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Part 1: Beyond the Veil

Home Next (Pt. 2)

As our story begins…

You regain consciousness to the smell of flannel and the taste of copper in your mouth. Three things become readily apparent.

The first fact becomes obvious as soon as you try to shift your weight. You have been confined, sitting upright, into some sort of rigid and uncomfortable chair. There are straps over your wrists, waist, and legs, keeping you nearly immobile in your seat. A bag has been tied over your head, making breathing difficult and sight impossible. You can also feel a metal ring placed over your head like a crown, though you fear to guess its function.

You decide to sit perfectly still for a moment, and the second fact becomes gradually clear. You are not alone. In the perfect silence, marked and rapid breathing of several others can be heard very nearby. Other prisoners? Hostages? Through the tiny spaces in the flannel bag, you can just make out a tiny, wavering light in front of you. A shared fire? No words have yet been spoken, and you wonder if the others are in similar predicaments.

It is only at this point that the third and most unsettling fact of the three quietly surfaces. You can remember your name, and nothing else.


Character Sheet:

For this first session, your characters are not yet adventurers.  As such, they will be level 1 humanoids (the type, not race).  Events will soon transpire forcing them to train a discipline; but for now:

  1. Your character has 8 hit points.
  2. You will still roll and arrange your 6 character stats as normal (roll 4 six-sided dice and ignore the lowest).
  3. Your character still has a race, chosen as normal from the sourcebooks listed (human, elf, dwarf, etc.).  This will be his or her subtype, and it will apply its normal bonuses and penalties.
  4. You will automatically have 1 feat at level 1.  If you decide to be a human, you will have an extra bonus feat.
  5. Your base attack bonus (BAB) is +0.
  6. Your saving throws have no extra bonus, except for Reflex, which gets +2.
  7. Your available skill points per given level are 2 plus your INT modifier (always being at least 1).  At level 1, you will get 4 times this number (always resulting in at least 4).
  8. Since you do not have any special training, all skills are cross-class and require two points per level.  The maximum ranks you can have in any skill are 2 (using 4 points).  However, you may attempt any skill untrained.
  9. You are proficient with all simple weapons.
  10. Lastly, when the time comes to train a class, you will be given a one-time opportunity to retrain all feats and skill points, and even rearrange your ability scores as you see fit.  (You’re stuck with your race, however.)

More information on how types work can be found here.


Real Date: September 8, 2013

Game Day: 1st of November, a.r. 231 (Day 1)

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Chapter 1: Atop the Tower

Jerome the half-orc woke to a maddening confinement.  He struggled against his bonds, but his body was still far too weak.  He cursed loudly in orcish, caring little if anyone else heard him. Someone else did hear him, in fact.  Tuppence the elf (or “Slim Jim,” as he was known to his friends) had just awoken as well, to a word uttered harshly nearby. Although not elvish, there was a definite familiarity to the dialect. “Who’s there?” he asked in his own tongue but got no response. Fortunately for him, “Slim Jim” was a bit more dexterous than Jerome, and he had quickly freed his right arm.  Pulling the bag off his head, he made sure to first groom his ruffled hair. On both sides of Slim Jim, forming a line, were seven electric execution chairs. Within each, an individual had been tied with a good number of thick leather straps–far more, in fact, than was strictly necessary.  Each of the prisoners (save one at the end) were busy wriggling their arms free, pulling the bags off their heads, or generally letting the world know how they felt. The most peculiar object, however, sat on a small wooden table directly in front of them.  It was a white cake with the words “Happy Birthday” spelled clearly in icing. Seven candles had been placed expertly on its top, but only six had been lit.

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Within minutes, all members of the party had assembled–clueless, distrusting, but none the worse for wear.  There was Wayland Green, the human; Slim Jim and “Cat” Catherine, the elves; Rina and Patrick, the dwarves, and Jerome, the half-orc.  None had any recollection of the events up until their imprisonment, or even, any idea who they were.

A quick inspection of the surroundings was first on the to-do list.  Patrick stepped first to the cake, certainly the most out-of-place object in the area.  What struck him first was that the light from the candles was completely off.  Instead of a welcoming, gentle glow, the light emitted was monochromatic, coloring everything around it in harsh grays.

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For those who had known what it was, they would have described it as feeling like they were inside an old black-and-white television set.  However, none of the party had ever seen a television, and so they had difficulty describing the effect.

The candles weren’t the only things that were acting weirdly.  Wayland noticed a faint non-directional, ambient lighting coming from around them.  It was almost like being in a fog on an early morning, where light came from everywhere but nowhere in particular.  However, faint as it was, he could only see 10 feet without assistance. Slim Jim and Cat, the elves, could see an additional 10 feet with their low-light vision.  Only Rina, Patrick, and Jerome, thanks to their racial darkvision, could see a full 30 feet in the gloom.

Interesting, whenever someone stepped beyond the range of vision, they would undergo a strange “distortion” effect before disappearing:

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The same seemed to happen for sound as well…beyond 30 feet, sounds became distorted and muted before disappearing entirely.  Although these effects seemed tied to how far each individual could see through the darkness, there seemed no hard and fast rules.  Safe to say, however, something about the shadows themselves were playing tricks with their senses.

Slim Jim was the next to examine the cake, quickly pawing through it to see if it held a hidden item.  Instead, he found that it held gently puffed vanilla dough and icing with a subtle lemon aftertaste.  A few of the other party members were none too pleased at this initiative (including Jerome, who felt himself robbed of his fair share; and Rina, who found frosting wiped on her back when she wasn’t looking). This would become a recurring point of contention among the group.

While the others bickered amongst themselves, Wayland and Patrick set off to learn more about their surroundings.  First on their list of discoveries was the “occupant” of the seventh and final electric chair: a badly-charred mannequin.  It wore the same drab clothing as they and was strapped in its chair in the same manner, but it had obviously never been alive.  Which was just as well, considering how horribly disfigured it was.

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Looking to gain a better light source, Patrick discovered that the burlap masks burned well, but far too quickly to be effective.  The wooden chairs, on the other hand, were incredibly dense and heavy and would take a lot of heat to set ablaze.  (Jerome had discovered this when he had destroyed one to make a club.)  For now, they would have to be satisfied with the weak birthday candles and ambient lighting.

A quick pacing of the area revealed a 30-by-30 stone platform, apparently set atop a column.

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Curious about the height, Wayland began dropping bits of the wooden chair over the edge of the pillar.   Nothing ever echoed a landing.  The bottom could have been just over 30 feet away (since sounds did not travel farther in this world) or over a thousand; Wayland really had no way to tell.

Still, a search of the fitted stones composing the landing revealed nothing, and the only way seemed to be down over the side.  Fortunately, the sides were not sheer; a jumble of uneven stones granted plenty of footholds. Wayland and Jerome decided there was nothing more to be done on top of the column and made their way over the edge.

Unfortunately for them, the foothold rocks proved to be very loose.

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Wayland slipped immediately as soon as he put his foot to the crumbling wall.  He passed quickly into darkness, both his form and his scream distorting before being cut off.

Jerome also slipped upon attempting the climb, though he quickly caught the ledge with his elbows.  Still, having not heard either a sickening thud or a lengthy scream, he guessed (incorrectly) that Wayland must have had a soft landing not far down. He braced himself for the fall and pushed off the ledge.  (Had he been aware of Wayland’s research with the falling objects, he might not have been so eager to jump.)

These two would not be the only ones to fall needlessly.  Next on the list was Rina who, having watched two others cast themselves over the edge with little to no caution, took a running start before her dive.  She joined the other two in whatever dark depths they’d arrived.

There were now only three atop the tower.  The remaining survivors called down into the darkness.  No answers came, and they feared the worst.  Slim Jim began a second circuit of the tower’s top, searching for any other tool they could find or fashion.

It was not until he conferred with Cat that a solution was reached.  The three of them stripped the chairs of their numerous leather straps and bound them together, fashioning a rope at least 50 feet long.  After securing one end to one of the chairs’ bolted legs, they were ready to begin their descent.

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Slim Jim began the first “safe” descent.  Although his feet dislodged loose rocks, his two hands on the rope kept him safe.

At one point Slim Jim looked into the spaces created by dislodged rocks.  He found skulls staring back at him.

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As far as he could tell, the interior of the tower was completely composed of skulls, with only loose rocks as a facade on the outside.  “I think I’ll ignore this rather disturbing discovery,” Slim Jim shuddered to himself before continuing down.


Chapter 2: The Butcher’s Room

The base of the tower turned out to be just over 30 feet below the top, after all.  The tower actually stretched up from the inside of a roofless structure–a structure with one door at the far end, and a window on either side.  Interestingly, the bottom of the giant column housed an unused fireplace, though they had seen no vent farther up.

Around the room, spikes and hooks jutted out from walls or hung from racks overhead.  Dangling from some of these, or propped against nearby walls, were butcher’s implements far greater than their normal size.

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More unnervingly, the unswept floor of the butcher’s room was littered with the parts of dismembered baby dolls.  Though lifeless and unmoving, they crunched underfoot with every step.

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Slim Jim found the three motionless forms of his predecessors nearby–alive, but unconscious and battered.  Within moments, a fourth form fell from the sky to join them; Patrick had apparently tried to climb down the rope while holding a lit candle with one hand, with little success.  Now he too was unconscious, and his hair had caught fire.

“And I’ve got a full bladder,” mused Slim Jim.  “Looks like I can kill two birds with one stone here.”

Later, Slim Jim would vehemently assert that no one had actually seen anyone piss on anyone, and that nothing could be proven.

The group spent a few minutes waking up, reassembling, and choosing makeshift weapons from the tools around them.  Jerome, finally thrilled to find something half-resembling a weapon, hefted a heavy meat cleaver.  It was at least three times the normal size and felt more like a battleaxe than a chef’s tool.  Jerome quickly pulled a few leather straps from their nearby “rope” and wound them around the handle. He smiled at the feel of iron again in his hands.

Others found different items in their search.  Wayland, Patrick, and Rina began looking around the tables.  Next to the doorway out, Wayland found an obvious blending machine, packed full of baby doll parts.

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From the base of the blender stretched lengths of flexible glass tubing that fed into three small vials.  Within each vial, a thick blue mist collected.  Although obviously a vapor, the substance swirled heavily.

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Although wanting to pocket the three vials for himself, Wayland was unable to keep them hidden from Patrick or Rina, the dwarves,.  Quickly they conferred, splitting the three vials among them and pocketing them before anyone else had noticed.

On all sides around the butcher’s room, as far as the party could see, were tall cliffs of stonework and sheer drop-offs.  Directly outside the butcher’s room door, a short 10-foot bridge led to a dark hallway entrance.  It was flanked on either side by an unlit torch.  Inside the dark, unlit hallway, and at the corner where it turned, something briefly moved.  It was best described as the flickering shadow a candle would cast, except there was no candle.

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Patrick the dwarf, confident in his darkvision, decided to walk towards the moving shadows to get a better look.  However, though he moved directly up to their edge at the hallway corner, he could see nothing more than a deeper area of darkness.

Slim Jim, feeling even more bold in his lowlight vision, walked directly into the corner of the hall.  Suddenly, it seemed to him as if the shadows themselves moved towards him.

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Slim Jim felt as if the darkness was folding itself around him, closing him off from the rest of the world.  His strength ebbed from his limbs, and he began shivering uncontrollably.  He swore to himself that he could feel the shadows literally crawling over his skin, sucking his blood out through his pores with millions of tiny mouths. The darkness seemed somehow engorged by this feeding, and it swelled and ballooned into the nearby hallway.

The only reaction Slim Jim was able to give to all this was a single strangled yelp of panic.

Cat, feeling completely out of her element, crawled under a nearby table in fright. Jerome scratched his bony head in confusion as the others around him scattered in separate directions.  “Just what the f— is going on here?” he roared.  He was glad to have metal again in his hands, but he needed a clear and obvious target (and a party with a plan).

Realizing quickly that they had little to use against this unseen foe, Wayland and Rina the dwarf instead spun around to search the area.  Brushing knives and doll parts aside, they were quickly able to find two pieces of useful equipment–an over-sized poker in the nearby fireplace, and two flint-stones on a nearby ledge.  They glanced back at the unlit torches directly outside the dark hallway, looked to each other, and began running.

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Meanwhile, the expanding shadows had moved to cover Patrick the dwarf as well. He too was struck with a sudden sense of dread, and he felt his life being slowly drawn from him.  The shadows ballooned yet again, their edges now easily covering the distance from the hallway corner to inside the butcher room.

“Get over here and help us!” cried Slim Jim to Jerome.  Though the half-orc now held a large weapon in his hands, he had not taken a single step to help any of them.

“Screw you!” Jerome snarled back.  “I finally have a weapon in my hands.  I’m not risking my life to go fight an enemy I can’t even see, much less hit!”  It was also possible he was still angry about the cake.

The shadows were just about to close around the rest of the group when Wayland and Rina arrived at the torches.  Grabbing one, Wayland held it out towards Rina, who quickly lit it with her flint-stones.

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The blast of heat and light, though also monochromatic, cast the shadows in a new, harsh light.  They immediately fled, swarming over the side of the bridge and down the stonework like a thousand cockroaches.  The party, for now, was safe.

(Click here to read about the Lesser Shadow Swarm.)


Chapter 3: The Automaton Factory

Down the hallway, and past a few more turns, a large copper double door waited. Pushing it aside, the six stepped into what seemed to be partly a factory and partly a storage room. Most notably, the shrouded mists that had fogged their vision were absent here, and the party could see from one end to the other end of a warehouse, perhaps 100 feet in length.

Arranged in lines, almost as if standing in formation, mannequins and automatons hung in iron cubicles, shoulder to shoulder.

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None of the nearby ones seemed completed.  Parts were missing or hanging loosely, gears were scattered on the floor, and body cavities were empty.

Each of the party members handled the discovery of these machines differently.

Slim Jim the elf, still frustrated over how his day had been progressing thus far, took his pole to the nearest ceramic automaton.  It shattered under his repeated strikes, and the clockwork gears inside burst out across the floor.  Apart from this, however, there was no reaction.

Wayland tried to spend his time more constructively, searching for anything useful or of value.  He found a 20-foot heavy chain, which he carried by hanging it over his neck.

Rina the dwarf decided to study the automatons more closely, to see if she could locate anything like a power source.  As the party continued down the aisles of hanging figures, she noticed that they became more and more complete.

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Empty ceramic mannequins became brass automatons, brass automatons became iron constructs, and iron constructs became heavily suits of armor that looked as if they could move on their own.  However, in each, the chest cavity, hung open and empty, awaiting some final piece.

That final piece became apparent just before the party reached the end of the aisle, and the end of the factory floor.  Placed inside the chest cavities of the last few suits were transparent jars holding baby doll parts.

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The party were not quite sure how to feel about this.  They were also not quite sure how to feel about standing in front of a blank cement wall, devoid of any doors. Even a careful inspection by the dwarves showed no secret entrances, and the group reluctantly considered a journey back.

It was at this moment that a loud grinding and screeching erupted.  The ground shook perceptibly, and it sounded like something large was tearing from its moorings nearby.  As if to confirm this, the clamor quickly died, being replaced instead by slow but thunderous footsteps.

Jerome the half-orc had had quite enough of all this tomfoolery.  He had had enough of enemies he couldn’t hit and party mates who had no clue how to fight. And he most certainly had had enough of these metal monstrosities looming over them.  Venting his rage, he swung his axe against the nearest chestplate near him. However, his ax bounced squarely off its surface, and he felt a painful vibrating deep in his bones.

Never one to give up easily, Jerome placed his next strike more carefully, swinging the blade between two of the armor plates.  However, even the under-layers were woven from incredibly firm material, and his ax again found no purchase.  Finally, Jerome put his full weight against the side of the construct but succeeded in only rocking it slightly.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team were increasingly agitated by the approaching footsteps.  Wayland, who had backed against the cement wall in apprehension, saw the monstrosity round the corner first.

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It stood easily ten feet tall or taller, constructed entirely out of iron and steel.  A plated head slowly moved back and forth, tracking its targets, and a long cannon replaced its left arm.  The weapon hummed hungrily.

Eager to finally face a physical opponent, Jerome leaped towards the creature, bringing his ax squarely into its leg.  As could be expected, the only result was a loud ringing sound.  Patrick and Rina swung their cleavers as well, and met with the same measure of success.

In response, the iron soldier calmly lifted its arm cannon.  A blast of pure force rocketed through the air, catching both Jerome and Cat directly in their chests and sending them 30 feet through the air.  They landed with heavy thuds–awake but battered.

The others still on their feet exchanged wary glances and spread out, circling the monster.  Rina quickly scaled the nearest metal framework to stand over the soldier, but she had difficulty noticing any weaknesses.  Slim Jim sidestepped around behind the monster and quickly noticed a number of outcroppings in the armor that could be used like handholds.  In response to his call, Wayland ran over to where Slim Jim pointed and quickly scaled the monster.

As this was going on, the steel soldier leveled his cannon again and sent Jerome and Patrick against the nearest wall.  Having taken the brunt of two full blasts, Jerome’s orcish body finally failed, and he sank unconscious to the floor.  Patrick shakily stood up to notice a series of cracks in the nearby wall, where the force blast had hit.

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It was at this point that several unconnected plans began to take shape.  Still carefully balancing atop the behemoth, Wayland grabbed the chain hanging from around his shoulders, swung it around the enemy’s neck, and…

…accidentally chained himself directly to the creature’s head.

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[DM’s Note: Natural 1’s are a bitch.]

Cat, unarmed, spent her time frantically searching the area for anything more useful than a stick.  Her searches were not unfruitful, and she discovered a pint of oil hanging on a nearby locker.  She ran back, holding it triumphantly high. Wayland’s eyes widened in simultaneous enthusiasm and terror. He gripped the burning torch that could light the oil, but he was still chained to the head.

Rina put the last few pieces in motion that saw their escape.  Leaping down to where the unconscious Jerome lay, she first noticed that he was not physically bleeding, but instead oozing a thick blue mist from his wounds–a thick blue mist not unlike that in the vials found earlier.  Next, she deftly massaged the contents of her vial down the unconscious Jerome’s throat, successfully healing him with its contents. Finally, she threw herself flat on the ground for what she knew was coming next.

She was not mistaken.  The steel soldier, seeing three forms against the cement wall, brought his weapon down for a third time.  The shot went over the heads of Jerome and Rina, sideswiped Patrick, and finished the hole begun in the wall.

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The party seized the opportunity as soon as it presented itself.  Having also climbed atop the monster, Slim Jim stopping urinating on people just long enough to free Wayland.  The six of them took off through the opening. Directly outside, and leading off into the dark, foggy distance, a thin aqueduct stretched. The party lost no time in balancing as fast as they could along its length.

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The party ducked as another blast of force rocketed over their heads.  However, as soon as the hulking behemoth took its first step out onto the aqueduct, the foundation shuddered.  Unable to support the weight of the massive form, the first two sections of the aqueduct crumbled underneath.  The iron soldier tipped forward and fell into the darkness, taking the first thirty feet of the aqueduct with it.

The six were now safe, but now there was no turning back.


Chapter 4: And Beyond

The group carefully made their way along the top of the aqueduct for some time. Its length eventually ended at an unassuming door, apparently the entrance to a residence.  It wasn’t locked, and the six went in.

A short distance of hallway greeted them, lined on all sides by mirrors of different shapes and sizes.

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There seemed to be nothing special about the mirrors or their construction, and they reflected the party’s faces well enough.  But whenever someone turned away, they would catch a glimpse of extra movement out of the corner of their eye.

(Rina the dwarf managed to find a small vanity steel mirror on one of the wooden display tables and pocketed it for herself.  One never knew when a mirror could come in handy.)

Although there were door frames into side rooms, each of them had been walled up.  The hallway terminated at a short staircase up to a second floor, where a single door waited.

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Through the cracks around the door, a golden light emanated.  Sound could be heard too–a tuneless, off-key humming.

Cautious, but with nowhere else to go, the party crept up the staircase and carefully pushed aside the door.  Inside was an empty attic room, bounded by wooden walls and a gabled roof.  In the center of the room, however, a single object lay waiting–a mirrored dresser.

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Although the room lay dark and bare, the scene reflected in the mirror was of another world entirely.  A young human girl’s bedroom could be seen in the through the glass, complete with a bed, footlockers, clothes, books, and other personal effects. Directly in front of the mirror herself (through on the other “side”), the young woman in question adjusted her makeup.

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In stark contrast with everything seen in their world so far, the image through the dresser mirror was one of vibrant color and sound.  Subtle shades of brown and gold and red shimmered; and the girl’s humming, while hardly expert, was still the clearest noise they’d heard yet.  If they’d known what it was, they might have described looking through the dresser mirror as staring out from the wrong side of a black-and-white television screen.

Gears that had been moving in the back of Wayland’s mind began to finally click together into place.  He placed his fingers against the surface of the mirror and pushed.  He felt his fingers slowly sink into the mirror, almost like pushing into a cold plate of pudding, and then felt himself begin to be drawn slowly into the glass itself.

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On the other side, the girl froze suddenly in sudden terror.  She stared at the hand emerging slowly from her dresser mirror, her eyes widening with each passing moment.  Eventually she shrieked and fell back over her chair onto her back.

Within seconds, Wayland stood in the center of the young girl’s bedroom, a world of light and sound and color.  From the other side, his party gaped in amazement. Wayland had physically passed through a mirror into another space beyond it, standing flesh-and-blood in an alternate world.

However, only Wayland Green could see the truth.  When he passed his hand in front of his face, he saw only a vague mist.  Instead of the faces of the others in the mirror, only skeletal visages gazed out.  Here, in the physical world, he could see himself and his friends as they truly were–spectral wraiths, dead, restless, and doomed to wander.

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As a result of this session, the following sourcebooks and info pages were unlocked:

Ghostwalk Campaign (3.5) (A more complete explanation of what exactly is allowed from this book is explained here.)
Magic of Incarnum (3.5)
Ghostly Classes and Feats
Shadow Swarm, Lesser (CR 1)

 

Home Next (Pt. 2)

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