Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Massive Damage in 4e

Massive Damage was a 3.0 / 3.5 mechanic that added an element of unpredictability to combat, and in my ongoing quest to bring a more edgy, deadly flavour to 4e, I have been thinking about how I can bring it into play, without completely screwing the players and their beloved characters.

So, what is massive damage and what does it do?

In 4e it is when a character suffers, from a single attack, damage equal to, or in excess of their surge value. When this happens, they must roll an immediate saving throw, a failure meaning that until their next short rest, they are considered to have already failed a Death Saving Throw.

If a character is hit by three or more lots of massive damage, and fails three saves, then the final save sees them instantly killed, as the trauma's add up and become too much to survive. Death takes them without them necessarily even falling unconscious.

And that's it. It brings the PC closer to death, without necessarily auto-murdering them, and yet, gives a definite feel that some attacks (which are probably going to be quite rare for most characters), are truly deadly in the sheer damage they inflict and their related harm.

Alternative Rules

  • The Vicious GM Version: Each instance of massive damage inflicts a cumulative -2 penalty to all saving throws against subsequent checks and death saves. This penalty is removed after the characters next short rest. A really nasty GM might also state that each instance of massive damage dazes the victim until the end of their next turn.
  • The Nice GM Version: The character is not considered to have failed a Death Save, but does suffer a cumulative -1 penalty per instance of massive damage they suffer to any Death Saves they have to make before the end of the encounter.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Belt of False Life (Level 5+ Waist Slot Item)

Of course, these items were found in 3.0 / 3.5, as well as DDO. However, they never appeared in 4e, probably due worries that they may unbalance the maths of the game. However, I see no real issue with them, especially as a rare item, and so, present to you, the Belt of False Life (though they are often referred to as Lesser, and Greater belts in the case of the Level 5, and Level 25 versions). 



Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report - October 22nd, 2012

1/8/1472 – 20:05 – 20:40: The vile remains are searched and three items that bear magical energies are rescued; two belts and a curious bezoar. The bezoar, it is quickly discovered holds a diminishing energy, which can, if it crushed, briefly shroud the user in a field of decaying, arcane protection.

The belts are both loathsome things, woven from living meat and flesh. The first is pulled from the within the stinking folds and loaves of rubbery meat that hang from the mutant's belt. Warm to the touch, it is clearly made from humanoid flesh, its pores and hairs clearly visible, whilst along its back a line of tiny, transparent teeth, needle sharp and perfectly positioned to sink into the flesh of whoever wears the belt are observed. This unpleasant artefact is identified as a Belt of False Life by the priest, and the assassin, being of the weakest physical power, accepts it gingerly, wincing as the tiny teeth bite into him before a sense of warmth and narcotised confidence fill him.

The second belt is a raw thing, dripping constantly with blood, taken from one of the slain acolytes. Made it seems from skinned animal tails, it is identified as enhancing the wearer's ability to recover as they grow more wounded. Thatari takes it scornfully, sneering as he ties it around his slender waist.

Fire is thrown into the chamber where the tentacles warp and sculpt two acolytes, their gurgles and sighs of insane ecstasy turning to bubbling screams of agony and anger as the alchemical flames roar over them and consume them. The flames burn incredibly hot, and the group back off, waiting until they have done their work, a drizzle of black, foul smelling smoke scorching along the roof from the low doorway.

Whilst the horrors burn, the group turn their attention to the other chambers. The one to the north is clearly the sleeping area used by the mutant acolytes. Filthy piles of leather (quickly identified as humanoid skin) lie piled up, and upon moving them with his foot, the warlock uncovers several inch long, ivory coloured worms, which quickly burrow into the filthy depths of the skin. Upon spotting this Grigori grabs Thatari and pulls him back, his cold eyes shining with anxiety.

“Rot Grubs.” He spits, “Kill you quicker than a sword to the throat.”

The southern room holds a crude latrine; little more than a muck spattered hole bored into the stone, with two handles fixed either side. Then stench that comes from it is eye watering, and most of the party beat a hasty retreat. However, Varracuda seems to feel that the foul hole requires a closer look, and with Grigori gingerly following, he examines it.

It is quickly deduced that there is some kind of mushroom filled cavern below, the chute from the latrine being some 35' or so deep. Varracuda continues to express the desire to explore further, fearing that there could be some rare treasure down below that the group is missing.

The group tell him they are happy to go without it, and almost have to physically pull him away from the diseased chamber.

With the flames in the first room finally dying down, the group begin to discuss moving on. However, the genasai, still obsessed it seems with searching every last inch of this area, states that he wishes to enter the chamber that held the tentacles, and sift through the remains. Again, the group try to voice their dissent, but Varracuda pays them no heed, and, with a grim expression upon his face, enters the room...

...Almost at once he feels a change in the quality of the aether; a vague sense of weight and distorted distance, and he stumbles as he fails to adjust quickly enough. The stink of roasted flesh is overpowering, and he tries to breathe through his mouth – though he finds that the stink has a taste like badly burned beef fat, which makes his stomach heave. Grigori joins him, and slowly, they pick through the half-cooked organic mess that was once the tentacles and tortured acolytes. It takes time, but they find nothing of value on or within the bodies. However, they spot several areas of melted, silvery material on the floor along the far wall (where the tentacles emerged). Carefully, they clean away the soot and cooked flesh, and find what appear to the remains of several tiny rune circles.

Grigori and Thatari (who has now picked his way across the smouldering, bleeding mass to join them), analyse the runes, and quickly realise that each was a tiny, stable portal to a warped aberrant dimension...that the tentacles were probably some summoned extension of something terribly alien, insane and utterly abominable. Cold fingers of uncanny dread pick their way down their spines as the implications of such prolonged exposure of this dimension to the energies of such a plane hit home.

“We- we need to move on.” Snaps Grigori, his hands unconsciously “cleaning” away the tainted energies he imagines settling on him. “This room isn't safe.”

“Agreed!” Comes Shnecker's reply – the Ulnyrr knowing only that he is bored, and that there are likely more things to kill elsewhere in this foul place.

20:47 – 21:10 – The group stand in a large chamber, who's walls and floor are covered in eyeballs, grafted to pulsing stalks of living meat. They stare with idiot emptiness at the party; a dazzling variety of eyes taken clearly from a wide array of donors. All move slowly on their stalks, “watching” the group with instinctive rather than sentient purpose. In the middle of the chamber yawns a circular hole, which leads to a wide shaft (wide enough for a Xareth'Chelde), thickly lined with slowly pulsing blood vessels and gut like coils of pale meat.

Grigori has already slashed at several eye-stalks, and determined that they are not a part of some sickening organic alarm system, and the group have cleared a path to the edge of the pit. Staring downwards, they can see that the various pipes and vessels form a thin, wall where the shaft – about 35' down – briefly passes through an open space (one of which is sure to be the mushroom filled chamber below the latrine) before continuing for another 20' or so into darkness.

A small argument breaks out as Varracuda, still possessed by his urge to explore the lower end of the latrine, and clearly uncomfortable at leaving any other chambers that lie below unexplored, tries to convince the rest of the party that they should do just that. The group are however, unconvinced, and it is decided that they shall descend to the lowest level accessible by the shaft. Shnecke activates his precious Feather Fall ring, and the group step into the stinking void of the shaft...

...As they slowly drift downwards, the party peer into the darkness of the caverns that lie directly below them. One is clearly the mushroom chamber, and the acrid reek of massed ordure reaches sharply towards them from it. However, three other corridors snake away from the shaft. Two are choked with thick cobwebs, the tiny skeletons and mummified corpses of rats and other vermin clearly visible hanging within their smoky depths, whilst the third shows signs that Shumeth regularly passed along it, his chitinous scales polishing the stone to a smooth finish.

However, soon they have passed beyond that level, and find themselves in a small chamber, who's humid air reeks of rotting flesh, ripe mushrooms and sulphur. A definite increase in the ambient temperature has also been noted, and every living adventurer sweats in the cloying, stinking heat. The chamber sees an end to the perverse flesh art, and gives way to more traditional art – though it is displeasing to the eyes of the party, consisting of clashing streaks and lines of bright, aposematic colours. It opens directly into a much larger chamber, and from where they land the party can make out that its floor is several inches deep with some kind of organic mulch – the source of the overpowering ammonia stench in this place. Growing from this, in several clusters, are more Shriekers, and the group realise that stealth is about to become a moot issue.

A curiously fragile light can be seen shimmering like reflected moonlight from something hidden to the left of the exit tunnel, and Lia quickly senses the presence somewhere nearby of psionic creature – probably similar to the tentacled mutant the group battled in the chambers above.

21:11 – 21:15: As expected, the immusical screams of the Shriekers soon lead to combat, and as the ardent predicted, their foes are warped humanoids, bearing strong psionically charged tentacles and an array of purely psychic attacks. They charge with a bubbling wail, and attempt to stop the group's progress. However, these creatures are in no way as potent as the one they battled above, and soon they lie in a pool of their milky, sweet smelling gore, their psychic screams echoing into the aether as they expire. The Shriekers are quickly slain (though the assassin, at the request of Varracuda, who noted that their wails enhanced his attacks that relied upon sonic energy to inflict harm, obtains several samples of gleba, with the hope of raising their own sonic mushrooms at a later date).

21:16 – 21:26: With the horrors slain, the group can turn their attention to the source of the strange light; some kind of flickering field of quietly fizzing arcane energy, forming a translucent screen that blocks progress to the west. The party decide (possibly as much to see the genasai's face as for any other reason) to ignore the other corridors that lead from this area. Those schooled in the arcane arts spend some time examining the field of energy, and it is quickly deduced that it would be very dangerous for anyone to come into contact with it. However, they reason, using his central eye, the Xareth'Chelde could create a hole in the field, allowing himself through safely.

“So, it's a security door then?” Asks Jaeger, nodding in appreciation of the simple yet effective barrier.

“Indeed.” Replies the dhampyr. “Though I believe that we could overload it with energy, and bring it down. The repeated untangling of the fields energies has left several – um - fractures for want of the better word, within its 'structure'.”

“So,” Begins Thatari, “if I were to channel one of my more potent magics into the field, at the right point, I could bring it down?”

Grigori nods.

The rest of the group back off leaving Thatari stood next to the barrier. Before working his magic he tries to see through its shifting, spectral surface, and can just make out a large cavern beyond, its floor similarly caked in muck, its walls home to several more clumps of Shriekers. He can see that there is some kind of large light source located below the current level of the floor at the far end of it, and that there is some kind of damage to the ceiling.

Happy that there are no immediate threats, he allows his mind of search the coiling energies of the field before him; flowing like smoke into its ticking, ordered matrix. It feels like it takes him forever, but in truth, mere moments have passed by the time he locates several of metaphysical cogs that lack teeth, moving out of synch with the rest of the barrier's energy. Reaching into his being, Thatari feels the terrible yet reassuring connection within the place where his soul should be, as he makes contact with his sponsor. Perverse power floods him, and glyphs of malign portent flare within his mind. Reaching for them, he unlocks their potent might, and at once, the power floods through and out of him, manifesting briefly as a flare of fractal flame, before it is pushed into the barrier at the weak spot.

The barrier convulses silently, and dazzling light flares from its surface. A tinny, scream, as if a thousand panes of glass have been smashed, fills the chamber, and the magics within the barrier arc spectacularly from it; raking the tunnel in which is stands with whipping spikes of raw, chaotic power. Chunks of molten rock ricochet across the room, narrowly missing the warlock who has stood just far enough away from the barrier that he is not annihilated by the consuming energies of its collapse.

21:27 – 21:45: As soon as the barrier collapses, a wave of raw, sulphurous heat washes over the party from the chamber beyond, its acrid stench bringing tears to the eyes of the living, and a curl of derision to the faces of the unliving. The stench of the air is almost too much to bear, being a mix of fumarole sulphuric bite and mundane decay.

The “light source” is a pit, some 30' across, and the Gods know how deep, for it ends, far, far below, in a pool of seething magma. To the right of the pit a corridor winds away, desperate voices, crying out in Aurymite, echoing along its smoothed stone walls. Beyond the pit is a domed chamber, which bears another circular shaft entrance in its middle, whilst in the chamber itself, loom more Shriekers, more steaming filth, and the strangely damaged ceiling.

In the middle of the chamber is a wide carpet of what appears to be a particularly noisomely coloured carpet; bright mustard yellow.

Jaeger pads forwards to peer into the room, and freezes the second he spots the mushrooms, something in his brain screaming at him to be careful. He is also less than happy about the ceiling, for it is carved with a number of large circular shafts, big enough for a Xareth'Chelde to hide in, though he is confused, for they appear choked with fine cobwebby strands of mycelium, and drip threads of gluey, organic slime. As for the carpet, he immediately recognises it for what it is – a deadly subterranean fungus commonly referred to as Yellow Mould.

“Violet Fungi.” He says suddenly, noting the faint violet sheen, similar to the lustre of a beetle's shell, on the caps of the supposed Shriekers. He turns to look at the group, “It's a guard room. The 'carpet' is a deadly spore bearing mould, and the mushrooms are an ambulant, toxic species that can and will attack us. Grigori, you got any more of that Alchemist's Flame. We need to burn that mould out.”

The group prepare, and the flasks of flame are thrown. Grigori scores a direct hit on the middle of the mould, and it immediately goes up in flame, blackening and withering in an instant at the volatile chemical's touch. However, with the flames arrival, the fungi awaken; 6' long tendrils of pale violet, oozing flesh-eating poisons, unfurling from the orifices in their caps. As, they begin to shuffle forwards, the stench of spoiled mushrooms adding to the heat and stink of the room, the mycelial strands hanging from the pits begins to move, and with horror, the group watch as five bloated spheres, each bearing eye-stalks and a central eye, wetly drop from them, hovering with menace above the advancing toadstools.

“By Vletnir's Axe!” Howls Shnecke, “Five more Xareth'Chelde!”

“No!” Replies Jaeger, “Gas Spores. Fungi that resemble the Eye Tyrants. Careful everyone, they explode!”

The group form a defensive line in the doorway, and allow the fungi to come towards them. It is not an easy battle however, for their weird foes hit hard, and their toxins not only rot flesh in an instant, but inflict shivering fevers and painful reactions in those they touch. The Gas Spores are particularly troublesome, for each one dies in a blast of corrosive spores, which heal the Violet Fungi, but compost the flesh of the party, leaving horrific, stinking sores in their wake.

However, with Grigori and Lia focusing as much on healing as attacking, the party are bolstered, and manage to push the deadly plants back into the chamber, where they are hacked apart. It takes only minutes, but everyone is exhausted by the end of the battle, and no one has escaped without at least one suppurating wound.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Grey Styptics - New Monsters and Items

"Grey Styptics are common monstrous spiders found in most temperate regions. Tending to prefer thick forests, caverns, or the stillness of deep dungeons, they occasionally turn up in cellars, abandoned buildings or attics, often causing panic to those that find them."

Up for some new beasties and alchemical items for your 4e game? Of course you are. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report, October 9th, 2012

1/8/1472 – 19:00 – 19:40: The group, after a long rest, strike out across the vast cavern, and soon stand at the entrance to the Great Maw's lair; an ominous arch of ancient stone, studded with the teeth of huge sharks. Beyond a wide corridor stretches away into darkness, its walls thickly carved with eyes, tentacles and slavering mouths.

“There are less of the Shadrakuulite carvings here.” Notes Lia.

“And by the looks of it,” answers Varracuda, gingerly stroking one of them, “these were done by the Maw itself, using its disintegration eye”.

A sickly smell – cloyingly sweet like hyacinths, and yet, also rotten and fishy – drifts from the darkness beyond, and with weapons drawn and powers readied, the group enter the horrifically decorated tunnel.

It opens into a vast chamber, who's ceiling rises to some 35' above the ground. Every last inch of it is carved with grotesque images of eyes, fangs, slavering orifices and veined tentacles. The stench continues to build, and fairly soon, outlined in the unwavering light of the floating lantern, the group see its source.

For a few, frozen moments no one can even speak, for the thing before them is so utterly repellent and alien that they are simply unable to craft words. It is clearly an altar, raised to some vile and utterly monstrous being; a table like central mass some 10' across and 8' deep, from which rise curling ribs, which overhang the centre like the legs of a spider. However, it is crafted from living flesh; raw, slickly shiny and bleeding. Mouths set into the top of the altar's table – lipless and toothed – suck the putrid juices that drip from several maggot infested fish lain upon them, whilst the arcing “ribs” twitch and flinch in apparent recognition of the group's approach. Stretched, blankly staring faces – unmistakably human despite their grotesque deformity and mutation – emerge like buboes from the arched back of the altar (which seems to be made from living, meat wreathed spines), their tongues protruding to ghastly lengths as they try to reach the rotting meat set below them, their eyes almost coming free from their tortured sockets as they boggle and stare at their torment.

“Kill it.” Whispers Lia in a small voice. “Burn it.”
The two Dhampir stand motionless, their eye teeth unconsciously extending at the sight of the blood that pours from the altar, forming scummy, slimy puddles of sticky black around it.

“I wouldn't.” Murmurs Thatari in a sick voice, “This is an altar raised to Chelde, the Mother of Abominations. That blood is almost certainly tainted.”

They stare a moment longer, before finally winning over their instincts, and backing off.

The group search the rest of the chamber, trying to ignore the squeaking whispers that issue from the altar, and find nothing other than a few highly decorated pillars of rock, carved entirely into more foul forms by Shumeth's artistry. They then empty several flasks of lamp oil on the living altar, and Thatari sets it alight with a spear of volcanic flame.

The heat is fierce, and the group are forced to flee the chamber, whilst the altar wails and howls eerily, shivering and writing in the midst of the inferno. A horribly delicious smell, like burned bacon fills the air, and everyone struggles to contain their bile. All in all, the flames burn for about 15 minutes...

19:41 – 19:43: The altar's skeleton lies blackened and creaking in the middle of its charred meaty carcass, and soot and a thin layer of fat covers everything in the chamber, revealing, in a far wall, that there is a concealed doorway. The assassin, breathing through his mouth, gives the door a quick look over, and declares it safe, before Shnecke forces it open with a deep click of hidden latches and gummy runners.

19:44 – 19:49: A loathsomely decorated corridor is found beyond, its walls filled with more of the Xareth'Chelde's insane carvings – though unmistakably living growths of meat, and gently pulsing blood vessels weave and wind around them; living sculptures crafted by the same demented evil as the altar.

“I just don't believe that the beholder could be behind the altar and all this.” Growls the assassin, looking at something that hangs wetly and shivers between two glaring stony eyes.

“In ancient Draxia,” begins the warlock, “There was an order of mages known as the 'Flesh Sculptors'. They were masters of manipulating living creatures and warping them into living works of supposed 'art', beasts of war or slaves. They specialised in implanting symbiotic organisms into their own bodies, and indeed, were supposedly hybrids themselves, having changed their own forms to better suit their purposes. This seems to be born of their crafts.”

“Didn't we meet a Draxian back in Irin that time?” Muses the Ulnyrr.

“Yeah.” Replies the priest, “But they are but a shadow of the nightmare they were in the Second Age and early Third.”

Thatari nods.

“What do we know about Chelde?” Asks Lia suddenly, her eyes huge and haunted as she takes in the horror of the living decorations.

Grigori clears his throat, and shakes his head as the details of the deity rise to the fore. “I believe that certain monstrous codices describe “her” as 'an infinite ocean of liquid flesh, reaching tentacles, slavering mouths, madly glaring eyes and birthing orifices from which she endlessly spawns .'
She is universally held as a source of many aberrant species and many of the more, um, unusual monsters in the world, and although most of her worshippers are utterly inhuman, certain cults and lodges dedicated to her as a fertility Goddess or bringer of change have cropped up with disappointing regularity throughout history.”

Everyone plods on, trying not to imagine the Seas of Chelde, or the kind of person who would willingly submit to worship her...

19:50 – 19:53: The corridor writhes through the earth back and forth, heading ever southwards, and the group soon become used to the quivering, staring, reaching, pulsing, dripping masses of clearly aware and tortured tissue that hang in whorls and lines amongst the increasingly vile carvings (which now seem to feature far more eyes and “birthing orifices” as the priest put it than maws). Soon the corridor widens, and its ceiling rises upwards to form a small antechamber of sorts; the main corridor continuing southwards, whilst another heads off to the east. Hanging from the middle of this room are several stalactite like structures made entirely from living tongues, melded together. Drool hangs down from them in long, sticky ropes, pooling thickly beneath, and as the group come closer, they begin to wave and twitch, their drooling increasing as they “taste” their arrival.

“Am I the only one that thinks we are inside some kind of great beast?” Murmurs the Ulnyrr, his jagged axe raised and ready.

“Ssshhh!” Growls Grigori suddenly, I can hear...laughing, coming from this side tunnel.”

He turns to face the others, his pale features even paler than usual.

“It's not the good kind of laughter though.”

19:54 – 20:05: They move along the side corridor, the air hot and humid, the walls here pulsing with fleshy sacs and quivering body parts that are normally not seen. Ahead a bloody, sanguined light bleeds wetly from a large cavern, and by now all the group can hear the sobbing, broken titters and thickly slurred prayers that ooze from ahead. Moving with surprising stealth for them, they manage to get near enough to see into the chamber without disturbing its occupants.

It is a large cavern, though almost every last inch of its walls, floor and ceiling are covered in flesh. Three membranous doors lead from it; one ahead to the east, one to the north and one to the south, each reminding the group of the hard fats that sometimes cling, sticky and fibrous, to cooked meats. The northern door is guarded by three canine beasts; skinny, slime skinned thing with narrow, pointed heads and four lidless eyes. Flies crawl over them constantly, feeding on their wet flesh, apparently drawn to them for some reason.

In the middle rises a column some 15' across, of what appears to be meat, a baroque mass of entrails, limbs, eyes, mouths, tongues and genitalia. Steam rises from this column, and the red glow that suffuses the heavy air seems to come mostly from it.

Kneeling around it, wearing robes that are apparently made from flesh and lank hair, are six humans. They are the source of the laughter and prayers, and seem to be engaged in some kind of worship; bowing towards the pillar and heaving up their clotted prayers.

The first of them dies in a blast of cleansing radiant fire, as Grigori sweeps inwards and unleashes his fury – though his entrance into the room triggers some kind of alarm glyph, a multitude of larynges that grow from the walls like weird fungi, suddenly emitting strident, mindless, piping screams. The rest of the group pile in, the barbarian splitting the chest of another before they can rise, the assassin running a third through. As they fall back, so the cultist's hoods drop away from their faces, and the adventurer's are suddenly confronted with visages straight out of a nightmare; their faces frozen, so it seems, midway between the features of a human, and something akin to a Xareth'Chelde. Tortured folds and bulbs of flesh bulge noisomely from their warped, melted faces, pulsing with slightly differing rhythms. Their mouths are twisted gashes, filled with human and monstrous teeth, whilst their eyes are either too close together, preparing it seems to fuse into one giant orb, or spaced at differing heights, weeping viscous fluids that reek of alchemical acids.

Now aware of the group, the canines launch themselves to attack, a gut ripping stench flooding before them, bringing tears to the eyes of all (save the two undead, who's breathless state renders them immune). At the same time, the eastern door suddenly thins and parts, revealing another monstrosity, quite unlike anything the group have seen so far.

It may once have been human, or may be some abomination that wears the bipedal form of one. There is no way to tell, for it is utterly wretched in form; a hunched, tumour covered thing with soft flesh the colour of wet clay. Its head seems to almost melt into its bulging, wobbling shoulders, and several 10' long tentacles, wet and spongy, are wrapped around its body, their origin impossible to tell. Its eyes are impossible to see, for they rest within deep holes that look almost scooped into its soft, rubbery face, giving it a lugubrious, almost pitiful expression. Its mouth is full-lipped and down turned, and tiny, sharp teeth are clearly visible within its wet, gabbling interior.

Despite its appearance, this horror moves with sure speed, and as it approaches Lia feels a steel hard cold reaching down her spine and into her soul.

“It's psionic!” She snarls, throwing a potent barrier of psi-energy around the group, shielding them from direct psychic attacks, and making the nightmare snarl with anger.

Beyond this thing, in a chamber lit more by varying shades of darkness that true light, the group get the impression of sturdy barbed feelers sprouting like strange, bloody ferns from the walls. And stretched upon their cruel ends, their bodies warped and bent into forms one would think impossible to allow life, whilst undeniably being both alive and aware of their horrible predicament, are several more cultists.

For terrible moments the cramped, stinking chamber is filled with ferocious combat. The canines are surprisingly durable enemies, who's savage bites send those they strike tumbling to the ground, whilst the tumorous horror proves to be a potent force of destruction, its tentacles and fists sending poor Varracuda and Lia tumbling to the ground, near death. However, hampered by the ardent's magnificent psionic shields, it is unable to effectively make use of its most potent psychic attacks, and the group are able to slowly beat their way past the surviving cultists and snapping Retch Hounds, to engage with it.

It fights like a daemon, but even as it knocks Lia unconscious, and prepares to blast the group with a wave of mind-shattering psionic power, it finds the barbarian's axe embedded in its chest, and with a despairing gurgling, psychic cry, collapses, flailing to the floor, its sweet-smelling blood pumping from its diseased heart sacks and smoking pipes.

With its mental goading gone, the surviving hounds beat a sudden retreat, taking their choking stink with them, and the group rush to heal Lia, and to secure this place of warped flesh and madness made manifest...