Saturday, March 12, 2011

Evil PCs 4: Welcome to the Neighborhood

New developments, and some details I may have left out last time:

At the end of the last session of play, Algalon's rival, Don Luis Fernando Cruz Hernandez, was sent to Hell by the tiefling cleric Bellius when he attempted to kidnap the mage Radford Andros from the villains and take credit for their bounty. Shortly thereafter, Bellius himself was summoned to Hell by his lord, the archdevil Belial, and chastised for sending the mortal Hernandez into his realm. Belial had marked Hernandez as a good candidate for corruption by an infernal agent - but Hernandez had already made a pact with the yugoloth king Charon, and since the scoundrel was effectively killed during his journey to the Nine Hells, Belial lost the opportunity to recruit a potentially powerful ally, and had to send Hernandez directly to Charon's domain. Bellius managed to calm his lord's fiery temper with silvered tongue and honeyed words, and was forgiven for his hasty actions... this time, anyway.

Though Bellius was only Below for about an hour to his own reckoning, he had actually been gone for nearly a week - giving the villains time to take Andros back to Numethril and claim their bounty, as well as sell their ghastly collection of humanoid body parts to the strange occult merchant Syon Telba. The elf lord who took Andros into custody foolishly released the mage from the feeblemind spell placed upon him by Vid, hoping to interrogate the mage. Unfortunately, with his mental faculties restored, Andros managed to bark out the word he'd been sputtering since his capture: "Puh-puh-puh... puh-puh... PEPPERCORN!" His word of recall spell whisked him away from the grasp of the Numenil elves, putting the elf lord in very hot water with his superiors, who jailed him for gross negligence leading to the escape of a captured enemy.

The newly anointed imp Algalon, now going by the less formal Al, decided to turn the elf noble's predicament to his advantage. Visiting him in his jail cell, Al promised the elf lord freedom if he'd simply sign a contract promising the imp his soul. The lord agreed, and Al let him out of his cell... and then barked a warning to the guards, who promptly executed the escaped prisoner.

One down, nine to go.

Meanwhile, Edgar and Vid traveled to Syon Telba's curio shop to sell off the body parts Telba had requested - mostly feet. The shop was locked up, and their knock went unanswered, so they went around back to see if they could hear or see anyone inside. Sure enough, they did - an unglamoured Telba, exposed in his true form as a ghoul, enjoying a hearty snack of pickled humanoid feet. A few minutes later, they knocked again and Telba let them in, paying them for their wares. The villains asked Telba if he'd be interested in closing up his shop and working for them instead. Luckily for them, the old ghoul had always dreamed of retiring from his business and taking a position as a bartender in a quaint little country tavern, and accepted their offer to serve as concierge of the new inn.

After settling all of their business in Numethril and purchasing enough foodstuffs and spirits to begin serving customers (as well as hired guards), the villains returned to the burial cairn, where a group of dwarven stoneshapers had already come and gone, using their powerful earth magicks to renovate the cairn to Vid's exacting specifications. They began setting up and stocking the inn, and soon thereafter Bellius returned from Hell. While they were giving the tiefling the grand tour of their new digs, one of their hired guards reported that a large undead army carrying Osric's standard was positioned about a quarter mile south of the inn. The army did not advance; instead, a large hulking figure detached from the regiment and approached the inn, and the walking dead disappeared as suddenly as they arrived. As the dark figure drew closer, the villains realized that it was a walking statue of rough obsidian, nearly ten feet tall and covered in runic script. The golem seemed to defer to Edgar, requesting that the antipaladin escort it to a safe location. They tucked the golem away in the icy caverns far beneath the inn - presumably, this was the artifact which Osric had charged them with guarding.

The villains spent the next three days recruiting undead and other creatures to serve in their new dungeon: wraiths, spectres, chaitrakhan skeletons, a cryohydra, golems of clay, flesh, and ice - plus organizing their waitstaff (including some vampire prostitutes) to accommodate the coming influx of guests. Bellius was hard at work raising undead minions and performing enchantments to unhallow and anchor large portions of the complex. Also, Edgar made contact with a night hag to request some favors - namely a large-scale anti-detection spell to mask the presence of evil in the inn, and three totenmaskes, powerful undead creatures who keep their victims barely alive to feed on their suffering and can adopt their prey's physical form so long as the unfortunate wretches still live. The night hag, Grizelda, granted his request for the anti-detection spell, but said the totenmaskes would come at a great price: she commanded them to kill a great linnorm which lives north of the location of the inn.

At noon on day three, a group of five vikings were spotted on the horizon by Vid's scouts, who reported that the warriors seemed fatigued and were carrying the carcasses of large wild bison. Their leader, a huge human named Vosskgar, had the body of a freshly-killed smilodon slung over his shoulder. The vikings treated peacefully with the "innkeepers", and Vosskgar shared some valuable information with the villains that convinced them to travel east and visit the viking stronghold of Throssvaast. Vosskgar also advised Edgar to give up the foolish quest of slaying the great linnorm, which he referred to by name as Haglslask. The viking warrior explained that Haglslask was an ancient servant of the demon prince Demogorgon and is worshipped by his people as a representation of the inevitability of death. A great two-headed serpent who breathes frost and ice, none have ever managed to best Haglslask, according to Vosskgar - and daring to speak of such an act would be tantamount to heresy among the more superstitious of the humans of Ondur. On the other hand, anyone who could manage to slay Haglslask would be regarded by the Ondurians as a god.

The villains had voiced an idea earlier about the prospect of setting up a distillery to produce their own spirits for the inn and also to create an alternative revenue stream for their operations, so with the information gleaned from their new contact, they struck out to the east to visit the city of Throssvaast. Upon arriving, they ran into Vosskgar, who escorted them to a mead house for a good round of drinking and carousing. They asked him if he would be willing to introduce them to Olvar, the Lord Regent of Throssvaast, and Vosskgar agreed, suggesting they attend a moot of small council with him the following morning.

While the humanoid villains drank and whored, Al the Imp spent his time in the mead house tempting concubines with promises of beauty beyond mortal compare and knowledge of carnal prowess beyond earthly understanding in exchange for their mortal souls, netting himself one more sucker toward his quota. He also noticed an undue amount of attention being paid to his fellow travelers by an older man dressed in the robes of a court officiant; he followed the eavesdropper to the chambers of another, younger man inside the stronghold's main keep. He overheard the conversation, but since he couldn't understand the Ondurians' native tongue, he didn't glean much useful info.

Minutes later, Al reported back to his teammates in the mead hall. Soon thereafter, the young man whom the older man was talking to in the keep came to them with some information and a missive. to deliver a letter to the city of Skaalgaard. He introduced himself as Vradr, and explained that Lord Regent Olvar, in his advancing age and creeping senility, mistakenly felt it necessary to raid Skaalgaard in a holy purge of the hated celestials - but the celestials were no longer there. None dared speak against Olvar for fear of being denounced a traitor and losing their heads, but a group of shadow diplomats had written messages to contacts in Skaalgaard that would alert them to the invading force and give the Skaalgaard troops battle plans that could repel Throssvaast's warriors with minimal bloodshed. Vradr asked them to deliver the letter, contained in a sealed scroll tube, to his contact in Skaalgaard - an innkeeper named Jarrlag. Vradr ordered them not to break the seal, for his messenger would not believe its contents if it were disturbed.

Suspicious of his motives, Vid cast a tongues spell on Al and sent him to follow Vradr. Vradr reported back to the older man, Friedrig, inside the keep, and Al heard the men hatching a different plot: to frame the Lord Regent himself with high treason and have Friedrig take his position. The letter was written in a forgery of Olvar's handwriting and sealed with his wax stamp, stolen by Friedrig after a council meeting.

Al waited for Vradr to leave and appeared to Friedrig in the form of a black cat, telling him that the gods who watched over Throssvaast were pleased with his cunning and skill, and offered him a chance to ensure that he would rule in Olvar's stead by swaying the votes of the other small council members to appoint him Lord Regent. All it would take was his name on the dotted line of an infernal contract... and Friedrig accepted. Al assured him the others would be bribed or coerced before he would be eligible for Olvar's position.

Of course, when Vid and Edgar revealed Friedrig's treachery at the small council moot the following morning (aided by a well-timed zone of truth from Bellius that caused Friedrig to implicate himself), Al was relieved of any responsibility to fulfill his end of the contract. Lord Regent Olvar agreed to allow Edgar to prepare Friedrig for ritual sacrifice to Orcus on the condition that his head be displayed on the battlements to discourage any other ambitious small councilmen from rash actions. As Edgar drew his sword back for the killing blow, Al (once again in cat form, eavesdropping from behind Olvar's iron throne) hopped onto Friedrig's lap and said, "See ya soon."

Spurred on by their new allies, the villains have traveled onward in search of this city of celestials, but they've gotten side tracked a few times meeting their new neighbors. Bellius' sister, the aasimar archer Lucia, ambushed the dastardly quartet with her eladrin henchmen, and before she escaped, she dealt the villains a decent amount of punishment. The two-headed linnorm Haglslask, still pledged to Demogorgon, was sent to express his master's displeasure at their glorification of Orcus within Throssvaast. The villains barely escaped this encounter with their lives without scoring so much as a scratch in the linnorm's scaly hide, and also stumbled upon a cavernous nest of alien, crab-like creatures who drew them in with telepathic lures and disrupted their magic - another close call. They've also made contact with a group of ice trolls who regularly ambush a mountain pass between the Inn and Throssvaast, and after killing several of them, arranged a truce of sorts (and a promise of tribute from the humbled troll warchief).

In the next installment, they'll meet a new friend (another poor soul actually wants to play this game?), glean some info about their subterranean neighbors, and learn why their latest shipment of foodstuffs for the inn hasn't arrived yet!

As an added bonus, here's my stat block of the week - the ice trolls of the Ssuulp tribe, fearsome warriors from Bestiary 2 upgraded with the Mighty template from the Genius Guide to Simple Monster Templates.

Ssuulp Tribe Ice Trolls

CR 9
XP 6,400
CE Large humanoid (cold, giant)
Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +9

AC 22, touch 18, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +5 dodge, +4 natural, –1 size)
hp 95 (6d8+68); regeneration 5 (acid or fire)
Saves Fort +10, Ref +13, Will +7
Immune cold, mind-affecting, sleep, paralysis
Damage Reduction 2/-
Spell Resistance 16
Weaknesses vulnerable to fire

Speed 60 ft.
Melee battleaxe +12 (2d6+9), bite +7 (1d6+7), claw +7 (1d4+7) or bite +12 (1d6+9), 2 claws +12 (1d4+9)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 claws, 1d6+11)

Abilities Str 19, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 7
Base Atk +9; CMB +14; CMD 33
Feats Intimidating Prowess, Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Intimidate +12, Perception +14, Survival +9
Languages Giant

Environment cold mountains or underground
Organization solitary or band (3–6)