The heat of summer is upon us, and it is a fitting accompaniment to Dark Sun. The heat shimmering off the pavement helped recall the shimmering oases and other optical illusions of the deep deserts of Dark Sun. However, in our cool dungeon beneath Game Cafe, we were insulated against the worst of the element above, and were able instead to use our imaginations and have our characters suffer through the agonizing march across a desert towards elusive mountains in the far distance. Like a dream long-held, like unrequited love, the dark line of mountains shimmering on the horizon were always in sight but never any closer.
So began Dark Sun Encounters Week 3. We had another full table, all six PCs were being played and one extra. The PCs were played by a regular rotating group of 8 or 9 players, one of whom brought a guest, M, a first time player who took up the character of the twin sister of the sorceress Barcan. Together Barcan and her twin sister Barcans Twin were quite the duo blazing away with fiery spells.
The adventure continued with their trek across the desert, to the aforementioned Ringing Mountains. The afternoon became the hottest part of the day with the temperature reaching 150 degrees. It became difficult to travel, and each PC had to make an Endurance check as they crossed a flat plateau of baked desert. On of the sisters failed her endurance check, but the other passed and was able to take her arm and help her cross the wasteland. Then the thri kreen shaman (Paksha from Free RPG day) also failed, but his extra limbs helped drag himself across the last few sand dunes of that long table. It was a group success, and after that, we went to the individual part of the desert survival skill challenge.
For this, I went around the room, and each player rolls a d20 to see what the desert is like during his hour-long shift in command of the march. It started with Phye, who had to cross an area where the plants had sharp edges. He used perception to find the true path thru. This led to Castri who had to traverse an area where the plants had changed to purplish color and were poisonous spike. He used his nature to know that he could turn the points up to prevent harm. Jarvix had to cross an area of steep slopes, but each one led to twisting and sometimes ended, requiring backtracking. This led to an extra hour spent finding the correct path up the slopes of the foothills of the Ringing mountains.
At the top, the guest sorceress took over the lead as the band of survivors crossed a long flat table of shifting sands. The shifting could cause dangerous falls, but she led them through with success, however, the rising winds from the shifting sands turned into a sudden sandstorm that came out of nowhere and the sister sorceress who we still call Midget led the party through it with success. The storm however had kicked up a swarm of terrible insects which bored into the skin to lay there eggs, and it was up to the thri kreen shaman to heal the party, which he did. The desert had not yet defeated them and they were entering an area of tall rocks and ahead they saw a bush bearing luscious fruits. It was a very fine tree nestled betwixt protecting rocks which allowed it to thrive and grow its shapely limbs and supple bark.
Just as the party stepped up to the tree to shake down its fruit, they heard a maniacal laugh from above and behind them. It was a dark skinned desert humanoid. Ha ha, give us your food and water and we will let you live! he screamed.
The party was not afraid of this posturing desert people. They tried to bluff, that they were no threat, and the humanoid agreed to take only half their food. They tried the diplomatic approach that they cold share the tree, but the robed creature in primitive bone armor replied it was his tribes tree, and they would fight to protect it. Finally the fighter Yuka tired of the argument and drew his short sword to threaten the precious plant. He rolled a 1.
That meant one thing. Time for initiative. It was on.
The battle began with the humanoids, who revealed themselves from concealed locations atop other spires of rock. Two stepped forward with strange wings made of rib bones of large beats, and he had small perpetual dust devil swirling about them. This enabled them to fly overhead and shoot their short bows down at the sorc sisters, which they did, repeatedly. The sisters replied by blasting one of the archers with their fiery rays and burning hands. The fight was grim and Barcan the first ended up with an arrow in each shoulder, and the other took at least one hit. She was also damaged when she set the brambleweed alight, forcing the flyer to leave his perch. Burning brambles fell on her, and the other sorceress was hurt when the goblin was killed while directly above her. She failed to leap clear of his descent. 1d6 in each case.
The ardent had surmounted the main tower of stone to find a second curser out of view from below. It held in one hand a bone knife, while in the other it held a thong of leather with a bowl on one end fashioned out of the top of a skull. It was a skull bowl. He turned his back on him to focus on the first curser, still wildly casting his curses at the sisters while brandishing a black obsidian spear above his head. The spear was noticeable for the dripping fizzing fluid that seemed to constantly ooze from it.
Meanwhile, there was a spiretop drake on the loose, and it managed to snag a days ration from the ardent with a loop of rope, before flying from rock to rock and harrying the enemy. He landed on the main rock next to the curser after a couple fly-bys. One of the minions did a mad charge off the rock to attack Castri at the base of the cliff before landing prone. The other minion took the safe way and spent its turn climbing down. Yuka charged and slew this one, the chain of his primitive weapon wrapping about the neck of his foe. With a tug, the head came free, and just as it was being wrenched the curser screamed Do your duty to the tribe! and the minion blew up, showering Yuka with blood, guts, bone shards, and gore. Blood stained Yuka avoided damage from the explosion, and might felt a bit of relief from the shower.
The next minion exploded when Castri went, who first threw a dagger at the curser on the rock before charging the minion. It too remembered its duty to the tribe, and soon Castri joined Yuka being bathed in red while avoiding any bone-shard damage. Castri went on to hurl his precious few daggers at the other flying humanoid. He used all his daggers and in one final act, he scooped up the largest rock he could find and hurled it. The rock struck the desert dweller square on the head and sent it falling backwards. Onto an even bigger, sharper rock which cracked its head like a melon.
Jarvix was dueling with the curser, and each threw curses at the other. They made each other cry. But when the Cursers saw the arcane magic of the sister sorc, he commanded all his troops to slay them, by command of the Wastewalker. This didnt work out well for him, who had a coiling spirit snake of the shaman Paksha constantly tickling the back of his neck with its forked tongue. He was bitten numerous times, but never gave up his curses on the sorceresses. Until he died, which he did.
Paksha the shaman was no novice to battle, and with insect precision the mantis man calmly stood back and cast his summonings to the most tactical positions. Then like a general staring down at a battle mat, he would point to this ally or that, this spirt or that, and would grant them the power they needed most, whether to bolster their flagging will, or to harm their enemies with savage attacks. The controller was in control.
Yuka meanwhile climbed the main rock and grabbed the drake about the neck and started throttling it. It was sinewy though, and it managed to escape his grab, even stealing his short sword out of its scabbard while it did so. But it was hit from behind by another crazy arc of fire from the wild fire woman and it fell dead, second victim of the blazing magic fire. Yuka turned his attention on the curser, and with the ardent, first to surmount that summit, they slew the cursers and the battle came to an end. Treasure was handed out, and everyone survived.