We regret to inform our avid readers that the AaWBlog is being retired (sans Tales from the Tabletop). We would like to take this opportunity to recognize the entire AaWBlog team: Mike Myler, Justin Andrew Mason, Rory Toma, Lance Kepner, Tim Snow, Stefanos Patelis, Brian Wiborg, Jonathan Ely, and the rest of our fantastic contributors.
AAW Games would like to thank Mike Myler for all his hard work managing the AaWBlog and contributing to many Adventureaweek.com projects including the Aventyr Campaign Setting. Going forward Mike Myler will no longer be working with AAW Games but will continue to be a driving force in the roleplaying game industry, AAW Games wishes him well in his future ventures.
Fret not! Our brand new Adventurer’s Chronicle magazine will release its first issue in Spring 2016. This magazine will be free and have a plethora of content for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and 5th Edition. In issue #1 we will have a fantastic guest article by Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Press, Tyranny of Dragons) and an in-person candid interview with actress and fellow gamer Jen Page!
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When the royal canines have been dealt with it seems like the party is no longer in danger, but 1d4 minutes after the encounter ends a storm of hail begins raining down on the city—at their reduced size, the weather may be a deadly hazard for the PCs! Taking cover in the nearest building brings the PCs to a large common hall for palace workers, a 40 ft. by 60 ft. hall with a large table surrounded by tree-stump stools and supplies lining the far wall.
A cursory search of the barrels and crates with a DC 14 Perception check reveals that one of the containers is a contraband cypher, a sure sign that the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are nearby! Any PC that exceeds a check result of 25 also finds a piercing needle stuck in the crease between the floorboards and the wall. Though the adventurers might want to immediately track down the nearest criminal agent, a DC 12 Intelligence check deduces a few reasons not to; with their reduced mobility the adventurers won’t be able to search very quickly or effectively and moreover, at their reduced stature, the chances of being overwhelmed by the ne’er-do-wells are much greater than normal.
1d4 hours after finding this room, a servant appears with bowls, cups, and spoons in hand, setting the huge table for a meal attended by eight palace workers. A DC 20 Sense Motive check notices that one of the individuals—a woman named Vesra, a menial laborer in the Red Palace—is acting slightly out of sorts. If the PCs fail this check there’s a 50% chance she accidentally drops a PRANKSTERS coin onto the floor for a few seconds; while it is unlikely any regular-sized folks see its face, the party instantly recognizes the criminal token for what it is.
Today happens to be Vesra’s turn to clean up after the meal and after the rest of the workers file out of the room, she makes several trips with used dishes before approaching the contraband cypher. The party has ample time to try and block the doorways out of the chamber and with no means of escape, a criminal they can interrogate to learn more of the cabal’s plans in Mohkba—provided they can subdue the prattling PRANKSTER! [Tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday, folks! —MM]
A DC 13 Intelligence (Geography) check confirms the party’s location in Mohkba. A DC 11 Wisdom (Perception) check notes the presence of a contraband cypher. A DC 9 Intelligence check deduces that waiting for a moment to strike may be a better tactic. A DC 16 Wisdom (Insight) check notices Vesra’s out-of-place demeanor.
The PCs have tracked the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. operations to the Grave Morass and sure enough, floating out on the lake of tar and sludge is a fortress where the criminal cabal has been hard at work. Now is the perfect time for the adventurers to disrupt the manufacture of a deadly biomechanical threat soon to be unleashed on Mohkba, the Klavek Kingdom, and the whole of Aventyr!
This island in the Grave Morass is 250-ft. in diameter. On its southwestern shore is a 20-ft.-radius shed made from recycled metals (Bleirvar’s Workshop), on its southeastern shore is another almost identical building (slightly smaller and more angular, 15 ft. by 15 ft.) where supplies are kept, and on the north side of the landmass is a much larger shanty (40 ft. wide and across) that serves as the barracks for P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. agents.
Anyone approaching the northern shore of the island risks alerting the guards in the barracks (PRANKSTER Hirelings and PRANKSTER thugs) and while approaching from any other direction is stealthier, there is a 50% chance the PCs trigger a tar pit trap when doing so. A patrol of one hireling and two thugswalk the perimeter of the island on a leisurely lookout every 30 minutes, keen for anomalies coming from Bleirvar’s Workshop or the intervention of the meddling adventurers that have plagued the cabal’s plans for some time now. When the party is detected, P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. pour out of the barracks at a rate of 1d4 hirelings and 2d4 thugs every round (in total there are 6 hirelings and 12 thugs on the island).
The primary targets of the PCs are the Storage shanty and Bleirvar’s Workshop. Within the former the party finds two contraband cyphers—though one is empty, the other is filled by a screaming cesspool of abominated heads and limbs about the size of a children’s doll. The biomancer spends most of the time in his Workshop, carefully tending to a vast array of esoteric equipment and machines that synthesize magic and science. These devices are quite fragile and in some cases volatile; if even one device is utterly destroyed (beyond the reach of mending) or lost in the muck of the Grave Morass, the entire production process will be halted for weeks as the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. restart the operation.
As soon as he becomes aware of trespassers on PRANKSTER Isle, Bleirvar ceases the rituals required to incubate skurgxon in the pool of alchemical reagents outside of his Workshop (heated by the Transgression and catalyzed by mentis quie blooms taken from the Vast Swamp) to face the intruders. If his desk hasn’t been raided and emptied by the PCs already, he grabs his crystal ball and wand of animate dead (CL 7th, 7 charges) and fills the battlefield with undead to supplement whatever PRANKSTER underlings are still fighting.
Between Bleirvar’s boasts in combat (sure of his victory, he has no compunctions or modesty regarding the age of chaos and destruction his twisted creations herald) and inspection of his Workshop, the party easily conclude that skurgxon have been prepared for a terrorizing assault in Mohkba! Anyone able to detect magic easily recognizes that powerful conjuration magic—almost certainly teleport spells—was recently used several times recently, and records in the biomancer’s desk (a DC 14 Perception check) confirm that as many as 3 agents have already received their shipment of biomechanical horrors.
A few minutes after the battle ends, Jesker the Great arrives via teleport to share what he’s learned—all information the party has recently uncovered for themselves. With such a dire threat looming ahead the wizard wastes no time, casting conjuration spells in a flurry to rapidly bring the party to Mohkba to stop the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. Unfortunately at the last minute he mumbles, “oh no, they were expecting me! Hold onto your helmets!” just as the world dissolves in white and the adventurers suddenly find themselves with a very, very big problem. [The players are in for a big—or rather small surprise. Tune in next week as the party find themselves in Mohkba! —SP]
Searching Bleirvar’s desk for his records regarding skurgxon deliveries requires a DC 11 Intelligence (Investigation) check.
As the party settles into Ravine’s Parched Pilgrim Tavern for the evening, their adversaries have a small surprise waiting for them—sometime in the middle of the night, the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.ER.S. launch a twilight ambush on the sleeping adventurers! The attack starts when the majority (if not all) of the spellcasting PCs are asleep. Creatures that are still slumbering are targeted with a nightmare spell (DC 18 Will negates). Immediately thereafter, ten P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. hirelings teleport into the area and attack. The assault is mainly a diversion—the cabal’s agents in the Grave Morass are observing the combat, taking note of the tactics and spells used by the party in order to optimize their own defenses for a conflict they’ve decided is inevitable. This offensive has an ulterior motive, however; each hireling has a wand of hostile morass (2 charges) which the criminals try to use on each party member at least once (DC 18 Will save negates). Agents in the Grave Morass are watching from afar with a scry spell (DC 24 Perception check to notice) and take note of any special attacks used by the party, preparing their defenses accordingly.
The P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. specifically developed the special hostile morass spell and provided the wands to these hirelings.
HOSTILE MORASS School abjuration [evil]; Level sorcerer/wizard 4 Casting Time 1 standard action Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft. / 2 caster levels) Target creature touched Duration 1/day per caster level Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes Hostile morass is only active while the target is in the Grave Morass of the Scorched Lands. While in the Grave Morass, a creature that fails its Will save suffers the following effects: Attract Ash The creature attracts the ash from the Grave Morass, taking a -2 penalty to Dexterity-based abilities and effects, treats all terrain is treated as difficult terrain, and their base movement rate is halved. The ash can be removed with a full round action but 1d6+1 rounds later it accumulates again. Attract Oil The creature attracts the oil from the Grave Morass, coating their body in a thin layer of the viscous liquid. Any open flames or fire-based effects that happen within 5 ft. of the creature cause it to catch on fire (taking 1d6 points of fire damage each round). It takes a full-round action to extinguish the flames. Attract Sand The creature attracts the sand from the Grave Morass, taking a -4 penalty to concentration checks. These effects cannot be dispelled, but they can be removed with a break enchantment, limited wish, miracle, remove curse, or wish spell.
The P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. cast dream instead of nightmare. Locating the sensor of the scrying spell requires a DC 30 Wisdom (Perception) check.
HOSTILE MORASS 5th-level abjuration Casting Time: 1 action Range: 60 feet Components: V, S Duration: 1 week You wrap a creature in energies that draw upon the primal fundament of the Grave Morass, causing it to attract the very landscape of that region in the Scorched Lands of Aventyr. A creature targeted by this spell must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or suffer from the following effects: The creature attracts ash from the Grave Morass, reducing its movement speeds by half. Removing the ash requires an action and it accumulates again after 1d4 rounds. Oil coats the creature, causing it to ignite and take 1d6 points of fire damage each turn until it or another creature spends an action putting out the flames. Sand inexorably draws toward the creature, causing it to take disadvantage on Perception checks. These effects cannot be removed with dispel magic, but they can be removed with a remove curse or wish spell.
The western canyons of the Scorched Lands are known for a loose network of mutant settlements who make their homes in its shallow caverns and abandoned mines. Many of the inhabitants are locals that suffered mutation as a direct result of prolonged exposure to the energies produced by the Shard of the Sun, but there are others with physical deformities as well (notably, escaped slaves from Timaeus fleeing the oppression of their tyrannical creators).
Pre-eminent across the region is the Canyon March, a mutant-run organization as much as it is an actual trek into the western reaches of the Scorched Lands. These smugglers follow a plotted route from civilized Timaeus to the mutant enclaves in the wastes, accompanied by escapees that are guided by sympathizers on the long journey between campsites and mutant-friendly safe houses.
The smugglers of the Canyon March are always on the run from agents of the Six Orders. Few survivors live to tell the tale of encountering these slave hunters, but a DC 20 Knowledge (local) check uncovers a rumor of a particularly nasty Timaeus Daewi named Tigan Mek and a group of mercenary assassins under his charge that actively hunt and kill any mutant that flees their lands (as well as those who assist in their escape).
Thus the mutants in these settlements are very untrusting of non-mutants, though a rapport can be established with great effort. Unfortunately for the adventurers the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. have garnered such a relationship with the strongest of the enclaves in the Fissures. In return for allowing the cabal to run a processing facility hidden deep within an abandoned mine, the nefarious organization has agreed to funnel a stipend of revenue to help fund the operation of the Canyon March.
When the adventurers first come across the mutant enclave, a small settlement of mud structures established in a network of cliff-side recesses, its 30 mutant inhabitants are very wary. A DC 20 Diplomacy check allows the party to pass the six watchmen (N Human warrior 5 with the ashen template [see the upcoming Meta Thursday article! —MM]) and enter into the hamlet. PCs that offer mundane equipment or gold as a token of friendship receive a +5 circumstance bonus to this check. The mutants provide the party with temporary shelter, water, and food (cave lizard meat) but have little-to-nothing to offer in trade or services.
The enclave is governed by a mutant man known as Scowl [check out tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday article to see his stats!—JAM] Scowl is a smuggler on the Canyon March, a higher-up in the organization, and the individual who brokered the deal with the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. to operate the nearby processing facility. If the party even hint that they are seeking the location of the agents running the cabal’s operations in the Scorched Lands they are immediately taken to the abode of Scowl (by force if necessary). As soon as the adventurers are brought into the company of Scowl Carver, a group of six robed figures and a dubious man appear in a flash—Tigan Mek followed the adventurers to this location and has been stalking in the shadows beneath the cliff knowing that they would eventually be lead to the enclave leader.
The moment Tigan (N Male halfling rogue 4/sorcerer 5/arcane trickster 4) and his six assassins (LE Halfling rogue 5) arrive he loudly announces himself and shouts an accusation of guilt at Scowl, condemning the smuggler to death. In response the watchmen who brought the adventurers to the location quickly gather around to defend their leader. The two opposing parties pause momentarily to determine whose side the adventurers are on—if the party abstains from the engagement they are presumed to be enemies of the mutants and friendly to Tigan (and are thus attacked by the local guards). Both parties fight until there is a clear victor and upon hearing the shouts of Tigan from Scowl’s abode, the remaining mutants in the enclave scatter and flee, each convinced by local lore that the Daewi is unstoppable.
If the adventurers assist Scowl and the mutants are victorious, the mutants consider them to be true allies. When informed of what the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are really up to (manufacturing something of ill-intent for all of Aventyr) the mutants gladly tell the party of their whereabouts, explaining that the agents have completed work at the processing facility and abandoned that mine a week past. Scowl was told to visit a specific location in the city of Ravine by cover of night in three days to retrieve the final payment offered to the Canyon March in return for assisting the criminal cabal.
If the adventurers assist Tigan and the mutants are killed, he considers them to be true allies to Timaeus and presents each of the PCs with a black iron token bearing the sigil of the Order of the Cloak. He tells them that these Timean tokens are proof of their commitment and service to the nation of mages (should it ever come into question) and these items provide a single +5 insight bonus to any Diplomacy check made with an agent of the Six Orders of Timaeus. While conversing Tigan tells the party that he and his men spied a group of humans they suspected might be P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. leaving the canyons about a week past, providing the adventurers with the last known location where the cabal’s agents were seen (in the city of Ravine).
In either case the victors decline accompanying the adventurers back to Ravine but offer two pairs of striding boots [upcoming Magic Item Monday! —MM] and 3d4 x 100 gold as a reward for their efforts (in the case of allying with the mutants, these are the goods that can be recovered from the corpses of the Timaen agents).
For Tigan use the “Assassin” statistics, for his six agents use the “Cult Fanatic” statistics, and for the Canyon March guards use the “Berskerker” statistics.
Seeking out two establishments where a PRANKSTER’s coin is present, the PCs don’t turn up any leads, but on the third try their luck pays off—seeking out the aid of the locals in Ravine and succeeding on a DC 18 Diplomacy check reveals that a large group of the criminals were spotted heading north towards the Sea of Shards. Failure on this check means traveling back to the Parched Pilgrim and utilizing Kara the Sun Flea’s connections to the same effect.
A 3 day trek across the Scorched Lands gets the PCs to the borders of the Sea of Shards, where the first of many ashen stalagmites rise from up ahead in the rolling dunes. If the party hurried or rushed out to the desert (without stopping to get aid from the Sun Flea) they arrive early enough to make a DC 23 Perception check and spot a group of two dozen P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings gradually headed away from Ravine. Otherwise after a day of journeying into the wastelands they start to find bodies of the ne’er-do-wells (a DC 15 Perception check every few miles); though some have been visibly slain with claws or some kind of piercing weapon, most appear to have dropped dead for no reason.
After another 3 days of tracking the criminals adventurers hear the din of combat near an area of the Sea of Shards known as the Sandy Gate. When they rush over the nearby sand hill they find 7 hirelings facing off with a trio of gregaria sphinx [Tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday! —TS], two of which are unharmed (the last being at 46 hp). The creatures ignore the party until all of the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are dead or one of the PCs attack them.
When the monsters are dealt with any surviving criminals flee into the Scorched Lands, trying to escape from the party. The P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. hirelings dash off into the Sea of Shards and if captured, may be coerced to reveal that the cabal is in league with some mutants from the fissures. The two groups were meant to meet and exchange a certain material with the transformed denizens of the wasteland, though what exactly they were to gather remains a mystery.
A DC 18 Wisdom (Perception) check spots the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings. Use the “Bandit” statistics for the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings; there are a total of 18. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the corpses in the sands.