Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sailors on the Starless Sea ~ 09.15.13

Bjorn Berber: Dwarf/1
Wilber Wifflelinks: Halfling/1
Garrik: Wizard/1
Steig: Warrior/1
Tim the Mad Healer Morgan: Healer/0
Morgren: Dwarven Miner/0
Alsace: Halfling Glovemaker/0
Nalo: Elven Forester/0
James the Warrior: Warrior/1
Garrett: Halfling/1

The opening scene shows Bjorn and Wilber at the pub (naturally). A little girl pokes in, her face streaked with tears. When asked what's wrong, she said she was looking for her parents. They'd left town unexpectedly, then come back, but they were monsters! Bjorn asks if she wants them to go find them...and kill them. She shrieks in terror and runs back behind the bar, wrapping herself around the barkeep's leg for protection. Comments are made about Bjorn being wonderful with children. His response: "Orphanages don't make money." Wilber tries to reach out, and she sobers enough to add that her friend Jeven's parents left too, but haven't come back yet. Meanwhile, James and Garrett are manning the shop while grousing about all the new co-op co-owners being absent, when a trader mentions having come from the mountain pass and gives a rough impression of the surrounding area. [Important news: A map of the area is created!] Among the notable points is an abandoned keep, and he imparts the rumor that wealth can be found in the sole remaining tower. Collaborating, the four decide to call in some other 0-level lackeys to run the shop and hook up mounts to a cart, expecting to find plenty of goods for resale. They also hook up with known explorers Steig and Garrik, forming an experienced party.

About 4-5 hours into their journey, they get to a point where the path becomes far too narrow and overgrown for the cart, so they park it and continue toward the one tower just within sight. They trudge on despite the pervasive smell of rot assailing them from the direction of the keep, but are stopped by the disturbing sight of vines that have grown through two humans, holding them upright & secured to poles staked alongside this path. Even more horrifying is the pulsating movement within the bodies. The group attempts to free the bodies by attacking the rope-like vines from afar. The first hit results in the vine withdrawing from the corpse -- and the corpse begins to shamble toward the offenders. Garrik tries to summon an animal in response, but just can't get his mojo going. James rushes in to chop at the vines, and takes a solid hit from the freed one. Steig is done with this; he meets the corpse and decapitates it...with style...and manages to dodge the eruption of black, mucus-covered seeds from the body. When the other corpse is killed (again), the two are recognized as the sons of Ulric, the blacksmith who used to own the shop they'd taken over by force. Nobody is very broken up over this. James snags the dagger that hit him, and they set about using their torches and abundance of weeds here to burn the bodies and creepy black seed goop.

Shortly thereafter, they find themselves at the rickety excuse for a drawbridge -- and each person makes it over uneventfully. Getting through the portcullis opening, however, is more of a challenge for the humans: Because the "welcoming party" drops it from above on the tail end of the group, Garrik just barely dodges out of the way but Tim is pinned and killed instantly from the weight. A bell then tolls from above -- and Morgren declares it to be in honor of their fallen friend!

Exploring the mucky courtyard for a bit reveals a low well marked with symbols. Garrik casts Comprehend Languages and gets a smattering of "chaos" and "permanence". [If not for the effect in this area, he would've failed.] Wiffle leans in to help decipher, and ends up leaning a bit too far into the yawning darkness. Thinking quickly, Garrett grabs his fellow halfling by the belt and hauls him back to his feet. "That was no fun...hey, let's go check out the burned-out inner building! There might be treasure in there!"

The word "REPENT" painted in red onto the doors that are barred from the outside doesn't deter them. However, Bjorn is shaken to find the human remains still hot to the touch, and Garrett has the vision of hot embers surrounding him. They ask their comrades to disable the doors so they don't get locked inside as well. Garrik and Steig both fail miserably at removing the door from its hinges. The rest of the group hangs back to assist on the doors. Bjorn finds an iron coffer but is unable to open it right away and tucks it in his bag. Garrett grabs the golden censer, figuring it has a great resale value. The heavy bronze doors are finally pulled off when Garrett decides to investigate the ruined fountain. It looks like jewels are set into the toad's face, but it's not recirculating water; instead, a foul-smelling black ooze rolls up and out of the basin when Garrett gets too close. Bjorn and Garrett both bolt out of the chapel and help in replacing and resealing the doors before the black stuff can get to them.

At this point, there's a lot of "I heard there was treasure! Where's the treasure already?" among the crew, and they head to the door at the base of the tower. It's barred from the inside this time, but Steig makes quick work of it, then rushes into the room. All the top-side beastmen have been waiting for him, but he takes minimal damage while delivering a good blow to one of the mutant monsters. The remainder of the party waits by the door to see how the inhabitants will react, some trying to shoot inside. Garrik tries to throw some mystical help but again fails; finally he gets into his casting groove and throws a potent but focused Choking Cloud into the tower (positioned to avoid the captives chained to the wall). Steig is affected as well, but within moments the only remaining opponent is the beastman champion; between Steig's stairway tactics and the incoming fire from James, there is soon no threat, and they're able to quickly rescue the 3 villagers being kept in the tower. A quick survey of the upstairs battlements reveals a stairwell leading below ground, and the gatehouse, where they raise the portcullis to (a) release Tim's body; and (b) allow the poor 0-levels to go back home. They also take down the banner that's been proudly proclaiming this as a place of Chaos -- which Morgren dons as a cape! Steig and Garrik decide to escort them back to town, as they may not be able to get through the viney path alone. [Read: Player had to leave.]

While back out here, the remaining crew decides to investigate the perimeter of the keep, having gotten a glimpse of a crumbled tower on the far end. They try from the courtyard first and stumble upon a half-sunken stone.  After Wilber gleans the words "death" and "pass" from the inscription, Bjorn works to pry off the capstone, and they find a few dubious goodies: a stone idol of an unknown visage; a longsword of "milky steel" that Nalo immediately claimed as mithril; a fur-tufted longbow; and a pouch of green powder. A lucky guess led to Wilber pasting the powder onto James' wounds from the vine corpse.

Morgren, the dwarven miner, is stymied by the collapsed rubble here, and makes his way back to the portcullis and around the exterior wall. James is the lucky one who triggers the avalanche out here, and Alsace slides down the shaft to bring him a rope -- and reads the runes on the portal before them flawlessly. Of course, none heed the words. The dwarves take point and force the stone door open, both taking the bare minimum damage from the blast of flame. [That trap must've been really old!] It takes them a few rounds to realize what's going on with the tomb's icy insides, and by the time they're able to wedge the battle axe from the seven-foot lord laid out on the bier, they're suffering cold damage. With a bit of help from James, Alsace, and the halflings, Bjorn and Morgren climb back up to the surface with their ill-gotten gain.  With Steig gone, none of the remaining adventurers are particularly strong...  Circling back, they prop the giant axe against the gate, intending to retrieve it on their way back home, but not willing to haul it downstairs on the rest of their treasure search.

That's right -- rather than calling it a day, they decide to press forward, certain they'll find more worthwhile goods to infuse into their local economy.

They're not immediately disappointed. Descending the steps, they're surprised by the careless coinage strewn over the floor and suspect an ambush, but the nearby room turns out to be a vault empty of foes but with three chests. In addition to the spilled coins, Nalo finds a tooth carved with intricate schrimshaw techniques into creepy scenes of humans and sea-life. Bjorn finds a hidden compartment in one of the chests and slides his short sword in to reveal it -- unknowningly thwarting the razor trap -- and found a small stash. Of this, Morgren grabbed the silk tabard stitched with the sigil of Chaos, and paired it with his new cape.

Upon entering the next hall, Alsace and Nalo are gripped with the urge to inspect the pool in the center of the room and collect the skulls that float up to the surface. They do so unquestioningly, but seem unsure of what to do with them. Seeing the faint glow within their eye sockets, Wilber starts collecting the skulls, shaking off the black algae that fills the pool. He goes so far as to strap one above his own head, naming it Fred. The others go from alcove to alcove, collecting a total of 4 old hooded robes bearing Chaos sigils; Jim, Alsace, Bjorn, and Nalo each don one, with varying results in sizes.

The group continues through the passageway and find themselves on an expanse of beach with black sand, the faintest glimmer of light coming from what can only be called a horizon across this underground sea. A dragon-prowed longship floats about 50 feet offshore. The far-away rhythmic sound of drumming spurs them into action, and they rush toward the water's edge. Wilber focuses on the menhir at the shore, looking a bit too closely at the faces carved into the stone...and begins attacking Morgren. It takes Bjorn no time at all to subdue his halfling friend and tie him up, pulling off Fred. Clearly Fred made him do it, so Wilber stomps on the skull. The others climb the menhir to evaluate their situation and find the stub of a candle in a depression in the center at the top of the stone. Without discussion, the candle is lit, and the longship noiselessly glides over to them, the deck at just the right height to step on board. Wilber is placed in the small cabin belowdecks. The ship turns about without provocation and with sail unfurled. The sigils on its hull give off a sickly green glow just above the waterline. All is quiet, nearly peaceful with the soft lapping of waves as the longship cuts effortlessly through the water. A couple adventurers are lulled into a brief nap before their motion is abruptly stopped. Those on deck see a giant tentacle wrapped around the prow, with more reaching for targets on board. Morgren, Alsace, and Nalo are grabbed and held. Suddenly recalling the mosaic depictions from the hall with the pool of skulls, James rushes to his pack and digs out the censer from the chapel. Lighting the remaining incense and swinging it in the direction of their adversary. Two rounds into the encounter, the tentacles loosen and fall to the deck at James's feet before slithering over the rail and back into the water. After that excitement, the tension lasts as they near the source of the glow and the maddening drumming: A towering ziggurat on an island in the midst of this starless sea.

Disembarking with care, those in the robes (Bjorn and Wilber share one, Wilber balancing on Bjorn's shoulders, with another skull - Vinnie - under the hood) take point. Using the activity on the ramp of the ziggurat as inspiration, they shuffle their way up, crudely hauling their "sacrifices" behind them. The indignant yells from the rest of the party fit right in with the cries of the innocent kidnapped villagers being dragged up by beastmen. This works surprisingly well until just one shy of the summit. Only one beastman becomes suspicious; Vinnie glowing brightly, Wilber leaps on the chaotic monster from atop Bjorn, dagger first. Bjorn kicks the body off the side, creating a chain reaction down to the island, and everyone in the party books it the rest of the way to the top, shoving beastmen as they go. Alsace, Nalo, and Garrett make a stand on the highest ramp, doing their best to "bowl" the creatures back down. James and Morgren work on taking out the fiends on the peak, rescuing the villagers not yet sacrificed. Unbelievably, the shaman is the first to die: He reaches for Wilber but Bjorn & Wilber double-team him, toppling him into the volcanic pit....and the effigy goes in with him. A winged, crow-faced acolyte leaves his post and impales Alsace. The effigy emerges from the pit. Despite Vinnie's blinding light, Wilber continues to use his dagger against the other acolytes. The crow-man returns to his drum. Morgren takes great offense at this and attacks him with fervor. Nalo and Garrett form a pretty effect bottle-neck, preventing any other foes access to the peak of the ziggurat; on the lower ramps, beastmen begin fighting fellow beastmen in their efforts to climb higher. Just as the effigy's rock crust shatters, Bjorn and Wilber perform another magnificent tag-team move, and he is knocked back into the fire...but he's relatively unhurt, and this sacrificial magma in the pit is his lifeblood. He rises again. James whittles down the threats up here. Once more Bjorn faces off with the Chaos Lord's effigy, and with a little help from his friends, it's reduced to a pool of magma. Morgren reaches a level of Dwarf Rage or some such: He beheads the crow and marches down to Nalo's post, holds it aloft and gives one of the most inspirational "Rise and fight for yourselves" speeches I've heard since PotC:3 -- and rolls a natural 20 as he tosses the acolyte's head into the handful of beastmen remaining. Villagers pick up dropped axes and spears and begin to force the beastmen down the ramps...and eventually off the island, into the inky water of the unknown. Nalo moves to the top to retrieve Alsace's body. James and Garrett scoop up plenty of the coins from these sloppy beastmen and their failed attempts at sacrifice. Bjorn and Wilber see the Chaos lord's armor, and it takes both of them to run it down the ramp back to the boat -- their only known way of escape. James spies the blackened spiked flail and gives up his quest for gold.

About this time, a trembling roar rolls through the cavern, magma begins to seep through the seams in the ziggurat's stone blocks, and it becomes Time To Go. [My fellow Judges are probably agape at this point, saying, "FINALLY?!"] The rescued villagers are herded onto the longship. It's a tight fit: 28 surviving captives + 8 adventurers + 1 fallen comrade, but they make it in plenty of time. In the classic order of things, the cavern ceiling falls in giant pieces, creating towering waves that threaten to devour the ziggurat and the floating party, but the dragon-propelled -prowed longship rides the whitecaps with grace and shoots through the slender rocky exit that appears ...

... and the crew finds themselves out on open water on a calm, sunny day. Not a speck on the horizon in any direction.

Some are very unsettled by this.

In the meantime, Nalo sings an Elven dirge and lowers Alsace's body into the sea, determined to give his friend a proper burial.

And the rest wonder just where/what the hell . . .

"Sailors on the Starless Sea", Harley Stroh / Goodman Games

Post-adventure math

Bjorn Berber: +21 XP
Wilber Wifflelinks: +21 XP, +1 Luck
Garrik: +8 XP, +1 Luck
Steig: +8 XP, +1 Luck
Morgren: +21 XP
Nalo: +21 XP, +2 Luck
James the Warrior: +21 XP, +1 Luck
Garrett: +21 XP, +1 Luck

PARTY LOOT: rare spotted leopard hide (50 GP) / stone idol (unknown) / 19 CP / 2 SP / 5 GP 

Bjorn/Wilber: blackened iron plate mail ("weathered")
Bjorn: steel vial with black liquid / iron coffer / 2 silver rings with emeralds (30 GP
Wilber: green healing powder (9 uses remaining) / 3 human skulls
James: 5 GP / 27 SP / dagger (forged by Ulric) / spiked flail +1 / golden censer / old hooded robe with Chaos sigils 
Garrett: 18 GP / 27 SP / fur-tufted longbow / leather quiver with 25 arrows
Morgren: old hooded robe with Chaos sigils / silk tabard with Chaos sigil 
Nalo: mithril longsword with jewel-encrusted sheath / carved tooth
Steig: silver torc hung with bleached skulls

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Scheduling info

The Meetup group has been refitted to accommodate the influx of players from Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, et al. Ergo, new web addy.  RSVPs for the DCC RPG events aren't required, as they're open tables, but I can do a little extra planning if I have a heads-up.

All the upcoming game dates will be posted over there, but the recaps will reside here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Imperishable Sorceress ~ 09.01.13

Quite the full table of 0-level sacrifices today! Er...

Silas, Costermonger
Fritz, Elvin Chandler
Talbot Shortstock, Halfling Haberdasher
Felix, Noble
Leonard, Minstrel
Gefrid, Butcher
Oscar, Wheat Farmer
Karl, Halfling Moneylender
James, Hunter
Monty, Potato Farmer
Pete, Beekeeper
Garrett, Halfling Trader
John, Ditch Digger
Paul, Guild Beggar
George, Soldier
Ringo, Halfling Dyer
Rufus Weatherbee, Halfling Glovemaker
Mortesh Bogul, Caravan Guard
Wedge "Antillies" Bunyun, Woodcutter
Godfry Glitterspiel, Merchant
Bjorn Berber, Dwarven Ratcatcher
Borg Berber, Dwarven Blacksmith
Simon Graves, Grave Digger
Wilber Wifflelinks, Halfling Dyer
Red, Radish Farmer
Jeremiah, Potato Farmer
Alfred, Merchant
Eleanor, Orphan
Onyx, Barber
Amber, Beekeeper
Jade, Trapper
Emerald, Costermonger

The halflings in the group are from Brandy Hollow, and are proud to hear of Olo Nudd's rescue.  They follow the path to the village to thank the group responsible, but, oddly, all of them are currently absent. So they pay a visit to the local shop before leaving. Ulric the Blacksmith is counting out change for Rufus Weatherbee and just stops....then holds up a tarnished coin and stares at it, then at Rufus, then back to the coin. "What are you playing at, boy? You some kind of royalty?" Confusion is obvious as he takes the coin and sees a slight resemblance to himself in the visage of the woman inscribed on the copper. Relations turn sour and Rufus leaves in a huff with the large band following on his heels. He flings open the door to the street, stomps through, and finds himself nearly halfway up a path on a great mountainside dusted with snow.
Looking back behind them, there is no doorway. The group contemplates heading back down, away from the monotone white of the mountain peaks (and back to warmer climes), but a female voice sounds in Rufus's head, bidding him forward. Good thing these folk are no strangers to hard work or extreme weather. The livestock, on the other hand, were not as happy about the frozen landscape.

Two hours pass as they trudge along. The duck is carried by the mule. The moneylender reveals himself to be an insurance salesman. Impropriety abounds. Finally they catch sight of a low stone cairn ahead just as they hear a war call from the trail behind. They decide there's not really time to run for cover, so some brace their pitchforks in a pike line against the charge while others run forward to engage in battle with the savages who swarm up in waves. Eleanor and Red stand their ground with disembowling attacks that would impress experienced fighters, and others succeed in knocking their enemies over the side of the mountain, but in the end, Eleanor, Oscar, and Borg are struck down with furious axes. The fallen are buried appropriately; there are no marking on the stones forming the cairn, so it seems a neutral ground. A handful of stone axes are taken from the dead, and the fallen savages are stripped of their furs and stag antlers. The furs keep off the worst of the chill for the weakest of the party during the remainder of their journey; 3 sets of the antlers were secured to Jeremiah's new War Mule. 

The world continues to drain of color as they ascend. They discover a fissure-like crack in the vertical face of the mountain, which is home to a strange white furry creature resembling a nightmarish cross between a scorpion and a centipede. Its unnatural existence offends them and it is quickly dealt with. They can't do much for the paralyzed critters inside its den, but Godfry snags a few feathers from birds he's never seen before and secures them atop his cap as plumage.

Rufus is coaxed along the way, much as a trained animal, and they find the trail dead-ending. Steps have been cut into the rock, leading up to a black opening in the face of the white mountain. Torches alight as they enter the pitch-dark hallway, which turns out to be so massive they cannot see to the other end. The black fossil impressions of ancient fish in the walls are inactive, so, in true adventurer fashion, they split up.

About 18 of them follow the wall on the right and pass through the first opening. [I should note the flavor text from the adventure here: "The 'doors' indicated on the map are not real doors, but instead the strings of tightly-woven horizontal adamantine wires ... {which} relax when touched, allowing creatures to push through them." Caused a bit of consternation, but as they were allowed through, it was shrugged off.] This means the Sitting Room is their first stop. It's fairly innocuous, but because they hit this first, the younglings don't quite understand the implications of the journals recovered. They're quick to snag the "obvious" treasures, though: The silver candle holder disappears, Bjorn takes the footstool, and some of the short demi-humans take turns sitting on the nice cushy chair after the long hike up the mountain.

The other doorway in this room is designed with the same wires, and some of the troupe continue to explore. The first thing they see is the body of an attractive young woman, nearly human-height and with slightly pointed ears, lying naked upon a slab of black stone. She appears unconscious but is evenly breathing. Then they notice the body of a woman in a black dress slumped on the ground, dead, and realize their black hair and pale skin make them almost identical - and Rufus links the face to that on the coin that seems to have caused this journey. The vats around the stone table contain strange, nearly-solid liquids of black, silver, and gold, and the burners beneath them are long-cold. As the small group takes time to look around and investigate, a trio of ethereal strands emerge from the grating set in the floor and begin reaching toward them. One manages to grab hold of Red, and everyone in the room scrambles to chop the filaments to bits, but not before a vision is imparted to her: she sees a silver amphibious creature, something between a giant centipede and sea scorpion. [Nobody put this together.] Fritz notices a secret way out of this lab -- wooden partitions painted to look like the walls -- and cleverly sets off the poison trap. Surprisingly, nobody died! (The noxious stuff in the resulting cloud must've been really old, right?) Seeing a bedroom on the other side, in a burst of chivalry, Bjorn and Simon grab the still-breathing body and rest her on the bed, away from the Grate Tendrils. Wilber and Garrett are among the first to notice the chests lining one wall. Some shiny stuff is discovered but not openly divulged. Wilber gets a black dress with white trim - in human size, no less. Pete checks under the bed and finds a longsword that seemed to be made just for him. Another set of wooden doors is discovered as the only other exit, but they decide to take their chances running through the workshop to get back out the way they'd come.

Meanwhile, our left-side explorers have found a small hallway leading to a plain room with a very large chair that looks to have been carved seamlessly from the mountain itself. Seated upon it is the translucent figure of a beautiful woman with long black hair a silverish hue to her body. She looks remarkably like the image on the coin. She smiles and greets them, "I am Ivrian of Dalcia. I bid you welcome. But you are not...." She trails off with a confused look. Karl and Leonard assure her that Rufus is right behind them, so she relaxes and asks them the favor of finding a stone for her. "It should be here, within the mountain." That's about when Group B hollers out into the cavernous hallway for Group A, because they're not about to commit to such a task without the person responsible putting his butt on the line too! She claims to know nothing about the coin, but, "It is nice that someone thought so much of me to immortalize my visage." She milks it, using her beauty to get them to agree to find the Star Stone and bring it back to her body so that she can rise again. She implies that her soul is within the Stone, and tells Rufus, "You must not touch it. Because we are kin, it will devour your soul. But because of our connection, you will be more potent against the Stone's guardian." Hey, what could go wrong with this plan? Sure, they say, and exit the ghost's chamber to the north.

Due to the cold dry climate, the foodstuffs found in this kitchen/pantry are still viable. Rations are replenished, and the entire party breaks for lunch, spending a good hour just relaxing in this place that doesn't seem to hold any active threats. [Drat my dice - they were right! The fossils were dormant, Ivrian's ghost couldn't reach them, and Rufus ignored the voice in his head in favor of resting.] After lunch, they head out toward the dining room, and smack their foreheads for not looking for a full-sized table to sit at -- but the partially-eaten meal still preserved upon the table gives them all misgivings.

Now fortified, they decide to remain together as a group, and continue toward the other end of the immense hallway (60' wide by 320' long). They have to investigate all apertures, of course, so next is the storeroom. The jars of flesh-colored putty are grabbed from the shelf, and in a stroke of sudden genius, Pete slathers some of it on Gefrid's wounds. Amidst checking out the vats full of congealed and frozen materials that look disturbingly like deconstructed body parts, another filament trio slithers up from the grate in the floor. One succeeds in contacting Leonard's psyche. Fritz's scissors prove a boon and the others scoot out of there as quickly as they can with the wispy tendrils trailing them. The rest of the party jumps on them once in the hallway.

Finally coming to the end of the hallway, the party is faced with a rickety rope and wood bridge leading across an enormous chasm to another hallway on the other side.  The drop is at least 1,000 feet, and they have 100 feet to cross. Not sure what waits for them on the other side, they decline to leave the mule, so they detach the antlers (lest they catch on the ropes!) and each adventurer takes their time to carefully cross.

Beyond the next hallway lies a temple-like chamber. As they enter, a swirl of gold motes appears in a corner, and quickly becomes the corporeal form of a scaled horse with branched horns on its brow and ichor dripping from its mouth. The creature appears to be guarding the Star Stone, a gem of swirling black and silver. Sensing both the Blooded One (Rufus) and Nightraker's presence, Aagazzbagh the Golden introduces himself. Rufus fails to assert himself, so the demon appeals to them for release by way of the sword. Pete doesn't quite understand...  Aagazzbagh gives him multiple swings, all of which glance off or miss completely, then grows tired of the game and swings out with his antlers. Pete drops. The group closes in at that point. Alfred's magnificent swing goes horribly awry and Leonard the Ukelele Minstrel is killed instead. The sword "calls" to Wedge, who grabs for it and sends the demon back to his home plane with the first hit.

Leaving the party to kibitz about the Star Stone, Karl scouts a little further and finds an exit from this room back out onto the mountain. The path leads to the top spire, which is home to a ring of black standing stones topped with snow. He calls to the rest of the party, and they're dive-bombed by a trio of translucent silver and gold wasps with the faces of women. Amber (the remaining Beekeeper) doesn't know where to begin. The others lure the creatures down and make some pretty special attacks, the unnatural bodies falling irrecoverably down the mountainside and only incurring a few injuries. Proceeding to the stones, a shimmering haze is seen between two of the standing stones. After much deliberation, Oscar runs between them. He vanishes. Simon then passes his shovel through the haze and pulls it back, bringing back a moldy wooden handle but an otherwise sound tool. They decide they should return after sealing the deal with Ivrian, and poor Oscar is written off.

There is a LOT of discussion about whether or not her wish should be granted. Bottom line: Nobody can come up with a good reason not to. [Believe it or not, "Because she lied to them" never comes into it!] The stone is brought back into the stone throne room, she vaguely answers a couple of questions about the tendrils from the grates ("The Builders are miserable chaotic beings who wish to keep me here"), pulls out one last promise from Rufus to do as she bids, and Ivrian happily enters into the Star Stone. The group travels to the bedroom as a whole. Not sure how to proceed, the Stone is placed upon the Imperishable body. Ivrian the Unkind is instantly returned to the flesh form, and the Stone ceases its swirling coloration. Opening her eyes and realizing her location, the sorceress immediately reaches under the bed for Nightraker. With no care for modesty, she jumps up from the bed and shrieks in outrage at the thieves who dared to steal from her. This gets an uncomfortable look from the person holding her jewelry. This also results in Wilbur getting all twitterpated and climbing onto a chest to bring him to a higher stature so he can proclaim his love for her. Heedless, she runs into the adjacent workshop with the vats and her old body, luring half the party after her, but no attacks have been made (successfully) yet. She takes advantage of the split group and summons a 4HD monster into the bedroom to thin the herd, but pays for it with a lot of punishment from the weaponized angry mob who followed her. The hairy monster with boar tusks and eagle talons tore apart Amber and Mortesh before he was dispatched. Ivrian's next spell check fails (got a little rusty, perhaps?) and she's knocked to the ground as 12 full-length, ectoplasmic filaments emerge from the grates of the lab floor. Jeremiah is, unfortunately, one of the nearest targets, and the Builder succeeds in taking over his Personality and brain. The other adventurers drag him as the tendrils reach for Ivrian's bodies -- both of them -- and begin dragging them to the grates in the floor. Though the Imperishable body is out of hit points and unable to move, the face of the body housing her soul contorts to a mask of pain as she is driven beyond the point of insanity. Wilber is horrified, and requests that her head be severed. The party rushes to get the hell out of dodge, slowing down for the bridge crossing -- and to toss Ivrian's new, grotesquely beautiful head down into the ravine.

Back at the standing stones, Gefrid decides to shove one of the fowl companions through the portal -- this time Monty's caged chicken -- attached to a pole. The cage comes back empty, with a note in Oscar's scrawl: "Took you long enough." Everyone heaves a sigh of relief and runs through, finding themselves back in the general store.

In the aftermath, a coup is staged against the blacksmith, and the store may very well end up being run as a co-op.

Jeremiah's quirks are finally determined to be chaos-driven. His reaction to mentions of the Builder are the final key, and the party acknowledges that he has to be put down.

As we wrapped for the night, 24 of 32 PCs survived (although 4 were AWOL as a player had to leave early). Only 8 deaths, but at least they were traumatic.

"The Imperishable Sorceress", Daniel J. Bishop / Goodman Games

Post-adventure math

+24 XP to all survivors EXCEPT:
John, Ditch Digger: +11 XP
Paul, Guild Beggar: +11 XP
George, Soldier: +11 XP
Ringo, Halfling Dyer: +11 XP

LOOT: 10 sets of stag antlers / 10 stone axes (8 remaining) / 2 jars of healing putty (9 uses remaining) / fancy black garments / silver candle holder (20 SP) / Nightraker (longsword) / 10 pieces of jewelry (70 GP) / Star Stone jewel (value TBD) / Ivrian's journal (multiple volumes)