The Shackled Citystate

Assault on the Temple of Wee Jas
Caleb Meets Pelor . . . Again.

After interrogating the would-be assassins with the aid of a Speak with Dead spell, the party’s attention turned to the Temple of Wee Jas. Since all worship services had ceased at the temple, the party rightly guessed that the clerics would be prepared for them, and the assault would not be an easy one. Even then, the ferocity of the temple’s defenders was surprising. The main hall of the temple was well-defended by half-orc warriors, stone giants, and an evil cleric. Though it took a few rounds, the party mowed down these front line defenders and took off in hot pursuit of the fleeing cleric, chasing him up an iron staircase and into the Hall of the Night’s Rising.

As they mounted the last few steps, things turned ugly quickly. The clerics had conjured several nightmarish creatures to aid in their defense. Gray Render zombies prevented the entire party from moving into the hall and effectively split the spellcasters from the warriors in the group. As the fighters hacked away at the zombies and a bone devil, the head cleric and a dread wraith wrecked havoc on the rest of the party. The lowest moment of the battle came when the head priest used a vile spell to slay Caleb. What had been an exciting foray to bring the wicked to justice now became a grim mission of vengeance. Slowly but surely, the party heaped blow after blow on the evildoers until finally even the wraith was sent to the lower planes of the Abyss.

Saddened, the party returned to the Church of Pelor to report the news of Caleb’s passing. But fear not gentle reader, this is fantasy, and death is sometimes only a temporary resting place. Summoning a priest from beyond the City State, Jenya ordered the resurrection of Pelor’s boldest champion. Evidently, it was not yet Caleb’s time to remain within the all-consuming light.

While healing their wounds, Risa was approached by Shensen, a female drow elf she had rescued in a previous adventure. The party’s help was desperately needed for a rescue mission. Fario, a Strider of Fharlanghn who had aided the party earlier in their adventures, had been captured by the Last Laugh, the Assassins Guild in the City State. Meerthan, the leader of the Striders, asked the party to rescue Fario before he revealed any information regarding the Striders. Unknown to his captors, Meerthan’s telepathic connection with Fario had revealed the location of his captivity . . . and the disturbing news that he was currently being tortured.

The party immediately set out to the Last Laugh’s hideout. Fueled by their anger over Caleb’s death and the difficulty of their trials in the Temple of Wee Jas, the party went all-SWAT on the unsuspecting assassins. Smashing through an upper story window, they moved methodically from room to room eliminating all resistance. Within minutes, they had located the torture chamber. Unfortunately, Fario’s captor decided to have her own last laugh and slit Fario’s throat as the party approached. And just who was his captor? None other than the assassin the party had tangled with on their very first day in the Citystate. Oh the connection of plot lines!

The party quickly ransacked the hideout and returned Fario’s body to Meerthan. Evidently the gods weren’t accepting any new souls this week because Meerthan brought Fario back to the living by Fharlanghn’s grace. Fario revealed some very disturbing information about suspicious happenings at the House of Rhiavadi, one of the noble houses of the City State. Now the party turns its attention to House Rhiavadi as a possible link in the chain of evil that is slowly tightening around their beloved home.

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Test of the Smoking Eye, Part Deux
A Paladin's Reward and a Bar Brawl

At the top of the stairs, the party found an evil lich stoking a bonfire of black flame. As you entered the room, it attacked. Though Myaruk the Lich unleashed some seriously bad mojo on the party, you were once again victorious.

The Lantern of Guidance pointed to a spiral staircase in the back of the room. Following the light, you found yourselves once again confronted by one of the mummies charged with administering the test. The mummy stood next to a gusher of flaming red light. It stated that the final test was this: “sacrifice an ally to the plasma, and Occipitus is yours!” At this moment, Kaurophon turned on the party (to absolutely no one’s surprise). Foolish Kaurophon! Hadn’t he seen how you had dispatched the evil denizens of this fiendish plane?! Did he not realize how little chance he had of actually killing the party?! Nope, he didn’t.

And so he was quickly dispatched, but not before Tancred the paladin decided that the only honorable way to complete the test was to sacrifice himself. Stepping into the flame, he expected to quickly join his ancestors in the afterlife. Instead, he was transported out of the flame. The fire had changed him in several ways. The most obvious change was that his left eye had been replaced with a smoking flame! More wonderous indeed was that he now could feel the plane surrounding and could shape it to his will. You could almost hear the sighs of the dead as they realized that their souls would one day return to Celestia as Tancred’s goodness transformed the plane and removed it from the Abyss.

The test completed, Caleb used one of the plane shift scrolls to return the party to the City State. When Jenya learned of Alek’s death, a funeral fitting the most noble of knights was held. Soon, the party settled back into their daily routines.

That is until a pleasant evening at the She Devil Tavern was interrupted by a gang of assassins. They attacked without warning. As a brutish half-orc sought to separate Ody’s head from his shoulders, its compatriots, a human male and female, cast spells to bring down the party. Unfortunately for the assassins, Risa keen senses spotted the approaching danger, and she quickly moved to flank the spellcasters. Surprised to be attacked from behind, the tide was quickly turned and the party quickly cut down the last assassin as he attempted to escape.

Caleb used a speak with dead spell to interrogate one of the would-be assassins. They had been hired by “The Veiled Lady”. Caleb immediately knew that this was a reference to Wee Jas. This was very troubling. Jenya had shared with Caleb that the Church of Pelor was concerned that the Church of Wee Jas seemed to have grown very powerful in the last few months. As a seemingly spiteful act against Pelor, they had even begun construction on a new spire for their church that threatens to cast a permanent shadow over the cathedral to Pelor. The party decided to investigate the church. Jenya suspected that they would likely have to fight their way in.

Their investigation would have to wait until the next day, however, because the party was once again attacked as they left Pelor’s temple to begin their preparations. A giant half-minotaur/half-dragon creature named Zarik Dhor challenged the killers of the “Dragon Father” to fight to the death. Hmmm, what do you know? I guess that Vorkaire had a child after all! Though the creature was incredibly strong, it could not last long against the party’s combined might. With it’s dying breath, it paid it’s respect to the “truly mighty warriors”.

As we begin our next session, the party prepares to infiltrate the Church of Wee Jas and discover what evil secrets might lie within!

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The Test of the Smoking Eye
Have I Got a Real Estate Deal for You!

When we last left the party, you had traveled to the demiplane Occipitus, a chunk of a celestial plane that has been cast down into the abyss after a war with a rebellious angel named Adimarchus. Your new traveling companion, Kaurophon, says that it is your destiny to pass the Test of the Smoking Eye and take control of the plane. Though you do not trust Kaurophon, these were also the dying words of Alek Tercival, a paladin of Pelor, and so you are willing to play along.

The first test involved defeating a horrible spider named Thathnak. After making quick work of this foul bebilith and rescuing an angel named Halalia, you were rewarded with the Lantern of Guidance. This lantern would light the way to your next test.

The second test turned out to be one of perserverance and dedication. The Lantern led you along a twisted path that was full of distractions: a basilisk, a retriever, a dying coatl that you rescued, and several grave robbing clerics of Wee Jas. Any pause in the Lantern’s progress teleported the user and those close to him (or her) back to the start of the test. Fortunately, Risa surmised the purpose of this test and continued to move forward as the party quickly dispatched each nasty distraction.

The end of the path led right up to the skull-shaped structure in the center of Occipitus. You were ready for the final test. First, however, you had to deal with the sudden appearance of the black dragon Vorkaire. The battle looked like it might go pretty badly until once again Risa’s clever mind saved the day! Using a web spell from her magic cloak, she downed the circling dragon. Everyone then moved in to quickly beat the bejesus out of poor Vorkaire and send him off to dragon hades. Let’s hope he doesn’t have any relatives!

You then approached the entrance to the skull and found another trapped angel. Dispondent and wounded, Saureya had been trapped on Occipitus for centuries. During this time, he was forced to help design the Test of the Smoking Eye. He revealed that he had designed a flaw into the tests: one did not have to complete the first two tests to proceed to the final one. Doh! He also revealed that a rival pair of creatures, a fire giant and a rakshasa, were already moving through the skull to the final test.

Without any further delay, you headed into the skull and quickly tracked down the deadly duo. The giant proved to be no match for the bashing that the party heaped upon it. The rakshasa was a different story entirely. It’s damage reduction kept it from being hurt by all but the most powerful blows. Thanks to Ody’s anti-wizard ability to drain spell casting ability, the rakshasa soon found itself without any offensive capabilities. A stalemate ensued until the rakshasa suddenly sprinted down the tunnel. The party followed and chased it into a room with a beserk clay golem. After Hildstaf imprisoned the golem in a wall of force, the rakshasa found itself trapped. It parleyed and agreed to leave the skull and not return. The party accepted these terms.

Now the group faced a difficult choice: wait for the wall of force to fizzle and deal with the beserk golem or head up the spiral staircase at the end of the room. (Okay, maybe it was also getting late, and we were tired). Gathering up their courage, the party ascended the stairs and prepared to face the final test!

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The Demonskar
Ambush in the Desert!

The party ventured back to the Demonskar and down into Vaprak’s Voice. There they faced off against the hill giants and ettins, who were a little better prepared this time. After a few battles, they fought their way to a room with three “angels”. Tancred quickly detected their evil auras and the beat-down was on. Once dispatched, the three “angels” turned out to be hags. The party then found the magical staff Alakast hidden away in a secret compartment and a strange mirror in a nearby room.

Having defeated the hags and retreived the staff, it was time to settle the score with the fire giant whose flying, fiery anvils had brought about Dreori’s demise. The party settled into another very tough battle, but emerged victorious after Caleb landed the killing blow.

Leaving the giant’s corpse smoldering in the hallway, it was back to investigate the strange mirror. The mirror turned out to be a portal that led to a series of identical rooms with mirrors of different colors hanging on the walls. After a little trial and error, the party discovered the correct combination of colored mirrors and found themselves standing in a room with a locked iron door and a very despondent paladin lying on the floor.

Alek Tercival, paladin and member of the Church of Pelor, had been found! Alek explained how he’d been tricked by the three hags and pleaded with the party to help him retract his challenge of Terseon Skellerang. The party readily agreed and set to work on the locked iron door.

Breaking the door down revealed a short staircase and a small temple whose entrance was blocked by sand. Sand?! But there isn’t a desert within hundreds of miles of the City State. Could it be that the mirror had transported the party clear across The Wilderlands?

As the party set out to explore the area, a demon appeared at the entrance to the temple. Nabathatoron the demon bellowed, “You shall not save your friend, mortals! The time of peace is at an end!” Alek Tercival charged into battle with the demon and was quickly cut down. It looked like Nabathatoron would escape when the party’s mage proved himself invaluable by casting a spell that not only hurt the demon but kept him stunned for several rounds. Let the hacking commence!

The celebration of victory over the demon was momentary, however, as Alek deperately motioned for Caleb to come close to hear his dying words. When he spoke, it is not the voice of Alek but rather that of the angel you had met in the woods so many days before. “There is naught left for you in Cauldron, heroes,” she began. “To return is to enter your own graves and to bring doom upon all you love! Trust the sign of the Smoking Eye if you wish to save them all!” The paladin’s eyes then slowly closed, and he passed from this realm.

After a proper funeral for Alek had been performed, the party headed out into the dunes in search of some other human presence. After only a few hours, the party was again ambushed by creatures from the demon realms. As the party made quick work of a few foolish Babaus, a strange figure appeared to help them. After the battle was ended, he introduced himself as Kaurophon and explained that he had been sent to bring the party to a place called Occipitus, a bit of celestial realm that had fallen into the abyss. There, he stated, the party must pass the Test of the Smoking Eye. Though Tancred could see evil in his heart, Alek’s final words were still fresh in each of their minds, and they agreed to travel with the strange being.

After casting a Plane Shift spell, this is the sight that greeted the party. “The sky seems to be made of flame, bathing everything in a reddish glow. Off in the distance looms a massive skull: a white monolith the size of a small mountain. Clouds of flame stream from the skull’s single exposed eye socket and up into the sky. About a half-mile ahead stands a cluster of gently curving white pillars, almost as if giant rib bones had been stuck in the ground. In the distance looms a steep mountain ridge whose top seems to touch the fiery sky. It stretches around the entire horizon – as if you were standing inside a vast bowl with a fiery lid. The ground is spongy and wrinkled. It’s more like skin than dirt.”

Let the test begin!

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Dreori backround
The chosen leaves his clan

A fain falls as Dreori, an Orchillian who has been found to have been given the gift of inborn magic from the Dragon Lords, a race that ruled in the time of legends- before recorded time. As the Dragon Lords began thier decline and became hunted, they gave birth to the Orchillan race, and the blood and talent for magic of these once powerful “Dragon Kings” still finds its way into a few Orchillian children. They are known as “Pious Ones” among thier many clans, who hide in the hills to the west of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, as there are forces who still hunt the Dragon Lords and to a lesser extent, the Orhillians. Inside the city is the last known relic of the times of the Dragon Kings- a series of metal plates found near the Calender Obelisk underneath the City State itself. The plates are inscribed with runes and called “the Chronology of the Dragon- Kings”. Both the Calender and the plates have been studied by great mages, priests, and archivists, but it gives little knowledge of the times, only names of great kings and their reign.

For the past three days and nights, Dreori has been the center of ancient rites and rituals among his people, for few will ever have his power, and those that due are sent to look for the plates, as well as reconnect with ancient temples to the north, from the Irminsul Forest to the Valley of the Ancients, and travelling south through the thin strip of land known as Orcha, the last bastion of the existing Dragon Lords. The rituals are meant to give Dreori the ability to cut his own “runestones”, magical stones held by the Orchillian clans to empower the Pious with the hope someday the plates and the obelisk will return to thier rightful owners. He is unique among Orchillians, and must live his life away from his people until the items are returned. Death is the only other option for failure to find these treasures, as Dreori knows he cannot return to his people empty handed. His gift is also his curse. Knowing he must leave, he gathers the last of his packs and heads towards the City State, alone.

NEXT: Inside the walls.

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Campaign Background
Poker Buddies Roll Some Dice

Some Information About the Shackled Citystate Campaign

For this campaign, I’ve used two primary sources. The first is The Shackled City Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing. As a group we had been discussing what kinds of adventures we’d never really played before. Several ideas were batted around: an adventure at sea, an artic setting, and an urban adventure. I am big fan of the Theives World series and really enjoyed the idea of an urban campaign. When I read the first Shackled City adventure in Dungeon Magazine, I knew I’d found what I’d been looking for.

The only drawback to The Shackled City was that Cauldron felt just a little too small for what I wanted to do. I was looking a setting with lots of possible NPCs and some rich background information. I also wanted a location that felt like it was flexible enough that I could add my own material and change the landscape of the city to fit the action of the adventure. The Citystate of the Invincible Overlord by Judges Guild fit the bill perfectly! Its geographic location enough comes close to the setting for Cauldron with nearby jungles and mountainous areas. I also really like the dark, gritty atmosphere of the Citystate. The effect so far has been to magnify the events in The Shackled City. When Redgorge is threatened, the party knows of the impending danger partly because a Vasthost is recalled to the Citystate.

All in all this campaign has been a blast to DM! Each of the player characters has an interesting backstory and his or her own personality. The campaign is nicely paced so that it provides a wide variety of locales and types of adventures. And the campaign as a whole has an epic feel that feels like the appropriate kind of story for the heroes.

A Little Information About Our Group

We are a group of 30-something guys in the Chicago area who have playing together for over six years now. We all played in high school, and a bit of this is about being able to play the game in the way that we wished we could have when we were teenagers: with all the bells and whistles. We use the Dwarven Forge Dungeon Tiles, buildings made to scale, handmade terrain pieces, handpainted metal minis for player characters and tons of the plastic minis for monsters and NPCs. More than anything, we appreciate the time that we find once a month to gather around the gaming table, eat some pizza, and laugh at each other’s stories.

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