is thrown, such as a Fly check or Strength effort. Failure on a check for the pilot, however, means that the aethership begins to fly out of control, and a second check is required before it is pulled over the threshold of gravity and lost forever. 

Magic can provide other means, too. The PCs might use a mage hand to deliver the artifact; teleport spells to move closer and then to escape; a portable hole tied to an arrow or other projectile; or something similar. These strategies are, of course, going to need some adjudication on the part of the GM. 

As long as the PCs do somehow manage the task, then they have won an epic victory.

For a breathless moment, the harp seems to disappear into the shadows that surround the black hole, and nothing happens. Then, visible but silent, ripples of unspeakable power seem to flow through the circle of infinite darkness, radiating out and across the very fabric of space itself. Just as quickly, though, it is gone.

While there may be some more combat left to resolve, it amounts to little more than a mop-up action. After that, the celebrations can begin. The elves who accompanied the PCs out to the interstellar portal fire salutes to honor the heroes, followed by feasting with plenty of complimentary speeches. Bards begin to write stories and songs about this deed, too. While most people in the Sol System don't even know what they've accomplished, the PCs find that they have an endless, warm welcome in all those places in which the scope of their deeds is known.

Setting the Scene
To provide a visual for the black hole and its companion “feeder” star, the NASA website provides an excellent image.

This final battle, then, brings the campaign to its conclusion. By now the PCs, if they succeeded, are major heroes in the solar system. They should be 12th-level characters, if not higher. Even so, here are some possibilities for what they might do in their retirement.
  • An elf character who has proven to be brave and honorable could be recruited to join the Elven Navy. Such an elf would like be given the rank of Captain, along with command of a galleon, and could even rival Admiral Beryl for authority.
  • With Luciano Reda discredited as the governor of Crossroads, a character with a knack for politics might organize the people to hold an election for a new leader. Given the Royal Interplanetary Company's sizable investment in the settlement, however, this would not be without opposition.
  • Considering the nearly limitless possibilities for exploration and discovery throughout the solar system and even beyond it, one or more PCs might want to set up a trading company or go off in search of other stars and worlds. The Church of Ptah is interested in such business, and is happy to recruit capable adventurers for the task.
  • There's also the question of what the PCs do with the troglodyte ziggurat on the cold red desert planet and the shrine hidden in the middle of the gas giant planet's great storm. Either of these structures could make an excellent stronghold, a base of operations for whatever kind of business the character(s) wants to conduct out of them.
  • It's also possible that one or more characters want to go back to Homeworld. This might seem disorienting at first, given that the PCs have become accustomed to life in space, but they might have elements from their background stories that need to be resolved. Indeed, given that the PCs saved Homeworld from total destruction, they should be regarded as great heroes there. With few people having witnessed the battle, however, it's possible that the locals don't believe such outlandish tales.

Determining these details not only helps provide a satisfying conclusion to the campaign, but also helps set up background for the players' next adventures among the stars.

This concludes the Godsharp Saga.

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