or, Mule-less leathers -Session 14

The Stray Curs and Yates in the upgraded air ship arrive at the archipelago the Djinn had pointed out to be the location of the spire they seek.

They are met with some odd looks but this is a place not unused to strangers. They asked around and find out the City Council knows about “aliens” to this place and that they control the access to, or sealing off of, the mountain suspected by the gang to house the Spire. They petition this council to enter mountain. After an interested hearing of their proposals the decision was no. These people had entered into a contract with “demons” to keep it sealed with the promise of tribute. They have kept this promise despite the discontinuance of promised tribute some time ago. They are willing to allow the gang to tour the tribute area at the sealed entrance as well as the museum of artifacts, what uses have yet to be discovered, they received as tribute.

Tan'Sen had picked up on some tensions between Councilman Sherant and the High chair.

Later that night a secret meeting was held with council member Sherant. He proposed a plan to gain the High Chair by the right of challenge to ascension that would entail months to become part of his clan and a fight with the sitting High Chair’s gang.

They check out the artifacts and Arlen discovers the use of a few to the amazement of the docents.

Guthark relaxes by wrestle with the strongest locals and has a hard time at first. They have an effective marshal art that bests his brute force, but eventually (with a little help from his friends) he prevails.

They check out the “demon hole”, finding it covered with cement that would take days to breach with the right materials. At a loss of how to breach the mountain, they continue with Sherant’s long game. They do a side quest for clan Zardoz, to take care of raiders that have been plaguing them.

The locate the raiders flying fortress (size of a small island) and come up with a quick plan to infiltrate it. They take over one of the raider ships from the raider island. Leaving Yates behind on his vessel the Djinn (Named in his honor, but his name was impossible for them to pronounce)

Tan, Arlin, and Murmur tried to figure out how to run the dang thing but Tan'Sen was really the only one who understood the concept at all. They dock at the large raider mega ship.

Three get into a crate that Guthark and Jebs carry into the raider compound, as Jeb’s new eagle friend Chapaderas (Chaps, for short) circles above.

They infiltrate the complex and Murmur and Arlen immediately begin to torch the joint as the others dispatch raiders. Guthark finds an office with stairs down. He grabs some ledgers and goes down stairs to see cavernous engine room with raiders going for some tentacled flying creatures hitched up on a terrace.

…to be continued.


Who's boarding whom?
Session 13

As the large ship comes closer, our heroes make final battle plans. As soon as it catches up, Yates maneuvers his nimble ship into a position above the larger ship that allows the PCs to jump onto the ship's deck and attack the vicious looking crew.

A frantic battle ensues, during which some of the enemy soldiers attempt to magically knock our heroes off the ship, while they scramble to attach their tethers to the new ship. It's a close call, with several party members unconscious and barely revived by means of Goodberries. But in the end, the heroes, aided by Yates and Jebs' pet, prevail and conquer the crew.

Below the deck, they encounter and subdue the ship's cook (who happily offers his services to his new masters) and two poor but harmless souls that serve as the ship's human engines and don't even respond to the party.

They also find a mysterious box. After checking it for traps, they open it, only to unleash a Djinni that had been kept captive by the ship's captain. The party manages to convince the Djinni to help them, and in return hand over his box – which he swiftly throws over board.

The Djinni points them in the right direction, then bids them farewell and disappears in a puff of smoke.

NB: I don't quite remember if we got any specific info from the Djinni before he disappeared.

The Wild Blue Yonder
You Call That A Ship?
The new "ally", who calls himself something that T'an translates as "Yates",  urges our heroes to get moving before re-enforcements come. Gurthark grunts at T'an while nodding towards the group's new friend. Understanding, T'an lets Yates know that Gurt won't hesitate with his javelin or great axe if Yates tries to cross them.
A few steps into the passage, they hear boots from an intersecting corridor. With no hesitation Arlen gives himself the appearance of one of the torturers they left behind and charges to where the corridors meet. He sees a group of soldiers racing in search of intruders. He points them in the wrong direction and fortunately they race off without question or comment. Arlen signals to the gang, and Yates leads the way through various stone passages and stairways. They emerge on to a large stone square.
Some ways away they see docks and two ships. It takes some moments for them to realize that clouds, not waves, are lapping at the ships. Before fully understanding that they are on an island in the sky, three soldiers are upon them with three more approaching from the direction of the airships.
Our adventurers give the charging soldiers all they've got dealing more than they are taking when they realize that Yates has been wounded and that his situation is dire. Realizing that they have no chance of escape (the gang has never seen a ship — let alone an air ship) without Yates, T'an attends to Yates chanting a healing spell while the gang does battle.

With the first three attackers nearly defeated, Arlen casts a spell against one of the remaining warriors only to find and a magical duel begins. One of the attackers is able to match Arlen and Murmer spell-for-spell — and they turn to see their comrades stunned and unable to move. One of the warriors strikes at Gurthark which frees him from the spell. He kicks and shoves his petrified comrades who decide that it is wiser to make a run for the ships than to finish off their wounded adversaries — Yates is yelling at them not to waste time — re-enforcements can be heard on the stone stairways leading up from the depths.
Our heroes charge the lone guard on the dock and after a few good shoves dispatch him over the edge — his screams fading as he falls — a reminder that down is a long way to go.
Yates yells directions that T'an translates as they get the ship untethered. They speed away in his small ship. Yates warns his new friends that their adversaries will almost certainly send a ship after them. They sail for hours, learning what they can about this strange world and getting some much needed rest.
Yates explains that the land is peopled by tribes who mostly keep to their own territories and have no ambitions other than maintaining their borders. He has friendly relations with most. He is puzzled by their questions about the spire and travel between worlds. "I have no idea what you are talking about, but there is a place where they say strange beasts and little goblins have appeared in the past.  I thought these were stories people made up, but maybe not. In any case, it is deep in another tribe's territory. They are not bad guys but I don't go past the trading post — I don't want to test how friendly they really are."

After some discussion, he agrees to land them at the trading post nearest to where he thinks that they want to go.

As they come to their understanding, Gurthark's eagle eye spots a large ship chasing them. Yates spots them, too and tells them that it is only a matter of time before the pursuers catch up. There is no way to outrun them. And capture will not be pleasant.
T'an comes to understand that while this ship can't outrun their gaining pursuer that it can outmaneuver it. Yates comments that he was impressed by the way they fought off the attackers back on the island. "They are not your match."
After a little discussion, they decide that they are up for action. Yates briefs them on what they can expect and turns the ship around. Yates maneuvers  and our heroes strap on safety harnesses, buckle their swashes, prepare to leap onto the large ship now below them.
Definition of Insanity

Rested after their battles with the myriad puzzle-creatures, the adventurers move on through the strange plane. Finally, they come to the spire they sought—but they're expected. A voice booms, "Congratulations! None before have bested my traps and minions. But it ends here—with your doom," and battle begins.

There are two foes—a beast that exists mostly in our reality, but that can throw its opponents into a vast, empty-seeming alternate world, and something that appears to be made of flames but does not burn, which exists primarily in the alternate world itself. Is the beast the servant of the flames, or the other way around? We may never know, but eventually they are both defeated, and our party moves into the spire.

There they find a most curious individual. He's a man—under a lot of dirt—who seems to have been in the spire for ages. His job appears to be to guard something, though what he doesn't remember. He has a map of a portion of the spires and worlds, showing functioning ladders and teleportation routes. He recognizes the Colosh'i tokens, and informs the heroes that Colosh'i is "infected" and will have to be "cleaned." He tells them, very earnestly, that he doesn't go outside any more, and shows them an amulet which appears to be made from a spire token with only an "o" symbol instead of the usual three numbers.

The party's reaction is mixed. Gurthark wants to get back to hunting down CHADs, and advocates strong-arming the man into handing over the amulet, but fortunately calmer heads prevail and the dialog remains cordial, if odd. Finally, however, it's clear that they've exhausted what the man can tell them, and they head into a short shaft and down the ladder to its bottom.

There, the exit dumps the heroes into a great room, where a scene is playing out—two men interrogating a third in a language none of the heroes understand. The group prepares for battle—Jebs casting a spell to create hidden spikes to immobilize the possible foes, but plans to hold off until the party can determine their intentions.

Unfortunately, the party is unable to communicate to them before they move—seemingly to run away—and trigger the spikes. And the situation quickly escalates—one fiddles with a panel on the wall, presumably to sound an alarm, and the other begins to fire crossbow bolts at what he perceives as dangerous attackers. There's nothing for it but to fight until they are knocked unconscious and bound.

Whether or not they intended to, our heroes seem to have chosen sides, so they question their new "ally." He reveals that he was arrested for smuggling. In exchange for release and protection, he can lead the way back to his ship, which will get everyone out of hostile territory. To the sound of cries of alarm and running boots, the party heads out into the hallway…

Trans-dimensional Monkee Puzzle-fest
This time it's fur-sonal...

Figure 1: Space Ape with unusual damage resistances

The intrepid party once again braves the unknown, traveling from spire to spire to get ever closer to the homeworld of the dreaded Chads… this time, none of the old rules about life and death apply!

Gurthark, T’an S’en, Chukka, Murmer, Jebs, and Arlen are minding their own business and punning along nicely when, suddenly, they are attacked by "space apes" that seem to become immune to damage in some manner. After a serious loss of blood, the party discovers the secret: hit each ape with 5 different types of damage to gimp the chimps! We all breathe a sigh of relief during our mandatory short rest… then the journey continues…

Hark! What are those strange fractal-esque pockets of color ahead? And those amorphous blobby humanoids? Well, we're soon to find out! Each party member is trapped inside of a "bubble" with a different attribute-sapping nemesis… and some are ill suited for the challenge! Jebs struggles to best his opponent in feats of strength, but alas, the dice are ever in his dis-favor, and he weakens… like the rest of the party, Jebs struggles for a tactical advantage. By carefully and considerately queuing up to swap spots through a narrow inter-bubble nexus, the party eventually gains the upper hand (after a few scary knockdowns) with better attribute matchups . Whew, glad that's over. What else stands in our way? The party pauses for milk and cookies.

Aw, dammit, what now? A new wave of dimensional denizens assault the party, with predictable results: confusion, desperation, then – inspiration! (with a few hints from the DM). These baddies seem to be mirroring our actions… if we hesitate to attack, they also hold their fire, at least till the end of the round. By holding our actions in a semi-disciplined manner, the party eventually unlocks the pattern: attack at the end of the round to give better than we get. After a brutal melee, the intrepid adventurers once again bandage their wounds, have a bite of Cratz, and soldier on to the spire in the distance…

A Critique on Cubism
or We're the Men in a Box. Session 9

The gang spend some time recuperating in this spire, a spire quite different than the others they’ve entered. The most notable difference is that the panel of symbols in the "elevator/transport" room are not merely a list of numbers, but are are controls of some sort.

T’an Sen attempts to translate, but can only make out the words "practice," "example," and "caution," or at least words that mean something like that. They begin to experiment with activating the symbols to try and get a sense for their purpose or meaning.

They manage to activate some process they don’t really understand, a voice comes out of nowhere, but they can only pick out a few words outside of any real context. They are transported to a large square "room"  containing nothing but two solid cubes of unknown material. 

They are not alone for long as the voice repeats mostly incomprehensible words.

Then the ground beneath their feet changes and they are then beset by metallic humanoid creatures who they manage to defeat. Afterwards, they find that they can return to the spire by standing on a glowing line on which they first appeared.

They try again, and unfortunately are transported back into the cube for another combat, which happens in a completely different-looking environ. This time are attacked by deadly giant spiders that crackle with electricity, they are hurt badly but manage to defeat the monsters.


Caverns & Creatures
Session 8

After discovering the underground city, the party deliberates how to proceed. They eventually decide to send the two heroes that speak the local language: T’an S’en and Chukka. After encountering some initial distrust, they manage to convince the leader that they are here to fight the green Chads (who apparently also took out the village’s outpost… ahem…). They are, very reluctantly, granted passage through the village and pointed in the direction of a tunnel where the Chads previously came from (and which the villagers have since blocked off with boulders).

The party finds the entrance but decides to look for another one, as the entrance is thoroughly blocked. No problem: they find their way around to the other side.

As they progress deeper into the caves, they are suddenly attacked by a bizarre plant monster with four enormous tentacles that rises from the ground. Several party members find themselves grabbed and flung through the air. They make some progress chopping and shooting at the tentacles (which appear to be paralyzed by cold, as Murmer discovers when casting a frost spell), but another four tentacles appear! In the end, our heroes prevail and continue through the caves.

Several hours later, they encounter a group of little humanoid creatures – some of which appear to be shamans of some sort, casting protective spells over their peers. Our heroes slaughter the creatures and proceed, but additional waves of creatures appear sporadically and attack the party. They eventually discover that they can scare the creatures off by making their voices boom.

Finally, they discover a tunnel that is so unnaturally dark that even those who possess darkvision are unable to see without a light source. The little creatures appear behind the party and attempt to drive them towards the tunnel by throwing rocks at them. Having nowhere else to go, they continue through the tunnel, which finally opens to a familiar sight: the spire!

Unfortunately, this is protected by a huge, unnatural looking beast that, with its gaze, briefly paralyzes some of our heroes. Our heroes attack, only to discover that regular weapons seem to have little effect on the creature – while magical attacks hit easily and cause damage. Gurthark tries to jump onto the beast but it vibrates in a very weird way, making it impossible to hold on. To make things worse, an odd humanoid with swords as hands (and the ability to teleport and cast other spells) steps out of the spire and attacks the party as well.

It’s a close call. The spire’s door opens when Arlen comes close with his bracelet, but he falls unconscious (right into a magical fire created by swordhands) before the entire party can enter the spire. Worse, Gurthark and T’an S’en are trapped inside the spire by a magical web and have to hack their way out to help the others. But in the end, the beast and swordhands are defeated and the party enters the spire, finding it decorated as a living space – apparently swordhands had made it his home.

Reminders to DM & party re special items:
- dagger with two blades (given to the party by the matriarch of Chukka's village
- ring found in the bowels of the squid-thing
- medallion worn by "sword hands" of the last encounter



Spider’s Men
or Raj against the Ravine (Session 7)

Excerpt from Murmer's journal.

It is hard for me to describe to you what our adventures has been, the fearsome creatures and lands that are "not our home". That phrase has always meant not of The City but when I use it I mean to say not of our cosmos, as if there could be something outside of everything. But that is actually where we Stray Curs have been. Outside the everything. I understand now that we live in a blessed land where water drips from the green leaves. Here the land is not but dry dirt.

Our guide Chukka leads us out of his village and toward the canyon lands.

T'an Sen gets to know our new companion better and does his best to translate for the group. Chukka's knowledge of this land helps avoid some of the natural dangers of this land. Eventually Arlen's bracelet begins to pulse indicating the Spire is near.

We arrived at the canyon lands and the grandest of canyons lies before us immense and impassable. The bracelet indicates the spire to be below the group. We would need to find a way to negotiate down the sheer cliff.

Jebs finds a rough “trail” down to a place to begin to rappel followed by Crabs who climes easily on the craggy surface. Guthark follows and rappels down another length of rope and finds a hook imbedded in the canyon wall. This will be helpful but who put it here? That question was answered by a volley of arrows from his left. The assailants emerge from a tunnel in the cliff’s face and spiders quickly skitter out attaching web cords for them. Jebs has Crabs attempt to do the same so they can move toward their attackers.

Chukka finding no good opportunity to get to his prey lets go and leaps down upon the enemy below. It’s like a deadly circus act as one by one the spiders and the men fall.

What seems to be the leader beats a hasty retreat into the tunnel. The Curs follow, he cannot escape the clutches of Guthark. They try to get him to talk to no avail and he accepts his fate stoically. They delve further into tunnels that continually split using the bracelet to guide the way.

Jebs who has taken point is ambushed by a Rock monster and two more surround the team. These creatures were almost impervious to weapon attacks, when they struck it was like being hit by an avalanche, and they also could meld into the surrounding rock. The situation was dire, in desperation I vocalized a thunderous wave.  It seemed to push one of the creatures into the rock wall and it didn’t (at least immediately) reemerge. T’an Sen followed suit, the cavern was filled with a deafening thunderous harmony and the monsters were gone for now. The gang moved on banged up and ears ringing until we entered a large cavern occupied by an underground city. Was this the location of the Spire?

Here Be Dragons

Yeah, I know this looks more like a black dragon. *You* find a picture of a copper dragon spitting actual acid.

Jebs summons a new crabby companion, and with its help, our heroes resume their search for water. But just a couple of hours into their travels, they're dive-bombed by winged horrors, and wow does their charge pack a wallop! But it soon becomes clear that the creatures aren't there to kill; what they really want is the party's cherished canteens. The party kills off most of the thieves, but not before a couple of them escape with almost half their remaining water supply. With only a half-day of water left, the intrepid explorers might be in big trouble—but there's nothing for it but to push on.

And finally, that persistence is rewarded—there's an oasis up ahead! But it seems to be already in use—animals big and small line the edges, drinking their fill. Most of the dumb chums pay humans no mind, but a particularly hulking and sharp-toothed brute fixes them with a stare and watches their every move. Once it's alert, the other creatures silently disperse like fish parting before a shark. T'an Sen manages to establish a line of communication with the monster, but the beast is not open to negotiation. It thinks the oasis belongs to it, that the water is its hoard! The heroes, with no other sources of water on the horizon, have no choice—detente means desiccation. The battle is joined.

This critter is tough. Packs a wallop, spits acid, breathes slo-mo gas… he almost has our heroes for lunch! But in the end they pull through, and explore the dragon's hoard of priceless treasure—a lake-full of water in the middle of a desert.

But there's something unusual about this lake—a drain. A pipe is gradually sucking in water. It's much too small to enter, but it's not too hard to figure out which way it's going. An actual working human artifact seems a novelty on this bone-dry world, so the party, after refilling its water skins, sets off in their best guess as to its direction.

Over the dunes the party goes, and finally, off in the distance, a reward—another town, and this one looks populated! We don't know whether the locals are friendly, but we send T'an Sen and Arlen forward to let them know that we come in peace.

Amazingly, T'an Sen can actually speak their language! Not only are they friendly, but they want to whole party to meet their leader. And she's full of questions—about who we are, where we come from, and why we're here. At long last, with the help of some Informational Illusions, we're able to explain about Colo'shi and the CHADs.

The desert people had trouble with the CHADs once too—they came through their world, raiding and pillaging, and then disappeared as mysteriosly as they had come. She's all for our mission to wipe them out. Even better, she recognizes our Tokens, and has a couple almost like them herself, so we should be able to enter the spire on the other side. And best of all, she knows where that spire is—inside a network of caverns—and can send some guides with us as far as the cave entrance.

A night of hearty feasting and campfire stories follows, and the next morning we set off on the next leg of our journey!

Rise of the Skeletons
Session: 12/14/16

After a long rest which seems to have mostly restored their strength, the party heads off in the direction that they hope will lead them to the Spire's twin. Before long, they find themselves before a massive blade of rock perhaps 150 feet high. The sheer sides offer little in the way of hand or footholds. After some discussion, it is decided that the unlikely prospect of scaling the rock would not be worth the effort of loss of time.

Skirting the rock, they come upon the remnants of a long-abandoned town. Whether the town was abandoned months ago or decades ago (or more) is impossible to tell — such is the effect of the dry sandy wind. The group explores the towns ruins, finding little of value or import. T'an and Jebs head towards the largest building. The simple hall is unadorned. Among the random discards, abandoned tables and chairs, T'an finds the remnants of an old book. It seems as if it might crumble with too much handling. Pages fall out as it is handled — and many seem to have been removed or decayed into dust long ago. As he gently handles the book, T'an has has a feeling that he has seen this writing before though he cannot imagine where. It is nothing like any writing that he has seen on Colo'shi — completely unlike modern writing or the ancient runes carved in the ancient mine shafts of Home. He has a fleeting sense that he can read these pages — a strange melody plays in his head and the sound of unfamiliar speech. Jebs coughs and the T'an is suddenly aware of his surroundings, and the music is gone. The book seems totally foreign. A thought remains, "I should be able to read this book. If only I can find that melody. It is the key."

By now the group has joined T'an and Jebs. Arlen asks, "Jebs what do you get off that book?" Jebs puts his hand on it and mumbles his spell and loses himself in concentration. After some moments, he glares at T'An. "I have a very clear reading. The last person to touch this book was totally mystified by it. That was back in a time called: Two Minutes Ago." Our heroes have a good laugh, wrap up the book carefully and head on their way.

Not far outside of town, they find 2 × 2 rocks space out like breadcrumbs. Are these markers of an ancient road. After several uneventful hours, a massive beast appears over dune. It has thick leathery hide, two horns and a bony frill-like neckplate. This beast moves at an incredible speed considering its huge size. The gang strikes at it with magic and arrows, but they seem to be doing little damage. Brave, raging Gurthark stands in front of it and is nearly trampled. While the beast is distracted, T'an approaches from behind and somersaults onto its back — barely holding on. Stabbing it in the neck while the beast tries to trample and gore the other heroes who  eventually gain the upper-hand and slay the beast.

The crew continues on their way. Bruised and worn, they come upon more ruins and a field of partially-buried stone tablets and small obelisks. Stone garden? Graves? Some sort of time markers? The adventurers are curious about the meaning of the stones and what artifacts might be found. The sandy ground is easy to dig. They find skeletons buried in the sand — some bones indicate grievous injuries but no artifacts of note are found. Arlen, Murmer, Gurthark, T'an and Jebs rebury the skeletons, but as they leave to explore the town's building, skeletons rise from the sand and attack.

The battle is furious. Just as our heroes seem to be turning the tide against their bony foes,  a skeleton unlike the others emerges from a nearby building. They can feel his power. The powerful skeleton is only fully visible from the waist up and fades to invisibility below the hips. The relentless attacks bring brave, powerful Gurthark near death just as the team finally vanquishes the magical fading skeleton captain whose army sinks back into the sand. Powerful magic and some good luck saves Gurthark from death.

Weary, the group takes refuge in the largest building and treats itself to a well-deserved long rest. In the morning, Arlen seems hyper and cannot stop fiddling with his magic bracelet. T'An S'en relates his dream to the team: "I was sitting near a campfire. I was part of a group of unfamiliar people, like none that I have seen on Colo'shi. They were telling stories and holding council. Their words and intonations were unfamiliar, but I had the feeling that with each word they spoke that I was nearer to understanding them. The fire warmed me in a way that seemed more real than a dream. I was certain that one of the men made a joke about my standing to close to the fire and that I was able to reply a word or two in his language. The strange words I heard — the odd clicks and gurgles they made while speaking are fading — but I feel as if I heard it again, I might understand some part of what was said."



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