I feel like there should be a plot summary here. But as the plot got rather convoluted and bizarre, I don't really feel like writing it all in one sitting. So it will be growing over the next few days. If people want to help with this project, feel free (assuming you actually know the plot).
Chapter 1: We Have to Stick Together . . . Why?
The campaign begins with ten individuals, going about their daily lives, whatever that may be. Specifically, it starts with Lenari, Fylam, Rolan, the wolf person, Magnus, Kenny, Abharra, Aegis, Katsukawa, and Allen. One day, they are all, simulatenously, attacked by forces unknown, and rescued by a mysterious benefactor who doesn't explain anything but says that if they travel to Akatta, they might get some answers, and no one is likely to try to kill them in the meantime.
This convinces most people, and the rest get browbeaten into coming along.
They arrive at a rather large mansion in Akatta, and are given quarters until everyone arives. Once everyone does, they are brought together and told that someone who will explain what's going on will arrive tomorrow.
That night, they wake up with the building burning down and the individuals who had been living there are gone, with all their stuff. The party finds a note in one of there pockets apologizing for the inconvenience, but explaining that they must now lay low for a while, setting up another meeting in a month, and recommending that the party stick together for protection in the meantime.
The party, now being a party with a few minor exceptions (cough Lenari cough), and good adventurers all, starts looking for something to do. They find out that the king is calling a Hunt. This happens from time to time, though not for the last hundred years a so. This sounds like something to do, so they travel down to the official anouncement, where upon King Samantha explains, in a spectacularly bad speech, that he would like some brave souls to find the Jewel of Sovereignty, a powerful artifact with vaguely defined powers. Magnus decideds to try to con some doddering old mages who are watching the speech out of their spellbooks. After demonstrating a remarkable acumen for selecting spectacularly non-doddering doddering old mages, he attempts to hire some extra assistance for the quest. He runs across Thrag, a barbarian with an intelligence of 4 and a gyrspike (a dangerous combination), who joins under the mistaken impression that he's getting a third of the treasure, due to careless wording by Magnus.
The party then splits into two, one half heading off to do research while the other heads up to the last known location of the last known people to have the Jewel of Socereignty, which coincidentally happens to be near the location of the proposed meeting place with the mysterious gentlemen previously mentioned. The latter group runs afoul of some monsters, whereupon it is revealed that the party has the combined combat effectiveness of an arthritic kobold, as Thrag more or less singlehandedly dispatches the opposition over the course of 5 or 6 rounds. Thrag decides he got a raw deal (doing all the work for a third of the treasure) and leaves. Aegis decides that following Thrag sounds more interesting than hanging with the party, and possibly safer as well, so leaves with him. As Lenari still hasn't joined the party, this means there are now four seperate groups of PCs.
And the DM... is annoyed.
Chapter 2: This "Adventuring" Stuff Isn't Very Fun
The next morning, the largest group of the party, recently abandoned by Thrag, catches up with him while he is doing his morning exercises and starts following him, much to his annoyance. However, short of killing the entire party (or at least enough that the rest get the clue) he can't really do much about it, so the party is vaguely reunited.
The party, such as it is, makes it to the next town, where the research monkeys catch up with them. They are informed that a pack of ogres is harassing caravans, and decide to see what they can do about the problem, traveling with the next departing caravan. They kill all the ogres, save one (who, showing unusual intelligence for an ogre, flees with magical aid). The party losses: Rolan, who had spent the time up to about fifteen seconds before his demise sleeping in the back of the caravan, at which point he woke up, saw the party fighting ogres, jumped out and attacked the one attacking Fylam, missing completely. Fylam, badly injured, runs away. The ogre turns around and pastes Rolan. Sucks to be him.
The party tracks the Ogres back to their lair, where they slaughter the remaining ogres (the ones who didn't go to attack the caravan)... and the leader escapes again. They are just sitting down to pick up the loot (which is ludicrous) when a truly obnoxious mage (who also was the caravan leader) named Bob shows up, spanks down the party, and leaves laden with loot.
DMs note: Now, at this point, I expected the party to be upset with good old Bob. I expected them to do something rash, like trace him down, hack him down to 1 hp and then pour salt in the wounds. I didn't expect them to keep heading for the mountains, following the Jewel of Sovereignty quest... which is exactly what they did. Left somewhat misprepared at this point, I had to improvise the next little bit until I could get reprepared. Anyhoo...
Meanwhile, Lenari is being browbeaten into joining the party due to pursuit by her abusive ex-boyfriend, Mitch. Eventually, she consents to join the group, so, remarkably enough, the party is entirely reassembled within a session of its peak fragmentation.
The party informs the mayor that the merchant Bob is an evil wizard who stole their loot. The mayor laughs in their face. The party gets back on the road to the mountains. An eagle shows up and asks for help rescuing his mistress. The party consents, exploring the designated cave. Once all inside, the cave is sealed behind them, and they are held their for a day, at which point an annoyed female voice explains that they are going to get the road shut down, as its disturbing her territory. The party agrees, not having much choice in the matter. In the middle of this conversation the unseen voice makes a brief, nonsensical aside to the effect of "What the...? Go away. [Snaps fingers]", an event which is not explained for quite some time. The party is then released, where they continue on to the town in the mountains whose name I forget but is the last known location of the Band of the Hand, who are the last known people to have the Jewel of Sovereignty.
Chapter 3: New Faces and Old Choices
Upon reaching said town (or maybe it was the previous town; I forget), the party runs across Thrag's brother Throg, who a few years back changed his name to Blarg as the whole Thrag-Throg thing was confusing them. Blarg is approximately as intelligent (?) as Thrag, but, due to a bad experience with their little sister Chrysanthemum (known to the brothers stupid as Cr.. Cris.... Crisanthe... Chrisamum... Chrisamanum... Chrissy), is a budding Forsaker. He informs Thrag that their mother is sick and would like to see Thrag and Chrissy. Blarg agrees to protect Thrag's "friends" while he is off finding Chrissy and visiting Mom. Thrag forgets to clarify that he's been trying to ditch the party anyway, whereupon Blarg follows the party around for the next quite a while under the mistaken impression that he is obligated to do so. Thrag leaves, and this time no one follows him.
Anyway, having reached the mountain town, the party, after a bit of running about town, gets an appointment with the Mayor's Appointment Clerk's Secratary's Assistant (or some such)(actually, it was the Mayor's Appointment Clerk's Appointment Clerk), and reverses the chain to eventually meet with the mayor. They inform him of the threats made by a certain lady in the wilderness regarding the road. They then set about researching the Band of the Hand.
During this process, a few other interesting events occur. For one, a rather agressive sparrow has been following Lenari around. Stalking her, even. On Fylam's advice, she buys a birdcage. The sparrow leaves. Lenari keeps the birdcage. Just in case.
Also, the party has a pair of dreams. The first is a meeting with the mysterious benefactor from the campaign's opening. He explains that the organization that he is a part of is having a running feud with a similar organization, over a certain issue of timelines. To be specific (or not), this world is, apparently, switching back and forth between two timelines which repeatedly reconverge, such that every so often a choice is made about which will be pursued. Apparently the next choice is coming fairly soon, is unusually significant, and some member or members of the party will be making it. Apparently, the fellow (whom for simplicity we shall call RandomCreepyGuy? number one) explains, the other side believes that the null choice is in their favor, and thus are trying to remove the element of chance. He rerecommends that the party hang out together for protection, and then disappears.
Shortly thereafter, they have the second dream, a conversation with a gentlemen much like the last one who we shall call RandomCreepyGuy? number two. He explains that they are not actually trying to kill the party, despite what RandomCreepyGuy? number one might claim, clarifies a few details, and encourages the party to keep an open mind. Then he, too, disappears.
Meanwhile, the party's research reveals the house which was the former base of operations of the Band of the Hand, as well as their last known location, a tomb in the mountains where they found the Jewel of Sovereignty, and whence they had disappeared without a trace.
Chapter 4: Jewel of What?!
At this point, campaign broke for that week. The DM, being evil, spent the next week telling stories of prefered forms of Bahamut and his gold dragon escorts. Now, I have to imagine that you are wondering to yourself "what's so evil about that?" Well, as it turns out, the party was just departing town when the ran across a grizzled old man accompanied by half a dozen sparrows. They chat briefly, and then head on up into the mountains. Shortly thereafter they find themselves fighting six wyverns--a combat that, while non-fatal to any of the party members, causes Kenny to panic and abandon the party. It should be further noted that, after returning from the mountains, they see the same old man... less the sparrows.
I'm sure its just coincidence.
Anyway, while up in the mountains, they manage to find the tomb in question. They (where they again includes the errant Kenny) clean it out. They obtain the journal of the tomb's permanent resident, one Zathis the Insightful. Its in code. They bring it down and talk to the sage. He can't read it, and directs them to a certain bar in Ingra (the magic headquarters of the world), which is owned an operated by a secretive order of mages, who he believes will be able to translate the journal.
So the party heads off to Ingra, finds the bar in question, and manage to talk their way in. They are met by a young woman who introduces herself as Cynthia, asserts that it is too dangerous to the order to give them a full translation, but agrees to tell them the relevant bits. The whole summary is a little long to include here, but to paraphrase the summary: it seems likely that a dragon killed the band of the hand and took the jewel back to his lair. Cynthia agrees to take them to the lair in question.
Thus, the party heads back to the mountains, where Cynthia leads them unerringly to the Dragon cave. Fortunately, the dragon has long since departed/died/whatever. Unfortunately, a Behir has moved in. A bloody battle ensues. The jewel is found. The loot is divided. More random encounters happen. The party hauls the jewel back to the king, where they have to deal with the ExcessivelySarcasticGateGuard?. They get in. They give the king the jewel. He lavishes rewards upon the party.
The party is given a year of game time off to settle in, enjoy their rewards, and deal with any unfinished business they may care to.
Chapter 5: Twitchy and the "Armageddon Clock"
The party is enjoying its year off. Lenari is trying to hunt down Mitch, who seems to have disappeared without a trace. Fylam sets up a wilderness preserve. Aegis sets up a temple and starts preaching the parable of Rolan. And so on. However, their peace and quiet cannot last forever, and is interrupted when the king requests their presence to help deal with a matter of some urgency. It seems that a party of adventurers were searching a dungeon of some sort, where they found a book indicating that there was an Armageddon Clock up in the mountains, that was counting down to some horrid event involving the land being overrun by demons. However, said party blundered into a trap and got themselves disintegrated not too long thereafter, with the exception of the party mage, a rather fidgety fellow, name of Twitchy (well, not actually... but since no one bothered to use his real name after the first fifteen minutes, we'll stick with "Twitchy"). Twitchy, realizing that this is a problem that should be dealt with, heads off to the king and, after a brief encounter with the excessively sarcastic gate guard, informs the king of the problem. The king, realizing the importance of this matter, calls for his most recent favorite batch of adventurers, the people who brought him the Jewel of Sovereignty. Thus the party heads to the palace, has a brief conversation with the excessively sarcastic gate guard, and is shown into the palace. The problem is then explained, and Twitchy is introduced to the party. Aegis decides to go back to his temple, but the rest of the group heads off with Twitchy in tow to try to find and destroy the Armageddon clock.
Alas, when they get to the location of the Armageddon clock, they don't find anything, except for a few random encounters with monsters that could eat the party for lunch and still have room for dessert. The party realizes that they aren't going to find it, and are likely to get eaten as something's lunch, and thus heads back to safer regions. Twitchy loses a fair amount of credibility with the party as a result of this.
The party, somewhat at a loss for what to do at this point. They are now skeptical about the existance of the Armageddon Clock, but Twitchy manages to browbeat them into continuing to look into it. Thus, they head off to the dungeon where Twitchy found the original evidence. That dungeon is now largely empty, so the party procedes to sweep throught it in fairly good time, and even manages to avoid getting disintegrated by the same trap that felled Twitchy's old party. The only thing noteworthy that occurs during this time is a rather amusing performance by Blarg, to wit:
The party is traveling down a darkened corridor at a glacial rate, searching constantly for traps, secret doors, and monkeys (for a brief history of the reason to search for monkeys, see BurntEgoMonkey). Their tenacity pays off when they, in fact, find a trap. Upon careful examination, they discern that it is an arrow trap, that fires ten arrows from an assortment of locations whenever someone steps on the trigger panel. The party now starts furiously debating what to do, being unable to circumvent the panel due to it's size, being unable to jam all the launchers as some are on the far side of the panel, and so on. The party is at a loss for what to do. Fortunately for them, Blarg springs to the rescue. He looks at the party like they're stupid (and given Blarg, that's saying something) and marches onto the plate. 10 arrows fly at him, striking several times and doing a grand total of...
...2 points of damage. (DMs note: stupid forsaker damage reduction...)
Blarg then, in a remarkable intuitive flash, that the trap must have a finite number of arrows, and thus procedes to jump up and down on the trigger panel until the trap empties itself of arrows, taking a grand total of 7 damage in the process. The party then continues on without further interference from the trap.
Due to the dead-end-ness of this journey, the party is now extremely skeptical about the existance of the Armageddon clock. They thus procede to head back to civilization with the idea of burning a few divinations to verify its non-existance, and then get on with their lives.
Chapter 5a: Conflict in the party
Concurrent with the previous events, another saga is unfolding. If you recall, Blarg is a forsaker, which means he hates and fears magic, and wants to stamp it out of existance if at all possible. And given that the party is full of mages, druids, and other spellcasters, this is sorta bad news for Blarg. Under normal circumstances Blarg would be trying to kill the rest of the party. However, he feels obligated not too, as it seems poor form to kill off your brother's friends, who you are supposed to be guarding. So he contents himself with trying to convince his partymates that magic is useless, pointless, and stupid, and that they should give it up in favor of more worthwhile pursuits. His attention is particularly focused on Kenny, the youngest and most inexperienced/naive/whatever wizard in the party.
This whole debate eventually leads to efforts to demonstrate the merit/demerit of magic. They opt to resolve this through a series of more-or-less friendly duels between the party wizards and Blarg. These usually take the form of Blarg standing around and soaking up damage while the wizards flit about in the air or otherwise out of reach, and when they run out of spells, beating their heads in. This works vaguely well, and he wins at least a couple of the matches as a result of this.
Eventually, however, Blarg realizes that the party is unrecoverable, and, as such, decides that he can't take any more of this, and ditches the party, severely traumatizing poor Kenny with his departure. Hey, it's not my fault he was a poor sport. The bigot jumped me, threw me around, and chained me to a tree! I at least took my knocks with a bit more dignity . . . -Kenny
Interlude: Zane and the Thrag family
(DM's note: these events occur preceding and during the aformentioned events pertaining to the party, though was unseen by most of the party, as they only were relevant to myself and Southie, who played both Blarg and Zane. It is provided primarily for your amusement)
Some 30 years ago, up in the mountains in the wildest part of Enoreth, a young couple fell in love and got maried. They were reasonably well off, having inherited a mildly prosperous mitheral mine from the groom's father. However, they were also two of the stupider people on the face of the planet. In time, they had kids, to help them around the farm while a family friend managed their mine for them. They had three children: Thrag, Throg, and Chrysanthemum. Thrag and Throg were very much their parents' children, both dumber than posts but tremendously strong. They were close in age, only two years apart, and thus amused themself for many years wrestling and playing with each other. When Chrysanthemum came along, three years younger than Throg, they included her in their play as soon as she was of sufficient age. Unfortunately (for her, anyway) she was not built along the same lines as the rest of her family. She was of more typical physical stature, and was possessed with a keen intellect. As such, whenever her brothers included her in their games, she tended to get knocked out and wake up several hours later with a headache and some extremely sore muscles. Eventually, she got tired of this, and started studying magic in secret, with the idea of learning how to defend herself from oafs such as her brothers.
When Thrag was about 14, he won a local wrestling contest and was awarded with a well-made Gyrspike (a double weapon with a sword for one end and a flail for the other). It took him some years to figure out how to use the blasted thing, but eventually got the hang of it and decided to strike off into the world to make his fortune.
Throg, meanwhile (who at some point changed his name to Blarg to eliminate the constant confusion that befell him and Thrag due to the similarity of their names), had accumulated a nontrivial amount of martial skill while practicing with Thrag. However, he was needed at home to help tend the farm, so he was unable to join his brother on the road. This made him rather lonely, so one day he attempted to "play" (i.e. wrestle) with Chrissy, something that the brothers had given up on some 5 years back once they realized Chrissie wasn't much fun to play with.
Chrissy, however, had been practicing her spells, and proceded to dump Blarg in a nearby lake.
Blarg didn't appreciate that much.
In fact, Blarg was sufficiently insensed that he promptly started studying the ways of the forsaker, more or less to prevent Chrissy from pulling a similar stunt again. Chrissy realized that this put her in a fair amount of danger, and, as she was really too weak to help much on the farm, decided to head out and seek her fortune elsewhere.
Not too long thereafter, Mom fell sick. She was bedridden for quite a while, and remarked in passing one day that she missed Thrag and Chrissy. Blarg heard this, and promptly decided to go out and find his siblings so Mom could see them again. Due to his, um, rivalry with Chrissy, he decided to find Thrag first and let *him* track down their sister. Remarkably, he managed to find Thrag within the first 6 months of looking. He explained the situation to Thrag, whereupon Thrag went off searching for Chrissy (not contemplating the situation any more than Blarg had) and promptly struck out to find Chrissy, leaving Blarg guarding his "friends".
The logistics of this proved to be a problem, however, and fining a wizard in a reasonably magical country is hard for someone with an intelligence of 4.
Fortunately, one day while he was practicing with his Gyrspike, a rogue named Zane happened upon him, and was intrigued by Thrag's unfamiliar weapon. Thus they struck a deal: Zane would help Thrag find Chrissy, and Thrag would teach Zane to wield a gyrspike.
Zane managed to track down Chrissy fairly quickly, and quickly developed into a skilled gyrspike fighter. However, with Blarg now on the road, Thrag ultimately had to remain at home to tend the farm, and Zane didn't really feel like sticking around for that and thus struck out on his own.
Not too long thereafter, he ran across Blarg, who had recently ditched a party of adventurers because they were all a bunch of stinking magic users. Zane realized that there was a place for him with this party, as magic users can always use fighters to keep them safe, and he had no objections to magic being used. Thus he quickly backtracked Blarg's trail and hooked up with the adventurers in question.
And that is how Zane came to join the party.
Chapter 6: That stinking Ogre strikes again