After doing some last minute purchases and other house keeping, the party secured the services of a sailing ship to take them down the coast to the elf lands. They never got there.
In preparation for the evening's fun, I had pre-rolled random encounters and this is where I have to admit that I do not always strictly follow random table rolls. The primary reason I like to use random tables is that they challenge me to be creative. Therefore, when I am inspired by a roll that does not necessarily strictly adhere to the result I will run with it.
In this particular case, there was to be one encounter with pirates. Now, as much as I love Errol Flynn's Captain Blood, I am not much interested in pirates in context of a fantasy campaign. However, one of the most intriguing monster entries from Realms of Crawling Chaos is the Moon Thing. Though they are inspiringly characterized as squishy toad-like semi-humanoids with a mass of tentacles instead of a face, the most consequential description about them is this:
Moon things have an affinity for the sea, and are sailors, pirates, and slavers. They capture humans to sell as slaves in faraway lands and on other planets.Therefore, this became the basis for what appeared on the horizon as the players lazily sailed south (even though Hamlen had bought some pipes and was annoying everyone as he tried, and failed, to become a competent musician.
Using his spyglass, Dn. Swibish caught a glimpse of a shadowed outline within what appeared to be a storm cloud. Given that the rest of the party has often accused the deacon from Redwraith of exaggeration, his warnings went unheeded until it was too late. A fast moving galley sporting a tentacled ram slammed into the side of their ship and engaged boarding ramps.
The subsequent battle did not go well for the moon things. Despite managing to flank the party, incapacitating and even capturing several party members and crew, the moon things were made mince meat. The party made good use of spells, missile weapons from the crow's nest and coordinated attacks.
However, the moon things were not alone. They were being lead by another Yellow Face, this one apparently with mental powers able to do damage by just thinking about it (literally). Therefore, despite the relative success against the moon things, the party very quickly had to concentrate fire on Yellow Face in order to neutralize him as soon as possible. This gave the haggard moon things the chance to get away with prisoners.
The pirate galley began to pull away from the party's ship with captives in tow, so the party went on the offensive. This is when things started to go south for the party. Coleman and Raine (two of the newer characters) failed to cleanly jump across, which resulted in their capture. Getting rid of Yellow Face also proved much more difficult than anticipated (despite a successful Hold spell).
This capture and delay allowed the pirates enough time to start up their engines, create an energy field and hop into a different dimension. This encouraged the party to rush below deck where they found their captive party members and crew plugged into a large magical/biological engine, having replaced several desiccated and emaciated corpses on the floor.
Unfortunately for the party, some of this vision was a mental illusion and when they went to rescue their companions, they instead found themselves in range of the melee attack of a Brain Lasher. This reveal, by the way, produced one of the truly great reactions of the campaign so far.
I have been hinting throughout the campaign that Brain Lashers are lurking behind the scenes, but this is the first time the party came face to face with one. Dn. Goram has been voicing fear of ever encountering one ever since the very first cthuloid visage showed up in the campaign. Upon actually seeing one, his player (and therefore Dn. Goram) completely freaked out.
It all came down to one initiative roll. Dn. Swibish was in the grip of the Brain Lasher and his brain was poised to be sucked out of his skull. Had the party lost initiative, he would have died.
While he was beating the Brain Lasher corpse into pulp (to make sure it was dead-dead), the rest of the party was busy exploring those things that the illusion had hidden. They found their captured party members alive, but minus several INT points (brain damage from being plugged into the machine). There was a wonderful aha! moment when the party put the pieces together and correctly surmised that the Brain Lasher had raided their vessel in order to refuel.
The main part of the vessel disguised by the illusion was the cockpit, wherein controls seemed to be hooked up to the cranium of the pilot. There was also a large dial covered in an unknown writing.
The session ended with the party realizing that they had to somehow figure out how to power and pilot this vehicle if they wished to get home.