Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unlikely Heroes: Jello Shots

Game Date: 7/23/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Davor (Ted): Half-Orc Sorcerer
Durp DuDerp (Cliff): Half-Elf Bard
Moxie (Michael): Half-Orc Fighter
Snidely (Greg): Halfling Rogue
Nishallivexiania "Vex" Corman (Matt): Half-Elf Monk

The Session:
Last session ended with us setting up camp on the outskirts of the orphanage ruins.  During the night, Snidely noticed a halfling-sized creature crawling towards the camp. He started to check it out.  After losing sight of it, he was suddenly grabbed by a young human girl, who yelled, "Save me!" The girl's name was Jevra, and in the month since the orphanage had burned down, she had been surviving on her own in these werewolf-infested woods.

Though some of us were a little suspicious about this girl being able to survive for so long by herself, we took her with us back to town anyway.  Our first stop was Laurel the herbalist, who was very happy to see us and our mushrooms.  Laurel immediately got to work mixing up a cure for the town's plague.  Moxie and Derp stayed with her to help with crowd control.

Vex and Davor took Jevra to the local church.  We were told that with the orphanage gone, there wasn't much they could do for her.  We decided to try to keep her.  Once we get a stable base of operations, she can be our assistant and apprentice.  We later headed for the town hall to see about adopting her.  Vex and Davor were mistaken for a couple, and we were told that the paperwork might take a while.  They also told us that the final decisions for this kind of thing were always up to Kreed. That name kept popping up a lot, actually.  We found out that Kreed basically runs the town.

Snidely ran off to the thieves guild to see if he could pick up any jobs.  They told him to come back after dark.  So Snidely decided to kill some time picking pockets.  He badly failed a thievery roll, and found himself on the run from some lumberjacks.  He managed to get away by throwing some money up in the air, which attracted a crowd that slowed his pursuers. 

Later the party met up at the pub.  Derp attempted to entertain the crowd, but rolled badly and broke a lute string.  After a while, Kreed came through the doors and walked straight up to our party.  He congratulated us for our work so far, and told us he might have more jobs for us in the future.  He had his henchman ("Payday") give us a reward.  We turned it down, resenting his implication that he owns us.  So instead, Kreed gave us a beautiful axe, promising that there were no strings attached.  Our party doesn't particularly trust Kreed, so we just had the axe put in storage.

We got rooms at the Jak'a'napes Inn.  After we settled in, Snidely left again for the thieves guild.  As soon as he approached the place, he was grabbed and put in a cell.  Snidely was accused of being sloppy, and was given 20 lashes for being stupid.  Unfortunately Snidely has very low INT and WIS stats, so it's unlikely the whiplashes are going to do much to cure that.

It wasn't a wasted trip, though.  In the first session (which I did not attend), Snidely acquired a shrunken head from a witch's hut.  He has been wearing it ever since, and it has occasionally spoken.  The thieves guild was finally able to identify the item for him.

Later that night, Davor was woken up by someone going through his backpack.  Davor quickly cast Daze on the intruder, who turned out to be Snidely.  Our lovable rogue was trying to sneak a wand into Davor's backpack.  He kept claiming, "It's a gift!" but Davor wasn't really fond of people going through his things.  Having been woken by the commotion, Davor's brother Moxie grabbed Snidely.  Snidely tried to stab him, but missed.  Things looked like they were about to escalate but Davor smoothed things over and accepted the Halfling's apology.
Vex spent the next day in bed, recovering more of the stats she lost last session.  Laurel the herbalist visited her to help with the healing.  Kimi also stopped by with some of her friends, and asked if Jevra could come hang out with them.  Vex allowed it, figuring the poor orphan was in need of a little fun.

Davor went to go see a retired mage named Vade, to ask about renting his tower to be our base of operations.  They agreed on a price, but they still had to go to the magistrate for the legal paperwork.  Once again, the party was told that these things take a while, and that the ultimate decider is Kreed.  However, the magistrate did ask us to introduce him to our rogue... apparently he thinks Snidely is cute.

Later that evening, we couldn't find Jevra.  We asked around, and found out the kids had headed to the orphanage for some reason.  We immediately set out to find them.  At the orphanage, we found some signs of struggle.  Snidely looked around and found some of their tracks.  It was very late by then, so we set up camp.  The next morning we followed the tracks all the way to the river.  The raft we'd used last time was gone, so we had to build another.  It was a hastily-made deathtrap, but it was buoyant enough to get us across.   On the other side, we searched a bit until we found our old raft, then continued following the tracks from there.

They led back to that Dwarven monastery.  We poked around the top level for a bit, but found nothing.  So we headed down the stairs we didn't have time to explore last time.  In the main hall, there was a broken obelisk.  Five kobolds were dragging part of it away.  Vex charged one and killed it in one hit - not a huge feat, of course, but after being weak for so long it felt really good.  We killed two of the others, but the final two (the weakest-looking ones) fled down the West hall.

But for some reason, Davor decided to explore the East hall instead.  Not wanting to split the party, we followed.  The East room had a large round pit of molten slag in the center, and more doors to the North.  As Davor explored the room, he was attacked by a Grick.  The Grick has some damage reduction that ignored all but our best hits, and sapped a lot of our hit points with its multiple attacks.

As we were finishing off the Grick, we heard some odd noises from the hall where we'd come from.  We saw a floating suit of Dwarven armor coming through the room's entrance.  Vex realized it was actually floating in a gelatinous cube.

Since the West exit was blocked, Moxie, Davor, and Snidely fled through the North doors.  They immediately faced three dire rats.  (Naturally, this repeated triggering of more encounters also triggered a few "Leeroy Jenkins" jokes.)  As the cube got closer, they closed the door behind them, so they wouldn't be sandwiched between the rats and the cube. 

Now separated from the rest of the party, Vex and Derp kept moving to the opposite side of the pit from the cube, hitting it with ranged attacks.  It was slow going, but the cube had low AC so at least we managed to hit it.  Once the rats were dead, the party managed to surround the cube and start doing some real damage.  Snidely got sucked in, but we killed the cube one round later, so our rogue survived.

Inside the cube we found a magical axe labeled "Glintaxe", and a suit of Mithral armor.  These items were still coated in the cube's acidic slime, so we had to clean it using the well upstairs.  On another corpse we found some boots that helped with sneaking, which the party gave to Vex.

We went upstairs to the chapel where we'd fought the darkmantles last session.  We considered sleeping because we were so hurt, but we also knew that time was of the essence here.  While we were debating, we noticed a slot designed to fit a gem.  We remembered a magic gem we'd found last session, and tried fitting it into the slot.  This healed all of us for a few hit points, so we skipped our nap and headed back downstairs.

This time we took the West hallway, where those two kobolds had fled.  We found a room full of bunk beds.  The two kobolds were there, being sucked dry by three stirges.  During this encounter, Vex had the unfortunate tendency to keep rolling only 4 damage to creatures that only had 5 hit points.  Nevertheless, we still managed to kill the stirges pretty quickly, before they could do us much harm.

A bit farther North, we encountered a room full of kobolds.  We could see Kimi and a Halfling being held captive.  The Halfling helped us a bit during battle by throwing rocks at the kobolds.  During the fight, the kobolds seemed to think that Moxie was a legendary Dwarven warrior called "Glintaxe", due to the equipment he had gotten from the gelatinous cube.  Vex rolled a crit on the final kobold, pounding it into hamburger.

After the battle, we asked Kimi to fill us in.  Apparently Jevra had dared the other kids to spend the night at the orphanage.  But the orphanage was just a little bit too scary, what with all the spiders and all, so they went to the monastery instead.  They were captured by kobolds and separated.  We asked her where Jevra was, but Kimi didn't know.  I hope she's okay, but when we do find her, she is sooooooo grounded.

We ended the session there.

The differences between Pathfinder and D&D 4e didn't come up as much this time.  The first half of this session was mostly roleplay, which was a nice change of pace.  Generally speaking, the system doesn't matter if the story is good.

When Vex's stats first went down, I was afraid I was going to spend the next few sessions standing at the back of the party, slinging stones (and usually missing), and basically being the party torchbearer.  But with all the roleplaying and the extra day in bed, she was back up to full stats before our first actual fight this session.  And even if we had fought some during that time, so what?  We all rolled our stats, so none of us are all that optimized.

Still, nothing is perfect.  This session we had issues identifying magic items.  First one must be able to detect that the item is magical, then they can try to identify the type of magic using the Spellcraft skill.  Well, our party's Sorcerer has Spellcraft, but only the Bard has Detect Magic, and apparently both are required by the same character to identify an item.  Does this not seem anal to anyone else?  Can't they at least sit down and work together to identify it?

Here's one that's not unique to Pathfinder - I know it's in D&D 4e and other systems as well - but I have never bought the idea that gelatinous cubes are invisible.  Yes, they are clear.  Yes, light does pass through them.  But if you make a 10'x10'x10' cube of clear Jello, I promise you you're still going to be able to see it quite easily, even in dim light.  (If you actually try this, invite me over.)  Arguably, flickering torchlight actually makes it easier to see, what with all the moving reflections and refractions.  Not to mention that the artwork for both the Pathfinder Bestiary and the D&D Monster Manual show it as a highly visible greenish-blue.

Left: D&D 4e Monster Manual.  Right: Pathfinder Bestiary.  Yeah, that's invisible.
I know, I know, I have no problem with a Half-Orc who can throw bolts of electricity, but for some reason I can't suspend my disbelief for invisible gelatin.  As I've said before, everybody has their own reality threshold.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Character - Vex

This is my new character in the Pathfinder "Unlikely Heroes of Darkmoon Vale" campaign.

Full Name:
Nishallivexiania "Vex" Corman








Lawful Good


Vex has no memory of her parents, having been given over to the monastary as an infant.  The monastary itself knows few details, and has told her even less.  All Vex knows is that she's the child of a human soldier and an elf maiden.

Vex sometimes wonders why her parents left her.  Was theirs a forbidden love, an illicit affair that had to be kept hidden?  Were her parents killed, just barely getting Vex to safety before succumbing to their wounds?  Was her father part of an evil invading army, who took her mother's innocence as part of the spoils of war?  Or perhaps her mother was the aggressor, tempting Vex's father away from his family like a libinious nymph, and later abandoning her offspring to free her for more conquests.  Maybe they were royalty, and Vex was kidnapped as part of a ransom scheme that went ended badly.  Or perhaps they simply felt their relationship was a mistake, and simply didn't want the hassle of raising a mixed-breed child.

Whenever Vex finds herself wondering about her origins, she always comes to the same final conclusion:  "Stop letting you mind wander, you nitwit!"  Because if her monastic upbringing has taught her anything, it's that idle speculation benefits no one. 

Vex has spent the majority of her life at the monastery. There she has learned to focus her strength to a degree that others often find surprising. But while she is one of the stronger members of her order, she's had difficulty cultivating the wisdom she needs to temper that strength. Try as she might, she has never been able to focus her mental energies as easily as she commands her fists. Also, her masters are bothered by the amount of pride Vex seems to have in her power, and would like to see her learn a bit of humility. For this reason, she has been asked to leave the monastery for a while, on a quest for self-improvement. They hope that the difficulties she faces out in the world will cause her to develop her skills out of necessity.

Just a few months into this journey of enlightenment, she was exploring a Dwarven monastery with some other adventurers, when she was bitten by a large spider. This spider's venom sapped a lot of her strength. While Vex is distressed at losing her greatest asset, and hopes to recover as quickly as possible, she also sees this as a humbling experience that could be good for her.  It could be an opportunity for her to rely on her other attributes, instead of solving all her problems with her fists.  After all, one must often suffer in order to learn.

Personality, Mannerisms, and Appearance:
Vex believes in staying focused on the task at hand, and dislikes chatter. She feels that her time is not to be wasted, and all waking moments should be spent bettering herself. While her companions might stop to talk about the weather or to compliment each other's choice of clothing, Vex spends her free time meditating or practicing her combat skills.  Her goal is total perfection in mind and body.

While Vex generally feels that hobbies are a pointless distraction, she does collect religious artifacts.  She is often curt and to-the-point when talking to other adults, but she has a soft spot for children.
Vex gets her dark skin and hair from her father, and she has her mother's green eyes.  She has a tattoo of a crane - the symbol of her order - on her left forearm.

Creating this character:
Vex was a character I played briefly in NeverWinter Nights.  That version was an Elven Monk who couldn't speak due to damaged vocal chords.  I am halfway considering having this version of the character eventually take a vow of silence.

Unfortunately I rolled badly for Wisdom, a key stat for Monks, but I'm trying to make up for it as best as I can.  I briefly considered making her a Dwarf for the stat bonuses, but one of the reasons I'm in this campaign is to get away from 4e's insistence on min-maxing.

I couldn't find a mini I really liked.  The closest I could find is the Whirling Steel Monk.  As usual I let my mini choice influence my character's appearance.  Due to the mini's skin tone, I've decided her father's bloodline comes from the Pathfinder equivalent of Asia or Kara-Tur.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unlikely Heroes: Mushroom Quest

Game Date: 7/16/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Davor (Ted): Half-Orc Sorcerer
Durp DuDerp (Cliff): Half-Elf Bard
Moxie (Michael): Half-Orc Fighter
Snidely (Greg): Halfling Rogue
Nishallivexiania "Vex" Corman (Matt): Half-Elf Monk
Kimi & Savram (Tam & Sheree): Child Lookouts

The Session:
I joined this Pathfinder campaign already in progress.  The existing party had taken on the task of finding some mushrooms in an old Dwarven monastery.  These shrooms are a key ingredient for a medicine that will hopefully cure the plague infesting a nearby town. Meanwhile, Vex had hired Kimi and Savram, a couple of children from town, to guide her to the same monastery in search of religious artifacts.  As the existing party was making camp, one of them heard Vex's group and went to make sure they weren't enemies.  Once Vex heard about their quest to cure a plague, she agreed to help.  The group headed for the monastery together.

We entered the courtyard of the monastery and started looking around.  In one tower, we encountered a large spider.  During the fight, it bit Vex, causing her to lose 2 points of STR.  After a failed fort save, she lost 2 more... then 2 more... then 2 more.  She finally made her save, but she was down 8 STR (her only decent stat) for the rest of the session.

In the another room, we found a secret door leading to some open prison cells.  The cells contained three skeletons, which attacked us.  During the battle, another door opened down the hall, and two wolves joined the battle.  But our biggest opponent this fight was a lot of extraordinarily bad die rolls.  The two kids actually did the most damage in this battle.

Next we checked out the room the wolves had come from, and found ourselves face-to-face with a large Worg.  He asked, "Who dares disturb my lair?"  Of course we didn't trust him, but in hopes of avoiding a fight, we told him about our quest.  He told us where we could find some mushrooms, but warned us that the room was home to a pair of darkmantles.  We decided to check out that room last.

We explored a couple of small rooms, and found a few minor items.  While examining some fungus, Vex triggered a spore cloud, which gave her -2 CON.  Not a good day for Vex.  In another room, Davor and Moxie were attacked by a bed.  Well, actually it was a kobold hiding under a bed, who kept attacking them by stabbing through the mattress from underneath.  During the battle, Vex was still standing in the hallway, and kept seeing shadows moving on the walls.  She used her sling to "attack the darkness", but nothing happened.  She was left wondering if she really saw it, or if it was just aftereffects from the spores.

Finally we entered the room with the darkmantles.  Our light could not penetrate the magical darkness in the room.  A few party members cautiously entered the room, but kept tripping over furniture.  The first darkmantle dropped on one of us, and we fought it as best we could without being able to see anything.  Once it was dead, the darkness dissipated for just a moment before the other monster cast darkness again.  Once we finally killed it, we searched the room.

No mushrooms, but we'd figured the Worg was playing us.  He probably just wanted us to take care of the darkmantles for him, or hoped the darkmantles would kill us.  We headed straight back to the Worg's lair to lodge a formal complaint.  The Worg got the drop on us, pouncing from a hidden area up above, but we soon had him surrounded.  Moxie rolled one particularly nice crit that nearly killed the Worg instantly.  Once the Worg was dead, we searched his lair thoroughly, and found a few more mushrooms. 

There were some stairs going down, but our quest had a time limit.  If the townsfolk didn't get their cure soon, people would start dying.  And besides, we were low on hit points.  We didn't think we could make it back to town before dark, so we headed towards the ruins of an old orphanage we thought we might be able to use for shelter.  We had to build a raft to get across a river, and eventually we reached the orphanage.

While most of the place was burned out and falling apart, we found one door that led down to a cellar that looked promising.  We found a body down there, and were attacked by a large spider and a swarm of smaller spiders.  We looked up Pathfinder's rules on swarms, and discovered that none of us really had anything that could damage one.  So we fled.  We closed the door behind us and moved far away before finally setting up camp.  We ended the session there.

Assuming we successfully camp the night, Vex will regain 1 point each of her lost stats, bringing her up to -7 STR and -1 CON.

This was my first time playing Pathfinder.  I haven't decided if I like it yet, but I also haven't seen enough to judge it fairly.  With Vex suffering stat loss in her first round of battle, I didn't get to do a whole lot.  Since I was already at a penalty to hit, I generally just kept using my basic attack all session, since it seemed most likely to hit.  Pathfinder does have an interesting set of combat maneuvers, which includes Bull Rush, Disarm, Grapple, Overrun, Sunder, and Trip.  I didn't try any of these because the time never seemed right.  I just don't see Vex tripping a spider or disarming a worg.  So maybe I'll warm up to the system once I've had a chance to do something besides punching someone.

I like the nostalgic 3.5 feelings it gives me, and I was extremely happy that the battles were quick.  I've been playing 4e, which is basically combat porn - you get a few minutes of poorly-acted dialogue bridging the gaps between long scenes of hot action.  Sure, I enjoy the fighting, but when you look at the clock and realize you're entering hour three of the same combat - which in-game is only supposed to represent a few minutes - sometimes you have to say "Enough already!"  There's something wrong with the system when you're actively disemboweling someone and still feeling bored.

So Pathfinder was a huge improvement there.  But I also keep coming across problems that 4e has effectively fixed.  So in that respect, it feels like I'm taking a step backwards.  The risk of hitting an ally when firing into melee was a bit disappointing.  I understand the reasoning for the rule; it's that "realism" thing that stupid people babble about just before doing something totally realistic like casting Magic Missile.  Rules like this severely limit a balanced party, where the tanks surround the monster while the strikers shoot at it.  Sure, there's a feat to fix the problem, but who wants to waste a feat to fix anal game design?  Besides, I'm not saying you're such an expert that you can fire through your teammate's legs.  It's more like you yell, "Bob!  Duck!" as you let loose your arrow.  Bob, not being an idiot, ducks.

The slow health recovery is also annoying.  Of course, I know a lot of people complained that it was too easy to heal in 4e, but you know my feelings on that.  I know this sounds a bit like "my character got hurt so I hate this game", but that's seriously not it.  I hated slow recovery systems long before I was hurt by one.  Which is more fun to roleplay, taking a week of bed rest, or getting up and facing the next challenge?  Sidestepping challenges because you're down to 1 hit point is boring.  This is a game, something people do for fun.  Sitting around waiting for bones to knit is boringGames.  Should.  Not.  Be.  Boring.  It's such a simple and obvious rule, and yet I spend so much time resisting the urge to tattoo it on people's foreheads.  Again, the Rule of Fun should always be the #1 rule of every system.

But some of this might just be a problem with early levels, and again, I don't feel like I've seen enough to fairly judge.  I still enjoyed the session, and I'm looking forward to next time.  Only time will tell if I fall in love with the system.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ToEE: Hot Enough For Ya?

Game Date: 7/9/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Artimus a.k.a. "Artie" (Nick): Revenant Hexblade
Calla Noble (Matt): Human Knight
Ember (Leigha): Tiefling Wizard
Eve (Jesse): Eladrin "Lazy" Warlord
Jerry (Nick): Human Cleric
Joanna Winters (also Jesse): Human Archer Ranger
Kossack (Cliff): Minotaur Fighter

The Session:
Short a few players last session, we were forced to surrender to the Air Temple, and agreed to help them assassinate Fire Priest Alrrem.  Calla, Artimus, Ember, and Eve teamed up with Air Temple Priest Kelno, and two of his Gnoll archers.  We ended the session just after killing Alrrem (A).  Today we started right where we left off, with Jerry, Joanna, and Kossack still MIA.

The four of us searched the nearby rooms.  Ember found a book about Fire Elementals (B).  We started to explore the East hallway (C), but Kelno was impatient.  He ordered us to head straight for the Fire Temple (D).  Once we arrived in the Fire Temple, Kelno asked us to dismantle a large bell that was hanging from the ceiling.  As we approached the bell, we saw an altar on which many tiny Salamanders were moving about.

As we discussed our next course of action, our three missing party members finally caught up to us.  Jerry, Joanna, and Kossack entered the Fire Temple from the North door, and were quite surprised to see us in the company of the Gnolls.

Kossack and Jerry recognized the Gnolls as some of the same ones that mugged us back at the moathouse.  Artimus and Calla started to tell them the Gnolls were on our side now, but Kossack would have none of it.  He immediately charged the nearest Gnoll with a bull's temper.  It took a couple of rounds to decide who was on who's side.  Of course Calla and Artimus wanted to be loyal to their friends, but Eve had never seen Jerry and the others before.  As far as she knew, they were enemies.  Jerry was even wearing Fire Temple robes he'd picked up a while back ("because they looked nice").  Eve used some of her Warlord powers to compel Calla and Artie to attack Jerry's group.  Meanwhile, Ember stayed out of it, and just kept watching the Salamanders.

Whenever Calla or Artimus had a turn, they would attempt to calm things down, using Diplomacy checks on different people to explain the situation.  But it just wasn't meant to be, so they allied with Jerry's group against Kelno and the Gnolls.  After the battle, we kept Kelno alive, removing his equipment and tying him up.  Kossack very nearly attacked Eve, but instead he just spit on her and threatened to kill her if she ever attacked him again.

Even though we no longer worked for the Air Temple, we still wanted to desecrate the Fire Temple.  So Joanna and Kossack worked together to get the bell down from the ceiling.  Then Jerry desecrated the altar.  Against (in character) objections from most of the group, Artimus sacrificed Kelno on the Fire Altar.  As soon as he did so, a bunch of the Salamanders jumped off the altar and started dancing around the room.  They kept getting larger and larger.  Not liking where this was going, we started heading for the West door.

After a couple of rounds, the Salamanders started combining with each other, until we faced four large Salamanders.  Then the fight began.  The Salamanders had a fire aura, but Calla and Kossack were both resistant to it due to their equipment.  Once all the Salamanders were dead, Jerry started digging through a fire pit until he found a huge box.  Ember used a cold spell to cool the box down enough for us to open.  Inside, we found a few potions and a Frostfury Battleaxe.  Kossack used the axe to smash the Fire Altar to pieces.

Next we went West, then North, until we found ourselves in a large octagonal room (E).  There we were attacked by a creature called "Agera of the Shadow Face".  This shadow creature was just full of surprises.  It could attack three times per round, or hit all of us with one big blast attack.  Its attacks had all sorts of nasty effects, like slowing us, giving us ongoing damage, pushing us, and making us attack each other.

Early in the battle, Artimus drew a crit card which basically marked the enemy, causing it to only be able to attack him.  This isn't the best thing for a striker, and he barely survived the battle.  But eventually we wore the thing down and killed it.  After the battle, we searched the room and found three secret doors.  We ended the session there.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

ToEE: All About Eve

Game Date: 7/3/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Artimus a.k.a. "Artie" (Nick): Revenant Hexblade
Calla Noble (Matt): Human Knight
Ember (Leigha): Tiefling Wizard
Eve (Jesse): Eladrin "Lazy" Warlord

With a small party and no healer at the table today, Jesse decided to try a Warlord build.  He used what is known as the "lazy" style Warlord, where all of the powers involve making other characters hit things.  Eve doesn't even wield a weapon she can actually use.  During the session, she performed rather well, getting the most out of the party's strongest attacks.  We kind of hand-waved how she entered the party, and we've made no mention so far of where Joanna, Jerry, and Kossack were this week.  My theory is that after the abrupt ending of the 6/11 session, we got split up, and we'll rejoin them later.

Click to see larger version
The Session:
Last session ended after we fought a bunch of bandits (A).  One got away, fleeing into another room (C), but we didn't want to chase him without resting first.  We rested in the room with the Minotaur statue (B).  After the short rest, we followed the bandit, but he the room he had fled into was empty (C).  We explored a bit further, finding a very large hallway (D), where we were attacked by a bunch of goblins, bugbears, and bandits (one of which was the bandit that escaped earlier).  This battle started out pretty badly, and things were beginning to look bleak until Ember pulled off one of her brilliant nova rounds.  After she was done throwing lots of fire around, there were only a couple of enemies left to finish off.

After the battle, we found a kitchen (E), then continued South, then West, until we found another room full of enemies (F).  Here we fought several bugbears, and things didn't look so bad until a nearby room (G) opened up and the battle was joined by more bugbears, gnolls, and their Eladrin leader.  We fought valiantly, but there were just too many of them.  With his hit points nearly gone, and all his companions on the ground making death saves, Artimus decided to surrender.

We were all captured, tied up, and allowed to take an extended rest under guard.  The Eladrin leader, who identified himself as Kelno of the Air Temple, questioned us.  We admitted that we were the ones who destroyed the Earth Temple, but this didn't seem to bother him.  When we revealed that we had no love for the Fire Temple either, he was quite pleased.  He asked us to join his cause, to help him eliminate Alrrem, one of the Fire Temple bigwigs.  The alternative being death, of course we agreed.

Kelno gave us some Air Temple robes to wear.  We asked if we could have some extra for our missing party members, but he said that's up to them, if they decide to join the Air Temple later.  Kelno seemed to be attracted to Eve, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage at some point.  Kelno then led us down the hall, along with a pair of Gnoll archers.  As he led us through the great hall, he pointed out some locations, and we were able to fill out some more of our map.  He led us down another large hallway (H), down a side corridor, until we reached a curtained-off room belonging to the Fire Temple (I).

They didn't know what hit them.  Eve pulled aside the curtain, and used one of her abilities to make Calla charge the room's leader.  Calla rolled a crit, and the resulting damage killed the leader instantly.  This left three Bugbears, one of which fled to the next room (J).  With the help of Kelno and his archers, we quickly killed off the other two Bugbears and continued to the next room.  We soon faced a Half-Orc, a flaming Half-Elf, more Bugbears, and a Dragonborn Fire Champion (Alrrem).

We managed to create a bottleneck between the two rooms (I & J), with our most durable combatants blocking the breezeway while our ranged characters fired over our shoulders.  I can't say whether we actually needed it, but Kelno's aid made the battle a lot shorter than it could have been.  NPCs or not, it was nice to have a full party again.   Once the battle was over, Alrrem was dead, and our mission was accomplished, we ended the session.  We're still in that room (J), and we haven't explored the three doors to the North yet.

Whether Jesse decides to stick with Eve or change back to Joanna remains to be seen.  I think it would be neat if he brought both character sheets to the table, and let the plot decide... Maybe Eve could stay with Kelno, and be our own double agent for the Air Temple while Joanna explores with the rest of us to clear out everything else.  If Joanna dies, we go pick up Eve.  Or once we clear out everything Fire and Water related, Eve helps us make the first major blow against Air by assassinating Kelno in his sleep.  Just food for thought.