DESCRIPTION This large, sturdy t-shaped cart is mounted with a pivoting, enormous crystal pylon.
An arcane artillery pylon requires the infusion of negative or positive energy in order to function. This magic item can hold a charge of up to 1,000 points of channeled energy, at which point it glows (depending on energy type this can be gold, amber, or black). Any number of creatures can channel energy into an arcane artillery pylon at the same time, but conflicting energy types remain incompatible (for example, if the magic item is charged with 432 positive energy points, attempting to charge it with 32 negative energy points reduces its total to 400 positive energy points.)
An arcane artillery pylon can fire a ball of energy (positive or negative, whichever it is charged with) accurately at locations across a battlefield. Upon making contact, the sphere of power explodes in a radius and intensity defined by the type of shot.
Light Shot (35 points): 20-ft. radius, 10d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 17 halves, Range 2 miles, Knowledge (engineering) DC 15 Medium Shot (60 points): 50-ft. radius, 15d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 19 halves, Range 1.5 miles, Knowledge (engineering) DC 20 Heavy Shot (100 points): 100-ft. radius, 20d6 channeled energy, Fort DC 21 halves, Range 1 mile, Knowledge (engineering) DC 25
Creatures operating an arcane artillery pylon (the “shooter”) can do two things to affect the weapon as it fires. A shooter with Alignment Channel can expend one of their daily uses of channel energy to choose an alignment subtype when activating the magic item. Any shooter can make a Knowledge (engineering) check (determined by shot type) to maximize the arcane artillery pylon’s effectiveness; on a success, the DC to resist the resulting channel energy ball is increased by +4.
CONSTRUCTION Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, channel energy, life channel;Cost 68,000 gp
The tumultuous and meddling doings of Mischievous Meadows comes to a cataclysmic end in this week’s Sidequest Saturday: Vexing Valley Ambush!
The trails of Agent Elwin, Alby Amhlaoibhand whomever let loose the pepfralconsall lead to the same place: a secluded valley to the northeast of the grove where all this mess began. The troublesome antagonists are the adventurers’ only lead for what could have happened to their magic items, and were that not enough, an enchanted ring found while trying to lock down the location of the party’s adversaries provides the final clue—a lesser shining star.
Read the following as the PCs follow the magic item or trails of the various small folk proving to be such an impediment, bringing them into the Vexing Valley:
Pollen wafting on the breezes that fall down the hills on either side of the valley bring a pleasant fragrance to the idyllic scene before you, complementing the rolling green grasses and shimmering verdant fields that sway from blasts of wind that whip across the meadow. The sloped sides of this valley eventually round to a narrow pitch above its deepest part, a single cave four hundred feet from the natural entrance between its hills.
The slopes of the hills on either side of the valley are at 45 degree angles (counting as difficult terrain to move up and granting higher ground to combatants farther above) and about 600 feet from base to top. Eventually it narrows and rounds into a sort of hilly-gorge with a cave at the valley’s lowest, deepest point.
Once the party approaches within 100 feet of the cavern’s entrance, magical sensors hidden deep under the earth by Alby pick up their movement (although incorporeal and invisible PCs remain undetected). This begins a chain reaction that unleashes dozens of biddlywinks into the valley; read the following:
As you peer about the valley, looking intently at the cave entrance at the bottom of the pitch, some movement catches your eyes; something small and insectile begins to curiously crawl out onto the green grass and you make out the shape of what must be another biddlywink. Then a falling rock from further up the valley wall, above the cavern’s entrance, alerts you to the presence of another magic-consuming insect. You quickly realize to your horror that the entire wall is filled with biddlywinks, and the mischievous creatures begin pouring out from the hillside, buzzing in your direction!
Biddlywink CR 4
XP 1,200 CN Diminutive fey Init +9; Senses darkvision 120 ft., arcane sight, see invisibility; Perception +12 DEFENSE AC 18, touch 18, flat-footed 14 (+4 Dex, +4 size) hp 38 (7d6+14) Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +8 Weakness silver OFFENSE Speed fly 60 ft. (perfect) or 40 ft. (see text) Melee force fronds +11 (1d8+3 force) Ranged +11 Space 0 ft.; Reach 0 ft. Special Attacks force fronds Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th; concentration +10) Constant—arcane sight, nondetection, see invisibility At will—glitterdust, mage hand 5/day—dimension door STATISTICS Str 6, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 16 Base Atk +3; CMB -2; CMD 13 Feats Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Sleight of Hand), Toughness, Weapon Finesse Skills Escape Artist +14, Fly +15, Perception +12, Sense Motive +11, Sleight of Hand +17, Stealth +26, Survival +12; Size Modifiers Fly +6, Stealth +12 Languages Druidic SQ freeze, hide in plain sight SPECIAL ABILITIES Interdimensional Sac (Su) While biddlywink can (and often do) consume enchanted items as quickly as possible, they also store them to digest later in an invisible extradimensional sac not unlike a handy haversack or bag of holding, but only capable of storing up to 30 pounds. When a biddlywink is killed, the sac appears on the material plane and bursts open dealing 3d8 force damage (DC 20 Reflex negates) to any creatures or items in a 10-ft. radius (though not to anything within it). Force Fronds (Ex) The tendrils extending from a biddlywink’s mouth can be devastating when employed to attack a creature. On a successful melee touch attack, they deal 1d8+3 force damage. Light Flier (Ex) When a biddlywink’s interdimensional sac is holding at least 2½ lbs. of items or a number of caster levels worth of items equal to twice the biddlywink’s hit die, it cannot maintain a sustained flight. Its speed is reduced and it moves in long bounds and hops that don’t exceed 5 feet in height or 10 feet in length—the biddlywink effectively now has a base speed of 40 feet until items in its Interdimensional Sac are digested. Ranged Legerdemain (Su) A biddlywink can use Sleight of Hand at a range of 30 feet. Working at a distance increases the normal skill check DC by 5, and the biddlywink cannot take 10 on this check. Only object that weigh 5 pounds or less can be manipulated this way. Wyrd Digestion (Su) These strange insectile-fey literally eat magic to survive. As a standard action, a biddlywink can ingest a magical item of Diminutive size or smaller. As a full round action, it can consume a magical item of Tiny size and over the course of a minute (ten rounds), a Small size magical item. Once eaten by a biddlywink, an item is not instantly destroyed—instead it is secreted inside of its Interdimensional Sac. Potions are digested quickly within and are destroyed after a number of rounds equal to caster level. Wondrous items are more resilient and last for a number of minutes equal to caster level; any other enchanted items (rings, staves, weapons, armor) are destroyed after ten minutes per caster level. Any item recovered from a biddlywink’s interdimensional sac before it is fully digested operates at two caster levels higher than normal for one week. The first time it is stored in an extradimensional space, it remains empowered this way until removed again (though afterward, the increased power diminishes and it returns to normal). Biddlywink that consume enough magic items (1000 gp x hit die) transform into a biddlytree and sprout 2d12+4 biddlywinks with the young template after 1d10 days.
CN Medium (100) army of fey (biddlywink) hp 21; ACR 6 DV 16; OM 6 Special arcane sight, darkvision, flight, ranged legerdemain (once per round of combat, a biddlywink army engaging an army with enchanted weapons or armor can choose to reduce the opposing army’s bonus to either DV or OM by -1), see invisibility, weakness (silver; a biddlywink army takes x1.5 damage from an army attacking with silver weapons) Speed 3; Consumption 5 Note Biddlywink armies predominantly only attack armies with enchanted goods, but will engage pepfralcons (their natural predators) if the fiery birds are outnumbered.
Most adventurers are smart enough not to engage dozens of biddlywinks all at once and make a run for it or somehow protect themselves in the hillsides, but if a PC decides to take the insectile fey head-on, don’t discourage them—just strip them of their magic items as they pit themselves against the biddlywinks (either an army using the mass combat statblock below facing off against 12 of the creatures at a time)!
Put the pressure on for a few rounds of chase as the biddlywinks near the party or breach their ad hoc defenses and ask the PCs for a DC 13 Perception check to notice that the lesser shining star is gleaming an impossible-to-hide ray of starlight towards the cavern. Then read the following:
A defiant, familiar cry accompanied by the waft of an open flame seems to grow from one lone call into a chorus of voices as you realize the battle is soon to be joined by more adversaries. Swooping into the far entrance of the valley from behind both hillsides are dozes of pepfralcons! The flaming birds dart forward, scorching the air behind them and turning the entire area into a raging inferno!
While the pepfralcons absolutely pose a serious danger to the PCs as enemies, the greater problem is the enormous fire that is certainly going to consume this valley before the battle comes to an end! Every square the pepfralcon “army” travels through is ignited and burns for 1d10+1 minutes, dealing 1d6 fire damage to anyone that passes across a fiery 5-foot square!
If the party isn’t running for the cavern yet, the lesser shining star begins to gently tug them in the direction of its parent artifact—currently being used quite feverish by Alby as he gathers the choicest items from his treasure hoards before absconding. Any PC wearing the lesser shining star suffers a -1 to attack rolls and AC every round they fail a DC 10 Strength check to resist the ring’s pull if they aren’t gradually moving toward the cave entrance. Moreover, one particularly fearsome advanced pepfralcon keeps attacking the adventurer carrying the lesser shining star, continuing its assault until the bearer escapes into the cavern.
Advanced Pepfralcon CR 10
XP 9,600 N Medium magical beast Init+9; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +10 DEFENSE AC 25, touch 17, flat-footed 18 (+6 Dex, +1 dodge, +8 natural armor) hp 136 (13d10+65), fast healing 1 Fort +11, Ref +15, Will +8 Immune fire Weakness cold OFFENSE Speed 10 ft., fly 70 ft. (perfect); hovering inferno Melee beak +21/+16/+11 (1d8+6 plus 1d6 fire, Crit 19-20/x2+1d10 fire) Ranged flaming feathers +21/+16/+11 (1d8+2 fire, Range 20 ft.) Special Attacks flaming feathers (ranged touch, 1d8 fire; Reflex DC 20 or catch on fire), hovering firestorm (30-ft. radius, 6d6+12 fire, Reflex DC 20 halves) STATISTICS Str 19, Dex 27, Con 19, Int 9, Wis 18, Cha 15 Base Atk +12; CMB +16; CMD 35 (cannot be tripped) Feats Dodge, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Natural Weapon (bite), Toughness, Weapon Finesse Skills Fly +21, Perception +10 (+16 visual), Stealth +15, Survival +10; Racial Modifiers +6 Perception (visual only) Languages — SPECIAL ABILITIES Fiery Flurry (Ex) Any natural attacks made by an advanced pepfralcon deal +1d6 fire damage as its plumage scatters with each violent movement. Any creature that strikes an advanced pepfralcon with a natural weapon or without a melee weapon that grants reach takes 1d6 fire damage as the shed feathers whip at their limbs in response. These feathers never ignite flammable materials. Flaming Feathers (Ex) The advanced pepfralcon can fling it’s fiery plumage at enemies within 20 feet (any farther and the quills are consumed in the flames. On a successful ranged touch attack, targets take 1d8+2 fire damage and make a DC 20 Reflex save or catch on fire. Hovering Firestorm (Ex) As a full-round action, an advanced pepfralcon can create a miniature tempest centered around the square they occupy. This maneuver provokes attacks of opportunity. The advanced pepfralcon spins wildly and swiftly whips out feathers that turn a 30-foot radius into a tempest of flames that deal 6d6+12 fire damage (Reflex DC 20 halves). Any flammable objects in the area catch fire (attended objects receive a DC 17 Reflex save). Hovering Inferno (Ex) Any round in which an advanced pepfralcon does not take a full movement, any squares adjacent to their path of movement (including squares they briefly occupy) are filled with its scorching plumage as the bird sheds fiery feathers everywhere it goes. Creatures in any of these squares make a DC 20 Reflex save or take 1d6+2 fire damage (success negates). Normally these feathers burn out before igniting materials, but as a swift action the advanced pepfralcon can intensify its feathers’ heat to ignite flammable materials. TACTICS The advanced pepfralcon is extremely dangerous; its intellect rivals many humans and it makes the best use of its abilities, burning all of a target’s allies to distract them before moving in for the kill.
N Small (50) army of magical beasts (pepfralcons) hp 38; ACR 7 DV 17; OM 7 Special burn, fast healing 1, flight, immunity (fire), scent, weakness (cold; a pepfralcon army takes x1.5 damage from area cold attacks) Speed 3; Consumption 3 Note Any squares the pepfralcon army crosses during a battle remain on fire (dealing 1d6 fire damage to any army that occupies that square) for a number of rounds equal to 1/8th the pepfralcon army’s remaining hit points)
Fortunately for the PCs, Alby didn’t even have time to set up traps or properly close his escape route! On the tops of the hillsides of the valley the party notices lurking masked figures of mysterious individuals (P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. Agents) as the PCs dive into the cave, and they’ll only have a minute or two to gather what they can from what Alby left behind—troves of medium and minor wondrous items, and their equivalent magic arms and armor. Read the following as the adventurers escape the vexing valley:
Escaping the impending inferno by diving into the cave, you barely notice black-swathed figures atop the hillsides of the valley, obscured by the smoke but definitely there—and in numbers. The shrieking pepfralcons don’t follow you into the rocky passage and after a few dozen feet you lay your eyes on a treasure hoard that would make a dragon blush in shame. Glowing swords, glittering shields, embroidered boots, inscribed rings, and countless arcane or divine goods are littered in piles around the cavern. No exits are clearly visible save what appears to be a malfunctioning secret door built into the wall, heading north farther into the earth.
What exactly the PCs pull out of the item hoard and how much time they have to do it is ultimately up to the GM, but should never exceed twenty rounds; what more, the presence of the pepfralcon army directly outside of the entrance should warn them the time to leave is imminent. The AaWBlog recommends rewarding the party magic items equivalent in worth to the ones they lost (perhaps even improved versions) as well as a few other choice pieces—this is the time for their reward. Read the following when the adventurers finally make good their escape down the tunnel Alby clearly left through:
On the other side of the malfunctioning stone-slab door, you can clearly see the broken handle of a half-activated lever—which explains why the door wasn’t entirely closed. The tunnel contines down another forty feet before turning around a bend.
A DC 20 Disable Device check or DC 12 Strength check activates the full mechanism of the seamless secret door in the escape tunnel and buys the party a bit of a head start from the sure-to-follow P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. agents about to storm the cave. After a hundred feet, the PCs come across a conspicuously large red button that says, very clearly in large letters of Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnomish, Halfling, Klavekian, Orc, Vikmordere, and others, “DO NOT TOUCH.” Pressing it doesn’t do anything, but a DC 30 Disable Device or DC 30 Use Magic Device check gets the button to work, caving in all of the tunnel behind and the cavern that holds Alby’s last treasure hoard.
Of course, the adventure isn’t over—the PCs have brought themselves to the attention of a powerful and influential organization. If they haven’t made permanent enemies or aren’t guaranteed to do so (in the case of the vast majority of paladins), the party may find employ or a means to power by joining the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S.—but that’s a story for another day. Most adventurers probably want to settle scores with Alby, and if they still have the lesser shining star, the PCs have the means to do it (although they won’t be the only ones looking for the troublesome gnome)!
Check out the AaWBlog tomorrow to get a look at a P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. Agent if the PCs are being actively chased by the organization, but otherwise, have a great time bringing Mischievous Meadowsto your tabletop in time for April Fool’s Day!
In battles with dozens or scores of combatants, the action can easily be taken away from the PCs and bog down your group. Still, epic scenes of massive conflict are essential to a strong gaming experience—what’s a GM to do?
The AaWBlog has you covered with a few tips to simplify mass combat and increase the enjoyment of the game, keeping the pace fast without taking away the gravitas of the battle!
1) Averages (2-10 surrounding fights) What I like to do is work out averages; each additional NPC vs NPC turn is broken down into two percentile rolls. Compare the attack bonuses of the party’s allies against the AC of the enemies and likewise—there’s a certain likelihood they hit or they miss. Have the average damage they’ll deal listed nearby (and leave markers on miniatures that have taken damage) and if necessary, available spell effects.
While this takes out critical hits, both sides lose that and for the most part, that kind of improbable factor serves to take away attention from the PCs anyway—double kudos for me! Still, you’re going to be rolling quite a few dice if there’s more than a dozen or so additional allies and enemies in the fight.
2) Cinematic (10+ surrounding fights) There’s another option—play out the fight beforehand (either literally as both sides or as a game of numbers) and describe what occurs as the conflict coalesces. Leave room in your planned scene to improvise and allow for PC involvement; the preparatory bit should be cast to the wind of the adventurers make a serious point about intervening but otherwise, this is the simplest and fastest approach. Use it wisely however—the PCs are as important to the story as it is. Paranoid GMs are encouraged to roll dice throughout this anyway, or create a simple table to determine the general pace of the outside conflict if they want to keep a dynamic sense about it.
3) Proper Mass Combat Rules (scores of combatants) Paizo has crafted amazing rules for mass combat in Pathfinder. Taking a standard creature (or more accurately, many of them) and converting their statistics into an army is a simple and fun process. The variation within is excellent, allowing for a level of complexity approachable to groups of varied play experience and I recommend to anyone reading (as I have to colleagues) to give them a solid read.
Just remember that while the backdrop of a huge battle should still seem to be a real fight to the PCs, it should remain as just that—a backdrop to the adventurer’s combat.
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