[Mahasarpa] James Wyatt's Mahasarpa Campaign

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[Mahasarpa] James Wyatt's Mahasarpa Campaign

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:52 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign

I am in the process of setting up a lunchtime game of Oriental Adventures—not as a playtest, but because I miss DMing and want to play more D&D. The players so far are David Noonan, Mike Selinker (who wrote a trilogy of DRAGON articles some years ago about Indian characters, spells, and items in D&D), Gwen Kestrel (one of the book's editors), Anthony Valterra (the D&D business manager), Johnny Wilson (publisher for the periodicals department), and Eric Cagle (administrative assistant for the R&D department). Owen Stephens is sort of an honorary member of the campaign, since he urged me to start the game in the first place, while we were playing the L5R card game at the office. He moved back to Oklahoma before having a chance to actually join the game, however. Since we've moved the game to Thursday, Anthony has been unable to join us, and my wife Amy has joined in (once, so far, as of this writing...).

The Oriental Adventures web enhancement is a detailed writeup of the Mahasarpa campaign setting.

The Mahasarpa adventure journal: The ever-changing characters:
  • Kshatriya Bharat Bazaar (Mike): human kshatriya (samurai/Singh rager)
  • Feroz Battachariya (Johnny): human witch hunter (shaman/witch hunter)
  • Bahani (Amy): river spirit folk devapala (sohei)
  • Reverend Mother (Gwen): human ninja (rogue/ninja spy)
  • Samakar (Eric): human tattooed monk
  • Shadhbakht (David): human swami (wu jen/eunuch sorcerer)
dead or retired:
  • Felasia Snakebane (Gwen): vira-hrika (mongoose hengeyokai) swami (wu jen 9)
  • Tom Ka Gai (Anthony): human tattooed monk (monk 5/tattooed monk 4)
  • Doolaram (Eric): human yakuza (rogue 7/yakuza 2)
  • Keoni (David): human "soul-kukri" ( psychic warrior with the soulknife prestige class
Last edited by Big Mac on Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:23 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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July 1: The first session

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:53 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
July 1, 2001

We had our first session of the Mahasarpa campaign at lunchtime on Friday. Dave Noonan's off on vacation in Europe, and Owen had to leave before we got started, so we had just three players: Mike, Gwen, and Anthony. Mike introduced us to Kshatriya Bharat Bazaar, named after a local market. He's built on the samurai character class, wields a keen tulwar and has the Improved Critical feat (so he threatens a critical on a 12 or better), and rides an elephant (his Leadership feat gives him a cohort who can serve as an animal handler...). Gwen is playing Falesia Snakebane, a shapechanger who has yet to adopt her mongoose form. She's a wu jen with a penchant for fire spells. Anthony is playing Tom Ka Gai (named after the Thai soup), a tattooed monk from the city-state of Naga, high in the mountains. He specializes in grappling maneuvers.

So the adventure began with word that Bharat's mentor and lord, a rishi (aasimar) kshatriya who remains nameless, had been kidnaped by the yuan-ti who live in the jungle, and taken to their massive temple at Mahasarpa. The characters wasted no time in riding off (on the elephant) into the jungle to rescue him.

It wasn't very long before they were ambushed by a trio of yuan-ti. With their chameleon power active, the yuan-ti had pretty high Hide scores, and beat Tom Ka Gai's 21 Spot. A volley of arrows hit (I think) Tom Ka Gai and Falesia, while missing Bharat. So much for the surprise round. Mike rolled about a 22 for his initiative (while Anthony and Gwen were both in the low single digits), slid off the elephant (a free action, according to the Ride rules... hm...), and gave a great ki shout. So great a shout, in fact, that two of the yuan-ti became panicked. He then used his remaining move to close the distance to the yuan-ti. Two of the yuan-ti fled on their actions, while the third took a step away from Bharat and tried to cause fear on him (figuring that would be poetic justice). Bharat made his save, however. On Falesia's turn, she dropped a wall of fire on the two fleeing yuan-ti. The leader made his save and ended up on the cool side of the wall, while the other one failed his save and ended up dead in the wall. Tom Ka Gai vaulted from the back of the elephant and attacked the remaining yuan-ti, but just barely missed (this one had a +1 shield!).

Bharat made a full attack on the remaining yuan-ti, and missed both times. It took another 5-ft. step away from him and tried, successfully, to implant a suggestion that Bharat should defend him from the mad monk. Then Falesia did a charm monster on him and announced, "He's mine." Tom Ka Gai delayed to see how this was going to play out...

Bharat called his elephant over to grapple Tom Ka Gai. The handler managed to bring it around, but it didn't attack this round. The yuan-ti offered to parley as his only action, and that pretty much ended the combat and our first session. I ruled that when Tom Ka Gai stopped attacking, Bharat had completed the action required by the suggestion and the spell ended. The charm monster was still in effect, however, so the characters should be able to get some good answers out of it next time.

But the leader's panic will end in another round...
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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July 13: Big Snake

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:53 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
July 13, 2001

We finally managed to get another session in, around Origins and other obstacles. It was short, and to the point...

Only Gwen and Anthony made it to this session. They took a little time to talk to the charmed yuan-ti, learning that the missing rishi was being held in the main temple of their large temple complex, in the shrine in the northwest corner of the temple yard. They also learned that abomination yuan-ti are participating in the guarding.

Before the charmed yuan-ti could reveal more, he cried out in pain, struck by an arrow from behind. The yuan-ti leader had returned! He won initiative, and got 2 more arrows into his underling, bringing him to about 8 hit points. Falesia and Tom Ka Gai were both having little luck spotting the yuan-ti in the woods. I remember Falesia casting a spell, but not what it was... The charmed yuan-ti turned into a snake, making himself much harder to hit up on the elephant's howdah. The sniper yuan-ti took that opportunity to hit Falesia with aversion, making her want to be far away from the snake in the howdah. The elephant started moving (pretty quickly), Tom Ka Gai critted the snake (who only had 8 hp left, remember) and threw it off the howdah, and the encounter was over for real this time.

The characters traveled through the jungle a little more, then made camp for the night. On first watch, Tom Ka Gai spotted a pair of glowing red eyes—attached to a Hyooooooge snake! A fiendish giant constrictor, to be precise. It grappled Tom Ka Gai and started squeezing him. Falesia woke up and dropped a fireball on it—beating its SR thanks to her elemental mastery over fire, but (since it made its save) failing to overcome its fire resistance. (Tom Ka Gai has evasion and made his save, so he took no damage.) Tom Ka Gai activated his ring of righteous might and tried to break the grapple—made a valiant attempt, really, rolling in the 20s. But I rolled a natural 20, for a result of around 48 for the snake.

And we had to stop, dead in the middle of a combat that could go either way. Next time we play, we may have more players, in which case I might have to bring in the second snake...

Here's a wacky thought: I was originally going to put these snakes in the outer gallery of the temple (which is Angkor Wat). Then I realized that, coiled up, these things occupy a 15-ft. square each. There's no room for them inside the temple! Hence the "random" wilderness encounter. It's tough to place big monsters in tight spaces!
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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July 19: Arrival at Mahasarpa

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:53 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
July 19, 2001

We played again on Tuesday, minus Tom Ka Gai (who nevertheless survived being wrapped in the snake's coils) and plus Bharat Bazaar.

And that just about says it all. Bharat Bazaar woke up and joined the fray. Using his ancestral tulwar, he started slicing and dicing the snake, while his cohort elephant handler goaded the elephant into battle as well. Despite the serpent's damage reduction, it was dead in a matter of rounds.

With that out of the way and the night over, the characters traveled the remaining distance to Mahasarpa, the great temple-city of the yuan-ti. Deciding that marching up to the front gate on the elephant's back was perhaps not the wisest course, they sent Falesia ahead to scout. She circumambulated the moat surrounding the temple building in question (Angkor Wat), returned to the group, and we ended for the day.

Well, what do you expect from a one-hour session?
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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September 24: Major Catch-Up

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:54 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
September 24, 2001

The way this lunchtime game thing has turned out, I essentially plan one encounter at a time, with just a general idea of the overarching plot in mind at all times. In a nutshell, here's how things have gone:

Crossing the causeway to the temple complex of Mahasarpa, the characters were ambushed by water nagas. The nagas held their own pretty well, but were defeated (even without the elephant, which was left behind to increase stealth potential). The party was left pretty weak, however.

Which highlights another quirk of the weekly one-hour lunchtime setup: it's easy to forget at the start of a session that you ended the last session in really bad shape. The characters plunged ahead the following week without stopping to heal, which almost led to their doom. Crossing the island toward the main complex, they saw some lights and heard voices calling for help ("Get this thing off me!"). Running to help, Bharat Bazaar stumbled into a large pond, where he was attacked by a shambling mound. The lights turned out to be will o'wisps, which nearly did the party in. The characters wisely retreated.

The next session, rather than storming the gates as I expected them to, the characters rested for a night. Beside the gigantic stone statues of snakes and lions that adorn the temple's outer walls. How could I resist? During the night, one of the stone lions became a Huge animated object with a hardness of 8. That was a tough fight, but the characters made it through, and Feroz got a new round of healing spells to help everyone out.

Then came the yuan-ti barbarian, who roundly kicked the party's collective booty. He was a yuan-ti abomination (a snake with human arms) barbarian 4 (CR 11), and he killed Bharat Bazaar before the party could get away from him. He let them go—he's as fast as Keoni, faster than the rest of the party, but he enjoyed watching them run away with their tails between their legs.

Then things got interesting. This was just last week. Eric's yakuza, who only recently joined the party, decided to do some information gathering in the city of Singha when the party went back there to get Bharat Bazaar raised. There, he learned that there's a criminal organization in the nearby city of Vriscika called the Silent Storm—basically this campaign's version of ninjas. Supposedly, some of their members are tainted with yuan-ti blood, and there are rumors that the yuan-ti sometimes capture humans and transform them in this way. "Though that could never happen here in Singha, of course."

Much to my surprise, the party is planning for tomorrow to head downriver to Vriscika and see what they can learn about this Silent Storm. Well, perhaps the rishi can wait...

I guess we've missed a lot of sessions since I last wrote; it sure doesn't seem like much has happened. Again, though, I guess that's what happens with a one-hour-a-week game. Takes a while for things to happen (like characters going up levels...).
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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September 29: One Hurtin' Yuan-Ti Barbarian

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:54 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
September 29, 2001

No sooner did I erase the carefully-drawn segment of Angkor on my battlemat in preparation for the characters' journey down to Vriscika than they talked themselves out of that plan... They decided they didn't really know what they were looking for, and weren't likely to find it anyway. And maybe the yuan-ti had just hurt them so badly because they weren't fully prepared...

As it turned out, that may have been true. It's not dead yet (1:10 rolled around, people had meetings to get to, and we didn't even stop at the end of a round), but it's taken 83 points of damage already—last time it only took 27 points total. Of course, it just went into a rage and got 26 of those points back...

Keoni and Doolaram went up the steps and flung open the door behind which the creature lurked. Keoni tossed a mind-kukri at it, missed, and flew back down the steps (not literally). Felasia, who was also lurking up near the door, tried a charm monster—but, since Keoni had just attacked it, it got a bonus to its save and made it despite my really low roll (a natural 3). Doolaram also went back down, though he may have gotten a couple of sneak attacks in first. Felasia dropped a fireball on him... actually two (she was hasted), but the second didn't get through his SR. It went into snake form, smart enough not to stroll down the stairs to where everyone was waiting to whale on it. It was going to try to get around to the side without being seen, so it could fight on its terms instead of theirs.Feroz laid an ancestral vengeance on it. Keoni went back up, hit the little snake with a mind-kukri empowered with stomp, and knocked it prone... I think Felasia did another flamboyant spell...

And we're picking up next week with Bharat's turn.

Oh, and on the way back to the temple, Feroz got the animal companion he's entitled to: a tiger named Vyaghra.
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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December 8: The Rishi Is Free, The Rakshasa Is Not Dead

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:55 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
December 8, 2001

Two months just flew by in a haze of deadline-induced insanity. The good news is that, with a huge deadline hanging over my head, I canceled a couple of sessions, so there's not as much to catch up on as there might be otherwise.

During the next session, they defeated the yuan-ti barbarian. I think it took just about the whole session, though, and the PCs weren't in any state to continue on into the temple itself. The next session, though, they entered through a long gallery (avoiding the corner towers where the guards seem to have been posted) right next to the small interior shrine where they knew the rishi was being held. They defeated two halfblood guards, and I ended that session with a voice from inside: "At last it ends."

Entering the shrine, the characters found the rishi tied up and a rather fatalistic pureblood monk with a lajatang. Truth be told, she didn't want to be on guard duty, precisely because she knew it was a death sentence. Had the characters given her half a chance to talk, she would have tried to make a deal with them and perhaps revealed some important information... but that hasn't come out yet. It's a plot thread I'm going to let lie quiet for a while, until I find a good time to yank it up. Anyway, they killed the pureblood monk (high point: I think it was Keoni who bull-rushed her through Feroz's snake barrier spell) and freed the rishi.

On the way back to Singha, they fought and killed a fiendish dire tiger—another seed planted to gather up in future sessions.

In Singha, they met (in Mike's absence) with Papa Bazaar, Bharat's father, and offered their services as a party of troubleshooters. I was ill-prepared to come up with a mission for them on the fly, but eventually what I decided on was to send them back to Vriscika. According to the kshatriya, a small temple just outside the city of Vriscika is being used as the headquarters of a death cult whose members are causing trouble throughout the area. He asked them to put a stop to it.

So they journeyed downriver to Vriscika, used the elephant (with its elephant bangles of the zephyr) to get to the small island in the middle of the river where the temple was located, and made their way in. To their surprise, they found it apparently deserted—they looked around and found not only no priests or monks, but also no spirits (at least none that were apparent to Feroz's spirit sight). Entering the central tower of the temple, however, they found a single monk, apparently deep in meditation on the floor. Feroz sat down and began meditating beside him, casually using his innate detect evil ability while meditating. Sure enough, the monk registered as thoroughly evil, and that's about where we called it a day that time.

Johnny was out the next time we played, which was a little weird—wasn't Feroz right there? But we didn't sweat it. My wife Amy joined the group that week, however (this was 11/30, after 2 weeks' hiatus), playing a river spirit folk devapala (sohei) named Bahani, after the river. The characters tried to converse with the monk, who remained silent for a while and then started giving cryptic and evasive answers. Then a nature spirit appeared in the room (much of the conversation had focused around the apparent absence of spirits in the temple) and combat began. After a round, the "monk" assumed his natural form: a tiger-headed humanoid with backwards hands, and the party Freaked Out. With Johnny absent, there was no possibility of coming up with blessed crossbow bolts, and no one had a weapon good enough to beat the rakshasa's damage reduction of 20/+3. Bharat managed to dish out a whopping 2 points of damage by scoring a critical hit early on, but that was it. They ran like heck. (On the plus side, Felasia charmed the nature spirit and set it against the rakshasa...)

The next session (12/6), while trying to run out of the temple, the characters were ambushed by two rakshas (common oni from OA) who spit molten copper at them and then got handily slaughtered. Bharat used Great Ki Shout to panic one of them, and the other one fell pretty quickly. That's all right; everyone was happy that they had finally defeated something. I think they've got a pretty solid plan to return to the temple with blessed crossbow bolts in hand (perhaps literally: another thing to love about the new D&D is that the Player's Handbook tells you what happens when you use a crossbow bolt as a melee weapon...) and defeat the rakshasa. Should be interesting. I'll have to put some thought into what surprises might await them upon their return.
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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December 16: Now the Rakshasa Is Dead

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:55 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
December 16, 2001

The rakshasa is dead, perhaps a little too easily. Well, he did survive three sessions.

The characters returned to the temple and found two human monks outside the tower where the rakshasa had been. They were 7th-level monks pretty much right out of the DMG (I gave them Defensive Throw as their human bonus feat), and they perished bloodily before the rakshasa even had a chance to step out of the tower. (He did, however, have a chance to cast haste and mage armor on himself, which was key). I wonder about NPC CRs sometimes.

So at the end of the round when the second monk died (the second round of combat), the rakshasa cast blur on himself, stepped out of the temple, and tried a rain of needles. He missed Bharat and Keoni, and did a pitiful amount of damage to Feroz. Disappointing.

Mike stepped up with two crossbow bolts bearing weapon bless spells (which I ruled did count as blessed weapons), and missed on his first attack. (I first told Mike that he hit, rolled the miss chance for the blur, and announced the rakshasa's demise. Then I remembered that his AC was higher because of the haste and mage armor, and had to rescind that.) Next, Feroz (I think) hit him with a dispel magic which got rid of all three spells (I think). The rakshasa got to act again before Bharat could whack him with another crossbow bolt, so he got the haste and mage armor back up. Then Felasia did a dispel magic and knocked out his haste at least (or maybe it was the mage armor—I'm really not remembering this very well, am I?), and Bharat was able to kill him with the second crossbow bolt.

It sure felt like the rakshasa died too easily. He didn't have a chance to do much to them—he was too busy replenishing his protective spells to get any good offense in. (I considered having him start casting steam breath after the first dispel magic, but he never would have gotten it off. What was I thinking when I made that a full-round casting spell?) His minions (who technically raised the EL to 11) died too quickly to provide him much cover, though having that first round to prep literally saved his life... for a round. A CR 9 monster? Hm...

Actually, yes. When the party first encountered it, they had to flee. (If Bharat's tulwar had been +3 instead of +2 and keen, it might have been a different story.) When they returned, they were loaded for bear. A simple magic weapon spell isn't enough to make a crossbow bolt deadly—at least, I ruled that the bolt had to be able to penetrate the rakshasa's damage reduction (30/+3) in order to count as a "hit" and kill it. So you want a cleric who can cast greater magic weapon and make a bolt (or a bunch of bolts) +3, which means 9th level. That CR 9 is looking better and better.

The weapon bless spell from OA worked better than greater magic weapon in this case, but only because the characters were able to retreat and plan for a combat with a rakshasa—with this particular rakshasa, which is what makes the weapon bless spell tricky.

All in all, it worked out pretty well. Except the 7th-level monks. They were just pathetic. Well, one of them did get to make use of Defensive Throw, which seriously excited me. Of course, he dismally failed his trip attempt against Bharat, got tripped in return, and died horribly on Bharat's next attack (same action). Pathetic.
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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April 12: Mega-update

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:00 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
April 12, 2002

OK, so I'm pathetic. *sigh* Well, we've missed a lot of sessions so far this year, but there's still a lot of catching up to do. Stupid Dreamweaver crashed after I'd written several paragraphs, but I'll try to reconstruct and finish what I wrote... a mega-update:
After killing the rakshasa, the characters found a trap-door leading under the temple. While Keoni was searching in there, though, Bahani and Bharat were outside the temple, where they were attacked by four assassins. When they went down, they found the rakshasa's treasure and two passages leading into the first real dungeon this campaign has seen. (I'm actually using a map from the DUNGEON Adventures web site, but there's no secret door in the main chamber...) They took the passage to the west, and found themselves in an octagonal room with a pool of what sure looked (and smelled, Felasia assured her fellows) like blood, flowing in from the north and out to the south. Then up from the pool came a demonic-looking, enormous spider—a bebilith. Bharat died before the bebilith finally retreated to the Spirit World. The characters retreated to the surface and the relative safety of the city, where they got Bharat raised.

When they returned to the temple, they had to face the ghosts of those fallen assassins before going back down to confront the bebilith again. They'd been gone long enough that the bebilith was almost up to its full hit points again, so it was another fierce fight, but they emerged triumphant at last.
It was about this time that we all agreed we were a little tired of playing at 9th level, which is right where we started. I decided to advance everyone a level by fiat, then double the amount of XP I handed out. Since we only play for one hour a week and we miss a lot of sessions, this helps us feel like there's real progress in the campaign. I think several characters have made it to 11th level since I did that.

After defeating the bebilith, the characters took the south passage and ended up in a T-shaped room, its floor covered with a thin sheet of blood. Lining the walls were 13 demonic heads carved of stone—5 facing pairs and 3 on the far wall. Not wanting to touch the blood on the floor, Doolaram climbed the walls around to the far side of the room, with Felasia on his shoulder (in her mongoose form, of course). Along the way, they triggered the trap in the second pair of heads, creating a cone of cold effect between the two heads. A little more carefully, they made it to the center head in the far wall, where they found a secret door. Opening it, they discovered a gigantic font (like the total-immersion baptismal fonts used by Baptist churches) full of blood. Hiding in the tiny room with the font was a demonic witch with a long, flaming tongue and a necklace made of human entrails (aka a night hag)—shown at right. (The image is Rangda, a cannibalistic witch from Balinese myth.)
Image

This turned out to be a very interesting fight. The night hag, her hellcat ally, and the two melee-weak party members were at one end of the room; the two stronger fighters (Keoni and Bharat) were at the other end of the room, separated from the action by five traps of increasing lethality. Felasia died and Doolaram fled. Keoni used autohypnosis to keep himself moving around long enough to get through the acid fog to the action. Bharat struck terror into the heart of the hellcat, removing it from the action—but as it fled from him, it triggered the final trap (a Maximized shout) and the three heads on the far wall began to speak:
  • The sleeping goddess shall awake

    And start her lovely dance of doom

    When seven tasks ye undertake
    
And seven wefts pass on the loom.

    One task is done: the demon’s death
    
Is offered as a sacrifice;

    One weft is strung: the sleeper’s wrath

    Has called six greater in its place.

    The six devouring ghosts have come,

    To make their feast on living meat,
    
And six great tablas start to drum

    The rhythm for the sleeper’s feet.

    The second task you must achieve

    To speed the hungry ghosts along:

    Destroy the one who shall conceive

    The god who pipes a goatherd’s song.
    
Then shall the second weft be strung,

    The bhuts allowed their terror’s reign;

    Then shall Suarama’s song be sung,
    
And all the world consumed in pain.
The characters were in the middle of a fight for their lives; they paid little attention to my little poem at the time (in fact, it's been several weeks now and they still haven't really tried to dissect this poem...). Eventually, they killed the witch and we decided to ignore the hellcat.

Gwen decided not to continue playing Felasia, feeling overall that the +1 level adjustment for a hengeyokai is not worthwhile for a wizard character. Eric also abandoned Doolaram, feeling that he might have been more useful in a more diplomacy-oriented campaign, but not so much in such a battle-focused one. Two new characters have thus joined the group: Reverend Mother (Gwen)—a ninja spy, of all things, and Samakar (Eric), a tough monk. Reverend Mother has the Leadership feat and a cohort she plans to bring along when our group is a little understaffed (Johnny had missed a lot of sessions, leaving the group with no divine spellcaster at crucial junctures): her grandson, who is a shugenja. We have had full complements of players since Reverend Mother joined the group, so Tadpole has not yet made an appearance.

(Here's an interesting house rule we've adopted: When her cohort is not needed, Reverend Mother gains a different feat—I think we decided on Improved Initiative—to make up for not getting the benefit of Leadership. This keeps everyone happy: when we're short some players, the cohort helps to fill out the party and keep everyone alive, but when everyone is present Gwen isn't penalized for her choice and the group isn't overcrowded. This helps keep cohorts to their best use: to fill out a party that's understaffed.)

Last week (4/4) was the first session with Reverend Mother and Samakar, and in fact the first session at which everyone had been present in a very long time. Returning to the temple after recuperating in the city, a couple of sharp-eyed party members spotted three small snakes crawling across the courtyard toward the temple towers. Sure enough, these turned out to be yuan-ti monks, whose mission to the temple remains unknown since they are all quite dead now. It was a really good fight—6 10th-level PCs against 3 CR 12ish monster NPCs. It felt like a pretty even match. The highlight was having one yuan-ti trapped in an ectoplasmic cocoon, unable to see anyone to target them with his spell-like abilities, and so dropping a darkness on the whole area. But Feroz managed to dispel the darkness before any of the yuan-ti got away, and the characters were victorious.

I tried to institute a short-cut into the action this week (4/11), in order to get the players focused on the prophecy and what it might mean for them. I told them that they searched the entire temple and found only one thing: one of the outbuildings was obviously someone's home—there was a simple bed and thin blanket, a prayer mat, and a statue of the dancing death-goddess, Suarama. Bharat's elephant crushed the statue under its heel, Keoni found a long black hair on the bed, and the characters camped overnight to see if anyone would return (and prepare the spells they wanted). No one returned. Feroz searched for footprints and found some leading from the temple to the island shore, where there were signs of a boat being pulled out of a hiding place and launched. Next, Feroz cast scrying, using the black hair as a focus. He saw a tall man with dark skin and long black hair, wearing a black robe and holding a gold quarterstaff. Beside him was a dire tiger and a small, hunchbacked man. The hunchback actually noticed the scrying sensor and pointed it out to the tall man, who cast nondetection on himself, ending the scrying. Plan for next time: scry again (after giving the nondetection time to wear off) and teleport in to whale on the bad guy. Oh, that's right: he appeared to be walking across a plain, heading east.

Also, the characters sought a way to re-consecrate the temple and purge it of evil, since they view that as their primary mission. Back down to the river of blood! Reverend Mother tried, unsuccessfully, to crawl upstream... but along the way, happened to get a taste of the blood. (Felasia had always been tempted, and I started making a running joke of it... because I knew the truth!). I passed Gwen a note explaining the effects, and she promptly began encouraging the others to drink it as well. In the end, everyone gave in (Bharat protested the longest) except for Samakar. Except for Samakar, everyone gained a +1 inherent bonus to their Constitution scores. As far as they can tell, that was the only effect of drinking this blood. As far as they can tell...
Keoni is convinced that it would be selfish to keep this incredible magic to themselves, and Reverend Mother is considering the profit potential. Interesting... how much would you pay for the privilege of drinking blood to gain a Con bonus? Of course, I can't tell you whose blood it is, because my players read this, too...

Next week: Who is that black-haired man?
Last edited by Big Mac on Sat Apr 14, 2018 1:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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July 4: Another mega-update

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:02 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
July 4, 2002

All went more or less according to plan. So why do my players think I'm so mean?

I believe the characters spent a week between scryings learning about the ghost situation in the city of Vriscika. As the poem in the temple said, "The six devouring ghosts have come," and they had carved up the city into six territories to plague. Reports of people keeling over dead then getting back up and going on a rampage were widespread in the city, so the characters looked into the matter. They learned the names of the six ghosts and the areas where they were active: Bhastra in the 'leatherworker’s quarter,' Sunnya in the docks in the Fisher’s quarter, Karda in the southern end of the Merchant’s Quarter, Mala near the Gate of Raksha’s Teeth, Toranu in the Licensed Quarter, and Danyu in the northern end of the Merchant’s Quarter. Those commune with spirits spells are pretty handy.

The characters also spent some time researching the issue of "the one who shall conceive / The god who pipes a goatherd's song." Feroz learned (or already knew) that one of the deities of Mahasarpa is supposed to send an avatar who will be a goatherd (this campaign's distorted version of Krishna). However, according to all the most reputable sages, the prophecies indicate that event is still thousands of years in the future. Some disagree, of course, notable some hermit out in the wilderness somewhere who claims the avatar's birth is imminent...

All that information in hand, the next session they went back after the black-haired man. Another scrying spell revealed him standing in a plain hut, facing a man chained to the wall by his wrists. The dire tiger stood beside him, licking the chained man, while the dwarf crouched beside the tiger, petting it. That was good enough: the group teleported on the scene and started the smackdown.

Sakhash Rin was a powerful shaman, and his fire storm wreaked some serious havoc with the party. He used mislead to throw the characters off, and repulsion to keep them off his back—sort of (Bahani shot him with arrows, Keoni used dimension door to get next to him). The dwarf revealed itself to be a horse-headed raksha—the me-zu oni (I think) from the OA book. Soon all opposition was vanquished, and the only casualty of note was the hermit, incinerated in the early fire storm.

The next week, Feroz cast reincarnate on the slain hermit. I rolled the race randomly and got human. We started joking about how there should be a random gender table there too; I rolled d% and got female. Johnny asked, I think still joking, if she was pregnant, and I got a wicked idea. So the hermit comes back to life as a woman, and seems a little distracted, eventually excusing herself to go do some research. (And yes, this is the hermit who's the expert on prophecies about the goatherd avatar.) She has not appeared since, but she's still safe. Her role in the prophecy of Suarama is done.

Soon, Reverend Mother (who has people watching the temple) received word that the stone heads had uttered a different poem. My players are up in arms about the prophecy changing; I have to keep reminding them that it's not a prophecy, but a user's manual. "To bring the death goddess back from her slumber, follow these steps..." The key thing is that the earlier prophecy didn't intend to prevent the conception of the goatherd-avatar. Can't be done. In fact, the characters precipitated it, by indirectly causing the death of the hermit and reincarnating him as a woman. So here's what the stone demon heads are saying now:
  • The sleeping goddess shall awake
    And start her lovely dance of doom
    When seven tasks ye undertake
    And seven wefts pass on the loom.
    The second task has now been done:
    The god-bearer was slain and rose.
    The second weft is now begun:
    The seventh bhut’s great power grows.
    Now the six shall start to fall,
    Their death heralding the final doom.
    The seventh one shall take them all
    And string their souls upon the loom.
    The third task now awaits your hands:
    To find the rod the goddess bore,
    The skull-crowned staff that wasted lands
    And gave her skulls the goddess wore.
    Then shall the third weft cross the loom,
    The seventh bhut arise in power;
    Then shall Suarama’s final doom
    Draw nearer to the final hour.
So now a seventh hungry ghost is on the loose (can you guess who it is? I won't tell, since my players haven't figured it out yet.), and the next task at hand is to find the Skull Staff of Suarama. As Mike is fond of pointing out, it's a no-win situation for the players: they have to prevent the staff from being found, and somehow have to do that without finding it themselves... Heh.

Next they started trying to hunt down the six (seven) bhuts, the "devouring ghosts" of the poems. They started with Mala at the Gate of Raksha's Teeth. They fought the ghostly monk for a while, Reverend Mother intimidated the heck out of it, and they learned a little bit about what's going on. Mala explained that he was expecting the seventh ghost to arrive and absorb his soul, completing his role in returning Suarama to the world. The PCs believe that Mala has promised not to kill any more until that happens, but I think they're stretching the bounds of optimism...

Off in search of the next ghost, Karda, the PCs visited a guard station in the southern end of the Merchant Quarter. (In case you're curious, I'm using the map of the Scorpion city Ryoko Owari that appears in Oriental Adventures for the city of Vriscika.) While interviewing the guards, they heard an explosion and screams outside. They rushed outside to find citizens charred and killed by a fireball, and before they knew what was going on they were the target of a prismatic spray spell cast by the 14th-level ghostly sorcerer. Granted, the PCs are about 12th level now, but this CR 16 encounter was too nasty. The first prismatic spray made Bahani insane and petrified Tadpole (Reverend Mother's grandson). The ghost remained invisible (thanks to improved invisibility) and cast another prismatic spray the next round, killing Keoni and sending Bharat Bazaar to another plane of existence.

Fortunately for the PCs, there were only two other choices of planes Bharat could be sent to: the Spirit World or the Ethereal Plane. I rolled randomly, and Bharat showed up on the Ethereal Plane ready to kick some ghostly behind. I think Reverend Mother had a see invisibility up (thanks to Use Magic Device) so she knew where to strike; everyone else could see which square she was attacking and just face the miss chance, offset by that wonderful, too-often-overlooked Blind-Fight feat. After those two prismatic spray spells, Karda did not last long.

Dave decided not to bring Keoni back after that. I miss Keoni and the power of his mind (his trademark saying), as well as little things like the "Keoni intranet" (mindlink). However, Dave made an interesting point: playing a psion/soulknife left him not feeling like he was playing Oriental Adventures. In retrospect, it might be helpful to convert some of the new spells from OA into psionic powers, and maybe I'll do that as a special feature on this site sometime in the not-too-distant future. Anyway, Dave's new character avoids that problem quite thoroughly. Shadhbakht is a eunuch sorcerer, complete with the high-pitched voice. I waived the "must be evil" requirement for this campaign, but not the other requirements... He came into the campaign as the guy with the spells to both turn Tadpole back into flesh and bring Bharat back from the Ethereal Plane, and has stuck with the party since.

Shortly after the Karda episode, an additional contingent of city guards met up with the PCs on the street. Oh, but first you have to know the wacky plan the PCs came up with to deal with the whole staff thing. First, Reverend Mother put the word out on the street that she'll pay for information about it. In addition, they stuck a skull on a stick (Rev. Mom using her Disguise skill to "age" it) and walked around with it barely peeking out of someone's backpack, hoping to draw out the people who were looking for it. Did they ever.

So the city guards informed them that the rajah of the city requested their presence in his audience chamber. They accompanied the guards to the palace, met Rajah Yanja Bhayyam (who spoke to them from behind a plain porcelain mask), and very properly submitted to his questioning. Having determined all that they knew about the cult led by Sakhash Rin, the "prophecy" in the temple, and the Skull Staff of Suarama, he dismissed them. In the palace courtyard, the guards turned to the PCs and started hitting them with picks. I believe both Reverend Mother and her grandson fell in the melee, but all the characters escaped into hiding in the city.

Shortly thereafter, a festival day occurred. Figuring that the rajah would be out in the city watching his enemies get pushed under the juggernaut, the characters went undercover (after all, Mike and Bharat were absent that week) to slip into the rajah's palace disguised as servants (veil being more effective than Disguise). They charmed a cook, who led them to the rajah's private chambers. While searching the ornate doors for traps, they heard conversation within. Abruptly, the conversation stopped and a door closed. The characters entered the room, and found themselves ambushed by another ninja: Kurda Tangnash, right hand of the rajah, a 14th-level character and an unholy terror. He lasted only a few rounds.

Hurrying to the door across the room in order to catch up with the rajah, the characters found a spiral staircase descending into the darkness. At the bottom (and now we're caught up to last week!), they found a chamber completely filled with a layer of writing snakes. It actually took two fireballs to kill all the snakes (which sparked some protest), and one was left: a yuan-ti abomination barbarian who quickly changed shape and tried to kill them. He lies dead now, and presumably the rajah is somewhere behind the door at the far end of the room...

We had the day off today for the Independence Day holiday, so we'll hopefully resume next week with the pursuit of the rajah.

Looks like Johnny's probably going to be out of the game now, and Amy won't be able to play until our son is back in school in the Fall. I may try to find a new player... we'll see.
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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February 1: A mini mega update

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:02 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
February 1, 2003

This is basically a copy of an email I sent out to the players in the campaign before our game on 1/7. We had played so little for so long that I felt a recap was in order. So here's something of a recap for you all...

Back in July, the PCs followed the fleeing rajah into the dungeon below his palace and fought a bunch of yuan-ti (including a gigantic anathema, a monster in the Fiend Folio). The rajah teleported away as the PCs entered combat with the anathema, then Shadhbakht turned the creature to stone. They captured two prisoners (a monk that was with the abomination, and the assassin from upstairs, if we remember correctly), and fled the palace. Questioning the prisoners, they learned that the rajah had just received word that the staff was hidden in the great city of Mahasarpa.

Making their way through the jungle toward Mahasarpa, they killed two nasty forest sloths. When they arrived at the temple, they tried crossing the causeway at the rear of the temple, and encountered a man walking across the water who told them that no agents of the rajah had come there yet. There was some speculation about this man being a dragon of some sort. Next, they went around to the other side of the temple, where they had a terrible nightmare about fighting a blackstone gigant (another monster in the Fiend Folio), then woke up to find it was just a bad dream. (There was a question about whether we had set the gigant's CR too high, so I ran it for this lower-level party and creamed them.) When they did cross the causeway to enter the temple in reality, they fought a demonic big cat (a jarilith), and successfully entered the main temple compound.

Next was the 11-headed, fire-breathing snake (a pyrohydra) which they dispatched handily. With that out of the way, they could approach the central temple area. They came up to one of the corner entrances, which was guarded by 2 yuan-ti abominations. We stopped in the middle of that combat.

So, the bigger picture: Five of the six devouring ghosts are still on the loose in Vriscika, and according to the latest word from the demon heads, "The seventh bhut's great power grows." The rajah, like the PCs, is looking for Suarama's staff in order to complete the third task (of seven) necessary to wake Suarama from her sleep. The PCs are in Mahasarpa, on the word of a very cooperative prisoner who worked for the rajah, hoping to find the staff without actually finding it, and at least prevent the servants of the rajah from finding it.

So we picked up again on 1/7. The PCs finished the two yuan-ti barbarians pretty quickly. Then another abomination strode up to them. For some reason, there was conversation. The yuan-ti (a high-level cleric) assured the PCs that there was no staff in the temple, and the PCs were willing to retreat. Some scrying soon revealed that the rajah and Kurda Tangnash were laughing about how they managed to get rid of the PCs and setting about trying to find the staff for real. At the end of the session, the plan was to wait a day, teleport to the rajah's office and kick his butt.

Because there was such a dramatic plan on the table, we had to wait a few weeks before we got around to doing it. (I didn't want to run a climactic fight with the rajah with just 3 players.) We finally did it last week. The PCs scried again and saw the rajah sitting at his desk. Then he looked up toward the door, said something, and in walked Kurdan Tangnash, his right-hand man, carrying a long staff decorated with skulls. In pop the PCs and kick butt as promised. The rajah took an enormous amount of damage very quickly and used his ninja abundant step to get out of there. Kurda Tangnash died again, and Tadpole, of all people, was left holding the Skull Staff of Suarama.

Before teleporting back out of the rajah's palace, they went through his desk. I've promised them details on all the papers they've found, which include a complete set of all the utterings of the demon statues in the basement of the death-cult's temple—even the first one, which they never heard. I'll have to write that soon, as well as the next one now that the staff is found.

So that's where we are... not a lot to say because our play schedule has been so irregular. But the next couple of weeks should be interesting...

Oh hey, how about a player update? Johnny indeed stopped playing with us when his office moved up to Bellevue. Too bad. We then recruited Rich Redman, who only played about 2 sessions with us (a delightful vanara shaman) before he was laid off. He's still coming into the office once a week for Charles Ryan's d20 Modern game, but he had more invested in that than in Mahasarpa. So no new players, just Dave Noonan, Mike Selinker, Gwen Kestrel, Eric Cagle, and my wife Amy.
Last edited by Big Mac on Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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February 12: The latest instructions...

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:03 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Journal
February 12, 2003

We did not play this week. Here's the scoop from last week.

First off, I handed the players a sheet with the rajah's copies of the demonic utterances on it. The first one, which the PCs had never heard, went like this:
  • The sleeping goddess shall awake
    And start her lovely dance of doom
    When seven tasks ye undertake
    And seven wefts pass on the loom.
    Her sleeping place a raksha guards,
    A demon servant true and strong;
    A blessed bolt shall end his wards,
    And start the music of the song.
    Then the sleeper's silent drum
    Shall call six harbingers of doom;
    Then shall the world's destruction come
    With six more wefts upon the loom.
The PCs unwittingly performed this first task early on in the adventure, when they killed the rakshasa who guarded the secret temple underneath the temple of death.

After raiding the rajah's palace and making off with the Skull Staff of Suarama, where did the PCs go but... right back to the temple of death. And there they got to hear the latest set of instructions (only thr fourth!), which went like this:
  • The sleeping goddess shall awake
    And start her lovely dance of doom
    When seven tasks ye undertake
    And seven wefts pass on the loom.
    The third great task is now complete:
    The skull-crowned staff at last is found;
    The third weft: they that fed on meat
    Now into one great bhut are bound.
    A princeling's death shall seal his power
    And hold a realm in terror's grasp,
    As earth draws toward its final hour
    And heaven draws its final gasp.
    The middle task awaits your hand,
    The pivot on which hangs the doom:
    From this stone prison ransom free
    The sleeping dancer's ready groom.
    Then the fourth weft shall be done,
    Her champions arrayed in might;
    Then the world's doom is begun,
    And the quenching of the light.
To my surprise, the three players present last week (Mike, Eric, and Gwen) managed to correctly identify the problems facing them at the moment: The one great bhut, the rajah, and the fact that they're carrying around the death goddess' staff. They therefore came up with an ingenious plan: To have Shadhbakht create a programmed illusion of the demonic heads speaking the prophecy (with some sort of wall of stone or something blocking off the real demonic heads and their real prophecy), with some altered text around the lines, "From this stone prison ransom free/The sleeping dancer's ready groom." I don't recall the words they were going to put there, but the gist was to suggest that the rajah ("the princeling") should fight the bhut. Trying to pit two of their enemies against each other. Pretty clever. Of course, if the rajah dies in that conflict, the prophecy is simply proven true...

They also took the staff to the big temple in Vriscika, where their friend Feroz Battachariya (Johnny Wilson's old character) said, "By all that is holy! What are you doing with that thing?!" He told them that the hermit (reincarnated as a pregnant woman) might know something about how to destroy the staff, but she's off safely in hiding.

I have some ideas about what's going to happen next, but of course I can't share them here. We'll have to wait until they unfold...
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
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Mahasarpa Map

Post by Big Mac » Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:34 pm

I'm copying this from The Mahasarpa Campaign Map page on the Wayback Machine copy of Aquela.com in case that page ever gets taken down:
James Wyatt on Aquela.com wrote:The Mahasarpa Campaign Map
Image

The Kokaha are horse-riding nomads.

The Naga are reclusive monks.

The vanara are a new character race in OA.

Mahasarpa ("Great Serpent") are the most prominent ruins of an ancient snake-worshiping empire, now crumbling and infested with yuan-ti. This is where the initial adventures of the campaign will take place.

The Karkata are staunch warriors, ever-vigilant against the yuan-ti.

The Singha are proud warriors, epitomizing the highest martial ideals.

The Gandharva are powerful swamis and renowned scholars.

The Vriscika are corrupt and decadent.

The Lakshmana, far to the south, are refined courtiers, close to the seats of power but far from the harsh realities of the jungle.

To the east lie Lands of Mystery...
Last edited by Big Mac on Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [Mahasarpa] James Wyatt's Mahasarpa Campaign

Post by genghisdon » Sat Feb 27, 2016 2:38 pm

I enjoyed these entries back in the day, thanks for transcribing them :)

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Re: [Mahasarpa] James Wyatt's Mahasarpa Campaign

Post by Big Mac » Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:32 pm

genghisdon wrote:I enjoyed these entries back in the day, thanks for transcribing them :)
You're welcome, Genghisdon.

It's a shame there isn't more.

I wonder if any of James Wyatt's players ever put anything online.
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