This was a happy pre-Christmas session that saw all our wayward players able to make it to the table after some absence. For those that had set up activities for their characters while they were gone, I rewarded their efforts with small special abilities. Tykris had spent time in the church tending to the sick, so I granted him the ability to heal anybody 1 hp per day. In addition, should he be able to use an action the round immediately following a character's death, I gave him the ability to allow that character a chance to Save vs. Death to be stabilized unconscious at 1 hp. Arkmed the Dwarf had been apprenticing with the bronze workers at the Dwarven colony north of Headwaters. I gave him the ability to craft bronze. If he gathered enough bronze, he could craft anything he desired between sessions. At the beginning of each session, he gets to roll a die to see if the task is complete. Turgon the Magic User has been collecting scrolls and tomes for a library. Should he have a specific question about something the party does not know and is willing to put in the research time, he has a chance to find the answer in his library.
The beginning of the session had the veterans of the party doing trial and error with some of the magic items they had found in the hoard of the giant winged ape. This is an aspect of the game I truly enjoy. As utilitarian as an Identify spell might be, it isn't nearly as gratifying as figuring out what an item does by actually using it. Indeed, there are still abilities yet to be discovered with some of the items.
Once the magic items had been distributed and treasure divided and spent, Dn. Goram insisted that he had delayed replying to the summons of his bishop too long. There were murders taking place in the City (now dubbed Trisagia) that he had been asked to investigate. The party agreed to travel with him, though they left their henchman behind (and this will become important at a later date). They attached themselves to a caravan and arrived in Trisagia with very little incident ten days later (sometimes random encounters randomly turn up nothing whatsoever...)
Of interest to me, the players have taken a decidedly religious demeanor in their play. They tithed to the church in Headwaters, gave a couple of gifts to the cathedral when they arrived and also spent some time giving out alms to the beggars they encountered in the bazaar. We role played the encounter with Bishop Jova and everyone got into their roles and seemed to enjoy themselves. Jova informed them that the murders took place almost exclusively in the slums. He was having a difficult time convincing the upper class and the local guard to act. Thus, he called the party in hopes of finding out what was going on.
Jova was also keen on one of the objects that the party found in the treasure hoard of the giant winged ape — an icosahendron with strange writing and symbols. He insisted that it was a map to an ancient city once inhabited by a people ancient to those that the colonists encountered upon their arrival on the continent. He openly wondered if there was a connection between that city and those who wore the golden masks.
Turgon then set out to meet with his mentor at the Magic College and Hamlen set about trying to find information from some prostitutes. Turgon learned that the expert on the ancient peoples of the continent was not currently in the city and that no one had seen the king in public for over a month. Hamlen found himself a one armed, one legged prostitute who was willing to tell him what she had seen — some kind of ghoulish monster collecting bodies and taking them into the necropolis at the edge of the city. Hamlen then took pity on her, paid her far more than he had offered and promised to return and take her to Headwaters with him should she so desire.
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the necropolis where the party encountered both hostile and friendly undead. They learned that something untoward was happening in an abandoned castle in the necropolis. They subsequently fought their way to the highest tower where they found a mask wearing necromancer sacrificing the drained blood from several corpses for some unknown ritual. In a tense battle with copious uses of Hold Person, smoke bombs, mirror image and fire and oil as well as the appearance of a lot of zombies, the party defeated the necromancer.
Hamlen then dragged the body into the magic circle the necromancer was using in his ritual, and slit the corpse's throat. As blood hit the floor, the circle glowed red, the entire castle shook and a low groan emanated from the bowels of the tower. Having barely survived the encounter with the necromancer, the party decided retreat.
8 hours ago