Our intrepid Pathfinder adventurers continued their trials and tribulations in a Pathfinderized version of the Shackled City AP set in the Forgotten Realms. It took us a bit to remember where we were, especially since we had our special guest GM and a site trip to another reality where our characters did else before returning home.
But eventually we remembered that the aasimar rogue was holed up trying to convince giants not to show up and attack, and we caught up with him. We were in the dungeon complex at the end of our journey, looking for a lost paladin, and we keep right on keeping on.
Eventually we found a magical fountain that made those of us that drank stronger, but unwise. I was completely okay with this. The only wise adventurers are clerical types. My theory on this is that low wisdom is what drives the adventuring industry, and the reason the wisdom dependent divine types have a stake in adventuring at all is because they might have wisdom, but they get guild thrown into the mix since they have a divine basis for their powers, so it all works out in the end.
Anyway, with further reduced wisdom, we find a room with three angels. For some strange reason, the rest of the party swore they were hags, but clearly they were angels, and they told Darkboon (our rogue) and myself to kill the cavalier's horse and stop the bard, respectively. Despite being fairly certain that I've never wanted to kill Chesterfield (our bard) before, it really did seem like a good idea at the time.
I only got one hit on Chesterfield before he went invisible and our druid (a goliath that has been in bear for for the last . . . oh . . . six months or so) grabbed me for my own good. I wasn't in the mood for a cuddle, so I decided that cutting an arm off of the bear might make it harder for him to hang onto me.
Darkboon managed to use his handy kukri to not only sneak attack the cavalier's horse, but to cause it bleed damage as well. That horse was bleeding like a stuck pig . . . horse.
Now, I will for years to come feel guilty over the level of amusement I felt over the situation that my friend's character found himself in. Sir Albert, our cavalier, not only had a horse that was bleeding out, but the hags that my character swore were angels case a forcecage on him. We immediately got an image of Sir Albert trapped in a cage, and him eventually drowning on his own mounts blood, and for some reason, that was hilarious to most of us. We are all sick bastards. We need help. We really do.
Back in character, the other adventurers managed to permanently hamper the ongoing breathing ability of two of the hags, so Darkboon and Linderath returned to the land of the (relatively) sensible adventurer. We all chased after the last member of the coven, but then we lost her behind a door that she barred behind her. One player had a theory that she went to Mexico. I'm not sure about that myself. All I know is that we didn't catch up to her the rest of the night.
In another room, Darkboon and I were holding the door shut after Darkboon found a mob of skeletons, and eventually Enoch, our handy cleric of Helm, showed up and between a vigorous chopping motion initiated by most of the party and the warm fuzzy bursts of religious affirmation that Enoch let out, the skeletons went down.
As fate would have it, eventually we found a room with a strange series of magical portals and Chesterfield eventually went through them the right way and we all eventually followed. We found a big hidden magical room with pillars and other stuff, and the door would slam shut behind all of us as we arrived. Albert nearly lost a hand trying to keep it open.
In the end, we found the paladin we were looking for, a sacred staff that was used to banish some grand demonic entity in years gone by, and, quite unfortunately, a grand demonic entity of the glabrezu variety. Eventually we had tea, set down some guidelines, and negotiated the paladin's release from demonic custody with only minor concessions.
No, wait, that's not what happened. The glabrezu started ripping us limb from limb, and the cleric was bursting and specifically healing me to keep me alive. Eventually poor Darkboon was ripped in half and took enough hit point damaged that the final total would have to make a perception check to see the tail end of his constitution score.
I kept burning true strike charges and hitting as hard as I could (nothing I could channel would do damage to the beast, and I didn't want to risk a round without at least hitting it for damage). Oh, we took turns holding the staff, but apparently holding the staff was the trigger for getting a claw to the abdomen, so eventually we handed it down to Chesterfield and he ran with it.
So the bear (Shale), the cavalier (Albert), my magus (Linderath), and the cleric (Enoch) were all surrounding the demon, doing "some" damage to it with each hit, and eventually Albert went down as well. I nearly did, but Enoch did a fine job of convincing my wounds not to split open any further.
In theory, the did enough damage to the demon that it was afraid for it's life and teleported away. My own personal theory is that the demon has the attention span of a hyperactive kitten and some cosmic yarn that none of us could perceive just dangled in front of his face, causing him to go check it out for a few moments. Whatever the case, we got the deathbed exposition of the paladin and hightailed it out of the room.
I had a lot of fun, but two things jump out at me.
1. As a GM, I really liked the fun and variety of the Critical Hit deck. After being in a life or death situation with a demon and having that bright, shinning moment of getting a critical hit, and then having that hit only do normal damage and make one of the demon's claws not function for a while . . . I'm less enamored of the deck. I would certainly think twice about investing feats, spells, or magic item properties with the deck in play, because the effects aren't always demonstrably as valuable as a damage multiplier.
It's funny how your opinion can change on the other side of the screen. That having been said, random chance can still be fun and by no means do I fault our GM for liking to use the accessory.
2. Once again the AP goes out of its way to say "hey, sure, you are the champions of Cauldron, but you can't adventure there." The paladin's dying admonition was to not go back to the city because it would bring ruin. Really? Again with the "save the city by going anywhere but there?"
It's just kind of grating. They seem to spend a lot of time creating backstory for a city that they won't let you enjoy. Plus, when you are in the city, they spend a lot of time making you think you will be doing urban things before yanking the rug out from under you, usually to plop you into another dungeon.
I enjoy it, for the most part, but it's hard to suppress that part of my brain that keeps saying, "this was their first AP, and it wasn't completely designed to be an AP . . . there is a lot of duct tape holding these things together."