Bob's Serpent Skull

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?)

Booty-licious
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.

Doctor-napped
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?

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