It was close to midday, with the party heading into the forest in search of the lizardfolk camp– though they weren’t quite sure what they’d do once they found them. It wasn’t too long until their ears caught a sound from the woods– a woman’s voice, shouting out! “Tig! Tiiiiiiig! Where are you?!?” Moments later the party stumbled into a clearing, where they found a woman frantically moving about and calling out a name! “Oh, please, please will you help me?” She cried out! “My son, my son Tig, he’s disappeared!” The woman being clearly distraught, Eneko the Human Bard and Gavriil the Human Arcanist were quick to respond. “Tell us everything!”
The woman, whose name was Lucy Tannerson, had been traveling south towards family in Mivon with her young five-year-old son Tig. Things had gone well until, three days ago, Tig had run off into some bushes while she wasn’t looking! Following after him, she heard a shout, a scream, and the sound of rustling through the shrubbery! Though she ran towards the noise, she could find no trace of her son! Since then, she’d been combing the woods for any signs of poor Tig, but thus far to no avail. Noruas the Human Gunslinger, after telling her off for allowing her child out of her sight, requested that they be led back to the campsite where he was first lost, and Lucy assented.
Only a mile or so away from where they met Lucy, the camp did not take long to reach, especially when the woman rode along with Eneko. Upon arrival, Elysia the Half-Elven Ranger and Noruas set out looking for traces of Tig’s departure– and found not only the tracks of a small child, but also several clawed foot-like tracks, which Gavriil guessed at belonging to Lizardfolk. “Gosh…I wonder if they eat kids?” Eneko wondered. After a bit of consultation, the consensus was reached that they weren’t really sure– Lizardfolk seem like they’re capable of it, but it’s anyone’s guess if these particular Lizardfolk were interested in living flesh.
Returning to Lucy, the party let her know that they had found tracks, and would follow them and bring Tig back to her. She was grateful, and wished them luck, and the party was off! After a long time of tracking, which brought them south to the bank of the Murque River and along to the west. Eventually the tracks led into the water, but fortunately for the group their destination was evident: About halfway across the river was a mound of mud and dirt, surrounded by a wooden palisade with a single gate, which was guarded by three Lizardfolk! As they observed, Elysia’s keen half-elven ears were able to glean, just barely, sounds of childlike distress in the distance– Tig! It was decided that they needed to get closer to the mud-island, and so the party went about swimming towards the center of the river, with Gavriil spending his energy on concentrating on projecting a minor image of ducks crossing the waters instead of four highly dangerous adventurers!
Once they arrived up against the high palisade, the party made some discussions on what to do next. Ideas were tossed around about sneaking in and attacking, or perhaps just arriving at the front gate and trying to talk their way through to rescue the kid. Noruas, growing tired of the inaction, decided to take matters into her own hands as she began to climb up the palisade wall! Peeking over the top, she spied several Lizardfolk moving about the interior of the compound, as well as what looked to be an actual lizard, domesticated for their use. Additionally there were several mud-huts inside the walls, all but one of which had trails of smoke leading from a chimney hole in the top, and the one in the center being larger than the rest. Eneko decided to facilitate a speaking of minds while near him with the usage of his Teamwork feat and single-level dip into Cavalier, while Gavriil quickly turned himself and Noruas Invisibile and Levitated up to the top of the wall, so that he could travel along with Noruas.
Noruas in the meantime grabbed ahold of Gavriil’s arm and jumped down to the other side of the palisade, the party having now been spurred into action. A new plan was formed– go in, find the kid, and get back out again all stealthy-like. And so the Arcanist and Gunslinger proceeded, with Noruas taking the utmost care to step on only the hardest-packed pieces of earth to not leave any footprints, and Gavriil being pulled along behind her, still floating above the ground. Passing by one of the huts, the were able to see and relay to their friends the presence of more of the lizard pets in a kennel, and the presence of some more Lizardfolk inside another hut. While they passed by the large central mud dome-hut, the pair could make out noises from inside– Draconic, as well as another language that was identified as Giant, the language of trolls! Unfortunately neither was able to understand that language, and they were too far away from the others to relay the information back to Eneko, who would have been able to translate, and so they continued onwards towards the mud domicile where the cries of Tig could be heard.
It didn’t take long to reach said hut, and opening up the leather flap covering the opening, they stepped inside. Tig was there, alone and crying, and as far as they could tell no one else was present. Gavriil made to undue Tig’s bonds, while whispering comforting words, and Noruas presented him with his favorite toy, one which she had asked Lucy for earlier, which helped to calm the child’s fears. Peeking outside and seeing that, while no guards were present, there were some Lizardfolk about, the Arcanist decided to turn Tig invisible too, and the three of them absconded out of the tent! As soon as they exited however, a great flash of light appeared behind them in the tent, and a glowing lizardfolk skull appeared in the middle of the hut! It began screeching and causing a commotion, but the three were easily able to climb back up the palisade and descend to the other side. They reached their friends shortly afterwards, and their invisibility spells wore off just then. Success!
Deciding to return Tig to his mother before resuming their deliberations on what to do with these Lizardfolk– who apparently were talking with trolls– the party traveled back to Lucy’s campsite, returning Tig to his mother and creating a happy reunion! After some discussion, it was decided that though they wished to travel south to Mivon, with trolls roaming the woods in that direction it would be safest if the duo traveled back to Elbat Dnuor to join up with a caravan. Thus the party agreed to take them back to the capital with them, and arrived two days later in their home city, safe and sound!
Noting that they were now back home, instead of heading directly back to the Lizardfolk camp, the party grabbed their boat which they had built to explore Lake Tuskwater, and headed down the shore towards Candlemere, which Gavriil seemed highly interested in exploring: “I want to know why no one ever comes back from the island!”
And so, setting off again, they made camp on the shores of Lake Candlemere that night, preparing to advance onto the island the next morning. The lake that morning remained shrouded in mist as before, looking eerie and mysterious, but not proving too difficult to navigate to. The shore was rocky and rough, and as the party began to travel their way inland to map out the island, they found themselves needing to cross through stinging nettles, an unsettling experience which left them feeling somewhat queasy but overall not greatly affected. As they traveled, they began to occasionally spy floating blue lights through the mist, never very close but also not too far away from them…
After an hour of exploration, things came to a head– directly ahead of them, a ball of blue light winked into existence, the much-fabled Will-o Wisps of Candlemere! Gavriil attempted to communicate with it, while the others uneasily noticed another blue light, approaching from behind. It didn’t take long to realize that communication wouldn’t work, as Gavriil’s ‘friend’ reached out a tendril of blue light….and zapped the Arcanist! The battle was on as the group reacted to these Will-o Wisps, with Gavriil using his wand of Magic Missiles to deal damage, Elysia firing arrows, Eneko inspiring his allies and Noruas staring incredulously as half of her shots were dodged by her nimble foes!
As the Wisps attacked, the party began to get spooked– they were crazy-good at hitting the party members, and extremely difficult to hit on top of that! Elysia and Eneko began a retreat, while Gavriil hovered between those two and Noruas, who seemed intent upon standing her ground and shooting down the two wisps. One wisp, which was chasing after Elysia, had changed colors from blue to red following its attack upon her, but before it was able to attack the Ranger again, Noruas brought it down from afar.
The threat for the moment taken care of, the group had a moment to heal and catch their breath– Elysia was prepared to head back to the boat and leave, while Gavriil continued to be interested in finding out just what the island was hiding. Eneko brought up the possibility of heading back to the boat to make a fighting stand, where everyone could pick off wisps at range as they approached. Before they were able to make much progress however, three more wisps appeared around them, closing in! Another fight broke out, and they were hit with another surprise– Wisps of different colors, possessed different abilities! A purple-colored Wisp reached out to attack Noruas, hitting her with necrotic damage and sending a brief wave of tiredness through her body before she shrugged it off; Elysia found herself unable to resist a pulse of fear that emanated from a yellow Wisp; later, when four more wisps attacked, showing that they were able to turn invisible by appearing far out, disappearing, and then reappearing on top of the party, a red wisp exuded red light that burned Eneko and Elysia, while the poor Ranger was also unable to resist a sluggish energy that burst out from a green wisp.
The session ended with the party in the middle of a battle against four new wisps, having defeated some of them but still fighting against the rest, and uncertain of their future…
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Once again I get thrown for a loop! Knowing that the party was headed for the Lair of the Lizard King, I prepared Vesket and his entourage on their mud island, including changes made to the area for Hargulka’s Monster Kingdom and a few of the adjustments included in the Kingmaker Six-Player Conversion Guide (a Gunslinger consistently attacking twice with 30+ damage per attack, along with some powered-up spells from the Arcanist and a pretty decent Ranger build, combined with the homebrew rules I’ve altered Pathfinder with to power up the party just a little bit more, has resulted in generally level-appropriate challenges giving the party no challenge at all). I thought I was prepared for any eventuality on the island– I knew what was supposed to happen if they tried talking their way in, and I knew what was supposed to happen if they snuck in to rescue Tig!
I didn’t count on Invisibility– yet another example in how player ingenuity can oft-times invalidate pre-written adventures, and create a completely unique story! If it weren’t for the troll speaking while they couldn’t understand, I don’t think the party would event want to come back to the island until they thought they needed to expand to that area, or until they decided that the antics of the Lizardfolk against hapless passersby were enough to warrant talking with them. Still– I should have expected and prepared for Candlemere more thoroughly, but I still think it went over alright.
One thing I did know going into Candlemere was that I really disliked how the book set it out– hey, when you’re on the island you’ve got this Fort save against all these stinging nettles, and there are twenty-four wisps around that you’ll have to clear out to make the area safe! Oh, and some old ruins here in the middle that were neat but that’s about it. Needing to fight twenty-four wisps just seemed like it would turn into a slog for the party, and because none of my group are particularly fond of fighting things just for combat’s sake, I didn’t think that putting them through that would be the best idea. Still, Gavriil was very interested in what was on the island (though I hear from Gavriil’s player that she’s only minorly curious about what’s going on), and they were headed there, so…why not make it interesting!
One thing I want to do is make the payoff here more valuable; I don’t think in-character the PC’s would be interested in building a city there on Candlemere (I could be wrong, they’ve surprised me before by being totally into the idea of using the undead around the Stag Lord’s Fort as part of their undead army after all), since it was known locally as the place that no one ever returns from. The book notes how it was used long ago as a place of worship of the elder god Yog-Sothoth, and I’ve heard ideas before about turning Candlemere into a mega-dungeon…I’m thinking that perhaps, when they investigate the area, they’ll realize the connection to the elder god, and will also learn that a passage into lower depths of the ruins will open when the ‘stars align’ just right, which can be at a later time in the campaign to allow them to come back to the area and find new and impressive things!
So those wisps then– they’re difficult to hit, they deal 2d8 damage every time they hit your touch AC with a +16 bonus (so…yeah, every time), and they’re immune to magic. So far, the only magic our Arcanist has used on them has been Magic Missile, and their knowledge checks haven’t revealed this fact yet, so I’m waiting to see the look on their faces when they learn *that* little tidbit. Thankfully, 40HP isn’t a huge deal– the Gunslinger has been hitting about fifty percent of her shots, and usually one bullet and one attack from Gavriil or Elysia has been enough to finish them off. Since wisps can change their color at will, I thought it’d be cool for the different colors that they display to indicate different abilities. In Obsidian’s cRPG Tyranny, there are wisp-like enemies that you can encounter in ancient ruins which follow a similar pattern; red ones are immune to fire but weak to ice and lightning, while blue ones are immune to lightning and weak to fire and ice, each having different types of attacks while being the same basic enemy type– this I suppose spawned my idea for the different colored wisps.
So, on the fly, I changed a wisp’s color and gave it an ability– Purple wisps will deal Necrotic damage, and they’ll require a Fort save or become Fatigued! Red can use Burning Hands, Yellow can send a fear aura out, Green can affect an area with a Slow spell for 1d4 rounds. This way, the wisps aren’t constantly dealing 2d8 damage every round– which, when they attack in groups, can be formidable before they’re defeated, and the party has a chance to avoid the negative effects if their saves are high enough, compared to the touch AC which isn’t going to prove any kind of resistance to these wisps. That’s where I stand with them right now, but I’ll probably add some more colors and effects to the list of wisps by tomorrow night, when they continue to take on Candlemere!
Last thing to note– while I hate to do this mid-fight, I let the party know that they had accrued enough XP to level-up at the end of the session! They will now be taking sixth-level PC’s into the fights in the abandoned keep, the troll stronghold, and the owlbear lair!