September 8, 2011

Long Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away ...

The party had completed their mission for the King of the Fire Elementals, returning (very reluctantly) to Ravenloft to bury the gem he had given them, creating a new-born volcano in the process. They hurriedly returned to Castle Lightningspire, ignoring the bodies of the dead circus folk strewn about outside, and used the Gatestone to re-close the gate.

They found themselves standing in an expanse of rolling, grassy hills. They were in the center of a circle of huge stone masks, each a good 15-20’ tall. The heads were very elongated, with wide, open mouths and oval eyes. They were concave, hollowed out from behind, and the eyes and mouth are open, so you could look out through them. Most were still upright, although leaning, but a few had fallen on their sides. The heads faced outward, away from the center of the circle, and the grass growing up around the stones and in the center of the circle showed no sign of having been disturbed in some time.

Following the Gatestone, they set out towards a line of hills or cliffs in the far distance. As they traveled, they found themselves filled with a vague sense of unease. Something about this place simply felt wrong. Some of the party's spellcasters attempted to cast simple spells, only to find that they could not. It wasn't clear why - if anything the lines of Force felt stronger here than any other universe they had visited, but something just wasn't working right. 

After travelling for a full day, they stopped to make camp for the night. They stomped down the tall grass and made a cold camp, setting watches. Midway through the night, two giant feline creatures leaped out of the grass to attack Joe and Phil, who were on watch. The beasts had enormously wide mouths, filled with razor-sharp teeth, and forked prehensile tails. After slashing at Joe, the first beast leaped a good 20' and grabbed Mary in its jaws, trying to shake her the way a cat would a mouse. Ice and Chuck moved in to help Phil, but found themselves knocked prone when the creature's tail whipped their legs out from under them. However, after recovering from the initial surprise, the party was able to dispatch the two creatures without taking undue damage.

In the course of the battle, the party discovered that they had strange new powers. The spellcasters, and even some of the fighters, found that by using the power of the Force, they could tap skills they had never before known. The clerics and wizards found that they could still cast their old spells, but that it required an expenditure of Force power in a way that was new to them.

One other thing was different. When Joe drew his sword, Hito-Kaze, it was no longer a gleaming Japanese katana. Instead it was an intense beam of red light, emitting a low humming sound. When the party questioned Joe about it, he looked at them like they were crazy. "What are you talking about? It's always looked like this!" Deciding not to debate who might or might not be crazy, the party let it drop.

The party continued their travels the next day, eventually approaching a line of dark cliffs split by a number of narrow canyons. A thin stream of smoke could be seen rising from near one of the canyon mouths. They sent James forward (invisibly) to scout. Spread out around the canyon mouth, he could see at least a dozen squat, muscular humanoids, with green skin and pig-like faces They were armed with axes of various sizes, and were scattered on either side of the opening. 

Hoping for the best, the party approached in the open, calling out a friendly greeting. In response, the creatures charged in to attack. Despite their superior numbers, it was hardly a battle. A couple of fireballs took out a good half of the enemy, and the party made short work of the rest. A few of them were armed with huge, two-handed pole-axes, that gave off a high-pitched whine as they whizzed through the air. Only Ice was strong enough to wield one of these vibro-axes, and he claimed one eagerly.

The Gatestone pointed down the canyon that the creatures had apparently been guarding, so the party continued on. After a few miles James, who was scouting ahead, spotted movement ahead. Creeping forward, he saw a wide metal door inset into the canyon wall. Arrayed around it were a large group of robots. Most were slender bronze robots armed with short, rifle-like weapons, but there were several much larger machines marching among them.
Remembering that being neighborly hadn't worked too well with the pig-things, the party decided to go on the offense. Ice, being Ice, charged right in and leveled one of the bronze robots with his new axe, causing all  the others to turn their weapons his way. Just then, James remembered that one of his new Force powers allowed him to hide his allies from sight. Just in time, he cloaked the party, and Ice was able to dodge the barrage of energy bolts that blasted into the area where he'd last been seen. 

While the rest of the party took advantage of the robots' momentary confusion to array themselves around the canyon, Mary rushed forward to the door, hoping to open it and let the party slip inside unnoticed. Unfortunately, she found herself confronted with a 16-key keypad and no idea what combination might open it.

As the robots continued to blaze away blindly with their energy weapons, Joe tired of waiting for the others to do something. He stepped forward and raised his hand in a dismissive gesture, and suddenly a good half-dozen of the robots went flying through the air, landing in smoking, sparking heaps. With that, the battle was on. Joe laid into the robots with his light saber, using it to deflect several shots that came his way. Ice did the same with his vibro-axe, while Phil provided Covering Fire that distracted the enemy and made his allies harder to hit.  Again, the battle was fairly short-lived, and soon all the robots were piles of smoking junk.

The robots' weapons didn't seem to have any obvious trigger mechanism, and were useless to the party. Examining the door, James found that there was a round, fluted hole just below the keypad that looked like it might just be an exact match for the bronze robots' left thumbs. They drug one of the machines to the doorway, inserted it's thumb, and the doors slid open with a hiss.

Inside was a large room littered with stacks of metal boxes, barrels, and machinery of unknown purpose. Another pair of doors similar to those the party had just opened could be seen at the far end. As the party entered the room, a good 25 creatures popped up from hiding places all around the room and opened fire.

The new foes looked like white robots of some sort, but whatever they were, they went down easily. Chuck stepped to the front of the party and used one of his new Force powers to Draw Fire, causing a large proportion of the enemies to attack only him; for some reason, their attacks seemed to do minimal damage even when they hit. This freed the rest of the party up to spread out around the room and start dishing out whup-ass. Once again Joe used his Force Slam to take out a substantial number of enemies (making the DM think he should have either made that a smaller area of effect or a daily power, or both). A Fireball from James and another from Jerry each took care of another group, and before long the battle was over.

As the party examined the bodies, they found that they were actually humans, wearing some sort of lightweight composite body armor. While the helmets proved to be unusable (the party couldn't figure out how to activate their internal displays, leaving them blind), several people took portions of the close-fitting body armor. They also picked up a number of the blaster pistols, which seemed to dish out quite a bit of damage. They seemed to be powered by a replaceable energy cartridge of some sort, and they picked up as many of these as they could find.

Again using the thumb of one of the deceased robots as a key, they opened the next set of doors. This time, no ambush awaited. The party found themselves on a catwalk over a deep pit. Many small tunnels went off in all directions from the main room, and small flying machines could be seen darting in and out of them. Most pulled carriers full of broken rock, which they dropped into a series of hoppers passing beneath the party's feet. A few emerged from the tunnels with tiny red crystals held between tweezer-like fingers. These would drop their crystals into an opening in a large device at the far end of the room, and a short time later a brilliant flash of light would emerge. A normal-sized door was at the opposite end of the catwalk. 

The party decided to examine the device at the opposite end of the room before opening the door, but as soon as they approached, it slid open on its own. Deciding that they'd better investigate that first, they entered. The room inside was a 60' cube. In the center was a large growth of bright red crystals, glowing with internal fire. They reminded the party very much of the crystals they'd found at the bottom of the Demon's Mouth, although they didn't have the same disturbing non-Euclidean geometry. Naturally, the Gatestone pointed directly at them. To the left the machinery from the previous room extended through the wall into this room, and several smaller red crystals could be seen on a belt coming out of the machine. Two large cylindrical tanks, ~30' high, dominated the opposite side of the room.

Mary moved to examine a control panel on the left side of the room, but as she approached, a hooded figure leaped from hiding behind the machinery. Simultaneously, two similar figures emerged from behind the crystals. All three were armed with light sabers similar to Joe's, and they charged in to attack.

At the same time, a pair of storm troopers opened fire from atop each of the tanks on the far side of the room, while a flying figure began spraying any grouped members of the party with bursts of energy bolts. The hooded figures concentrated their attacks on any spellcasters and on Joe, while the shooters tried to focus on Joe. One round after the attack began, a fourth hooded figure emerged from behind the crystals, and began to slash at Joe. He seemed to be more skilled than the others. All of them were able to use their light sabers to deflect some ranged attacks as well as to block blows from swords and axes - but not all of them. Gradually, the party began to overwhelm them. James took out the flying attacker, who crashed to the ground with a small explosion. The hooded warriors fell one by one, and finally only the party was left standing.

After taking a short rest to heal up, the party again placed the Gatestone on the source of they ley lines, and once again felt themselves being stretched impossibly thin ...

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