How Adversity and bravery made our party Stronger

This story is about the single most successful session I ever had with my Pathfinder group. We went against all odds, and came out stronger for it


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So me and a few of my close friends have been playing a Pathfinder 1.0 homebrew campaign for about 2 and a half years now. Our DM has been running games for about 10 years, and at the beginning we got so into it that we were playing on average 1 or 2 weekly sessions. As months went by, it started getting increasingly difficult to schedule games due to everyone schedules, and at this point we hadn’t played in over a month, and were eager to get back into it as soon as possible. On the night before a local holiday, we got together, had dinner and started playing at 10pm, ready for a long night of questing.

Our campaign was very undead-centric, with the BBEG being a powerful lich, hell-bent on taking over the entire know world, and especially Daeron, the city we were all based in, and where we had started a republican revolution. Our DM liked to challenge his players, and even though it was never his intention to kill off PCs, most of our current characters were not the ones we started out with. This lead to some interesting story moments, especially since our DM always required us to really fill out each of our characters’ backstory and motivations, to the point where he even sent us a 4 page guide to help us do so.

One of our players’ first characters, a human monk named Amon, had died a while ago, in a totally preventable death caused by how drunk we would get in our earlier sessions. We buried him in a field of flowers, and We set out, some time after his death, to a monastery run by some monks belonging to a sister order of Amon’s, in order to stock up on Mango-red, a type of tobacco that Amon always brought with him, and that was the main product of his order. Some of the mango monasteries had been  corrupted by the lich’s influence, and we had freed this monastery from the undead’s grasp in a previous arc.

This tobacco had become so important to our group’s identity that it had even brought us our party name, the Mango-roses, and our supplies had been running low, even with the massive amount Amon had left with us before his death. Our party at this consisted of a human ranger (and his companion wolf, who the ranger only referred to as “my brother”), a dwarf druid with a small fern as a companion, a dwarf ranger with a massive crossbow, a human bombardier alchemist and myself, a Halfling solar oracle. Out of these five, only me and the alchemist had been in the party long enough to remember Amon, as the alchemist had been her player’s first character, and my oracle was my third character, but appeared in the 5th session we had (it was that kind of game).

The monks at the monastery we visited were very happy to meet some adventurers, as their plants require a bowl of sacred water to be brought in from another nearby monastery. The process was usually a coming of age ceremony for young monks, but the rising of the lich had made them wary of sending out their younger more corruptible monks into the wilds for the holy water. We were already friends with the monks, so we were then sent out to collect some holy water in a holy bowl in order to feed their mango-red plants.

The trip to the monastery was uneventful, with solid survival checks and smooth travelling. When we got there, we were greeted by two monks, wearing blindfolds, standing guard at the monastery gate. After we informed them of our mission, they took the bowl from us and returned a few minutes later, the bowl filled to the brim with water. The more perceptive members of our party realized something was off, but our sense motive checks failed to notice that anything was amiss. We then promptly took the bowl, careful not to spill any of the “holy” water contained within and started heading back. Our alchemist (who had taken a level in investigator early in the game), though the entire situation was strange, but didn’t really press the issue as we started heading back.

The trip back started out as uneventful as the trip to the monastery, but we started noticing our DM sneakily checking his phone, and jotting down some notes.  We knew something was off, but we tried our best to act in character, and, soon enough, and out of nowhere, a troll came out of the forest and proceeded to attack us. The combat wasn’t very challenging, but our DM made a show of having the horses be spooked, and start to run off with the bowl of water we left in the cart as we fought. After some trick-riding antics by our crossbow ranger, we defeated the troll but, to our dismay, the fight had upset our precious bowl, spilling its contents all over the floor of our cart. The alchemist pointed out at this point that the monks must have tricked us into walking away with a bowl of regular water, and that we had to head back and force them to give us what we needed to finish our quest. My character (remember, an oracle), started going on a monologue, denouncing out scientifically minded alchemist about ow he didn’t understand the true meaning of ritual, and that the holiness of the affair was lost to small minds like his. The monologue turned into an argument, as me and the other player began a huge discussion, that involved the other party members taking sides. I would like to note here that this didn’t generate any animosity between any of the players, as we were all genuinely happy to roleplay our characters in the best way possible, over dinks. 

After this holy chastisement, and a night’s sleep, we started heading back to the monastery, as we were still in need of water to finish our quest. When we got there, the monks received us with instant violence, dissatisfied that we were bothering them again. 

In pathfinder, Oracles are spontaneous divine casters, basically a sorcerer to the cleric’s wizard, an in return for holy powers they also get a curse. This curse starts out as a serious drawback, but over the course of the game, a PC starts getting a few benefits to offset this curse. My curse was one called “Powerless Prophecy”, which made it so I would rarely be able to act in the first turn of combat, but would receive a small insight related to the upcoming battle. The drawback is that since you have no actions on the first turn, so you can’t convey the message to your allies, who might be in need of assistance in a surprise round. The DM handed me a small piece of paper with two words: “two more”. 

As the monks attacked us, a single giant scorpion came out from within the monastery, and when it finally came to my turn in combat, I screamed out “There is one more!”.  We promptly dispatched the blind monks and their scorpions, and realized that none of our sneaking attempts would work creatures with tremorsense. We quickly formulated a very complex plan: burst in, spells blazing, and defeat the evil monks who were defiling the monastery. We called this plan “kicking the chandelier”

You see, after the first few deaths (mostly caused by our own stupidity and some poor character design), we had begun to think more strategically, and stopped jumping headfirst into combat, always looking for a smarter (safer) solution. One of the defining events for our campaign was during the liberation of a certain tower, when my character, a elven magus, decided to run into a room full of inert undead and kick a chandelier that was on top of a dining table. The following combat was hard, and very nearly killed all our unprepared, low level PCs. After this early session, we started calling rushed fights “kicking the chandelier”, in memory of our own early impatience.

So we rushed in, throwing small brass chandeliers, and found a group of monks, backed up by several giant scorpions, waiting to ambush us if we tried to get in sneakily. The encounter was quite difficult, with the monks jumping over furniture and the scorpions paralyzing venom wreaking havoc on our frontliners. The situation was dire as our wolf pal was paralyzed and kicked by the monks, while his human ranger friend was struggling to keep up with the many many monks. Our druid had become a massive swamp monster and was holding back a few of the scorpions. 

It was at this point where my oracle and the alchemist looked each other in the eye and formulated a plan. Bombardier alchemists get a bonus feat called “Throw anything”, which allows them to, well, throw anything. She handed me one of her potions and I took it, readying a spell to come into effect when it all went down, even as I started shrinking, becoming a tiny luminous Halfling. On her next turn, she picked me up and threw me into the fray, after which I rolled an acrobatics check to land properly. My oracle was mostly based on AoE spells, and my negative dexterity score made it difficult to throw rays, much less land safely in the middle of a chaotic battlefield. Our bravery was rewarded by the dice gods, as I rolled a natural 20, front flipping in the air and falling inside our rangers hood, and bursting with holy fire as a wave of healing (for good characters, us) and burning ( for the clearly evil scorpions and monks) flowed out from the middle of the battlefield). The combat was over a couple turns after this, and the invigorated party headed down to the basement, where the holy grove surrounded a holy spring of water.

As we got there, we were faced with a terrible sight: an old frog monk, surrounded by a shimmering barrier, doggedly protecting a small pool of beautiful water, while another monk, a monkey, concentrated evil necromantic power from a sealed coffin to slowly corrupt the water. We realized that the frog monk was trapped, and that we should divide the party into two teams: one to deal with the monkey monk and another to free the old frog monk, who was weakening by the second. The basement was a large cavern, with several odd bones lying around the battlefield, very conveniently located right between us and the frog. Our crossbow ranger started working on attacking the monkey monk, who was darting between branches and alcoves in the holy grove.

The druid was focused on breaking the barrier, in his large swamp monster shape, together with the wolf and his ranger, when a terrifying presence started coming down the stairs. A microlich, one of the lich’s commanders, was heading down the stairs, and with a wave of his hand animated all of the bones, creating a group of skeleton warriors for us to deal with. We were now backed into a corner; with a flying monkey monk (we were later told that he has a whopping + 30 in acrobatics), a skeleton troop and a powerful microlich. 

We managed to kill the monk, and I destroyed the skeletons with a burst of radiance (extra damage vs, evil or undead creatures, booyah!) and turned to face the lich, who smiled at us with his hollow eyes. He waved his hand, and the entire temple started to shake as he turned and began to float away, taking the coffin with him. It dawned on us that we were in the basement of a rather large stone monastery, and that we would soon be turned into fine mangorose paste, together with the frog monk. He took down the barrier around himself, as we started running towards the exit, with the help of a huge water elemental, formed by a spell he cast on the spring. 

As we ran, we had to constantly make reflex checks to avoid the stones, while the huge elemental began to lose shape, battered by the falling stones which he took in order to protect the helpless monk. I was still tiny, and climbed onto the shoulder of our human ranger, trying to keep myself from dying crushed by rocks and to gather any water the water elemental dripped off into a bowl that was now comically oversized for me. As we approached the exit, the old frog monk and his elemental couldn’t handle it anymore, an collapsed 50ft from safety. As I watched this unfold, a plan came into my mind, and I asked my DM what time it was. We had gone into the monastery in the dead of night, he said, and the first rays of the sun were streaming down through the exit as we ran outside, leaving the monk behind.

Oracles in pathfinder are a strange bunch. Unlike other casters, our DM ruled that there would be a specific time of day for spell slots to recharge, instead of the normal 8 hour rest required. As a solar oracle, blessed by the sun, you can figure out what time of day I picked for this. As we ran out and the sun hit my face, I asked the DM what I should do with my spell slots, since they were supposed to recharge now. He was hesitant, but he didn’t really thing anything we could do would be able to derail is plans. He told me that I would regain one spell for each spell slot, not really understanding how that could impact his desired outcome. As soon as we got to the top of the stairs leading up to the exit, I looked at our alchemist and told her to throw me, just throw me from the top of the stairs and towards the fallen monk and his fading elemental. I readied a spell and flew, crashing into the monk and taking some fall damage in the process. As I hit the monk, I activated my readied spell, dimension door and teleported me and another medium creature (the frog monk) though a rip in space, into the safety of the monastery courtyard. 

As soon as that was done with, we noticed a black carriage leisurely carrying the coffin away from the scene of the crime, together with the lich. A well-timed glue seal (from my weird 1 level dip into bard a few levels back) stopped the carriage in its tracks. The lich, who was riding the carriage, fell out and was promptly hit by three bolts, one being a crit, by out amazing dwarven ranger. After this, we rushed to the frog monk, who lay there dying. He thanked us for our help, and ordered his water elemental, now a tiny blob of water, to use his form to fill up the rest of the bowl, so that the monastery’s legacy might live one.

This was our most successful session up to that point. Our earlier sessions had been filled with death  and failure, even leading us to be gracefully spared a few TPKs over the course of the previous year. Our party was more united than ever, and we felt ready to take on the lich once more, now fully aware of our characters’ abilities and able to work together. We are now at the end of our 2 and a half year campaign, and this story was written a few days before our final session. The party remained pretty much the same, but we had to deal with the unfortunate loss of our alchemist, who fell off a tower a few sessions later. This came up as we reminisced pre-final session, and I wanted to share it with other people. It was really the moment when our party become a real party, a not a band of adventurers brought together by fate.


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