Posted on February 17, 2012
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XLIX
Ruling on the field re: Albedon’s spell critical is overturned. The spell went off successfully, so the critical, whatever it was happens. So chin up gang, maybe you’ll send him forward in time to a place when you are 20th level and you can school him. Remind me of that next week. Maybe it will have no bearing, maybe it will. An extra octopus would come in handy right now.
Fishing Camp to Runelords Stone Circle.
Bidding the Ulfen and Varisian camp a modestly fond farewell, Dagfinn, Kerplak, Albedon, Torgor and Don travelled upstream, leaving Halvard to do some business or other with Snorri Halfhand. Leaving the river banks, entrusting to Torgor’s Rangerly skills, they made their way toward the lake shore in a more direct route. Travelling through the easiest parts of the low foothills that surround the lake, they were beset by snow, because everyone kept rolling bloody snow.
About 10 miles out, they saw shapes through the snow and once within hailing distance figured out that they were Shoanti. The Shoanti weren’t as welcoming as the fishermen and when asked why they were here, they reported that they were tending a post – which they revealed marked sightings of The Great Mouth of Winter, a terror of these parts for many centuries. They had never seen the creature itself, but they tended the posts which served as warnings that this was as close as you could get to Lake Stormunder without getting popped into the Great Mouth of Winter and eaten as a delicious amuse-bouche. Or whatever the Shoanti equivalent is, the Campaign Setting Guide was vague on those kind of details.
Anyway, never getting too close, they skirted the group who warned them against carrying on, but not too much, because they really didn’t care that much. They pressed on towards the lakeshore. as they did so, they found more Shoanti posts, all very old, with trinkets and detritus at their base indicating that the Shoanti had left offerings of some sort. Each post was carved with symbols that Albedon deciphered as a representing a large mouth and a second, more sophisticated symbol showing the passage of the sun away from the northern hemisphere. At least, that’s what Albedon reckoned, I suspect everything that comes out of Albedon’s mouth sounds clever.
They travelled to the southernmost point of the shore and made camp, only this time, instead of a shivering bivouac by the river bank, it was a well chosen, sheltered campsite hidden by some spell that nobody was quite sure about, Hidden Campsite, right? I like those spells. They kept a watch, but their night was free of interruption, which is what you can expect when the campsite is hidden, but also what happens when something has eaten everything bigger than a sheep within 15 miles.
The next morning they had to ford two rivers on the eastern shore of Lake Stormunder. The first was easy enough to get across, the ford being shallow, but the second was a bit deeper. Before they crossed the river, they were treated to a view of Rimeskull. The mountains nearby were dwarfed by Rimeskull, which at 16,000′ is a monster of a mountain.
Fortunately, from their viewpoint (both literally and figuratively), they could also see that their path was not up the mountain. One of the foothills came to a flat top, upon which stood seven tall stones, carved into the likeness of human heads. From there a ledge led to a trail of some sort which ascended 200′ up the side of the mountain until it terminated at skull like entrance, with the shapes of eye sockets and gaping mouth clearly visible.
Dagfinn wanted to make sure they were at the stone circle by dusk, so they forded the next river by clinging to the back of Don-as-polar-bear. A little wet and a lot cold, they reached the other side and were up the winding path to the flattened hilltop by dusk. As the sunk further over the horizon the ten-foot heads began to radiate such magical power that their aura became visible to the naked eye. Don figured out that the stones were simply insanely powerful, not priming to explode or providing illumination deliberately. His insight made him think casting Detect Magic wouldn’t be the best idea as the aura would surely be overwhelming.
Dagfinn stood in the middle of the stone circle and began reciting lines from the poem. Nothing. Then he read aloud the entire original poem in Thassilonian. Nothing. They hummed and hawed about it for a while, then Dagfinn bravely asked Albedon to cast a spell against one of the heads, specifically an Evocation spell at the head of Alaznist the Evoker, one of only two that they could identify. Albedon acquiesced, sending some Magic Missiles at the Runelady of Wrath. Somewhere on a plane other than the material, a gong sounded. The open mouth of the stone head was filled with a golden light and when the light faded, a key had manifested upon the stone. I don’t think there have been many purer D&D moments than “You cast Magic Missile on the statue and a magical key appears” in this game.
They were onto something now so they deduced what they could about the other runelords, but not too much. The obese guy with holes in his face; his key appeared when Dagfinn pulled out his Animate Dead scroll and cast it – one of the oldest magical items any character has, having been dropped in the first part of ROTRL.
Don cast a Stone to Mud or Earth to Pebbles or some other earthy Transmutation spell, activating Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed’s purdy mouth and creating a key.
After that, they guessed. They didn’t try to figure out what school of magic would fit with the heads/faces, they just burned a bunch of spell slots. But hey, who needs spells, ri-…
Somewhere higher up amongst the peaks there was a rumble, distinct from the ever present keen of the mountain wind. The spell guessing and key gathering picked up pace until only two keys were left to collect. The attentions of everyone were wrenched to the west as out of the snow flurries a great roar sounded. The Great Mouth of Winter had found them.
Hurtling towards them at a fair pace (36.3mph, I figured it out) it swooped down level with the hilltop and sped towards them. As the huge white dragon became closer, the terrifying grandeur of the creature filled several pairs of breeches. Kerplak, Dagfinn and Albedon were shaken, while Don and Torgor grit their teeth and tightened their sphincters.
Torgor fit an arrow to his bow and waited for the dragon to get closer. Albedon sprang into action, casting Wall of Force across the flat top of the hill, between them and TGMoW. Don called up a lightning storm, Kerplak put his Automated Climbing Harness on and Dagfinn quickly cast the spells he needed to to trigger the final two heads and nab their keys.
The Great Mouth of Winter swept in over the Wall of Force, somehow sensing its presence and bathed the area in a cone of bone shattering cold. No-one’s bones shattered, but only because they now had a thick layer of frostbite on the outside bits. Dagfinn stepped in and struck at the creature with his sword, the first strike bouncing off as though he had hit the mountain itself, the second implausibly finding a weak point and drawing cold blood. Torgor’s arrows seemed to do nothing, whereas Albedon’s Scorching Ray at least made it flinch. Don’s lightning coursed off the scaled mass most of the time and Albedon’s rays seemed to have difficulty penetrating. Kerplak, having fitted his harness managed to send a crossbow bolt past some scales. The dragon moved past Dagfinn, ignoring his opportutistic strikes and engaged both the bard and the ranger, Torgor having switched to melee weaponry. With a lash of its head and some rakes with its powerful claws, it took down both opponents. It bathed the area in more cold, which Don weathered and Kerplak miraculously avoided.
Albedon, sensing that this foe may be a bit too much and already having died at the hands of one dragon made for the other side of the Wall of Force, casting as he went. Don had spent most of the day as a bear, but had decided enough was enough.
Don bamfed into a bird and took to the skies, specifically the skies in the far distance. Kerplak managed to fall off the top of the stone head upon which he had been perched, but that didn’t stop him from sending his two grapple lines over the shoulders of the creature.
That’s the dire situation in which they were stranded – the keys to Runeforge in their possession, but stymied by a age old terror, far from civilization.
A couple of things about the Great Mouth of Winter:
a) He’s a dick. That’s deliberate, not only on my part, but on the part of Paizo. When they came up with a way of gauging combat encounters, they skewed things when it came to dragons. Fighting a dragon should always be, they reasoned, harder than your average fight. Seems funny, they could simply have bumped up the challenge rating, but in a way its them ensuring that nobody makes dragons pussies in their homebrew settings. Or at least it makes people work harder if they want Dragons to be disappointing. If you see what I mean. That picture above is the cover of the current module, so they gave him precedence over the push-over Scribbler and anything that comes after him. They’re serious.
b) I was certain that I needed a miniature for him, because chances are, he’ll be kicking your asses for a while and you’ll grow to hate and resent him. And I had a dragon. It does, however, have probably more paint per square inch than any other miniature I own, because trying to get something icy looking is hard. He was undercoated black, then painted dark green, then inked green, then drybrushed medium green then forgotten about because I had Kroot to paint or something. Then when I needed a white dragon, I dusted him off, figured the green stuff wouldn’t hurt and painted him grey. Then inked him blue, dry brushed him grey, washed him pale blue, then painted every goddamn scale white and dry brushed the wings and skin, then lightly inked him in blue, then went back over with pearlescent white on the scales again. Turns out: I had no clue how to paint icy. Painting monotonous colour schemes should be easy, but… it kind of isn’t, not if you want your dude to look decent. And then because Rolland and JIM have put basing on their stuff recently, I didn’t want to leave him out so I put a snowy base on him.