Dark Sun Session 7a: the Tower of Eyes
So session six ends with the PCs stumbling out of the Brigadoon-style city of Jin-Yann, and the mist rising, and the city isn’t disappearing, instead it’s very tiny. The ancient magic which dragged the city forward in time has resulted in it being very small, like, the size of a table top, and the 500 or so people in it are quite a bit smaller than grains of rice. Aya/Carla was charmed by this, played with the miniscule stone golems a bit, and then the session went nowhere fast, so what with one thing and another, we aborted and restarted a month later.
Boom! The party is on their way to Kra-Hnur, access to which involves going up a box canyon, so, trail with cliff walls on either side. Old ruined watch-tower, the Tower of Eyes, in this canyon. The PCs are expecting to see it in ruins and abandoned, but no, some of Kra’s people have rebuilt it and are keeping the pass open, except that instead most of them are dead. The backstory here is that an undead monster from the south came up and killed a bunch of them, and then the survivors were holed up inside the tower, and ogre-type monsters, a family of braxats, have smashed their way into the tower and there’s a fight going on as the PCs arrive on the scene. Against the PCs — who were joined by Eunice playing a fill-in character, one of the caravan followers — you have two level 14 elites and four level 9 brutes, and a pair of level 11 soldiers for the survivors of the tower. So the survivors exhort the PCs to save them, and the PCs, being heroic types, do.
The goal in this fight was not just to defeat the braxats as to keep the two NPCs alive, which wasn’t trivial as the braxats were in between the party and the NPCs. In retrospect though they managed this pretty easily. One of the NPCs went down, and I had her make death saves as if she was a PC, and after the first failed save Trevia had her back up. If I was doing this over again, I’d have added a couple three more of the level 9 foes, and maybe tuned down the NPC defenses. This worked okay, though.
Afterwards, Trevia’s merry band of troubadors got the story from Da-Der (the talkative of the two survivng NPCs). Da-Der the half-giant and Maven the dray were two of the three survivors of an evil immaterial undead’s attack on the Tower of Eyes; the other survivor, Pringe, went back towards Kra-Hnur for help afterwards but the undead (the “evil wind”) materialized again long enough to snatch him away. The evil wind then told Da-Der and Maven that it wanted Sharpwit, and would trade Pringe for Sharpwit.
So, hella convenient that the party is taking their prisoner Sharpwit back to Kra-Hnur in an attempt to negotiate with Kra. Da-Der and Maven know of Sharpwit and hate her (she’s a defiler, after all) and want to trade her for Pringe. Sharpwit, when questioned, doesn’t know why the evil wind wants her, but is sure it’s for nothing good, and begs the party not to turn her over to it. She asserts there are several evil winds in the dark lord’s employ, but guesses this is I-Cannot-Be-Helped, which animates and inhabits corpses.
Thom and Trevia dispose of all the corpses they can while the party considers their options. My goal with this scenario was providing an opportunity for a meaningful choice: there’s several things the group can do here, and no obviously optimal answer. The nicest thing to do, which they decide to do, is go into the Gray and confront I-Cannot-Be-Helped to get Pringe back, but they could have also turned over Sharpwit (who isn’t a very nice person) and maybe that would have been smarter. One idea they had, which I hadn’t foreseen and shut down by saying it would take too long, was to take Da-Der and Maven back with them to Kra-Hnur and turn the decision of what to do with Sharpwit over to NPCs. I don’t feel too bad about shutting down this route, because it was a way to avoid having to make the call to save someone who doesn’t deserve it, or not.
Session ended with the PCs doing a ritual to go into the Gray. They had three options for doing that: defiling magic, preserving magic, or using one of the several consumable magic items they took from Sharpwit, glass plates that open a way into the Gray when broken. This third option would also be defiling magic, technically, but the people who had died to make the plates were already dead, damage done either way.
I was expecting them to go that route, in fact, but they surprised me by opting for using preserving magic, even though I asserted (via Sharpwit) that it would be extremely tricky. So I set up a quick skill challenge, DC 28 skill checks in order Arcana, Endurance, Arcana, Endurance, Arcana, and Religion. Failing these meant trying again until you got them, failing three meant that the ritual sucked two healing surges out of everyone (a nontrivial but not overly severe penalty I think). I didn’t explain the whole thing quite well enough before we started, which resulted in a slightly cross Vero (mainly because, I think, the party had ended up not optimizing its chances quite to her satisfaction). Lesson here is to make the stakes of a roll/challenge/what have you more explicit, which is always good advice as far as I’m concerned.
Prepping for this session, I adopted a new technique wherein I break the game down into distinct scenes, and make a list of all the information I want to have thrown at the players before the end of that scene. It worked fairly well, and I’ll continue to work on it.
Eunice is joining the game as a regular, playing some kind of feral halfling melee striker. Chances are she’ll join up in Kra-Hnur, after playing the fill-in again next session.
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