The Hand of the Dragon and the Shadow of the Waste Walker

Session 1
Escape from the Thunderdome

The events of combat are described in the order that makes the best prose, not the actual initiative order. Largely because I can’t be arsed to remember the details of a combat that took place five months ago at time of writing, but also because I was only going to mention the highlights anyway.

As the campaign begins, Nasir, and YYpo!k’ L’trrx TiWer lie on a cliff top in the middle of the desert, surveilling an encampment through a hooded telescope. Through it they can see Croesus, who appears to be quite angry. Pacing back and forth in front of two men tied to stakes in the middle of the encampment, he pauses occasionally to strike them and shout at them further. These two men are Arturat and Lifthrasir.

Forty-eight hours earlier, the party members were deeply engaged in the task of hanging around Altaruk, doing the sorts of things that mercenaries do in a back-water trade down. Soon though, troubling signs were beginning to appear; to sustain their degenerate lifestyle they would have to find work. And so they came into the employ of one Laeron of Tromblador. A caravan of his, evidently containing an object of some value, had been waylaid by local slavers. All that he required was that the object be retrieved, though he admitted that he wouldn’t be disappointed to see a few slavers die.

On the cliff top, Nasir and Yypo!k have been hard at work developing a plan in cooperation with Lifthrasir, demonstrating the value of having a pair of psychics in the party. The slavers’ encampment was built in the middle of a wide and shallow box canyon, the back wall of which the party members retaining their liberty were occupying. As Croesus and his lieutenants leave, Yypo!k begins by quietly letting himself down onto the floor of the canyon. Meanwhile, Nasir moves along the cliffs, before letting himself down further along. The plan is for Nasir to secure the weapons and equipment of the prisoners, and then cut the slavers’s kanks free, either to use as a distraction or as a weapon, as the situation demands, while Yypo!k frees the prisoners and recovers the object. In the actual event, Nasir was closing in on his first objective when Yypo!k, literally within inches of freeing the prisoners, attracted the attention of an irritable, unruly pet monkey, who set upon him with teeth and claws.
This was an unannounced skill challenge, with Max and Mike doing very well on their athletics, acrobatics and stealth checks right up until the very end, when Mike failed a whole bunch in a row. And you have to understand, when I say that this monkey was unruly, we’re talking about five points of ongoing damage before save.

Fortunately, neither Lifthrasir nor Arturat had been idle. Lifthrasir had been patiently working at his bonds since forming the plan with the erstwhile rescuers, and had freed himself some time ago, wisely hiding that fact from his captors. For his part, Arturat had been growing angrier and angrier as the import of recent events finally caught up to him, the sounds of his colleague’s struggle with the furious primate causing his anger to boil over. Bursting free of his bonds, his first act was to savagely chop down a slaver with a single blow of his outstretched hand, and then roar his battle cry so loudly that two men died. Lifthrasir dropped what remained of the ropes and unceremoniously forced the brain of the nearest slaver out through his ears.
Read literally, as far as the fluff text, and used on minions, the barbarian power Howl of Fury is the single funniest attack action available in the game. Seriously, the description is that the character hits someone with their weapon, and then yells so loud in a blast three that it does damage.

Realizing that the jig was up, Nasir began to run toward the tent which contained the weapons, dropping his bow en route in favor of his scimitars, which he used to make his way into the ersatz armory. As he emerged, battle had been joined between Yypo!k, the monkey, Lifthrasir, Arturat, and the two more senior slavers who had arrived on the scene due to the commotion. The party defeated the slavers without much trouble, taking one prisoner. Doing a once-over of the camp, they found the object, a smooth obsidian case which they had been explicitly instructed not to open, as well as a fair amount of the anaesthetic drug that the slavers used to keep slaves compliant, also commonly used in battle to recover fighting vigor.

The only other point of interest in the camp was a large wooden frame, not unlike a cross between a dry-dock and a pier, though built kind of strangely to accommodate a conventional silt-skiff. Aside from that, all of the pertinent facts – the empty slave pens, the larger number of tents than slavers, more… evidence of kanks than a group this size would indicate, and the rising dust plume on the horizon – as well as direct personal experience, indicated that these were not the only slavers, and that it was probably time to go. Liberating several mounts and freeing the remaining kanks, the party set off. A slow start over rough terrain slowed them to the point where a pursuing party of slavers was able to come within sight, but lost them again using a combination of superior reading of the terrain with good… kanksmanship(?), losing them after a jump across a ravine.
The chase was, once more, an unannounced skill-challenge; this time they passed and got the XP that would have been earned from the encounter that would have resulted if they’d failed.

Coming upon an small oasis, not more than a small and tepid pond in what must have once been a shallow cave, the party suspiciously inspected the situation, reasoning that an oasis is a good place to encounter predators. Looking around, Arturat noticed that some of the reeds in the middle of the pond looked kind of different from the others, and reported this to Nasir. Nasir, in turn, responded by goading Arturat into throwing a rock at these reeds. The reaction was nearly instantaneous, a barbed lash shooting out from one of the reeds to spear Arturat and drag him toward the water, from which rose a Chathrang. This was a long and brutal fight, the less said about which, the better.

Resting in camp, the party decided that they now had time to interrogate the prisoner. After some light coercion, the party learned that not only was Croesus unlikely to give up the chase, but that he possessed some massive advantage over them, though what the prisoner was unwilling to say, despite additional pressure being applied. Deciding that the best course of action was to render the issue moot by running like cheap paint, the players wrapped up their interview, packed up their things, and fled the camp toward Altaruk, leaving the slaver tied to the chathrang’s now empty shell. No mercy for slavers, apparently.

The next day, within sight of Altaruk they began to get the feeling that they hadn’t made it; the city’s gates were closed, and armed men lined the walls. Turning in their saddles, they saw the plume of dust that had prompted the display of municipal martial prowess; examined through a telescope it became apparent that at the tip of the plume was a catamaran, floating several feet above the ground, moving toward them at prodigious speed, accompanied by outriders on kanks. Nasir even managed to discern Croesus, shouting orders at the crew from the midcastle. Caught between the city walls and the oncoming slavers, the party realized that the only option was to fight.

They allowed the slavers to catch up to them, maneuvering into position to attack by reining in their kanks. Nasir began aggressively, using his most powerful… bow.. shooting technique(?) to seriously injure Croesus immediately as he came in range. Maneuvering toward the port side of the ship, Yypo!k unhorsed (unkanked?) a slaver as he passed, the man tumbling into the distance behind the battle. Lifthrasir began to move back toward the starboard side, dispatching several outriders in quick succession, causing the nervous systems of some to go berserk while simply swatting others off of their kanks with telekinesis. The way cleared by Yypo!k, Arturat yanked on his reins and plummeted backward toward the catamaran, leaping off of his kank in time to board the port hull at its prow.

Passing along the outside of the port hull, Yypo!k intercepted another pole-arm intended for him, yanking its owner over the side rail, and taking the opportunity to board as well. Nasir, meanwhile, exchanged arrows with Croesus, generally coming off pretty well; at the same time Lifthrasir continued to pick off outriders, defying their attempts at mounted archery. Arturat charged into a cluster of deck hands and one of Croesus’ lieutenants, entering a grueling melee with four opponents which would continue for most of the battle. Flinging several men off of the deck with his unarmed techniques, including the other of Croesus’ lieutenants, Yypo!k mounted the midcastle and finished the job that Nasir had begun.

With two thirds of the officers and much of the crew dead or locked in combat with a furious half-giant, the psychically motivated ship was beginning to lose lift, but not much forward velocity. Yypo!k slipped down the face of the midcastle opposite to the one he’d come up, and leaped onto the nearby kank of Lifthrasir. Arturat, however, was still locked in combat with the remaining lieutenant and a lone deckhand, and had no nearby kank to leap to, even if he weren’t. Bringing his horse to a stop to get behind the ship and then racing forward firing arrows, Nasir rode up to the prow of the port hull, leaving just enough time for Arturat to make the jump across, even as the remaining lieutenant was on his way to the stern to make what would turn out to be a badly judged jump for safety.

Upon hitting the desert, the ship tumbled end over end and shredded itself, scattering shell, bone, and wood fairly widely. Picking through the wreckage, the party found that the obsidian pillars that had kept the ship aloft were shattered in the crash. They also found Croesus’ bow, the Izmiri Recurve


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