"I'm heading to the werewolf at the penis door!"
This is what my wife declared during the battle for The Stairs of the Moon. Generally I can handle most absurd comments made by players but this one almost broke me. But how did this comment arrive and what else happens there? And did the players break the module and possibly the entire AP? Let's recap the Scooby Gang and find out.
Matt - Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 8 / uncouth / pet dwarf)
Jess - Nisha (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 8 / combat monster....literally / made statement about penis door)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 8 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / contacted Desna)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / maybe scared of Nisha)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 8 / NPC/PC / stoic / critical hit machine)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er)
So the night of 'somethin'-somethin' ended and in the morning the party met up in Zuri's room to discuss where to go now. We know Estovian is involved with the Whispering Way and the Silverhide werewolves. We know they are all heading to The Stairs of the Moon and we know its location. Finally we also know they met with Madame Ivanja before they left. Debating began. Thredorik suggested pumping Madame Ivanja for information. Zuri was leaning towards meeting with her to talk as well. Nisha seemed less antsy at the potential of meeting the 'varisian whore' again after last nights 'somethin'. Then they asked Julian his thoughts as he was totally quiet up to this point.
He suggested packing up and heading out to the Stairs and avoiding all the other investigations. Julian pointed out we know who is the problem in the lodge, we already know where they are meeting and why, if our further investigations cause more suspicions, do we want to possibly endanger the other guests at the lodge. Besides Zuri and Nisha found the threatening note to 'leave while you can' in their room so lets use that to get out. Estovian probably left it and if we leave he will let his guard down and we will keep the others safe here. The others, after consideration, agreed. We will have breakfast, have the porter get our horses quietly and leave the lodge on 'other business'. At breakfast we also met with Cilas Graydon and Julian, in orcish, told him our plan as well as the location of Estovian's incriminating evidence. Silas thanked us all and told us to stay safe and he will do the same.
The party quietly was in the process of leaving the lodge when Estovian stopped by to wish us well on our journey and that we were welcome back anytime. We thanked him for his gracious hospitality then rode off to the main road. Once past the walls of the lodge, we plotted the course to the Stairs of the Moon. It was a fairly uneventful ride except for the weather changing suddenly to dark and stormy. Eventually we arrived at the Stairs and tied up our horses a way out and went in on foot. Naturally we spotted two werewolves prowling around the base of the temple. **Note: these are natural werewolves who can shape change at will. ** Combat ensues, Nisha charges off after one of them with Thredorik in tow, the other lycanthrope charges Julian and Zuri. That werewolf, thinking he was being smart, moved past Julian so he could be between Zuri and Julian to attack both. This did give Julian an AOO. I rolled....natural 20. I roll to confirm....natural 20. I draw a card from the critical hit deck and it comes up with a 'fort save vs. DC 10 + damage dealt or die'. I attacked with Julian's mithral knife, rolled damage and total DC was 16. I roll for the werewolf. Natural 2 + fort save = dead werewolf. Nisha and Thredorik dispatch the other quickly and without being exposed to lycanthropy.
Moving cautiously into the temple we enter an area filled with tribal fetishes, bones and gore. While investigating this area a cold swirling mist begins to take shape into what looks like a ghostly werewolf. The vilkacis appears and looks pretty pissed off at us. Combat ensues. The vilkacis attempts to possess Thredorik but to no avail. Nisha, Zuri and Julian then pile on the assault with magic great axe, magic missile and channeled holy energy. The vilkacis dissipates and then we explore the area.
Now about the 'penis door' comment. I drew out the lower level on the battle mat for reference and the hallway inside the lower level, where the vilkacis appears, is rather phallic shaped. In fact it looks like a drawing out of an anatomy book detailing a cross section of what penile insertion into a vagina looks like. Good job Paizo! The werewolf Nisha charged was on the side of the temple that had this section in it. And the words will now live in infamy.
Any who, we do some thorough searching and find a recently dead Whispering Way member in one of the chambers off the penis shaped hallway. He had notes on him talking about heading to Feldgrau in the Furrows of Ardeal after the business at the Stairs concluded. We also find a secret 'lab', an ancient one at that, with notes describing the tale of a cleric of Desna who's son got infected with lycanthropy and how he tried (and failed) to cure him. Also talks about the son's spirit eventually became the vilkacis. Julian surmises that Estovian mentioned coming here when he was younger and was accepted by the Mordrinacht tribe by some reason....and that reason is he can call forth the vilkacis....and the wolves look at it as an ancestor spirit. Now we feel relieved we left the lodge so our investigation didn't eventually lead to bloodshed but now we decide to return to dispatch Estovian and bring him to justice and in doing so put the vilkacis to rest. Finally we also locate an ancient scroll with written directions on how to use the Dusk Moth artifact on the top floor to commune with Desna and we decide this is worth holding onto. We move along and head up the stairs.
And we are greeted with arrows being shot at us by a pair of werewolf archers leaning over the railing of the second floor. Matt decides to play a plot twist card in which he states he would like the railing to give way and the archers fall to their deaths. As GM that sounded plausible considering the age of the ruins and so the railing gives way and the wolves plummet onto the stairs head first, breaking their necks and ending the hail of arrows. Creeping up the stairs they notice two more on the far side of the second floor landing. Combat ensues. Werewolves die again. More stairs to climb and eventually we reach another landing which sits under the last floor in the temple....and three more werewolves wait for us and unleash a flurry of attacks to thwart us. More combat ensues....more dead werewolves pile up. And there is one more stairway to lead us to the top. Thredorik creeps up slowly and without a sound (very high stealth check roll to thank for that) and sees there are two more waiting up at the top. Both look significantly different than the others we fought. They looked older, wiser and meaner. We decide that we won't be able to talk to them since the others offered no chance to talk but we won't be going up the stairs. Using the 'wand of spider climbing' we all scale the side of the structure to the top floor. This open aired Stonehenge-esque area is the final part of this journey. We try to quietly get over the side and sneak up on them but we are heard. Combat ensues. Nisha goes after the larger one with the great sword while Thredorik engages the female one. The female one steps back and summons a 'burning sphere' into being where Thredorik is...and he has no problems avoiding it. In fact he has no real problems with dealing with her as his roguish training made him difficult to hit with spell or staff.
Nisha and the big guy just get into an all out slug-fest of who will be the last one standing. Mr.Werewolf didn't have the backup she did with the healing bursts from Julian and spell assistance from Zuri in the form of 'haste'. Eventually both wolves go down and the party can catch their breaths. After some healing and looting of bodies like good adventurers the consensus is to try to activate the Dusk Moth so we can ask for some assistance on the problem at hand. Julian, being the cleric, goes to work cleaning the temple with Zuri's help. Julian then blesses the temple grounds infusing them with holy energies again. At night Zuri attempts to preform the ritual. In game terms a 'use magic device' check is needed with a high difficulty to get the artifact to work. Charles plays one of his plot twist cards giving him a +20 bonus on his next skill check which puts his check roll way over what was needed. The ritual is a success and the party falls into a partial haze/dreamlike state. And we see her. Desna. A goddess in the world of Golarion appears to us and thanks us for restoring her temple back to a sacred site after hundreds of years of neglect. In payment she also gives us a glimpse of our future showing various major battles that we will encounter. ** She grants the players a vision of the future end battles to each of the remaining books in the AP including this one....they are shown in order. Also as an additional boon each of us gain a permanent +1 sacred bonus to either our Wisdom or Charisma scores. Finally to show that we were blessed by the goddess herself our irises have changed to a silvery color from the regular colors they had.**
We awaken the next morning refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to move on. Next stop Feldgrau. Just a few miles out from the Stairs we come across a slaughtered party of humans and we decided to check it out. While examining everything we are called out to from the tree line and a group of what looks like Varisian Szarni (mafia/criminals) slowly approaches. Their leader comes up first, being polite and with palms up, he tells us that his name is Rhakis Szadro and he is the leader of the 'Prince's Wolves', a group of werewolves dedicated to the eradication of the cult of the Whispering Way. Rhakis states he knew of our exploits in the area as word amongst the packs travels fast. He also says they watched our battles at the Stairs of the Moon. He was taken back by how casually we said we didn't have any problems there and was more shocked (and impressed) that we felled both the Mordrinacht and Dorzhanev pack leaders on top of the Stairs too! Truthfully we didn't know who they were and didn't care as it was a kill or be killed scenario there. He then offers a alliance: he will share info on the Whispering Way and lend assistance in stopping them at Feldgrau for us turning over the packlords heart to him so he can assume leadership of the wolves of the Shudderwood to bring some peace to that area. We agree.
He then fills us in that the Whispering Way was followed by the leader of the Demon Wolves, a devil worshipping group in the Shudderwood, and allowing him to assume power would be disastrous. He also talks about the strength of the Way's forces and offers to travel with us. For the next three days we travel to The Furrows in Ardeal. We do stop at a town midway to resupply. On the final day we approached a lone farmhouse just outside Feldgrau where some of us see the images of werewolves hanging from a great tree out front. The Prince's Wolves just see humans. Turns out some of us got hooked by the hallucinogenic spores of a hangman tree. Combat ensues. The evil tree gets turned to splinters. And we stop for the night.
Now remember how I mentioned that the players may have broken the module last posting for this game? Well it happened. According to the normal events of the encounters at the lodge Cilas Graydon, their disposed military ally in the lodge was supposed to die in event six that occurs as Estovian fearing the party is getting too close to his history summons the vilkacis to attack them. Instead the creature inhabits the body of Corvin Tergsvor (the snooty fop) who then rips Cilas to shreds as he was the first victim the vilkacis found. Estovian eventually flees to the Stairs where the party was to have a final encounter with him. Also Duristan was supposed to follow the party to the Stairs and become infected by lycanthropy and was supposed to become an enemy in the final part in Feldgrau. That didn't happen either. I rolled so poorly for Duristan and his two henchies that he never saw the party leave or where they went to.
Here is the break for the AP. While this chapter does have a plan if the party makes leaps of logic and high rolls to move along and keep Cilas alive it really doesn't take into consideration that they saved the life of a man, a military man with supporters and allies through out Ustalav. Cilas took a liking to them for a reason and will now help out however he can. And if the party manages to contact him later for aid then all bets are off. If they explain the situation to him he could get very powerful and influential folk on their (the party's side) quickly. He is like the 'universal key' that can open all sorts of doors for aid later. This can break a game. And I'm not going to punish the players for uncovering this. They have been gaining allies this whole time. They just now have one with quite a bit of pull through out Ustalav. Good job Scooby Gang!