I catch up with the newest Wizard addition to our adventuring party and add a couple of new spells to my spellbook from his! Likewise, he copies some useful ones out of mine, including Leomund's Tiny Hut. The sheer usefulness of that spell to any adventuring party cannot be stated clearly enough, and having more than one of us able to cast it makes for additional versatility.
[The journal briefly devolves into rambling thoughts on the nature of magic, and how it should be possible to create spells as well as copy them; as it turns out, his fellow wizard studied under a master who had this exact same theory, and has written down his research in a hefty tome.]
...Just imagine, empowering a Fireball spell with a built-in Lightning Bolt! And frost, necromantic and pure-type energy as well, it would be called Chromatic Bomb! All it would take is... But no, hm, if mixed incorrectly the magics would become unstable and either fizzle or explode the instant they're cast... Perhaps THAT outcome could be built into a customised Glyph of Warding? Oh ho! Torgos's Glyph of Chromatic Bomb...
AHEM. That's all well and good, but there are other places and times for such thoughts. I need to note down the rest of what has happened in the interim since my last update! Where was I... Oh yes, the spell copying and the associated wizard. Like me, he's from a Sage background so he's quite knowledgable. Many hours have been spent in his presence discussing magical theory, and he's determined to try and finish his master's research. His goals absolutely align with my own in that regard, so I'm more than happy to assist where I am able, and it means that I'll probably see some truly fascinating places I wouldn't otherwise get to experience! He informed us that in order to finish his master's research, he needs no less than the heart of a Greater Air Elemental or something similar, and something like that is only going to be available on the Plane of Air.
Naturally, I'm completely on board with heading somewhere like that, having never personally been on any planes of existence other than the Prime Material Plane. The others in the party are also quite excited by the idea of seeing something new, most of them having never seen the Plane of Air either. It's quickly agreed that that's our next destination. But how do we get there? Another new experience, of course: Teleportation! Specifically, a Scroll of Plane Shift designed by his master, which "should" put us in the general vicinity of where we need to be... Depending, of course, on how familiar the caster is with the area being teleported to. Much like a literal-minded genie, you get exactly what you ask for, not necessarily exactly what you want. The chance of success increases in direct proportion to the familiarity of the caster with the target location.
In this case, our Wizard friend had what he felt could be termed a reasonable idea of the destination, but having never been there or seen it for himself, there was a very real risk of ending up somewhere far, far from where we actually need to be, or possibly somewhere like directly in the middle of a catastrophic lightning storm. Still, there is little reward that comes without risk, and this is essentially where we want to go next, so there's nothing for it but to try it and see. If the gods are merciful, we'll at least survive the initial teleport, and can regroup when we arrive, uh, wherever we end up. With full agreement from the group that this is what we want, he instructs us to link arms while he reads the scroll...
As soon as he finishes reading the scroll, there is the unbelievably strange feeling of being *shoved* through the borders between the planes of existence, as if a giant hand has grabbed me and began pushing me through some very thick taffy, at an uncomfortable speed. That's not a perfect description of the feeling, but it's the best I can do; I'm not sure there are sufficient words in the Common Tongue to properly describe it. I can tell you now, dear journal: Mortals aren't meant to do that. The planar shifting tore at the very fibres of our being, and every one of us suffered some physical damage from the shift. For some of the members of the party, it was very nearly lethal!
On the flipside of the shift, we find that we have materialised in the air (naturally), a few feet above what looks to be thick cloud. We don't really have time to be concerned, because the gravity on this plane immediately grabs hold of us and pulls us (what I assume to be) "down", straight at the cloud below us. Thankfully it's like falling onto a very soft, very luxurious bed; we sink a few inches into the cloud which softens the impact and proves to be much like walking around in thick, compacted cotton wool. After a sigh of relief from everyone, we start looking around and taking it all in. As far as the eye can see in all directions, there is cloud. Some of it rises hundreds of feet into the air in billowing towers; some of it crackles and thunders with lightning in huge dark swarms; the section that we are on extends for a few hundred feet in each direction and then peters out into thin air. The sheer scale of everything completely dwarfs us, and it occurs to me that I have absolutely no idea how we're supposed to get around while here. Sure, the cloud can be walked on it seems, but there are very large gaps of thin air in between sections of cloud, they're all on different Z-levels (even with the cloud as soft as it is, a fall from a sufficient height will be damaging or even fatal) and we don't exactly have any reliable ways for us all to fly.
A quick conference among ourselves later, we decide that the first order of business is to rest and recover from the shock of the teleportation. It's pretty cold here, windy, and there's a lazy drift of snowflakes in the air. Not thick at all, but enough to add to the chill of the place, which makes the warm and cozy interior of the Tiny Hut spell all the more appealing for a rest. I set up a Tiny Hut, we begin our rest, and organise who will take the necessary watches. I take the first watch, and nothing eventful happens except for a light dusting of snow starting to settle on the dome we're resting in (a good Encounter Check roll, means no random encounters). The second watch also reports nothing of interest; the snow continues to settle on the dome, gradually reducing visibility to zero from within it (another good roll for encounters, but a bad one for the Weather Check roll means the weather slowly worsens). It's near the end of the third and final watch of the rest period that things get interesting due to a particularly poor Encounter Check roll...
[OOC: Keep in mind that from this point, everything that happens is utterly ad-lib. In the GM's words after all is said and done: "Well, I wasn't expecting giants..." He is amazing when it comes to modifying the campaign on the fly to support emergent gameplay.]
Suddenly, the snow that has completely covered the dome starts getting brushed away. Soon, a Cloud Giant is visible, towering above the dome, looking down at it with obvious curiosity. He knocks on the dome, and says something in Giantish. The wizard, surprisingly, speaks Giantish as one of his languages (I myself can speak Draconic, Celestial, Common, Hobgoblin and Elvish, with a basic understanding of Goblin now as well) and translates: "Come out of your dome!" Now, in my travels I've picked up some knowledge of Giantkin, including Cloud Giants. I know that, alignment-wise, they're usually either Neutral Good or Neutral Evil; either way, not an immediate threat. And if he did prove to be hostile, we're quite experienced in "dealing with" hostile giants by now! With this in mind, we exit the dome, which vanishes once I leave it. Looking up at him, I can see that he's rather well dressed, in the manner of minor nobility. He says something else, and the wizard decides to translate for us in both directions:
[Giant] "Hmm! Little tiny people! I haven't seen anything like you before. Where did you come from?"
[Wizard] "Greetings, friend! We are travellers from the Prime Material Plane!"
[Giant] "Indeed? While I've heard of that place, I've never been there. What brings you to my lands?"
[Wizard, to us] "What should we tell him?"
We decide that we've got nothing to lose by stating our business, and tell him that we seek the Sea of Storms, which as far as we are aware is a massive section of truly severe storms, an absolute maelstrom of energy somewhere in this realm. This makes him laugh quite hard, and he tells us that we are quite a long way away from that location. My immediate thought on this is that if we're a long way from there in Giant terms, then it must be a truly epic distance in terms of creatures our size. He invites us back to his house for further discussion, since he can see that the chill here is beginning to get to us, and it's unlikely that we will be able to find our way around ourselves. Besides, he's fascinated by us. He doesn't strike me as being inherently evil, based on his interactions with us so far, so I tell the others that I'm willing to go with him and see where things lead. They agree, we all climb onto his hand, and he takes off flying. Up, up and more up we go, through cloudbanks and huge expanses of empty air, until he touches down in front of what I can only describe as a "small cloud palace". The cloudground here is a lot more solid, feeling more like very slightly marshy ground or perhaps sandy soil instead of the "soft bedding" experience of the cloud we ended up on initially. This particular section of cloudground extends for as far as I can see in any direction.
Fairly nearby is an orchard, with apples the size of wagons hanging from trees I can barely describe the scale of. Near the orchard is a pumpkin patch with pumpkins the size of small houses. Playing in the orchard are what I assume are our host's children; 10 to 12 feet tall, with obvious family features inherited from him. He takes us inside as he calls his children over for a look at us, and puts us on his massive kitchen table. He gets a plate and serves up some cheese, apple, meat and gravy; although he's trying to adjust portion size to be more appropriate to us, the sections of food we're provided are still utterly staggering. You could easily go for a swim in the gravy! He gets what appear to be sewing thimbles to provide us with drinks, and even those are still big enough to literally drown ourselves in booze if we so chose. Via the translating wizard, we give our thanks for his hospitality as his children openly stare at and analyse us. None of us mind the scrutiny; I imagine that we would be just as fascinated if pixies or the like of a relative size difference made themselves known to us!
As we eat and drink, the children lose interest and go back to their activities. The giant talks to us about his life and asks us to describe ours. He's consuming a heroic amount of alcohol even for a Giantkin, and the conversation slowly reveals that he is essentially under the bootheel of his liege, a Storm Giant. While he is minor nobility, being a land owner, the storm giant (who I will refer to from now on as SG for simplicity) is higher up the ranks of Giantkin and is basically using his position of power to take what he wants, when he wants, and uses threats of violence or abandonment to stay in power and expand his influence. I immediately decide that this SG *very much* rubs me the wrong way. I become more furious as the cloud giant (henceforth CG) describes his woes, and incandescent with rage when it's revealed that a few months ago the CG's wife was taken by the SG as a display of power and influence, with implied threats: "You could choose to not come with me, but it's such a lovely home you've got here, with wonderful children, such a shame if they were no longer under my protection and someone were to cause trouble..." Naturally, she went without a fuss, but with a look that yelled louder than any voice that she wished it weren't so.
The CG sees my worsening mood, and says that he doesn't mean to involve us in his troubles, and that he's been a bad host by bringing up his problems with his new guests. I say back via translation that I find the SG's actions to be utterly abhorrent, and it'd be an *especially terrible shame* (I'm certain that even without directly understanding me, my sarcasm was obviously acidic enough to eat through the table) if something were to "happen" to the SG himself! The CG then reveals that his "liege" (and now, I spit the word) isn't satisfied with having taken the wife, and intends to return for another "visit" in a a day or so's time with the very obvious intention of a huge landgrab. The CG's lands are particularly vibrant and fertile (he's very good at looking after it), so they make a very attractive target for the insatiably greedy, which this SG obviously is. For me, that's the last straw, and I decide then and there that the SG needs to meet a very unfortunate accident. Without translating for the CG, we animatedly discuss among ourselves the implications of taking such an action. The others are in complete agreement with me that even though we're not properly aware of how politics function in this realm, this disgusting mistreatment of an underling by a lord will not be allowed to persist any longer. I like to think that the gods put our path at a crossroads with this giant's path for the purposes of us helping him achieve freedom for him and his family; by this point he's quite obviously a Good-aligned person, and utterly undeserving of the hand that fate has dealt him so far.
With our course decided, we discuss our plan with the CG, who says that while he is unwilling to directly raise a hand against his liege (he says it wouldn't be right or his place to do so, further cementing my opinion of him as a worthy friend), he would likewise find himself strangely unable to offer any useful assistance to said liege if there were to be some sort of threatening event... I imagine that an ambush by tiny creatures from another dimension would fit such a description. For the first time since meeting him, he seems cautiously optimistic, but also very worried; the implications of our attack failing are utterly disastrous. We assure him that we are very adept problem-solvers, and there would be no evidence whatsoever that he knows of us at all (it's incredibly unlikely that the children would be willing to say anything to the bastard that stole their mother, for instance, and we haven't been seen by anyone else). Creatures have been known to show up on this plane of existence from other dimensions before, after all, and they're usually very violently-inclined toward its residents when they arrive, so our ambush would not be an unheard-of event.
We eat, drink, rest and converse with the CG, laying out our plan for the ambush: After the SG has had dinner and drinks with his host, he will no doubt want to discuss the CG's need to provide a "tribute" to his liege in the form of his most fertile chunks of land. The CG will take him to the orchard where they can discuss their business in private, and that is where we will provide the ambush. The CG will "assist" in defending his liege in the most meaningless but visually-impressive way possible, and we will ensure that the SG never again oppresses those beneath him. (Our friend here is, by far, absolutely not the only one to suffer this idiotic bully's attentions.) As our conversation proceeds, we find out how the day/night cycle works here: There is no sunrise and sunset to speak of, unlike on our home plane. It's all sun, all the time. To simulate night, the CG casts a Control Weather spell, and causes a rainstorm to appear which darkens the sky and blocks out the light while also providing his cloudground with the rain it needs. Fascinating! The appearance of the clouds and deepening gloom signal to his workers that the "day" is done, so they can finish and go home; we all go to sleep listening to the sound of rain on the cloudstone rooftop.
The day of reckoning arrives, and we get ourselves ready. To stay out of sight, we all choose various hiding places; I and the other wizard are among the pumpkins, and I'm unsure where the others disappeared to. The SG and his retinue of several well-armed frost giants and some cloud giant nobility arrive, head into the house, and get the party started. We all wait in place for the party (such that it is) to wind down, and during the course of the artificially-darkened evening the CG is required to show his guests around his lands. Apparently they've requested to see the orchard; no doubt the SG intends to take it as part of his "tribute". Unfortunately for me, giants have a very good sense of smell - On the way past my hiding spot, one of them catches a whiff of my scent and stops in his tracks. Sniff, sniiiiiiiiiifffff... Translated for me later, the conversation went similarly to this:
[Frost giant from the retinue] "I smell something..."
[Our friend CG] "Oh? I don't smell anything except my pumpkins."
[FG] "No, I smell..." (Sniiiffff) "I smell a tiny creature!" (He turns in my direction and sniffs again)
[CG] "Hmm, it's probably just a rat. I've seen a couple of those lately."
[FG] "No, this smells different. Doesn't smell like a rat."
From the tone of the conversation, I suspect that he can indeed smell me, and I use a Prestidigitation cantrip to cause a stir in the cloudground heading away from me, as if it is indeed a rat or other small creature scampering away under the cover of the wispy cloud that lies over the top of the cloudground. The FG sees this, watches the "scurrying creature" for a moment and seems about to say something else, but then CG tugs politely on his arm and gestures that they continue on. With one last suspicious look in my direction, the frost giant continues on his way and I am soon forgotten.
The party obviously begins to wind down, most of the guests make their way to their sleeping quarters, and we all quickly move to the orchard to ready the attack, with an Improved Invisibility spell on each of us ensuring that as long as we keep moving, we will be extremely difficult to deal with. Soon we hear approaching footsteps: CG and SG are indeed approaching, with CG looking suitably distressed once SG makes it clear that he expects a "tribute" and that the orchard, pumpkin patch and a massive swathe of farmland are to comprise it (as translated later for us by the wizard). Having left an Illusory Script
message for our friend that (to him, but looks like gibberish to the SG) says "Things are about to get ugly, be ready", CG says that he understands the need to provide tribute to such a mighty person and will comply... And then I point my staff at a wasp's nest hanging in one of the apple trees near their location and cast Giant Insect on it. Immediately, five already-giant wasps grow to truly heroic proportions. The sudden appearance of these wasps is the sign for all the others to begin raining down fireballs and destruction upon the SG, who targets the wasps with a Lightning Strike ability and destroys them all in one hit. CG looks around as if hunting for the source of the attack but otherwise does nothing useful to assist. Grinning evilly (not that anyone could tell), I enlarge a new batch of wasps and direct them to swarm the SG. Have I mentioned just how much I love my Staff of Insects? Another Lightning Strike from the SG takes out three of them, the remaining two head toward the SG, and the CG yells "I'll protect you, my liege!" and swings his weapon, splattering one of them all over it. The SG easily takes out the other one, and tries to lob a Lightning Strike at the source of the fireballs that are really starting to stack on the damage, but it hasn't recharged this time so the spell fizzles. I join in the Fireball-lobbing: Move into position, toss a Fireball, and move back out of the way; the SG keeps throwing Lightning Strikes at where he last saw a Fireball come from, which does absolutely nothing because there's no longer anyone standing there when he does so!
The sorceror decides to test out an experiment he's devised. He drops a batch of ten hobgoblin bone knives on the ground and uses Animate Object on them. The knives rise silently into the air, and then zip straight toward the SG. Suddenly, the SG finds himself surrounded by tiny, magically-animated knives that immediately begin blending him for 1d4+4 damage EACH per hit. Since they're so small and fast, he is completely unable to strike any of them, especially with his Lightning Strike not recharging! He's such a big target that he's almost impossible for the knives to miss. Within a very short space of time, the SG is reduced to critical HP, looking like he took a bath in a shrapnel bomb. He turns to our strangely completely uninjured CG friend and begs him for help. The CG responds with an awesome one-liner which seals the greedy SG's doom: "You reap what you sow." He then turns his back on the SG and lets the tiny knives finish their work by "going to find help", supergiant wasp remains still coating his weapon. Help turns out to not be far away; all the spellcasting, explosions and shouting has gathered a fair bit of attention, and our Greater Invisibility spell will wear off soon, so we decide to leg it. We briefly consider looting the body of the SG (we're adventurers after all!) but that is a bad idea for a few reasons. One is time, another is that this guy is still (for now) CG's leige, so any "missing" items would gain the wrong sort of attention, and CG himself would likely protest that course of action since his liege should be buried with his possessions or somesuch.
Later, we catch up with the CG who is now a very busy guy. He's got his wife back, who is overjoyed to be back with her family (this alone delights me to no end; they're a family again! Aww yeah!!); he's got quite an expanded set of responsibilities now that his liege was killed in a *terrible ambush* by invisible extraplanar creatures (he had the supergiant wasp remains on his weapon and on the ground around the nest to prove he did his best to defend him!), so he's had to take up the fallen mantle of region leader. What a terrible shame; the Storm Giant was *so* well liked by his underlings! As our (completely unofficial and anonymous) reward for assisting with our Cloud Giant friend's troubles, he gave us free access to his treasury; we each had the option of taking one item or the like of our choosing. One person chose some extraordinarily-rare cloth for making amazing magical items; others chose magical items, and our wizard friend found that among the treasures were not one, but THREE of the Elemental Crystals he sought to come to this plane for in the first place! CG initially offered one, but he was able to be talked up to two of them. Other spoils taken were Cloud Seeds: You can actually grow your own solid cloud with these; VERY valuable to CG since they're what he uses to create and expand his lands, and they're difficult to acquire, but he allowed us to take two of them (extremely generous, given their value and rarity). We also took some seeds from the massive (and very magical) apples in his orchard. When consumed by creatures our size, they act in the same manner as a Potion of Growth, greatly increasing the size (and as such, Strength, weight etc) of the consumer for a while. Guess what's going to be planted in the firm, permanent cloud that we're going to grow above our house? Having a permanent supply of these will be an amazing income generator; we just need a way to prevent theft. Hmm...
As for my reward, I've got an empty Bag of Holding that I haven't yet made any use of, so I decided to put as many Giant gold coins in it as it would carry, which turns out to be 500 pounds of gold metal. If treated solely as their value in base metal, that works out to be 25,000 Gold Pieces in our currency. I'm so rich!!
Once we arrive back at our house, I decide to take a couple of coins out of the bag and store them in the house; one as a keepsake (how many people can say they have a legitimate Giant Gold Piece that is legal currency on another plane of existence?) and one other to sell to a collector for far more than its base worth as a curiosity, for much the same reason. I'm hoping it alone will fetch 10,000GP or more. I'm extra rich! The rest can stay in the bag for ease of carrying until I can find someone who is willing to convert them into their GP cash equivalent, or possibly pay more than that due to their rarity. All in all, an amazingly profitable trip, and now we have friends on another plane of existence!