Yes - we went nearly 10 months between sessions. I'm not entirely sure why - I've found that once you skip a month or so, it just snowballs and becomes extremely difficult to try to get the group focused on picking a date. It usually involves people traveling out-of-town, which is fine. It just makes it difficult to plan, because people start filling their weekends up when they know we're not playing.
It'd been so long that I actually had to ask my group for their memory of what happened last time, only to later remember that I'd exactly written the recap here on my blog!
With that introduction, let's get into it...
The 22nd of Saarh, 504 D.E. (Dorrenic Era), Arile, Esoría
Pirro the bounty-hunter, led the Company (consisting of Jeremi the heretic Ætonist priest who also practices arcane magic, Sameer the desert warrior/sorcerer, Shao the mysterious monk from the Eastern lands, and Sombra a former holy warrior and member of the Astral Knights) to the building where he was supposed to have delivered Sombra. He noted that this was the first time in his career that he'd ever not fulfilled a contract once he'd accepted it, and it was clear he was torn about this turn of events. Pirro did mention that he'd already been having second-thoughts about his employer and ultimately decided to do what he thought was right rather than just follow the letter of the contract. With a few words regarding his employer, noting that he was "some type of alchemist," Pirro left the Company to enter the building.
At this point, Shao chose to take his leave from the Company, briefly, to attend to some personal business (aka, the player wasn't able to make it to this session), and the three remaining members opened the door and descended a flight of stairs into the darkness.
The Company Enter Pirro's Contact's Lair
After encountering a trap wherein some extremely foul-smelling slime/ooze substance was poured on top of their heads, but which all members of the Company shook off with no ill effects, the heroes eventually discovered a room that appeared to have been "re-decorated" to acomomodate a giant warrior, who was in the room. A brief combat ensued and the giant was slain, after which the members of the Company found a contract stipulating the details of the giant's employment for a member of the Radillar family. As suspected, Pirro's employer was a member of the powerful, sadistic aristocratic family that had plagued Jeremi since the beginning of his adventuring days and with whom Sombra had a very deep, personal connection.
At this point, the Company began to have second thoughts about continuing forward. They wanted to face the Radillar patriarch, but the set-up of his so-called "offices" was clearly designed as a trap to ward off outsiders. The Company considered leaving and re-thinking their strategy of how exactly to take on this powerful foe.
[At this point, we actually stopped playing that session. It was the first time the group had gotten together since the previous July, even though we do see each other socially for dinners, board-game days, and wine/beer tasting, among other activities, but there was a lot of just general chit-chat about comics, Game of Thrones, various Summer movies, and more, and we only gamed for less than an hour, I would guess.]
Resolved to continue their exploration, the Company was happy to see their comrade, Shao, who returned from his personal business in time to rejoin his companions before they explored further into the complex.
Continuing on, they discovered an odd iron cage suspended in a huge cavern, the walls of which were covered with slimy green worms. The cage appeared to act as a crude "elevator" of sorts, with an opening up at the very top that led to a balcony overlooking the immense cavern. After climbing up, the group continued on through a narrow passageway and discovered a huge warehouse room filled with casks stacked into alcoves, from floor to the high ceiling 30 feet above. Many of the casks seemed to be filled with the foul-smelling ooze that was clearly some kind of poison, while other casks were labeled a "Radillar Strong Ale." An assortment of chemical equipment was strewn all about large worktables in the center of the room - beakers, alembics, flasks, and various measuring equipment.
The Company Battle some Radillar Family Members
Moving through the door at the far end of the warehouse, the Company stumbled upon a very nicely equipped office and three humans - a middle-aged man in a blue military coat with high, polished boots and a staff and wreathed in bluish-green flames, an old crone with one milky-white eye mounted on top of some sort of huge "demonic" quadruped, but also with two arms holding a massive falchion, and a swarthy, shadowy-looking fellow in the corner wielding two short-swords.
The middle-aged man announced that they had been waiting for Sombra and had in fact been prepared for them since they heard the Company investigating the beer-and-poison "cellar" in the other room. A combat ensued, during which the middle-aged man, revealed to be the last surviving head patriarch of the Radillar family, Roberto Alonso Radillar, attacked the Company using a combination of magic and staff attacks. The old crone continually cried out for "Mercy! Mercy!" while at the same time charging on her weird demonic mount which focused all of its powerful falchion attacks on Sombra. The shadowy fellow in the corner seemed to hang back, only engaging in combat once he felt he had an advantage, moving swiftly through the shadows to stab Sombra in the back with the short swords.
Shao used his spring attack to punch various foes, trying to utilize his stunning fist powers (which the adversaries shook off with no ill effects) and Jeremi worked to boost his comrades' combat effectiveness while also needing to tend to Sombra, who took the brunt of the Radillars' attacks. Sameer spent some time preparing for combat by buffing himself with spells, then entered the fray and with three single swings of his mighty falchion, felled both Roberto Radillar and the demonic mount. Immediately on the demon's death, the old crone also fell dead. Looking around and seeing he was clearly out-classed and out-numbered, the shadowy fellow walked into a shadow and disappeared from sight.
Sombra Gets a Small Measure of Revenge
After Sombra was properly revived, the Company then healed Roberto Radillar just to the point of consciousness and the other characters stood by while Sombra used some "aggressive questioning techniques" to get some information from Roberto - namely, he wanted to find out the whereabouts of one "Vilius Radillar" - Sombra's former commander in the Soldiers of the Black Feather, who had led a massacre on an Esorían village, but then attempted to portray the massacre as having been made by soldiers from Courrissuex. When Sombra protested, Vilius attacked him and left him for dead, then tracked down Sombra's wife and son and reportedly had them killed as well.
Roberto Radillar noted that Vilius was a fool and a blacksheep of the family, but in the interest of self-preservation, he gave Vilius up and indicated that he had sent Vilius to the north along with a weapons and other supplies for Esorían troops in their war against Courrisseux. He wasn't certain of Vilius' exact whereabouts.
Sombra also asked about his wife and son, and Roberto indicated that Vilius had simply said that he had "taken care of" the situation, which Roberto took to mean they had been killed, based on Vilius usual way of handling similar situations.
During the questioning, it was also revealed that the old crone was a half-breed Esorían/Cadrobarian, and therefore an outcast, and had been used as slave labor by the Radillar family in the past, and that Roberto had been given her as a tool to learn the arts of sex when he was a boy. The shadowy figure was, in fact, Roberto's bastard son Pitro, via the old crone. Pitro was an embarrassment to the family but Roberto kept him around because he did have some uses, having taught himself the shadowy art of "Sulinor."
With this information, Sombra quickly and quietly dispatched Roberto, and most likely saw the image of his wife and young son in his eyes as he did so.
The Aftermath: Interesting Discoveries
An investigation of the office revealed a very nicely appointed office with a full-length portrait of Roberto in military garb, various maps, compasses, and manifests, and meticulous record-keeping by Roberto, whose main trade was a slavery operation (it was revealed that the slave ship the Company had taken from the Free City of Ryn over to Esoría, the Represalia, was, in fact, owned by Roberto Radillar). With the deaths of Anton and Zantos Radillar (by the Company's hand in very earlier adventures), Roberto was the defacto leader of the family just based on his age and experience. Roberto was also an amateur home-brewing hobbyist and had developed a strong side-business of brewing various different ales utilizing a variety of hops and also exotic foreign spices that he acquired as part of his slave trade business. With his knowledge of brewing and chemistry, it was natural for him to expand into poison-crafting, which he began after discovering a large cavern of poisonous worms below his offices.
Roberto's notes included a very detailed list of every item owned by every slave he'd acquired, including some that had books which Roberto was working hard to translate. These seemed of particular interest to the Company...
After this exploration of the office, the Company began to think about their next steps. Sombra showed definite interest in tracking down Vilius, which appeared to be supported by Sameer. Jeremi seemed interested in figuring out of there was a way for the Company to influence the selection of a new Pontifex Rex in the Universal Ætonist church, which was also a plan that seemed supported by most, if not all, members of the Company.
NEXT TIME: Will Sombra track down Vilius and take his revenge on one of the last powerful members of the Radillar family? Will Jeremi lead a revolution to try to clean up the corruption in the
Ætonist church? Will the war between Esoría and Courrisseux, which has expanded to include many of the major Western powers, continue?
DM NOTES FROM THE SESSION: I was excited about this particular session because I'd actually prepped a lot of this stuff for the last session we had back in May but we didn't get around to it, so I felt a bit more prepared than usual. I pre-drew the map of the battle on my Chessex battle mat and then covered up the unexplored sections with pieces of scrap paper and tape, and revealed the rooms one-by-one. I had my tactics down for the big battle...
... and then I blew it. I felt I'd done a decent job of giving some life and uniqueness to three somewhat secondary or tertiary villains (especially the old crone and the bastard son), making up the whole "home brewing" thing and integrating that with the poison-making thing (which was a bit I stole from an old Dungeon magazine adventure path section), and also creating a weird and slightly creepy relationship between the three characters.
But, I blew the actual combat. Again. I suck at running combats. My tactics were terrible, I didn't fully utilize my bad guys to their potential, and I completely didn't foresee that I'd created a situation where the PCs would be stuck in one room between a single five-foot wide door, which was blocked by the unconscious body of Sombra for much of the combat, and then I had this huge demonic mount thing (an Eidolon from Pathfinder's Advanced Player's Guide) that was actually TOO BIG to fit through the door. So, he couldn't get at the PCs, and they naturally weren't in a hurry to rush out to face him. Conversely, it didn't make sense for Roberto or his son to rush into the room where the PCs were and then find themselves surrounded without the assistance of the Summoner crone and her Eidolon mount. So, Roberto fought from range even though as a Magus, he's really only effective in melee, and the bastard son Pitro was totally ineffective at range.
Sigh. That's on me to figure out better tactics, but I felt that it made for a very unclimactic combat for my players, especially Sameer is a real beast in combat and could use a better challenge once in a while. Hopefully I can learn from this.
Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Just tap water today
Listening: "Relax Mode" by Tom Lustig