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Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 16, Part 2

February 17, 2017

vecnaThe rulers of Caerelia hiked through the Valley of the Dead, up the treacherous cliff path to the plateau, and across the field to the river that separated them from Vordakai’s Island. Iofur the druid wildshaped into a dire bat and ferried the tomb raiders up to the ledge which held the back door to the crypt. Once assembled, they passed out air bubble spells to ward against the poisonous air inside, and entered.

varnhold-vanishing-session-16-map-4The place really was like a tomb now, as the caverns and chambers sat empty and silent. Iofur the bat took the others across the tar in the hell pool room (W20), and they then made their way through twisty passages to the large feast hall (W23). Their footfalls echoed in the darkness as they crossed the open space to the huge stair on the opposite side, feeling vulnerable all the while.

After ascending the massive staircase, the adventurers passed through the strange octogonal eye chamber (W25) to stand at the door to the room where they had fought a water elemental on a previous trip. After casting some buffs and ensuring they were ready, they threw open the doors and bounded up the stairway just beyond.

varnhold-vanishing-session-16-map-5The center of the room (W26) was dominated by a still fountain of black water, with a channel that ran under the only other visible exit. The two warriors of the group cautiously advanced, weapons at the ready, while the others hung back and prepared their spells. When Orseen the warpriest got close enough, the dark waters rose up as a giant pseudopod, and then rushed forward to slam into him!

Once upon a time, I had upgraded all the encounters in this adventure for my party of 6 PCs and had imagined that the waters here were from the Styx itself, and gave the elemental the Fiendish template as it had been corrupted by its home. But now that we have finally reached this point, the group is smaller and I see the value in not making encounters tougher than they have to be. Elementals have unbeatable DR, so giving them elemental resistances and SR on top of that would have just turned this combat into a slog.

Iofur summoned a fire elemental to combat the water elemental, while Satampra the swashbuckler and Orseen chopped away at it with their blades and Mestinous the elven wizard threw magic missiles. I scored another crit to go with the several I had rolled earlier in the session for the piscodaemon, but this time against Orseen, and the players started to grumble about my dice. 😀 But the elemental was not so great a threat for 10th level characters, and soon it collapsed into its constituent liquid.

The Final Showdown

varnhold-vanishing-session-16-map-6Finally, the doors to Vordakai’s sanctum were thrown open. The channel of water in the floor led to a large pool, around which were arrayed the headless bodies of humans. On one side of the pool was a shrine with the humans’ heads atop it. What humans were these supposed to be? the players wondered, and I had to skim the adventure to find out. I guess they’re just supposed to be regular Varnholders, freshly killed by the lich, but that didn’t fit with my game’s timeline. So maybe they should have been kidnapped Caerelians.

On the other side of the pool was a throne made of bones. And standing on the far side of the water was Vordakai himself, who now sported a crack through his stone eyeball that matched the angle and appearance of the damage that the party had inflicted in the eye room. In one hand he held an ornate spear with a black blade, an unholy weapon that I had equipped him with since the PCs had used protections against his lich touch in their previous encounter. I had also changed his spells around to adapt to the players’ tactics.

“You insignificant gnats,” rasped the lich in its awful monotone. “Who are you to wound me so? Who are you to tear down all that I, Vordakai the Eternal, have worked to build? You barbarians. I would have ushered in an age greater than your small minds could imagine. Protected you from the First World. But you squandered it, you ungrateful savages. All that is left is death.”

“Yeah,” shouted Orseen, “Your death!” But as the holy warrior raised his blade, the cyclops gestured and chanted, and thick black tentacles rose from the ground to grab at the intruders!

Remesio managed to avoid the tentacles for long enough to grab Orseen and Satampra, and then dimension hopped the three of them to Vordakai’s backside. Iofur passed the Concentration check to cast freedom of movement on himself, while Mestinous was able to cast haste on those who now stood next to the lich. The warriors leaped to the attack, but discovered that Vordakai was displaced, and even when they could connect, a vampiric shadow shield damaged them and simultaneously healed him.

The undead giant responded by hitting the warpriest with a corrosive consumption spell, and my hot dice streak continued as a I scored a crit with the touch attack! Orseen used his Fervor ability to ward himself against further acid damage as a swift action so that he could still attack, but was still frustrated by the necromancer’s protective spells. Remesio placed a prayer of death ward onto the swashbuckler so that he wouldn’t be hurt by the shadow shield, and Satampra then attempted to tumble into flanking position. But in a rare flub, he failed the Acrobatics check and got tagged by an Attack of Opportunity with the unholy weapon! The druid rushed forward and put a death ward of his own on Orseen. Meanwhile, back by the doors, the elf struggled to cast a spell that would free him from the tentacles that were slowly crushing him.

Vordakai chanted another spell while closing his free hand into a fist, and Satampra immediately started to suffocate, dropping to unconscious in the process. While Orseen continued to press the attack, Remesio healed him and Iofur graced him with another freedom of movement. Mestinous managed to get off a dispel magic that dispersed the black tentacles and could finally join the fight!

The lich then breathed out a twilight haze that impeded the sight of the living. The druid, now used to these sort of tactics, had a gust of wind ready to blow away the fog but – surprise! – it’s actually an illusion and not affected by wind. After weathering more attacks from the warpriest, Vordakai then started a summoning spell. Remesio channeled positive energy against undead to little effect, Iofur tried a flame strike, but it was Orseen who scored a big hit that disrupted the spell. The elven wizard then removed the haze with a dispel scroll.

The Big V was now low on spells and full-attacked the warrior-priest, but my dice suddenly failed me and he only hit once. Satampra was now able to breathe again, and could be seen with the fog gone, so Remesio ate an AoO to heal him up and get him back in the battle. Then it was the swashbuckler’s turn to shine! He kipped up (an ability he he oft derided), attacked, crit!, and with that single strike of his undead bane warhammer, the Emperor of Caerelia brought Vordakai’s long, long existence to an end. The lich crumbled into dust, and his cracked red eye landed on the stone floor with a dull thud. It sat still and silent where it landed, and queerly did not bounce or roll at all.

The players cheered! After many struggles, they had finally defeated the lich! And just in time, too, for the oculus of Abaddon’s Haunting Beckon ability (that had wiped out the town of Varnhold) would have recharged in about 2 months’ time.

Well of Souls

Behind the head-adorned altar was tons and tons of loot. But of more pressing interest to the players was the room beyond where the lich had stood, a circular chamber filled with glowing glass jars (W28). Orseen touched one, and found that he was able to talk to a spirit trapped within, the spirit of one of Varnhold’s former inhabitants. The warpriest shuddered in revulsion, and then smashed the jar. As the glass shattered, the glow within rose up into the air, and Orseen heard a whispered “thank you.” He promptly set to destroying every single soul jar in the room.

The treasure contained in the throne room was incredible, much more than they had ever found in one place before. Along with the coins and the magic items, there were towers of heavy stone tablets, some of which were identified by Mestinous as holding the necromancer’s spells. The lich’s possessions were also claimed, including the eye. As he handled the cracked orb, the elf had the strange urge to pluck out one of his own eyes and replace it with the stone, although obviously it was too large to fit. But he felt that it would shrink to fit should he be willing to make such a sacrifice…

End Book 3

Next: musings on book 3.

 

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11 Comments
  1. Very cinematic fight there!

    • It was quite the moment when he fell. I was worried that his 20% spell failure chance or lack of meat shields would make things too easy for the players, but the spell failure never came up, and his protective spells did the trick.

  2. Pinkius permalink

    yes, replace your eye! and Orseen should wield that greataxe they find later…

    • Armag’s greatsword? That would be a problem for him since it changes your alignment. But maybe he could switch to being a warpriest of Gorum…

      • Pinkius permalink

        and the whole replacing your identity thing

      • Pinkius permalink

        greataxe seems more barbariany to me probably why it got switched in my head.

  3. somesaycubbish permalink

    Very exciting showdown. So satisfying to finally defeat a baddie after several attempts! Glad you remembered the 20% spell failure chance from the cracked eye. I don’t follow your reference to “the necromancer’s spells (on the stone tablets). Who is this necromancer you’re referring to?

    • Pinkius permalink

      The lich! All Liches are necromancers, the lichdom ritual requiring several necromatic spells.

      • Non-necromancers can cast necromancy spells, too. 😛 Liches can be clerics as well, IIRC.

    • Vordakai happens to be a wizard with a necromancy specialty.

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