Session 1: A Plague of CatsEdit

Ascendant moon: Shen

Having just joined the Adventurer's Guild, the five PCs met at the Platinum Dragon and ritually shared a bit of backstory to become an official adventuring group. A ranking member of the guild, Den Frostwarder, gave them their choice of two different adventures to start off with: either they could go to the Market district and clear out some muck elementals that had been clogging up the sewers, or they could help an outlying village defeat some "fearsome monsters" that were attacking it.

Not being fond of the sewers, the party chose the second option. Following Den's directions they got to the town of Picayune and found it devoid of activity. After interrogating the cows in a barn, the party found a family of commoners boarded up in their house. The father, Oser, had been mauled while in his fields, and his wife was near hysterical in pleading for the party to help them. (Oser himself seemed less than thrilled, while their 5-year-old son barraged the party with questions.) Apparently a local named Jeb usually protected the town, but for some reason hadn't. After Doc Terminus's attempt at curing Oser instead shrunk him to half his size, the party was quickly ushered out and told to see if they could figure out what was up with Jeb.

After tracking down his house (artfully decorated with the skulls of several score badgers, housecats, kobolds, goblins, and other low-level monsters), they got to listed to Jeb, a crusty old codger, harangue them as "high-and-mighty adventurers." Apparently he'd been defending the town for nearly fifty years, but had recently developed an allergy to cats, which was why he wasn't helping out. He thought it was high time some other young village whelp got some backbone, but so far no one had stepped up to the task.

Don Pequeno's insinuating insults got Jeb pretty riled up, and he slammed the door in the party's face. He did open it enough to throw them out some balls of yarn and a bundle of catnip, though. And right then a hooded figure approached the house, proclaiming itself "Mon Gatticus" and casting a spell that made half the party smell like anchovies, triggering over a dozen cats to start attacking them. The following battle was fierce but relatively short, involving the trouncing of many housecats and several shadow-summoned ones as well (and one lynx with very poor eyesight that kept hitting posts instead of PCs). During this fight Violetta suddenly and miraculously recovered from the cold that had kept her from saying or doing anything up to this point, and with a few good shots she managed to take out Mon Gatticus. Picayune was saved, and the party went back to Nexus to collect their adventuring licenses.

In-Between AdventuresEdit

During the time-skip between the first and second sessions, the PCs had the following adventures:

  • The Sweet Destruction, wherein over the course of three cold winter weeks the party had to save the town of Pearilous from an avalanche of molasses.
  • Wrath of the Jigglemaster, wherein the party defeated Lord Jiggulous and his army of Jello elementals.
  • The Buccaneers of Bristol, wherein the party had to defend an airship convoy from the attacks of the Dread Pirate Sullivan and his crew of bardic buccaneers.
  • The Dragon’s Ante, wherein the party rescued a young female bard from an elder vermillion dragon through clever game of poker. (Kethalia, the rescued bard, has repaid the group by becoming their official groupie and recorder-of-exaggerated-tales.)
  • The Pernician Kestrel, wherein the part had to smuggle a valuable bird statue past endless ranks of undead customs agents.
  • The Defense of Waydev, wherein the party actually had to defend a town from marauding orcs.
  • The Squishing Fields, wherein the party was hired to de-infest the grounds of Lord Garrulous of its ten thousand dire cockroaches.
  • Staged Performance, wherein the party had to protect the orcish rock band Blades and Axes from other adventurers trying to get some XP.
  • The Adventurer's First Primer, wherein the group was hired my a rather hysterical halfling woman to defeat the vicious beasts in her basement. The group found a small nest of rats. Not dire rats—the normal, non-dire kind. Hey, it was a few XP and the lady paid well. Plus, the group earned the requisite "Kill a Rat" roleplaying achievement.
  • The Tide of Death, wherein Orcus, Lord of Undead, tore open the barriers between the Abyss and the Prime Material Plane and flooded the world with undead demons. The epic-level party, armed with +6 vorpal greatswords and the cosmos's most powerful magics, only just managed to defeat the tide of monsters and, in a final climactic battle, slew the very prince of undead himself, the demon prince Orcus. Then reality shimmered and everyone found themselves back to normal, blinking and wondering what strange stellar confluence or planar conjunction made THAT happen.
  • Invasion of the Cow Snatchers, wherein the group was recruited to help a farm defend their livestock against invading creatures from another plane that wished to abduct the cattle for unknown but undoubtedly nefarious purposes. The night was long and grueling, but in the end the heroes prevailed in saving their bovine charges from the strange creatures and were rewarded with milk and cookies.

Session 2: Lost MenagerieEdit

Ascendant moon: Morre

After perusing the notice board at the Platinum Dragon, the heroes decided to check out the following advertisement:

Itinerate wizard seeks band of adventurers to recover miscellaneous lost items. Quick response please. Rewards: 2000 GP base, additional depending on results. Inquire for Jontho at 47 Moltenna Way, Nexus.

Upon arriving at the locale, the heroes were greeted warmly by the elf Jontho and led to his basement laboratory, where his halfbrother had recently sabotaged his entry for the 347th Annual Create-A-Creature Competition. (Though he left boot tracks, a bit of torn robe, and a mocking note, contest rules prevented Jontho from prosecuting his brother unless he was caught in the act.) The sabotage was done by overfeeding Jontho's Carp of Serene Meditation, which had the unfortunate habit of exploding when overfull. (The heroes quickly realized Jontho is very well intentioned but tends to create ridiculously destructive things unintentionally.) It let three of his creations escape:

  • A saber-toothed lemmingsaur (aka "Fluffy"), a pint-sized engine of firebreathing destruction that will instantly and unrelentingly attack anyone named Cliff. Supposedly created to aid rulers in learning the proper use of their power.
  • A nine-headed Penguioctopus (main head plus one on each arm) named Petunia that has a voracious appetite for fish. Intended to amuse children at birthday parties.
  • A collection of cranium lice, which mentally control victims and force them into massive multi-level marketing schemes. Originally meant to aid meditation and concentration.

Lacking any firm leads, the party headed to the Market District to see if they could find the penguioctopus around the fishmongers. There was no sign of it, but after some investigation they overheard one fishmonger complaining to the Thieve's Guild about unauthorized thefts. The fishmonger, a high-ranking member of the guild, didn't seem particularly happy to have adventurers involved, but he let them see the warehouses where the fish had been stolen from. After some investigation (and dealing with a pathologically dour half-orc guard named Engen), they figured out that the penguioctopus was coming in through drains in the floor, and that the best way to lure it was to use bacon-wrapped arctic trout.

After a brief trip to the market for supplies, the party set their trap in an unpilfered warehouse and set about to wait. Around 2 AM Petunia came knocking, having grown to Large size with all the fish she'd stolen. After a brief struggle involving several flying kicks, some shoves, and judicious use of sleep, Petunia was locked in a crate and delivered to Jontho, where she was received with much joy and cuddling.

One creature down, the party then returned to the Market, where the day before they'd spotted a young man selling Cramway beauty products whom they suspected of being infested with cranium lice. They couldn't find him, but did find a young woman who tried to push the same products on them, including forcibly spraying Shitake with perfume. A minute later she developed an irresistible urge to buy and share the products, so Andry hauled her off to a bathhouse to get rid of the lice. Meanwhile, Violetta forcibly shoved conditioner into the woman's hair, at which point she woke up and wondered where she was. After removing the cranium lice into a jar, Violetta let her go and confiscated the Cramway supplies. All the lice got returned to Jontho, whom Andry Intimidated into burning them. (It's unknown whether he actually carried through with it.)

Tracking the lemmingsaur led the party to Embertown, after Violetta realized that the rumors of increased lab explosions there were due to half the businesses being named after Cliffhaven. The party ran to one and, after rescuing a young drawf woman, saw a small furry something dart out of the building when the firefighter turned a decanter of endless water on the blast. A brief fight later had Zhou grab the lemmingsaur and stuff it in a metal chamberpot Violetta had conveniently brought along for just that purpose. Its fiery breath scorched the pot to glowing red, but judicious use of mage hand and hold portal let them carry it back to Jontho without the lemmingsaur escaping.

Jontho was overjoyed to have his Fluffy back, and rewarded the PCs with both their promised 2000 GP and their pick of some spare magic items he had tinkered around with. Predictably, they had interesting side-effects, such as mittens that keep you warm and incidentally shoot waves of flame, and seeds that make little serene bonsai trees that then explode into massive blasts of acid. (Doubtless the party will find many and sundry uses for them that would be appalling to the kindhearted Jontho.)

Session 3: Planar PizzaEdit

Ascendant moon: Vitrium

Due to Morre's ascension last time, Nexus had been predictably beset by yet another necromancer making a bid for local domination. Thankfully, Ariolimaximus the Beslimed and his army of necro-slugs were easily taken out, especially once it was discovered they all had Vulnerability 5 (salt). After mopping up a small nest of slugs they'd stumbled upon, the party headed to the Platinum Dragon for a bit of lunch and to see what jobs were available.

After checking out the notice board, they decided on an advertisement they'd seen previously but which had been updated since last time:

  • Wanted: Band of ^competent adventurers to defend supply caravans from brigands and poachers, and to remove said poachers. Interplanar experience preferred. Rewards: Standard, plus free pizza ^and bonus 500 GP each. Inquire at Planar Pizza.

Enticed by the promise of pizza, the party headed to Planar Pizza, in Nexus's Portal District, and met with the proprietor, a portly halfling named Don Donatelli. The Don showed them the secret to the restaurant's success: a small portal he had found that led to the Elemental Plane of Pizza. He'd used it's pristine ingredients to build his restaurant, but the Chef's Guild hadn't taken kindly to his edging in on their turf and he suspects they're behind recent attacks on his supply lines and the poaching of the plane's native denizens, the pizza turtles.

After squeezing through the portal, the party used Violetta's airship (shrunk and then re-enlarged to fit through) and the plane's subjective gravity to start scouting for the interplanar pizza pirates. After a few hours they managed to track a small pirate ship, though due to their less-than-stellar* planar tracking abilities the pirates got the jump on them.

*pun intended

Thence began an epic battle, wherein the pirates showed their severe lack of ability to hit anything meaningful (except for Shitake who got used as a pincushion for an acid dagger). Eventually the party killed two of the pirates and took the remaining three captive. They were able to locate some maps on the ship, but couldn't decipher the code and so had to coerce one of the pirates into telling them. (It helped when Boo bit off his companion's fingers in an escape attempt.) The party then headed to the pirates' base, anchored off an oregano asteroid in the outer fringes of the plane. When they got near they had to strip the pirates to use their clothing as a disguise, and thence followed an exchange between Violetta and one of the pirates that demonstrated her ability to thoroughly dress-down and insult those who deserve it.

The party managed to sneak to the pirate vessel, but were found out as soon as the boss ("The Baron," a chef dressed all in black with some sort of magical spork) appeared. Then followed another epic fight, which was going badly for the PCs until Zhou so badly hurt the Baron that he fled with a personal plane shift. The pirates fell into disarray then (severe enough it seemed that the Baron may have been boosting them magically), and were quickly vanquished. Searching the Baron's quarters found a bunch of high-quality food, some platinum diningware, and the sextant of interplanar transference hidden behind a picture. (The sextant is a lesser Macguffin that allows plane shift twice per day, but you have to know the right coordinates or you could end up literally anywhere.) After selling the pirate's galleon to Don Donatelli, the party made off with a hefty profit and a coupon of free pizza +5 each.

Session 4: The Nose KnowsEdit

Ascendant moon: Shen

The session started with the PCs receiving a fruit basket from the wizard Jontho, thanking them for their help previously and informing them of some awards he'd won in the Create-A-Creature competition. The basket included a rich variety of fruits, including several "blissmelons" from Jontho's own garden. (The flesh is divine, but swallowing the seeds can apparently cause temporary psychosis; Andry tried it on a summoned celestial poodle, but they weren't able to learn much before she dismissed it.)

Checking out the notice board, the party decided to take up the following advertisement:

  • The noble kingdom of Valour seeks the aid of Good-hearted adventurers in defeating a sinister plague that is crippling the ranks of its noble paladins. Rewards: Standard, paid in gold currency, plus the grace and gratitude of Valour.

The party loaded up on handkerchiefs, then headed to Valour, a noble kingdom with 85% of the population having at least one rank in Paladin. (The neighboring city-states consider Valour to be honest, hardworking, and a little annoying.) They were intercepted outside the palace by some guards and led down to speak with the Crown Prince, Ertis. The Prince was happy to see the his party arrive, though his black-clad advisor, Moreldred, most certainly was not.

Ertis explained that a few weeks ago Valour had been beset by a crippling plague. It didn't kill, but it left victims--apparently chosen at random--with severe congestion, headaches, mild fever, burning eyes, and often in utter misery. Worst of all was that the kingdom's holy relic--The Nose of Saint Velinar de Bergerac--had been affected, completely invalidating its ability to smell evil approaching the kingdom. The Prince suspected one of Valour's enemies was going to move against it, but didn't know who or when.

The PCs started by trying to track down the source of the plague. They visited the Adamantine Cathedral, which had been turned into a hospital ward for the plague victims. After talking with an eager cleric and his presumed Patient Zero, they found that the first cases had all begun in and around the Palace. Looking over the palace themselves didn't reveal anything, so they began questioning the staff. Few had answers until one recommended they talk to the gardener, since most of his staff appeared to have escaped unscathed, supposedly due to "good, healthy sunshine."

The gardener, Master Kinnemack, was busy trimming some of the many topiaries around the palace grounds when the PCs found him. They he claimed innocence, Andry's detect thoughts revealed he was hiding something, and after some hefty intimidation he left slip that breathing through holy water-soaked cloth could prevent and cure the disease. He then revealed that he'd been paid by an unknown person to plant ornamental dire ragweed around the palace, which he had seen as a colossal joke on all the stuck-up paladins. Of course, now that he'd told them that, the had to kill them, and he commanded the topiaries to attack.

Though the battle was fierce, Kinnemack was no fighter and quickly fell to Zhou's massive pummeling, with the topiaries following thereafter to others' combined attacks. (Including, in a bit of irony, the detonation of several of the bonsai trees of arboreal harmony that they'd gotten from Jontho.) Before they could haul Kinnemack to the Prince, however, messages arrived heralding the arrival of the army of Loathslow, ready to sack and destroy Valour.

The PCs hurried to the Prince and explained the situation, then came up with the idea of catapulting the ragweed among the enemy army. A frantic hour later and the front lines of Loathslow lay beleaguered by massive allergies, even while the paladins of Valour began recovering (thanks to their copious ability to produce holy water). Since Loathslow hated nothing more than a fair fight, Ertis was confident they would retreat within a few days, and summarily thanked the PCs and sent them on their way with their reward in gold pieces.

As a final enigma, once the party arrived back in Nexus they found a package for Don Pequeno, consisting of a single red rose without any clue as to who had sent it.

Session 5: The Dark Lord RisesEdit

Ascendant moon: Vitrium, changing to Primalis

The party was playing a rousing round of Three Dragon Ante with Den Frostwarder at the Platinum Dragon as the session began. While he stepped out to answer nature's call, a pair of smartly dressed waiters delivered a gorgeous cake to the party's table, tricked out in sculpted icing filigree and cold blue flame waterfalls. Den just had time to shout a warning before it exploded, hitting the PCs with a blast of bone-chilling cold. The cake, it turns out, was one of the Chef's Guild's famed cake suzettes, their favored tool of assassination.

After debating for a few minutes whether they should seek revenge now or let their enemy (presumably the Baron, whom they defeated on the Elemental Plane of Pizza) level up some to get more XP for defeating him later, they decided to check the notice board and see what their other options were. Intrigued by one of the ads, they decided to follow this one:

  • Rising dark lord seeks band of semi-competent adventurers to attempt to thwart his ascension to power. Inquire at Roilhill, upper Waddavewe. Reward: Whatever you can claim from my cold, dead fingers

The PCs took the southern route to Waddavewe, preferring the ale and leiderhosen of Umlout to the vampires and blood-taxes of Sangria, for some reason. They made it with only a minor, off-screen encounter with some giant shrews, and after lots of asking around were able to locate the small hamlet of Roilville in the Western part of the nation. The little hamlet was little more than a collection of buildings around a crossroads, and as they arrived a crazy old man approached them ranting about how death had come on the back of a giant chicken, and the scream of the hedgehog of death would show them all as the Geistmeister came to claim them all for their sins!!!! [sic]

Brushing the old codger off, the party headed straight for the town's only inn. As soon as they walked through the door the innkeeper sized them up and asked if they were adventurers coming in response to the disappearances. When they said yes, except they hadn't heard of any disappearances, the innkeeper said he'd tell them about it after they'd had a chance to get settled; dark was coming on, and no one would be going out again anyway.

After getting a pair of adjoining rooms, the party headed back downstairs for some dinner. The innkeeper introduced himself as Serran, and explained that for the past few weeks there'd been odd sounds at night and farm animals found mutilated, and just the past few days a few people on the outskirts had gone missing. Whenever weird stuff like this happens adventurers always seem to show up after a while, so he wasn't surprised the party had come to town. He also explained that the old crazy man was "Crazy Coot," who had been prophesying gloom and doom for as long as anyone could remember. (His previous rant a few weeks back had been about Brassicales, Dark Lord of Cabbages, and before that it was P'tui, the Penguin Ultimus.)

Halfway through dinner the party was interrupted with an ear-shattering, soul-chilling scream coming from outside. Everyone stayed hushed for a few minutes, but it didn't repeat, and gradually things went back to normal. Serren explained that they hadn't heard that one before, but stuff like it had been going on for a while.

The night passed relatively uneventfully, and the next morning a farmer came into the inn to ask if any adventurers had shown up yet. His name was Eron, and his farm had been subject to a lot of the weird noises, and this morning he'd woken up to find a message on the side of the barn in chicken blood. (He couldn't read it though, being illiterate.) The PCs followed him out to his farm and found it as described, but they couldn't read the ancient script either. Thankfully, Shitake's newly inherited sword Kusanagotchi could, and translated it as the typical "Your souls shall be mine" fare of evil forces.

Tramping through the woods discovered a few patches of dying plant life, but nothing more, so the party decided to stay the night in the barn. About sunset the moons started shifting, with Primalis coming to ascention and stirring up a kiler thunderstorm in the process. Round about midnight the party spotted an eerie blue figure walking across the field, whereafter they had their first fight with a ghost (and realized they were drastically underequipped in the magic weapon department). But they eventually managed to destroy the ghost, at which point the farmhouse got hit by a fireball. After making sure everyone inside was okay (the house was built sturdy, and the rain put out the fire quickly) the party ran off through the woods tracking the other ghost.

They found him and a gunslinger at an old set of ruins, with the family's 10-year-old son tried to an alter while coruscating greenish light played over him. The party managed to defeat the ghosts and rescue the child before anything too horrific happened, and headed back to the farm to the family's grateful embraces. (And got paid with Eron's special Cabbage Mending Juice, a cabbage-based healing potion of exceptional potency.)

As the party was leaving town they were accosted by Crazy Coot again, but before he could get far Zhou kicked him a good five yards off the road. Cursing, he told them to just take the package he was supposed to give them and get out of town. The package turned out to be a chest with giftwrapped parcels of 100 platinum pieces each, plus a note from "The Geistmeister" thanking them for their assistance, and he looked forward to seeing them again in 2-3 levels.

Session 6: Out of SortsEdit

Ascendant moon: Arbora

The session began with Violetta doing some research in the Mitharchus University library, looking for any religious references to "Cordell" due to an odd dream she had. She got a little lost in the stacks (the magical library being much, much bigger on the inside than out), and threatened to damage a book in order to get some help out. At which point a 12-foot-tall, hulking automaton appeared behind her and firmly pointed her the way to go.

Back at the Platinum Dragon later, everyone realized something was wrong when Shitake walked in looking transparent and able to walk through people and tables. Apparently she'd somehow left her body behind that morning, so everyone headed back to her place to see how she was. Thankfully her body was still alive, but neither she nor her sword had any idea how she'd gotten separated from it. After trucking her body to the temple of Rarask Umbaa, then the temple of Svela, and finally the Guild of Necromancers (Official motto: "We're not all evil"), they finally got information on what had happened.

Apparently Shitake had been poisoned with ghostshear poison, a very rare poison that severs the connection between soul and body. A little investigation revealed that all of the party had been poisoned, but only Shitake had been unfortunate enough to fail her initial saves. (Thankfully she made the last one, or her body would have exploded into ectoplasmic goo.) The necromancer they were speaking with didn't know how to fix it, since it was so rare, but recommended several courses of action. Two were nixed because they involved Shitake dying (though the Guild would have paid very nicely for her body), and the third involved staying still inside her body for 3 weeks. So instead they hiked to a cemetery to find Gartuuk the Mad, an ancient necromancer who could supposedly help.

Gartuuk, it turns out, was a goblin ghost, and quite upset by a party of adventurers coming to interrupt the dictation of his automortography. He said his help would cost them, specifically that they would have to reinstate his library privileges at Mitharchus University. Not having many other options, the party accepted and headed to the University.

At the library, they found that Gartuuk's privileges has been suspended because of (1) loud talking in the library, (2) refusal to pay an overdue fine, and (3) reanimation of 14 students for use as helpers (somewhat mitigated by the fact that they were talking loudly and one was chewing bubble gum). The limits on the first and third had expired, but Gartuuk had never paid the second. It had originally been only 1 gold piece, but after 187 years of compound interest it now stood at over 55 million gold. The Librarian (the same hulking automaton Violetta had met earlier) offered them that they could perform 3 services for the library instead: eradicate a bookworm infestation, fix the sorting stacks, and return a book to the Deep Stacks.

They started with the bookworms, leaving Shitake's body checked with the front desk. Unfortunately, the bookworms turned out to be bookwyrms, large spirit-dragon agglomerations of text that spewed pure ideas. (Based on the texts they'd apparently just "eaten," the three wyrms got nicknamed Comedy, Tragedy, and Math by the party.) The fight was a little rough, but they eventually managed to defeat the creatures without too much harm to the books in question.

Next came the sorting stacks, where the party found two groups of mephits engaged in an enormous war over the proper way to sort the books (via letter or number). After listening for a bit, Don Pequeno gave an absolutely jaw-dropping speech about how to compromise and split them by fiction and nonfiction, an oration that left many of the mephits in tears over its sheer organizational beauty. And thus the sorting stacks were fixed.

Last was the Deep Stacks, made most difficult by having to walk for nearly 16 hours through shelf-canyons and endless rows of stacks to get to the place where the book belonged. Some clever skill use made it (relatively) harmless, though, and after a mere 30 hours they finally made it back to the front desk.

Tasks complete, the Librarian issued them a library card for Gartuuk and gave them Shitake's body back. They took her to Gartuuk, who demanded a bottle of sovereign glue, 13 magnets, and a pickle to put her back in. The ingredients gathered--including a genuine ghost pickle, thanks to Don Pequeno stopping by the Guild of Necromancers--Gartuuk cast the spell, doused Shitake with now-ethereal sovereign glue, and slammed herback into her body. He told her to take it easy for a few days until it set, then headed back in to continue his dictation.

And Shitake headed to bed.

Session 7: The Pinkie Toe of VecnaEdit

Ascendant moon: Ogvithat, Morre, and Brillet (in succession)

After Shitake had taken several days to recover from her out-of-body experience, she and the rest of the party reunited again at the Platinum Dragon. Violetta found a note waiting for her, scribbled on a piece of dingy wax paper, which said only "Thank you for your interest." The barkeep said it was left by someone claiming to be the "High Priest of Cordell," but who looked like they crawled out of a gutter somewhere.

After checking the notice board for jobs, the party decided to follow up on this venture:

*Wanted: Band of mid-level adventurers to retrieve items stolen from the Museum of Vecna. Willingness to travel a must. Standard compensation. Recurring employment possible.

When they checked in with the museum curator, he told them that several years ago one of their few genuine Vecnan artifacts was stolen: the Pinkie Toe of Vecna, said to endow the wearer with great dexterity and virility. (Ancient Umala had odd notions about which body parts controlled what.) He'd hired adventurers to track it down back then but they came up empty. Recently he was able to track it to Prince Harun Al-Fakkah Sadr’Ghumasia Zawiyat, one of the Nine Princes of Abys'Al. The curator just wanted the Toe back; the party could keep whatever treasure else they wanted.

Traveling by airship (and giant chicken), it still took nearly two weeks to make the journey to Abys'Al. Partyway there, the party had the requisite random encounter, fending off two hill giants that thought they looked quite tasty (and who utterly failed their stealth check to sneak up at night). The party didn't kill them since Morre was ascendant at the time, but did give them a stern beat-down. Also, Andry managed to glare them into submission as they cowered before the "Tiny Squishy Halfing of Death!" (Despite her repeated corrections that she was a gnome, not a halfling.)

Finally the party got to Abys'Al and tracked down Prince Harun. He was actually surprisingly cordial about their purpose, and said he was more than willing to trade for the Pinkie Toe, as the nights of wanton debauchery were beginning to grow stale. (Plus, they were keeping him from his true love: mathematics.) He gave the party some suggestions as to what he would consider of equal worth, such as some rare books or parts of some of the more forbidding moons so he could construct an orrery. The party didn't have any of those, though, and so were a little stuck as to what they could offer.

After some extended deliberation among themselves, they finally settled on offering borrowing privileges at Mitharchus University, a rumor about where to find a chunk of Ogvithath, and some of Jontho the Wizard's exploding bonsai seeds. Harun was less than impressed when he heard the list, although he was glad for the borrowing privileges, as those are normally forbidden for those outside Nexus. He cut off the Toe and handed it to the party, along with a parting gift. ("Since adventurers are used to getting treasure, and I do not want you to mug my guards on the way out.") Opening it outside revealed a brassiere of charisma +2, which Shitake claimed.

After an uneventful return to Nexus, the party delivered the Toe to the museum and got a gift of 3000 gold, plus coupons of free coffee good at The Hand and Eye, the museum coffee shop.

Session 8: Garden GnomesEdit

Ascendant moon: Euphora

After taking a few days to recover from their extended trip to Abys'Al, the party decided it was time to find some work. The Platinum Dragon was a little emptier than normal due to winter coming on (and the concurrent exodus of the rich or wanderlusting to warmer lands, often with adventurers as bodyguards). Looking over the listings, they decided to stay in Nexus for the time being and follow up on this job:

Wanted: Cadre of adventurers to exterminate various pests acquired in the gardens of Lady Amorilla du Verus after a recent colocation of Mitharchus University. Standard compensation.

Lady Amorilla is well-known around Nexus for her beautiful manor gardens, and it took very little time to find her estate. Aside from the exterior lawns, hedges, and shrubberies being completely immaculate, the interior of the manor was overflowing with potted plants. Lady Amorilla came in carrying a small bonzai plant; combined with a somewhat flighty air, she seems best described as a "crazy plant lady." (Who, incidentally, hates cats; she raises them to be fed to the carnivorous plant garden.)

According to her, Mitharchus University recently colocalized with her gardens, which was an overall horrible experience. Aside from all the students walking over her lawns and making out around every corner of the hedge mazes, when it finally left the residual magic warped several of her precious garden areas. After getting a description of each, the party headed out to take care of them.

First was the koi pond, which had been infested with something that had eaten many of the koi, two gardeners, and a previous adventuring party. Andry sent some summoned sharks down to investigate, and one promptly got devoured. A few seconds later a swarm of two-foot-long crayfish surged out of the pond, followed by a larger pair, all of them intent on eating the party. Aside from Violetta getting dunked in garlic butter at one point and being chewed on, the party escaped relatively unscathed.

Next was the Mutable Space Hedge Maze, whose exit had disappeared. Three gardeners had gone inside and not returned, so the PCs needed to find whatever was knotting it up and undo it (probably with dispel magic or something). It took several hours of wandering through the maze until they came across a region with a black sky filled with burning red stars. Some creature calling itself Ik'thohth had set up a crackling alter pouring magic into the sky. Ik'thohth itself consisted of a humanoid bundle of purple-blue tentacles or worms, and it commanded its three minions (presumably the gardeners) to attack the party. Zhou jumped right past them and started pounding on Ik'thoth. After the gardeners were subdued Shitake joined him and in a dazzling display of power pulled Kusanagotchi and managed to score a critical hit, vaporizing Ik'thoth in a flash of holy retribution. A quick dispel magic instantly sent them back to the normal world, and some quick healing cured the gardeners of their possession enough that they could show the party the way out before going to ask for some time off.

Finally was the Carnivorous Plant Garden, which had been infested with garden gnomes. (Local slang for mandragoras.) Upon arriving, the party found that instead of the well-ordered paths seen everywhere else, this garden looked like a construction zone, with huge holes and piles of shifted dirt everywhere. Several of the plants had been moved, some close enough to the path that the party had to tread carefully lest they attract their attention.

After a few minutes they found the mandragoras busily moving a tree. Some of the little plant creatures came and shouted at the party to leave their shiny garden, to which the party response was to lift them up in the air and let Violetta use them for target practice. A few of these and some magical fire had the mandragoras swarming them, merging into a giant Ur-Mandragora that tossed the carvinorous tree right into the middle of the party. After a fairly intense fight involving at least two near-death experiences, the party was able to defeat the mandragoras and even managed to not destroy the tree that had been thrown at them. (Barely. Andry summoned a celestial rhino while inside its mouth, which did some pretty heavy damage.)

Everything taken care of, they went back to Lady Amorilla and collected their reward of gold pieces. She also gave each of them a tiny bonsai plant in appreciation of their work.

Session 9: Journey to Luxord (part 1)Edit

Ascendant moon: Brillet, then Primalis

Another week, another adventure. Things must be slow in Nexus because the only level-appropriate posts on the notice-board were the ones from last time. Both were escort jobs, and after some deliberation the party decided to shoot for the moon:

Noble scion seeks adventuring band to join in her quest for glory and riches among the perils of Luxord. Exact destination and timetable unknown. Excellent XP prospects, partial death insurance provided. Enquire at Skelhinengar Manor, Street of the Enlightened Heritages, South Nexus.

Upon their arrival at the manor, the party found a dilapidated, run-down mansion with overgrown grounds and every sign of a noble family fallen on hard times. Their knock on the massive doors was answered (eventually) by an out-of-breath young woman who practically glowed against the dismal surroundings. She introduced herself as Yalla, and escorted them to where her father (Lord Skelhinengar) was busy at work. His study consisted of a magically warded room with an apparently infinite black pit in the middle. Apparently his job is summoning almost-written books and selling them, but he hasn't gotten anything good for a long time (just a bunch of trashy vampire romance) and so the family has fallen on hard times. After Yalla had left, Lord Skelhinengar explained that their overt mission was to accomany his daughter and help her bring fame and riches back to the family. Their real mission, at least from his perspective, is to babysit her and keep her from getting killed. She was trained as a Paladin in Valour, but was still only 3rd level and so would need a lot of help.

After accepting the terms with a magically binding contract, the party left to stock up on supplies and wait the 4-5 days it would take for the hired aethership to be ready. The only thing of to occur during this time was that Don Pequeno got an anonymous gift while at the Platinum Dragon, consisting of a box of chocolates and a note: "I hear you're leaving for a while. Be safe." No one had seen who put it on the table, despite several party members sitting at it at the time.

When the party arrived at Nexus's aetherport, they wandered a bit before finally finding Yalla, all decked out in mirror-bright fullplate armor by their ship, the Galewind. She was accompanied by two companions: Kathra, a gruff female dwarf with a peg-leg, eyepatch, and hook hand (from former adventuring days), and Brick, an 8-foot-tall stone golem that served as her tutor and bodyguard when she was younger. She then took them aboard the ship, where they met the rest of the crew. The main figures included Captain Headcrusherson, a burly half-orc and acquaintance of the Skelhinengar family; Erlein Starmast, the elven first mate (who immediately started flirting with Zhao); Jacques Gusteaux, a dark-skinned halfling chef; and Palk, the cabinboy and Captain Headcrusherson's 14-year-old son (by his half-elven ex-wife; no one's quite sure what his genetics are at this point).

After readying everything the ship launched with a hiss of decompressed aether and shot up into the air. Once the view of the land falling away beneath them had grown old, the party retired to their rooms.

Shortly after this, Palk showed up at their door. He said the captain would give them tonight off but soon they'd be expected to stand watch with everyone else. And also as a thanks for defending the ship he sent a gift. He handed over a box, and when asked what was in it or what the captain meant, Palk just shrugged.

Slightly suspicious, the party opened the box to find six small, impressive-looking cakes. Andry fed one to Boo as a test, and it immediately exploded into a massive scintillating sphere of arcing electricity. More than a little miffed, the party headed down to the galley to have some words with Chef Gusteaux. The little halfling identified the cakes as shock tortes, and to him it seemed obvious that it was because the party had angered The Baron, in the Chef's Guild. Before the party could investigate further, however, the alarm sounded, and they had to head above decks. to fend off an attack from a Giant Space Hampster swarm. The fending was mostly successful, save for Yalla's attempts at valor which ended up with her sword stuck in the planks and her unable to remove it. The party gave her a stern talking-to afterward, but at least most people made it out okay.

When the party got back to their rooms, however, they found Palk lying on the floor, either unconscious or dead, with pink foam burbling from his mouth.

Session 10: Journey to Luxord (part 2)Edit

Ascendant moon: n/a

Searching over Palk's body, the party quickly found a small blowdart lodged in his neck. Close inspection showed it have some sort of intricate paisley pattern on it, interspersed with white flowers. Zhou said he had seen it before but didn't volunteer more information.

Searching the room the party found a subtle trap attached to Zhou's pack, leading to the conclusion that Palk had triggered it while presumably rifling through Zhou's stuff.

The party told Captain Headcrusherson about his son's condition, and he sounded more annoyed than anything else. He told them to take him to Jacques, since he served as the ship medic. The chef took one look at him and pronounced it bad, a case of "pink bubble poison." The poison is made from demonic laundry elementals and slowly dissolved your insides into lavender-scented foam. The antidote required spittle from a cleaning djinn, which he didn't have, but he could slow it down with a bit of baking soda. Even with that, though, he estimated only 4-6 hours before Palk completely dissolved into a puddle of lavender goo. He recommended they try to track down the assassin, since you don't carry something that dangerous without an antidote on hand, too.

The party first talked with the first mate, Erlein Starmast. According to her, most of the crew was above decks during the fight with the space hampsters, the exceptions being Limes, Door, and Steve ("Yes, they're stupid names, but I didn't pick them."), who were belowdecks to keep an eye on everything there.

Steve was first, a young man currently keeping check over the aether tanks to make sure they didn't spring a leak and explosively decompress. He denied any part in Palk's situation, but pressing him made him more and more nervous, and the party was certain he was hiding something. Finally it came out (with the aid of some detect thoughts) that he had been hired on under an alias because he had a crush on Yalla from their days at the paladin academy and he didn't want her to get killed out here, and please please please would the party not tell her about it.

Next the party went to Limes, who was doing a turn taking care of wounded. Limes was a middle-aged, portly man who managed to save against detect thoughts and so stymie the PC's best method of lie detection. Nonetheless, he seemed honest in denying culpability for Palk's condition.

The final crewmember, Door, was up repairing rigging. She also saved against detect thoughts and claimed innocence, and seemed sincere about it. Which unfortunately left the party with zero real leads and a still-dying Palk down in the galley.

They talked with Captain Headcrusherson about this, but were interrupted by an approaching aetherstorm (which are completely invisible and can only be detected by the whistling of the wind a few seconds before they arrive). When the storm hit the entire ship bucked and rocked, the boards groaning in protest. Thence followed a mad effort to keep the sails intact, prevent the mast from snapping, and rescue at least one crewmember (Erlein) who got knocked overboard. Overall the party did a stellar job, though the force of the storm did blow out some of the aether tanks, creating a massive hole in the side of the ship.

When the party headed back to their rooms later, they found a small vial of essence of djinn spittle on the floor; presumably something they had done had given their assassin a change of heart. After digging Palk out from under all the galley tables that had scattered around, Jacques whipped up an antidote, which combined with some cure spells got Palk conscious again, albeit pretty weak from having his internal organs partially dissolved.

Session 11: Arrival at LuxordEdit

Ascendant moon: n/a

Finally the party arrived at Luxord, landing at the small settlement of Toehold (which is the largest permanent settlement on Luxord, with just a few thousand people). After some tips from the crew, the party headed off in search of adventure.

Within seconds they were accosted by two guides trying to sell their services. The party slipped away while they were arguing with each other, then headed for a cartographer's store. The owner (a female gnome) told them to come back once they knew they were going, since Luxord's geography changes so often maps have to be made in the moment. The party hunted around for options and finally accepted a job to find some luckstone from a wizard (who is apparently very fond of cats). After getting their map and stocking up, they headed out in Violetta's airship. Space and capacity constraints meant they had to leave Brick and Kathra behind, and neither was very happy about this.

After making it through some rough storms and a nighttime landslide, the party came to the Mistway, a winding narrow canyon filled with obscuring mist. In front was a small pedestal with several blue tiles on it. A quick examination revealed it to be a Deck of Sundry Things, and the party instantly drew just about as many cards as they could. The results of this included some magic items, a few punishing hats, two beehive-sized keeps, and both Andry and Shitake falling unconscious. Yalla opted to try to leave them, and then got her hand burned when she tried to pick up Kusanagotchi, who instantly denounced her as a spawn of evil to be destroyed. (When Shitake finally woke up that night and had him cast detect evil to no avail, he claimed she'd hidden her alignment, presumably indicating a negative read. More likely whatever effect the Deck had worked had simply worn off.)

After several close scrapes the party finally made it through the Mistway and came to the Roiling Fields, which are undulate slowly underfoot.

Session 12: Casino RealEdit

Ascendant moon: n/a

After one look at the undulating expanses of the Roiling Fields, the party decided they were far better off flying over them than walking, so they loaded into Violetta's airship and took off. After a few hours they ran across a large sinkhole, maybe a mile across, where a chunk of ground had collapsed into the Undersea. They skirted its edges, and just barely noticed a herd of transparent, jellyfish-like things before several of them attacked. The party dispatched them without much trouble, and were caught completely off-guard when they exploded into loot upon dying. (Alas, most of it fell to the ground below, but Andry was able to rescue a decent amount from Boo's back.) They quickly hurried past the other members of the herd before they could attack, and headed into the floating mountains a few more miles beyond.

After several hours of searching among the mountains, the party had to admit they had no idea what an outcrop of luckstone was supposed to look like. About then, however, they came across an artificial-looking cave on the lower side of one mountain. Landing the airship, they looked inside and saw a short cave entrance terminating in a revolving door, with the words "CASINO REAL" magically glowing above it. Music and voices drifted out, though they couldn't see through the door to what lay beyond. After a brief deliberation, they headed inside.

Past the door was a glittering, glitzy casino, filled with hundreds of people playing craps, roulette, three-dragon-ante, and other games. The party was quickly approached by Damon, a handsome young human and maitre'd of the casino. He told them to relax, make themselves at home, and spend some money. The party was a little wary, and started scouting through the casino for someone to ask about luckstone. They quickly realized that something was wrong, as pretty much every person they spoke with would repeat the same one- or two-sentence phrase no matter what was asked of them. ("[sigh]. My luck's all run out," "If you roll a natural 20, you win the pot," "There are many guards in the hoardroom," etc.)

About the time the party was regrouping and trying to figure things out, they were suddenly approached by what looked like a flying chandelier with 4 silver faces on it. It admonished them to help it gain control of the casino so that it could be turned into a temple of purity and healing, instead of the den of vice and iniquity it was currently. It and Kusanagotchi got into an extensive discussion on moralistic epistemology, interrupted only when Shitake asked the sword to start detecting evil on people. He couldn't get a reading on anyone, however, not even the "not evil" one from a neutral or good person.

While trying to piece this out the party was approached by a wild-haired halfling who tried to strike a deal with them. She called herself Frenzy, and just wanted the party's help to trash and burn down the casino when she gave the signal. The party looked at her askance at best and set about trying to figure things out. They did notice an old elf staring at them intently, but before they could approach him Damon came up and told them to not mind the locals. "They're always trying something or other, but they just need to relax and have some fun."

About this time Shitake tried to get Kusanagotchi to covertly detect evil on Damon, but the sword couldn't get a reading. Andry tried detect thoughts with similar failure, until she looked toward the rear of the room and suddenly got hammered with an overwhelming intellect. Shitake had Kusanagotchi continue to detect evil until the sword finally picked up something non-evil beyond the back wall. The back wall had only a single door in it, a small one marked "Employees Only." While sizing it (and the two massive guards flanking it) up, the suspicious-looking elf appeared beside them and started up a conversation. He introduced himself as Eigenal, and he wanted to solicit their help in attempting to steal the casino's hoard from Damon. With their cooperation, he would need only a pair of blind gorgons, a massive ape, and a mocha elemental to pull it off.

At that point the party just brushed him off and concentrated on the guards. Charm person failed, but dispel magic briefly shattered one into a thousand glowing shards that rapidly reformed into the guard. None of the patrons seemed to notice.

That's when Frenzy burst into the room from the far end, tossing alchemist fire and fireballs with a band of cohorts. The party left her alone (according to Eigenal, her assaults happened pretty regularly), but did get to see a massive half-dragon roar into the fray to defend the casino.

The party made use of the distraction to try to slip past the guards. It didn't work, so they just muscled their way through with a series of Strength checks. Damon was yelling at them frantically to stay out, even calling Brutus (the half-dragon) over to pound them, but the burly thug didn't arrive in time to prevent the PCs from slipping through to the other side.

Once through, the party found a large, rough-hewn cave, with a purplish dragon sleeping atop a pile of coin and treasure. Damon appeared behind the party to entreat them back into the casino, while Eigenal stood to the side and offered commentary. After some back-and-forth and threats of waking the dragon, the party finally realized that the entire casino was some sort of projected illusion from the sleeping dragon. Figuring they'd try to negotiate for some luckstone (rather than try to steal it), they woke it up.

The dragon woke, and the casino and its denizens faded to nothing. After a brief negotiation session and more than a few threats on both sides, they finally agreed to trade the party's Sextant of Interplanar Transferrance to the dragon for forty luckstones (would have been twenty, but Yalla pointed out that a minor macguffin should be worth at least twice that). They got another stone for Yalla's sword, which Don Pequeno took and claimed was also a macguffin. (It wasn't clear whether the dragon believed him or was just amused.) And deciding to not tempt their luck more than they should, the party took their luckstones and headed back to the airship before the dragon changed its mind.

Session 13: Falsely AccusedEdit

Ascendant moon: n/a

Back in Toehold, the party decided it was time to look for some work. While wandering the streets they were accosted by a dwarven shopowner, proprietor of Axbury’s Emporium of Myths, Legends, Rumors, and Plot hooks. He convinced the party to come inside and peruse his wares, including a vast array of plot hooks kept in little metal cages. They also gave him a few gold pieces in exchange for a legend of a great golden flying rhino, and were sorely disappointed in the quality of the tale. In response the dwarf told them how the central anchorstone of Toehold had been stolen during the night, and the authorities thought that they (the party) were responsible. When asked why, he just pointed behind them and asked why else the town sheriff was coming for them with an armed mob.

He quickly shooed them out of his shop, and the party was left to meet with the sheriff. The sheriff (a tall and gruff half-elf) explained that the main anchorstone of toehold had indeed been stolen, and they had a witness of Yalla doing it with a portable hole. Shitake had noticed Yalla gone during the night, and the paladin refused to say what she had been doing on the grounds that she had given her word not to. The sheriff then searched Yalla and pulled out a portable hole from her pack (that Yalla claimed was not hers), inside which were a few shards of anchor crystal. Violetta pointed out that appearances could be faked with magic, and the sheriff whispered back that she knew that, but the locals were in an uproar and weren't listening to reason. She was just trying to buy the party some time so they could prove their friend innocent.

The party tried grilling Yalla about where she'd been during the night, and she finally relented to the point of saying that they might have luck asking around the crew of the Galewind. So the party split up, half to talk with the crew and the other half to check out the scene of the crime.

At the crime scene, Violetta and Andry investigated around, finding that the main Anchorstone had been sliced off at the base, leaving a razor-smooth surface behind. They also found where "Yalla" had been chased, and realized that the bits of blood and hair clinging to a corner she'd hit were at the wrong height. They also found a shard of glass glued to the cobbled with sovereign glue, and Andry used some universal solvent she had on hand to dissolve it away. Determining that it was a clue, they set off to get a wand of detect material to go hunting for more.

Meanwhile, with the crew the other half of the party was trying to find out who knew anything about where Yalla had been. They got a lead from Palk, of all people, who'd gotten in a fistfight with a crewmember over something the latter had said about Yalla. (To the effect that he'd gotten a kiss off her last night, and would have gotten a lot more--in explicit detail--if she hadn't been such an uptight paladin.) The party interrogated him and got him to basically corroborate the story, that he'd met her outside a tavern the night before, they'd talked and kissed once, then split ways, nothing more. Not totally satisfied but getting nothing more, they went back to join the rest of their comrades.

Back in town, Andry had gotten her wand and also done some digging to find out if anyone else had purchased some universal solvent recently. Turns out someone had, a short woman with mousy-brown hair and a bit of a limp (presumably from fighting the night before). Searching around the stolen Anchorstone revealed a circle of sovereign glue around the empty spot, so they dissolved it, then realized it was holding down some fancy portable hole that was showing the other side. THey lifted it off, and the Anchorstone was still underneath. As soon as the hole was off it reconnected with the magical web and Toehold once again locked down safe.

With no crime, Yalla was set free, and they all headed back to the ship to confront the crewmember. Yalla pulled her sword on him (and set it on fire), being quite peeved for being set up and taken advantage of. He tried to run, got caught by Zhou, and then killed when someone else threw a ball of lightning into the middle of them. They quickly spotted another crewmember--a short woman with mousy brown hair--and took her down in just a few seconds, sparing her life in exchange for a confession. A third accomplice got away, but with the ship leaving in just a few days they didn't worry about him much.

Session 14: The Great and TerribleEdit

Ascendant moon: n/a

With a few more days until the Galewind set out, the party started looking for some work. They were directed to the Giant's Flagon, a tavern that appeared to be build inside a giant hip flask. No sooner had they sat down than a disheveled and wizardly-looking dwarf came in asking if they were looking for work. He needed some field observations made of a certain location to confirm his theory of a harmonic sympathy between Luxord and the movements of the other moons. Before he could finish explaining, the door burst open and a burly half-orc woman came in, loudly asking if there were any adventurers that needed a job. She needed them to retrieve a magic item from her ex-lover, who had stupidly gone and gotten himself eaten by an Ur-sloth. The two would-be employers got into an argument over whose job was most important, and the party adjucated by having Don Pequeno go off to take some field observations while the rest hunted down the Ur-sloth.

The Ur-sloth wasn't hard to find, since they are (a) absolutely massive, and (b) move at about ten feet per hour. They're also intelligent and psionic, which vastly helped have a conversation. This particular one was overjoyed to see some hors d'ouevres show up and was excitedly telling them how tasty they would be, since she was only used to trees, shrubs, and the occasional treant. Apparently she was heading straight to Toehold to have a massive binge on humanoids, although it would take her a few months to get there. The party tried various negotiations to get her to change her mind, until they decided to plant a spice garden with some particularly vigorous spices for her to get to. They also realized Violetta still had a minor wish to use, so she just wished the item out of the creature's stomach. (It was a rod of Bigby's Convenient Back Scratcher, which aside from being a back-scratcher itself could cast the spell to give an absolutely fabulous massage.)

They got back to Toehold and collected their reward from the half-orc (a smith, who gave them work at cost for the next month), then saw Don Pequeno coming in. He said things had gone well, but with one small problem. Well, not-so-small, and he pointed behind him to show a massive, 10-story-tall being of congealed mud tromping toward the town. "I am As-I-Demandius, the Great and Terrible!" he shouted. "Come and grovel before me, insignificant mortals!" He was then very confused as to why the insignificant mortals weren't groveling yet.

The party thus entered into some negotiations with As-I-Demandius's grand vizier (and apparently uncle), who was merely medium-sized and seemed to have a much better head on his shoulders. (Metaphorically speaking, since as a walking pile of mud he didn't have much shoulders to start with.) They eventually decided to have As-I-Demandius detour around Toehold and instead go meet the Ur-sloth, who would probably be willing to worship As-I-Demandius as he demanded. (And if not, they could fight it out among themselves.)

And thus the party managed to save the town from not one but two massive catastrophes in a single day.

Session 15: Night of the NinjaEdit

Ascendant moon: n/a

Growing tired of Luxord, the party decided it was time to head home with the Galewind. Their first night out in the aether there was a knock at the door; when Shitake opened it, she was met with a thrown projectile rocketing through the door and then exploding in the far wall in a blinding flash. Violetta managed to get a quick view of someone dressed all in black (presumably their ninja stalker) before the flash went off. Once their vision cleared everyone spent a few minutes debating whether they should charge out and face the inevitable ninja assault, finally deciding that Shitake would open the door with mage hand while Violetta provided cover fire and Andry and Boo charged through (while shrunk) to attack. The plan worked, except that when the door was flung open the other side held only a vast starry expanse, without a trace of the rest of the ship.

Some sleuthing with detect magic revealed massive conjuration all around them, so Shitake tried to dispel it. This resulted in dissolving the room, leaving the party standing on a barely visible path among the stars. Lacking other options, the started walking down the path to see what they could find.

After a few minutes they noticed shapes looming in the darkness, outlined by starlight. As they moved on they became more substantial, until they looked like vast piles of junk. (Shitake opened a shadowy armoire and was deluged by a pile of shadowy refuse; thankfully it passed mostly through her.) The party thought they may have been put on the Astral plane, so they tried thinking their way to the Platinum Dragon and were rewarded with a tsunami of shadow beer steins. Not seeing other options, they continued on the path until they found a desk with a leering goblin behind it. He read from a script introducing them to the "Labyrinth of Dreams," where all your dreams come true (whether you want them to or not). He then said that was a load of hooey, since management had never paid for more than a few twisting rooms and they still hadn't sent down the naked dancing girls that he had requested. When asked what was down there, he pointed around. "Junk, refuse. Whatever detritus has washed up in your subconscious, mostly." He pointed them to the door out and wished them luck, then got back to reading his copy of Playgoblin.

Andry opened the door, and it opened onto the streets of Nexus. The party didn't believe it could be so easy, so they stepped through warily. The street on the other side looked like any nondescript part of Nexus. After a few seconds they heard a voice calling at Andry, and she found her older bother Marik there driving a cart loaded with dire chickens in a cage. He asked if she could lend a hand and relatch the cage, since it had opened and if he went to do it himself the ponies would spook. She tried to climb up but kept falling, and finally he said he'd just get one of the "big people" to help, which a random passerby did. During all this the rest of the party noticed that everything seemed to be getting bigger--or rather, that they were shrinking. After Marik drove off a passing woman asked Andry for directions, and when Andry hesitated the woman said to never mind, she'd just ask someone who could see the street signs. Andy was getting ticked off at this point, and the rest of the party was getting alarmed at how large everything else was (they were all no more than ankle-high to the passers-by now). That's when a gang of ruffians came around the corner and yelled about "the little pipsqueak" they'd heard about. Their dwarf leader picked her up by her shirt collar and started shaking her around, teasing "The poor widdle farm girl all lost in the big city." Finally Andry had enough and started verbally ripping the dwarf a new one and cutting him down to size. Literally, apparently, since as she proceeded the surroundings began shrinking back down to normal size until the dwarf was actually smaller than Andry and turned and ran.

As Andry stood there breathing heavily, a door suddenly appeared opposite of where they had come in. Figuring Andry wouldn't be able to open it, Violetta did, and it opened onto a windswept, dusty brown plain filled with oddly geometric cacti and with a pale blue tint to the dirt. No sooner had they gone through before a rumbleweed (30-foot-tall tumbleweed with killer spines) rolled right at them, though only Andry failed to dodge it (and it went right through her). Walking a little ways brought the party to a small farmhouse and corral, which Violetta recognized as home. Her mother was on the porch cleaning a rifle, and after greeting Violetta asked her to go help her brother Sable fix the corral before the horses realized it was broke. (Some thunderbunnies had come by the night before.) Sable asked her to get him a hammer from the tool box. She did so, and he looked at her like she was crazy. "You done spend too much time in the sun?" He then showed her what he meant, which appeared to be a frozen halibut. He then asked her for some nails, and when she asked for clarification before going he pointed to the jar of peppermint marmalade a ways off. She retrieved it, and he started slathering it on the fence with the halibut. Remarkably, it worked. He then asked her to keep the horses from spooking, and when she asked what he meant he pointed to a bunch of frog-faced chicken things under the front porch. She went and did it though, and her mama told her she was doing good.

At that point a door appeared behind them, and this time Zhou opened it onto a frozen, windswept mountain glacier (complete with alpine penguins in the distance). Once everyone was through, they spotted Zhou's old sensei meditating on the rock. Flinching slightly, Zhou advanced to his sensei, who rose and with some not-so-gentle chiding asked Zhou what he sought. Zhou said he sought that of value, and his sensei that was good, for Wisdom was valuable above all else. Then out of nowhere he pulled a giant bell jar and shut it down on top of Zhou, telling him to medidate until he had found wisdom. Then he set the jar on fire. With things getting stuffy and air growing thin inside the jar, Zhou sat down and pulled out some origami paper so that he could fold it eight times. His first attempt failed, but at the second he succeeded, and the bell jar shattered. As Zhou was admiring the folded paper, his sensei came and kicked it out of his hand to move on to the next test. Zhou punched him, and Sensei decided Zhou had learned enough wisdom and was ready to advance so would he please leave now. A door appeared in the side of the glacier, and so the party did.

Yalla led the way this time. The party found itself in Valour, at a sparring ground where Yalla had been trained as a paladin. Prince Etris walked by in practice gear, saying he'd been waiting and didn't expect she'd actually show up. As they set to sparring, he started getting the better of her, and told her how she was just a bookbinder's daughter, just fit to get married off for an inheritance. He beat her back a few times, until he finally sent her reeling to the ground. "Go home, Yalla. You don't belong here." He walked away, leaving her sobbing on the ground. At that point the party stepped in and gave her a serious pep-talk, mostly to the tune of how she should get up, walk back over there, and beat the living crap out of him for saying that. It took some convincing, but she did, starting with a slug to the face and then moving to more formal tactics. Things were about even this time, but the party cheering her on eventually helped her knock him flat. ("You're just all my insecurities bundled into one convenient target!") A door appeared in the far wall, and they left.

This time Don Pequeno opened the door. The fields beyond were verdant and lush, but oddly flat, like shades of color and texture had been smoothed clean. As the party was trying to figure it out, a woman ran up to them yelling for help. "Don Pequeno, Don Pequeno, help! A purple broccolisaurus is eating Farmer Moreno's cows!" Try as they might the party couldn't get a good look at the woman's face, and she revealed that she was Don's secret admirer, Dulce D'leche. Don went off to fight the broccolisaurus, but had only gotten halfway there when Dulce yelled for help again, this time because the ogre Snidley Lashtail was tying widow Vieja to a caravan track. A few seconds later came another cry for help, that the Windmill Golem was attacking Old Man Feo. After that the Knight of the Moons was trying to serenade Maiden Maria with his bagpipes of the damned, and Taco Malo had enslaved the chickens and forced them to spin eggs into walnuts. Unable to handle everything himself, Don asked his party to help, dividing everyone to take care of the different threats. They did so easily, and when all had been saved they came back to find a door waiting for them.

Now it was Shitake's turn, which she'd been dreading this entire time. She pushed it open to find a sitting room on the other side--her mother's. As soon as they were through said mother appeared from another room, asking her "little lotus blossom" to please set the tea service. She did so, but several mistakes made her mother slap her hand with a chopstick. When Shitake's tea service was only passable, her mother asked for haiku instead, which again was only passable. Shitake tried to tell her mother about her holy sword and her magical skills, but her mother was not impressed. Finally getting fed up with it all, she told her mother off about how she didn't want to be like her, or her perfect older sister, or like grandfather, or anyone else for that matter. She wanted to be herself, thank you very much. Her mother seemed remarkably unphased by the outburst, and just nodded and sipped her tea. "Very well. Do try to be good at it." And the door out clicked open.

This time it opened back on their cabin. When they went through and reopened the door, the ship was back on the other side, with Palk unconscious in the hall. Muttering about the incompetent cabin-boy, they went off to find his father, only to find two more crewmembers unconscious around the corner, all apparently from blowdarts in their necks. Taking a moment for strategic planning, they cast invisibility on Boo and Andry and sent them out scouting. They couldn't see anyone on deck, until someone breathed down Andry's neck "Hello. Tell the monk to come out so we can settle this honorably." Shitake was coming (very unstealthily) out onto deck, but she had see invisibility on, and she spotted a woman in leather armor climbing back up into the rigging.

The rest of the party came up quickly, and Shitake dispelled the invibility on the woman, who turned out to be the first mate, Eirlinn. Zhou ran up to her in the rigging, and she introduced herself as the damyo if the Paisley Lotus. She apologized for the necessity of ushering his spirit onto its next existence, but she would drink to his afterlife after his brother awarded the Paisley Lotus control of General Tsao's Tofu Take-out and Sake Emporium.

At that point the ninjas struck, sending a flurry of throwing stars at Zhou. None of them hit (or those that did bounced off; apparently the assassin didn't bring enough high-level mooks). He and she got into a fight, which Violetta ended quickly by shooting her first shot right through the woman's cranium. ("I've been wanting to shoot somethin' all day!") The ninja mooks were quickly cowed into submission, and their leader revealed as a doppelganger. Captain Headcrushersson was woken by being informed that the ship was out of grog, and after he'd shrugged off some of the drug effects he had the ship searched, finding First Mate Eirlinn bound in her cabin.

With things set right (at least for the moment), the ship continued its way back to Whymsia and home.

Session 16: Home AgainEdit

Ascendant moon: Shen

Miraculously, the party made it back to Nexus without further incident. Yalla said goodbye to the party once they landed, thanking them for their help and saying she'll probably stick to jobs closer to home for the next while. They got their pay, then headed into town to relax and start looking for new work. Andry found the expected pile of junk on her windowsill, the only one of which that looked edible being a gingerbread man. Shitake also found one, though no one else did.

The party then met up at the Platinum Dragon, where Zhou announced that he was planning on going back to Speilberg to reclaim his kingdom from his younger brother. The party wondered aloud what they were going to do to fill the sudden gap in their party, and within two minutes they were approached by a prospective member riding a gigantic pig. He introduced himself as Muglump, a goblin looking to see the world and eat as much as he could. The pig was Princess, and he was also haunted by the ghost of his mother-in-law (who was immediately christened "Gesundheit" by the party due to her long, unpronounceable name).

The party reformed, they checked the notice board for some level-appropriate jobs, and decided to go with the one advertising the Wizard Bert looking for someone to retrieve a magic item for him. They journeyed to the wizard's tower on the outskirts of town and were shown in by his elemental butler. At the top of the tower they found Bert intently studying a roulette wheel. He explained that he'd hired another party of adventurers to retrieve the Helm of Crystalline Intellect, They'd managed to bring it all the way back from the Pits of Despair, through the Forest of Unrelenting Doom, and had gotten within three miles of Nexus when a dragon came and ate them. Now he needed the PCs to go and retrieve it from the dragon. He gave them a scale he'd found at the scene of devouring, and with a quick stop in town they had a magical compass cued to it.

It took a few hours in Violetta's airship to find the dragon's lair, hidden deep inside some thick woods. The dragon was apparently the head of a compound of Hippie Elves, easily recognized by their tye-die pants, rose-tinted spectacles, and lack of shirts (on both sexes, though the women tended to have long, strategically placed hair). The dragon in question was Stalking Woods, a tye-died heterchromatic dragon, and he'd made the Helm into his new favorite bong. He didn't want to trade it with the party, and finally breathed a breath of calm emotions on them. (Though whether this was an actual breath weapon or just due to all the psychogenic substances he'd been inhaling previously is anyone's guess.) Only Boo, Muglump, and Princess failed it, thankfully, and Violetta continued trying to negotiate. Stalking Woods seemed to have room in his head for only two thoughts at a time, one of which involved the helm being his favorite bong, so of course he wouldn't give it away. Then Violetta offered to make him a new one using her gunsmithing skills, which resulted in a six-chambered bong-revolver that she filled with some of Jontho the Wizard's blissfruit seeds. Smoking them put the dragon higher than an astral kite, though after a minute he seemed to fall under the delusion that he was a god and they needed to worship him. A quick tirade/Intimidate check from Andry put him in his place and let the party go on their way. (Nothing like a tongue-lashing from a 3-foot-tall gnome to put a dragon in its place.)

The party headed home, but were interrupted partyway by Stalking Woods coming back and demanding his old bong back because the new one had stopped working (read: ran out of blissfruit seeds). The party kept trying to convince him otherwise, and finally he just fireballed the airship's air bag. Thence followed a quick aerial fight wherein the airship almost crashed before Shitake could cast make whole on it, and Stalking Woods was attacked by Muglump (who latched onto the dragon's snout with his teeth), Andry/Boo (who being invisible he were thought to be "the flying invisible monkeys again!"), and Don Pequeno (who used a tripnet to ensnare the dragon's snout and was then promptly pulled out of the gondola to dangle in the air half a mile above the ground). Andry finally managed to Intimidate the dragon into fleeing in blind terror (with Don Pequeno and Muglump still attached), but then Muglump knocked him unconscious and sent them all hurtling toward the ground. Andry managed to catch up and save them, but not before Muglump could extract and eat the delicious eyeballs.

That threat taken care of, the party headed back to town and delivered the Helm to Wizard Bert, who was overjoyed that he could now beat his archnemesis Ernest the Unblinking at the regional poker championship. He was a little upset that they wanted to be paid in mere gold rather than some of his luck-altering charms, but the PCs insisted they'd had enough luck for now after spending nearly three weeks on Luxord.

Session 17: Best Served ColdEdit

Ascendant Moon: Ogvithath

After settling back into life in Nexus, the party met in the Platinum Dragon to start looking for some work. Quite to their surprise, they received three packages in close succession. The first was a box of half a dozen blueberry muffins. Everyone was suitable cautious, but when they didn't register as magical Muglump ate one (after everyone else had dived under the table). It exploded. They had just cleaned up when someone tapped one of them on the shoulder and got swung overhead, only to land on her feet in a crouch. It was Scarlett, a quiet gnome from the Thieve's Guild, and she was apparently delivering a pizza from Don Donatelli. Inside the box was a message from Don:

Hey-a there. You be watching your a-backs, okay? Words on the-a street is that the a-Baron, he's-a sent the a-Muffin Man after you. Be-a careful. This-a message will self-a destruct

It then imploded with implosive runes (a less dangerous version of explosive runes). After calming down from that, the party realized someone else had left a box of chocolate hearts on the table in front of Don Pequeno. They didn't see who, and the note only read "Welcome Back."

When they were certain no other surprises were going to show up, they headed to the notice board to look for work. While debating over the options, however, they were approached by an absolutely gorgeous elven woman. "Excuse moi," she said, "you are the adventurers who defeated zee pirates on zee plane of pizza, yes?" She introduced herself as Natalia Fatali, girlfriend and lover of Baron Munchkoffisgan, the chef they defeated on said plane of pizza. Apparently after acquiring the Spork of Culinary Excellence and then suffering defeat at their hands, he had begun to obsess over it. she wanted to hire the party to steal the spork from him so he could go back to his normal (albeit still evil) self. She mentioned that he would be holding a ball for the local nobility (mostly vampires) the next evening, and it would be a good distraction to use to sneak in.

After some deliberation, the party took her up on it. They took Violetta's airship up to Sangria, where Castle Munchkoffisgan lay, though they did have to deal with an annoying vampire border guard en route. Since the castle stood on a promontory in an open plain and couldn't be approached without being seen, everyone decided to waylay a peasant in the woods beyond. After knocking him unconscious they took his cart and disguised themselves as a troupe of entertainers in order to sneak into the castle. It worked, although Violetta had to quickly forge an invitation to get past the demonic butler out front.

After waiting a few hours in a large hall with the other entertainment, the party was finally allowed into the banquet hall. They realized something was up as soon as the doors closed and locked behind them. Baron Munchkoffisgan rose to address his audience, saying how this troupe of entertainers had come for them, even though he didn't remember inviting them. They even had an invitation, but it didn't smell of fois gras, so it seemed like a fake. "I vil give zem a choice," he said then. "Zey must pass through...Ze Kitchens of Doom. If zey do, zey may join in our banquet. If not, zen we get to eat zem as our banquet." Then the scene rippled and the illuion fell, revealing that the party had stepped into a long corridor with grating above for the assembled guests to look down at them.

Suspecting a fair number of traps, the party proceedeed cautiously. A plaque on the wall said this was the "Tenderization Station," and a second later jets in the walls blasted out a fine white powder into the air. Anyone who touched it started having the flesh eaten from them, but by running through at top speed they were able to escape with only minimal harm. They also managed to dodge the pillars that shot up from the floor to pound them into the ceiling.

After that came the Basting Station, where nozzles shot extremely hot (but tasty) marinade over them. Then the Breading Station, where the walls shot clouds of flour and seasoning (but nothing obviously deadly). Then came the Searing Station, where the ground erupted in flame. Then the Relaxation Station, where a handful of succubi stood by to offer massages to anyone who wanted one. Finally came the Liquidation Station, where the floor was covered in mechanical, whirring blades to puree anyone who touched them. By several clever solutions the party managed to get past each (such as using endure elements, shorting out the blender blades, or the like), and finally came to the end.

The Baron invited them to take seats, and the fiendish servants got to serving them. The party wasn't too interested in the meal, so Andry quickly used invisibility to go steal the Spork of Culinary Excellence from the Baron. She was found out quickly, and thence erupted a brief fight between the party and the fiendish staff. The vampire nobles almost joined in, but when Violetta downed a deamon in a single shot, they all politely took their seats again and sat back to watch. After dispatching the few demons in the banquet hall itself, the party set off running and flew out of the castle as fast as they could go. They managed to make it to the airship, but had a veritable horde of demonic servants following them. Some well-placed shots drove the nearest ones off, and a bit of magic helped Violetta's airship speed away. They had one run-in with that same obnoxious vampire border guard on the way out, but were otherwise okay.

The party briefly considered keeping the Spork, but its various alignment-related side-effects made them decide it would be better to sell it to someone who'd keep it out of the wrong hands. They eventually settled on Mitharchus University, and sold it to the museum curator for a pretty sum.

Session 18: Intimate RelationsEdit

Ascendant Moon: Luxord

After their last adventure, the party took a few days to recover. During that time Andry managed to wake up in the pre-dawn hours to hear some scratching at her windowsill--presumably whoever's been leaving her bits of junk--but scared whoever it was away before she could get over and see. Violetta, meanwhile, managed to spot Cordell among a parade of his (drunk and very off-key) followers, and he tossed her a magic two-headed coin to turn probability in her favor.

When the party decided to get back together, Shitake was waiting for everyone in the Platinum Dragon when she got approached by a handsome-looking half-elf who came up and immediately started hitting on her (including some surreptitious use of charm person). Some of the party was waiting with her, and they didn't take kindly to him trying to get pushy. When he was obviously rebuffed, he cast a spell at Shitake (that failed, to his frustration), then used dimension door to beat a quick exit. When things calmed down everyone noticed an envelope suddenly in front of Don Pequeno. He opened it to find two reservations at Detwo's House of Deep Fry in two days' time. (Detwo's is a mid-scale restaurant known for deep-frying everything on its menu, including its salads.)

The odd occurances apparently behind them, the party checked the notice board and chose to follow up on this ad:

  • Mrs. Xatlach'hya, beautician, seeks a band of adventurers to investigate the disappearance of a number of her customers. Standard compensation, plus choice of manicure, pedicure, or facial.

They headed off to meet Mrs. Xatlach'hya, who turned out to be a gruff Beholder that catered to high-end noblewomen. After taking care of her current customer (by turning her to stone so she'd stop flinching, then thawing her out after the makeup was applied), she took the party back into her office to explain the situation. Apparently several of her loyal, long-time customers had all stopped coming in the past few weeks. Xatlach'hya suspected a competitor of doing something, and she wanted the party to investigate. They agreed, and headed out to follow up on some of the ladies Xatlach'hya mentioned.

Partway to the manor, they were suddenly stopped by a dapper, well-dressed half-orc. He came up to Shitake and introduced himself as a connoseir of fine lingerie, and he could tell that she was wearing some of the finest undergarments he had ever seen. He wanted to buy them off her immediately. Shitake (in addition to blushing furiously) was understandably flustered and tried to politely but firmly say no. While the half-orc was pressing his case, an armed guard came up and asked if things were okay. When the situation was explained he ordered the half-orc off, then immediately turned to Shitake and requisitioned her undergarments on behalf of Lesser Mundania. A similarly dressed guard came up and reprimanded him, saying that was no way to talk to a lady, and then simply ordered her to surrender them and that she would receive just compensation. Finally a third guard joined them, this one proferring a slew of legal documents (most 20-30 pages thick) for the proper requisitions. Some fast-talking on the party' s part managed to stave them off, in part by their promising to fill out the forms once they'd been looked over by their lawyer (Princess, Muglump's nonmagical pig).

They then headed to the mansion of Miss Dorothea Gladdlespoon, an aging heiress and minor noblewoman who apparently takes great care to keep herself looking well. The elemental butler first refused them, but they eventually managed to convince it to let them in. They found a party in process for Scamway, a beauty product line that Miss Gladdlespoon had recently become a devotee of. The room was filled with aging minor noblewomen, and they looked quite put off to be interrupted like this. Some quick conversation got the party the information that Dorothea had found Scamway a few weeks ago and thought it much superior. It didn't have a store, just a person-to-person distribution, but was based out of a building near the market district. The party thanked her and made a quick exit, then headed into town for some more recon.

At the company headquarters, they managed to get an interview with one of the company founders by posing as reporters from one of the chief papers. While stringing her along with various questions, Andry used detect thoughts to gauge her reaction. She seemed honest, but based on some of the company's behavior the party brought up Wizard Jontho. She didn't recognize the name, but Andry caught a flash of panic at that. When comparing notes later the party figured that the cranium lice were somehow behind this, and would be paying Jontho a visit.

As they left, they saw that the Scamway headquarters was directly across from Victory's Secret, an armor and weapons shop catering to female needs. (Much of the armor is nicely sculpted fullplate or the like, but there is a fair representation of chainmail bikinis.) They asked the dwarf proprietess to look Shitake's brassiere over, since everyone seemed so keen to get it. The proprietess found a few layers of spells on it, at least one of which had been recently destroyed, probably by a high magical discharge or by running afoul of a minor Macguffin. (Presumably, the Deck of Paltry Things, on Luxord.) She worked for a few minutes to undo the next layer, and was quite surprised when she did. Looking at the bra through the dwarf's lenses of true seeing revealed a handsome-looking man overlaid on the bra, apparently wrapped in a sheet or curtain. "You've had that young man around your bosom for the last few months, it seems," said the dwarf, to Shitake's intense embarassment. Shitake immediately bought a replacement bra, and the party headed back to her rented room to sort things out.

They decided to unpolymorph him, so en route they bought some spare clothes to keep things from getting even more embarassing. Shitake used break enchantment to turn the bra back into the man, who after a little disorientation introduced himself as Sigmund le Fraude, gentleman extraordinaire. He explained how he'd fallen foul of Prince Harun Al-Fakkah Sadr’Ghumasia Zawiyat of Abys'Al by romancing one of his concubines, who polymorphed him into a brassiere to keep him safe.

After some initial hitting on Shitake, Sigmund got dressed and tried to negotiate some thanks, when the party was interrupted by a woman yelling from the street below. Sigmund yelped and hid behind the party, while the woman shouted that she wanted to make a deal. Shitake came down, and the woman (dressed in some very fine--and very scanty--armor) offered her 20,000 gold pieces for Shitake's bra. Shitake said for her to come back tomorrow and they'd talk. The woman told her she'd regret it, but walked off.

The party consulted and decided they needed to check out a few more things. Andry polymorphed Sigmund into a chicken (much to his annoyance) as a disguise, and they headed out. Ten feet outside the door they got hit by a flame strike, cast by the woman from earlier. They also the half-orc "businessman" from earlier charging at them in a bloody rage, and sorcerer who hit on Shitake casting spells from a rooftop.

The fight was short but damaging, with several high-level damage spells being slung about and a few party members nearly falling unconscious from it. They managed to subdue both the woman and the half-orc, while the sorcerer succeeded in teleporting Shitake's undergarments away from her body (much to her embarrassment) but was chased off by Andry and Boo before he could appropriate them. The half-orc was quite charming once he calmed down and gladly agreed to part ways amicably; the woman not so much, but she did leave, giving the party some time to heal up before heading out again.

Session 19: The Price of BeautyEdit

After healing up from the fight at the end of last session, the party decided they needed to spend some time working on the job they actually accepted. With Sigmund still polymorphed into a chicken, they decided to head to Wizard Jontho to investigate if any of his cranium lice could be behind Shamway's dealings.

Jontho was happy to see them as always. When asked about the lice, he showed the party his terrarium of where he kept them (sterilized, and on rat hosts), and that none of them seemed to be missing. Some might have escaped recapture previously, though. Somewhat reluctantly, he yielded to the party's request for a container to put them in, but under the promise that the party wouldn't harm the lice and would bring them back to him for containment.

While en route back to Shamway, the party was again approached by the trio of guards. This time the bureaucratic one spoke, almost gleefully revealing the piles of paperwork he'd brought with him to requisition Shitake's brassiere (unaware that it had been polymorphed back into Sigmund and then into a chicken). The party thanked him for his work and told him they'd file it with their lawyer (Princesss, Muglump's pig), and come back in 24 hours, please. Pleased as punch with this, the guard headed off, taking his two less-pleased companions with him. Princess then ate the legal briefs, and everyone continued on to Shamway to get their job done. En route they stopped to buy some conditioner, since that was the lice's weakness last time they had to deal with them.

They found an important luncheon in progress, and managed to intimidate their way past the secretary and into the exclusive gathering. (The secretary didn't seem that keen on stopping them, but she gave a good verbal show, at least.) The luncheon had a score or so of well-made-up old ladies. The party tried to scam their way into removing the cranium lice, but the ladies would have none of it, and when they got really upset started intoning a chant:

We are Shamway. Open your moneybelts and prepare to afford it. You will be indoctrinated. Your economic and financialistic assets will be added to our own. Beautificence is inevitable.”

At that all the women apparently lapsed into comas, while a woman made of glowing blue energy materialized, claiming she was the avatar of beauty and cosmetics. She then attacked the party, and was doing well until Andry polymorphed her into a glowing blue energy chicken. The party then battered her into dispersing back into the minds of the women, and before they could recover the PCs went around conditioning their hair and capturing all the cranium lice.

When all the lice were under control, the party split before things could get messy and headed to the manor of Lady Gladdlespoon to do the same (sans fighting another avatar of beauty). Once they'd collected all the lice, Andy had Boo "accidentally" set the container on fire, tragically killing all the lice inside. They reported back to the beholder Xatlach'hya, collected their reward, and then started negotiating with Sigmund for how to go collect this Tiara of Purity the guards wanted.

Session 20: The Cache of Sigmund LeFraudeEdit

Ascendant Moon: Conjunction of Luxxord and Arcanus

With their formal job out of the way, now the party wanted to recover the Tiara of Purity from wherever Sigmund le Fraude had hidden it. After some negotiating, he promised to lead them to its hiding place in exchange for (a) still keeping his cut, and (b) not being turned into a chicken again. He'd hidden it within the Guild of Courtesans, but en route learned that the guild had moved during his time as a brassiere, and their old guildhall was now controlled by the Guild of Ridiculously Ugly Sewer Fiends. The front entrance was boarded up and the new name crudely scrawled over it, with the entrance now through a manhole in front of the building.

After working to get through the hideous secretary guarding the front entrance, the party got sent down a shaft onto some moldy mattresses to meet Francis and Algernon, a ridiculously ugly two-headed dragon(? maybe a diseased hippo instead) who told them that all the old stuff from the previous guild had been stashed in the Junk Room, but only guild members were allowed in. If they wanted access, they'd need to become honorary members by passing the Five Trials of Worthiness, to prove their strength of Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Strength, and Constitution. (No Charisma, "because we're ugly, not stupid.") Francis/Algernon called out the guild to watch, with Francis saying how wonderful it was to have new petitioners and Algernon saying it would be a hoot to watch them get ferschnoozled (local slang meaning "to be killed in an amusing way").

The Trial of Contstitution consisted of facing off against a monstrously fat, bulbous frog-thing named Ghazpork the Unclean in a pie-eating contest. Muglump took that and won easily, in part because of barabarian raging at the pies. Ghazpork's only sadness was that Muglump could not find the ritual antacids of overindulgence to help with things afterward.

The Trial of Wisdom faced the party off against three mini-trials: Standing stock-still in a tub of dire venomous cockroaches (where the slightest movement would send them into a feeding frenzy), walking the Path of Delectableness where temptations would beset them at every side and a step off would send ravenous hyena-sharks to strip their bones, and finally having a staring contest with the resident gorgon. Andry summoned an earth elemental to deal with the cockroaches and walked the path herself (almost succumbing to a T-shirt of Intimidation +20, until Violetta shot her to bring her back to her senses), and Muglump had his dead mother-in-law do the staring contest. The gorgon was impressed; most people who passed did so by realizing that all those were really stupid things and refusing to do them.

The Trial of Strength involved filling out a bunch of release-of-liability paperwork with a young, bored, male(?) clerk. As soon as they finished he released a giant albino dire crocodile on them to fight. The crocodile managed to swallow both Boo and Muglump, but was eventually defeated.

The Trial of Intelligence had the party matching wits over Scrabble with another ridiculously ugly fiend. Thanks to some aid from Don Pequeno, after a tight opening the party finished it out with a triple-word score using both Z and X, and were allowed to continue.

Finally, the Trial of Dexterity consisted of closing your eyes and touching your nose while walking blindfolded across a moat of rabid badgers. Andry again took this one and managed it fine, then used Boo to fly back.

The trials finished, the party was congratulated and made honorary guild members with their chose of a Potion of Ridiculously Ugliness or a Mask of Acceptable Verisimilitude. Everyone but Muglump chose the mask; the downed the potion, becoming even more ugly but getting a nice boost to his Constitution in the process.

Finally, the party went to the Junk Room, where they were all allowed to take one item for themselves (plus the Tiara). Everyone found some nifty stuff, and they spotted the tiara by noticing the one statue that was free of grime and had pure water (instead of sewer sludge) pooling around it. Sigmund bid the party farewell and left posthaste, and after getting out of the sewers and cleaning up, the party gave the tiara to the trio of guards in exchange for a 20,000 GP bounty.

Session 21: Ghost Busting, part IEdit

Ascendant Moon: Conjunction (Arbora & Primalis)

The party took a few weeks to recover from their harrowing ordeal with Shamway (well, more like Shitake took a few weeks to stop being embarrassed by the surrounding events), then went in to look for some work. After perusing the notice board, they decided on the following ad:

Sir Macabre le'Ghoulfellow seeks a band of adventurers to deal with a ghost infestation of his pub, the Drowning in Effulgent Sorrows (Joy Street, market district). Standard compensation. No vampires, please.

A short trip to Joy Street revealed the Drowning in Effulgent Sorrows, a black, gothic-style pub that appeared to be built on the design of a mausoleum. Inside they met Macabre Le'Ghoulfellow, a tall, sallow-faced barkeep who caters his business to young nobles and others with more money than sense, and a taste for the despondent. He explained that several of his customers had died recently, and for whatever reason their shades had decided to hang out at his pub. He simply wanted them removed. There were three sets of ghosts, and the party set about seeing what they could do for them.

First was "the Befuddled Baron," a drunken sot hanging out near the front who kept asking for more to drink. After interrogating him for a while the party figured he just wanted a drink of his favorite Stygian Ale (supposedly made from the distilled tears of the damned, but everyone knows it's just elderberries). They ordered some and dropped some ghosttouch oil Violetta had picked up into the drink. He downed it quickly and instantly felt much better, ready to fly off and soar...except he was still there. When he asked for more, Andry smeared her hand with the same oil, grabbed him by the front of his lapels, and bodily (well, close enough) threw him through a wall with a warning to not come back.

Next they headed upstairs where a pair of young (dead) lovers lay mourning in the corner. Violetta talked with them, and it came out that they were deeply and profoundly in love, but anguished by the behavior of their families, who not only adored each other and thought marriage a great idea, but also kept trying to outdo each other in their generosity toward the other family. Such benevolence now could only mean trouble in the future. So they committed suicide, but even that was no cure because now the families were arguing over which would have the honor of paying for the resurrection and which for the psychological counselling. (Violetta thought this was the best thing she'd seen in weeks, since it was the first time she'd actually seen someone die of stupidity.) After some further talking she managed to convince them that it was actually a ruse put on by their parents, who secretly didn't want them to marry but were acting the opposite because they knew teenagers always went against their parents' desires. Thanks to an obscene bonus to her Bluff check, they believed her and were liberated of their anguish. They immediately headed out to enjoy their time together and start planning things for after their resurrection.

Finally, the party headed down to deal with the last ghost, the Marquis d'Alhedraz. En route they ran into the bard who delivered the latest batch of Stygian Ale; he hit on Violetta pretty hard (and was summarily shot down--not literally, though), then visibly dismissed Shitake, much to her consternation, before taking a seat and nursing a drink of his own.

The Marquis was a decorated half-orc general who was stuck on a chess game he'd been playing with a companion by sending. He could see no way out of it, and apparently the furor of this burning in his mind had pinned him to the world. After some talking it over, the party studied the board and just barely managed to find a way to turn it into a stalemate, for which the Marquis was extremely grateful. Somewhat surprised he was still extant afterward, he thanked them for their help and then wandered off to enjoy the benefits of incorporeality.

Throughout their conversations with the ghosts, the party had realized that the Stygian Ale was a common theme, and so suspected something was up. Shitake polymorphed herself into a beautiful (human) woman and started flirting with the delivery bard, who introduced himself as Daemon (and shamelessly flirted back). He bought her a drink (Stygian Ale, with one for him, too), set up a dinner date for that night, and then went to perform onstage with a set of bongos.

As soon as he started playing, the room filled with a sense of dread and despair. Not liking this at all, Don Pequeno set up a lively countersong, and managed to outperform Daemon, who left in a huff. The party collected a small reward from Macabre Le'Ghoulfellow, and then set up a trap for that night. Shitake met Daemon as planned and he took her to dinner at a nearby inn, where she surreptitiously pumped him for information while Andry lay nearby using detect thoughts to read his surface thoughts. After getting a lot, she dropped the disguise to reveal what had been going on. He left, but the party caught him in the alley and pumped him for information (with plenty of physical threats involved), and he explained that the Church of Metatrhasis (goddess of death, despair, sorrow, and bad poetry) had hired him for some deliveries, that's all. They got a bit more out of him about the church potentially being behind several deaths (thanks to detect thoughts), then let him go. After some deliberation, they decided to go to the town watch with this information, since it wasn't actually part of the job they'd been hired for.

Session 22: Ghost Busting, part IIEdit

Ascendant Moon: Primalis

The party headed to the city watch and explained the situation to the secretary out front. Partway through she interrupted and said, "Oh, you're looking for an authorization for vigilantedom." She dug out the form and told them to come back early the next day, since the line for authorization tended to get long quickly. They did so, and even though they showed up around dawn they were still fourth in line. After about an hour they got their authorization (good for 1 week), and were sent on their way.

The party figured they would need some allies, and decided to check in at the Temple of Festalvus (god of parties) to see if they could find any there. What they found were the remains of a drunken frat party, with the High Priestess still completely plastered (although very friendly). In the middle of trying to negotiate with her (and help her keep more than two sentences in her head at once), the party heard an angry "There you are!" from behind them. They turned and found Daemon (the bard from Shitake's "date" the night before) stalking toward them and looking very upset. And translucent.

He angrily explained that his employers had found out about their interrogation the night before and decided to cut their losses by cutting his throat. He figured the party owed him 25,000 GP now for a resurrection spell. The party (esp. Violetta) figured a lot of it was his own fault. He countered that he had information on the church that they would want, and he could provide a lot better help than a few drunk priests. The party agreed, settling on giving him a cut of any loot they got.

He took them to the First United Church of Metathrasis, which was having a revival meeting that night. They very carefully did not drink the complementary punch or eat the free scones, but did conspire to "accidentally" knock many of them over. When the revival meeting actually started, they had to suffer through about an hour of poorly written poetry about the futility and angst of life before the leader came out. He was dressed in ragged robes, and immediately started prophesying their imminent consumption by "The Eater of the Dead, the Consumer of Worlds, the Vanquisher of All that Is Good and Holy, The Dread Organizer and Keeper of the Infernal File Cabinet of Despair, He who shall come and feast upon their souls with a side of relish." Halfway through, the party recognized him as Crazy Coot, the insane villager up in the mountains of Waddavewe (Session 5). After he had finished and left, one of the lower functionaries thanked everyone and gave instructions for how to join the church.

As others were filing out, the party headed to the front to talk with the functionary. Andry's detect thoughts revealed that he had instructions to make sure they made it into the inner parts of the church, and the functionary started getting really nervous when they didn't accept his offers of membership. They did take him up on a tour of the distillery, which showed many vats and stills, until ending in a room where the ledgers and bookkeeping was kept. Andry had just enough time to pick up (telepathically) that he remembered something important, when the door to the room slammed shut and they were attacked by him and a bunch of cultist minions. Although annoying, the party managed to dispatch with them pretty easily...until they all rose as ghosts and had to be fought again, this time with incorporeality and higher stats. Having prepped for fighting ghosts the day before, however, they party managed to come out on top.

021 Flowchart of Planning

Searching the room found a key around the functionary's neck, which opened a locked compartment in one of the desks. Therein they found a bunch of loot (addressed with "For the Adventurers," along with a black scrollcase with "Master Plan" on the outside. Opening it revealed the Flowchart of Planning (see image), which after exploding when someone got to the middle section, revealed the entire master plan. The party seemed to have thwarted much of it, but checked to make sure the water supply hadn't been tainted ghosttack ichor, which assured people who'd taken it would remain as ghosts. (It hadn't). They gave Daemon his share of loot, sold what they didn't want, and then headed on their way until the next adventure came around.

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