Classic Fantasy [13th Age] Heartless
Castle Omen – a living dungeon formed from the beating heart of the world itself – rises on the central island of the Midland Sea. It grows, hunting for sacrifices, devouring the landscape, and spitting out monsters.

The 13 icons are desperate. They can't stop The Castle themselves, not without exposing themselves to their enemies or feeding The Castle iconic power. So they make a daring truce – an event to mark the turning of The Age. Every icon carves themselves away, discarding their magic into the source of the world, creating new adventurers.

Castle Omen responds. To cripple its adversaries, it eats a piece of every adventurer as they are made. But the icons had staked the fate of The Dragon Empire in The Castle's greed. As The Castle feasts, it also leaves behind pieces of itself, its own magic carved away and added to the source from which adventurers are made.

The Castle, realizing its mistake, hides away everything it stole, twisting the world to guard its Treasures. If the adventurers cannot recover the power taken from them, they will never grow strong enough to challenge Castle Omen.

So the Game begins.

One Unique Thing. Castle Omen stole my gemstone heart and with it my magic, chaining me to The Land in physical form.

Backgrounds. 8 points.
Bound Jinni +1. I know what a jinni would know, but I can't do most things a jinni could. Damn castle!
Tricky Snake +4. When I had my powers, my animal form was a snake. Now I'm just a crafty bastard.
Iron Oni +3. My body comes from elemental earth, tough as an anvil and strong as an ogre.

Icon Relationships. 3 points. The negative relationship with Castle Omen is implied.
The Diabolist (conflicted 1). Summon us, bind us, deal with us…at least jinn don't try to devour the world.
The Dwarf King (positive 1). Creatures of the Underworld consider me kin.
The High Druid (positive 1). I'm a nature spirit! Even if I don't have my nature magic right now.

Power Sources. 28 point buy. Ability scores are renamed to avoid the player-vs-character mental ability debacle, but otherwise still retain their original mechanical function.
Marital 15 (MAR +2). Fighting technique – I'm pretty great at hitting things.
Primal 8 (PRI -1). Natural/innate ability – I'm not used to this physical body. I'm a spirit, damn it! I should be in spirit form, wielding elemental magic!
Spiritual 16 (SPI +3). Willpower – I am steel.
Arcane 12 (ARC +1). Invention, discovery, ritual – As a proper snake, I try to keep my enemies guessing.
Divine 14 (DIV +2). Relying on others – Whether by cunning or luck or both, fate moves in my favor.
Iconic 8 (ICO -1). Importance and connection – I look like a monster, not a hero. And severed from my magic, what leverage do I really have?

Race: Earth Genasi. My blood is quicksilver and my bones are adamantine. Normally, I'd be flaunting my spirit-form powers, but I'm kinda stuck in this humanoid body right now.
Power Source: +2 Spiritual (SPI +4). Stubborn persistence is an earth element thing.
Power: Grin and Bear it. [Interrupt] [1/Battle] When I'm hit with an attack and survive, heal with a recovery. If escalation is under 2, I only heal for half instead.

Class: Barbarian. I'm a melee brute with a (somewhat) limited explosive damage mode. No one's better at taking hits and dishing them out. No one's more limited when attempting anything else.
Power Source: +2 Martial (MAR+3). Hitting things is the barbarian's bread and butter.
Defenses. 8 base HP, d10 recovery. 12 AC, 12 PD, 10 MD.
Basic Melee. [Standard, Melee] +MAR+1@AC, 1 engaged. [Any Hit] 1d10+MAR. [Any Miss] 1.
Basic Ranged. [Standard, Ranged] +PRI+1@AC, 1 nearby. [Any Hit] 1d8+PRI. [Any Miss] 0.
Feature: Rage. [Quick] [Recharge (16-SPI)+] For the battle, roll melee and thrown weapon attacks twice and use the higher. If both natural rolls are 11+, the attack is a critical hit.
Talent: Crush and Cleave. [1/Battle] When my melee attack KOs a non-mook or the last mook of a mob, make another melee attack.
Talent: Jewelheart. My recovery dice are d12s.
Talent: Adamant. [1/Battle] Declare, and then make an attack. If it hits, heal with a recovery.

Feat: Adamant (A). The recovery is free.

Gear. Iron rogue’s garb (light armor), iron gauntlets and boots (heavy martial weapon), gold shackles.
Where do I spawn?

Setting is elven volcano involving scroll and clothing.
The Great Gold Wyrm

The [Shrine of Resurrection] looks like it grew out of the caldera ridge. I appear on a prominence of dark stone criss-crossed with multicolored veins, a natural stage-platform-thing in front of the shrine. Before me is the basin: a lake of softly swirling green-gold that burns streaks into my eyes if I stare for too long. The air is heavy with magic; symbols painted along the ridge push the heat of the molten lake back on itself, clearing a ring of chill, temperate atmosphere.

Fresh air and fresh paint for a fresh town. Ramps on either side lead away from the shrine platform, then branch up, down, and across into a walkway-network tracing the rim of the caldera. Canvas tents dot the walkways, shanty-town-style. Humans, mostly; refugees taking shelter close to the Shrine.

[Area: Bronzelake]

3 = 3[d4]
Three others spawn in with me.
Organized guard
Miserably / Graceful
A crisp elf Paladin who arrives in salute, heels together and one hand on a symbol of The Gold Wyrm over their heart.
Lazy female swindler
Swiftly / Military
A human Rogue, also in Gold Wyrm uniform. She, at least, isn’t saluting.
Boastful Half-giant magic-user
Positively / Ancient
A tall, broad-shouldered, and old-as-the-mountains-themselves dragonspawn Druid.

And I suddenly feel, very, very out of place standing in the middle of these three – since, judging by the commoners' colors, I'm the only one in the whole caldera without a Relationship with The Great Gold Wyrm.

Is this going to be a problem?
(50/50) Yes
1 = 1[d3]
Paladin (of course) unsheathes their blade from their [pocket] and--

Wait! Wait! I'm friendly! I try to look innocent, as a [tricky snake] does after pulling a prank. Normally, I'd rely on my opposition's caution and common sense, but this is Paladin and that would be an uphill struggle. I'll do my damnedest to exude sincerity instead. [Iconic DC 15]
9 = 5[d20]+0+4
No chance. Does Paladin escalate?
(50/50) Yes
Present some consequences and ask them to choose

No, you idiot! Don't pull us into a battle!

Paladin unsheathes their blade from their [pocket] and dances forward with the grace of a machine saw. Their [dragon slayer] talent activates - because I'm apparently a worthy threat - and pushes their [weapon attack] over the moon.
8 = 1[d20]+7+0
But they were expecting me to flinch or dodge back or something, not stand there and take it. Their hand, instead of their blade, hits my chest; all of their momentum comes to a crashing stop as they crash into me and stumble back from the recoil.

An excellent first [action] for a newly spawned adventurer. But it gives me another moment to talk some sense into this short-sighted idiot.

Do you know what you've done!? You've locked us in a [battle]! Neither of us can back down without losing something - which is potentially catastrophic. It gives Castle Omen an in! And so close to a Shrine, too? What were you thinking!? Even if I was a monster (which I'm not), I'd respawn two steps away! And what if we do fight? How much are you going to spend on this? How drained are we both going to be when a real threat looms? So stop fighting!

(50/50) Yes, but...
Paladin, summoning all the stereotype of their Class, spits out a classic: "You stink of The Diabolist."

Really? What gave you that idea? Was it my slit green eyes or maybe my forked tongue? Oh, oh, it could be my iconic relationship with The Diabolist - the conflicted relationship, mind you - which I have because I am an [Adventurer] – created by the 13 Icons for the same purpose you were!

Paladin visibly bristles. Then, they accuse me of sabotage, of working for the Castle - or "worse", working for The Maiden of Chaos herself. They'd accept a surrender, but mutual disarmament is out of the question and they'd much rather [kill me outright] if given the chance.

I look at the other two. Any chance of getting help there?
(50/50) No, but... +Twist: Organization / Helps the hero
The refugees, though! The arrival of four adventurers and an immediate start to a fight gets everyone's attention. Bronzelake isn't that big; people across the hollow are staring.
Rich seer
A jewel-studded dragonspawn - not an adventurer - scrambles up to the shrine platform and begs us to stop between gasping breaths.
Reveal an unwelcome truth
Worg rider
Pole arm
A Treasure Guardian - an avatar of Castle Omen itself - is waiting just beyond the caldera ridge, has been waiting for the better part of the day. It arrived earlier in the morning, hasn't made any trouble, and hasn't moved from its spot just on the other side of this Shrine. The dragonspawn looks between us - all of us, including me - and begs us not to fight, not to bring misfortune down on them and let it in.

Pieces of the puzzle fall into place. This, spawning here, the four of us, it's a trap.

Three of them drawn here by The Great Gold Wyrm, and me, an outsider, inserted into the mix for my passing connection to the volcano underneath. Paladin grips their blade like a vice - I'd bet somewhere in their background they lost something to The Diabolist. Rogue and Druid look away - because, hey, who would you trust more: a paladin of The Eldest Dragon or a self-proclaimed monster-kin? Would've liked to think at least old man Druid might have stood up for me.

Regardless, Paladin is in an excellent position to start a fight. Rogue is in an excellent position to back them up. A [smite evil] or [sneak attack] coming from either of them after I've been weakened has a good chance to drop me under my negative HP limit and [kill me outright]. Can't resurrect after that. Bonus points for reshuffling the magic manifesting me back into The Source to reroll a "better" adventurer.

In the meanwhile, I'm a Barbarian backed into a corner; of course I'd go out swinging, carving away big chunks of their HP as I did. Then the Treasure Guardian poised beyond the wall steps in, thrashes the weakened survivors, destroys the Shrine, and walks off.

Four adventurers gone, killed outright or felled without a Shrine to return to, removed from the game board. A Shrine of Resurrection gone, a sanctuary against Castle Omen lost. Surviving devotees of The Gold are scattered and vulnerable, easily eaten by wandering beasties, their souls recycled into more monsters for the Castle. And when our successors finally show up, they're on even more of a back-foot than we are.

This was a trap and we stepped right in it. And I carefully explain that to the others - and to Paladin especially - with a [tricky snake]'s taste for convolution. [Arcane DC 15]
13 = 7[d20]+2+4

Rogue steps forward, pulling her own small sword out from a within-her-sleeve [pocket]. "Then the goal is to kill you, but effortlessly and not outright?"

Um, well, yes, fair, but does it have to be me who dies? I'm not the one who bit the bait.

(Somewhat Likely) Yes

F-fine. Fine! To demonstrate my sincerity. To prove I'm "one of the good ones". To show that I trust you to not kill-me kill me. Paladin! You owe me!

21 = 16[d20]+5+0
13 = 3[d8]+4+6[d12]
17 = 12[d20]+5+0
14 = 6[d8]+4+4[d4]
(Ow. Ow. Maybe pick up the pace a bit. I'm not that frail.)
21 = 14[d20]+7+0
11 = 7[d8]+4
I stand there as Paladin and Rogue drive their blades into me. And then hold still and [give up] as the magic seeps out of the cracks and I chip and crumble away.
I awaken at the same Shrine.
Involve an existing faction or monster type
The commoners are panicking, the adventurers are gone, and a massive arcane symbol fills the darkening sky.

Oh. Great. Can I find that jeweled dragonspawn?
(50/50) Yes +Twist: Organization / Helps the hero
He finds me, blubbering about how he's thankful the others were wrong, about how he prayed to The Eldest for my safe return, that every adventurer the Icons can spare--

I cut him off. Where are the others? What are they doing?
Vermin-infested foothills
Outside the caldera, dealing with the beast army and the Treasure Guardian. The dragonspawn shoves several rolls of parchment into my hand. Magic scrolls:
4 = 4[d4] for healing
1 = 1[d4] for enhancement (weapon or armor), and
3 = 3[d4] for fire alignment.
The dragonspawn then spins me around and ushers me out of the caldera. I'm going, I'm going!

I sort and [pocket] the scrolls, dumping them in the adventurer's extra-dimensional inventory. The image of a scroll floats beside my hip as if hanging from an arcane toolbelt. I flex my fingers and [unpocket] my gear. Armor's already on; chain-mail casualwear and an iron-plate vest are light as a feather on this earthen body. Weighted plates appear on my hands and feet; heavy, unwieldy, offering zero additional protection, but great for smashing. I step into spirit form--

The shackles on my wrists, so far unassuming bangles, immediately cut into my arms and throw me back to The Land. The in-out-in transition is instantaneous but jars the hype right out of me. Right. Can't do that anymore. (Never could, really.)

Glancing behind, does the dragonspawn notice?
(50/50) No
I give him a fake-confident smile, and he returns a hopeful-pleading one.

The commoners leave me at the caldera lip, and I look out over the foothills swarming with gaunt, nearly-skeletal, moss-crusted beast-folk. Gnolls, I think. Or maybe awful amalgamations of zombie-gnoll-orcs that are being hewn from the hillsides. Paladin is leading the charge to the Treasure Guardian resting casually on the next hilltop, a much-more-traditional gnoll slumped over a shaggy wolf-bear-thing.

Level 2 and up, mooks included. A rough fight for us newbies. Mount and rider are both well armored, and the gnoll leader carries an intricately engraved, clearly magical spear with the shredded ribbons of a torn flag trailing from where elongated spearhead meets shaft. That's the Treasure. But...the rider isn't the Guardian...Too normal; I'm not feeling that telltale iconic antagonism.

I look up at the symbol hanging in the sky, a single wild eye framed in fangs, the whole thing traced in frozen lightning. [Treasure Guardian: The Scattered Flag of Beasts], stares back at me, and then returns its focus to the other adventurers. Magic arcs down from it to one of the gnolls, which visibly strengthens. As Rogue beheads the symbol-connected monster, the arc flickers to the dozing hilltop rider. The adventurers make some progress, and then the arc flickers to an empty spot of ground, raising another gnoll from the earth, which joins the melee and stalls the others' progress again.

More gnolls, ones not bothering the adventures, are getting in position to surround the caldera basin and the shrine.

I turn around and hop back into the caldera. Asking around, are there tunnels under these hills?
(Unlikely) Yes, but...
They're connected to the molten lake. Great! No risk of something following me back if I die!

I ignore the protests and general alarm, [pocket] everything, step up to the lake, and...Beyond the painted wards' protection, it's hot. Really hot. Not-supposed-to-be-doing-this hot. Deep breath in ~ and out. I was made for this.

Demon of hellfire, protect me. [The Diabolist] 4 = 4[d6] doesn't respond.
King under the mountain, protect me. [The Dwarf King] 4 = 4[d6] doesn't respond.
Guardian of nature, protect me. [The High Druid] 3 = 3[d6] doesn't respond.
None of the three icons hear my prayer.

W-well, I am Barbarian, damn it! I was made for this! I'll just endure the heat, then, with the hardiness of an [iron oni]. I leap forward and dive into the lake. [Spiritual DC 25]
27 = 19[d20]+5+3
I was made for this! Withstanding the liquid blaze and crushing pressure, I sink, but not fast. Can't see very far either; too bright. Need to find a tunnel, and I can't stay here forever; I will die. No idea how to swim (never had to before), but as a [bound jinni] of elemental earth, I lived geology. Before the magma chamber collapsed, it should have produced some dikes radiating out, creating the first under-hill tunnels. The fissures would've extended from pre-existing cracks between sedimentary layers. I trace faults around the lake to find the most likely dike spots. [Arcane DC 25]
12 = 9[d20]+2+1
The heat starts eating into me before I find a dike, dealing 13 = 5[d6]+3[d6]+5[d6] damage. But I find one! Grab the ledge, climb up. [Iron oni] claws can pull me along faster than I can swim. Hope this comes to an air pocket or open tunnel and not a dead end. [Divine DC 25]
19 = 13[d20]+3+3
I take another 14 = 6[d6]+6[d6]+2[d6] damage before I haul myself out of the liquid metal and onto...
Ordinary temple
...a smooth-cut volcanic glass platform. Huh. Part of a temple to The Gods Below. Convenient, and ominous, and not my problem right now. I scrape the liquid bronze off me before it hardens in place. [Unpocket] everything, and, pointedly avoiding the temple, I follow the tunnel out. Silent as a [tricky snake], expecting the others to be preoccupied with the fighting above. [Divine DC 15]
9 = 2[d20]+3+4
Wood nymph
I don't make it two steps before coiling vines lash out from the temple entrance.

Vines, from a hidden [scavenger flower].
1 = 1[d3]
16 = 10[d20]+6
Only one vine gets near me and only deals [2 damage]. Not threatening on its own, but I'm heat-strained and this is a time-sink I (and Paladin and Rogue and Druid) really can't afford.

The hungry flower crawls out from the temple entrance.

I step forward and [rage], straining against my spiritual shackles for a drop of magic.
8 = 4[d20]+4+0
7 = 3[d20]+4+0
One drop of anything, really: speed, power, durability - it doesn't help. I slash up, palm open, claws out, but the flower wobbles to the side and my burns keep me from following up. I deal [1 damage] anyway, forcing the flower to move. Not nothing. (But kinda nothing.)

3 = 3[d3] vines this time.
13 = 7[d20]+6
13 = 7[d20]+6
26 = 20[d20]+6
I duck and pivot around the first two, but the third catches my legs, knots them up, and yanks me to the ground. I take [4 damage] and I'm [stuck] for the turn.

That's fine; I wasn't going anywhere. I pull my legs to my chest and grab the vines at my feet.
7 = 2[d20]+4+1
18 = 13[d20]+4+1
Grab and rip!
7 = 4[d10]+3

The flower backs off and lashes with 3 = 3[d3] more vines. Bring it!
25 = 19[d20]+6
One grabs my ankle and pulls me again for [2 damage], but I plant that foot firmly down and [grin and bear it], showing my resolve and healing 6 = 2[d12]+4.
12 = 6[d20]+6
10 = 4[d20]+6
I roll to the side and avoid the other vines, and the flower thrashes wildly. Vines hit me, the walls, the temple entrance, and tangle into other vines dealing 4 = 4[d4] damage to both of us.

Rolling to my feet, I step closer to the flower again and reach for petals with an [adamant] grip!
16 = 10[d20]+4+2
21 = 15[d20]+4+2
I grab the edge of one petal and swing the monster into the tunnel wall for 7 = 4[d10]+3 damage and heal for 11 = 7[d12]+4 as the flower realizes I have a lot more fight left in me.

Another 3 = 3[d3] vines lash. Keep 'em coming!
18 = 12[d20]+6
19 = 13[d20]+6
19 = 13[d20]+6
The flower batters me for [6 damage], but I ignore it and slam the monster into the wall again!

18 = 11[d20]+4+3
18 = 11[d20]+4+3
Once! Twice! And-!
26 = 10[d10]+10[d10]+6
I drive a fist through its center and into the wall beyond, putting the monster so far into negatives that I [kill it outright]. The flower shatters into sparkles of magic, which spooks me enough to drop me on my ass.

G-good, I guess? One less monster in the world, never to respawn again. At least this brawl wasn't a total waste.
15 = 11[d12]+4
10 = 6[d12]+4
10 = 10[d20]

The shackles reassert themselves, and I come crashing back to "normal". Spent my rage on the flower, but, whatever, I needed to get this over with.
Out the tunnel! Does it appear behind the rider?
(50/50) No
Close to the adventurers, then? Bypassing the endless mob of gnolls?
(50/50) Yes
Worth it!

And just at that moment, I feel a tug at my iconic connection to The High Druid. Someone calls for help. And I'll answer! Bursting out of the tunnel, into the midst of the [ravening pack] to give the elderly dragonspawn Druid some relief!

My unexpected arrival gives me the initiative! Coming to the rescue in the middle of someone else's fight, where is the [escalation] at?

6 = 6[d6]

Deep in it, weren’t they? Well, let’s crack some skulls!
23 = 13[d20]+4+6
12 = 9[d10]+3
I land in front of Druid, grab a gnoll harassing him, and throw the beastie far downhill. The other adventurers may be tired, but I'm fresh. Bring it!

Four nearby mooks from the pack crash into me, but that’s four that don’t target the others.
12 = 5[d20]+7
16 = 9[d20]+7
24 = 17[d20]+7
21 = 14[d20]+7
[Pack attack] makes it hurt, but I can take [24 damage]. I grin through it all; not a problem!

Paladin looks incredulously at me. Rogue fumbles through her Pocket for a healing scroll. Druid looks between me and the remaining gnolls and raises his staff, casting [regeneration] on me, and then follows up with a [flame spear].
29 = 17[d20]+6+6
13 = 8[d12]+5
He strikes down two gnolls, and the fire splashes back on me for 6 = 6[d6] damage.

Ow. Kinda hurt already here!

Druid shrugs apologetically.

[The Scattered Flag of Beasts] above trains its eye on me - and from the eye, a [banner blast]!
13 = 6[d20]+7
I skip to the side and dodge it, but the blast is powerful, dealing [5 damage] on a miss - the shockwave sends fissures through my body which knocks me below 0 HP, leaving me [helpless].

And Druid's well-timed regeneration closes them all up.
10 = 6[d12]+4
[5 healing] isn't a lot, but it's enough to stand back up, and show the ravening pack my [adamant] determination!
18 = 8[d20]+4+6
11 = 8[d10]+3
14 = 10[d12]+4
I grab another gnoll and dash it against the ground, then step forward and kick another into the distance. But there's [more of them]! Two more gnolls charge into the melee to replace the fallen.

Okay, team, I understand I'm awesome, but I can't hold them all off myself! If you're done picking yourselves up, maybe help thin the pack a little?
21 = 14[d20]+7
26 = 19[d20]+7
When two more gnolls gang up on me for [16 damage], I [grin] and shove my armored forearm into one's stone maw. Break your teeth on this!
13 = 9[d12]+4
But there are still more gnolls.
21 = 14[d20]+7
18 = 11[d20]+7
I take another [16 damage] and one gnoll tackles me to the ground and gouges off a sizable chunk from my face. I'm [helpless] again. The rest bound past me and attack the others.

I...can't afford them much attention. They're adventurers, they can handle themselves. But, on the ground with a mad gnoll on top of me, I have an excellent view of the Treasure Guardian as pulses with a [symbol of ferocity].
6 = 2[d20]+4[d20]
The symbol inspires the gnolls to redouble their assault and tear into the adventurers. The one above me tries for a [killing blow] -
28 = 15[d20]+7+2+4
- and tears off another [16 damage] of face.

That might've been enough to [kill outright] most adventurers, but I am Barbarian!
The second wave of regeneration hits me, bringing me back with
13 = 9[d12]+4
[7 healing], and
5 = 5[d20]
fades away. Good enough! With fight returned to my fingers, I grab the gnoll above me and squeeze!
19 = 9[d20]+4+6
10 = 7[d10]+3
The gnoll goes limp, and I stand back up, grinning. That was the last of this mob, even as there's another forming to overtake us. Gripping the strangled monster by its neck, I use its body as a bludgeon to [crush and cleave] through the incoming pack!
18 = 8[d20]+4+6
4 = 1[d10]+3
I hit gnoll with gnoll, but the mob claws my weapon away from me.

That's every power I have, spent. This [ravening pack] is a lot. Does anyone else have a trick up their sleeves? Or are we just going down fighting?
(50/50) No, but...
A [flying blade] whirls over my shoulder -
27 = 16[d20]+5+6
14 = 7[d8]+4+3[d4]
- striking down the gnoll I hit and then bouncing into the next. Rogue yells for me to catch up.

I turn around. The path behind me is clear, even as the earthen gnoll-zombies we've taken down [won't stay dead] and pick themselves up like more classical zombies. Worse still, [more of them] keep coming in. I sigh and shoo the adventurers off. Go! Exit the fight and recover, then get back in here and get me out.

Only two gnolls manage to get in reach. I beat my chest. Come on!
13 = 6[d20]+7
21 = 14[d20]+7
I spin around the first's charge and the second crashes into me. But its [pack attack] is greatly reduced; I only take [5 damage], and I'm still up.

Another two gnolls join the mess and a [flame spear] flies overhead to strike them.
32 = 20[d20]+6+6
26 = 6[d12]+10[d12]+10
The flame spear hits dirt that collapses into the tunnel I emerged from which drops a bit of hilltop onto the remaining gnolls.

Okay! That works! I turn around and sprint up the hill. Good shot, Druid!

I [unpocket] a [healing scroll] and burn it to boost my recovery. Because, yikes, do I need it.
17 = 8[d12]+4+5[d8]
Two healing scrolls.
7 = 1[d12]+4+2[d8]
14 = 14[d20]
At least my rage finally comes back.
We crest the hilltop, as the rider - a [gnoll packlord] I can now identify - mounts the [howling beast]. The packlord waves its spear, the torn banner flashing as [The Scattered Flag of Beasts] shifts its connection point to the weapon, marking the rider as its [flagbearer]. The rider [escalates] and [resists all damage 16+] as long as mooks still stand. Then the symbol above draws forth an [unending pack], as six more gnoll mooks follow us into the next fight.

I look at the others. Please tell me someone has a plan. Because I'm really close to being completely tapped out.

(50/50) No, but... +Twist: PC / Alters the location
No plan for the fight, but Rogue and Druid have a way to get the Treasure away from the rider. Two battles with the gnolls and the Flag were a lot tougher than expected, though. Everyone's tried to keep the limited powers unused, but...we just may not have the HP to get through this.

Fair. We need to clear out the pack first, though, or that [flagbearer] power is going to be a pain in the ass. I burn the [enhancement scroll] to boost my weapon attacks. Because why not, at this point? Let's go!

The packlord howls and its mount echoes the cry. They charge at us, and I'm about to move when Paladin [intercepts].
13 = 5[d20]+8+0
With armor blessed by The Great Gold Wyrm and a spinning elven dance, Paladin deflects both mount and rider in a shower of magical sparks. But the packlord uses [ride by] to pop free of Paladin and charge for Rogue instead!
15 = 7[d20]+8+0
Before the spear can connect, Rogue splits in two. One of her ducks under the snapping jaws of the beast and comes out the other side; the other jumps onto the spear and runs along its shaft before the packlord throws her off. The first poofs away, and one Rogue remains, unharmed.

She [tumbles] away, 13 = 8[d20]+5, trading spots with Paladin who runs back into melee with a flourish. Paladin raises their blade in prayer and [invokes vengeance], adding [2 damage] to all of our misses. Rogue dashes to the side, staying back while throwing a [flying blade] from her out of her sleeve.
22 = 17[d20]+5+0
She breaks through the [flagbearer] resistance, dealing 7 = 3[d8]+4 damage as the packlord twirls the spear around, narrowly catching Rogue's thrown sword in the trailing ribbon and tossing it aside. Paladin uses the distraction to cut at the beast, their [dragon slayer] talent activating again against the Treasure Guardian.
12 = 5[d20]+7+0
But it snaps at them, forcing them back. The maneuver dealt another [2 damage], as the beast is also protected by the Scattered Flag's resistance.

Then the mob of lesser gnolls swarms the hilltop before Druid and I can act. I'll [intercept], arms out to either side, using the bulk of my [iron oni] body as a physical wall against as many as I can catch. [Iconic DC 15/20/25]
16 = 13[d20]+0+3

I manage to split the mob in half. Three on me, while three others bear down on Druid.
22 = 15[d20]+7
12 = 5[d20]+7
15 = 8[d20]+7
With [pack attack] boosted by their numbers, two force me back with [12 damage]. The other three...
12 = 5[d20]+7
26 = 19[d20]+7
17 = 10[d20]+7
...tear into Druid for [12 damage] too. Damn it. If they crowd him, he'll have trouble casting his big spells, and I need his spell support.

Um, um, I'll risk it! I break free from the three gnolls, not bothering to disengage.
18 = 11[d20]+7
12 = 5[d20]+7
17 = 10[d20]+7
With teeth and claws chipping off [12 damage] from my midsection, I'm betting a lot on this next bit going very well. I [rage] again, slipping ever so slightly past the chains holding me down. Grab another scroll - [healing] - clench it in one hand and crash [adamantly] into Druid's mob!
12 = 7[d20]+5+0
19 = 14[d20]+5+0
10 = 6[d10]+4
I tackle one gnoll, shoving it off the hill. The healing scroll burns away invigorating me.
18 = 8[d12]+4+6[d8]

Okay. Sorta kinda didn't-really-work, but Druid has an easier time [disengaging], at least.
9 = 10[d20]-1
Not easy enough; the gnolls grab his robes and pull him back.
Druid then tries a [gust] spell, wind whipping from behind him, giving another chance to [disengage].
10 = 11[d20]-1
He still can't put distance between himself and the gnolls, but he can hurt them directly with the wind.
14 = 8[d20]+6+0
Or not. The gnolls stand firm against the gale and take only [2 damage], entirely from Paladin's invocation. Druid then looks me up and down and gestures with his staff, another regeneration on his lips.

No! Give it to someone else. I only have one recovery left, and I already have a way to use it.

Druid nods and tosses [regeneration] to Paladin.

Who might need it, as the packlord waves the spear in the air, the sky glowing with the [symbol of ferocity].
36 = 16[d20]+20[d20]
The symbol shines on Druid with a [false rally].
24 = 17[d20]+7
I see the dragonspawn stare up at the symbol, enraptured and [confused].
At the same instant, the symbol empowers the rider to attack again!
11 = 1[d20]+7+1+2

But Paladin deftly parries the blow and knocks the packlord off-balance, then spins forward for a counter-attack!
14 = 6[d20]+7+1
It's not enough to break through the rider's defenses, but Paladin wears it down with [2 damage] while they [regenerate]
9 = 7[d10]+2 [5 healing]

Rogue switches focus to me and Druid. I gesture at our turncoat dragonspawn and the mob of gnolls still hounding us - this is not a problem I'm equipped to solve! And we need Druid for your plan, right?

Rogue rushes over to us and splits in two. The first [tumbles] between the gnolls, grabs Druid by the shoulder, and shakes him hard. I feel The Emperor's presence...
(50/50) Yes
16 = 16[d20]
And Druid breaks free of the confusion.
The first Rogue dissipates; at the same time, the second vaults over me and weaves through the gnolls with a [tumbling strike].
21 = 15[d20]+5+1
8 = 3[d8]+4+1[d4]
She appears on the other side of the mob and backs away.

Only four gnolls stand, but [more of them] approach. Rogue will have to deal with the two more coming up the hill.
22 = 15[d20]+7
10 = 3[d20]+7
Which aren't a problem for her at all. She twirls around the first, and then [rolls with] the second's gnashing teeth, splitting in two again and reconstituting behind her attacker with only [3 damage] taken.

I try to interpose myself between Druid and the gnolls again, an [iron] shield - which is apparently all I can contribute to this fight. [Iconic DC 15/20/25]
6 = 3[d20]+0+3
I catch one which is very not good.
17 = 17[d20]+7
Without [pack attack] backing it up, the lone gnoll deals only [4 damage]. Which is nothing; I have HP to spare, and Druid very much doesn't.
13 = 6[d20]+7
26 = 19[d20]+7
14 = 7[d20]+7
[12 damage] as the gnolls knock the [helpless] Druid to the ground and start chewing into him.

Paladin notices, swears [vengeance], and passes the magic; Rogue nods in agreement, catching it.

I step forward and slam my palm into the one gnoll fighting me.
9 = 3[d20]+5+1
19 = 13[d20]+5+1
6 = 2[d10]+4
Crack its mossy-stone ribs, grab it under the jaw, and use my [iron oni] strength to bowl it into the mob harassing Druid, trying to pop him out of that mess. [Martial DC 20]
15 = 8[d20]+4+3
I [pop] one gnoll away, but that's not good enough! I run into the melee and try to help, but Druid...

Druid kicks a gnoll off, rolls onto his back and crawls away without disengaging. They grab at him, but I can [intercept] one!
15 = 8[d20]+7
I absorb [4 damage], but also break up their [pack attack].
17 = 6[d20]+7+4
Druid takes another [4 damage], but the old man is a dragonspawn after all. He's dying but not dead, gets away, and with a shaky hand unfurls a [healing scroll] from within his robe.
19 = 10[d10]+4+5[d8]
He is a dragonspawn - and really hardy for a Druid! He's back in the fight; I sigh in relief.

Then, the Scattered Flag of Beasts pulses with another [symbol of ferocity].
34 = 15[d20]+19[d20]
A bolt of arcane light strikes the hilltop, and another gnoll grows out of stone and grass to join the ravening pack.
None of us are weak enough to fall for another [false rally], so the symbol pulses and empowers the packlord for another strike.
13 = 1[d20]+8+2+2

Paladin jump-spins away effortlessly, more golden sparks flying, lands on the howling beast, and stabs at the packlord.
13 = 4[d20]+7+2
Parried again, and knocked off the mount. They chip away another [2 damage] and [regenerate].
8 = 6[d10]+2 [4 healing]
2 = 2[d20]
Paladin is back at full strength as the regeneration fades.

Rogue divides, [tumbling] out of the mob in three directions, and into a [tumbling strike] against the gnoll I'm menacing.
13 = 6[d20]+5+2
She misses the gnoll, rolls to a stop, pivots on her toes, repeats Paladin's oath of [vengeance] and attacks again!
12 = 5[d20]+5+2
And misses again! But [3 damage] is enough to force the gnoll to step back - into me, and I hug it from behind and crush the monster. Teamwork! Rogue nods and stands with me, between the ravening pack and Druid.

Still [more of them] appear. Damn it, we really aren't making headway! Good thing Paladin can handle the packlord by themselves or we'd be killed quick.

Druid mutters that they're still holding back.

What!? How much more do you have? And are you going to use it before you die or after?

Rogue elbows me to focus.

Ugh, yes, fine. Clear the mob. I'm trying.

The two nearby gnolls try to gang up on us, but Rogue and I [intercept] one each.
21 = 14[d20]+7
12 = 5[d20]+7
Rogue takes another [4 damage]. Staggered, but fine. I bat my attacker aside. A total of four more gnolls, re-raised or climbing uphill.
One bounds past us and attacks Druid -
15 = 8[d20]+7
- for [4 damage] but Druid pushes them off. Two more crash into me -
21 = 14[d20]+7
24 = 17[d20]+7
- and join in a [pack attack] with the previous. I [grin and bear] that [12 damage].
14 = 10[d12]+4
Not even a wound! But it did cost me my last recovery.
The last one goes for Rogue -
24 = 17[d20]+7
- who suffers [5 damage] and is in the worst shape of all of us.

Well, escalation's rising. Maybe stop holding back, you two!
I stomp forward, crushing a gnoll's foot.
14 = 7[d20]+5+2
27 = 20[d20]+5+2
22 = 7[d10]+7[d10]+8
Then rip through fur and soil to get a firm hold of its collarbone, tear it up off its leg, and throw it into the rest of the mob, dropping another gnoll down the hill. Killing the last mook of this mob. I grin, stomp forward again to [crush and cleave] through the new, approaching, re-raised mob.
20 = 13[d20]+5+2
15 = 8[d20]+5+2
14 = 10[d10]+4
I grab a gnoll by the arm and pull it towards me as iron fist smashes through stone skull. Ripping arm off torso, I stomp forward again and swing the arm, beheading another. Last thing: would be really nice if there was a tunnel underneath where I've been stomping. Whaddaya say, [Dwarf King]?
3 = 3[d6]
No. Damn it. Four kills will have to be enough.

A [flame spear] flies past -
22 = 14[d20]+6+2
15 = 10[d12]+5
- incinerating the last two gnolls. More are coming, but they're far away right now.

Rogue elbows me again.

W-what? N-no! I-I haven't been holding back! This was...It's on/off...I didn't, I can't control...Whatever! It worked!

Rogue grins and the three of us turn to face the packlord.

The [symbol of ferocity] pulses desperately.
28 = 16[d20]+12[d20]
A [false rally] shines on Rogue.
27 = 20[d20]+7
A strong, desperate rally that completely takes Rogue over.

Paladin swears [vengeance] again and passes the oath to Druid, but Rogue is [confused] and the effect is way stickier than the previous.

Then an arcane bolt raises another gnoll. Just one, but enough to reinstate the [flagbearer] resistance as the rider and beast start backing away.

Paladin, meanwhile, touches the symbol of The Gold on their uniform and calls out.
(50/50) No
They curse, and chase after the packlord.

Rogue looks between me and Druid, and I'm going to stop her from doing something stupid. She attacks. I [intercept] and grab her before she can reach Druid. She slips out of my grip three times before she splits in two and stabs me with her double,
26 = 18[d20]+5+3
sneaking the blade through chain and nicking a fault in the stone underneath.
12 = 8[d8]+4
14 = 14[d20]
She doesn't break free from the banner's magic.

The one mook-gnoll runs past us, charging for Paladin, to hold him in place while the Treasure Guardian flees.

Druid, go after them! I've got Rogue. We need her for this secret plan, yeah?

I wrestle her to the ground, [iron oni] grip against her duplication. [Martial vs PD]
17 = 10[d20]+4+3
Holding her there, I call on [The Diabolist] - my conflicted relationship with The Diabolist, because I know evil spirits, and I know how to get rid of them, and if I wasn't a [bound jinni], if I had my proper powers, I could purify her in a snap.
5 = 5[d6]
Turn their actions back on them
A slapdash ritual with slapdash results – I'll take the false rally into me instead! Not like I have much left to contribute to this fight.

...An eye framed in fangs...
[Recovery – none left, none used!]
19 = 19[d20]
I regain my senses, an arm's length from Druid, who's warding me off with his staff. My limbs are heavy again; rage is gone, but I've another brewing. Fight's over?

I look to my left. Rogue is picking herself off the ground.
Just past her, Paladin...looks to be in top form.
The packlord and howling beast stand on either side of them, hurt, but nowhere near defeated.
I look at the sky. [The Scatterd Flag of Beasts] is gone, and with it, the [unending pack] ends, the gnolls returned to rubble.

And the spear lies on the ground, in the center of the six of us.

Rogue and the packlord pounce on the spear. Does Rogue get to it first?
(50/50) No
The gnoll grabs it first.

Rogue uses a [thief's strike] -
22 = 17[d20]+5+0
- and the packlord interrupts with a [whirling parry] with the spear.
12 = 7[d20]+5+0
17 = 9[d20]+8
Spear shaft deflects Rogue's sword and the butt knocks her back.

Paladin tries to help, but the howling beast [intercepts] them.

The packlord spins the spear around to attack Rogue.
26 = 18[d20]+8
It smacks her for [8 damage] and then [pins her down], denying her [escalation]. The gnoll then uses its [long reach] to shift its grip and stab at Paladin.
24 = 16[d20]+8
Trips them up, deals [8 damage], [pins them down] too, and then with even [longer reach] swings the spear around to me.
19 = 11[d20]+8
Spear tip clatters across my chain shirt for another [8 damage] and [pins me] too.

And all of that while The Scattered Flag of Beasts is dormant. Damn it. We need to stop the packlord before it can wave the flag again.

Paladin is occupied with the howling beast. They stand against the monster and...falter?
6 = 1[d20]+5
Falter bad. No escalation, no [dragon slayer]; they have trouble doing anything and the beast takes advantage of it.
22 = 13[d20]+9
Its bite deals [7 damage], staggering Paladin.

Druid turns his staff from me to the packlord - we have to hit him, distract him, stop him from [pinning us down]! Druid casts [gust].
8 = 2[d20]+6+0
Wind blows across the hilltop, but the gnoll stands firm.

I use the opportunity to dive in! I [rage] and charge the packlord.
10 = 6[d20]+4
24 = 20[d20]+4
It braces the spear against me, but I bulldoze right past, grab the gnoll by the ruff of its collar and bring my fist up to face-level; the packlord [presses its advantage], dropping focus from the Paladin - they're no longer [pinned] - and interrupting me with another [whirling parry]!
6 = 2[d20]+4
23 = 19[d20]+4
27 = 19[d20]+8
Whacks my hand, whacks my chin, pushes me away. Denying me my critical hit! Cheater! You don't get to have two interrupts!

The gnoll cackles and raises its spear. The trailing ribbons flash and pulse. The packlord can [escalate] again, and uses the Treasure's power to attack Paladin.
23 = 14[d20]+8+1
Paladin takes [8 damage] and gets [pinned] again.

Rogue gets a chance to attack - and grabs for the spear instead!
(Unlikely) Yes, but...
Rogue wrestles the spear away, but only for a second; the packlord snatches it back and the two scrabble over each end of the weapon.

Paladin [disengages] 20 = 20[d20], running over to help Rogue with the howling beast on their heels.
(50/50) No
Together, they pull, but the packlord keeps his grip and holds the duo down while its mount snaps at Paladin again.
13 = 4[d20]+9
Paladin lets go, dodges around the beast, trades places with Rogue, and grabs the spear again.

Then the beast inhales. The howling beast howls.
3 = 3[d3]
18 = 9[d20]+9
27 = 18[d20]+9
18 = 9[d20]+9
Howls thunderously. For [10 damage]. Paladin, the closest to the beast's mouth, is thrown back, lands hard, and is [helpless]. The sound hits a pitch that re-opens the fissures through my body, and I crumple, also [helpless]. Only Rogue stands after that. Barely.

...Stand up. C'mon. Stand up...
[Death] 20 = 20[d20]
I slam my fist into the ground. Stand! Up! I [overreach], grasping for a [recovery] I don't have and finding it anyway. I heal 14 = 10[d12]+4 and lose 1 to all attacks and all defenses. Worth it! Because I stand up, grab the packlord again, and smash its face in!
13 = 10[d20]+3
21 = 18[d20]+3
Another [whirling parry] gets in my way.
23 = 20[d20]+3
7 = 4[d20]+3
26 = 17[d20]+8+1
Cheating beast! Damn it! The packlord knocks me back again. At least Rogue isn't [pinned] anymore.

Druid panics and casts [regeration] on the downed Paladin and badly-injured Rogue, and then continues his [gust].
10 = 3[d20]+6+1

And the packlord ignores it again, yanking its spear away from Rogue and stabbing her.
20 = 10[d20]+8+2
[Pinning] her again anyway, but it doesn't matter because [8 damage] drops Rogue with a red, drippy stomach wound - which knits up immediately with 10 = 6[d6]+4 [5 healing].

Rogue splits, [tumbles] away from the howling beast, into position opposite me, to attack the packlord.
17 = 12[d20]+5
She misses, but the packlord spins the spear into a [whirling parry] anyway.
24 = 19[d20]+5
14 = 4[d20]+8+2
She splits again, and the three of her manage to harry the packlord for a hard-earned [1 damage] - a drop in the bucket, but a distraction nonetheless. None of us are [pinned] anymore.

Paladin regenerates, too.
3 = 1[d10]+2
[2 healing] isn't much, but it gets them on their feet. They yell and charge the packlord, blade flashing with magic, glowing brightly and streaming like a falling star.
11 = 4[d20]+5+2
17 = 1[d8]+4+12[d12]
Thanks to Rogue, the packlord has no [advantage to press] and can't [parry], but dodges anyway with [9 damage] for the effort of avoiding the streak Paladin leaves behind. Paladin then stabs and twirls their blade, trying to loosen the packlord's grip.

(50/50) Yes, but...
Which works, until the howling beast lunges for the elf.
29 = 20[d20]+9
[14 damage] throws Paladin away again, letting the packlord fumble and regain their hold of the spear. The beast inhales again -
1 = 1[d3]
21 = 12[d20]+9
- shouting Rogue away with [10 damage].

Neither Rogue nor Paladin get up, which means I have to step up. How do you deal without your cheating, escalation-denying, multi-interrupt powers, packlord?
10 = 5[d20]+3+2
12 = 7[d20]+3+2
Pretty damn well, apparently! It dodges one punch and then ducks the other and takes [1 damage], so I follow with a [tricky snake] maneuver and coil my arms around the spear. [Martial DC 20]
13 = 5[d20]+4+4
I pull, but the packlord holds firm.

Druid's winds continue to [gust],
14 = 6[d20]+6+2
and continue to fail to do anything.

The packlord reaffirms its grip on the spear, shoves me off and swings it down like a staff.
19 = 11[d20]+8
I catch the shaft above me, take [8 damage], and [grin] back - [overreaching] again.
14 = 10[d12]+4
The blow shakes more fissured fragments off me, revealing green-streaked ore underneath. But my eyes are feral, my grin toothy, and my stance solid. I'm nowhere near dead yet!

The packlord growls and strikes me twice more - shoulder, hip - knocking me to my knees and [pinning me down]. That's fine. I'm in awful shape and this worthless body's only good for getting in the way. I can buy time for [regeneration] to bring Rogue and Paladin to their feet again.
10 = 6[d6]+4 [5 healing]
3 = 3[d20]
11 = 9[d10]+2 [6 healing]
17 = 17[d20]

Rogue, unsteady on her feet, backs off, circles the melee, and tosses a [flying blade].
10 = 2[d20]+5+3
The packlord [presses its advantage] by shifting focus from me to Rogue and whacks the blade out of the air with a [whirling parry].
12 = 4[d20]+5+3
23 = 15[d20]+8
It whacks the weapon with enough force to send it right back at Rogue. Impaled by her own sword, she takes [10 damage] and falls to the ground again.

Paladin [swears vengeance], and immediately charges the packlord.
27 = 19[d20]+5+3
7 = 3[d8]+4
No parries; the gnoll struggles to keep Paladin's spinning blade away.

The howling beast turns on me while the two warriors duel.
13 = 4[d20]+9
I shove its muzzle to the side before it can bite, but it howls again.
3 = 3[d3]
19 = 10[d20]+9
27 = 18[d20]+9
15 = 6[d20]+9
[10 damage] worth of new cracks, but I can take it. Druid gets caught in the blast, but Paladin reaches out a hand, creating a shimmering [watchman's shield] to absorb the hit. Paladin goes down again, but Druid only takes [5 damage].

Which leaves him free to continue the [gust].
19 = 10[d20]+6+3
As the winds blow, stronger and stronger, finally they knock the packlord off its legs. Frost coats its fur and chills the metal spear. 12 = 2[d6]+6[d6]+4[d6] damage [staggers] the packlord. Finally. The additional [5 ongoing] might kill it eventually, but I'm not going to take any chances!

I shove the howling beast away and grab the gnoll -
19 = 14[d20]+2+3
25 = 20[d20]+2+3
22 = 10[d10]+6[d10]+6
- pivot, lift it overhead, and slam it into the ground!

The packlord drops the spear.

Then I [crush and cleave], [adamantly] swinging the rider into its mount next!
9 = 4[d20]+2+3
21 = 16[d20]+2+3
12 = 9[d10]+3
7 = 3[d12]+4
The beast howls and backs off while I drop the limp packlord.

What's wrong, beast? I told you I'm nowhere near dead yet!

Paladin gets to their feet for the third time.
7 = 5[d10]+2
12 = 12[d20]
[4 more healing], and the regeneration fades.

Can't tell if Rogue is resting or bleeding out (or both), but she doesn't get up.

Paladin picks up the spear and points it at the howling beast while burning another [healing scroll].
10 = 6[d10]+2+2[d8]

I crack my (cracked) knuckles, and Druid conjures a ball of fire on the tip of his staff.

Does the beast back down?

(Somewhat likely) No

The beast roars and - No! You're dealing with me! I [intercept].
26 = 17[d20]+9
[7 damage], fine, but I hold its mouth shut and crush its jaw between my hands.
11 = 5[d20]+2+4
21 = 15[d20]+2+4
8 = 5[d10]+3

29 = 19[d20]+6+4
Druid's [flame spear] strikes the beast's side for 14 = 9[d12]+5 and splashes me for 1 = 1[d6].

Paladin stabs the spear into the beast.
29 = 19[d20]+5+5
6 = 2[d8]+4

It wails through a shut muzzle, pulls itself free from my grip, and snaps at me.
22 = 13[d20]+9
[7 damage], but I pull my hands out its maw before it crunches down.

13 = 2[d20]+6+5
Another [flame spear] splashes against the beast's injured side, but that only makes it angrier.

I step forward and kick its jaw.
19 = 12[d20]+2+5
23 = 16[d20]+2+5
20 = 9[d10]+5[d10]+6
Kick its jaw, cracking bone; stomp down, crushing a paw; palm up, fingers splayed, slash up, tearing through throat.

The howling beast inhales - but only coughs up blood before it stumbles and crashes to the ground.

Yes! Woo! That was awesome! I even held my own without-!
12 = 8[d12]+4
12 = 8[d12]+4
6 = 6[d20]

Rage leaves me mid-celebration and I fall. Hard. Face-on-the-fluffy-hilltop, don't-want-to-get-up kind of hard. Damn me; four recoveries beyond my limit feels awful. I choke out a laugh anyway, worsening the fractures through my body.

I see paladin pull the spear out of the howling beast's corpse and [pocket] it.
Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait – no!
I crawl back to my feet, and paladin stands imperiously, arms crossed and scowling.

We - the four of us - worked for that Treasure. You don't get to claim it.

(50/50) Yes

One treasure for one level; that's the rule. Only one of us gets the spear, and, Paladin says, as the most capable weapon user and the one obviously most connected to this desecrated banner of The Silver Sparrow Company, they will keep the Treasure.

Rogue picks herself up, her injuries filling in with magic, and - [Thief's Strike]!

15 = 10[d20]+5+0
10 = 6[d8]+4
14 = 14[d20]

In a flash, she rips the spear from Paladin's pocket, [tumbles] away and takes off downhill.

Druid, standing off to the side, growls, the angriest I've ever seen him.
24 = 18[d20]+6+0
8 = 3[d12]+5
He stalks forward, fuming. "Castle Omen robbed me of my youth." A [flame spear] strikes Rogue's feet.
26 = 20[d20]+6+0
7 = 4[d6]+3[d6]
"You can live your lives! I want mine back!" With [elemental fury], the ground beneath Rogue's feet erupts into a geyser of molten metal.

She lands on her back, and then panics, separating, reconstituting, and separating again as the super-hot metal eats through her legs.

Paladin sprints after Rogue - or tries to, because I'm going to trip them like a [tricky snake]. [Martial DC 20]
10 = 2[d20]+4+4
I catch Paladin's legs with mine, but as they lose their footing, they spin and land lightly on their feet. They scowl at me and I grin back. They turn around and sprint again, catching up with Rogue and grabbing the spear from her flailing hands.

Druid picks up the pace and jogs tiredly downhill, another spell on his lips.

I get going, too. Despite how very broken I am, I need that Treasure to find my heart.

(50/50) Yes
I feel iconic threads pull; Rogue [unpockets] something and tosses it into Druid's puddle of metal. It begins to billow with green-purple smoke. Paladin stops in his tracks as the smog engulfs them and then stumbles out one side clutching his mouth and heaving violently. Without the spear.

Druid recasts his wind spell. Not strong enough for an attack, but it blows the smoke away, revealing the spear.

Before he can run for it, I grab the back of his robe
14 = 13[d20]+0+1
5 = 2[d10]+3
and throw him to the ground behind me. Then I [disengage]
13 = 13[d20]
and rush for the spear myself.

18 = 11[d20]+6+1
15 = 10[d12]+5
Druid's fire strikes me in the back, but I keep going! Hold my breath, grab the spear, run out!

22 = 13[d20]+7+2
16 = 6[d8]+4+6[d12]
A line of sparkling gold bisects me at the waist. I don't feel it cut or break, but I drop instantly, paralyzed. [Helpless] again, damn it.

Am I still in the cloud?
(50/50) No
Smallest of mercies.

Paladin picks the spear up and backs off.

(50/50) Yes
Those iconic threads interweave; arcane symbols trace the ground around us and lift everything into the sky. We're trapped on a floating island now.

Paladin stabs the spear into the floating chunk of earth at their feet, [unpockets] an elaborate bow, and shoots an arrow of glitters somewhere off to the side.
20 = 12[d20]+5+3
12 = 8[d8]+4
13 = 4[d20]+6+3
9 = 4[d12]+5
Presumably at Druid because Paladin ducks a shot of flame before smiling - for the first time since I've met them, I think.

I push myself to elbows and knees and grin back.

Paladin's smile flips upside-down and they aim the bow at me.

A proper snake always keeps a trick up her sleeve. I burn my last [healing scroll]. Paladin's eyes go wide as the paper dissolves into light and my wounds close up.
16 = 5[d12]+4+7[d8]

The arrow flies.
18 = 9[d20]+5+3
10 = 6[d8]+4
The shaft of light pierces through my chest, where my heart would be. Divine radiance fills my fissures, threatening to break me apart from the inside, but I [grin and bear it].
9 = 5[d12]+4

Again, the icons twist together...
(50/50) Yes
...The Great Gold Wyrm rouses at Paladin's behest; divine magic surges from arrow, through wounds, and into my shackles; the Eldest Dragon's jaws clamp down on my soul and crunch. [Fear] takes hold. I lose the [escalation] and I'm [dazed], losing even more attack.

Well, that's fine. This is Paladin, after all. Blessed by the gods; untouchable; highest AC of all Classes. I wasn't going to hit them anyway, not after I've [overreached] six times over. I grin, weakly, at Paladin. And pull out three [fire scrolls] instead.

Paladin startles.

They lunge for the scrolls, but too late! Since we're getting all the icons involved, I ask [The High Druid] to soak in the volcano's power and plead to [The Diabolist] to roar wild with unsealed magic!
4 = 4[d6]
3 = 3[d6]
The Great Gold Wyrm bears down on me and keeps the other icons away.

On my own, but I'll manage. I'm still a [jinni], even if I'm bound; I burn all the scrolls with an incantation to appeal to the spirits of fire! [Arcane DC 15]
16 = 13[d20]+2+1
Paladin reaches me and the scrolls explode. It catches both of us, but I know I'll be fine. How's your PD, Paladin?
5 = 12[d20]-7
1 = 8[d20]-7
6 = 3[d6]+1[d6]+2[d6]
Not that big a boom. I endure the firework and Paladin dances out of the way - but not quite fast enough. We both take [3 damage], and that's just enough to tip Paladin over the edge of our floating platform. Bye!

The [fear] lifts, and I can move again. I stagger to the spear and break it out from the ground.

And to get off this floating rock? I guess I jump, relying on my [iron oni] bones not to shatter on impact. [Primal DC 15]
11 = 8[d20]+0+3
10 = 5[d6]+5[d6]
Aa-! Ah! Ah. Ow. Shattered just. A little.

I rise on legs with the consistency of mud. And am face-to-face Rogue, about as unsteady as me on her burned-black legs. I huff. None of us are the type to give up, huh?

Did the ground that was lifted up reveal the lava tubes beneath?
(Likely) Yes

I pointedly frown and flick my eyes to where Paladin fell. A [tricky snake] ploy to pick on Rogue's (perfectly justified) wariness. Just to make her glance away. One moment is all I need. [Divine DC 15]
11 = 4[d20]+3+4
No luck! Rogue stabs! I can't [grin and bear it], and there's no chance Rogue will miss since I'm so thoroughly [overreached]. Can [The Dwarf King] give me an out?
3 = 3[d6]
No luck! Then I'll take the hit and use my [iron oni] weight to grab Rogue and fall into the exposed tunnels. [Martial DC 15]
18 = 11[d20]+4+3

Rogue uses [thief's strike].
16 = 5[d20]+5+6
11 = 7[d8]+4
9 = 9[d20]
Her sword cracks through my shirt and into my torso. [6 damage] and I'm [helpless]. Again. She splits in three, and, while one of her holds the blade in me, the other two grab the spear. But my grip is iron and I steal her momentum to topple backwards.

The four of us land in the tunnel hollow.

Rogue rolls off me smoothly.

Damn it. Did not go as planned.

Stand up. C'mon. Stand up...
[Death] 11 = 11[d20]
I can't gather the strength to throw a punch. But I can't let Rogue get away. Is she going through the tunnels?

(50/50) Yes

I grin. A different tactic then. I [give up], let her win, and [die].
[Full Heal]
Make them backtrack

I awaken at the Shrine of Resurrection in Bronzelake, in tip-top shape. Are the others here?
(50/50) No
Dying and respawning got me here faster than limping down the hillside. Couldn't have asked for better. [Dwarf King]! Trap Rogue in the labyrinth!
4 = 4[d6]
F-Fine! Useless old man! I'll hunt her down myself!

I [pocket] everything, streak past the confused commoners, and dive into the caldera. I know the way already; I'll just endure the heat and crawl out of the dike.

26 = 3[d8]+5[d8]+4[d8]+4[d8]+6[d8]+4[d8]
Aaa-! Ah-! It's fine! I'm fine. [26 fire damage] is bracing, damn it! Shake the slag off. I have a Rogue to catch.

I look around and...No obsidian platform; no dark temple; this isn't the same tunnel I came out in before. Did I swim up a different dike? No - I wouldn't have known the way. And these tunnels weren't so spider-web-y, branching and interconnected, before. The strata almost spiral down the passageway - which is something I would've definitely noticed before. Not sure what's going on, but I need to find Rogue before she stumbles across a Shrine of Resurrection and claims her [level].

I don't know the specifics of Rogue's duplication magic, but she's probably using it to map her way through. I know I would if I had half that capacity. That means there's a lot of her in here. I creep up to a cross-section and wait. I'll run into one of her eventually. Or not and she's long gone and I've missed my chance anyway. Couldn't hurt. [Divine DC 15]
16 = 13[d20]+3+0
Deliberately / Less

Footsteps echo down the tunnel. Tired, shuffling steps. She hasn't had a chance to [full heal] yet.

I take a deep breath, gear up. Almost feel bad doing this, but we all have our reasons, yeah? I step around the corner and face Rogue. She looks haggard. Her legs are still fried, and she's using the spear as a crutch. It's a testament to her [spiritual power] that she's still upright.

Rogue takes a moment to react, but startles at my appearance and stops. [Overreached], too, huh? I grin. Good on her.

Hey? No matter what happens, no hard feelings, okay? This stupidity of adventurers fighting adventurers, it's Castle Omen's fault. Not yours. Not Paladin's or Druid's.

(50/50) Yes, and... +Twist: Physical event / Hinders the hero
Rogue nods, and with a resigned smile says it's not my fault either.

I laugh. It's fine. I tap my nubby horns. I'm happy to play the villain. I have a relationship with The Diabolist after all.

Rogue takes a half step back and points the spear at me, a second weapon glinting from within her sleeve. The banner flashes briefly with the fanged symbol. I match her stance; hands up, claws out, ready to [Battle].

Rogue gives more than her all, darting towards me; I take a heavy step forward to meet her!
23 = 19[d20]+4+0
I knock the spear aside and reach for her uniform, but she separates to either side of me and I'm suddenly in a very bad position.

One Rogue squeezes my shoulder; it feels like I'm dipping under lava again; I flinch instinctively and she shifts me off-balance; the other swings the spear back, knocking out my legs; the first uses my fall to drive a sword through my back - and it goes through - and before I land, the spear shaft thwacks my side and I go skidding across the ground until I hit wall. Rogue used her [eye for weakness] to set up a [sneak attack] with herself.
19 = 6[d8]+3[d8]+8+1[d4]+1[d4]

My whole body flares up with a painful echo of swimming through Bronzelake and a particularly sharp cracking sensation where my heart would be. It takes everything to bite my tongue and not let out a whimper. I'm [helpess]. And [dying].
17 = 17[d20]
9 = 5[d12]+4
And embarrassed, damn me, which is what ultimately gets me back up. I choke out a laugh. You're not making me a 1-turn-kill.

When I manage to raise my head, there's only one Rogue. I clumsily pat my chest and the duplicate sword is gone. Hole's still there, but that'll fill in over time. I settle back into a guarded stance and rap my knuckles on an intact bit of my chest. Come on, then!
(50/50) Yes

Rogue, steely-eyed, comes on with a [tumbling strike].
18 = 13[d20]+4+1
8 = 4[d8]+4
This time I eat the impact, spearhead through gauntlet into palm, and I close my fingers catching the weapon. Barely fighting-ready after that hit, but I'll [grin and bear it].
9 = 5[d12]+4
Too early; the defiance loses its flavor and I get only [5 healing].

But I desperately need that HP to start making any headway, because Rogue slips the spear out of my grip and [tumbles] away.
19 = 9[d20]+10
She bounces to the other side of the tunnel and spins to face me. Wants to keep her distance? Tch. She must have figured out I have no ranged attacks. Damn this body! Fighting like this, one-on-one, no distractions, no complications, in The Underworld, against an overreaching foe - it should be my territory, my advantage, and here Rogue is leading me around by the spear-tip.

I huff out my frustration and [adamantly] charge her, reaching for her uniform again, pointedly not raging because I don't want to accidentally scatter her soul across The Land.
25 = 20[d20]+4+1
14 = 1[d10]+7[d10]+6
12 = 8[d12]+4
Heavy load of good being careful does, because I slip my bindings anyway and extra power takes me by surprise and instead of grabbing the collar of her shirt and throwing her against the wall, I crush her throat.

T-thank the Gods Rogue is as [spirited] as I am. It only steals her breath and not her life.
I grin nervously. T-totally meant to do that!

Rogue puts her back to the wall and--

Our battle's [escalation] increases to 2. Castle Omen's trap snaps shut.
Massive chasm
The Elf Queen
The tunnel beneath our feet falls away. A long, long drop between two sheer cliffs into a river of flowing green-gold, a sideways cityscape speeding by us as we plummet.

Does Rogue have anything to stop her fall?
(50/50) Yes
She can handle it.

I kick off a passing tower, slam into the opposite wall, and use my [iron oni] claws to dig in and grind to a stop. [Primal DC 20]
18 = 15[d20]+0+3
I take 2 = 1[d6]+1[d6] from a hard landing.

Rogue makes a chain of selves and swings one of her into an open window in the far wall; the others vanish and she's safe inside the building.

Monsters above us screech and take wing. Others below us chatter and howl. Something thumps, hard enough to shake both city-walls of the chasm, rattle my shirt, and knock Rogue off her feet.

Damn that castle! We're still in a battle, aren't we?

Is there an easy way to the other side?
(50/50) Yes
A spire of a sideways building hangs most of the way across the chasm, and I think I can jump the rest. [Primal DC 15]
8 = 8[d20]+0+0
A long, long drop into the molten river below sends my head spinning. I hesitate, and then shuffle across the spire and make the jump into a
Peacefully / Smelly
meat locker of some kind. What I wouldn't give to abandon this earthly sphere right now because ugh, the smell. I don't eat; meat is not desirable; this is just a closet of hanging corpses and it's disgusting.

I'm about to turn around and find another way to Rogue, preferably through the more-tolerable outside, when I pay for my hesitations. A [copper wasp], brown-red bug a little over half my size, flies into the building on translucent-thin wings. Level 0 - not a mook but weak, even if those [serrated stingers] can leave a nasty [ongoing] wound.

And not a problem I should be devoting time and energy to, right now.

Is there an obvious exit from here to where Rogue landed?
(50/50) Yes
Then I don't bother with the wasp and weave through the hanging meatstuffs. Stairs in the corner lead to an overhead door. I crash through and slam it shut bellow me. Is Rogue in this room?
(50/50) No
The wasp hits the door, and I'm counting on my [iron oni] weight to hold it shut. [Primal DC 15]
16 = 13[d20]+0+3
The wasp hits again. I grin. A level 0 runt like that isn't going to move me!

Is Rogue in this room?
(50/50) No, and...
There's another [copper wasp] in front of me.

Damn my luck. Doors out?
(Likely) Yes, but... +Twist: Item / Ends the scene
A kitchen-space built with tiered counters into to the cliff-side wall, a curving walkway against the drop-side wall, cookware scattered everywhere in between, and Rogue comes bursting through the door across the room, a copper wasp's stinger through her chest. The guilty wasp is broken in the room beyond, but its stinger is still moving, still in Rogue, serrated edges sawing through her.

She collapses. The spear is still in her hand.

The wasp in front of me flicks its attention to the Treasure.

Can I intercept the wasp!?
(Unlikely) No
The copper wasp grabs the spear in its mandibles, yanks it from Rogue's weak grip, and flies into the next room.

No! I'm not letting you flee! I [rage], grab -
- a bottle of chunky green sauce, and hurl it [adamantly] at the bug monster!
9 = 4[d20]+3+2
6 = 1[d20]+3+2
It shatters on the far wall, and I lose my healing.

The spear-thief gets away.

I step off the door to give chase and the wasp behind me shoves its way into the room.

Damn me; damn my luck; damn the Castle! I hustle through the kitchen, scoop Rogue over my shoulder as I go - she's [helpless] and I'm not leaving her to the wasps! - and stomp after the Treasure-grabbing vermin. [Iron oni] strength and plenty of [martial power] should make carrying her easy. [Martial DC 15]
8 = 1[d20]+4+3

I'm not expecting the third copper wasp, which darts through the large window-balcony and uses Rogue as a landing pad.
23 = 12[d20]+7+4
It rips her off my shoulder and throws her into the wall, then jams its stinger into her. Rogue [dies].

Is she okay...?
(50/50) No, and...
Rogue gasps out "My brother..." before she shatters into rainbow-wisps of magic. Dead. [Killed outright]. Gone forever. One less adventurer in the world.

Our battle's over.

10 = 6[d12]+4
20 = 20[d20]
One wasp backs out of the balcony and over the chasm, Treasure in its mouth. The second wasp enters the room from the kitchen. The third takes flight, hovering above Rogue's death-spot. The flagbearer shifts its grip on the spear, lets the spearhead swing down and the torn banner fly. [The Scattered Flag of Beasts] slowly reawakens.

Is there debris on the floor?

(50/50) No

Then before the flagbearer can fly any farther over the chasm, I leap out the balcony and try to grab onto it! [Martial DC 15]
16 = 12[d20]+4+0
Fingers clamp around the spear shaft, and I am ten times too heavy for the wasp the carry. But the momentum of an [iron oni] should carry us both into the other wall. [Primal DC 15]
23 = 20[d20]+0+3
The bug and I take 7 = 3[d6]+4[d6] as we crash land -
Yieldingly / Lavish
- through a stained-glass window and into cavernous ceremonial hall that opens deep into the cliff side.

Rugged chord tapestries embroidered with silver hang from floor-to-ceiling stone columns; elegant stone tables, some broken and overturned; benches lined with velvet cushions; coats of arms that mean nothing to me; mosaics showing a once-lively city that I have to assume was abandoned in a hurry. I don't miss the gouges along the walls and the occasional mass of green honeycomb-goo.

I roll to my feet, one hand still on the spear. The flagbearer can tug as much as it wants, my grip is [iron] and I'm not letting go. [Martial DC 15]
21 = 14[d20]+4+3
The hum of its wings changes pitch. And I can hear more wasps on their way. Come on, bug! Which of us will let go first?

The flag pulses - not sky-filling like before, but energy ripples from the torn ribbons to the spear to the wasp to activate the [symbol of ferocity].
13 = 1[d20]+12[d20]
Instead of pulling, the wasp pushes!
22 = 13[d20]+7+0+2
My grip slips, but I catch the spear again before the tip cuts into me. [2 damage] only - copper wasps aren't made to wield spears - but the wasp uses the movement to lunge forward and latch onto my arm.
Then a bolt of magic arcs to the side, striking a honeycomb. One [copper nymph] crawls out, half the size of the wasp in front of me with under-developed wings. The nymph is a mook, which means the [flagbearer] resistance activates again and the copper wasp [resists all damage 16+].

I can see where this is going, and I'm not going to get bogged down by an endless swarm. With a [rage], whip the spear-gripping, wasp-grabbed arm into a column, to dash the bug against it!
11 = 7[d20]+4+0
8 = 4[d20]+4+0
The wasp lets go with [1 damage] and only my hand hits stone.

Does it let go of the spear?
(Very Unlikely) No, and...
It immediately latches onto my arm again.

4 = 4[d6]
A second [copper wasp] flies in through the shattered window.

The flag pulses with another [symbol of ferocity].
18 = 13[d20]+5[d20]
A nymph gets carved out of the ceiling, more stone than copper, while the flagbearer stabs its [serrated stinger] into my arm.
26 = 16[d20]+7+1+2
Ow! [5 damage], and the stinger stays in, dealing [5 ongoing].

The first nymph rouses enough to scuttle up and pounce on me.
6 = 1[d20]+5
I step aside and it hits the column instead.

The second wasp tries to grab my other hand.
15 = 8[d20]+7
[2 damage] as the claws hook into my gauntlets, and the wasp arches its back to sting next turn.

Okay, okay. A wasp on either arm, more approaching the window, two nymphs on the ground, and the spear keeps spawning more. Okay. Still manageable! And to prove my [adamant] confidence, the nymphs are the easiest target, so I'll start with them; I spin and crush my would-be attacker between boot and column!
22 = 17[d20]+4+1
8 = 3[d20]+4+1
8 = 5[d10]+3
14 = 10[d12]+4
Squish! Then two steps forward and kick! The stone-ish nymph gets launched through another window. Mooks are gone! So I'll [crush and cleave] the flagbearer against the column, too!
9 = 4[d20]+4+1
13 = 8[d20]+4+1
The flagbearer flies away again, landing on the far end of the spear this time.

I feel its stinger sawing through me.
4 = 4[d20]
[5 damage] and with both hands occupied, I can't figure a way to rip it out.

2 = 2[d6]
More buzzing draws my attention to the windows. A bright yellow [brass wasp] lands lightly on the shattered glass bits, and my not-heart drops into my stomach. Brass wasps are Level 1 and full-strength monsters.

The [symbol of ferocity] - 11 = 2[d20]+9[d20] - empowers its bearer and the copper wasp attacks twice!
31 = 20[d20]+7+2+2
It grabs my shoulder hard with [4 damage], and I have to [bear it].
13 = 9[d12]+4
I didn't see the wasp grow a second stinger, but it did!
28 = 17[d20]+7+2+2
Arch, stab, pull out, [5 damage], and another stinger in me.

The brass wasp stays on its perch and contracts its abdomen.
27 = 18[d20]+9
The stinger shoots out for [3 damage] and lodges in my leg for [3 ongoing].

The brass wasp's attack pulls the coppers into a [frenzy]. The flag bearer attacks again while the other stings.
19 = 10[d20]+7+2
24 = 17[d20]+7
[7 damage] in total and a fourth stinger.

Those four stingers are carving a total of 18 damage through my body. Pressing on for even another full turn would kill me. One more try; that's all I can afford. I strain against my bonds for every drop of power and grab the flagbearer!
18 = 12[d20]+4+2
23 = 17[d20]+4+2
21 = 7[d10]+8[d10]+6
The shackles loosen, and I catch the bug before it can fly off. Tear it off my shoulder, throw it to the ground, and stomp!

The flagbearer dies.

I have the spear.

Okay; mission complete; bye!

I shake the last wasp off without bothering to disengage and [flee].
13 = 6[d20]+7
It tries to sting, but doesn't find the leverage to stab. Which is great because I'm not sticking around to endure that ongoing damage! Bring on your consequence, Castle!

10 = 6[d12]+4
11 = 11[d20]

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