Bob's Serpent Skull

Serpent Skull 8

All players could make this session.
They’d just finished having bloody revenge. They killed the hunters and warrior of the cannibal camp, then later found the rest of the cannibals would just go off and ‘pick berries’, turning their head and whistling and letting them come in uncontested to take on the ghoul-mother, who they found in the lighthouse and took out.

Healing the enemy
The party had a week to think about it. They wanted to be ‘the good guys’. Revenge was nice, but making friends was nicer. They decided to go in and be helpful.
After a day of healing up with the dryad, they returned to the cannibal camp tentatively but openly. They weren’t attacked. The women around the campfire went and got the witch who came out to talk in infernal with the paladin. Yes, sure, she would accept their help with their diseased children. They’d been bitten several times by the ghoul-mother, and locked in a shed with nothing but human meat before. They were now trying to recover in the main longhouse. Of course she was suspicious and wary, and the women held weapons and watched their every move, but they just did heal checks and cast around some spells, and used the rest of their viper nettle berries to help some of the kids. They decided to stick around for a few days, to help the kids recover. Zun Zun wanted to swap spells with the witch, and after a few days she agreed to talk to his scorpion and let him talk with her monkey. Rerdahl used his engineering knowledge to easily figure out how to fix up the rest of the lighthouse at the top, and started lighting it and sending out a sweeping beam of light. The PCs were a great help in helping most of the six kids finally overcome the ghoul fever. Zun zun himself really felt their suffering as he’d gone through it, and the terror at considering an undead rebirth, himself not long ago. He got a few bonuses to helping on heal checks, as a fellow sufferer. Unfortunately, the cannibals were mostly immune to the insect-borne diseases, so even in the lighthouse with makeshift mosquito nets they had to contend with some island diseases themselves. After a few days, they decided they were now friendly enough with the cannibals, the witch even revealed that she understood common and talked with all of them, and they agreed to let their other castaway NPCs to join them with the nice stone buildings.
They left the paladin to continue ministering to the couple of kids who were still diseased, and spent a few days to go off towards their base camp with the NPC castaways. A couple forgettable encounters, some monkeys maybe, and some more dire rats. The NPCs were stunned and ecstatic to find the PCs returning, after over 2 weeks gone. They just assumed the PCs were all dead. They mobilized the base camp, dragged some makeshift wagons and litters and trudged through the jungle back to the lighthouse cannibal camp.
When they returned, there was still one cannibal kid who just stubbornly would not recover from the disease. It required 2 consecutive saves, but the kid only rarely made a single save, never twice in a row, and there were no more viper nettle berries left; only the lesser restorations kept it from dying. While the NPCs started stringing up decent mosquito netting, and better beds and such in the stone buildings and lighthouse, the PCs tried talking with the cannibals more about good-aligned religions, like Shellyn. Sure, most of them were still evil, as detected by the paladin, but they were cooperative, and thankful for the unexpected help with their children, and were no longer ruled over by a powerful undead cleric.
The paladin educated them on the existence of other gods and beliefs, not pressing too hard, just letting them know about other things out there. Help from the druid and an appearance by the dryad in showing nature beliefs might be a viable alternative.
But dammit, that one kid just wouldn’t make his fort saves. They kept trying for another week. He sucks. He’s so weak, what the hell? Hmm, let’s see how old he is on a d20. Oh! No wonder. It’s just a little 1 year old baby. The tribe was already thankful that the other 5 kids were cured, nobody except maybe the mother would miss the baby. They’ll continue trying to support her, but if she turns into a ghoul they’ll behead and burn her like you advised. You’re free to go on your own adventures without any guilt.
“A ghoul baby? Ew, how non-dangerously freaky.” Yeah, and that’s what subsequently happened.

Defeating the Infernal Fungus
The party could go north, to investigate the ‘dead’ area of the island that the dryad was worried about so they tromp northwards, stop by with the dryad and rest, keep going the next day. They find a beach area, where there are rope ladders attached to the nearby stone cliffs by visiting cannibals. Swimming around in the surprisingly calm waters they find oysters in the sand beds. Searching around and swimming about for a day, they fail to find any red pearls. They stop to rest before continuing to some small islands to the west, connected by sand bars that are covered with high tides.
The island are covered with white giant mushrooms, and long tendrils and fungal creepers and sheets. There’s no greenery or trees or normal wildlife. They see some vague movement here and there though. They decide to wait for low tide the next day, instead of swimming.
During the nighttime, some figures have slunked across the water towards them, the sentry on watch notices and calls the party to action. They fight some fungal vegypigmy’s, who aren’t too tough, and help them realize their resistance to piercing weapons. So the next day they change their weapons a bit, and memorize spells they think will help against fungal monsters.
They go across the sandbar during low tide and see the small island ahead, eerily quiet with pale mushrooms and fungal sheet blowing in the wind. They have to make fort saves against the spores in the air making them slightly weaker. To one side of the island they see a wrecked ship, on the other is a large tower of rock sticking up out of the water at an angle, connected to the mainland by a thick bridge of creepers and fungal vines that lead to a small cave entrance.
“Well, you heard his description. He spent more time describing the creepy rock spire, that’s probably where the big bad is located.”
They trek over the island, avoid any random encounters, and get to the viny fungal bridge to the cave entrance in the rock spire. They have to make acrobatic rolls to get across properly, but halfway through some more vegypigmy’s disguised as fungal clumps around the cave entrance drop down and attack. Zun zun gets a bad roll and falls off the vine-y bridge to the water 40 feet down. The others go into combat and blast and slash and chomp away and kill off 3 more vegypigmies as Zun zun swims to the rock and climbs back up.
They cautiously step into the cave entrance. The rocks are lined by a thick carpet of purple fungus that throbs. The decide against going further in the cave, and try lighting a torch. Oh, we don’t have a torch. They rip off a shirt, around spare sword and light it on fire. When pressing it against the fungus it actually glitters with small glowing spots and reaches for the fire. Tendrils come out and wrest the sword away, unwrapping the flaming shirt and in waves the fungus moves the fire towards the back of the cave. They send Kah the snake forward after that flaming shirt, and a large form rips free from the wall and flings several tendrils at their meat shield. They enter into combat with a fiendish violet fungus, but nobody but the snake or summoned creatures gets very close. Zun zun tries his ability to summon a swarm which helps, until the bad guy dies, and the summoned bats keep going after nearby creatures and chomp away at Kah.
They revive kah, and find an old human skeleton deep in the purple fungal mess of the boss they fought. The purple fungus around them in the cave withers and starts dropping in blackened clumps. When they exit the cave they find the fungus on the isle, including their bridge, flaking and dropping. They dive down into the water and swim around, and investigate the shipwreck they’d seen earlier, which is now empty, all its fungal foes (and a potentially epic combat) dying after their master had died.
They find a log on the shipwreck, which is called Night’s Voice. It details how the crew found a strange seed during their exotic travels, and the pathfinder captain survived it’s initial opening and sporing, though most of his crew succumbed do it’s demonic fungal influence. He knew it would open again, and was too big a risk to any civilized port, so he aimed for an island on purpose to shipwreck himself. When he failed to go under the water he carried the spore pod to a secluded cave, where he hoped he could limit its spread, and became the violet fungus when it opened again. The man was a hero! His story would make him famous. More importantly, it would help the gnome bard NPC get back into the good books of the pathfinder society, and satisfied his miniquest.

Monkey on our back
The party went back, and reported to the dryad. She offered her glade as a permanent camp for them , but they were happier with the cannibal camp with its stone buildings and lighthouse. She also scratched then kissed their limbs, providing a broad natural inoculation, giving them +4 bonus against diseases.
They went back to camp with the NPCs. Kal made sure his beau the half-elven fighter was happy. Zun zun continued a few dalliances with the newly lonely cannibal women. They decided to go to the red mountain to hunt down the monkey devil.
It only took a day, with the available trails, to go across the island to the easternmost area where the small mountain resided. They crossed a rickety bridge on the way, and wisely only went one at a time. Their trail split, and the took the branch continuing upwards to the summit. There, it was bereft of trees or any vegetation, only red colored rocks and soil at the bald head of the mountain top. They decided to try a baited trap, and had Kah the snake lie on an exposed part of the mountain summit while they waited behind large boulders. They’d learned from the cannibals that they regularly left sacrifices here, to keep the demon monkey from attacking them.
About an hour after full night had fallen they heard loud flapping noises nearby, which came back and started circling. After a few moments a form came swooshing down to grab and bite at Kah. It succesfully grappled and stared sucking blood. The party ran out to save their snake, which started whipping around trying escape the grapple. The demon monkey succeeded on its Chuppar ability, and gained a haste effect, and tried to detach to fly around or do more pounces or damage, but Kah bit on him with his AofO, and then successfully grabbed. Getting a closer look, they realize the monster is actually reptilian and nothing like a monkey. It’s an advanced winged variant of a chupacabra.
The party started smacking him around pretty good for a few rounds when he grappled with the contrictor, he was getting hurt and bloody, in an unexpected fight that he just thought was another sacrifice offering, until he finally escaped the snake and flew off. The ratling aims down his sights, and fires a last bullet, which hits, but alas does not down their fleeing foe.
“Ugh. How’re we doing?”
“We’re okay. Let’s go hunt him down. Uh…[watch glance] next session.”
And that’s where we had to leave off.

Serpent Skull 7

One of the players couldn’t make it, so no ratkin gunslinger.

Unexpected Ally.
Last session the party had just had their asses spanked, hard, twice. They’d just escaped the Ghoul Mother’s birthing caverns. Desperate, filthy, naked and starving. At least 1 character going through the throes of ghoul fever.
They escaped the caves under the lighthouse, swimming through the less turbulent waters of the bay in towards a shore, with the help of the druid’s new animal companion, a snake. Lissa called him Kah, after the snake from jungle book.
They pulled themselves on shore, trudged into the jungle, found some leaves to wear around their waists, and looked for the nearby trail, so they could hurry back north, towards their base camp, where the other castaways were staying, and some weapons and gear. After jogging for an hour they hear a female voice call to them in Common. “Stop, please, I would like to talk with you.” It comes from up ahead, from behind a giant fern. They shrug, and slow down.
“Hell. Someone who doesn’t want to come right out and kill us? Talk all you want.”
A slender 5-foot woman steps out onto the path, she has brown skin, and green ‘hair’ like the broad frilly leaves of a fern. The druid recognizes her as a dryad, though a tropical variation.
“My jungle friends told me about you, and then again later that you’d come swimming out from the underwater caverns in the cliff. You went to the camp of those horrible people. But you fought. And now you run from them. They are your enemies?”
Introductions are made, the PC meet Aycenia, and decide to just come right out and tell her everything that’s happened. She seemed more guarded at first, but loosens up and steps closer as they talk, then invites them back to her grove, where they can rest. It takes them a few hours pushing and trudging through the jungle behind her, and they make sure she’s okay with any report she might’ve heard about them from her jungle animals. Aside from once casting Sleep on a troupe of monkeys and slitting their throats, they haven’t done much obviously unnatural actions, or cruelties on the animals on this island. Defending themselves, hunting and killing to eat, that’s all part of the natural balance, she has had no unnerving reports of their actions from her contacts. They aren’t as bad as the demon monkey they ask about. He kills for fun, wastes meat, taunts and tortures creatures. She can’t give them too many details about it, she hasn’t seen it clearly. But from corpses it leaves behind, it seems to feed by draining blood, rather than eating flesh. “Oh great, demon monkey is also a vampire monkey?”
During their trek back to her grove there is a sudden bang of thunder, almost palpable, and looking back to the east they see a large jagged, uneven bolt of lighting which hangs for a good 5 seconds, from the mostly clear sky down to the red mountain dominating the eastern part of the island. The crack of thunder rolls away, and the lightning disappears, but a low rumbling sound seems to carry on the air for over minute, all around them, and the moisture in the air increases to the point that dew hangs off everything.
The PCs look at each other questioningly. Maybe the dryad know what tha-
“What the HELL was that?!” she exclaims. Nope. She’s never experienced that either.
The party try some knowledge checks. Definitely not natural, the weather and clouds and humidity don’t support a natural lightning strike. Arcana says it wasn’t a lightning spell, too jagged and uneven. Planes says there wasn’t the normal whirlwind howling dark shredding of reality you would expect when disrupting time-space. “Oh good, at least monkey demon probably isn’t summoning more friends.”
They can’t figure it out, and have to just keep going to the grove. Once they arrive they see the dryad approach and lovingly stroke a huge banyan tree, pressing her face to it like a missed friend, and seeming to recharge. The tree is surrounded by other tropical trees and ferns and vines, thick with wildlife, but not as crowded and tangling and outright annoying as the rest of the jungle. The area feels peaceful, and free of hovering gnats and mosquitoes and other insects. The colorful parrots caw and whistle comically in pairs, the monkeys sedately groom each other and mosey about.
The party and dryad speak some more, as they rest there for the night. She can Commune With Nature, an additional spell-like ability not found in most standard dryads, so she knows quite a bit about the entire island. She tells them that the cannibals have been living near the lighthouse for about 70 years, when they first came they were regular castaways, and seemed decent for some time, but after a while they became more cruel, and started attacking other humans and any new castaways that crashed onto the island (and there were many ships over the years) would be attacked and taken. Maybe eaten. The players guess some were also converted into ghouls. She even remembers further back, when some colonists came to try founding a small town, and the stone lighthouse, but they left, just got on their ships and went away suddenly. She also tells them of a blankness to the north, on a small archipelago, where she can’t sense the normal nature. It is a dead space to her. It started on one of the small islands, and has slowly grown, encroaching towards the island main body over decades. A colorless, bland white nothing that creeps forward. Sometimes creatures come from out of that area into the main jungle, her animal friends only call them bad men or wrong men. This is some kind of curse or blight on nature, and if the players can get rid of it, they could bring their basecamp to her grove, and avail of her spells and abilities. Bing! Another mini-quest from an NPC.
She also tells them that her tree can feel, deep in its roots, a certain wrongness to this island, something like a hungry core, affecting the whole island and waters. It reminds her of a parasitic vine branching off to choke off a tree it didn’t need to attack, it reminds her of the cruel evidence left by the red mountain devil monkey, or other animals that sometimes kill for sport.
“Oh, you said you had magical powers? Like what?”
Okay, sure, she can cure light wounds. She can also do lesser restoration. Zun zun jumps at this, as he’s been wracked by ghoul fever for the last couple days as they tried to recuperate in the Unbirthing Caverns, and he’s pretty freaked out at the possibility of turning into a ghoul. Do we really need to finish her mini-quest? Well, no, you seem so friendly and erudite and entertaining and generally good, that she’ll help you out. Ahhh, Zun zun gets back some drained Con.
Oh, whatdya know, she also has Shape Wood, at will.
"Does this mean she can make me a spear? "
Oh sure, I don’t see why not. Slowly stretches out a branch of old wood into a straight thin sharp spear.
“And javelins?” Yeah, sure.
“And a blow dart tube?” Sure.
“And a wooden buckler?” Yeah, that’s not too hard.
“And a regular shield, and we’ll use vines or sinews for a strap?” Yeah, sure.
“And a small sized sickle, but with a sharp end, no cutting edge. So it’s only piercing.” Yup, sure, okay. You know what? She can also make a wooden replica of swords and polearms when you make diagrams, and help her out with designs. They do bludgeoning or piercing damage only, no slashing. Since you have Craft:Carpentry, and the off-camera-for-personal-reasons ratling has Engineering, and she can shape small pieces of wood anyway she wants indefinitely.
And fine, she can try to replicate your ideas of armor, with wooden slat armor, bending it around your torsos and limbs as you stand there. I’ll say +3 to AC , but -5ft to movement, if you’re proficient with medium armor or better.

Hunt the Hunters.
The party is feeling more confident, with some rough wooden weapon equivalents, and makeshift armor. They decide after a short discussion to take the fight back to the cannibals, by picking off any hunting parties coming after them.
Diplomacing with the Dryad, okay, she will come with them. But she won’t involve in combat, she will use Tree Shape and become a majestic coconut tree at the slightest sign of trouble. She’ll just be available for some post-combat curing, basically. Not bad, since they don’t have a dedicated healer in the party.
The next morning they run back to the trail, and go north a bit to where an original trap was set by the cannibals. Kal had found it a while ago, and bypassed it easily. Now he covers it up with different leaves, and messes up any nearby trees or possible bushes or markers, and creates a dud decoy to look like the original several meters forward, hoping they’ll be fooled into falling into their own trap. Oh. Not making a trap yourself per se, huh? Hoping to use the enemies assumed higher trap skills instead of your own eh? Sneaky use of game rules but fine by me.
They hide themselves in ambush position. Kal asked the dryad to make a bunch of simple javelins, and he’s planted a bunch all along the area, so anyone can grab one up and throw, if they know to look for them. He’s also set up a couple simple tripwires, made of vines across the path. With his Disable Device of 7, it’s not bad, with a base DC of 17 for anyone coming across it.
They wait around 4 hours. By around noon a heavy storm sweeps in, and heavy monsoon type of rains suddenly hit. And then, they notice some figures coming towards them up the trail. Looks like 6 or 7 people. They bunker down and hide, and see 6 cannibals, with their chieftain atthe head, holding a leash for a large lizard that’s sniffing and snuffling down the path getting excited.
They wait until the cannibals are within 30 feet, and Kal starts their ambush round. He throws a javelin at the shocked reptile, but totally misses. Lissa the druid starts summoning. Zum Zum throws out a Sleep, and fells 2 of the cannibals at the end of the group .
The druid summons a Stirge. The most annoying monster ever? But what fun to throw it at a bad guy! The stirge latches, and sucks, and lower the chief’s hit points. Kal thrashes forward through jungle and sheets of rain, grabs another nearby javelin planted in the soil and chucks at the chieftain. Zum Zum throws off another Sleep spell, and downs three more cannibals soldiers.
There is the chieftain, his giant komodo dragon lizard, and one cannibal left. The druid had stayed up close at the front of the group, when getting ready for the ambush. Maybe she wanted to stay close to her snake/meatshield, to cast Magic Fang. Either way, the chieftain spots her off the trail and rages and shrieks and lunges up and slashes with his scimitar. It whines through the air in a bright orange streak and smashes apart the rough wooden blocks strapped around her as armor. Splinters fly up, digging into her face and neck, and she’s almost downed in one hit. Her snake tries to defend her, but misses the chieftain, and his komodo jumps up, and grapples the boa, biting and gouging ruthlessly. The chieftain licks the blood of his scimitar, screaming about body fluids and essences in Infernal. The players remember that the chieftain used some bestial rage ability back in the village, that gave him a powerful secondary bite attack, so the druid keeps backing off. With her woodland stride, it’s just 5 foot steps for her, but full movement for the cannibals. They keep moving back but forget to do so along the trail direction, to lure the enemies into the laid tripwires and traps.
The druid’s boa and the chieftain’s komodo are locked in deadly reptilian grapples, and the non-sleeping solidier finally scrapes off the stirge from his boss. The chieftain fails to finish off Lissa, who hops back and heals herself, as Kal comes forward and interposes himself, and yells a loud challenge for beauty and love. The dryad’s woodshape was good enough to copy his designs of a rose with a sword, a holy symbol for Shellyn. He calls a smite upon the chieftain, and for the next few rounds they dance around each other. The chieftain’s scimitar flashing orange whining arcs and chopping up Kal’s wooden greatsword. Eventually, Zun Zun, after failing to hex or evil eye the chieftain moves forward to provide flanking, so Kal can also add in flanking to hit, and the sneak attack damage.
Kah the constrictor dropped once, came back up from a heal from the druid, fell again, but it kept the komodo lizard busy. They managed to concentrate on the chieftain and bring him down first. Kal got a really good attack, and following up from a blocked swing, thrust deep and ripped into the chieftain’s stomach with a stab, even though it was just a wooden greatsword. To the PCs horror the chieftain, in his insane bloodlust rage grabbed his own wound, ripping it open, pulling out his own intestine to chew, shrieking in pidgin Infernal about recycling his own power. When Zum Zum finally finished him off, with his 10feet reach with his hair power, the hair grabbed and ripped out the intestine, the stomach and liver falling out soon after, and then the lungs and heart, and the chieftain’s rage finally ended as he dropped to his knees like an empty meat shell. The magic hair grabbed up a loop of those intestine, holding them up around his head, like a bloody sick halo. He screamed and intimidated at the barely surviving cannibal soldier, who just lost it at that stage. And he flung out the intestine and whipped and strangled that cannibal, among normal damage from the others, but the bolo of guts was a pretty cool kill. The komodo lizard lost focus and resorted to defensively retreating and was killed. No one succumbed to its gross potpourri of bacterial mouth filth, so no worries about further diseases. Then they went among the five or so sleeping cannibal soldiers, “slitting their throats”. With wooden weapons? “We can’t do coup de grace?” Oh no, of course you can, you just aren’t technically slitting anything. “So, what do we roll, pick out critical cards?”
Rolls? Crit cards? No screw that noise. It’s the end of combat. Three people doing a simultaneous coup de grace on each bad guy methodically, those sleepers are dead.

This was a pretty big win for them. They killed the blood frenzy crazy chieftain, his bad ass lizard, and a bunch of his hunter/soldiers. They check to make sure, and yeah, looks like the sleeping cannibals were all just regular warriors or hunters, no apparent spell-casters or witches with them. They’re still quite drained of hit points, even with the dryad coming out of coconut tree form to heal them, so they go back to her grove to rest another night, and plan. A big ass red pearl from the chief, smaller red pearls from the warriors. An amulet of Natural Armor +1 that useful for anybody. And experiment with that fancy scimitar from the chieftain. It’s magical. After spending a few hours experimenting with it, especially it’s strange tendency to suddenly flare orange with a small streaking tail and whine, they figure out it’s a +1 Comet-tail Scimitar. “Comet-tail, huh, haven’t heard of that. Cool. What’s that mean?” Oh, well, it means when you swing and attack, it whines or zings or whirrs and glows orange, and makes one of those bright arcs of light that bothers everyone’s vision. “Cool! Any extra damage?” Nope. “Does it light up if I swing it around my head?” Kinda. Not enough to generate light, just look like a raver with a glowstick.

Mother of a rematch.
The next day they decide to scout around the cannibal village. They approach, take their time and are careful. While still out by a distance they hear the Ghoul Mother’s voice, yelling angrily for a couple minutes. Okay, seems she’s no longer in the caverns underground. They scout in slowly, and get a good idea of the situation. The witch’s hut was all burned down, from their previous attempt to set a fire as a diversion. The skeletons are out of their pen, now 2 guard a door to a small shack, and 2 guard a door into the stone lighthouse. The villagers are mostly women, and a few injured or simpleton men. Kids? Nope, there’s no kids. The women at the main campfire glance fearfully over their shoulders at the lighthouse sometimes, or the skeletons. Kal risks sneaking in closer to try to listen, since he understands Infernal. He hears some kid-sounding moaning and pitiful mewling coming from the shack. He hears the women worrying about their men who never came back from yesterday, and their unfair punishment from the Mother. HER blaming THEM for losing the prisoners, and precious ghouls dying. A door opens and the elderly witch hobbles up, and seems to be consoling the women, and also casting dark glances at the lighthouse.
Kal goes back to the others with this information. The players discuss. Attack? Sneak? Shock and Awe, or peace offering? Take hostages? Smash open the shack; or spend another day to summon a new badger to dig under to look inside it? Finally, they decide to write a rough note in Infernal, on a small flag, wrapped around a javelin, and hurl it into the camp from the farthest range increment they can and run away. Their message basically asked to meet up the next morning at the mouth of the river. So they go to wait out the rest of the day and night back at the dryad’s grove.
The next morning they hide out around the mouth to the river. And they wait. And wait. For a few hours, nobody comes.
“Do they understand ‘Morning’, or does Infernal, as a lower planes language even count suns and terrestrial life cycles?”
“Well, we’d use some kind of time term. At it’s broadest to include from sun-up to midday.”
“Yeah, well guys, they’re not coming.”
They decide to go back to the cannibal camp, sneaking even more careful, wary of a set up. No smoke. Approaching from the south, they find what first looks like a blood-stained flag, but actually has crude polyglot symbols. “See Message Town Enter.”
“Why is this in Polyglot?”
“What’s the Town Enter? A door? The main trail?”
They guess the main trail, go around to where the main trail enters the camp. At this point they can easily tell nobody’s in the camp. No voices, only a tiny tendril of smoke from the main campfire which is banked. And the skeletons are still there, two guarding the shack, two guarding the lighthouse. A larger flag set up by the main trail also written in Polyglot. “We go now everyday at noon to get food. Everyone go away.”
And it just happens to be around noon now. The dryad is still with them, keeping back. They ask her to Commune, and after some time she figures there’s a group of humans to the east. And, maybe, some inside that shack.
The party sneak up single file, around the back of the shack, and the snake over the shack’s roof, to spring a surprise on the two skeletons guarding the front. Kal remembers their slashing resistance, and pulls out his wooden greatsword.
He steps around the corner and whirls the old beast around and smashes the skeleton to pieces. Kah the snake drops down on the other, and starts grappling. Lissa runs up with a pre-cast CLW and turns the skeleton into white dust. Across at the other end of the village, the other 2 skeletons just continue standing where they are in front of the lighthouse.
“Huh. That seemed a little too easy.”
They warily move closer to the lighthouse, round by round. Preparing for approach from the skeletons, who only hold up their weapons. Zun Zun goes into the small wooden building attached to the side of the lighthouse to approach from a different direction. He opens a door to a small anteroom to the lighthouse from the side, and sees a ghoul. And quickly pops back. The ghoul gets up in surprise. Was that a villager? Or someone else? He gets up and goes out the door to look, get smacked by Zun Zun’s readied action, and falls back to retreat into the lighthouse. The others at the front jump in to attack the skeletons and take them out with smashes and constricting snake. The ghoul ran up some stairs to the 2nd floor of the lighthouse. Lissa sends her snake after him when they enter through the front, and they bust through a few doors on the ground floor, only to find some beds and a type of shrine room, to a large old rotted ship masthead of Asmodeus. They figure the Ghoul Mother will probably be at the very top, so Lissa runs up to the second floor, to a large room. She sees the ghoul dead, chased down and killed by her snake. And she’s surprised to see the Ghoul Mother, who’s just finishing a buffing spell. The others rush up too, and begin a major rematch against her.
The fight was long, and pretty tough. She made full attacks where appropriate, hoping to paralyze, or spells if she had some room. They used the snake to grapple her after she turned off the lights with Darkness, to try to keep her to one square. She used Cause Fear on Zun zun, but since was blocking his exit from the room, forgot that the Frightened condition allowed him to fight back if couldn’t escape. Kal was hit down for a full 5 rounds of paralysis, which is forever in a fight like this. Lissa summoned a couple dire rats, who had dark vision and could attack without impedance, and provide flanking when Kal finally woke up. The Ghoul Mother use negative energy bursts a couple times to damage, and once to heal herself. It was getting pretty hairy, but they got decent rolls and tactics, and lucky on their miss chance percentage rolls in the darkness. By the end everyone was only around 5 hit points or less from falling, and so scared I’d use another negative energy burst, but she didn’t know how bad they were hurting. She just tried to cure up for the last couple rounds, after depleting most spells, hoping they’d lose heart at her proud boasts and cackling intimidations and start retreating, but they managed to finally end her with a comet-tail strike in the head.
“Wait, did we actually see the comet-tail in the Darkness.”
You know what, yeah, sure, you did. The magical nature of the weapon, some of it’s swing was visible in the magical darkness.

They go out and get the dryad and patch themselves up. Search around the lighthouse. Some minor treasures. No good treasure on the ghoul mother though. On closer inspection, the dead ghoul, that ran up here to warn her, looks kind of like the captain of their original sea ship. So that’s what happened to him. On the top floor of the lighthouse is just the light and reflector itself. It could take days, or weeks to repair. Unless, the modules says, the party actually had something like Engineering, or Carpentry skills…oh wait! They go through the rest of the camp, and bust open the shack. They find all their gear! They also find 6 children and teenagers, barely alive, tied up and attached to ground spikes. Burning up with fevers, mumbling and twitching, bleeding from their eyes. A few obviously human arms and legs nearby on the ground. They have several distinct, spaced out bite marks on their arms. Zun zun feels a nauseous tug in the guts, from the familiar symptoms he’d just finished fighting through as he finally got over ghoul fever. He goes out and searches the camp to feed them some normal food and water, while Lissa debates with Kal what to do. Did they detect as evil? Uh, maybe very faintly from the oldest teenager. Were they doomed to become ghouls, even if they got regular food and recovered? Should they take a few as hostages? Shouldn’t we just kill them now and end the suffering? Kal pulls his scimitar and declares he won’t let anyone harm the children. “What? Oh, right. Mr sneaky pants here is also a paladin. But aren’t they evil?” They debate a bit, aren’t really sure what to do, what exactly is evil, who deserves mercy, etc. And so decide to just leave the kids there, with water and normal food, and a note for the cannibals to try to find Viper berries for them. And end the session there.
Serpent Skull 6

The party continued tracking after their buddy.
They came across some branches in the trail, but the scent of the witchdoctor was still rank, and we’d already previously established that he already had questionable hygiene and smelled horribly and strongly, so that was finally actually working in his favour now as his friends tracked down the kidnappers, and successfully followed the correct branches in the trails.
After about 7 hours of traveling, and going across most of the island to the other side, they spotted some smoke up ahead. The jungle broke up a little as the trail neared a river and began running parallel to it, so they could look down the slightly cleared corridor up the river, to where it emptied into a small bay, and off the side of the bay one side rose up as a cliff. A couple small smoke tendrils and one larger plume rose from the jungle at the edge of the cliff, and they could also make out what looked like a small tower. As they got closer they could determine it was actually a lighthouse, sitting on the promontory cliffs of that small bay. The trail they were on continued towards that lighthouse, and the smoke rising from fires around it.
The party traveled a bit more in normal speed, then went into sneak mode, as they neared what they presumed must be the cannibal village. The rat-kin had the best mix of perception and sneak, also he could try to look like just a giant rat if he were spotted, so he went forward and saw a large frill-necked lizard/dinosaur on a long leash, guarding what looked to be the entrance of the village, if one continued along the trail. Reporting back to the others, they successfully skirt around the lizard and around the village to figure out its general shape and size, location of noises and smoke, and any huts or other structures.

The Scout-ening
Meanwhile… the witchdoctor woozily woke up to find himself stripped naked, hands bound, and tied to a bamboo fence behind him. He was in a small prisoner pen of sorts. It was attached to an open-air stone patio attached to the lighthouse base buildings. A few cannibals were sharpening knives at bloody tables on the patio. Two other cannibals were holding up a sort of costume up to his body and fitting him. An old bent lady watched them as they worked making comments and snapping commands. It seemed they had a very old ship captain’s uniform, noble and fine in its day, but now patched and rotting and barely hanging together. The tri-corn hat kept its shape only thru a framework of bird ribcages sewn into its sides. The old crone noticed as he woke up, and started jibber jabbering at him, slowly trying a few languages, until he recognized some Polyglot words. She rattled some of his charms and poppets in his face, demanding to know what spirits he used, how did these ones work. He noticed the monkey crawling around her head and hair, the many charms and bones and necklaces she wore, the way she handled his more powerful trinkets and spell components. He proudly proclaimed his connections to a great spirit of the ancestors, but she only sneered at the name, merely a milquetoast version of her own patron of undeath and ever-life.
He gave her the evil eye! Oho! Her monkey squeaks but she barely flinches and evil-eyes right back at him!
It’s like a magic wand duel between two wizards in the finale of a six movie franchise. The spirit world around them crackles and boils. Finally, the crone leans in close, goaded by her monkey, and our hero falls backwards. Hexed. And shamed. She is too powerful. A witch like he, but double his wisdom and ghost-talking, at least.

Meanwhile, the party approached another bamboo pen, the vague figures behind the fence started rattling the cage. They decided not to come much closer, as they rattled the fence/cage louder and quicker as the party got closer. Maybe they weren’t prisoners? Scouting the southern part of the village more, they came across a secluded hut, farther away from the rest of the village in deep jungle, connected by a thin trail. They snuck up, but just an empty hut for the village’s Witch, who was already busy sizing up a young up-start. Sneaking in some more, then searching around, just an empty alchemical workshop of primitive proportions. And a small, messy bedroom, full of gagging old-person smell, and monkey. The RatKin had knowledge alchemy, and could figure out the weird gourds, and polyhedral carved stone, and sticky masses of spider web, and powdered leaves, and bowl of nachos were actually magic potions, a thunderstone, tanglefoot bags and smokesticks. And regular bowl of nachos. They couldn’t identify the potions without their witchdoctor, but figured the alchemical stuff right quick. Meanwhile, the voodoo witchdoctor has commanded his prehensile hair, with a Str of 18, to work at his wrist restraints, and after about 7 minutes manages to break the bonds. Meanwhile, the party loots the hut, and sets up a minor fire bomb. A small candle from the tables nearby as a fuse, to a bowl and wide puddle of lantern oil. They haven’t used this candle before, the place should go up in, oh, anywhere between 10-40 minutes. Meanwhile, the witchdoctor is taking better note of his surroundings. He hears the voices of many more villagers past the stone building in front of him, between his prisoner pen and the middle of the village, where a large fire is being built up. Over 20 villagers, the women sound as tough as the men. Heck. Even their inbred, slightly mutated kids sound tough. Meanwhile, the party look back at the other pen, the druid sneaks up to a door she sees from a different angle, and finds out its just 4 skeletons shambling around inside. The party also notice the 20-30 villagers, calling to each other, making preparations for some kind of big deal, children yelling and playing excitedly. The paladin/rogue, originally from Cheliax, recognizes some pidgin form of Infernal being used as their language.

The Prep-erring
The sun hasn’t started to set yet. The party started out early when they noticed their friend missing, instead of taking several hours to break camp and get ready like a normal adventuring day. They hear the villagers start up some rapid drum beats; some of the kids wonder if the Red Mountain Devil will come bless them.
The soundtrack changes to a pounding tribal drumbeat.
A few more villagers rock up, with killed goats on their shoulder poles. More cannibals? The kids and teenagers start shrieking, getting into fights, hitting each other, grabbing up burning logs from the central bonfire to hold in their hands as long as possible before passing out or run away screaming or searching for water.
Is there a perfect strategy for this? The village was obviously building towards a climax, getting more excited. Their friend would probably get trotted out of his prisoner pen in front of the whole village soon. They had no idea at what hour things might change or take a turn for the worse. They quickly located their friend in his prisoner pen, behind a bamboo fence attached to the stone building patio, guarded by a few cannibals and a crone witch. The dense jungle around the village encroached right up to that fence.
They snuck up to the fence. The pounding drums from the central village area, and the shrieking kids and ululating women distracted the cannibals in the pen, so sneaking wasn’t too hard.
The paladin/rogue decided to open with a sneak attack on the witch, the others agreed to the plan. Quick hit and run, kill the witch’s monkey if they’re lucky, get in there, grab their friend, get out quick. They didn’t even know if they could wait for the witch’s hut to catch on fire nice and proper.
It would be tough. A little DM advice didn’t seem out of line. I pointed out that killing the witch’s familiar wasn’t all that powerful. It wouldn’t stun her or cause Con damage or anything important within an actual battle.

The Spank-ening
A loud bang, and whiz chuk. The ratkin poked his pistol through the bamboo fence shot the witch for a few damage in the arm. 4 damage. Similarly the paladin/rogue concentrated on her evil and poked a heavy crossbow through the fence and shot the witch right between the breasts. Into the heavy bird skull necklace she wore. A bad roll on damage and sneak attack and smite evil dice, only 6 damage.
Initiative burst into action after their sneak attack. A couple cannibals rushed up and jumped over the fence into the dense jungle where the party was attacking. The witch backed off behind another cannibal, made a good intuitive guess and tried the Common language, and in a heavily accented halting question asked if they’d heard about the crone who insisted on ‘dry entry only’ (based on some in-joke earlier in the night between a couple of the players. ) The paladin/rogue could barely stand up with the gut-wrenching guffaws as he laughed hideously. For how many rounds? Oh. I’m not telling you. At least you get to try a new save every round.
The party kept to the dense jungle edge, and near the bamboo fence too, for hard cover, as the cannibals rushed them. Others ran out to call an alarm to the rest of the camp. The witch hid behind a cannibal tough guy, and tried Cause Fear on the Ratkin, who successfully resisted the images of her disembodied head floating towards him with a giant gaping maw of poison teeth.
The party’s witchdoctor whipped out his hands from his sides. Ha ha, suckers, I’ve been free for the last hour. His hair grabbed onto the fence behind him and flipped him over towards his friends. A couple cannibals chased after and climbed up and over the short fence, taking and dodging a couple AofO’s. The badger stopped trying to dig under the fence, and starting attacking the cannibals as they approached, on his master’s command. The druid strode forward easily through the heavy jungle to ready actions against approaching cannibals.
Most use double moves, a couple take a swipe at Barry the badger, as he tries to hold the front line. The cannibal witch crouches to cast mage armor, and also give them a short rest from her spells and hexes.
The party’s witchdoctor had scooped up a small bit of sand in the pen. He blows it outwards towards the evil witch in a Sleep spell. But it effects the lowest level enemies first, and downs 2 cannibals. The witch makes a spellcraft check, and recognizes the Sleep spell for what it is, and yells at others to wake the sleepers, while also screaming commands to the skeletons approaching from a distance, and runs behind a building. The others try attacking and holding a line around the guffawing paladin/rogue. The Ratkin is attacked by a bloodthirsty cannibal child. Ow, you bastard. Taste hot justice, he crams his gun into the kid’s disfigured toothless mouth and blows the back of his skull out.
“You’re killing the kids?”
“Damn right! In-bred sick perversions, deserve to die. Besides, maybe they have lower hit points.”
The evil witch came around a corner after spending another round “doing nothing.” She was actually summoning. A fire elemental springs up behind you. Oh crap, they are screwed now, in terms of their placement with setting a front against their attackers, a sudden new attacker behind their line can target their witchdoctor, and provide flanking to the cannibals. The witch also shot off a Ray of Enfeeblement which missed. I remind the party that there are more cannibals coming, and probably some skeletons. But they just can’t move; not until their paladin/rogue stops laughing. The badger becomes the star in his own bukkake video as he’s ringed by cannibals bashing him around and abusing him. Another bezerking brat runs up and guts the druid as she tries to reach over to heal her badger. The big tough cannibal chieftain runs around a corner, screaming and gesticulating and joins the bukkake circle and guts the badger, then uses a barbarian primal ability to bite for even more damage to tear out the belly with his teeth, and starts smearing guts and blood all over himself. His blood-lusting gives the party a round or so of reprieve from the new alpha who’s now appeared, but it’s not enough. The paladin/rogue is dancing around, trying to dodge the fire elemental, and Misfortune hexes thrown out by the witch. The party’s witchdoctor was flanked and finished by some cannibals that came slowly sludging through the jungle towards him. The gunslinger is hit down by more swarming cannibals. All around it’s evident the cannibals grab the unconscious heroes, to take them alive. Except the chieftain, who goes wild in blood rage and keeps tearing and eating at the badger. The paladin/rogue is the last one standing, unable to flank any bad guys, too many around to fight. If he tries to run, that fire elemental will probably catch up. The paladin/rogue says NO to hopelessness, and calls an intimidating challenge to the chieftain. Come on, pussy. You and me buddy. Mano e mano. Oooh, almost, missed it by 3. The chieftain waves dismissively as he gnaws thru the rest of the badger, and his soldiers come and down the last PC.

Sore butts
The party slowly wakes up, one member coming to consciousness, checking on his buddies. They were at 1 hit point. Stripped of all gear and naked. Stuck in a deep cave, a bit of sunlight filtering down from a hole 20 feet up, covered by some wooden planks. A single tunnel led away. They stumbled around, checked their surroundings, the old bones and scraps of leather and cloth in the area. They were pathetically weak, but safe for now. They’d killed 7 cannibals in their fight. From the sounds of pidgin Infernal shouts and drums and partying up high at the surface, they surmised that the cannibals they downed were deemed too weak to live, and readied for sacrificial rite and feasting. They’d been lowered down into a cave near the base of the lighthouse in the village and left alone, but for what?
Scrounging about, using Engineering and Tailoring knowledges they managed to fasten some primitive weapons from the bones, skulls, sticks and leather around them. About 1d6 damage, with -1 for poor manufacture. They could make simple shivs or clubs, or even whips or flails. And then they rested, regaining some hit points, spells and curing. After 24 hours, still nothing came to disturb them, they were mostly healed up, but poorly outfitted, and sent the ratkin ahead to scout with his darkvision.
He came across another cave, guarded by 2 obvious undead humanoid creatures with long arms that loped about on all fours. They growled and rasped, but only chased him to the edge of their cave, so he got back to his friends and warned them. They puffed themselves up, a few Mage Armors from the witchdoctor and ran in to join battle with the two bestial undead. They did a pretty good job, despite their pathetic armor and poor weapons, using tactics, flanking, and use of the paladin/rogues’s sneak attacks to kill one. The witchdoctor’s Chill Touch sent the other to run off in fear, so they could set up again in readied actions for when it returned to kill it in two turns. Whenever they hit the creatures, diseased pustules burst out, but everyone got lucky, and nobody got infected. This cave had a sleeping/eating type of area for the two undead, and a larger area with 6 alcoves built into the wall. It was a Birthing Room, where prisoners were kept in alcoves, under guard of the undead, with nothing but human meat around them as they starved. Searching around, they found a strip of leather armor, with writing on it in old dried blood.
It was a confession of sorts. From a captain of a ship. From the Jenivere. Their ship! Their captain! That bastard. As he starved for days, and realized his fate. He admitted being misled by the Varisian scholar, maybe under magic, whom he named as a snake in human clothing who fooled and beguiled him, and finally betrayed him. He felt guilty about wrecking his ship and his fine crew on this gods forsaken island, and while he didn’t expect any forgiveness he beseeched anyone finding his note to find that non-varisian to kill her for her evil magics. And, if possible, to find him and kill him, as he’d likely succumbed to his hunger, and would have a dark rebirth.

Mommy dearest.
The party went on, down the next tunnel, towards a large central circular cave with several exits. Searching found some small boot marks leading to one side. The decided to check another side. The ratkin went again as scout, since he didn’t need light. The tunnel led into another large long cave, and a ghoul spotted him and called out. He said Oh Fuck, and ran back towards the others. His Oh Fuuuuuu, easily telling them to set up a readied action ambush plan. As the first of three ghouls entered the other three struck, bam, killing it. Nice opening. The other two ghouls moved in, but missed on their single attack, or did small damage, with the paralysis resisted. More damage to one ghoul, while witchdoctor still had a charge of Chill Touch held in his hand/hair, to send the other one away. When it finally returned, against another readied ambush, with flanking and rogue attacks, it quickly succumbed. Pretty good tactical work for the party, killing off three ghouls, especially in their state without real weapons or any armor.
After killing those three ghouls, going into the long cavern they’d come from, they heard the pounding of surf, and realized there was a large tunnel going under the water, probably back to the outside. But there was also another narrow tunnel leading up north. Leave, or go investigate? Oh, what’s one more little room?
They sent the ratkin up north thru the narrow tunnel. He came across “nests” of bones and meat and refuse. The kind of crap a ghoul might rest in. Every 5 feet. There were over a dozen. He continued. The wall began to be carved, showing depictions of skeletons, and serpents. Still he persevered. His sneak roll wasn’t bad, but beaten by my bad guys’ perception roll. Nice for you that the module specifically dictates that this big boss isn’t outwardly hostile, and even offers a ridiculous compromise.
“Ah, sniveling rat thing,” the ghoul in the tattered dress spoke towards the dark quivering corner, "you have done well to get here, past my children. So many of them, my children, and the slaves above. Truly, you are worthy for my gift. Come! Come here, and join my family, revere me as your true mother, let me rebirth you as you were meant to be. "
Squeak! The ratkin jumped up and hightailed back to the others.
How rude.
The others waited for a round, as she cast Shield of Faith.
Then the Mother ghoul followed, sneaking a little, beat the other’s perceptions and cast Darkness on herself as she crept forward, casting them into confusion and blindness. They stumbled about, and tried to get further away, out of the radius. The Darkvision of the Ghoul and the Ratkin still worked, and he could see her creeping forward, casting more spells on herself.
The party backed off, trying to get out of her darkness radius, as their witchdoctor only had a weak cantrip Light spell his club.
The Ghoul mother cast Spiritual Weapon, calling on the power of Asmodeus to conjure his favored weapon. Not sure, a wavy dagger? The party planned to all back off, towards another narrow tunnel, to keep her contained, but as the ratkind tried running past she lashed out and paralyzed him. The others started running back to her again, to guard him, into the darkness. The paladin had been waiting around just outside the darkness, using Detect Evil in a way to determine the square she was in, to rush in to attack, and try to direct the others where to attack. Sure you can all tell what square she’s in. The darkness and concealment, with it’s 50% miss chance screwed them up a lot, many of their attacks just failed. The druid tried touching her with a CLW burning on his hands, but kept missing. The spiritual weapon only lasted for 3 rounds, but did some damage to the druid. She cast Cause Fear on the witchdoctor, and he ran away for 3 rounds, taking another 3 rounds to return. The Ghoul mother called on Asmodeus again, and pulsed out a wave of dark negative energy, but everyone saved and only took half damage, like 2 to 4 damage. The continued negative pulses hit everyone, but didn’t do too much damage. The party was really weak and faltering. But she seemed to be running out of spells. Try stalling? They’d hardly damaged the ghoul mother, and she knew it. She backed off, and called again, “won’t you just admit my superiority. Join my family. Come, be my children.”
The rest of the party stopped their blind attacks, and talked. They surrendered. Then soon realized, as they stumbled in the dark towards the Birthing alcoves, they really only needed to stall, until her Darkness spell ran out, so they could actually hit her. They made bluff checks about abandoning their old gods, and preparing their bodies, actually just making a few surreptitious cure spells on each other. Brought the ratkin back to consciousness, but he bluffed to look unconscious as the druid dragged him by the tail.
After a total of 3 minutes past, they could suddenly see. And attacked altogether. Oh! Those sneaky live-bloods. The paladin/rogue was still just at 0 hitpoints, tried a desperate charge to sneak attack, but only managed 5 damage. The druid reared up, and missed. The ratkin laughed, ha ha, thought i was out, did you, and missed with his makeshift weapons. Bang, bam, boom. Furious at their deception she just resorted to physical attacks. One after the other she just ran up and smacked them down, with damage, or paralysis. Two of them also failed Fort saves on her bite for Ghoul Fever. The witchdoctor was alone against her, nothing left but to try, oooh, boom, critical attack. Double damage and dex damage. Nope, she’s still up, and doing fine. Smacko, sliceo, stabbo, you’re down.

Desperate escape.
They woke later, at different times, in the alcoves of the Birthing Chambers, at 1 hit point, with some raw and cooked meat before them. And a ghoul in the central area, guarding them, making sure they didn’t leave their alcoves. They quickly figured they were meant to starve, and eat of the flesh, probably human. The witchdoctor and druid also had to contend with the extra powerful gut wrenches and tongue lengthening and nail-explosions of the Ghoul Fever, which could also eventually convert them. The ghoul mother walked in a few hours later, exhorted them to try their delicious dishes, reminded them she had all the time in the world to replace the children they’d already killed, and left. Since the party had already killed the two dumber undead that usually worked guard duty, the single smarter ghoul could be influenced with social rolls. The character’s convinced it that they were supposed to be in different alcoves, so they could move around to be within 10 feet of the witchdoctor’s hair, so he could heal them. They waited 2 extra full days. Tired, very hungry, but still refusing any sentient flesh, no Con damage from starvation yet. They waited a few hours after ghoul mother visited, and probably a few hours before she was set to return. They buffed with Mage Armors and some CLW, and the druid had meditated for 24 hrs to recall a boa constrictor as a new animal companion. With a word they pounced together and rushed the single ghoul guard, surrounding and flanking him, hitting him with grapples and snake constriction, and other tricks they’d figured, curing and kicking him to death, or stabbing with tiny sharpened bone fragments.
And they ran, and sneaked, and swam out of there, to get free of the ghoul mother and her horrible caves, back into the surf of the outside island, to plot their revenge and gear-reclamation, and that’s where we ended.

Serpent Skull 5

The party got back to base camp, and leveled up to 2nd level. The druid communed with nature for a day and gained a new badger companion. He called it Barry, again.
The witchdoctor took Craft:Taxidermy.
“Perfect. But, is that even a skill?”
Of course! You think it, we can do it.
The ratling can use his gunslinger skills to create special bullets, so he makes some bullets called paper ammo, that allow for a quicker loading time, reduced down to a swift action.
I come right out and warn the rogue/paladin from bothering to make a boat, the sailoring and navigation checks to leave the island will just be too tough. He goes back to making a comfy bed, and realizes he’s now got the perfect pick up line for some of the female NPCs. Yeah yeah, sure, your character starts flirting, and does well, we are not role-playing this. The NPCs are the highest friendliness/helpfulness, gaming wise you’re good allies now. You wanna get bizzay, fine, you get bizzay. Sex all around, I don’t care, I’m hand-waving this, we aren’t teenagers here. Just tell me who with who, so I can figure out if some baby mamma issues might happen 9 months from now.
They also move the camp further south down the beach, they take the day, the stake out and attack an alpha predator lair, but just giant crabs, they weren’t keen, so I didn’t waste time with a combat, besides, they had access to the NPC cleric who could run up and cure them anyways.
During the last few nights there haven’t been any returns of the demon monkey who’d been haunting and taunting them previously.

Slippery slider
After setting new camp, the party now has a few options. 2 miniquests from NPCs. Go back to bald hill to look for treasure, or look for a Pathfinder Society shipwreck, location unknown. Also, try to hunt around blindly for the Varisian scholar and ship captain who are to blame for everything. Or hunt blindly for the monkey demon. Or explore around.
“OOh. We skirted that alpha predator a little bit inland, because we’d lost Barry the meatshield. Let’s go back.”
“Yay.” “Yay.” “Double yay.”
The party unanimously want to go back to the map hot spot they’d previously avoided.
Yeah, sure, go for it, you’re all keen. They prep up after a good rest. They get to the hot spot zone. They roll sneak checks. Some of them do great. The paladin/rogue not so great, so the otter hears him out at 70 feet, and he’s large-sized and 3 hit dice and cocky, and hears only one person, so he come crashing thru the jungle from his river edge home. They see a sleek, weaving slender brown thing racing towards them. A brown giant snake? They aren’t quite sure who’s sneaked good or not, but I let them know some of them may still be hidden, so most of them make readied actions as this barely visible thing comes thru the dense wet leaves and mud. The ratling is furthest back in the marching order, so he goes off and shoots his gun, and announces his presence quite loudly. Boom. Oh, take that. Ew, 1 damage. Not really worth it. The giant otter becomes discernible as it chooses randomly to go after the ratling and jumps up at him, coiling and biting and clawing, but misses. A few of the others hit it as it raced past them not knowing they were there, and on their turns they converge and flank and attack some more. The witchdoctor tries to cast Sleep, but the mastermind predator must have too much willpower and resists. They seem to be doing fairly well,with AofOs and readied actions on the first real round of attacks. Then the otter hits the ratling, and does around 16hp, and a trip. Never mind the trip. The 2nd level gunslinger is down. The rogue/paladin decides to move around the otter to flank with someone else, but the otter gets an AofO and hits him too,getting a crit, but not multiplying its damage, just doing normal big damage and stunning him for 3 rounds, and almost downing him in the one hit. Barry the badger goes nuts with full attacks and does some good damage, and the druid steps in and also gets a critical, 3 crit cards with the scythe. Makes an ugly cut, penalty to charisma. In combat, who cares? Another penalty to dex. The other does triple damage, but as nonlethal damage.
“Ooh, we can knock him out and talk with him.”
The party hews and haws about it. “Let’s just finish the battle with real damage.” The witchdoctor steps forward, and lashes out with his magical hair and slaps the otter down. They realize it is just unconscious, so after stabilizing the gunslinger, they try tying up the giant otter. They have masterwork manacles, from the NPC they’d released. And a bunch of rope. And a fishing net. They truss him up good.
They figure the otter attacked to protect its young, and look for a nearby lair and babies. Nope. He attacked because he heard one person tromping around. They find a lair, and old dead human with a preserved metal MW composite bow of Str+2. Doh. We’d just gone over this while looking at grappling rules, none of the PCs have a Str bonus over 1. Just add it to the loot pile.
They do heal checks to wake the otter. The druid can use Wild Empathy, and had Speak with Animals memorized, so 2 minutes of talking. The ratling doesn’t want to befriend the otter, and doesn’t help, but the others try to Aid other. The otter takes a minor penalty, because of the ugly wound attack it took to its face. Huh, looks like that Charisma penalty does matter after all. Don’t look at me, I’m hideous, who will ever take me now.
“We don’t want to hurt you. We just want to be friends. Can we be friends? Will you help us? We can give you food. Yum yum, good food.”
What ho , worthy adversary. For such was a great battle for the ages, you really tricked this old bean into your ambush. So rare for such puny meals to best my formidable-ness. Shall we remove ourselves to recover, and enjoin again to test our mettle anon?
“What the??”
He’s, like, the smartest animal you have ever talked to. He really is a mastermind otter. Your badger, by the way right now, is licking his balls.
“Uh, you, don’t want food?”
Food, schmood. Look at me. I’m magnificent. I can get food anytime I please, I am master of these domains.
They try talking some more. They otter isn’t a genius, but as a dire animal has an Int of 6. He gives a clue about not trusting 2-leggers and their tricksy ways, and the party wonder if there might not be natives on this island. They mention the demon monkey and the otter gets mightily upset, his sleep is constantly interrupted by that simian hooligan, and his latest tryst with a promising lady thwarted, he would gladly join them if they found the noisy ruffian’s lair. They offer a parting gift of a pterodactyl egg. So big. So musky with scent of forming embryo. The river mammal hasn’t been able to scale any cliffs to get to the nests, he’s never tried one, but he goes wild when presented with the gift. Quickly snatching up a flat rock, rolling over onto his back, and crack crack cracking that egg open on his belly for all he’s worth.
“Eh. Okay. So we have a friend, but not really an ally.”
“Awww. I guess it was too much to hope for a mount.”

X marks the spot
They decide to keep going in the same direction, towards the bald hill, to look for buried treasure. No other problems getting there, or camping, and the next morning they watch the rising sun come up between two large rocks outcrops in the ocean and figure out where to dig. They’d brought along shovels and other tools and a digging badger, so after 4 hrs they clear a large 10 by 10 area, about 10 feet deep, ending in a large “floor” of wooden logs, which was a plug of sorts partway down a 10by10 shaft. At this point they find an old dwarven skeleton in rotting leather armor, gaping hole in the back of its leather jacket. Heal checks tell two of the PCs that he was stabbed in the back, into the heart, by these marks on the ribs. The witchdoctor however is sure he swallowed a snake that burst from his heart.
Instead of smashing or burning the logs, they decide to dig around them, only taking an hour. The ratling looks down with darkvision, the shaft continues in the dark, filled with crisscrossing beams and supports to some water 60 feet below. Suspecting traps, the paladin/rogue goes down with a Lighted skull, searching but no traps. At the bottom, two ghouls burst up from the water, where they’d been patiently waiting for their meal to come closer. The party hear him shriek, and call a holy smite upon somebody’s head, and laugh a challenge. He managed to kill the first ghoul with a smite/critical/sneak attack. Pretty damn lucky. They all start trying to climb down, but get bad climb rolls except the witchdoctor. The pally/rogue dodges a bite/claw/claw from the 2nd ghoul which hisses a challenge to his goddess and his wimpy powers.
“Oh? It speaks? These aren’t zombies!”
“Oh good. Wait… No. Oh crap! That’s even worse!”
The witchdoctor gets close enough to cast CLW, calling on his spirits, and has his dreadlocks snake out 10 feet and touch the ghoul. It shrieks as it’s arm turns white and flakes and crumbles, and pleads for forgiveness from its ancestors. It clambers up the shaft to the witchdoctor, ignoring an AofO as it’s jaw unhinges and it latches up onto the witchdoctors chest like a lamprey and lashes off thin ribbons of flesh with its whip tongue. He is able to avoid paralysis, and ghoul fever, but he’s almost dead. The paladin/rogue stabs again with a dagger, happy it’s not a zombie with piercing resistance, and the witchdoctor casts defensively for Chill Touch, and the ghoul panics, and screams for forgiveness for eating another human and tries to scramble away. Without dex bonus the AofO counts as a sneak attack, and it gets stabbed thunk right into it’s skull, murmuring and whispering about the hunger, the horrible hunger, you can’t imagine, why did this happen, not fair, trapped down here, stupid treasure…
They search around a bit more. Understandably hesitant about who to send down a watery tunnel. The pally/rogue finally goes, and finds a safe water tunnel running 15ft to a small airpocket chamber, where a waterproof chest sits on a ledge. He tried to hide it under his coat and returns to the others, to report there was nothing. The others, of course, are skeptical, and as the pally/rogue climbs back up the shaft the ratling notices a bulges on his back, under the fine giant snakeskin cloak he wears. They race up the shaft, rolling to try to beat each other, the ratling failing considerably. I had been passing notes back and forth with the character for a while, so they all were getting paranoid, maybe he was mind-controlled, or possessed with ghosts. Nope. He’s just being a typical thief. He gets to ground level, and tries to open the chest, but finds it nearly impossible with a disable device DC of 30. They others come out and confront him, trying desperately to open a chest with his crowbar, and realize he was just dicking around with them.
One of the PCs rightly remember that ghouls seem to get more intelligent the longer they’ve been without food, and usually arise from people who died after cannibalism. Those talking ghouls down there must’ve originally turned on each other, and then been stuck for ages, since the treasure was first buried.
They have about 3 hrs of light left, so decide to remain here on the bald hill, and pry open the chest. With his new rogue levels and disable device, and the crowbar, and others aiding, he can barely get enough if he takes 20, so sure, they can crack open the chest. They find a whole bunch of coins, and gems (about 4k worth), a MW coldiron starknife, which the pally/rogue really likes, since I think that’s the favored weapon of his goddess Sheylynn, a magic +1 darkwood buckler, which actually happens to fit the druid perfectly, and a scroll of Raise Dead.

Zap Zap my baby’s dead
Later, as they were moving around camp getting ready for the night, three shocker snakes noticed them and crept up. I ask them to make rolls, to determine position and direction from the campfire and what they’re doing, then roll again to determine approach direction of the enemy. It just happened that they came across the ratling as he was 60 feet away, partially unarmored, so, uh, I guess he was probably taking a dump. 3 on 1, nope, no love from the dice. The same thing has happened before, whenever I roll random targets, he tends to get picked on. He sucked on his perception rolls, and even the one he did see beat his initiative. One of them gave a minor zap of electricity when it flicked its tongue, the other two joined forces and unleashed a crackling explosive sphere of electrical energy that got everybody else’s attention. The ratling fell unconscious. The snakes beat initiative to rush forward against the next close target, the druid and badger. They zapped some more, and few times making cooperative blasts. The witchdoctor managed to put two of them down with Sleep, but the badger who’d been damaged was enraged and berzerking, and was just going to continue making normal attacks against a sleeping snakes before people could get in close to do a Coup de grace. They rushed in to charge and do normal damage to the sleeping snakes, after the rogue/pally finished off the remaining awake one, before the badger could screw it up and wake them up with lesser damage. They wake up from normal attacks and the beserking badger, and do another cooperative burst of electrical damage within 20feet. It’s scary but not too deadly, and they then manage to finish off the 2 last snakes. Then go and revive their ratling friend, probably slumped over a simple latrine or cut-hole bucket in his own filth.
“Ewww. Rat man.”
“Hey! I’ll have you know rats are actually very clean. Like cats.”
“Gods. Stop licking yourself. You call that clean?”
The random encounter was actually pretty tough, a 98% on the random encounter list. The snakes are still crackling with electrical energy. They can skin them, and make 3 electrical whips. A 5 foot range, automatic hit, reflex for half of 1d8 electrical damage. Or twist all three together and rip them in half to do a kamikazi attack to do 3d12 damage within 20 feet. Not hugely powerful, but added flexibility for people with already limited weapons. If the gunslinger is up against resistant zombies for example, or they find some minor demons or fey, at least one could pull out some electrical damage.

First contact
They sleep the night, the next morning, just as light is dawning, the druid hears some light shooshing noises, like movement. Jumping up she sees 4 humanoids silently charging thru the grass towards their camp. Crazy-eyed, almost naked, covered in deep pentagram scars, they are obviously wild cannibal natives, raging and snarling with determination. The human barbarians continue to charge in as everyone else wakes up to a warning cry. The ratling doesn’t even jump up, just shoots from his bedroll. “Taste hot paper, bastard.” Again, as always, the player rolls minimum damage. Always rolling a 1 on shot damage. The dice hate him. Are all your 6-sided dice cursed, or just that wooden box you roll in? We’ve started to call him the spit-ball shooter. Look out, those paper bullets can be kinda firm.
Each cannibal rushes a PC, a few run afoul of AofOs and readied actions. The badger gets a critical and dazes a cannibal as he charges in. A cannibal knocks out the ratling (no love) and starts picking him up, another whacks around the witchdoctor. Barry the badger finishes off the dazed guy beside him, the druid and rogue/pally flank and finish another, the withdoctor backs off and casts a daze cantrip, which works, and earns him an extra round of breathing time. “Oh wow. My worthless cantrip helped!” A cannibal lugs the ratling and starts carrying him off, the rogue/pally runs after him, gets a lunging attack, a critical, doing bleeding damage. The cannibal continues trying to run away with the ratling, but bleeds all over him, and soon flops over onto him. The party just sorta watched that barbarian struggle to get away for a couple rounds with smirks, reveling in the power of criticals. Forgetting for the while, of course, that the ratling is also technically bleeding out. The druid and badger come over and save the witchdoctor.
This is the first sign of cannibals or humanoids on the island. They seemed intent to take live prisoners. Aside from crude weapons, loin cloths, pentagram scars, they also have filed their teeth into points, and didn’t speak any Common, although they were human, and caucasians at that. (is there a better in-game term? Chelaxian? Arodian? Non-jungle?)

For the day, the party decides that there’s a few shipwrecks nearby that they want to scout out. Maybe one of them is linked to an NPC mini quest. Surely, it can’t take too long to search through them.
The first ship is called the ScallyWag. The masthead? It’s, uhm, a pervert? I guess, it looks like Quagmire, allllllright.
It’s not haunted. The whole party went.They make reflex rolls, and fort rolls, somebody takes some minor nonlethal damage from breaking thru rotting wood. Oh. It’s the ratkin. Ouch. 12 damage? Quite the fall, the timber broke all around you as you fell thru the actual hull onto some sharp rocks outside. Nope, no love from the dice. There was no loot to be found. He trades in a voodoo skin patch and gets some healing from the witchdoctor.
The next ship, called the WindWar. Masthead looks like a cannon poking out of a cloud. Everyone decides to go. Somebody else fails a reflex roll. Oh, 2 damage. I guess an old barrel just rolls over your toe. The Ratkin quivers at the injustice. They find some minor treasure, in the form of small silver statuettes.
The third ship, it’s called the Bearded Harpy, with a similar masthead.
“Ah, yes! This reminds me of my old wife…”
“Oh yeah, heh, why’s that i wonder?”
"Aye…. A beautiful woman! I’ll always miss her. But dammit, if she didn’t love the sea! And big ships, just like this. "
"… "
“What!? You thought I’d bad mouth my own wife, call her a dirty ugly beast!”
Okay! Add it to your character sheet.
"What, I was just joking around. "
Okay, fine, you don’t have to. It’d just be really cool if you did add a detail, like Ex-wife.

The party was thinking that all the ships were mostly empty. So they sent over just the paladin/rogue and the druid, because they had the best swim checks. I ask them to make the usual reflex and other checks, ask them some boring questions about their gear before demanding initiative suddenly. When opening a below-deck door they release 6 zombies. Yikes. I’m not killing them myself. And a full combat, what about the other two players? Okay you two. You’re in charge of these three zombies, and you drive these three. Keep track of their initiatives and hit points. Roll up the HP’s yourself, with 3d12 for each. Their attack is +0, their damage is blah blah, movement blah, AC is blah,, and basically I let 2 players run the enemies against the other two players. And they seemed to enjoy it, a short break from their regular characters I guess. And hey, slightly less work for me. The zombies were hobbled by the fact they only had partial actions, and the PCs were smart in not staying put, but moving around, and using reach weapons and slashing weapons. The badger and druid got hit down, the paladin/rogue was pretty low, after using smites and no longer able to use sneak attacks, but his polearm glaive with reach still allowed AofOs just for when the zombies shuffled towards him, so continual slow retreat won out the day. Oh wow, rattle look at that, a whole 30 gold.

They decided the next day they’d head back to base camp, to show the treasure from the treasure map to the NPC and get the miniquest reward. They went back to camp on the bald grassy hill. As they were spooning out a steaming chunky monkey stew a sudden rattle noise filled the air, everyone jumped back as a dull rattlesnake jumped up from where it had quietly snuck in towards them.
“The rattlesnake snuck in, towards us, looking for trouble. I thought snakes avoided confrontations.”
Snakes be crazy. At least on this island.
It was a pretty easy random encounter, two chops and it was dead. The witchdoctor managed to milk some weak venom from its fangs.

Later that night, the witchdoctor is on watch into the very early morning. The stars to the east are slowly fading as the black night lightens to a bluish hue. He rolls a pathetic perception rolls, failing against 3 hide checks. He then rolls a pathetic initiative… The others wake up. The druid smacks her lips and groggily wonders why she hasn’t been woken for her turn on watch. Where is that mangy witchdoctor. Not at the latrines? Not doing mumbo jumbo spirit talking or whatever, not wandering around the cliff edge? Huh, seems the witchdoctor is gone, as the party looks around. Oh. Tracking skills show an obvious struggle nearby, a few spatters of blood, a witchdoctor-sized body dragged through the grass. The cannibals have taken their party member! The cannibals have made no attempt to hide their trails, so following them isn’t hard. The party comes across a trail through the jungle. They hadn’t come across any trails before, the trails only run around the southern island areas where the cannibals roam. Movement is 4 times faster. They also come across another random encounter. Look out! 3 jungle goats. The party just kill them for some more meat and keep going after their kidnapped friend. They come across a few traps set across the paths, but the badger in the lead actually gets good perception rolls and dodges most. One he sets off, and the vines tighten around his feet and whip him up towards some spiky plants which hit him, and do minor damage, but he berzerks and goes wild and tears at the vine and falls back down 20 feet, and the others run away as the druid tries to slowly calm him back down. Another trap, flung up into the air, but missed by the spiky plants, so they can properly approach, and cut the vine with a polearm and catch the badger as he falls. They’re trying to avoid any damage now, without any healing voodoo available from the missing witchdoctor. Their trail goes into a bit of a gully, flanked on both sides by steep jungle hills. They sense a trap, and see it before stepping into it. They also see a lone cannibal hiding up the slope watching them. They try to climb up after him, he set off the trap, and tries to drag the badger up to him, but the badger grabs into the dirt strongly. By the time they climb up the slope the cannibal has run away into the dense jungle, he’s not stupid enough to take them on by himself. And we break for the night, on a bit of a cliffhanger: is the witchdoctor even now getting marinated in preparation for a cannibal feast?
Serpent Skull 4
Ghost busters
The party looked at their options. Still a mini-quest open from the Cleric NPC for evidence of his innocence from a shipwreck. Lots of island to the south to explore. They had found an old campsite of their captain and the varisian scholar who were responsible for their current marooned state, with possible trail to follow them. They decided to go back to the old campsite, and try to pick up a trail.

They gear up with supplies and pull on their armor and shine up their weapons and venture once more into the jungle, get lucky with no random encounters, and climb over the hilly spine of the spit they’re on to get back to that old campsite of the other 2 they’d found. It’s been 6 days since they’d been there, and there’s heavy rain for about an hour every day, so some major penalties to finding tracks. Nope, sorry, they find no tracks, no scent, nothing to follow. They shrug and decide to continue exploring south while there’s still daylight, and near the end of the day look down the cliffy area of jungle they’re on, down to the sharp jagged rocky surf and see another ship wreck. Making a cautious decision, they opt to wait until the next day.

Over night, the witchdoctor hear some moaning and yelling noises above the sounds of night birds and hunting cats and dire lemurs. Far below, down the cliff, in the surf. He wakes the others and they look down, the rat-kin makes out a distant humanoid form slowly walking around on the water. Calling, cursing. “Oh, my Asha, where are you my love?! To see your face again! Damn them, damn their mutinous hides! I’ll kill them, kill them all!” And on and so forth. The figure doesn’t glow, or look green, just like some far off person walking around on the water, wandering up north, doesn’t seem rooted to a spot or concentrating around the nearby ship wreck.

“Cripes. No way we’re going down there.” They hesitantly go back to sleep, careful to make sure the noises don’t come closer.

The next morning, they carefully climb down the cliffs to the rocks. In the morning, at low tide, the ship is 50 feet away, the surf isn’t quite as stormy and only a Swim 15 check. The wooden masthead looks like a Raggedy Andy doll snarling and wielding two cutlasses, and they read “Bloody Doll” on the sides. Oh, that’s not the wreck they’re looking for, but may as well search it anyways. The druid has the best swim skill, so they figure they’ll let her swim out, attach a rope to the ship, and let the others come across with the rope.

On the way, the druid, she fails a few swim rolls, not all that great at swimming, flounders a bit, but manages to get to the wreck. She climbs up the rotted hull, spotted with gaint barnacles, and looks around. Boards creaking and groaning, slipping around a little, jumping around to avoid collapses, she pulls off her rope and starts tying it around a side rail. As the others grab the rope to start swimming the door across the deck at the captain’s quarters slams open and skeletons start swarming out. Only a few beat her initiative, and only get beside her up the wet slanted deck without attacking yet. Six skellies against her, the others only able to shoot in. Fight? Hell no. She squeaks, backs off and vaults over the railing into the water, the others start shooting crossbows and guns, which suck against skeletons, as the undead follow her by splashing into the water around her. They absolutely suck at swimming, what with barely any surface area to wave around in the water, but she gets really bad swim rolls too, and sinks down with them around her, some clawing and tearing at her clothes. The party is basically freaking, and the druid fails double swim rolls for movement for 3 or 4 rounds and keeps sinking with the skeletons.

The witchdoctor remembers they have a potion of Water Walking, and downs the potion and runs out over the water with his long spear, poking and probing around. The druid finally gets a couple decent swim rolls and is able to fight against the undercurrent to rise up towards the surface and get some air, and grabs onto the long spear. The skeletons basically keep sinking. The witchdoctor pulls the druid up and piggy-backs her, and they go up the ship and climb up the hull again. The others two stay on the shore on look out. In the dark surging waters, none of the skeletons can realistically see anything, or sense the living creatures that far away and just stay put, randomly wandering. The two search the wreck, but only find a piddly 30 or so GP worth of swanky pirate gear like masterwork peg legs and fine embalmed parrots.

The water-walking potion still has close to 50 minutes worth, by checking the magical gauge that appears on the user’s wrist, so the witchdoctor, with halfling on piggy back, decides to go scouting out south along the water for 25 minutes, since movement is so much quicker than sludging thru the jungle. No real chance of random encounters either. He spots a lagoon further south with another ship wreck in it. And better makes out some of the nearby topography of the jungle with a flat hill top area further south. The little magical indicator on his wrist beeps, halfway through the potion, starts to water-walk back to the others.

No problems joining back up, and still have most of the day left, they trek to the south. On the way, after a few hours, they hear some loud thrashing and hissing noises up ahead in the jungle. The paladin gets a really good perception check, it sounds like a giant snake fighting something. They go forward, and find a giant boa constrictor surrounded by six yellowish zombies, biting and clawing at it. Nature and Religion checks identify them as yellow musk zombies, created by naturally occurring plant spores, not magic or negative energy. They hang back for a round or two, and notice the zombies suck at attacking, but are basically immune to the snake’s bites, and it’s begun trying to constrict them with secondary attacks but it’s really slow since it can’t slash. They wade in and join the attack, concentrating on the zombies, and learn that like normal zombies slashing weapons work best, and they only have partial actions, and most keep concentrating on the largest victim, the giant boa. The gunslinger reluctantly pulls a dagger. The paladin has a glaive which is slashing. The witchdoctor has a piercing longspear, so instead uses it to Aid Another to give bonuses to the badger who can do slashing damage with its claws, and the druid gleefully charges in with her tiny scythe. Criticals happen a couple times, with different effects that can affect undead, like “Eat Dirt” where the victim falls and gets blinded with mud.

They start picking off the zombies with strategy and movement, once the gunslinger shoots at the snake but misses. The snake takes a few big hits from zombies, a couple times the zombies break off to attack the newcomers but mostly miss. The druid remembers his wild empathy, and implies to the snake that they are there to help and won’t hurt the snake, the snake accepts this and flickers its tongue in a thank-you serpenty way that the druid kind of understands. A zombie gets a crit bite, and almost chews thru the snake’s skull to its juicy brain, it spasms around but continues trying to crush the one it’s grappled. The crush damage is heavily penalized, but at least it keeps one zombie grappled. With piercing/bludgeoning the primary attack of the bites isn’t great, but the badger’s attack training isn’t sophisticated enough to only specify claws, so it’s only really effective if it gets the full attack option, if nobody else killed it’s nearby target. No 5-foot moves in the heavy jungle, except for the witchdoctor, who took a trait that allows for no hindrance in jungle for the first 10 feet.

They finally manage to kill the last yellow musk zombie, splitting it in half in a cloud of spores. More fort rolls asked of the players. The druid’s player finally feels able to answer his mobile phone which has been going off for the last thirty minutes, and takes a recess to the balcony to talk .

“What about this snake?”

It looks weary and hurt, but not threatening to you.

“Huh. Well, i guess we could try to befriend it.”

“Screw that! Rats and snakes? And with my dire rat hanging around out of combat? We are NOT on friendly terms. I shoot it in the head.”

“Thataboy! I flank and chop.”

Uh. Really?? Combat is over. It’s indicated a friendly willingness to let you go and even thanked the druid. You guys are getting full XP. Snake included. You don’t have to kill to get xp. You sure? Still wanna?

“Screw snakes and parcel-tongues !”

Woah. Fine, okay.

Blam. Chop. The snake slowly uncoils from the trees and slumps to the ground.

The druid’s player returns from his phone discussion. "Hey. What happened to the snake? "

“It… had an acciden—”

“We killed that fucker!”

“God damn it!”

It was a tough and memorable combat. It was the combination of both an alpha predator location and random encounter. The snake’s skin is beautiful, fine shiny sheen of greens and blues, meters long if skinned, appraised at over 500gp. I make sure and let the players know, in meta-gaming terms, they didn’t have to kill the snake, I would’ve provided loot on the zombie bodies if they’d let it live. I DO let the players know that the snake is so big and beautiful that it might even be a locally important animal. They joke that maybe they killed a local chieftain’s pet, and I seriously confirm to them that it’s a distinct possibility, they’d have just slaughtered a fine majestic animal. Not that they’d met any natives or islanders yet, but just reminding that maybe they’ve screwed things up royally by killing that snake the druid was trying to befriend.

They continue exploring south, and find the lagoon that the witchdoctor had earlier spotted while water walking. The ship wreck has a demonic figure head, old greened up brass, it reads Brine Demon. The ship wreck they were looking for!

It’s close to the shore, in a lagoon fairly protected from the surf, no problems if they carefully pick over the rocks. No random encounters. No set encounters. They roll for things like balance and climb to avoid smashing thru rotted planks or twisting ankles, or for sneaking around, but they’re fine. In the captain’s quarters they find an old dead skeleton with a hook hand, holding a fine waterproof darkwood case. They fearlessly attack the skeleton and scatter its bones, the heroes!, the paladin takes its skull and hook, they take the coffer, and decide against opening it while on the ship.

Back on shore, on firm sand and in open area they inspect the coffer. They could try an untrained Disable Device, or a strength check the break it open. The paladin is carrying a crowbar.

Really?? A crowbar?

“Yeah! Look, right here, I’ve written it down.” Huh. He has written it down. “Plus: I could use it as a makeshift club if required. I don’t carry around all my various sundries, but I am carrying this one around for some reason.”

Weird…okay, fine. Bonus on the strength check to open the locked coffer.

They snap the fine lock and open the coffer, and find a bunch of papers, some ledgers and logs, a fancy dagger, and a golden locket. The witchdoctor detects magic from the dagger, but can’t tell what it does. The ledgers and papers show pay-offs and illegal bribes and money skimming, basically all the proof that the Cleric NPC of Nethys would need to clear his name of corruption to the authorities. The locket opens to show a very fine painted portrait of a half-elven woman, with the name Ashalaryn written underneath.

“Hey, wait! Didn’t that ghostly form last night keep moaning about an Asha?”

Yes. You are correct. That’s what the distant moaning voice in the stormy night sounded like it was calling.

The paladin looks at his crowbar, and the Rat-kinds engineering skills. “Oi, can we remove that demonic brass figure head?”

What? Uh, sure, you could try.

“Okay, let’s go out there, and pry off that brass masthead. Maybe we can sell it when we get back to civilization, or at least bolster our claims of salvage.”

Sure. The paladin and ratkin engage in some pratfall-filled attempts and finally remove the brass figure head amongst many bruises and three-stooges hijinks, and everyone has a nice laugh. Way later on, back in base camp, the bard and cleric NPCs appraise the figurehead they’ve been lugging around at 1000gp and the paladin pumps his fist a few times in righteous vindication.

They still have half the day left, and decide to go further south to check out the flat hill top. On the way they stumble into some giant webs, everyone but druid and badger caught up. But the spider rolls a 1 on initiative, so everyone frees themselves in time, some of them ready an action. When in pounces down on it’s wriggling prey, with a pathetic 2, it splats flat, and people get readied or AofO attacks. It’s almost dead, and by the next round they play around, making dinky attacks with their worst weapons and kill it, mocking and laughing the whole time.

“Ha ha. What a loser. "

“Take that…uh, the Jar Jar of spiders.”

“Yeah, suck it. No wonder you’re all out here by yourself, cast out by your spider society.”

Searching around, they still find loot for a CR2 creature, in the form of fine pelts and crystallized cocoons, or shiny beetle carcasses in other webs.

“Holy crap, for a useless spider, he sure was rich.”

“Yeah, like a trust fund spider. He just inherited his wealth from his competent parents. He spends most of his time cruising in gaudy cars, wearing questionable fashions and listening to bad european music.”

They climb up the incline as it gets dark to the top of a hill on a small premonitory of the island. The jungle gives way to a large bald area of nothing but high grass. Nice view of the ocean to the east. Jungle noises considerably quieted, only the hypnotic buzzing of ciccadas. Nice place to make camp. Finally get away from those caterwauling dire sloths after all these days. They use the druid’s scythe to clear the high grass in a big circle, move around a slight rise, and light a nice fire for roasted snake meat barbeque.

During the night, the witchdoctor is on watch when the slowly smoldering fire suddenly flares up in a white pillar, and a hazy wavering humanoid form materializes, and starts screaming at him.

“My love, my one and only, you have her, give her, show me, come to me, die you traitorous bastards!” A skeletous form, dripping wet constantly, wearing a captain’s hat and coat, with a hook hand.

Initiatives are rolled. The paladin wins, he wakes with an annoyed start, sees someone over the fire, detects for evil. No evil? Bah, screw this, I need my sleep. He rolls back around to sleep again. Everyone else of course freaks out as they wake up. The spectre hasn’t attacked anyone, nobody attacks yet, the witchdoctor tries pouring sand over the fire, only succeeding in lowering the visible light but not weakening the figure who just steps back looking annoyed. He starts calling for his Asha, and sending out challenges to his crew, the bastards who’ve betrayed him.

The group takes some time to figure out what to do. Most move around and flank him, and ready actions. Somebody finds the skull in the paladin’s pack and throws it at the ghost. It takes three round before anyone goes digging for the locket. By module rules that’s long enough for the ghost to freak out and attack the most responsible member, being the dismissive paladin who’s STILL trying to get some sleep. The ghost gropes about his body, searching pockets and packs and private places, leeching life from him, aging him several years.

“Ah. Fuck!”

“Everyone, attack!”

They go into full fledged attack mode, trying to flank, pulling any possibly magical weapons out, druid casting Magic Fang on their meat-shield badger. Nice idea, badger gets full attacks, and now he can damage. Whenever the badger hits it makes fort saves, but takes aging damage. Other people using small magical daggers have Reflex roll to avoid touching the ghostly form, or risk aging damage. Only the skaven, sorry rat-kin, keeps thinking of the golden locket and roots through the paladin’s pack for it.

“Here! fine, take it, you drippy bastard! " He winds up and throws the locket at the ghost. Nice roll. Right through the head, full force. No damage, no effect, it sails (rolling maximum) 60 feet away, into the darkness away from the dying campfire that’s just been banked with sand. It’s sitting out there, in the dark night, in high grass.

Everyone groans.

“We need that locket?”

Hmm. Maybe…yeah, duh, you do. They all race around, searching in the dark.

Luckily, the ghost focuses on the locket, and leaves them alone as it chases the locket, trying ineffectually to pick it up, it’s incorporeal hand useless as it keeps bending over and swiping around. The badger keeps following its order to attack and charges, the druid hasn’t changed his attack orders, minor hit for damage, but it burbles as its fur all turns white and teeth fall out and joints grind. Others charge, and manage to avoid physical contact while swiping with short daggers. The rat-kin keeps focus on target. “The locket, the locket, open the locket!” I feel I’ve started making it more obvious, the ghost screaming that he has to see her, where is she, where is her beautiful face. A few more rounds, with the ghost mostly ignoring them, he wasn’t attacking them directly, but they keep attacking, some taking corruption damage if they touch him while swiping, and Barry the badger actually DIES, his body finally withers up and bones crackle as he drops after biting too many times at the pure antithesis of nature and life. The ratkin finally moves around and grabs the locket up, and opens it. He displays it out to the ghost. “Here, dumbass! Is this what you want?!”

“Ahhhhh, my love. Finally. There you are. Just as I left you. " The ghost traces the small painted portrait slowly, and beings to fade and sucks into the locket.

“Quick! Close it. Yeah, sucked up, trapped, just like ghostbusters. You’ve been busted, sucka.”

“Never open that locket again.”

“Well, maybe has a prank.”

“Jeez, that’s one hell of an April’s Fool.”

I clarify that the badger is only bleeding out, can be saved and revived. Aging effects are flavour only, rules-wise he only took hit points damage. Sure, we could have the badger gumming away at enemies, and swiping with its walking canes, but no stat changes. Nah. The druid doesn’t want a geezer badger. The paladin, worshiper of Shelyn and all things beautiful agrees that such a decrepit old thing is too ugly to live, and puts it out of its misery/yuckiness.

“Whatever, I can get a new badger in 24 hours. "

But…what?…don’t you want a cool elderly badger smacking down on young whipper-snappers?? Oh fine, whatever.

The next day they decide to go back to base camp. They have the ledgers from the shipwreck of the Brine Demon, which should complete the NPC mini quest from the cleric.

The badger is dead; with their meatshield gone, and unable to heal up very well from damage, they’re feeling vulnerable. They come across and recognize the hunting grounds of another alpha predator, a giant river otter, but do well enough to avoid it, and sneak around it’s lair.

They come across another map Hot Spot. While hacking and slashing through heavy undergrowth, slogging through mud and roots and pushing aside heavy ferns, they suddenly stumble across a clearing in the jungle. About 25 feet in diameter, filled with dying withered plants, with a large yellowish plant waving around in the center, flanked by two figures. Humanoids? Oh shit, yellow, spore exuding zombies. Too late, they’ve spotted us.

A yellow musk creeper tree, and two of its progeny, and combat starts. The zombies lurch forward. With only half-actions for the zombies, and 5 ft movement for the tree, I expected the party to maneuver around better. But no, the zombies, with partial movements only, and +0 to hit, actually manage to injury the party badly, and smack down the paladin unconscious. The more dangerous foe, the tree, gets really bad rolls multiple times when shooting spores at them while creeping forward, and they kinda discount the tree. It takes 5 rounds for the tree to get close enough, but finally reaches out tendrils to the helpless form of the paladin, and tiny creepers bore into his skull. And start draining intelligence damage.

“Ah! He’s trying to zombify our paladin!”

Well, yeah, that’s what he does.

They finally started freaking out enough to step up their game, and take down one zombie then the other. The witchdoctor uses a potion of CMW to wake the paladin and let him rip his head free of the brain tendrils. The paladin waded in with two swords, even with crappy to-hit rolls with untrained two weapons, zombies are not hard to hit, you just need to cut off body parts and do lots of slashing damage, so even with crappy rolls, and risking AofOs he moves around doing some decent damage, and helps down the two zombies. The others flank the tree and start attacking. The tree looks green and squichy and pulpy, no bark, no hardness, just wet slopping tendrils, the gunslinger bangs in, doing full damage with a shot, and finally everyone else piles on and finish it off.

Geeez. That seemed a little harder than it shoulda been. Well, sorry, but no loot. Nothing. Too bad. Sometimes survival is it’s own reward.

They continue on their way back to base camp. They come across the beach, jungle giving way to sand. They see some broken down simple shelters, a small makeshift camp at some time, now abandoned. Also, a lone yellow zombie woman, standing at the shore’s edge, staring out to the waters wistfully.

“Fuck yellow zombies!” They charge forward, slaughtering it fairly quickly.

Searching around afterwards, they find nothing but sagging or collapsed simple shelters made of driftwood or plant material. And old blood, splashes, pools, drag marks. Looks like several people at least used to live here, all slaughtered or dragged off. Huh. They’d make a minor note and move on.

They keep moving up the shore towards their base camp. Nature/perception checks note the signs of another nearby alpha predator, probably giant crabs. They make good rolls, and decide to fling off old rotting meat into the surf, and then sneak off around in the jungle.

They get back to base camp. They show the ledgers and governmental books and such to the NPC cleric. This is precisely the evidence he needs, to clear his name, how fortunate. He offers his quest reward. Wait…+2 to concentrate checks. What?! That’s not even a skill in Pathfinder anymore. Screw that. They’ve been through enough, and fought off a 3rd level ghost without any loot. He will instruct them in any of the skills he has, several knowledges or spellcraft or survival and they can get a +2 bonus. It should be something they actually want, dammit. How many non-spellcasters want concentrate or spellcraft, geez.

They also identified some other potions they’d found, some Lessor Restorations. And they identified the magic dagger as a plain +1. And, what the hell, the NPC’s will trade weapons. The paladin trades his crossbow for a MW rapier from the chick missing her fingers from the pterodactyls. Hey, at least she can sorta use this weapon while guarding base camp. Someone else trades for a kukri, and another takes a MW compound bow. Ah, yes. Very good. They’re learning. Some of their weapons suck, but overall, by encountering skeletons, then zombies, they realized they need different types of weapons, or at the very least a secondary weapon or ranged weapon. Good, that’s true player experience right there. I won’t cater explicitly, but will allow some flexibility with the NPCs, since they don’t have access to weapon stores or crafting.

The NPCs are all super happy with the party and their progress. The Xian vagrant gives his mini quest; he’d had a bunch of old treasure maps he wanted to follow on the jungle continent, but one of them is on an island, maybe by the shape this very island? You have to wait until sunrise, stand a spot where the sun/shadow shines blah blah blah, it’s on a high hill bald of all jungle and only high grasses. “Goddammit! Weren’t we just there!”

The gnome bard NPC made some mistakes and is on “probation” from the pathfinder society which he wants to join. Within his vast archives of history he remembers a certain ancient pathfinder ship was lost around this area, maybe crashed on this island. Any info into a crashed pathfinder ship or crew would probably get him back to active duty with the triumvirate.

Oh, and they level up to 2nd level. Everyone continues on their class path, except the paladin, who multi-classes into a rogue after many hours of discussion with the Xian rogue, and gains mega skills. The witchdoctor considers crafting some simple alchemical weapons, the gunslinger considers crafting some special ammo, and the paladin/rogue starts construction of some really comfy beds and fancy bug nets with his new Craft:carpentry.

Serpent Skull 3
Prisoner Rescue
In session 3, everyone was present. They decided to go back to base camp. They were on a curved spit, so they went over some jungle mountains to the other side and decided to travel back on the opposite side of the spit. They came across another map-point of predator, and rolled well enough to recognize they were coming across some predator lair. So they tried sneaking, but the giant grabs noticed them and attacked as they neared the rocky shore. The battle was only a little tough, with Barry the Badger falling unconscious while grappled with a giant crab. The RatKin saw how useful his firearms were against monsters with high natural armor. They found out that the lower belly plate of the largest crab was often used in the country for reflective, mother-of-pearl masterwork shields, worth good money after cleaned.

They then continued up the spit, to get opposite where the original base camp was located. They’d traveled up some easy beaches, but would have to climb some cliffs, and travel through mountainous jungles to cut through the spit to get back to their camp. They spotted pterodactyls around here, small and large, launching from cliffs to go fishing in the nearby ocean. They found a nice break in the cliffs that would be easy to climb, but knowledge rolls told them that they might be ambushed by pterodactyls if they climbed up. They probably watched for other landborne animals, like the ubiquitous jungle goats. The paladin looked around, spotted a smaller pterydactyl and shot it. It fell dead, flapping into the ocean. He removed his armor, swam out and retrieved the dead body. He then draped the dead body over his back and fastened the wings over his arms, so he could flap them about a little bit, and created a disguise to look like a smaller pterodactyl, and then started climbing up the cliff. The three large Dimorphodons, if you want to get technical, that were hiding in a nearby nest hear him, but look out, and only see a struggling pterodactyl on the rocks. He attaches a rope and throws in down.

The gunslinger and druid try climbing up quietly, the rope makes it safe on a take-10, and get good rolls on their sneak. The witchdoctor has no sneak, but gets a good nature check, and finds discarded hock-balls, like what owls do when eating the entire mouse, they hock up bones and fur. He coats himself in them, and some leafy plants and climbs up. He’s already a smelly disgusting mess that the others avoid. The dimorphodons hear, and look out, but only see what they consider a large piece of vomit/shit crawling up the cliff.

The party regroups at the top, and sneak up to look at the large winged dinosaurs. There are three dimophodons, and some eggs, and, what’s this?, a humanoid body.

They wait a little, until the reptiles start basking in the sun, then sneak up, and fight the 3 beasts. They hear and fly up before the PCs get too close, and use fly-by attacks. The paladin is knocked unconscious half way through, but the people who are sneaking are pretty safe. People use good use of readied actions, and pulling out reach weapons, and the badger tries to grapple onto one that is swooping past, and they kill off the dinosaurs. They go down and investigate the cliff ledge/nest, and find some eggs, some creepy hissing babies, and a barely living woman. It’s the tatooed NPC chick Sasha who left their camp. She’s barely alive, it looks like the animals cut off parts of her body and sucked her blood to feed to their young. She’s missing chunks of muscle, and most of her fingers and toes and her ears, and the party contemplates putting her out of her misery, but they remember that civilization does have ways of healing her. They make heal checks to keep her alive, make a stretcher and drag her back to base camp. They figure they killed a mated couple and the youngling, and the eggs are probably fertilized, and take back 3 eggs.

They get back to their base camp, and talk with the NPCs and nurse up. Another PC starts going thru disease symptoms for an incubated disease but uses viper nettle berries to fight it off. The Withdoctor fights off further disease and heals as well. They provide berries to the half-elven girl and she recovers from alcohol addiction and becomes an ally and reads them the grand epic poem she’d been writing, which provides permanent +1 Will saves against compulsions. The tatooed girl they’d rescued thanks them profusely for saving her from a slow torturous death with the pterodactyls, and becomes an ally, and tells them how she was excommunicated from her mother’s Red Mantis assassins guild, that’s why she was so suspicious of the PC who boarded the ship with her, she was afraid of getting killed when leaving, and trains them in ambush maneuvers to all gain a permanent +1 on initiative rolls. They talk with the Xian man and use diplomacy rolls to get him on their side, and use the key to unlock the shackles from the NPC prisoner who tells them he’s looking for any proof of his innocence, possibly aboard a certain shipwreck that may have beached near this island. They spend an extra 2 days and basically all the NPCs will help them now or will at least join their base camp.

At night during those two nights, the person on watch at night feels he’s being watched, gets the sense of large red eyes shining from the nearby jungle. At times then, and earlier, they’d heard loud shrieking noises at night, like a giant rabid chimpanzee, but that’s no chimpanzee. They attributed it towards the thing that flies around them at night and watches. In the last few days, when they go out for the day they often come across hanging bloodless and headless monkeys hanging from trees or vines, like warnings or challenges. So they set up a simple trap with bloody meat, and at night they hear it clack and snap and they go investigate, only more ravaged monkey bodies. They’re worried, something is watching them at night, they never go exploring at night, and for the last few days have always stopped to make camp before it turns dark.

They set off for some nearby old ship wrecks they’d seen, hoping they might help with the prisoner they’d freed, who they learn is a cleric of Nethys. Nearby an old wreck, the night guard wakes them to fight off some skeletons quietly walking out of the surf towards them, and they come awake and smash them apart with driftwood, firewood and large blunt weapons. Searching the shipwreck and then later another shipwreck only gets them some loot in the form of loose GP. While camping at these other sites, they still feel something is watching them, and one day go out and find a blood-drained jungle goat, with large tooth marks on its neck. Back at base camp they set another trap, capturing a jungle goat alive, and setting it above a large bear trap, and setting up a ring of gunpowder and kindling in a ring around. That night there’s a large foosh and snap, and bleat of dying goat, and they all run out to see some shadowy creature in a ring of fire screeching in pain and flapping away on large wings. They can’t get there in time, but the RatKin with his darkvision sees something like a demonic monkey on demon wings flying away hurriedly, and when they investigate they find red scaly skin in the bear trap.

They decide they need to explore the main body of the island further south some more, and move their base camp down the spit. With all their items and engineering knowledge, it’s no problem to rig up some sleds and wheel barrows to slowly transport their constructions materials and gear thru the jungle further south, and they set up a new base camp. We leave off from there.

Serpent Skull 2
Branching out
This session with only 3 guys they went back to their shipwreck and got some gear, and all the gear the paladin had from his set-for-exploration character trait. They carefully picked their way over rocks during low tide towards the ship, fought 3 crab-scorpion crustaceans on the way there, and found a much bigger crab-scorpion in the ship. It was medium sized, supposed to be tough, but the druid ran in and got a critical with her small-sized scythe. Sure, normally only 1d4 damage, but with x4 on criticals that was 3 crit cards he drew from the deck, so he managed to down it with a single hit. Yeah, man! They heard the ominous scrabbling noises since they boarded, and felt scared and apprehensive until finally manning up and running down for a confrontation with me drawing up a small map, so it was a nice win.

They found the key for the manacles of the shipwrecked prisoner, and the Captain’s Log, but they were really happy to find all the gear from the paladin. Basically almost every non-magical item of gear from the players handbook, except maybe the waterclock and telescope. That’s a LOT of stuff when you’re marooned. The Ratling even took a rank in Knowledge:Engineering, and now he could jury-rig all kinds of cool stuff to improve their camp. No, no monkey-butlers just yet, but still, they could easily max out their new campsite, and reduce chance for disease, exposure and random encounters.

They’d found the small skiff of the emergency boat smashed up beside the mostly destroyed hulk of the ship, crushed between the ship and the cliff face. So, no little boat to make a getaway from the island.

They’d found some empty rooms, most of the lower parts of the ship were smashed up or torn away, no signs of the rest of the crew.

They’d found the captain’s quarters, and desk. Found a ring of keys, and some locked boxes. Used some keys on the locked boxes to find some fragile magic potions that would’ve easily broken on forced attempts (several CLW, 2 CMW, and a water breathing).

After killing that large crab-scorpion, in the door it was trying to breach they found the dead first mate. Obviously killed by the bloated blackened poisoned lower leg. But he also had an older severe wound to his belly, looked like a rapier stab. In another room they found the bloated body of Rambo, the cook, who was killed by giant snake fang bites to the neck. “Oh, shit. It wasn’t the cook who poisoned us? Fine, we’ll treat him decent”. They blessed, beheaded, and brought back the bodies to bury in some sand, to prevent undead revivals.

The Captain’s log starts out normal, good details on weather and heading and charts, but start to get more disjointed, shorter or missing important details, then full days or weeks missing, obvious infatuation and then love poems written to Ieanna the Varisian scholar, who was a passenger on-board, about her gypsy exotic looks and sensuality and bookish good sense. He starts ranting about how others may be looking at “his Ieanna”, he make plans to guide the ship towards the deserted isle of Smuggler’s Shiv on her request, so maybe the two of them can live there together happily for the rest of their lives. The last entry notes that the first mate is suspicious, and something will need to be done. Duh duh duuuhhhhh.

On the afternoon they do a great job improving camp family robinson. The next night another nightmare, the Voodoo witchdoctor dreams he’s supping with the others on the ship, but drops his spoon in a rapidly flooding ship. But he continues drinking his soup, bringing the bowl up, but something jumps out and bites onto his tongue, and he finds a snake frantically chewing his tongue trying to devour it and eat into him, and he’s forced to try to bite off his own tongue before it gets down his gullet.

The person on watch feels a certain malevolence, something watching them, from the dark shadows of the nearby jungle. The next day they hack and clear more space around their camp. The next day the druid goes exploring a little, getting a better lay of the land, and figuring out how slow moving through dense jungle mountain island really is. 2 hrs for every 1 mile basically. That’s like an overland move of 0.5, or 5feet.

Since the paladin isn’t playing that session, and I remind them that Diplo rolls with unfriendly NPCs is pretty tough at around 20, they decide not to free the prisoner NPC in the shackles with their new keys until the paladin returns. They don’t want him giving the finger and running off in to the jungles on his own, and I assure them it’s fine, they won’t lose attitude if they just wait. They remember the half-elven chick, who’s trying to get off booze, and the voodoo doctor and druid recall that they might be able to find viper berries around here. They grow high up in the jungle mountains. Could they possibly be found around here, on this island? But of course! Could it possibly be some kind of mini-quest? Again, you are correct sir! It’s almost as if you’d get some tangible reward out of finding those berries, which certainly must grow on this island! Bing. They get a mini quest.

Their base camp is secure, they can get food/water easily. Rescue is hopeless. One NPC went wandering off on her own and hasn’t come back. Another NPC wants berries, found high up in mountainous regions to the east. There is a lot of land further south, which may hold any number of surprises or plot twists. You have no supplies to make a boat to escape. Situation seems pretty clear.

Luckily they found dry rations while exploring their old ship wreck, so they give some departing instructions and strike off into the jungle island. The going is slow, and slogging and sweaty. Noises and animal calls everywhere. Giant dragonflies buzzing by, lizards scampering on thick limbs, monkeys hooting, beetles suddenly taking wing in a loud staticcky cloud, three large snakes around you waver their heads in your direction and strike.

“Wait, what, they strike?”

There’s animals EVERYwhere. You failed to notice their predatory approach.

It’s a tough battle, for three PCs. The snakes’ poison from their bites seem more scary than the actual damage. The druid uses Barry the Badger well, using him as a meat shield. A snake gets a fumble and bites another snake. All in all it was tough and tense, though nobody dropped, and the whole time they were doing a good job with tactics.

The voodoo doctor was able to harvest poison from one of the snakes. He’s earlier harvested poison from the crab-scorpions.

Later on, they had to sleep in the jungle, the night was fine, another random encounter in the morning was for a troupe of monkeys. Nothing dangerous, and the witchdoctor just hit most of them with a sleep spell, and they slit their throats for some extra food/monster-bait.

They came across a point for a predator, and made the nature rolls to realize they were in the zone of an alpha predator. They snuck up on a single large snake, with clicking/rustling crest of spine sails, which tried to sway and hypnotize the scouting druid, but they fought and killed it fairly easily.

They kept exploring, and found a big bramble of thorny bushes, and found some viper nettle berries, which would help for the NPC who wanted to get off the booze. Also it would help with Fort saves against disease. The druid swam across the river around it, and slowly moved around the thorns and gathered berried. He dodged most of the thorns and toxins, and they managed to harvest a full 12 handfuls.

They could go right back, but on the map they were really close to another spot; they could look down a small gully from their mountainous location to another small beach nearby. They went down the slopes to a beach and found an abandoned camp fire, from somebody else, and not too old. The found some varisian gypsy scarves caught in nearby jungle vegetation, and a tri-cornered captain’s hat, and found footprints and figured their ship’s captain and the varisian scholar had been here, maybe a few nights ago, and wandered off further to the south into the jungle island.

They camped there overnight. Overnight someone else had another nightmare. The first mate was rowing the person to an island, but he was dead, with a bloated and poisoned leg, and rapier wound to the gut. He dropped the person off onto an island swarming with snakes ankle-deep, and rowed away again as the person stood there confused and suddenly attacked by all the snakes. The person on night watch heard loud flapping sounds overheard, like a giant bat, several times, circling high over their campground.

The next morning the voodoo doctor had fevers and shakes from a disease that had been incubating from previous nighttime bug bites. He was already suffering from the effects of poison from the 3 large snakes, and lost some more ability points from the Red Ache. The party found some dire rats ripping and scavenging through their food supplies. The RatKin wanted to try to get a rat companion, so he got a decent roll and befriended one, and the other one was lured off by rotten monkey carcasses by the rest of the group.

The party wasn’t sure if they wanted to keep going and exploring, or go back to base camp, to let the witchdoctor recover from poison/disease and present the viper nettle berries they’d found. They postponed their decision for the next session.

Serpent Skull 1
Crash landing
So we started off waking up one at a time, groggy and nauseous, burning under a hot sun, gritty sand rasping against their cheek, surf splashing up against their legs. A beach? What happened to the ship they were on?

The first guy was woken up by the pain of something cutting his feet, and started awake. The ratling coughed up some bile, struggled at his holster, pulling himself to a sitting position, away from the crab-scorpion creature taking tentative nips at him. It chittered excitedly and lunged forward, knocking his pistol to one side as he shot, a blast of sand spraying up. The witchdoctor woke up next, groggily got to his feet, and ran to wake up an NPC who was being nipped at by a 2nd crustacean. The party slowly woke, one by one each round Some tried waking the unconscious NPCs around them, but alas they weren’t to wake up for a few minutes.

They killed off the three things, the ratling killing two by blowing them away, the druid’s badger killing and shredding the last one.

After the battle the NPCs start waking up. The players find out only the passengers are here, no crew or captain, not even their jolly fat Cook they called Rambo. One of the passengers, a scholar from Varisia, wasn’t there either.

They pretty quickly figured out they’d want to take some shade in the nearby treeline, of course after going to the piles of footlockers and loose gear, and gearing up. The paladin had taken a campaign trait from cheliax which gave him a bunch of starting money, and he bought over a wagon-ton of mundane equipment. But no, that stuff isn’t here. Searching the sand, it’s apparent someone dropped them and their equipment off from a small rowboat, whoever did that wasn’t going to haul your carts and tents and 10foot ladders during a rescue operation. Most of them also weren’t wearing armor, or carrying weapons that would get in the way of daily sea life on a ship. They moved to some shade, and started talking with the other survivors, who started off as Unfriendly. Maybe because they’re despondent, and confused, and still hungover from whatever drug was in their system. There was the NPC gnome bard, who was friendly with the ratling, who decided to join the party and help them set up a camp, all the other NPCs decided to just try making it on their own. One of the female NPCs actually had the unfriendly attitude because the witchdoctor got on at the same port, and she suspects he might be spying on her.

There were no other tracks leading away in the sand. Whoever dropped them off left no boat, and didn’t walk away. Heal checks helped with puking and purging drugs out of their stomachs, to be unsickened.

They spent the day trying to make some crude shelter with their weapons, but failed the survival check. Overnight nobody failed a fort save for all the buzzing gnats and mosquitoes, so no diseases, and they had taken time out during the hottest times of the day, and when sudden torrential downpours came off the sea.

Looking out from their sandy narrow beach, most of the rest of the coastline is all rocky, with cliffs and dangerous reefs, and they can see their ship off in the distance, smashed up and crammed between a cliffwall and sharp rocks, bobbing around in the waves. It’s moving around quite a lot from the waves, and might dislodge and sink, but they spent that first day on the task of staying alive and making a camp and shelter. The next day they try making camp structures again, and do better.

During the night they notice the waters near the shoreline glow an eerie green, like the old fashioned necro energy we all know. But the next day the druid investigates, and tells them it’s just due to phosphorescent plankton or algae.

They also go off along the treeline to talk to the other NPCs, and try to figure out who has good nature-based skills from how they fared overnight, and try diplomacy with them. They failed badly for the unfriendly tatooed woman who already distrusted the witchdoctor, and she became hostile, which means she strikes off on her own in to the jungle.

“Screw you guys!”, she flips a double-bird, “I’m off to hunt down some of those cool lookin pterydactyls that were flying around those cliffs over there.”

They talk to a prisoner, who still has cuffed hands behind his back, but still managed to dig himself a decent hidey hole. He pleads his innocence, the witchdoctor decides to believe him, but can’t remove the manacles, and doesn’t succeed well enough on diplomacy, so he doesn’t join them.

They try diplomacing with the scruffy Xian man, but screw up the diplomacy when he invites them to a “tea” ceremony involving brackish water in coconut shells, so he tells them they have no honour, and should leave him alone.

The try diplo with the half-elven woman in tight leather, but the paladin kinda hits on her, and she’s got a sore spot in trying to prove herself despite her good looks. The witchdoctor gets impatient with the failing diplo’s, and just casts charm person, and she of course becomes a lot more friendly, and talkative, and they learn that she’s always wanted to be a captain of her own ship, and she’s writing an epic poem about the Abendengo hurricane she hasn’t finished, and she’s trying to kick the booze habit. They buddy up with her, and butter her up enough so that when the charm person wears off, a new automatic diplo roll has a lot more bonuses, and she doesn’t lose the friendly attitude, although none of the PCs can determine her class. She joins the camp to act as a defender, while the gnome bard is an entertainer, to keep morale up.

The next night one of the PCs has a nightmare, which helps fill in some of the gaps about what happened on the ship, he sees the female Varisian scholar who isn’t around was kissing the captain and whispering and hissing in his ear as their soup started overflowing and flooding the ship, despite all their desperate bailing with wooden spoons. Also, the paladin on watch notices within the eerily green glow of the surf a brighter green glow moving, which starts to take on a upright ovalish shape, moving slowly parallel to the shore. He freaks out, not wanting an encounter with any incorporeal undead, and wakes everyone up, but whatever apparition he saw is gone, and they call him names, and go back to sleep, instead of hitting the combat button, as most tired deserted castaways probably would.

And that’s basically where we left off.


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