Monday, January 15, 2018

Pathfinder Critical Hit Deck [RPG]

I've used the Critical Hit Deck in several hundred sessions of D&D 3.5/Pathfinder, and it's one of those little things that adds a lot to the game.  Simply put, the deck is a lot of fun and makes a mundane crit into something memorable.  With the deck, a critical hit doesn't just do extra damage anymore: it might make the opponent blind, start to bleed, fall down, or any of about two hundred other things!  Each card in the 52-card deck has four critical hit effects on it, categorized by damage type (Blugeoning, Piercing, Slashing, or "Magic" for spells delivered with attack rolls).  A fun bludgeoning effect might be "To Your Thinky Bits" which does double-damage and 1 Int bleed, while a magic effect might be "Vampiric Magic" that heals the caster the same amount of damage that the attacking spell delivers the target!  I've found the effects to be well-balanced and reasonable within the mechanics of Pathfinder, and there aren't any effects that are permanent that don't allow for a saving throw.  The deck also comes with two double-sided cards with instructions and optional rules that change how often players and the GM draw cards.  If it sounds at all appealing, it's worth trying out for a couple of sessions--I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 33 [RPG]

[12 Neth 4707 continued]

Artemis returns to the others and reports the gist of his conversation with Captain Fank.  The adventurers decide to continue their investigation into the mysterious “Brothers of the Seven” by staking out a lumber mill owned by the organization on Kyver’s Islet.  The island, at the mouth of the Yondakabari River connected to the rest of the city by bridges, contains several lumber mills, and the Seven’s Sawmill outwardly appears to be no different than the others.  After a couple of hours in the cold pretending to fish, the adventurers decide to forge a message purportedly from Aldern Foxglove asking for the normal Oathday drop-off of funds to be moved up to tomorrow at midnight.  As they warm up in a tavern in Keystone District called the Burnt Nightcap, Kang does his best on the forgery and the group has a messenger boy deliver it to the mill.

In the early evening, the adventurers are just finishing a meal at the tavern when a pair of City Watch constables arrive and summon Staff Sergeant Lahs and his “irregulars” to meet with Captain Fank in Beacon’s Point.  When the adventurers’ arrive, they see that Fank and several members of the Watch have taken up positions near sewer grates in what is perhaps the city’s poorest neighbourhood, Rag’s End.  Fank tells Artemis he’s received orders stating that the persons responsible for the “Star Murders” are holing up in the sewers and that Artemis and his irregulars are specifically instructed to apprehend them.  Fank acknowledges it’s an unusual situation and that he has no independent way to verify the lead, but that “orders are orders.”  After Kang tries and fails to extract some payment from Fank, the adventurers follow through with the request.

Shriezyx, monsterous aberrations created as weapons in ancient Thassilon.
The pitch black sewer tunnels are lit by Arnald’s and Briza’s everburning torches, and the Shoanti warrior takes point as the adventurers trudge through tunnels slippery with muck.  After some minutes of walking punctuated only by the occasional splashes of rats, a junction can be seen up ahead.  Briza stops suddenly, having almost walked right into a thick, glistening spiral of webbing stretched across the corridor.  The decision is made to burn the webbing, and instants later, strange shrieking and scuttling sounds can be heard nearby.  Arnald pulls Briza back and raises his greataxe high as a quartet of oversized spiders with beady eyes and maws dripping green venom appear!  “Shriezyx!” shouts Kang, remembering his visit to the Eyes of the Hawk monument the previous day.  In the fighting and confusion, Bey finds herself at the front of the formation and draws upon her visions of the apocalypse to burst into flames!  The creatures are shaken but overcome their fears to wrap her up in envenomed webbing.  Arnald starts to put into effect a plan involving soaking his zebra-skin rug with wine, but before he can implement it Kang hurls a bomb that devastates the creatures and Artemis finishes the job with his arrows.  Bey, having been poisoned and suffering from a head wound in the battle, manages to recover thanks to her divinely-inspired magicks.

The adventurers discuss whether to proceed further, as the presence of Shriezyx combined with the strange way the mission has fallen into their hands leads them speculate they could be on a wild goose chase or even walking into a trap.  Kang offers to scout ahead after he quaffs an alchemical extract to turn invisible.  After some twists and turns, he hears splashing and sees a woman in a black bodysuit running down a tunnel.  She climbs a ladder and tries to lift off the grate cover, but is startled by a member of the City Watch maintaining the promised cordon of the area.  She jumps back down and runs away, disappearing into the darkness.  Kang returns to the others, and the adventurers decide the sighting is worth investigating.  As they pass by otherwise unremarkable tunnels, Bey suddenly stops and points to one side—she’s noticed that part of the fungus-covered wall is actually a fabric flap!  The adventurers are quick to investigate and find a large chamber cut out of the bedrock.  Inside are what appear to be two members of the City Watch sifting through a pile of garbage “looking for leads,” but the canny adventurers don’t fall for the trick for a single instant: they know they’re dealing with faceless stalkers!  Instead of being caught off-guard, the adventurers strike first, with Kang’s powerful explosives disintegrating the aberrations.

Thinking the combat over, the adventurers begin exploring for clues or treasure, little realizing that the stalkers’ leader was lurking, invisibly, the whole time!  She suddenly appears, extending her arms almost 15 feet to touch Kang with a spell that turns him from a genius to someone of but average intelligence.  “I’ve been expecting you!” the creature shouts.  Briza draws her greatsword and charges, but the sorcerer lashes out another limb and trips her!  Fortunately, even an explosives expert of average intelligence is still a formidable foe, and once again Kang’s bombs finish the fight.  The unconscious stalker is slain by Artemis.  A search of the caverns reveals thousands of gold pieces’ worth of stolen goods, which everyone except Kang votes to turn over to the authorities.  After leaving the sewers and reporting to Fank that it was a false lead, Artemis returns home for the night and the others get rooms at the Burnt Nightcap.

[13 Neth 4707]

In the morning, Bey closely questions the messenger boy about the previous night’s task, and he reports having dropped off the message successfully with laborers at the Seven’s Sawmill.  When the adventurers reunite after breakfast, Briza asks about hiring back-up for the planned midnight raid, but Arnald scoffs at the notion that they might need help.  The adventurers decide to set about on various errands in the morning with the intention to reunite at Artemis’ house at midday.
Director's Commentary (Jan. 14, 2018)

The PCs are entering the last third of Chapter Two in this session, but there was still time for a little twist.  To further represent the fact that Justice Ironbriar was in a position of authority and knew the Skinsaw Cult was being hunted by the adventurers, I had him arrange an ambush in the sewers under Magnimar.  The sewer trap comes from the "Ugothol Ambush" encounter in Volume 3 of the Pathfinder comic hardcover, while the shriezyx and the mysterious woman (a gang member or assassin, if I recall) were both random encounters.  The battles against the ugothols weren't much of a challenge against the canny PCs, as this was a period in the campaign when they were taking on all comers and winning handily.  Still, I liked how naturally it integrated in, story-wise speaking.  Next session, cultists galore!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 32 [RPG]

[11 Neth 4707 continued]

Artemis reports in at the Arvensoar, an enormous tower that looms over Magnimar and serves as home both to the city’s military garrison and the City Watch.  Captain Gibble Fank, Artemis’ immediate superior, is surprised to see him, as he sent orders via courier to Sandpoint just yesterday to recall him!  Artemis reports his progress in investigating the murders in Sandpoint: how the immediate culprit (Aldern Foxglove) was killed while resisting arrest, and how clues point to the involvement of co-conspirators here in the city.  Fank shuts the door to his office and tells Artemis surprising news: murder victims marked with seven-pointed stars on their chests have also been discovered several times in recent months in Magnimar, but the authorities are keeping any connection to the murders from the public in order to prevent a panic!  Fank explains that there’s enormous pressure from “above” (the Council of Ushers, Lord-Mayor Grobaras Haldemeer, and the Justice Council) for the City Watch to put a stop to the murders.  To that end, he authorizes Artemis to retrieve the sealed crime scene files from the records room and to make use of his “irregulars” (allies from Sandpoint) in continuing the investigation.  But, when Artemis requests the files from a clerk in the record room, it turns out that the records are missing!

The Eyes of the Hawk is one of many magical monuments in Magnimar.
Meanwhile, Artemis’ “irregulars,” having just visited Founder’s Honor, are unsure what to do next or how to find him.  Bey suggests trusting in fate, picking a direction randomly, and seeing where they end up.  The others go along with her and eventually find themselves in Dockway District at the foot of a monument depicting twin wizards destroying monstrous spider-like aberrations.  Bey’s interest in all things Thassilonian allows her to explain that, almost a century ago, the pilings of the massive bridge known as the Irespan were quarried for stone—but doing so revealed ancient chambers inside the pilings, and from out of them hundreds and hundreds of creatures called Shriezyx poured forth and nearly overwhelmed the city until an adventuring party known as the Eyes of the Hawk stemmed the tide and saved the city!  Kang studies the intricate carvings on the monument for several minutes and realizes they provide clues on how to fight such creatures and their ilk.

The newcomers to Magnimar decide to ask a passer-by how to get to the City Watch’s headquarters, but Bey’s off-putting manner is taken the wrong way and the surly sailor tells a bald-faced lie: he sends them all the way to the summit of the massive cliffs looming over the city, into Alabaster District.  The scruffy-looking adventurers are clearly not welcome in Magnimar’s most exclusive and wealthy neighbourhood, and are turned away by private security guards who, when asked, point out the Arvensoar down below.  After another long walk, the weary adventurers are told by one of Artemis’ Watch friends where he lives.

For his part, Artemis checks in at Deadeye Lodge, the city’s temple to Erastil, and learns from Father Orgell Fendus that Artemis' wife (a priestess of Erastil) is at home, as she’s a little under the weather.  Artemis’ subsequent reunion with Miryana Lahs is a joyful one, especially since she wasn’t expecting him back so soon.  Artemis explains that he’s back in Magnimar investigating a series of murders that hold links to both the city and Sandpoint, and that he’s been accompanied by a handful of locals who have been assisting him.  Miryana says they’ll have to host “Artie’s” “friends” for dinner, and says that little of interest has happened since he’s been away, apart from news that Artemis’ cousin Fillias has gotten himself into legal trouble in Turtleback Ferry and will be serving a stint at a nearby fortress in lieu of a jail sentence.

When the others arrive at the Lahs home, they make quite an impression, but not necessarily a good one!  Kang simply strides in and makes himself at home, Bey talks incessantly about the apocalypse, and Arnald is silent as a stone as he clips his toenails at the dinner table!  Only Briza, despite her Shoanti background, seems able to observe the common courtesies.  Artemis is clearly embarrassed by his allies’ behaviour, but Miryana takes it all in stride and welcomes everyone in.  “Any friend of Artie is a friend of mine,” she says.  After dinner, the adventurers talk about the next steps in their investigation.  Artemis tells them about the files being missing, and Bey speculates that if a cult is behind the murders, they may have agents in the Watch.  Artemis says that he’ll see what he can dig up about Aldern Foxglove in the morning.  He directs the others to a nearby inn named The Green Lobster.  The common room smells as awful as the inn’s name would imply and the food is disgusting, but the prices are quite reasonable and the adventurers settle in for the night.

[12 Neth 4707]

A chilly morning greets the adventurers, and they make a special stop to buy warmer winter clothing before beginning the day’s tasks.  From the letter found in the caverns under Foxglove Manor, the adventurers know the rough location of Aldern Foxglove’s townhouse, and Artemis uses land records to narrow it down further.  When they arrive at the address in the “new money” Naos District, they notice that the windows and back door have been boarded over.  Although the place looks like it could be abandoned, a knock on the front door leads to a startling sight: Aldern Foxglove and his wife, Iesha, look to be alive and well!  The couple ask the adventurers to come in as Artemis explains that they’ve come to investigate some macabre happenings in Sandpoint.  Iesha prepares tea in the kitchen as Aldern leads the visitors to a dining room.  He disclaims having any knowledge of the unusual events the adventurers have encountered, but as the questioning persists, Iesha enters with a kettle of boiling water and suddenly hurls it right at Arnald!  Luckily, the sellsword manages to duck in time.  “Aldern” and “Iesha” suddenly transform into hairless, leathery bipeds with featureless, grotesque heads!  Artemis, having fought them before shortly after his arrival in Sandpoint, knows they’re so-called “faceless stalkers”.  One of the creatures lashes out and cuffs him in the head, but Briza adroitly leaps onto the table and cleaves the other with her greatsword.  Kang expertly shoots the other one with a crossbow bolt (drawing upon the insight he gained from his study of the Eyes of the Hawk) and Arnald easily finishes it off.  Although taken by surprise, the adventurers make short work of their attackers and are mostly unharmed.

Nualia returns!
The adventurers discuss what to do next and decide to search the rest of the rooms on the first floor, until they hear an angry shout from above: “My patience grows thin!  Face me if you dare!”  Briza challenges the speaker to come face them instead, and the adventurers take up battle positions as they hear footsteps charging down the stairs.  The figure comes around a corner, and Arnald recognizes the person responsible for killing Felix and Nedrin: the silver-haired devotee of Lamashtu named Nualia!  The mastermind behind the goblin attack on Sandpoint just months prior has grown even more demonic in appearance and growls a profane curse as she charges Briza—but this time, fate has decreed a far different outcome to the battle.  Nualia’s wild swing, which Briza ducks, knocks her off balance and she hits the ground hard!  Before she can get to her feet again, Briza, Arnald, and Bey launch their attacks simultaneously.  With Nualia’s death, the culprit behind the Swallowtail Festival raids is finally brought to justice.

The victorious combatants take the time to carefully search the remainder of the townhouse, and Kang’s careful attention to detail is rewarded when he notices a small keyhole on an upstairs fireplace mantle.  Artemis manages to pick the lock, and a secret panel slides open to reveal a safe.  Inside are hundreds of platinum pieces, but perhaps more valuable are two documents.  The first is a ledger, the close inspection of which reveals several suspicious payments over the past months labelled as “Iesha’s Trip to Absalom,” each indicating that Aldern was paying someone or something named “B-7” over 200 gold pieces a week, with payment delivered every Oathday at midnight to a place called The Seven’s Sawmill.  The second document is the deed to Foxglove Manor, written in 4624 A.R., intriguingly indicating that Vorel Foxglove financed construction of the mansion with loans from the “Brothers of the Seven” on the condition that the building and its grounds would transfer to the Brothers of the Seven after a period of 100 years.

Discussion turns to whether the authorities should be notified about what just happened and the discovery of the documents.  Bey asks if Artemis could delay informing his superiors since the Brothers of the Seven could have influence with them; she cites the missing crime scene records as evidence that the City Watch may not be secure.  Artemis says he’ll discuss the matter with someone he knows he can trust, his immediate superior, and give a recommendation that the results of the investigation to this point be a closely held secret.  Unfortunately, when Artemis later raises the suggestion with Captain Fank (while the latter is on an inspection in the Lowcleft District) Fank says it’s too risky: if either he or Artemis are suspected of some sort of cover-up, it could mean their jobs, if not worse.  He says he has no choice but to pass the results up the chain of command.

Deed to Foxglove Manor
After some early stumbles, the adventurers are making steady progress in their investigation into Aldern Foxglove and his connection with a mysterious organization in Magnimar.  But are they moving fast enough to stop more killings?  And what if Bey’s fears that the City Watch has been compromised proves true?

Director's Commentary

In a world without cell phones, it's a bad idea for a group of adventurers to split up in the city without making plans for where and when they'll meet up again!  Fortunately, after some juggling, it all worked out okay in the end.

The reference to Artemis' cousin, Fillias, having been sent to Turtleback Ferry killed two birds with one stone: Fillias was Artemis' Contact (we used the Contact rules from Ultimate Campaign) and planted a seed for a storyline that would develop in Chapter Three of the AP.  Speaking of Artemis, I was really happy with how the role-playing for his wife, Miryana, went; it's stressful to run an NPC that is so integral to a character's background but the RP rapport seemed immediately natural.

We all had great fun with the disgusting, spoiled seafood restaurant/inn called the Green Lobster.  I was proud of myself for making the concept up on the spot after using the Gamemastery Guide's random tavern name generator.

After Nualia's victory at the end of Chapter One of the AP, I thought her reappearance at the Foxglove Townhouse would be an exciting surprise.  But even though I bumped her levels, she went down like a chump and it was almost humorously anticlimactic.  The best laid plans of GMs . . .

Monday, January 8, 2018

Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield [RPG]

One of the things that players and GMs who are familiar with Pathfinder but new to Starfinder have to prepared for is that starship combat uses hex-based movement rather than square-based movement.  That means you need new tactical grids!  There are a lot of other RPGs and miniatures games that use hex mats, but in lieu of buying one of those, you can pick up the un-excitingly named Basic Starfield.

I've used this flip-mat for a handful of starship combats now, and there's some things to like about it.  First, it's big (27x39 inches, or the same size as Pathfinder's series of "Bigger . . ." flip-mats).  Second, like all Paizo flip-mats, it's a durable product: you can fold and unfold it a bazillion times and don't have to worry about it ripping.  Third, (at least in theory), you can use pretty much any marker on it: wet, dry, or even permanent.  This reduces the stress of realizing you've screwed up your flip-mat forever by grabbing the wrong marker.  However, as some posts in the product page note, the background is so dark that it's really hard to draw on it and have the drawing be visible (unless you had one of those weird white markers).  When I've run Starfinder Society scenarios that have obstacles like asteroids, I've had to use blu-tack and pop can tabs because drawing stuff in just isn't practical.

One side of the map is what the packaging refers to as "a starlit void in deep space", and that's pretty fair: it's basically a dark black background speckled with tiny white dots to represent stars.  In a sense, it's bland, but space . .  . is mostly empty, so I can't really blame the designer too much. The other side is pretty much the same but for patches of "the brilliant radiance of a nebula."  The nebula is too vague and ill-defined to really serve as any sort of "terrain feature" for starship combat, and the patches are so few that it's easy to forget they're there.  If I had my druthers, the flip-side would have something more interesting--some asteroid fields, a moon, the curvature on one end of a planet, etc.

Overall, for basic starship combat, the Basic Starfield is bland but serviceable.  If you already have a hex grid from some other source, your starship combats will not be noticeably improved by this flip-mat; but if you don't have a substitute, this product is better than nothing.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Rise of the Runelords Pawn Collection [RPG]

MINOR SPOILERS for Rise of the Runelords

If you don't know, "pawns" are double-sided images of monsters or NPCs printed on cardstock, designed to stand vertically with a plastic base that's the same size as the creature (so a Large-size monster with sit on a 2x2 base and its pawn will be bigger than a Small-size creature, for example).  Pawns aren't as good as true three-dimensional miniatures, but they're a lot cheaper and are still better than simple flat tokens.

The Rise of the Runelords Pawn Collection contains around a hundred and fifty pawns with sizes ranging from Small all the way up to the Huge.  The artwork for creatures and NPCs unique to the adventure path comes from the Anniversary Edition hardcover collection, and it's fantastic.  The set also includes several pawns for creatures that appear in the AP but aren't unique to it, and the artwork for these pawns comes from the creature's Bestiary entry.  Each pawn is numbered and labeled, and there's a list on the back, which makes sorting pretty easy (I use ziplock bags).  The set *doesn't* come with bases, which is an important point for someone who doesn't have any other Paizo pawn sets.

The physical quality of the pawns is high.  I'm writing this review at the halfway point of the AP, so I've used the set in about 50 sessions so far--all of the pawns are still in good shape, with no tears, bent corners, etc.  They fit well with standard Paizo bases and are quite colorful.

Perhaps the most important thing to ask is how well simplify GM prep: in other words, are the pawns that are included of the right type and number to handle encounters in the AP?  I'm at exactly the halfway point of the AP, so I think I have a pretty good sense of how much coverage there is, and my verdict would be: it's very hit or miss.  The set is great on including pawns for "bosses" unique to the AP and some NPCs--as a rough guide, if there's a full colour illustration of the monster/NPC in the book, there's probably a pawn included in the set.  For more normal encounters, however, the set is unpredictable and the choices made of what (and how many) to include of different creatures doesn't follow a consistent pattern.  For example, the set comes with 8 rat swarms which is plenty for any encounter listed in the book, but doesn't come with any shadows and only 1 yeth hound which complicates planning for those encounters in Thistletop; it includes 4 ogre pawns, which sounds great, but there's an encounter in the Kreeg Clanhold with ten ogres simultaneously.  Etc.  I'm not complaining so much as trying to make it clear that owning this collection (even along with the Bestiary pawn box) doesn't mean that every pawn needed for the game will be at your fingertips: you're still going to have to make homemade tokens or cobble together substitutes for many encounters.  In addition, the collection doesn't include any creatures that appear on the AP's random encounter tables (unless those creatures also appear in planned encounters).

In the end, I can give a partial endorsement to the collection.  It contains enough to make it worthwhile, but not so much to make it a must-have.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pathfinder Society Faction Pin: Silver Crusade [RPG]

Like the other faction pins for Pathfinder Society, the Silver Crusade one allows a player of that faction to get a small bonus to a single skill check in a session.  The pin comes stuck on a little cardboard card that contains a short description of the ethos of the Silver Crusade faction on the back.  It's a handy little reminder about what the faction's core purpose is.  The pin itself looks solid, made of strong metal and with a quality backer that should keep it from falling out of a shirt.  The design of the symbol is a bit of an odd one in how reminiscent it is of a cross or ankh, neither symbol of which makes much sense in a fictional world like Golarion (and the former symbol's link to "crusade" puts it a bit too on the nose!).  Still, I don't blame the manufacturer--they did a good job.

Friday, January 5, 2018

RealmsToowoomba Recap # 68 [RPG]

[15 Flamerule 1372]

As Markus, Dolcetto, and McBronzebottom leave Silverymoon, they notice several open-aired horse-drawn carriages full of families heading west, and hear excited talk amongst the children about "Whizzbanger" and how they can't wait to see it.  Dolcetto magickally conjures three spectral steeds that whisk the adventurers quickly west towards the Evermoors.  Several miles later, skirting the Silverwood, the adventurers see a small hamlet in the distance.  There seems to be a festival atmosphere in the village, and on the far side several tents and market stalls have been erected.  A large banner hung between two streets proclaims "The Whizzbanger Festival."  Curious, Markus slows his mount long enough to ask a passerby what's happening.  He's told that Wistof's Den is hosting the annual celebration mounted by Wizard Wistofson, and that there's games, riddles, treats, and more for children and grown-ups alike.  Plus, Wizard Wistofson himself runs special contests for visitors.  Markus is quite excited about the opportunity to have some fun, and Dolcetto quickly relents and agrees to find an inn so they can stay for the day.

Some time later, the trio of adventurers reunite and join a long queue that leads to a large, imposing house at one end of the village.  People are laughing and smiling as they come out, often covered in feathers or soaking wet!  When they reach the head of the line, the adventurers are greeted by Wizard Wistofson himself, a short man with a long white beard, a twinkle in his eyes, and a pointed hat covered in stars.  He welcomes the adventurers and points to a large board covered with the cryptic names of games they can participate in.  Markus decides to try one called "Poise and Noise."  He's led to a large room and tasked to race another contestant around certain points while each balances a heavy tome on their head.  Occasionally, a large horn blasts, and if a racer drops the book, he or she has to return to a designated checkpoint.  The woman he's competing with wears heavy armor and has a crossbow looped to her belt, but she has terrible balance and keeps dropping the book!  Markus wins the race easily, and receives a shiny ticket with a silver star on it, which Wistof says he can turn in later for a prize.

McBronzebottom decides to try a game called "Um Yumm Yumm," which turns out to be an eating contest--a perfect competition for a dwarf!  His competitor is a rather stuck-up knight of some description who vomits first and therefore loses after eating just six sausage pies; McBronzebottom keeps going after her victory and chows down eight in total before getting sick.  She too receives a prize ticket.

When her turn comes, Dolcetto tries "Ask Me a Question" and ends up in a riddle-answering contest against a  half-elf named Denisio.  The first contestant to fail three times loses.  Dolcetto, a loremaster, is quite confident as Denisio seems rather nervous, but each contestant succeeds in answering several riddles.  Unfortunately, Dolcetto stumbles one too many times and loses.  She receives a yellow token, which can be exchanged for a consolation prize.

The three adventurers claim their prizes: Markus wins an arcane scroll with a few spells, McBronzebottom wins a brand-new wand capable of casting the spell Web, and Dolcetto gets a purse containing 50 gp.  Wistoff tells the trio they've also earned a chance to participate in a special final event.  In this game, twenty-six small treasure chests are arranged in rows, each bearing a number from 1 to 26.  Dolcetto is told to take a chest but not to open it.  Then, on a board, 26 values are displayed, ranging from a single copper piece all the way up to 50,000 gp!  Dolcetto is told that each of the chests contains one of the listed values.  Each round of the game, she's told she can select any chest but her own to be opened to see what is inside.  After doing so each round, an extradimensional entity enlisted by Wistoff makes Dolcetto an offer to try to persuade her to take the offer rather than open her own chest.  Dolcetto proceeds quite systematically, and initially her luck runs well as several of the smaller values are found early, leaving a good chance she may have 30,000 or even 50,000 gp in her chest.  The entity offers her as much as 7,500 gp to walk away, but the loremaster is convinced her chest must be worth more and she sees the game through to the very end, refusing all offers.  When the time comes to open her chest, however, she finds only 5 silver pieces inside!

The villagers watching offer sympathy to Dolcetto, and the adventurers return to the local inn.  Markus gets into some shenanigans with McBronzebottom's wand, and the dwarf quickly decides to hand it to Dolcetto for safekeeping.

[16 Flamerule 1372]

The village is subdued the next morning, as everyone recovers from the frivolity of the festival.  Dolcetto tries to persuade Markus to read a text on strategy, but the swordsman is not inclined to do so.  When more spectral mounts have been conjured, the adventurers leave Wistof's Den and continue west.  After several miles, they reach the outer edges of the Evermoors.  They see that Silverymoon's army has erected some semi-permanent fortifications in the area to defend against incursions of undead.  A battle-cleric of Lathander tells the adventurers that some intelligence is directing the activities of the undead in the Evermoors, and that the eastern portions are nigh-impassable.  He says that only occasional small bands of undead have leaked out of the moors to date, and so Silverymoon's military has been largely redeployed to deal with a new challenge to the north of the city.  He claims that every adventuring company that has entered the Evermoors has failed to return, bar one member who returned half-crazed but intent on returning to wreak vengeance for his slain fellows.  Upon learning that this adventurer is a cleric, Markus lobbies Dolcetto to bring the man along.  However, Dolcetto says they cannot be slowed down because their success depends on the speedy spectral mounts.  The trio cross the fortifications and continue west, reaching the Evermoors proper late in the morning.

Meanwhile, that same day but to the north in the village of High Hold, the adventurers intent on reaching Nesme (Mellia, Cain, Fargrim, and Ralkin) have been confronted by more members of the Syndicate.  This band of the criminal organisation is led by what Cain and Mellia recognize as a cleric of Beshaba.  The cleric, Tyrone, strides up to where the adventurers are sitting and says "So, you're the lot wot done me boys in last night!"  Mellia says they're just passing through and plan to leave in the evening, but Tyrone demands compensation for the loss of his men.  Mellia asks him what proof he has that she and the others are responsible for their deaths.  When Tyrone responds with a gendered curse, Mellia suddenly hurls a ball of fire at him!  Before the off-balance cleric can respond, Ralkin sinks an arrow into his stomach and Mellia blasts him again.  The cleric is incinerated in a flash, along with one of his companions.  Barnabas shouts at the remaining member of the Syndicate to do something before the crazy adventurers burn down his inn.  The thug, Tucker, is torn about whether to fight or flee.  He decides to take up the group's offer to drag the body of his leader away.

After the split-second battle, Mellia grows woozy and faints.  Cain catches her and carries her up to her room after diagnosing her with emotional exhaustion.  When she's rested a little and recovered, the four adventurers quickly decide that it's time to leave.  They debate where to go.  Mellia suggests Startop Mountain to discuss strategy, but Ralkin expresses concern about orcs.  Mellia responds that it's too dangerous to head directly for Nesme without a plan.  Finally, Fargrim mentions the idea of Longsaddle, recollecting fondly about a cozy inn and the joy of watching frog-fights.  Their way forward is decided, and Mellia grasps their hands and teleports them there, barely managing to sculpt the weave sufficiently.

The adventurers find themselves standing in front of the Gilded Horsehoe, the inn that has obviously been converted from an old barn.  Fargrim strides inside and proclaims that "the heroes have returned!"  Trappy Snulgers shouts "huzzah" and places a frothy brew on the bar, as nearby ranchers look up to see what all the fuss is about.  They mock "the birdman" when Ralkin walks in, but quickly grow quiet as the heavily-armoured and intense Cain appears.  After a mysterious conversation, Mellia goes to bed early.  Before they know it, sunset has fallen on another day