Friday, September 30, 2011

Little Encounters - Spear and Shield (Archon, Shield)

Here’s a new entry based on the Pathfinder Bestiary 2. This isn’t yet the weird encounter that I promised (I’m still cooking that up), just a random idea that I got a few days ago. Strictly speaking this isn’t an encounter, but a chain of events (and rewards) that can be placed on most adventures. If the players run this little quest right they got not only new magic items but also the help of a powerful celestial creature. The “Recommended Level” is based on the Shield Archon’s CR 10.

Spear and Shield (Recommended Levels 8-14)

The items: This encounter is based on two (apparently) normal magic items – a shortspear and a tower shield.

Both items appear to be made of bronze, but are as resistant as steel and shed a small dark gold glow when touched by creatures of Good alignments. Detect magic reveal a weak transmutation aura.

The shortspear is beautifully carved with the images of Greek-like myrmidons marching in perfect order – pure sunlight play tricks over these marks, giving the impression of movement. Whenever a Good character wielding the spear scores a critical hit against an Evil foe, a faint cry is heard (like a phalanx of warriors in a charge). Upon the spear’s pommel is written “The Faithful Fist” in Celestial. It works as a +3 shortspear.

The tower shield is broad and massive, giving the impression that it’s merely decorative and can’t be used in battle. In fact, if the wielder is Evil the tower shield is cumbersome and inflicts an additional –2 penalty to all his actions, besides reducing his movement by half. The shield is shaped like a castle tower and works like a +1 magic tower shield.

The hook: After any encounter, have the party find one of the above items in the local loot. As soon as a Good player character pick the item he feels a strong pull in a certain direction and catches mind flashes of a tall giant with bronze-like skin. The wielder begins to dream with this figure, first seeing him standing at the border of a titanic cliff, watching an abyss below made of stars, suns and galaxies. The wielder always wakes with a pierce cry on his mind.

Let the group try to puzzle this information. The one relevant skill check here is Knowledge (Planes). Results:
Natural 1 – The figure in the character’s dream is the campaign’s deity of war/law/justice etc. (Use the best candidate.)
Less than 10 – The figure in the character’s dream is some kind of lost giant race or fallen celestial;
10 – The figure is a celestial warrior, an archon;
15 – The same as above, plus – the cliff and the abyss in the dream represent, respectively, the celestial planes and the material plane;
20 – The same as above, plus – the giant is a shield archon;
25 – The same as above, plus – this particular shield archon is known as Pyrgos and was killed in a famous battle after destroying a demon lord’s prized weapon.

The party may desire to consult priests, sages or wizards for further information. If they’re very insistent let them known the archon’s name or where he fought, or even which demon or deity’s weapon he destroyed. You can also let a sage or alchemist prepare a special potion that allows the wielder to see what happens at the dream’s end: the piercing cry comes from the archon Pyrgos shattering his own arms. The arms falls in the abyss, becoming shooting starts before hitting the player character’s homeworld (another option is that a consulted priest cast a special ritual that shows this scene to the wielder).

What’s happening: The idea here is that the party will be pulled to the second magic item derived from Pyrgos’ strange act. This is an excellent excuse to have the group going to a dangerous (or otherwise desolate) region that you had planned to use – the hook can be used, for example, to lead the group to a Darklands campaign. Or the second item can be part of the next villain’s treasure.

Once they find the second item a projection of Pyrgos manifests. The archon tells the party that he has fought for so many eons that he forgot why he fought. He didn’t desired to betray his celestial masters and the ideals that they hold, be he had lost faith. To stop himself from falling, Pyrgos shattered his arms and transformed them in magical weapons – items that waited for the right heroes to pick them.

Now that the Spear and the Shield are reunited, Pyrgos has restored his faith by witnessing the group’s action. He says that the party can call him, once, to aid them to faith Evil or Chaos. This requires simply calling aloud his name (and a standard action). After helping them once, the shield archon goes back to the Outer Sphere, taking his “arms” with him – but not before enchanting two items chosen by the groups (one item can have a total of +3 enhancement bonus; the other +1; chosen by the players).

An alternative ending: Ok, what happens if the player character are a bunch of heartless mercenaries our raiders? In that case they should though better before walking around using celestial weaponry. Once they gather both items, Pyrgos manifests, fuse with the items and – disgusted to watch the evil perpetrated by the PCs – promptly attack the party. If defeated, let the magic items be retrieved from the celestial’s body… but as curses items.