The Penultimate Game – Serpent Skull

The final two modules of the Adventure Path

Last night saw a marathon (yes +Christopher Hardy this one “actually” qualifies) of a game for our in person Serpent Skull adventure path.  We started at around 7 P.M. and finished at around 2.30 A.M. which made me oh so very unpopular with my wife when I got home.  But was it worth it?  Oh hell YES!  Be warned, DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU ARE A PLAYER IN A SERPENT SKULL GAME AS THIS CONTAINS HEAPS OF SPOILERS.

Ok, first a bit of scene setting.  The players are +Cam Mcloughlin who plays Janthir the Fetchling rogue/sorcerer/arcane trickster, +scott desmond who plays Kaleb the Aasimar monk/cleric, my 14 year old daughter Courtney (largely why I am in the bad books keeping her out so late on a school night) who plays Seleca the Elven Cavalier (with her newly minted druid cohort after the fighter died last week) and Mark Desmond who plays Seroquel/Hank the Tiefling Alchemist/Master Chymist.  If you have been following the blogs you would realise that the party had moved through a portion of the final module of this adventure path and last week they fought through a bunch of beasts to get to a set of stairs that lead to the second level of the evil temple dedicated to the decapitated serpent folk god Ydersius.

What I am now comfortable to reveal as my players now know is that by following their travel to the left mantra that they avoided a whole bunch of threats and made it to the stairs down in the quickest way possible.  What this meant was for the final battle they had a heap of really high threat level creatures that would be called in to assist the end foes.  What this meant to me was I was expecting a TPK (Total Party Kill) to be the finale for this adventure path.  I had told the players that when it came to the final battle the screen would be taken away and the dice would fall as they do with no fudging (not that I fudge often, but there is always a player perspective that you do).

Now you may be wondering why did I call this post the penultimate game when it is quite apparent that the final battle appears to have been done.  This is true.  The final battle occurred last night.  Was there a TPK?  Why do they need another session?  Do they all need therapy?  Read on and find the answer to that question somewhere below dear reader.

So, to the story.  The players returned from their camp above and headed down into the second level, completely oblivious to the danger they had left behind.  They were moving into the large opulent temple corridors below and every step of the way they were expecting doom.  Enough of them had read my blog to realise this may be the last game so they were nervous.  Very nervous.

They headed into some rooms and found collections of ancient Azlanti artefacts that they decided to leave alone and then came to a junction to which they (of course) took the path to the left.  They found themselves opening a large set of doors into a massive room with a strange green path on it.  The players were very paranoid and they soon noticed there was magic emanating from some sections of the columns that were present here so gave them a wide berth.  They moved to the doors at the far end and found they could not get them open.  The monk went into gaseous form and found that the reason they could not get them open was that there had been a cave in on the other side.  They returned to the junction and headed to the hissing room a little further away.

Six armed brassiere wearing demon? Check!

They came to a large long room and found it coated in a carpet of snakes.  Janthir sent in a fireball and the snakes just seemed to roll in over the damage done.  They were considering flying over the room when a six armed, snake bodied, brassiere wearing demon appeared and threatened their doom.  A bit of back and forth later the demon covered the entrance to the room with a blade barrier.  While the players discussed what to do, the demon teleported over to the main chamber and warned the big boss that the party was in the lower levels and returned, dropping the barrier and readying for a fight.  The kicker?  Well, the snakes on the floor were an illusion as was the image of the demon.  The demon was real enough but she was lurking in an alcove nearby waiting for a good time to spring her attack.

Janthir unfortunately struggled a little in determining that it was an illusion whilst the rest of the party picked it up pretty quickly.  Unfortunately that meant that poor old Janthir was the first one that got targeted and he found himself swiftly caught up in a grapple from the demons coils whilst the demon then began to slash and whip the rest of the party as she squeezed the life out of him.  Long story short, the rest of the party managed to do more damage to her than she did to Janthir quickly enough to get him free of the creature as it was banished to the abyss to harbour her resentment.

The party had little time to breathe (just enough time to work their Cure Serious Wounds wand into a lather) before they rounded the next corner and came across an undead spirit tied to a hollow snake skin.  The party leapt at the opportunity which meant Seleca unfortunately got caught in the creatures mouth.  This is an unfortunate place to be with a hollow serpent as it is in precisely that point where you start getting energy drained.  She did have a good idea whilst spending time in the creatures teeth and she poured a cure serious wounds potion into it with the positive healing energy damaging the creature.  The party managed to take it out quickly with Seleca losing only a single level loss to the creature.

It was over quickly for this overconfident degenerate!

Moving forward they came to the next odd shaped room that contained an overconfident degenerate serpent folk and some guards.  Unfortunately for the “big” threat in the room he got stunned by Seleca’s stunning assault feat and spent the one round it took the party to despatch of him “looking at the pretty birdies”!  To add insult to injury the pleb guards then took about four rounds to despatch of.

And then they came to the final room.  A huge chamber with an obvious ritualistic platform and a dirty great big hole into the realms of Orv at the other end of the cavern.  the players spotted what looked to be a dirty great big snake skull sitting on the ritual platform and a serpent folk cleric in front of it facing them feigning surprise hat they had “interrupted” his ritual.  Then a massive snake came from the north west and the battle got under way.

Can you spot the invisible miniatures?  Paizo make these
and they are great to use.  Just watch you don’t put your
hand on one because they are sharp and hurt! 

What the players did not know at this stage is the “skull” on display was actually just the fossilised stone that had formed around the skull.  The bone had already been extracted and used to complete the ritual.  Ydersius was on his way and the players had five or so rounds to deal with this priest before the main event arrived.  Unfortunately for the players though there were three other NPC’s that they had not dealt with on the first level that were on their way to help deal with them.  It was certainly looking like a TPK from my perspective.  The screen got thrown away and the next three hours played out in devastating style.

What happened?  Lets dot point this.

  • The priest set himself up protectively with a Globe of Invulnerability and a Repulsion spell that essentially ended up affecting only Seleca
  • The party came charging in with an aim to deal with the two threats only to find a pair of transmuter serpent folk arrive on the second round with some devastating spells at their disposal (can anyone say disintegrate?).
  • The party did a reasonable job of dealing with the snake and also taking the fight to the priest so that when he was due to start summoning some buddies he was looking a little shabby and needed to take a time out
    • To do this he cast a Destruction spell and nearly killed Janthir outright (which would have consumed his body in unholy fire).  Thanks to a pre combat buff of Greater Heroism Janthir actually managed to fall unconscious rather than die.  The priest then used quickened teleport to hide out amongst some rubble and get himself back in the game.
  • The attention turned to the two transmuters but they both got off some Resilient Sphere’s and retreated to make themselves a little more combat worthy.
  • The Ydersius rose and the party charged in (apart from Seleca who was still prevented from moving in that direction by the Repulsion effect.
  • Kaleb and Hank went toe to toe with the god while Janthir healed himself out in the back room and Seleca attempted to cut her way through the spheres the transmuters had created.  Meanwhile the priest created a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a couple of Invisible Stalkers to complicate the matter and things turned ugly
  • Janthir arrived back just in time to see Hank caught in the dinosaurs mouth and Kaleb step into the back room (the back room was the room of the last encounter) to heal up also.  Janthir managed to get a couple of amazing criticals against Ydersius just in time to knock his HP down to a manageable level.  The priest also started to come back to the fray to see if he could support his god.
  • Ydersius unfortunately made the bad decision to charge in on Seleca and it was the opportunity she was after.  Kaleb and Hank had done enough to make one blow from Seleca sever its head again from its body.
The transmuter’s arrive!
The player’s thought they were home free.  But as it turned out the body fought on.  One of the transmuters (amusingly) threw out a Prismatic Spray which turned Hank permanently insane and turned the Tyrannosaurus Rex insane before sending it to a random other plane.  Long story short, the insane Hank places the gods skull in his portable hole and attempts to run away.  The battle turns into a bad version of a capture the flag video game as the remaining serpent folk attempted to retrieve the bag.     A couple of summoned creatures (Purple Worm and Cloud Giant) from Seleca’s cohort (a new druid she picked up in camp) complicated things for the serpent folk as the purple worm swallowed and eventually finished off the big cleric and the giant tried to wrestle with the now headless Ydersius to little effect.  Then the final supporter arrived just in time to meet the departing (insane) Hank.  There was a tussle with the headless god’s body who snatched up Hank, and then Hank got cut into pieces by the new follower (a Troglodyte warrior).  
Players just got hit with the Repulsion effect
Things at this point were balanced on a knifes edge and it could still go either way.  The only living transmuter usesDimension Door to snatch up Hank’s body and the creatures descended for the final struggle.  The giant managed to kill the transmuter and Janthir scooped up the remains of Hank with the skull to teleport away to the camp far above them, leaving Seleca, her cohort and Kaleb behind.  Kaleb fled and called for Seleca to do the same.  Seleca cut down the Troglodyte and the now headless body of Ydersius fled back into the darkness of Orv to while away the time until it can rise again.
Uh-oh, who invited an evil god to this rumble?
It was at this point we broke.  No resolution to the battle.  Three of the party (Seleca, Kaleb and Seleca’s cohort affectionately nicknamed Deno5 for Death number 5) stuck in the temple.  One of the party (Hank) dead and Janthir with a god’s skull in a portable hole in a lost city on the surface.  So you can see there is still at least a session in it to tie up some loose ends and determine “Where to from here?” Not to mention the loose ends from the players perspective “Show us the loot!”

I have to tip my hat to them.  I was convinced that this could end in only one way (TPK) when they failed to explore the first level of the temple thoroughly.  All rolls were public, above board and true to the game.  The final encounter was meant to be simply the high ranking priest and Ydersius, both CR19 foes, but they also defeated two CR16 transmuters and a CR14 (I think from memory) fighter.  Not to mention the invisible stalkers and the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  This group truly are the heroes of Saventh-Yhi.  I bow to your success and look forward to winding things up.  Well done adventurer’s!  There are more tasks ahead but the Serpent Skull adventure path has but one short game left in it to wrap it up!
 Scroll down for a few final images from the night.

Not as impressive from a distance, are they!

Here comes the Cloud Giant!
Cloud Giant and Purple Worm spells trouble for the
serpent folk evil god side 🙁

1 Comment

  1. Excellent commentary! And HELLS YES! That’s definitely a Marathon session (especially for an old sod like myself).


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