This session happened Friday, November 6, 2010, and was the second of two sessions I ran that weekend. My monthly Naze Valley Rangers game was called due to two players (a couple) being out (visiting family). As I have a nearly complete overlap in players between the two groups now and the three players available were JUST shy of leveling, they asked to play Southern Reaches. They almost regretted it.
Su Bel (human cleric)
Mog the Doomed (half-orc barbarian)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.
With most of the rest of the group busy with matters relating to running Drop-off Tower as a base of operations, Su Bel, Mog, and Thorngrim decided to take a road building expedition to Old Stones. The trio headed south on Old Road, through the southern part of the Edgewood, then across the western tip of Three Peaks Hills, until finally arriving at the end of Old Road and the edge of the Sea of Grass.
The grass, having been heavily grazed on by the auroch herds during the winter, was still growing back and was now only four feet high, which aided their navigation efforts (after an initial wandering off course). Along the way the trio noticed a dire lion stalking them and decided to fight it, feeling they were ready to take a dire lion on. They were, but just barely. Mog was close to death, fighting on through sheer half-orc stubbornness when he dealt a mortal blow to the dire lion. It being near the end of the day, the trio decided to camp rather than push on and Thorngrim cast rope trick for a safe place to camp. They had dire lion steaks for dinner. Big ones.
The next morning the trio pushed on with their road making and arrived at Old Stones. The locale was much the same from the last time Mog and Su Bel had seen it, almost exactly a year ago. Two concentric rings of low stones (50 ft and 30 ft radii) surrounding a central grouping of three cyclopean stones set in a rough circle. Thorngrim, not terribly impressed with a bunch of stones, decided to perform a bit of an experiment before the group left. Setting up a rope inside the rough circle of cyclopean stones, he prepared to cast rope trick "to see what would happen". Su Bel and Mog stepped waaay back (along with the two trained dogs), outside the first ring of smaller stones, and waited to see what happened.
Thorngrim cast his spell, setting off a globe of light that engulfed the innermost ring and then spread out to the first ring of smaller stones, blinding Mog and Su Bell. When Mog and Su Bel could see again, Thorngrim had disappeared and there were lights arcing from the smaller stones like thin tongues of electricity. They stepped forward to see what had happened to Thorngrim (dragging the dogs with them) and were transported elsewhere as soon as they crossed the line of smaller stones.
The new place the trio found themselves in was a small globe of ice and snow, approximately 50 ft in diameter. All around them was multi-colored chaos and darkness. In the distance they could see another globe made of basalt, rent in places by fiery fissures. Between the world of ice and the world of fire was a smaller, grassy orb that orbited on circular a path between the first two worlds, approaching each closely, but never touching either.
Thorngrim tentatively identified the place they were in as the Elemental Chaos, an exceedingly dangerous area to be in unprepared. Wanting to see what was below the orb they were standing on, Thorngrim had a rope tied to himself and stepped to the side of the globe. Instead of needing the rope to avoid falling off the globe, he found he could walk normally along the curve of the orb, his feet always pointing towards the center.
At this point a medium ice elemental stalked over the far horizon of the ice globe, clearly hostile in intent. The trio quickly closed ranks and defeated the elemental, but its appearance goaded them into looking for a way back home. Su Bel's sharp eyes spotted the short end of the rope trick – on the fire globe. Of course.
The trio realized the grassy orb approached within 15 ft of the orb they were on and Thorngrim theorized that if they jumped high enough when the grassy orb was close, they might fall to it rather than back onto the ice orb. This idea was met with questioning looks, but the appearance of an elemental ice gibbering mouther motivated Su Bel and Mog to give it a try. After defeating the elemental gibbering mouther, they attempted to jump to the orbiting world. Thorngrim made the transition first, proving that it could be done. While waiting for the grassy orb to cycle back again, Mog and Su Bel had to deal with an elemental giant centipede (which went down quickly). After several fruitless attempts by Su Bel, Mog grabbed her and jumped across himself (Thorngrim's dog made the jump during the fight with the elemental centipede and Su Bel carried hers while Mog was carrying her).
On the far side of the orbit, Mog immediately jumped across to the basalt orb, carrying Su Bel (and her dog, Bala, too) across. Thorngrim's dog also made the jump, but Thorngrim failed the timing and fell back to the grassy orb. A large fire elemental burst out of one of the rifts on the basalt orb and stalked over to Su Bel and Mog. This fight was more intense than previous combats, but still over quickly. While waiting for Thorngrim to return in his orbit after another failed attempt, Su Bel and Mog were attacked by a group of three burning skeletons, quickly followed by an elemental iron golem, its metal form glowing around the edges from the heat contained inside.
At this point Su Bel sent the dogs through the rope trick portal (the dogs were only too happy to leave this weird place) while Mog took two solid hits from the golem, one a critical hit. Su Bel healed Mog of most of the damage with a cure serious wounds spell [empowered by her access to the healing domain], but the golem continued its attacks on Mog (establishing a pattern of hit, heal, hit). Mog yelled at Su Bel to go through the portal, but she rejoined that he would die if she left, and Mog could not argue with that. When Su Bel was out of cure serious wounds, she reverted to shield other, a potentially life-threatening choice. The next set of hits from the iron golem [which included another critical hit] would have killed Mog if the damage had not been split between the two adventurers. As it was, the half of the damage Su Bel took staggered her almost to unconsciousness [dropped her to zero hit points].
Using the last of her ability to channel positive energy for the day to heal herself and Mog a little further away from death, she apologized to him, stating she had to drop the connection between them. Mog yelled at her to use the rope trick portal to escape while she still could. Not wanting to leave her companions behind, she could not argue with Mog anymore on this point and staggered through the portal. Mog bellowed to Thorngrim, still stuck on the grassy orb, that the golem was too strong to fight any further. Thorngrim responded by casting invisibility on himself. Mog took this as a sign and dove through the rope trick portal just ahead of the iron golem's next attacks.
The iron golem, no longer having targets to attack, headed off to see if any were hiding on the far side of the basalt orb. This opened up an opportunity for Thorngrim to safely jump across between orbs, an opportunity that he was finally able to make. Now on the basalt orb, Thorngrim scrambled through the rope trick portal, sprawling to the grass outside of the smaller stone circles at Old Stones. He immediately canceled the rope trick spell, severing the link to the Elemental Chaos.
The trio, much the worse for the wear, quickly bound their wounds and marched an hour away from Old Stones to cast rope trick again and camp. The next morning, Su Bel used most of her healing magics to restore herself and Mog to full health. The trio then bid a hasty retreat along their new road, pushing on to Drop-off Tower by sunset. Luckily they encountered nothing along the way home.
*End of Session*
[My thanks to Jerry Holkins (of Penny Arcade) for devising the locale for his 4E game and posting pictures of it and explaining it so I could shamelessly steal it for my campaign. It was as cool as I hoped it would be and the players were awed by it. Except for the part where they nearly all died. THAT they weren't so keen on, but what are you going to do?]