Iron Gods: Fires of Creation

Episode 5: Spooky Scary Skeletons

Last Time on Iron Gods
The party entered the ancient technological facility underneath Black Hill, and encountered a robotic drone and what appeared to be a room for housing animals.


Status

Barek
    18 hp, 10 temporary
    Rage 6/7 rounds
    Readied Maneuvers crushing blow, encouraging roar, primal wrath
    Active Stance stance of aggression

Durand
    18 hp
    Grit 3
    Readied Maneuvers disarming shot, eye the needle, slipstream strike
    Active Stance stance of piercing rays
Note: Durand's character sheet is in error; replace the Deadly Aim feat with Technologist

Selka
    19 hp
    Spells 4/5 1st-level
    Sacred Counsel 3
    Second Chance 1

Valki
    14 hp, 10 temporary
    Nanite Surge 1
    Essence 4
    Veils
        Akashic Artificer (Belt): Stone Giant's Girdle (1 essence, Barek)
        Belt: Stone Giant's Girdle (1 essence)
        Hands: Riven Darts (1 essence, bound)
        Ring: Ring of the Abjurer (1 essence)

Marching Order
Barek, Valki, Selka, Durand.


11 Rova 4714 AR
Leaving the room with the strange tubes and nozzles, the party finds itself in what appears to be a short stone tunnel, the floor covered in sand. It lets out into a vast cavern, roofed by what appears to be glaucite. Just outside the end of the cavern is a white stony structure that looks almost like it's composed of coral. Barek approaches it to investigate it, but as he draws near he begins sinking into the sand around it.

Fortitude Save: 17 vs 14 success*

A sticky fluid mixed in with the sand clings to his boots, but Barek is able to pull himself free and back up. As he's doing so, a glistening purple tentacle shoots out of the coral formation; the party gets perception checks to see if they became aware of the creature in time to react.

Perception Checks

Barek: 23 vs 24 failed
Durand: 19 vs 24 failed
Selka: 22 vs 24 failed
Valki: 11 vs 24 failed

No PCs may act in the surprise round.


Initiative

Barek: 21
Durand: 15
Selka: 18
Valki: 14
Ghelarn: 10

Surprise Round

Selka gasps and staggers for a moment, her sight filled with a the desert-dry elongated skull of a strange creature, its eye sockets glowing an unearthly green. Meanwhile, the creature within the stony outcrop lashes Barek with its tentacles.

Attack: 21 and 21 vs 12 two hit
Damage: 14 (14/18 and 0 temporary) and Grab
Grapple: 30 vs 16 success

The tentacles slam into Barek, cracking through valkis forcefield like an eggshell. They wrap around him and pull him back into the sandy muck.

Fortitude Save: 25 vs 14 success

Between Barek's strength and the pull of the Ghelarn's tentacles, the fluid is unable to find purchase on Barek.

Round 1

Tendrils branch off the tentacles and begin burrowing into his flesh. Barek takes 1 bleed damage at the beginning of his turn.

Barek: 13/18 hp

Barek wrests his arm free for a moment and yells a war cry before slashing wildly at the exposed tentacles *(encouraging roar and expends 1 round of rage, followed by * primal wrath).

Rage: 5/7

Attack: 24 vs 14 hit
Damage: 14 (8/22)

Thin, pink blood spatters the sand around the creature's shell. Selka moves next to Durand and whispers a short blessing over him, bidding her ancestors to aid his aim *(casts *guidance). Durand then sidesteps, gaining a clear shot on the thing's shell. He focuses a moment before firing his musket (eye of the needle* followed by slipstream strike)*.

Attack: 10 vs 14 miss; Durand uses a Hero Point to gain a +4 luck bonus to the roll, so it hits.
Hero Points: 1/2
Damage: 5 + 4 fire (0/22)

The musket ball shatters the shell and pulverizes the flesh underneath; the tentacles go slack, tearing the tendrils out of Bareks flesh. The party spends a few minutes letting Valki's forcefield regenerate onto Barek, then they carefully make their way around the Ghelarn's sand pit before proceeding.

Barek: 14/18 hp, 10 temporary


The party has time for a closer look at the desert laid before them; they appear to be in a sandy canyon ringed on all sides by tall stone cliffs. The occasional low, flat platform of raised bedrock pierces the dunes, and in the center is a razorlike spike of desert rock. Littered throughout the sands are the dessicated remains of what must have been plants and broken shells much like that of the ghelarn. A path through the sand remains, bearing roughly east; some of the other expeditions must have made it this far and moved past here.

Will the party follow the path across? (very likely)
Roll: 3-8 yes

The party rounds the corner from the entrance cave and begins following the path, but barely a minute into their trek they pass near a pile of broken shell concealing a buried skeleton. It lurches to a standing position as sand cascades off of it; the skeleton doesn't look like any normal creature, however. It has a tall, elongated skull with low- and wide-set orbits, as well as four arms. Its eyes flash green, then wink out as the skeleton advances on them.

An undead alien named Hetuath controls these skeletons, and he saw the party through the eyes of this skeleton. He uses his connection to the other skeletons to direct them to the party's location. Unless the party makes an effort to get out of the skeletons' lines of sight, d3 new skeletons will arrive at the end of each round until all seven in this chamber have arrived.


Initiative

Barek: 10
Durand: 8
Selka: 6
Valki: 5
Skeletons: 22

Wow, those sure are some initiative rolls, aren't they?

Round 1

The skeleton charges Barek, the nearest party member, and rakes at him with its claw-sharp bones.

Attack: 10 vs 14 miss

Barek catches the alien skeleton's claw on his blade, then tries to smash the creature's skull across the cheekbone with the blade.

Attack: 11 vs 16 miss

Held together only tenuously by hate as it is, the skeleton is able to twist away, the sword whistling over its head. Durand draws a bead on its long skull, timing his shot to avoid Barek (eye of the needle* followed by slipstream strike)*.

Attack: 20 vs 14 hit
Damage: 3 after DR, plus 3 fire

The skeleton's head explodes in a shower of bone-shrapnel, mercifully directed largely away from Barek. Selka, meanwhile, struggles to draw her bow as she's overwhelmed by the feeling of being watched by some malevolent force. She's able to croak out that she thinks more are on their way.

Valki doesn't see any other skeletons yet, but has learned to heed Selkas' warnings. She readies an action to fire her riven darts at the first skeleton she next sees.

New Skeletons

Roll: 2

Round 2

A skeleton begins clambering up the duneside nearest Valki. She turns just in time, and looses two indigo blasts of energy at the undead.

Attack: 12 and 19 vs 14 hit
Damage: 6

One blast goes wide, but another goes straight through its sternum, and whatever magic was holding it together dissipates. The bones pitch forward, each landing in the sand with a dull thud.

Barek and Durand each spend a moment taking their bearings (both recover maneuvers, and Barek gets back a round of rage).

Rage: 6/7

Selka invokes her ancestor's favor, asking that they guide her arrow *(casts *guidance* on herself)*.

New Skeletons

Roll: 2

Round 2

Two skeletons show up just as valki exhaled a light sigh of relief; one lopes toward Selka while the other approaches Barek. Valki's sigh turns into a hiss, and she sends a glowing dart at each skeleton.

Attack 1: 13 vs 14 miss
Attack 2: 8 vs 14 miss

Her surprise at their arrival must have thrown her aim, because both bolt bury themselves into the ground at the skeleton's feet, melting some of the sand and digging miniature impact craters. One skeleton attacks Barek all-out, its bone-claws raking the air.

Attack: 18, 11, 13, 14 vs 14 two hits
Damage: 8 (14/18, 2 temporary)

The skeleton's claws scrape against the forcefield Valki's nanites provide Barek, and it flashes as it absorbs the kinetic force of the onslaught. The other skeleton attacks Selka much the same;

Attack: 5, 12, 12, 10 vs 15 miss

Perhaps her benediction from her ancestors stayed the skeleton's clawed hands, or maybe it was simply smart to wear the thick hid she chose. Either way, Selka was unharmed. Barek, laughing through the attacks, took a double-grip on his sword and smashed at its alien bones (encouraging roar* and rage followed by primal wrath)*.

Rage: 5/7

Attack: 19 vs 16 hit
Damage: 20 after DR

Barek cleaves through the undead with a mighty downward stroke, crushing the skeleton beneath his blade. He beams in delight at the crunch *(uses *victorious recovery* to gain back the maneuvers he just used)*. Durand trains his musket on the skeleton accosting Selka, hoping for a repeat performance of his earlier shot *(uses the same maneuvers as previously)*.

Attack: 12 vs 14 miss

Unfortunately, this time his shot passed through the creature's ribcage, missing any of the ancient bone. Selka, at the crack of the gunshot, hops back a step and looses her bow, her tribe's ancestors guiding her clouded eyes.

Attack: 24 vs 16 hit
Damage: 0 after DR

The arrow struck the skeleton's shoulder, but only managed to chip the already-worn bone.

New Skeletons

Roll: 3

Round 3

Three more skeletons crest the dunes around the party; two converge on Durand while a third accosts Barek

Valki, seeing how ineffective Selka's bow was against the skeleton, dove in for support, continuing her fusilade of energy-darts.

Attack: 19 and 19 vs 14 two hits
Damage: 10 damage

Perhaps distracted by the arrow-shot, the skeleton is unable to dodge Valki's attacks, the force of which scatter the smoking bones to the sands. The two skeletons flanking Durand meanwhile worked to corner the sharpshooter;

Attack: 19, 8, 23 (critical threat), 7, 6, 21, 18, 12 vs 17 four hits
Critical: 17 hit
Damage: 18 (0/18; disabled)

Durand withers under the claws of the skeletons, barely able to hold onto consciousness. Barek's skeleton attacks him as well;

Attack: 7, 14, 12, 20 vs 14 two hits
Damage: 8 (7/18, 0 temporary)

Barek, still laughing madly through the skeleton's slashing, carefully draws his blade level for another devastating slash *(maintains rage, enters *accurate stance*, uses *encouraging roar, attacks).

Rage: 4/7

Attack: 20 vs 16 hit
Damage: 13 after DR

Once more, Barek reduces the alien undead's bones to meal, and he turns to face the skeletons standing over his comrade. For his part, Durand stands carefully still, moving only enough to keep from giving the skeletons another opening, attempting to move slightly closer to Selka (he takes a five-foot step in Selka's direction and away from one of the skeletons, so she can reach him without getting near enough to a skeleton to provoke an opportunity attack and so he's no longer in melee with at least one).

Selka hears Durand's pained yell, and hurries over to his side, her hand seeming to glow with ghostly starlight *(she casts *cure light wounds).

Healing: 3 hp (3/18, 3/5 1st-level spells)

Wow, another excellent roll. Note that this is the minimum healing this spell can do.

Round 4

Valki trains her riven darts on the skeleton Durand backed away from.

Attack: 23, 7 vs 14 one hit
Damage: 5

Valki blasts the skeleton to ash and charred bone, while the sole remaining skeleton advances again on Durand.

Attack: 17, 2, 6, 4 one hit
Damage: 5 (-2/18; unconscious and dying)

With some of his wounds only just closed, the skeleton's attack finally knocks Durand to the ground. Its claws still wet with blood, Barek deftly jumps over, his teeth gritted in a maniacal grimace as he swings his sword with abandon *(maintains rage, uses *primal wrath).

Rage: 3/7

Attack: 13 vs 16 miss

Barek's blade whistles past the skeletons skull; Durand meanwhile feebly coughs blood.

Damage: 1 (-3/18)
Constitution Check: 17 vs 10 success

Durand is now stable.

Selka again tries to heal Durand. *(she casts *cure light wounds).

Healing: 7 hp (4/18, 2/5 1st-level spells)

Durand gasps, his eyes wide as he registers where he still is. Valki rushes to the Skeleton's side and sweeps at it with her sickle (Valki charges).

Attack: 21 vs 16
Damage: 0 after DR

Valki's sickle bites shallowly into one of the skeleton's collarbones, but does no more than notch it. The skeleton turns to face her, its lood-slick claws swiping at her and its eyese suddenly flashing a sickening green.

Attack: 5, 6, 4, 7 miss

The forcefields Valki projects over herself act more like plates, deflecting the ancient alien bones away from her. Barek uses the opportunity to move into a better position behind the undead creature, grunting at this last attempt to destroy it (maintains rage)

Rage: 2/7

Attack: 21 vs 16 hit
Damage: 8 after DR

The skeleton crumbles beneath Valki and Barek's twinned assault. A few tense moments of quiet, and the party decides to retreat to the metal halls they explored; they will barricade the door and rest there before returning.


The Ghelarn is weirdly-built. It's noted as being able to burrow, but has no burrow speed; it seems tied to its carapace by the fluff description of its abilities, but they rules are written such that, for example, its sticky aura follows it around; and the adventure indicates it will chase down the PCs if they leave, which seems like a good way to ditch some of the more interesting things about the critter. I used the following changes:

These changes make it more of a stationary threat, while giving it something more effective to do if it's caught away from its carapace.

The skeletons was a tough encounter! That flank into 8 attacks was brutal; I probably could have been a little less agressive with the skeletons, making them attack only once on entry into the fray, but this is fine. I do wish PF 1e was less feast or famine, though; the attacks either completely destroyed the skeletons or did nothing.

Next time I'll have to do some dice-rolling to see how the party chooses to proceed; going back to town and restocking - and resting! - might be smart, but I know as GM those skeletons can reform.