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Vexing Valley Ambush

A Secret ValleyThe 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 Amhlaoibh and whomever let loose the pepfralcons all 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.

Biddlywink Army

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!

Deerfire_high_res_edit

Fiery Terrain

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

PepfralconXP 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.

Pepfralcon Army

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.

Celurian-Prayer Bead of SaintWhat 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!

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The Critics

The Critics (CR 11; 12,800)

As the party travels through the wooded area of Mischievous Meadows, they run into the critics—a group of more or less mad individuals whose exposure to art in one form or another has twisted them. Now they roam the region to sate their thirst for vengeance, while pretending to help the world by ridding it of bad art (though their interpretation of such is rather broad). Little do the adventurer’s know that an agent of a mysterious organization watches them from afar, guiding the critics toward the party to once more test their mettle!

(1) Deilarth CR 8

Gary Dupuis -Amaralda-CThis half elven redhead has a mad glint in her wild green eyes
XP 4,800
Female half elf sorcerer 9
NE Medium humanoid (half-elf)
Init +7; Senses low-light vision; Perception +12
DEFENSE
AC 20, touch 16, flat-footed 16 (+2 deflection, +3 Dex, +4 mage armor)
hp 49 (9d6+18)
Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +7; +2 vs. enchantment spells and effects
Immunities magic sleep effects
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +4 (1d4, Crit 19-20/x2)
Special Attacks laughing touch 8/day (melee touch attack, target can only take a move action for 1 round)

Spells Known (CL 9th; concentration +14)
0th (at will)—daze (DC 19), detect magic, detect poison, ghost sound, prestidigitation,  read magic, resistance,  touch of fatigue (DC 15)
1st (7/day)—charm person (DC 18), entangle (DC 16), feather fall, mage armor, magic missile, shield
2nd (7/day)—bull’s strength, eagle’s splendor, hideous laughter (DC 21), see invisibility, touch of idiocy (DC 21)
3rd (7/day)—deep slumber (DC 22), fly, hold person (DC 22), lightning bolt (DC 18)
4th (5/day)—confusion (DC 23), crushing despair (DC 23), poison (DC 19)
Bloodline fey

STATISTICS
Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 13
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 20
Feats Combat Casting, Dodge, Eschew Materials, Greater Spell Focus (Enchanment), Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus (Perception), Spell Focus (Enchantment)
Skills Appraise +8, Fly +10, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Perception +10, Spellcraft +10, Perform (painting) +6
Languages Common, Elven, Sylvan
SQ Cantrips, fleeting glance, woodland stride
Gear circlet of alluring charisma +2, ring of protection +2, handy haversack (4 potions of cure light wounds), 325 gold pieces, a collection of hastily drawn sketches, and a brass spyglass missing one lens.

TACTICS
Deilarth has mage armor cast before any encounter (included in the profile above). If she has time to plan she casts eagle’s splendor, shield, see invisibility, and fly on herself, then bull’s strength on Paddy, Faddy and Olwen. She controls her enemies with crushing despair and confusion, using lightning bolt on targets that seem immune to her enchantments.

BACKGROUND
Deilarth grew up in a small village. One day she started hearing voices telling her to create paintings—she started painting and showed such great talent that her depictions of the beautiful scenery around the village made her a well-known artist in the local area. Alas, as the months went on the voices made her paint more and more twisted versions of the nature around her village, culminating with otherworldly landscapes she saw only in her dreams.

Deilarth locked herself in the workshop and worked feverishly on a masterpiece to reveal to the villagers so they might understand her, like she understood the voices. Finally the day came where she unveiled her outstanding artwork, and the voices assured her that everything would be better afterwards. The villagers gathered in the center of the settlement to see what Deilarth had created—perhaps she had abandoned her weird style of late and returned to her roots, some said.

The painting was magnificent, although today no one knows exactly why—as the villagers were gathered a rift appeared over the artwork and several lithe figures in leather armor surged out. Some of the lookers on were slaughtered, some were taken away, and some were driven mad by the weird energies radiating from the tear in reality.

Deilarth was driven mad by the knowledge that her painting had doomed her birthplace and everyone in it. She cried out in vain to the voices she had heard, but they had grown silent. The mad artist wandered the woods and meadows until she met Olwen Oakenbranch, and she listeneded intently to his ramblings about art. Deilarth thinks art is dangerous to the untalented, as it must have been her lack of talent that created the disaster in her village.

Now she travels with her companions and deems art worthy, or in her case deems people talented or untalented usually on a whim; the talented travel on, and those lacking in ability are sentenced to death. To help her determine if people are talented or not, she uses an old spyglass; Olwen, Paddy, and Faddy believe it to be a magic item, but only Deilarth knows how to interpret the things she sees within it—the truth is that it is just a broken spyglass the insane painter found before meeting Olwen.

(1) Olwen Oakenbranch CR 8

tree creatureA huge tree with blackened bark strides towards you, as it approaches it seems that the trees around you come to life as well. He screams, “show me the art, or die!”
XP 4,800
NE huge plant
Init -1; Senses low-light vision, Perception +12
DEFENSE
AC 21, touch 7, flat-footed 21 (-1 Dex, +14 natural, -2 size)
hp 114 (12d8+60)
Fort +13, Reflex +3, Will +9
Immune plant traits; DR 5/slashing
Weaknesses vulnerable to fire
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 slams +17 (2d6+9/19-20)
Ranged rock +7 (2d6+13)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks rock throwing (180 ft.), trample (2d6+13, DC 25)
STATISTICS
Base Atk +9; CMB +20; CMD 29
Str 29, Dex 8, Con 21, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 13
Feats Alertness, Improved Critical (slam), Improved Sunder, Iron Will, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (slam)
Skills Diplomacy +9, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (nature) +9, Perception +12, Sense Motive +9, Stealth -9 (+7 in forests)
Languages Common, Sylvan, Treant
SQ Animate trees, double damage against objects, treespeech
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Animate Trees (Sp) A treant can animate any trees within 180 feet at will, controlling up to two trees at a time. It takes 1 full round for a tree to uproot itself, after which it moves at a speed of 10 feet and fights as a treant (although it has only one slam attack and lacks the treant’s animation and rock-throwing abilities), gaining the treant’s vulnerability to fire. If the treant that animated it terminates the animation, moves out of range, or is incapacitated, the tree immediately takes root wherever it is and returns to its normal state.
Double Damage Against Objects (Ex) A treant or animated tree that makes a full attack against an object or structure deals double damage.
Treespeech (Ex) A treant has the ability to converse with plants as if subject to a continual speak with plants spell, and most plants greet them with an attitude of friendly or helpful.

TACTICS
Olwen starts by using his Animate Trees ability and using them to engage the most formidable looking characters. He focuses his attacks on one enemy at a time, unless he is hurt by fire; then he attacks the source of the fire damage along with any animated trees until that threat is gone.

BACKGROUND
Years ago in a small glade two treants made their home, tending to the plants in the area. One day as Olwen returned from a trip to a nearby glade he found his friend was missing. The treant searched for him high and low, eventually finding his friend made inanimate, used as a support beam for a newly built bridge—cut down by woodsmen and used to further civilization’s encroachment on everything Olwen held dear. Furthermore a woodcarver had been hired to carve intricate designs on the bridge and now Olwen stared in horror at the scenes that adorned his friend’s trunk—happy humans dancing and playing music.

The carvings became the focus of Olwen’s rage; he detests everything humans call art and has made it his lifelong job to rid the world of all mediocre works. The treant fully understands that there is magnificent art and he intends to make sure that all humans that create mediocre art, or can’t create art at all, are destroyed along with their works.

Greengully Bridge still stands this day (Olwen cannot make himself destroy his friend’s tomb) but the he still wanders off to chat to his friend for hours. When he is home, Olwen usually stands with his back to the bridge as he cannot bear to see the crude mediocre carvings on it (meaning he hasn’t yet discovered that several people have made their own etchings into the timber and his friend). These carving are of a more explicit nature and their crude vulgarity would most likely send Olwen on a murderous rampage should he see them.

(2) Redcaps CR 8

redcapA small wicked old man, this snarling little humanoid wears metal boots and a blood-red pointed cap.
XP 4,800
NE small fey
Init +8; Senses low-light vision, Perception +12
DEFENSE
AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 16 (+2 armor, +4 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 60 (8d6+32), fast healing 3
Fort +6, Reflex +10, Will +7
DR 10/cold iron
Weaknesses irreligious
OFFENSE
Speed 60 ft.
Melee Medium scythe +10 (2d4+10, Crit x4), kick +4 (1d4+6)
STATISTICS
Base Atk +4; CMB +7; CMD 21
Str 18, Dex 19, Con 18, Int 16, Wis 13, Cha 15
Feats Cleave, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (Scythe)
Skills Acrobatics +15 (+27 jump), Bluff +13, Climb +15, Escape Artist +15, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (nature) +14,  Perception +12, Sense Motive +12, Stealth +19
Languages Aklo, Common, Giant, Sylvan
SQ Boot stomp, heavy weapons, redcap
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Boot Stomp (Ex) A redcap wears heavy iron boots with spiked soles that it uses to deadly effect in combat. These boots give the redcap a kick attack that it can make as a secondary attack, either as part of a full-attack action or as part of its movement just as if it had the Spring Attack feat.
Heavy Weapons (Ex) A redcap can wield weapons sized for Medium creatures without penalty.
Irreligious (Ex) Bitter and blasphemous, redcaps cannot stand the symbols of good-aligned religions. If a foe spends a standard action presenting such a holy symbol, any redcap that can see the creature must make a DC 15 Will save or become frightened for 1 minute and attempt to flee. A redcap who successfully saves is shaken for 1 minute.
Red Cap (Su) A redcap wears a tiny, shapeless woolen hat, dyed over and over with the blood of its victims. While wearing this cap, a redcap gains a +4 bonus on damage rolls (included in the above totals) and fast healing 3. These benefits are lost if the cap is removed or destroyed. Caps are not transferable, even between redcaps. A redcap can create a new cap to replace a lost cap with 10 minutes of work, although until the redcap takes a standard action to dip the cap in the blood of a foe the redcap helped to kill, the cap does not grant its bonuses.

TACTICS
Paddy and Faddy always attack enemies wearing the lightest armor; they both revel in the blood spilling and horror of their terrified foes.

BACKGROUND
In the town of Groverton lies a manor shunned by the locals; few if any will speak of it. This estate has always been the seat of the ruling duke, but now it stands empty and deserted. Two years ago the people rose up against the mad Duke Heinan von Twikelsburg (the last of his line and quite off his rocker). Heinan’s madness started showing some ten years before when he ruled that all men should wear purple hats on Sundays on penalty of death—the people chuckled at their duke’s newest idea, but two months later no one laughed when eight men were executed in the village square for unwillingness to comply with the duke’s wishes.

The people quickly adapted and wore purple hats on Sundays afterward, but the duke was bored when no new executions were forthcoming and decided that he himself would decree which weekday it was when he awoke in the morning, so eventually the people wore purple hats every day. The next ten years were a nightmare for the people of Groverton as a variety of weird laws made their duke’s descent into madness clear for all to see, though no one dared to speak out against him.

It was into this town the two redcap brothers Paddy and Faddy came—they were employed as the duke’s personal riddlers. Each would ask unanswerable questions like, “what is the color of the sound of a butterfly on a winter’s night?” No matter what the answer was, the unfortunate soul would only hear the redcaps say, “wrong off with your head!” Heinan von Twikelsburg was delighted with his newest entertainers, but the people had had enough. Paddy and Faddy escaped the raging mobs descending on the manor and during their flight they came across Olwen and Deilarth. The redcaps introduced themselves as comedians—Olwen decided that it was an artform he knew little about and therefore he needed them to tell him if a comedy was mediocre or not (so far, everything has been mediocre to the brothers.)

ALTERNATE SOLUTION
The critics require a performance to help them judge if the party should die or not—a series of five DC 20 Perform checks appeases the malicious impromptu judges.

SCALING THE ENCOUNTER
To modify this encounter, apply the following changes:
CR 10 (9,600) Apply the young simple template to all of the critics (+2 on all Dex-based rolls, -2 on all other rolls, -2 hp/HD)
CR 12 (19,200) Apply the advanced simple template to all of the critics (+2 on all rolls [including damage rolls] and special ability DCs; +4 to AC and CMD; +2 hp/HD)
Not long after the PCs have ended their encounter with the critics, a trio of strange, man-sized birds that appear to be made of fire burst from the treeline and swarm them, raining down hot death on the adventurers! Keep an eye out on the AaWBlog tomorrow to see the stats for pepfralcons and what’s in store for the party in this week’s Statblock Sunday!

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Biddlywink Barrage!

biddlywink barrageTracking after the enchanted items stolen from them the night before, the PCs unknowingly walk into a grove of biddlytrees and are attacked by a swarm of the magic consuming creatures!

The biddlywinks don’t actually pose that great of a threat to the PCs; the real danger is the loss of magic items and what awaits parties that remain in the area for too long. The adventurers aren’t the first to be lured into this trap and the corpses of a few wayward explorers fall from the trees! Read the following as combat begins:

As several more of the creatures leap from the brush and attack you, the probiscii from their mouths frothing with agitation, the bones and tattered remains of bodies in various states of decay fall from the branches above and scatter among the grove!

(10) BIDDLYWINK CR 4

BiddlywinkXP
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, vermin qualities
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.
Weaknesses Biddlywink are vulnerable to silver and take x1.5 damage from all attacks made with the material (by spell or weapon). Moreover, whenever being treated as a vermin would prove negative for the biddlywink, such as when fighting an opponent with favored enemy (vermin), they are treated as the vermin type.

biddlywink barrage 2This battle shouldn’t be too dangerous; the biddlywinks put up a genuine assault but won’t be much of a problem for the PCs. Only 7 engage directly while 3 more attempt to pilfer more enchanted goods from the party.

When the combat begins to near a close, the troublesome creatures take to the woods and the adventurers are likely to give chase. Following the trail of the insectile fey is a simple task—it seems as though their flight is a reckless retreat, but in truth, the biddlywinks are only drawing the PCs farther into their trap.

After chasing the mischievous monsters about 100 feet farther into the woods, give the PCs DC 25 Perception checks to realize that their magic items or active spells (if they lack obvious effects, such as fly or an activate +1 flaming scimitar) have suddenly stopped functioning. Immediately afterward, the trees literally comes alive and attack them!

Chasing after the troublesome creatures you dash deeper into the forest, hot on the trail of the magic-eating insects. Suddenly something in the air seems to take on a strange quality and before you know any better, a truly exotic tree appears from the treeline, moving towards you with a clear malevolence!


Find out just what attacks the adventurer’s in tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday!

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Cultus Sanguineus — The Sanguine Ball

sanguine ball properCultus Sanguineus—The Sanguine Ball

Either in a previous encounter (from last week’s Sidequest Saturday)—or by chance while in the city of Mohkba—the adventurers acquired an invitation to a masquerade ball and a beautiful mask of diplomacy +1 (actually a mask of thirst). The event is being held on the night after the party’s encounter with the trio of muggers and is lauded as the most grand occasion to come to the city in many months.

Notable persons from all over the realm will be in attendance, and the PCs are sure to meet influential and powerful individuals that hold sway over considerable resources in the Klavek Kingdom while there. Countess Darah Veresovich is the host of the masquerade, and her sizable mansion is located in the affluent area of the city. Adventurers keen to scope out the residence beforehand or wise enough to learn more about the countess may make a Diplomacy check to determine more about the event itself and the property it is being held in.

DCInformation Gained
15The countess is the sole heir to the Veresovich fortune after her older brother tragically died in a hunting accident. She is thought to have distant cousins, but they have scarcely visited Mohkba these past ten years.
25The whole ward in which the manor is located is one of the oldest parts of Mohkba, and the Veresovich estate is rumored to be coated with small magical enhancements to amplify its presence and grandeur.
35While not a recluse, after traveling to oversee Veresovich mercantile interests afar, the Countess began to create odd waves in the social climate of Mohkba that has put much of the nobility ill at ease. It’s thought that this upcoming grand masquerade is her way of mending the fences with her elite peers.

Veresovich ManorRead the following as the adventurers approach Countess Veresovich’s mansion to attend the grand ball:

A large iron-wrought gate stands open to accommodate the steady stream of gilded carriages entering the magnificent manor gardens before you. A gravelled boulevard leads up to the mansion where servants greet and assist the guests, lit by lanterns hanging from the lowliest bush to the mightiest oak, suspended on the branches of every plant in the gardens. Amongst the masked uniformed servants, a tall, gaunt man stands and surveys the scene in silence.

A servant quickly looks over your invitations and guides you to the door, where another attendant leads you to the ballroom via dimly lit corridors, finally stopping in front of a massive ornately carved door—as it opens you are overwhelmed by light and the sounds of a full-fledged nobles’ ball in Mohkba. Servants dodge dancing couples while carrying trays with glasses full of different liquors as what seems like a full symphonic orchestra provides the fantastic melodies flowing through the room.

Everywhere you look masked guests meet your gaze, some glancing cursorily in your direction. While a few avert their eyes, others seem to take a greater interest in your presence. On a long table in the back of the ballroom there are a panoply of different foods, the countess’ chefs having prepared well for the masquerade. The countess can easily be made out, a tall lithe woman dressed in a black ballgown with gold accents, her face concealed by a white porcelain mask inlaid with rubies arranged in a heart-shape pattern over the left eye. Only her smile reveals her mood behind the mask. The servant behind you whispers, “the countess wishes to make your acquaintance this eve, and wishes you to know that she expects much of you”, before closing the doors again.

Before approaching any of the members of the grand ball, the PCs can reduce the DCs for the checks required to ferret out their secrets (by 3 points) with successful DC 18 Perform (dance) checks. Otherwise, the adventurers find it challenging to get in touch with any of the nobles as the Klavek customs in observance that evening do not allow people of lesser rank to address the elite socialites of Mohkba until the unveiling at midnight. Still, the masquerade element presents an opportunity for cunning and mischievous adventurers to rub elbows with nobility—to earn their trust, however, they’ll have to Hopak!

Radimir Vlasputin, Mercantile Entrepreneur
 

Other noble guyMale human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200)
HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex)
Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity)
Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16
AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15
Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful, Persuasive, Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)


Igor Rastvick, Merchant of the Rastvick Trading Company

RastvickMale human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200)
HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex)
Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity)
Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16
AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15
Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful (+2 bluff/disguise), Persuasive (+2 diplomacy/intimidate), Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)


Frieda Manovitovich, Ensconced Socialite of Mohkba

FriedaFemale human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200)
HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex)
Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity)
Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16
AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15
Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful (+2 bluff/disguise), Persuasive (+2 diplomacy/intimidate), Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)

 

Cultus Sanguineus Secrets!

Vlasputin
 
Diplomacy DC 20
The entrepreneur is here in the interests of several other merchants that have heard new and truly exotic (perhaps even illegal) trade will soon be coming into Mohkba, exclusively for Countess Veresovich.

Diplomacy DC 30
Radimir was asked by Count Krev to locate the fastest runners in the land for a very specific courier job; apparently, he did not trust the services available in Mohkba or the use of magic for whatever task he was up to. A DC 24 Sense Motive checkreveals that whatever it was, Radimir doubts it was entirely within the bounds of the law (though he’s smart enough not to pry or say any more on the matter).

Intimidate DC 32
Under duress he recalls that when Krev approached him about the runners, the Count seemed to know Radimir’s thoughts during the conversation and the distinctive black mask he insisted on wearing still gives Vlasputin the chills.


Rastvick

Diplomacy DC 25
Countess Veresovich is an esoteric sort that enjoys exotic delicacies. The Veresovich line has been influential to trade for decades and she has enjoyed the life of a debutante—perhaps too much.

Diplomacy DC 32
Rastvick knows for a fact that Countess Veresovich is quite mad and drinks blood in her wine—not just any blood, but the blood of young women.

Intimidate DC 32
He has several times observed how the Countess has used an exquisite necklace that beats like a heart to instill envious desires in younger women. These lasses—servants or socialites, but always extremely attractive—are never seen again. Once when Igor got close to see the amulet he himself felt an unearthly desire for it and its wearer. With all his mental might Rastvick tore his eyes from the amulet and promptly left. He will remark that the amulet she wears today does not beat like a heart at the moment, but…


Manovitovich

Intimidate DC 16
Well no need to be so rude! Let me tell you, the way you lot carry yourselves about, someone might take…no, will definitely take offense and you might find yourself at the wrong end of a Klavek dueling blade. Proper etiquette mind you, know your place. If you want to talk to someone, do impress them with a display of “Hopak”![a traditional Klavek dance, DC 18 Perform (dance) check]

Diplomacy DC 22
Frieda knows nothing of the details of the accident and is more interested in the problems with hiring good staff.
The Veresovich manor is built in the oldest ward of Mohkba, but there are some rumors that the ward is dangerous. Last year the manor of the Ollianov family fell into a sinkhole and killed half of their staff; considering how horrible it is to get good staff nowadays, can you imagine how hard it is to find so many at the same time. Poor Darah, should it happen here, her servants are so well trained; they are here, but you don’t see them, just like a disciplined dog.
Frieda shows no emotion when comparing servants to dogs and openly declares that dogs would make excellent servants, if they had opposable thumbs. She follows this macabre joke with the high-pitched laughter of the bourgeoisie.

Diplomacy  DC 32
Why yes, the countess is an avid collector of Klavek historical items and paraphernalia. Lately she has been actively searching for the cloak of Jaroslav Mandatin, the greatest duelist in Klavek history! Rumors say that the cloak was part of a set, consisting of a mask and an amulet as well, but that must be nothing more than an old wives’ tale, typically the fodder of the peasants. Now where were we, Lubov?”
She gives a wolf-like smile before sipping the last bit of crimson wine from her tall glass goblet and heads to refill her glass.

 

If the adventurers are not looking for the remaining enchanted items from the set the mask of thirst belongs to, Krev Ragata is! His agents are seeded throughout the event and as the night drags on, an expert hired specifically for the task approaches the PC wearing the magical masquerade mask, engaging them in a conversation that seems very friendly…

Daineus Guslar, Master of Lore

sandman bardFemale halfling bard (sandman) 7; CR 6 (XP 2,400)
HP31 (7d8+7); AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 19 (+5 armor, +3 Dex, +3 shield, +1 size)
Init+3; Speed 20 ft.; Atk mwk rapier +4 (1d4-2, Crit 18-20/x2) or mwk light crossbow +9 (1d6, Crit 19-20/x2, Range 80 ft.)
Base Atk +5; CMB +2; CMD 15
AL Neutral Evil; SV Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +7 (+2 vs fear); Str 6, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 18
Skills Acrobatics +9, Bluff +15, Escape Artist +13, Linguistics +9, Perception +7, Perform (oratory) +18, Sense Motive +9, Sleight of Hand +13, Spellcraft +11, Stealth +12; Racial Modifiers+2 Acrobatics, +2 Climb, +2 Perception; Feats Ability Focus (slumber song), Skill Focus (Perform [oratory]), Spellsong, Voice of the Sibil; Languages Common, Halfling, Klavek, Vikmordere, 4 bonus languages (GM’s choice)
SQ Bardic knowledge, bardic performance (move action, 20 rounds/day; countersong, distraction, fascinate [Will DC 17], inspire competence +3, slumber song [Will DC 19; as deep slumber, no HD limit], stealspell [Will DC 17]), cantrips, lore master 1/day, versatile performance (Diplomacy, Sense Motive), well-versed
Gear +1 chain shirt, +1 heavy wooden shield, masterwork light crossbow (15 bolts), masterwork rapier
Bard Spells Known
3rd (2/day)—charm monster (DC 17), confusion (DC 17)
2nd (4/day)—blindness/deafness(DC 16), hold person (DC 16),suggestion (DC 16), tongues
1st (5/day)—charm person(DC 15), cure light wounds, disguise self, feather fall, summon monster I
0th—detect magic, ghost sound, lullaby, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic
TACTICS
Daineus uses Spellsong (swift action, Perform [oratory] vs observer’s Perception/Sense Motive to realize a spell is being cast) to hide charm person and lullaby before using suggestion to draw the member of the party with the mask of thirst away into an otherwise empty chamber, where she tries to convince them to give her the item willingly—even offering another mask of diplomacy +1 in trade.
Anyone that interferes is targeted with blindness/deafness or confusion (hidden by Spellsong). If bartering fails, Count Krev (hiding in the shadows; his statistics will be on the AaWBlog tomorrow, but in the meanwhile use the “Freelance Thief” entry in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: NPC Codex if need be) loses his patience and assaults the PC, attempting to wrestle away the mask of thirst physically! Five of his most trusted acolytes, scattered throughout the masquerade, come to back him up and ensure none of the guests realize that there is an attack going on in one of the mansion’s rooms.

Sanguineus Acolyte
 
Sanguine AcolyteCR 4 (XP 1,200)
Male or Female human (Klavek) fighter 4/sorcerer 1
HP 44 (4d10+1d6+19); AC 18, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+6 armor, +3 Dex, +1 dodge)
Init+3; Speed 30 ft.; Atk mwk rapier +6 (1d6+3, Crit 18-20/x2) or mwk light crossbow +8 (1d8, Crit 19-20/x2, Range 80 ft.)
Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 18
AL Neutral Evil; SV Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +3; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 14
Skills Bluff +8, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (religion) +4, Perception +5; Feats Combat Casting, Dodge, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Spell Focus (necromancy); Eschew Materials, Toughness, Weapon Focus (rapier), Weapon Specialization (rapier)
Sorcerer Spells Known(CL 1st; concentration +3, +7 defensive; spell chance failure 25%)
1st (3/day)—ray of enfeeblement (DC 15; CL 2nd), ray of sickening (DC 15; CL 2nd)
0th—acid splash, detect magic, mage hand, touch of fatigue (DC 14; CL 2nd)
Bloodline Undead (Sanguine)
Gear masterwork breastplate, masterwork rapier, masterwork light crossbow, 78 gold
The Blood Is the Life (Su) Sanguineus Acolytes can gain sustenance from the blood of the recently dead 5 times a day. As a standard action, they can drink the blood of a creature that died within the past minute. The creature must be corporeal, must be at least the same size as them, and must have blood. This ability heals the Sanguineus Acolyte 1d6 hit points and nourishes them as if they’d had a full meal.
TACTICS
These cultists have little regard for their own well-being, believing (falsely) that an afterlife of pleasure or existence as an immortal undead awaits them. They will wade into battle, attempting to first weaken and sicken their targets with spells before dashing forward with their rapiers. The instant another of their group falls, however, any adjacent Sanguineus Acolytes are overcome by blood lust—they drop to the ground and feed on their recently fallen peer without regard to any dangers doing so might present.

 

Items Sanguineus 
At this point in the adventure, either Count Krev has the items and dons all three (the
mask of thirst, cloak of the dark servant and amulet of the sundered heart) or one of the PCs does: doing so causes them to disappear entirely until the stroke of midnight! However, Countess Veresovich has been prepared for the arrival of the Cultus Sanguineus items for some time and her entire mansion is warded specifically for their use. If a creature dons all three items while within her home, the entire manor and its surroundings are coated in magical darkness for 3 rounds as they are affected by the items’ rituals.

Countess Veresovich’s preparations protect the creature from the harshest of the Items Sanguineuseffects: only on a natural 1 will they fail the associated Fortitude and Will saves, though they still disappear until midnight. On the end of the third round, the magical darkness from all around the mansion draws back in on itself and explodes into a vortex of blood that splatters everywhere, coating all squares previously occupied by the disappearing creature in a fifteen-foot radius.

Blood Vortex — CR 9
 
XP 6,400
NE persistent haunt (manifestation) (15 ft. radius)
Caster Level 14th
Notice Perception DC 20 (to get a feeling of a centuries old hunger which soon shall be sated)
HP 40; Trigger (special see text); Reset 1 day
Effect When the items transform anyone into a vampire, Exsanguinator’s desire and yearning for blood manifests as a swirling vortex of razor-sharp blood droplets. The manifestation deals 10d6 damage (Reflex DC 22 for half). The vortex remains stationary and lasts for two rounds, after which the vortex harmlessly dissipates.
Destruction:  A manifestation is indestructible permanently unless the entity behind it is slain or banished back to whatever realm they came from.

After someone has donned all three of the Items Sanguineus, the nobles and merchants at the grand ball become far more talkative and Countess Veresovich is nowhere to be seen—the DCs for them to reveal their secrets drop by 10 and may be attempted again if previously failed.

Were that not enough, the Exsanguinator has been waiting, watching his acolyte Veresovich mastermind the bloodbath about to take place. The blood vortex caused by her rituals of protections and the Items Sanguineus draw his hunger; he locks the building down, barring the outsides with walls of force (CL 14th). On the other side of the walls of force are more of the blood vortex haunts, out to a radius of 20 feet from every surface of the building’s outside walls.

The adventurers (possibly missing one of their own) are trapped within Veresovich Manor, surrounded by the extremely-panicked nobles and merchants, utterly bereft of a host or direction! They must try to divine what is going on before the stroke of midnight, when all HEL breaks loose…

[A Myler/Wiborg Projekt]