This site is an online accumulation of the Post Reports for my current ongoing D&D Campaign - for anyone who might be interested in reading them.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Meet 114, Adv 6, 5/7/16

Before there was ever a "spelljammer" I have had enchanted and flying boats in my world. Some of them are huge, most of them smallerish. And the magic to make them is prohibitive and expensive - and sadly not at all common in any degree anymore. So at some of the larger ports you can find one if you look, but to the smaller ports and river traffic - no,, they are like unicorns.

The party has now gathered control of a 4 ton small pleasure barge. It's not made for ocean traffic, the draw is too low and it would be torn apart at any given ocean borne storm. But for river traffic, a busy river like the Black Water - it's a terrific vessel. Even without the flight, the fact that it can lift most of its bulk from the water means with the right crew you can double the distance rowed in a given day.

But it's a small barge, 35' long, 15' wide at the top deck. You will not haul 10 tons of granite and marble to Woodhelven, neither could you ship cedar for the noble's manor houses in Titestory, and you can't move 400 head of sheep from Riverton to Brewersbridge with the barge.

So its uses are limited but still plentiful. And what the group does with it is their own business. Do they turn into business men? Keep it? Sell it? Commission it? That remains to be seen, but its been the conversation for 2 meetings so far and I suspect that as we get closer to our civilization, the group will become polarized and settle on one course of action soon.

Write up follows:

The party watched the wall of water racing away down the Black Water River, the flailing Kraken riding it until it was lost in the mist of falling snow. When the current calmed down enough and the small dammed lake had shrunk some we maneuvered the barge towards the center and dropped anchor to discuss what had happened and how we were going to address it.

No matter what, none of us were ever going to say anything to anyone that we had “done” anything. It wasn’t us, and it happened. Not our hirelings, not our henchmen, not passerby’s or bards or lords or anyone. No one.

But we also felt we HAD to warn someone, somewhere. The Black Water River was over 350 miles long from here to Titestory and the Mastelic Ocean. There had to be a dozen locations along the river one of which was Woodhelven to say nothing about maybe scores of smaller homes and thorps as well. And they were all in danger from a billion gallons of water and the enraged and released mythical beast.

Marcus still had one Sending scroll remaining from our time at Candlewick Keep and we decided that we should use it and warn someone. Marcus told us that the scroll would allow him to contact one person that he knew on this plane of existence. And the message couldn’t be long, perhaps 10 or 11 words not counting smaller filler words (a, the, and, or, it, etc..). We talked about all our people and who to contact and settled on the High Priest of Poseidon at Elven Keep.

He was not situated at the river (actually perhaps 25 or so miles away from it) but would be best placed to get a warning out to many of the locations along the Black Water River and hopefully in time. We wrote the message again and again, until it was as concise as possible and still avoided mentioning who we were (the spell would give the “voice” of the sender, but we assumed that it had been some time since we had seen the High Priest that he should not be able to readily identify Marcus’ voice). Upon satisfaction, the scroll was read, the words turned to fire and dust, and then Marcus read off the sentence and we were confident the High Priest received the Sending.

We then piloted the barge down river towards Castle Sterling and eventually pulled it as close to the castle as we could. The passage of the river had torn the swamp away, stripped every plant we could see on both banks, and tore up the ground and land all about. The river here was now less deep but wider, the banks more defined and much closer to the castle. We heard calls from above and the leaning tower showed Liscinia waving towards us and the call went out to open the main gates.

Once inside we got wind of what transpired in our absence. Horace had been knocked from the tower and sent careening into the frothing river where he was lost. Nyssa was crushed by falling stones and was killed instantly. Fermius had been caught as well but was still hanging on, his left arm broken in four places and his shoulder blade shattered. We dispensed healing, rounded up the donkeys, and led everyone into the Castle itself and lit a fire in the grand fireplace.

We talked, there were 14 of us now plus our animals. We were going to be leaving tomorrow after we had stretched out our food supplies from the gardens and Demeter’s blessing. We were going to take the Sky Chariot, what crates and chests we could, some other furnishings, and then leave this place and try our luck down river. It was going to be difficult with the passing of the flood and the Kraken, but everyone was going to have to pitch in and do their part.

We went down to the basement and unlocked the rooms, taking all the wine we could find as well as the 8 coffers of coins. We then went back to the vault and after opening it, took the 40 crystal statues crating them up as well. Everything was loaded onto the Chariot and strapped in place. Then we went through the dining room furnishings and picked the best dining table and set of chairs we could get. A quick walk through the upstairs rooms had us look over what we could there and then by 9 PM we settled down and got some sleep for the big day tomorrow.

Icemonth the 4th had everyone up and we broke our fast. A check outside showed we had a cold snap, with the weather hitting the low teens or single digits during the night. A gentle repose was cast upon the shrunken head of the Beholder and again on Nyssa to preserve both their bodies for the trip home. We expected 4 days to get back to Brewersbridge but that was with the river passable. For right now we couldn’t guarantee that.

Most of us worked on loading the barge, dragging a path through the almost 2 feet of snow to the river bank and the barge. From there we used the loading ramp and other timber from the castle as a ramp to allow us to maneuver the chariot onto the deck. Then we brought it into the cargo hold and strapped it down. From there it was hours of cold back bending labor to get everything else we wanted from the Castle.

While this was going on, Flimflam was at the gardens with the rest of the group where he cast Plant growth on our partially planted potatoes, tripling out food reserves from 2 to 5 days for the time being. It took hours to properly harvest what we planted and then bag it up and get it loaded on the barge. Tranis and Steiner swapped off a few times to give more than one person practice in captaining the vessel. But it was 1:45 in the afternoon when the last of the materials were stowed and we were set to sail off.

We were going to have most everyone row with the exception of Steiner (piloting), Fermius (1 arm working, would instead spot and call issues in the river ahead), Tranis (to swap with Steiner and offer his own help with Fermius) and Flimflam (who was too short to properly row, would instead keep the beat for those who weren’t). As soon as we set off we noted that Erd, Dugan, Viridia, and Taulib were tiring too easy so we made it possible for those four to swap off with one another in order to keep the barge moving.

As we rowed away we did note something different this time along. Since all 8 spots had rower and all 8 oars were working, what seemed to be white gossamer webbing began to stretch between the oars, growing thicker and more opaque as time went on. It didn’t impede the rowing and Steiner still kept the barge out of the water until only the keel and rudder were actually on the water. It was magical but we didn’t know what the effect was at this time.

The river had been scoured clean as we sailed, straightened and smoothed from the passage of the wave yesterday. Every so often we came upon a tree that had been uprooted and plowed into the bank some distance away. The road that had run along the river was gone, nothing was left to even show its existence.

As we sailed along the rippling white wings had the group thinking and Steiner once more concentrated on getting the boat up. And this time – it lifted entirely free of the water and rose with majesty until the keel was 15’ above the surface of the river. We couldn’t get it any higher, but this was just outstanding as far as the group was concerned. And it was for the best because we were coming up to where the great bridge had once stood that spanned the river on this side of Helm Lake. It was gone now, only a few stone spars were along the land to mark where it once stood. And a large concentration of the trees that had been ripped up and sent downstream had ended up here, causing a logjam of broken branches and muddy limbs that blocked the way into the lake and choked off the other portion of the river that lead to Ridgecamp and Mt. Ada.

Steiner guided us over the log jam with Tranis and Fermius calling out direction changes as need be. We picked out way along until we were once more over Helm Lake and were able to procced. The group wanted to stay on the south side of the Lake to avoid anyone near Varohelm from seeing us before we could meet up with them or be ready. Steiner did try guiding the barge over land (at 15’ in height) but the barge did slow down and rowing was difficult – so it was possible but not too likely.

We rowed our way along the south shore until the lake grew narrow again and was returning to a river once more. And from here we could see Varohelm. The low lying city was in ruins. It was apparent that the water had raced down and filled the city like a bowl, drowning many and toppling building and homes like playing pieces. The wall held but was bowed out in places. The land was a torn mess. The docks were gone, boats were smashed to splinters. And the choke point where the lake dumped into the river was a tangled mess of spars, limbs, buildings, floating dead, and wreckage – making any passage beyond almost a ridiculous impossibility. Steiner would have to sail over it and even then we would most likely have to pick the barge through the mess with exaggerated care.

And then we heard cries for help. From the broken remains of Varohelm their voices called out and we could see them emerging from the ruins and broken buildings. By ones and twos, they held their hands out and ran or stumbled towards the water. Some were men, others women, and even a few kids. It was cold, the temperate was just a nick over 20, and it was after 4 in the afternoon. Steiner didn’t want to leave. Neither did Erd, or Avidius. Others were also saying it was cruel to go on. Flimflam was trying to get people to realize that the barge was full now and taking on what seemed to be 15 or maybe 20 more people might mean we couldn’t sail – to say nothing of taking off the water’s surface which we would need to do to clear the terrible 1/8th of a mile jam and wreckage field before us.

We decided to land and Steiner guided the barge until we were 250’ or so from the shore where the docks used to be. A few had gathered there already and climbing on floating debris, began poling and paddling their way towards us. But there were many still on shore who could not do that. And the water was cold, icy death cold.

Steiner stood on the edge of the barge and called to Apollo to make his steps buoyant – and then stepped out of the boat and WALKED on the water. A breeze blew from below him and where his feet touched the surface a wave of white light rippled out. To everyone there, they were stunned to submission. He then proceeded to jog across the water to the shore, passing those floating out to “keep moving, hurry!”. He then made the shore, asked for two of the kids to be handed to him, and walked the two children back across the lake to the barge. It was miraculous to everyone.

Within 30 minutes we had gathered the 20 survivors and heard their terrible tale about the water and the death and then the tentacles from the Kraken that feasted on those still alive before it moved on and went down river. Steiner was looked at with reverence and awe and thanked constantly. Blankets and warm clothes were passed around and the party decided that they didn’t want any of the Varohelmians to go below decks to the cargo area and see anything we had already gotten. We would save them, but not necessarily trust them since we did not know then or who they were before the attack.

The barge was laden down and once everyone was in place and the oars were manned we managed to get up some speed and then slowly…so slowly…lifted out of the water. A well placed blessing from Flimflam on Steiner was enough to bolster the flagging priest and the barge lifted free until it was once again sporting the rippling white curtains against the oars and hovering at 15’ in height.

We passed over the wreckage and were back once more over the river as we pressed on southward. We sailed on until the sun had gone down and the evening was turning to night and we didn’t trust our ability to see. We settled back to the water’s surface and then coasted to the south side of the river and out of the main current (the odd trees were still floating down stream and we didn’t want any of them to hit the barge during the night).

As for food – our supposed stores that were going to get us home were suddenly in peril with 20 more mouths to feed – most of them had little or nothing to eat already during the day. We looked over all we had and the porters reminded us that we had almost 50 lbs. of what had been skink meat in the travel chests. Now that we had returned to normal size, the meat had grown as well. It was cold and rough, chewy and difficult to swallow – but it was a welcome sight to those who had nothing and were saved by our passing.

So here it was, 7:30 PM on Icemonth the 4th, about 2 miles downriver from Varohelm, on a pleasure barge we salvaged from Castle Sterling’s former inhabitants, its magic allowing us to sail over the wreckage so far, in the dark and with 20 people we saved from hypothermia and starvation from the ruined city of Varohelm. And we still had so much further to go before we were out of Darkenwoods.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Meet 12, Adv B2, 4/26/16 - Youth Group

D&D groups take a while to gel. Not every friend you have is going to fit at your table. It’s acceptable to try people out and maybe see if it’s a good fit or not. My daughter and her friend have both admitted they would like another person at the table but I have heard them both also grow frustrated that the 3rd person they invited doesn’t take it as serious or with the same gravitas that they do.

So when they found out that we were going to do a game on Spring Break, and I would let them play later and longer, they were excited at the opportunity. But I was then consulted by my young one that they would not be telling or inviting the 3rd back for this meeting.

My advice was to at least let her know, because it sucks when your friends get together and you are not invited. I was assured it’s not a problem and she would take care of it, but the voice inside my head tells me that the two of them didn’t let the 3rd person know.

As for the game, there was much LARPing at the table for the first part as we dug through the problem the group has had the last few meetings and what our plans were to get into the orcish area.

From my side of the screen, the game was much better, tighter, coherent, and focused. So perhaps they know what they’re doing regarding their third. I hope they can find a better third to sit with them in the future. 

Write up follows:

The party arrived back at the Keep a bit after the 2nd bell on Airmonth the 4th and made our way wearily through the front gates. The guards were happy and surprised to see us so soon but on seeing the foul expression on Loq’s face, they backed off and let us continue our way.

Loq had calmed down some, but the party knew the cleric was right. We had to focus and really plan out our next move. Randomly wandering the caves and hoping it all works out was a recipe for disaster; coupled with the party’s lax attitude and lack of concern at times. We assured him we’d be ready tomorrow at 8 and we’d see about hiring a few locals to come with us.

Proserpine just sort of wandered away at the end of the conversation, telling the party she was going to find some of the other elves here at the keep and reconnect with her own kind for a day. Too much “human” drama.

William and Charlotte sighed and then the two friends made their way to the inn where they took a central table and ordered some food and ale. From there they talked about the group, the loan they owe the Lord, Loq’s complaint, and Proserpine. They discussed for a while but admitted they needed to do something different and that the Cleric was right.

So then it was a matter of choices – continue in the orc caves and find some pay off there, head back to the goblin caves (which they swore they would do at some point) and get revenge, or head further into the complex of caverns and try their luck at what had been referred to as more difficult terrain. After weighing all the pros and cons, they wanted to stay with the orc caves.

The issue was there were two orcish caves, from two different tribes (according to local lore). And it was known that these two tribes do occasionally raid each other. Perhaps there was a way to incite one tribe against the other? That would mean they would have to go and find the 2nd tribe, try not to get into a fight, make their way to the leader/chief/altern and propose a mutual joining of forces.

This all sounded great but it was fraught with many dangers and concerns. But since the two friends were talking quite a bit and loud enough for normal conversation which attracted the attention of two men at a nearby table. We went over to talk to them and learned that they were willing to go with us after any orcs we might be interested in hunting. They appeared to be in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and had a hard angle to them. One was named George and the other didn’t identify his name, wanting to be referred to as “Sir”. They were both adherents to Zeus and were willing to come with us only if our target was the orcish caves. Otherwise, they were willing to pass.

We left and returned to our table, discussing their merit before shelving it for now. We wanted to see about maybe finding any other fighter types and maybe someone who doesn’t set off our “creep” radar. The innkeeper said he would set the word out and by dinner time, we had three fighters willing to go out with us the next day. The first one we discounted immediately as it was obvious from his bearing and demeanor that we was fairly well experienced and would cost more than our depleted pouches could afford.

So we interviewed the two remaining fighters: an early 20’s chainmail wearing swordsman named Hanken, and a younger 16 year old neophyte named Luis. After talking we were happy with Hanken (concerned about his lesser armor, but he did admit that his last group did not fare well and this was all he had – hoping to find another group and rebuild his fortunes) but not so comfortable with Luis’ experience (he was very honest about his lack of formal skill and that this would be his first foray anywhere, plus he spoke often about Poseidon and how the god guided him it was giving us a ill-feeling). Hanken was willing to take a normal pay and cut but Luis was so earnest and willing that he cut down on his initial outlay if we would just take him with us.

So we agreed, we’d hire them both for tomorrow and see how it went.

The morning of the 5th was cool and sunny when we met with Loq, told him of the two new hirelings, and then met with Hanken and Luis. Once introductions were finished we gathered our belongings and headed out to the caves. We talked amongst ourselves and learned some of our past but everyone was on point and ready when we arrived at the caves. We stumbled upon a campsite currently empty, and then kept going to the caves. Was there another group here? Maybe ahead of us? We were going to keep a weather eye out for other adventurers.

We approached the orcish cave and made our way up the slope of the ravine, stopping outside to listen in. Somewhere we heard odd echoes and banging as if combat coming from the cave. Distant though. No one was near, so William lit a torch and we entered with care.

The combat sounds were louder and coming from somewhere else. Orcish voices were roaring and we guessed both tribes might be fighting with one another. We looked in the first guardroom to the right and saw it empty, then we crept to the left and before entering the “dining room” from the other day, went north and to the right – heading to what seemed to be another guard room. Some discarded playing cards and a stool knocked over showed that this was abandoned and recently. There was an alcove to the right covered with a heavy grey burlap curtain where someone could hide and peer down the entrance. That’s how they knew we were here before.

At this point there were more orcish voices and then the sound of retreat and pursuit as some of the orcs were running for the exit with others close behind. We stayed quiet down the far corridor, not wanting to engage what sounded like a damn lot of orcs.

We heard them then return and eventually go on their way back to their places in the complex. But it was a bit surprising when 4 of them came around the corner and stopped to stare at us.

Two seconds later it was spears and swords and arrows flying about.

We wanted Luis to stay back if at all possible since William and Hanken seemed to be the more experienced fighters, but the follower of Poseidon wouldn’t be stopped and instead lunged around and to the left of the alcove, slamming the full length of his sword into one of the orcs and dropping him in 6 seconds flat. Holy crap!

Hanken and William assaulted the next one hamstringing him while a third drove his spear though the gap in William’s platemail. Our fighter was choking on his own phlegm and bleeding when Loq called to Ares and healed Loq back to full with a single touch.

And both orcs turned to run. As they were escaping Luis plucked a spear from a fallen orc and hurled it one of the turning ones, hitting him in the shoulder and the last one was dropped from assaults by both other fighters and Charlotte’s begrudging use of arrows.

Three down, one escaped and calling for reinforcements.

Nowhere to retreat. William wanted us to run for the entrance now but Loq seemed interested in staying but and Luis was shocked at any call to retreat. So we dragged the three bodies into a line blocking the hall and a flask of oil was lit just when SIX orcs came around the corner now – one of them the one we had wounded earlier. Startled at so many orcs coming we fumbled our throw and the burning flask of oil smashed into the wall to our right near the bodies of the stacked up orcs we had killed.

Luis dragged the curtain from the wall and slathered up the oil while the party took up defensive line and Charlotte shot the lead charging orc in the face with her bow. One of the orcs hurled a spear and we thought it was going to skewer Hanken but the chainmail wearing fighter showed he was much nimbler than we expected as he twisted and gyrated out of the spear’s path. The curtain now wet with oil we dragged it on the dead orcish barricade as spears were thudding into it, William flung the spears out of the dead bodies behind us, and then the oily cloth was set alight and blocked the charging orcs from hitting us.

Charlotte wounded another one and the orcs were throwing spears at us through and over the fire – nor hitting more than shields and walls. Luis once more called to Poseidon and AGAIN, his blow caught an orc in the chest killing it in a single toss!

William and Hanken returned fire and the orcish group whittled down as they hit the far end of the barrier. One of them tried to pry a body out of the way to make it easier to assault us but Luis AGAIN single shotted the closest orc. And this broke the morale of the orcs again who tried to flee. We killed one of them, engaged the second in combat, and the last and furthest one, the same one we had wounded earlier, was making his escape when he was shot in the leg and fell over with a crash – but managed to crawl around the corner and continue his call for help.

So here it was, after 11, all the orcs but one who faced us dead, and the lone survivor escaped death twice and was calling for help. We were feeling stoked and wanted to carry the fight forward and into the orc cave while they were not expecting it and hopefully demoralized.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meet 11, Adv B2, 3/20/16 - Youth Group

The group did not have much focus this meeting. With the warming weather and one of the members more interested in flirting with the lone boy at the table, it was more of a “hang out” with D&D on the table than a D&D meeting. As the next person here with 30+ years on the group, I was willing to run this for my daughter but lamented the fact that I missed out on 3 hours of doing whatever I needed to do around the house on the Sunday.

It’s part of why the NPC eventually read the group the riot act when they were wrapping up and let them know that their actions and lack of good choices affect a lot more than just themselves.

Write up follows:

So the group was discussing with the orcs hiding down the right corridor their terms of surrender, hoping to avoid any further combat since they were already spilling hit points and had not really gotten too far as of yet throughout the complex. But the party was hyper-vigilant and when it became obvious the orcs were stalling for time the group went to charge in and got a few spears tossed at them for their efforts.

The largest green-skin doing the talking was targeted by Proserpine who blasted him in the face with a magic missile, allowing William to go running in and engage the remaining two orcs at close combat. One tried to make an escape but was shot in the back by Charlotte and then it was just butcher time for the party to end the last of the orcs.

We paused after the fight, heard that our combat didn’t seem to carry too far through the complex, and then went through the orcs’ belongings. There weren’t much. We split the handful of coins and everyone took a pile of spears knowing we could sell them back at the Keep.

Then it was time to discuss…do we press on through the orc caves or do we go back? It was a lively discussion and the end of it was that the …6 crowns we had found per person and the three or four spears did not constitute enough of a haul to make our return to town worthwhile. We should press on and try to find another small cache of orcs and maybe with luck, some treasure to bring back.

We lit a lantern and traveled back to the original “T” intersection, this time pressing on to the left. There were a few side passages but the cavern eventually opened up to a large chamber equipped with a number of tables and benches – more than enough to seat 20 or so. There were a few other passages out of here but they were across the chamber and from the western most archway, we could hear orcish voices (many many of them) as well as some wavering torchlight and shadows from the room beyond.

There was talk about engaging the foes and also talk about not facing them but going to one of the other archways and further corridors to see what was there. However the decision was taking some time and for some reason Charlotte decided to take matters into her own hands. She ran up to one of the tables, vaulted on top, and called out, “Hey! Anyone here? We want to talk!”

Which alerted well over a dozen orcish voices from the western corridor; and we heard the scrape of metal and wood as we assumed they grabbed weapons and were coming out to face us. Loq cursed up a storm followed by William and the cleric and fighter ran for the cavern exit. Charlotte scrambled off the table and her and Proserpine raced along next, the howls and grunts of the pig-faced orcs growing louder as they gave chase.

The party hit the exit and then skittered down the slope to the floor of the ravine before turning to the east and racing for the tree line. Orcs ran out into the sun to follow us and a few kept of the chase for a little bit but we had already outdistanced their spear throws and left them behind as we panted and gasped our way into the underbrush.

Once we were sure to be safe the party fell to bickering about the bad choices we had been making and the fact that we just ran from the caves with almost nothing to show for it. The cleric, Loq, was the loudest, complaining that there was no way we was going to be able to pay off the Lord his loan and the 10% interest with only 6 crowns to his name. If the party was going to continue to behave this recklessly and this poorly, then he was going to have to let them know he was not going to go with them again AND would be letting the other wanna-be adventurers at the Keep know how poor this party was to go exploring with. Charlotte was cowed and apologetic and promised that this wouldn’t happen again.

With a backwards sigh the party turned away from the Caves and started the long trek back to the Keep to rest up and discuss what the morrow was going to bring.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Meet 113, Adv 6, 4/23/16

I like to use as much source material as I can for my world and the area we are in now is pretty Greek/Roman and set just after the height of the Greecian Hero age (whatever the heck that is!!).

The settled eastern section of the Duchy is sort of like Hellenic Athens with towers and columns and marble and civilization everywhere - while the west is more proto-typical D&Dish mish-mash of eras/cultures - frontier-like at best.

But one of the things I do like to do is make sure the world and culture the group adventures in is typical of the area.

Unleash the Kraken.

I had the Kraken plucked by Erazmus some time ago and kept out of sight until the wizard-lord would think to need it. Lulled into slumber by three lake hags whose job it is to keep it somnolent two of the hags had left or are missing after Erazmus' death and the one remaining was killed by the party. Her death awoke the Kraken but it was still limited and cannot go anywhere. Awake but bored and disinterested from decades plus of forced slumber and ensconcing in the lake.

And then the group dropped the dam. Which energized the area and released the Kraken.

This is a world event for this area and I've spent the last week or so fleshing out the time line and impact from this release and how it's going to affect the Kingdom, trade, and im/emigration for the short and mid term foreseeable future.

Write up follows:

It was almost 2 PM on Icemonth the 3rd and most of the original group had crossed the small dammed lake north of Castle Sterling to investigate the Dam Control House situated there while the remaining members and hirelings/henchmen were still at the Castle clearing out the garden beds in effort to stretch our existing food stores. We climbed off the single masted sloop and picked our way over the snow covers swampy ground until we found ourselves at the dam house.

The entire building was made of stone and constructed as part of the dam itself. The ground sloped heavily away from here and we could hear the icy water as it rushed over the top and sluiced down to the frothing river below. There were no windows on this side and we didn’t find any other way to enter.

After verifying the front door was closed and not locked (no key hole), we did discover it was held and most likely stuck in place. So it took a few of us prying, banging, and bashing at the door before something cracked from the other side and the portal scraped open.

Which sadly released for us a terribly horrific female figure. She was almost 7’ tall, white and blue veined watery skin and algae colored hair. Her mouth was a torn black and red gash in the center of her face and as she emerged a horrible keening filled the air where two of the party dropped to their knees in agony, ear bleeding and the rest of us rocked back as if stunned. She then turned and tried to run for the lake.

Steiner was able to keep his wits about him and before she could reach the water as she scrambled through the snow he called to Apollo and a blast of black paralytic energy flew from his hand and slammed into her – stunning her and freezing her limbs as she was held and then fell over onto her face. The screaming stopped, only a whistling noise was heard from her compressing throat. The group that could still move ran up to the hag, turned her over, and dropped axe and sword on her neck until her head fell away.

Some first aid was administered at this time but while we were on the shore, we noticed in the center of the lake a silent and eerie 10’+ long tentacle rise up, flop over and come back down. What the hell? We watched and it didn’t repeat, so with Erd keeping a careful lookout we approached the dam house.

The upper floor was empty but you could tell that at one point there were furnishings here. The floor was damp, and we could see three bodies hanging from the ceiling, heads removed, arms missing, and strips of flesh chewed up and taken away. Ugh.

There was a set of round stairs going down and we approached. It was dark so a light spell was cast on a rock and then dropped down. There was some sort of seaweed about halfway down and it was still moist. We descended with caution and when we got to the weeds, we knocked them further down the circular steps until at long last we arrived at the lower level.

There were some bones here and torn bits of clothing, the odd shoe. Two windows looked out into the lake and the room smelled damp and musty. A 5’ diameter circle of stained stone was on the far wall and the side wall was covered in a variety of levers, wheels, and other controls which we assumed worked the dam. A detect magic spell revealed that two of the wheels were very magical and that the drawn circle on the wall was also radiating some arcane energy.

We talked about options and decided that this might be beyond our skills and knowledge – we should get Marcus. From here we heard Erd calling out to us that the tentacle had come back again and that something was going on with the hag’s body. When we emerged once again to the sun the tentacle had gone but the hag had begun to rot very quickly, her body turning into a slurry of blue and pink froth and sloughed from her bones. And from where she had died, her form was heading for the lake. Tranis and Steiner tried to dig a trench ahead of the rotting hag but realized it wouldn’t stop it for long. So the decision was made to move the rotting body and with nowhere else to move it, they each took shovels and began scooping up chunks of the hag and slinging them into the open door of the dam house.

The gory disgusting work went on for 3 scoops until the rotting hag devoured something of the shovels and both adventurers were left holding a 3’ length of wood with a handle. Forget it, just leave it for now.

We climbed back on the boat and decided that going back into the lake was most like a stupid assed idea. What was the tentacle? We don’t know and didn’t want to find out. The thought was that the sloop can go overland and we were going to steer it down the slope and to the other side of the dam and then river where we would sail to the castle and then cross the river there.

It took Steiner some effort to getting the ship to move and it sluggishly went around the dam house, towards a safer section of the ground, and furrowed its way down the 30 degree angle slope. However the boat was slowing and slowing and then sort of..stopped. We were on a boat that was now listing to port, 80’ from the river, pointed sort of downhill and no longer moving as per magic. We checked the box with the heart – it was still there. The metal rock banded to the transom? Still in place. The bilge? Opened it up and it was faintly odorous and bare except for the bilge water down there.

The boat was “feline” based as per Flimflam, so did it need to eat? There was no obvious mouth anywhere and we thought about dragging it overland towards the river – 5 men, 1 woman dragging a sloop across over a foot deep snowy swampy ground. This was not going to easy if at all possible. Flimflam went through his back and found an animal femur he had been carrying for some time. He looked down and through the open bilge tossed the femur into the water within.

Nothing seemed to happen and then the femur began to hiss and dissolve as the water seemed to eat it. It grew pocked and pitted and then sunk beneath the inky water. To Steiner, the body groaned, righted itself a few feet, crawled forward a foot, and then settled back in place.

We needed to feed the boat.

The bodies in the dam house up the hill.

So three of us trudged their way back up the hill through the snow, picked their way past the rotted chunks of the hag’s flesh, lifted the decapitated bodies from their hooks in the rafters, and dragged them outside once again in order to bring them back to the boat. All the way Geld and Avidius were disgusted and questioning the right of what we were doing. Who were they? The hag had eaten them but where did they come from? Was this an evil act? Taking the bodies and willingly feeding them the bilge of the Sloop?

We pulled the bodies up on deck and a few words were said, then the bodies were lifted over the narrow bilge opening and shoved in one at a time, wiggling them back and forth to clear the sides until they splashed one at a time to the water. Then the miracle occurred twice more where both bodies were first skeletonized and then the bones were devoured in a few minutes.

We all got back on the boat, drew ourselves together (the scout and henchman still really bothered by what just happened) and Steiner got the sloop to obey his controls again. The sail filled up and the sloop righted and dragged its way through the earth until we were down the slope before we turned back to the river and entered it with a splash of joy. The sloop was then piloted towards Castle Sterling where we draped it up on land past where the former landing pier once was. Liscinia was on the top of the tower, waved to us, and yelled down the courtyard to let us in.

Once all together again it was decided that we head back to the lake, get the barge, and try to open the dam to allow us to take the barge off the lake as well. There was also that code that had been scratched in the flop desk and we assumed that was what would lower the dam. Also, we wanted Marcus to come with us since he had a better handle on magic over anyone else and he might be able to tell us what the circle on the wall was for as well as the two wheels that were radiating magic. Geld was very put off about the people eating boat and opted to stay. We split up the 12 people still here with half at the gardens and the rest at the tower getting it ready for tonight.

It was almost 4 when the party returned to the dam (Erd, Marcus, Steiner, Tranis, Flimflam, and Avidius) and we then trudged back to the boathouse and made our way inside. We all boarded the barge and opened the door. There was no tentacle but the group was very observant and concerned. We took the barge out with 4 people rowing and made our way near the dam and to the opposite shore. Once here we disembarked and tied up the barge at a stand of cypresses as well as tossing the anchor overboard.

Steiner opted to stay on the boat at the rudder while the rest of us made our way to the dam house and inside. We returned to the bottom stairs and then had Marcus check everything out. The circle on the wall was most like translocation but he was unsure how to operate it. And the two wheels were numbered 1 to 10 and had to do with earth magic.

We tested the wheels a bit. The left one seemed to raise and lower the sluice gates, making the river rise and fall accordingly. Erd stayed up top and was yelling down to us what the effect was. The right wheel didn’t do anything BUT we noted that if the right wheel was turned to a number first, turning the left wheel to the same number did NOT adjust the height of the river.

We discussed entering the code (4763) with both wheels and decided to do it. But who would? It was settled on Avidius taking the chance while the rest of us retreated to the barge and got ready for anything. They climbed on board, left the rope ladder hanging over the edge, and four of them went down below decks to man 4 of the oars.

Avidius entered the code, right wheel then left wheel, one number at a time and then the last one was turned in place.

There was a crack of thunder and roar. Clouds filled the sky and swirled over the center of the lake. Lighting struck down and smote the surface of the lake.

The dam seemed to have disappeared and the lake was emptying at a phenomenal rate into the river, swelling the bank and sending millions of gallons of water racing downstream. Avidius was running up the stairs and out of the dam house where his friends on the barge were yelling at him to hurry. He hurled himself up the rope and the anchor was raised as the barge swung wildly on the new current.

But it was the vision of the tentacle monstrosity that was lifting itself from the center of the lake and moving with fast speed towards the former dam. Its bulk rose higher and tremendous squid like kraken arched over the bounding water and rode the rising swell downriver past the party’s stunned gaze, The oars were digging in and keeping us to the diminishing shallows for now as the lake dumped itself down.

But it was the sight of the kraken tumbling/galumphing/rolling/swarming down the Black Water River that captured everyone’s attention. We watched from our position as its tentacles reached out and slammed into Castle Sterling, crumbling one of the towers, ruining the south wall, and slamming into the next tower where we could see figures falling from it. Figures that were our people still there.

We still could not risk the dam as the current would most likely rip the barge to shreds so we had to wait it out and watch as the kraken soared down the river along with perhaps a billion gallons plus of lake water on its way…to Helm Lake.

And Varohelm.

And points beyond.

What have we done?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Meet 112, Adv 6, 4/16/16

The party came upon a section of the adventure that I had written in as a lark but is not needed for the adventure itself. It's got a bit more powerful enemies and issues with it, plus there is the possibility for some world changing effects if they follow it to the end.

My favorite part though are the enchanted boats - one's a barge, the other a sloop. Both obviously royal in line and design, well maintained and fancifully carved, the type of ship you could picture any well heeled noble to own.

And they both can kick ass. Right now they are still learning about them but if they can figure out how best to drive them, they have some wonderful things at their fingertips and under their boots.

Write up follows:

With the snowfall continuing we were unwilling to risk leaving now or soon and went over our food stores, which were pitiful. Two days, tops? There was talk about clearing out the former garden bed along the courtyard and planting the potatoes while Flimflam performed a plant growth spell on them. This would triple the potato portion of our rations after a couple of spells and should give us another two days at the end of all things.

But where do we go? Back to Varohlem and face the Baron? Lie to him about what we found or just bow to the agreement we made and give him half? What about if he tried to take it all? Could we risk taking the river all the way and not running into problems? None of us were boatmen and we’d have to either steal one or pay off someone else to take us, and the rivermen were all pretty tight and connected to the Baron.

What about skipping Varohelm and going overland? That would mean we’d have to risk the giant cats and the Reisenvald that wander the woods. There were also according to the locals the former orc enclave to the north near Stormbringer Peak and the other wizard’s former base. Do we go there? How does the Skychariot fit in? We’d need horses to run it properly but we didn’t have any and the people of Varohelm had ponies, oxen, and donkeys. Not going to help us much.

We mulled these over for almost an hour while the snow fell and then split up the party a bit with a number of the people slogging to the courtyard and clear off the snow to start tearing the old planting beds apart. Steiner, Geld, Tranis, Flimflam, Avidius, and Erd were going to head river to what we could see at the limit of visibility was some sort of lake and seemed to a small falls that fed the river here. Marcs was left in charge and the rest of the group was working hard to bring the gardens out in the open.

We trudged out of Castle Sterling, the bar dropping in place as we walked away. We stayed near the river but not too close where we might fall in or slip, the snow billowing against our faces, a trail forming in the foot deep plus drifts. It took us almost 25 minutes to walk to 1/3 of a mile across the snow covered swampy ground, the land sloping up as we went further uphill and towards the lake. We could see the river was blocked by an ancient dam of fitted stones. It was wide, 70’ or so, and the top had water running over the 8’+ width of the stones there. We could not tell how tall the dam was but we assumed it was over 30’ based upon the depth of the river here.

The space beyond the dam was blocked up, forming a lake roughly a quarter mile wide by a half mile long. Abutting the dam on the far shore was a squat house of formed stone, maybe 25’ square, and a couple of small windows looking out. We could risk getting there by crossing the top of the dam but the rushing water and freezing temperature made everyone uncomfortable with that idea.

On our side of the lake, another 2-300’ beyond the dam was a leaning boathouse. From here we could see the doors were still closed and the roof although sagging, still seemed sound. With little conversation, we headed to the boathouse to check it out. There were two doors to enter but were currently closed and choked with snow. So we used our shovels and then crowbars to pry the door open and finally peer inside.

The boathouse was roughly 100’ wide and 50’ deep, with most of it constructed so it was actually built over the lake. Over the years it had settled slightly and leaned into the lake. There were three docks inside and 2 boats tied up to them. One was a single masted sloop that would seat 6 or 7, and the other was a 3 ton travel barge, rear ruddered and looked like 8 rowers from below decks to power it. The group decided the check out the barge first. Getting on it was difficult since the pier was in poor shape and the landing ramp was down the end of the pier. Flimflam dared it and Avidius used Darkblade to port himself onto the deck of the barge. Together the two friends then dragged the landing ramp onboard and then thrust it over the back of the barge to the back of the boathouse.

Everyone now on board we looked around. The deck was gritty and dirty, but the ropes, anchors, and poles and gaffs were put away properly. There was a set of steps going down to the cargo hold and the center of the deck did lift away to drop cargo below this way. We went below, the ceiling was only 6’ and most of us had to duck. A set of hammocks and a simple galley was near the bow, and towards the back was the captain’s quarters. We looked in and noted it was pretty empty and sodden from over a decade of poor weather.

The mattress was a mess and the papers had all turned to pulp. There was a flop-desk near the aft but the blotter that once sat on it was now gone. Scratched into the wood were the numbers “4763” which we noted. There was a foot locker that was still sealed and inside was the barge captain formal dress: shirt, pants, hat, and boots. The bottom of the footlocker was not level with the ground and some digging and prying had us lift it and reveal a handful of gold and silver coins as well as a number of fancy stones. Nice.

As for the captain’s belongings, Steiner and Avidius got into a good natured back and forth on who owns it with the priest claiming the medallioned tri-corner hat as his own and refused to take it off. All that was left was to check out the bilge and for that we made our way to the front of the cargo deck and lifted the bilge hatch. It was dark down there, and the odor wasn’t that bad. A quick light was used and we saw the bilge area was about 18” tall above water and minimal decking which was a single length of wood that ran the length of the keel into the darkness of the ship. The water was dark and we guessed perhaps a foot or so deep. No one wanted to touch it.

Flimflam volunteered to crawl the length of the bilge and make sure nothing was down there so he made his way within, and on hands and knees, crawled along the boards towards the back of the ship. It was while he was almost there that he noted a box on the decking against the back of the barge by the rudder shield. It was a foot and a half by a foot by 8 inches, had no obvious lid or seams, and was held in place by 4 silver chains that connected each corner to the hull of the barge. WTF?

Avidius? Can you come down here and check this out? The thief good naturedly grumbled his way into the smelly barge and crawled to the druid. Swapping places they took a look at it and he was sure it wasn’t trapped but didn’t see how to open it. When he said “Open up” though, the top of the box lifted away with a faint hum and we looked inside. There was an elongated dried heart that the chains of the box ran through and were buried in the flesh – pulling it taut. Flimflam asked to see any magic and the box/heart glowed, along with the chains, and faintly the base of the barge. Crap – the barge was magical. Flimflam was convinced the heart was from some sort of giant avian, a Roc maybe?

The two of them ran from the bilge and we followed them as they went to the top deck and back to the rudder where they looked through the fanciful carvings on everything and there it was, right in the middle of the rudder handle, a spread winged bird taking up a lot of the surface. We wanted to try the barge out.

So two of us went down the cargo deck where they each grabbed an oar and prepared themselves. Steiner, still wearing the captain’s hat, took his place at the helm. Tranis worked the pulleys overhead until the ropes went taut and the boathouse doors leading the lake slowly opened. The last two brought the landing ramp aboard and then used the guide poles to push us off the pier and out into the water.

The barge was difficult to maneuver, plus we only had 1/4th of the oars manned, and the rudder did turn but it was slow and with almost no forward momentum, Steiner couldn’t get much out of it. We then looked for levers, switches – none. So that left Steiner calling out and willing and trying things. It was “up” that triggered something. The barge shuddered under our feet and then majestically rose out of the water until only the keel and the rudder were left on the lake. The oars still were able to function and the entire 3 ton travel barge was hovering 2’ out of the water.

Now when we maneuvered the barge it went much better, the massive vessel skipping along as very little of it was actually in the water! We were able to get it up to a fast walking speed and the turns were sharp and easy as the barge listed over. We also were able to coast a bit but when Steiner took his hands off the rudder the barge crumped back down to the lake surface. Testing a bit more he was able to get us to come down smoother if he said “down”.

So now we wanted to test out the single masted sloop, so we drove the barge back to the boathouse, turned it around, and back paddled it into place. Once there we tied it back up and pulley shut the doors. Steiner left the captain’s hat back in the captain’s quarters and we made our way off the barge and onto the sloop.

It was smaller, still very well made, and in decent condition. We climbed aboard and looked around. The sail was wrapped against the boom and tied in place; the rudder was at the back of the boat and had a single seat there. There was seating for 6 others and the bilge hatch was near the rudder but was smaller, perhaps 2’ square tops.

We looked around and found a space under the helmsman’s seat that had another box with 6 silver chains and a chunk of lumpy grey metal banded to the transom. We looked in the box and found the chains went through it until they were lodged in an elongated and stretched heart – this one some sort of feline (according to our druid).

So we went to pole the sloop out of the dock after opening the bay doors and realized that with the slow sinking of the boat house over the years, the mast did not clear the lintel anymore. We thought of different ways to drop the sloop 4-6 inches to get it to clear but it was Steiner, hand on the tiller who said “down” and the front of the boat literally dove down and water started to flow over the gunwales. “Up! Up! Up!” and the boat righted itself. We heard water racing into the bilge and the deck eventually cleared with water.

Ok, trying it again, Steiner held the rudder tight and willed the sloop “down” again until the mast cleared the lintel, then we poled ourselves out of the house and he relaxed it and though up and we returned to normal. It took us almost 15 minutes to learn to raise and lower the single sail but once we did, it became a breeze.

We then put the boat through its paces and tried out a bunch of scenarios. It was fast, like a horse cantering sort of fast. Also, it could jump; 7’ up and with a full sail, 60’ across. The jumps and drops played havoc on the passengers and we were jostled a bunch. The situation got more interesting when Steiner mused back on the down thing, wondering why it would do that? So tentatively said down…and the sloop nosed over and dived.

Water washed in front of us, up and up and up until we were below the water in a bubble of air. The deck around the mast was now glowing in a white circle that as we watched, a sliver appeared along the 12 o clock position and then slowly, slowly crawled to the right. We could stick our hands out the side of the boat and touch the water with no negative impacts. And we kept up the decent speed under the water.

We sailed about a bit before resurfacing and then feeling confident, decided that we were going to dock it over on the opposite shore near the dam house. So we got closer and closer and then the sail was dropped but the sloop nosed up and actually rode up on the land at least 7’! What the hell? We raised sail again and Steiner was able to drive the sloop on the land until it nosed back into the water. The boat goes on land. Very nice.

We drove it back around, pulled up to the dock and once more docked it partially on land. From there we disembarked and tied the boat up at a cypress tree that was close to the water and then turned as one to enter the dam house.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Meet 111, Adv 6, 4/2/16

The big drive for this adventure was to go and get the magic weapons that had been commissioned by the former Tower Master (Cornelius) 13 years ago. The group now has them and spent some time playing with them in order to see what they might do. Most of them have been identified at this time to some degree and the party seems pleased with their haul.

They also came upon a broken cart called a Sky Chariot. It was here and was supposed to be worked on by Erazmus but hadn't gotten around to it before him and Ceril had their falling out and combat. What was great was watching the party in real time go around the table and brainstorm the various ways to fix the cart and to do so with the tools and skills available at the table and in the Castle. I don't like "one roll and the problem is gone" bull and prefer the older 1st/2nd edition way of talking out the problems and solutions so this was pretty wonderful to see the group do.

I hope they appreciate the potential greatness that the Sky Chariot could mean for them as I know for a fact that down the path, I have some situations coming up that this item would come in very handy.

Write up follows:

We carefully took the weapons out of the vault area and then in turn manhandled the chariot the same way. The chariot had the right wheel missing 3 spokes and 6 of them were split. Plus, the axle (3” diameter hollow pipe) had a split on the right side about 2 and a half feet long.

Once in the dining room we each spent some time practicing with the weapons and getting a feel for them. Three of them were sort of brutish, and three of them had a finesse to them. But we spent the time testing them out and doling them about the party. Firstly was the broadsword “Hew” which not only gave forth a white glow while wielded, but the glow could intensify as needed by the wielder. Steiner took this one.

The other broadsword, “Darkblade” was claimed by Avidius who not only felt the watery dark steel was preternaturally sharp, but on some practice cuts was able to dimension door himself up to 40’ away 3 times a day with the eldritch weapon. The spear, “Defender of Sparta” was adorned with markings of Zeus, Ares, and Athena and Erd put the weapon through its practices. He did note though that when he began practicing with the weapon defensively, that the spear leapt in place to deflect what few blows were aimed his way.

Geld was given the boar spear, “Garrund’s Breaker” and it was only after a few strong thrusts that Marcus’ henchman found out the spear played havoc on shields with punishing blows. Speaking of “Havoc”, it was the name of the battle hammer and Flimflam put the meteoric iron headed maul through its paces. It gave forth a green glow and even though it was heavy headed, the gnomish druid was able to handle it with ease showing proficiency with it that he normally didn’t have.

Lastly was “Night’s Father”, the short bow, which Tranis was given. He couldn’t seem to get anything from it but the group realized with its name that it might only work after sunset (it was about noon now) so we shelved it for later.

The chariot was going to need some work. It also had a dweomer to it, and with the carvings of Poseidon and Apollo adorning it, we wanted to make sure it would survive the trip so we started to look at what we could do to repair it. Some mending spells on the split spokes would help, but we were still 3 shy and the axle was going to need to be patched as well, and a mend spell would not suffice.

Taulib, Corane, and a few others started work on carving some new spindles from the remains of the chairs in the dining room while the party broke for lunch. From there we discussed every possible iteration on the chariot and how to fix it from a new axle to fill to carve to repair to whatever.

We took the busted wheel off (luckily between our henchmen and hirelings we had a number of carpenters, wheelwrights, and teamsters at our disposal) and took a better look at the broken axle. The axle was 3” in diameter, with the inner hole being a bit under 1”, meaning the wall of the axle was ½” thick and 7’ long. The decision was made to fill it.

We had tons of pewter dishes, bowls, and mugs in the dining room so the party took three of the largest cast iron cook pots, lit a hot fire in the stove, and loaded the pots on the stove with the pewter within so it would melt over time. We then went out in the snow (it was snowing, and quite a bit!) and pried up a few cobbles from the courtyard. From there we dug down until we hit a clay mixture and brought in buckets of the clay which we packed around the split to keep the eventual molten pewter from coming out.

We then dragged the axle and the one wheel still attached to the center stair, stood it vertical, and then built a number of wooden braces against it so it wouldn’t shift. We didn’t have a funnel so we took a double handled cooking pot and had Marcus pound the crap out of the bottom and then auger it until he managed to make a reverse dimple and a hole. Taking the pot up to the landing we made a platform at the bend in the stairs, attached the two chains to the pot to hold it in place and positioned the hole right over the hole in the axle. Perfect.

With everyone ready and the place cleared, we had three people bring the pots of molten pewter in one at a time and climb the stairs to the funnel held in place. Just before they started pouring, Steiner called out to Apollo and cast Heat Metal on the axle, raising the temperature of the iron pole and allowing the molten pewter to maintain its properties and make it all the way to the bottom of the pipe.

It worked wonderfully. We needed two pots of molten pewter to fill the axle and then let it sit and cool after it was completed. Instead of mending, Flimflam cast woodshape on the axles that were broken and fixed them that way, while the three others that had been carved were reset in the wheel. It was about 5:30 at this time and we all decided to let everything sit for a while and retreat out of the castle back to the tower with our wood and rest there tonight.

While the majority of the group got dinner going and warmed up, Tranis and Flimflam returned to Castle Sterling to hunt the lone cat still wandering the halls and test out the ranger’s magic bow. With the sun now down and the evening deepening, Tranis was able to feel the bow come to life. While holding it it gave him superior infravision and when they tracked the cat to the servant’s hall and laundry room, the arrows flew fasters, straighter, and truer. Plus, we killed the cat.

They took its body back to the tower and the party ate (not the cat) and then rested. We slept the night and awoke the next day to see over a foot of snow on the ground and MORE falling today. The temperature was in the low teens and might hit mid 20’s today tops.

Today the party wanted to test out the chariot so we dug a path from the doors, maneuvered it outside, and then hitched it up to our two mules. Steiner was on board as a priest of Apollo and Flimflam was as well as a druid to help inspire the donkeys to run. We had a few hirelings help to drive it as we puttered our way back and forth across the courtyard.

The mules did their best but were not inspired to really “run” so to speak. What they did though was move quick enough that everyone noticed little bits of flame and fire dance up from the sides and spokes of the chariot only to disappear again a moment later. We had to get faster.

So we cleared out a larger area of the courtyard coaxed the donkeys to the end, turned them around, and then everyone did all they could to cajole, coax, plead, and drive the donkeys to their top speed.

And it worked. They trudged and the cart made these chuffing noises and the fires grew more consistent and then there was a solid “WHOOSH” sound and the cart burst into flames. The flames rolled across the wheels and also seemed to spark out from under the donkey’s hooves. And the skychariot lived up to its name and arced upwards at a 30 degree angle and took to the sky, fire roiling about it.

This of course terrified the donkeys who slowed down and the cart chuffed loudly and from 8’ off the ground angled back down and crashed to the snow covered cobbled the two donkeys frightened and kicking their braces, and the right wheel made a snapping sound and two more spokes on that side busted (but the axle held!) and the fires extinguished.

Once we calmed the animals down and unhitched them, we dragged the chariot back inside Castle Sterling and basked in our good fortune but were now unsure how to get it to work for us since the donkeys don’t seem to run fast enough and were terrified enough to drop from the sky.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Meet 110, Adv 6, 3/26/16

There are some monsters as a DM I never get to play with for obvious reasons - the beholder is one of them. When I wrote this up long ago, there was a beholder in the dungeon. In the intervening decades I've moved it around a bit but wanted to make sure it stayed there.

But I don't like the idea of insta-kill and the group is only about 4/5th level. So I nerfed it a bit - took out the Ray of Death and the Disintegrate eye. I also changed the Charm to Sleep, and then changed the Flesh to Stone to Immolation (1d8 damage - 3 rounds). Then I let it fly.

And the damned mage took permanent hit point and constitution damage to empower the ring of power he had to shrink the damned thing down. Even then I said with the anti-magic eye (even though it wasn't looking at the mage) it was a 1/3 chance to save. And the dice showed it failed and the beholder was killed in two shots.

Now, the party had spent a week agonizing over this cliff-hanger fight with a beholder and had tactics up the whazoo - so when it was over in two hits, they were sort of stunned and giddy.

So after the total fight was done, I said lets redo it - but this time without the ring working.

And even with the nerfing, it was pretty much a TPK. The Beholder and the Cat Statues tore the group apart and the way they were positioned around the room, I was able to use every eye pretty much every round (when fighting a beholder is limited on the number of eyes he/she can bear down in a given direction). So we had two people survive - the thief played possum and stabilized at 0 hp until the fight was over where he then scavenged healing and then went to the mage and had the ring of power turn him to 1/24th of his size - from which he then ran to the door of the mage's tower an slipped underneath. And the druid after getting telekinesised into the ceiling and walls and beaten to death wild shaped into a mouse after playing possum and at battle end grabbed the ring of power from the floor in his mouth and followed the thief into the tower.

The other 18 people, animals, and hirelings? All killed - some of them terribly.

With an unnerfed Beholder I have no idea how a 9th level party even has a chance.

Write up follows:

Avidius felt himself pulled forward, escaping the notice of the closest growling cat, his preternatural sword skipping him across the floor in order to strike the beholder before anyone had a chance to get caught in the flailing rays starting to scintillate in the aberration’s many eyes. However, before he could strike, Marcus had an internal battle of wills and an accord with the Ring of Power he was wearing and pointed the copper band in the monster’s direction.

His body was cannibalized as it empowered the arcanic energies of the artifact, his life essence siphoning away as it fueled the titanic energies of the ring and send a blast of yellow and white fire to bathe the beholder. It surrounded the beast, the magic fading and rippling away as it passed before its central eye. However, the ring’s power and Marcus’ sacrifice could not be so easily brushed aside. The encasing bolt of magic crept inexorably around the monster, pushing the anti-magic aura further inward until the circle was complete and the monster was engulfed. There was a large “Whooshing” sound followed by a scream and the beholder collapsed inward on itself until it was reduced to roughly 2 ½ inches in diameter and floating very slowly as it struggled to escape.

Avidius, seeing a much smaller target now, skittered to a slide and swung his sword up, slamming into the now 1/24th size beholder. The cut went deep, spinning the aberration wildly as it tried to right itself. One of its eyes sent forth a blinding blast which hit Avidius but it was much smaller and weaker – succeeding in blinding the thief but not permanently. And then Tranis took aim from across the room and let fly.

And the shaft blew through the beholder, skewering it like an apple, before hitting the wall on the opposite side of the chamber and coming to a stop.

Beholder dead.

Three stone cats left to fight.

One of them was instantly shut down by a blast from Marcus’ dispel rod and the last two did their efforts to take the party down but they were unable to do anything more than wound a few of us before they were broken and smashed to pieces.

The fight over we examined the dead beholder and noted that its anti-magic gaze was still working and seemed to have a limit around 3 inches or so. In order to keep the beholder’s special skill available for us, we carefully pulled the arrow free from its body and then cast gentle repose on it – preventing it from decaying for the next 5 days until we get a chance to stuff it or preserve it permanently.

Some healing was dispensed and then the party had the chance to look in the cylinder vault at what the beholder had been guarding. There were 2 broad swords, a boar spear, a regular spear, a short bow, a stout battle hammer, and a 2 wheeled-low walled chariot that showed some damage.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Meet 109, Adv 6, 3/19/16

The party has not stumbled on real treasure for a long time so when they were exploring Castle Sterling and came to the Vault and pulled back and the Treasury and pulled back, the inner DM was yelling at them "You're so close!" 

After resting though they did the further exploration and did indeed find not only the soft treasure of the wine bottles but the hard treasure of the coins in the coffers. Good for them! Now they just need a way to transport 8 stone coffers out of the swampy castle and 22 days of hard travel back to Shakun and home!

Write up follows:

We decided to give the castle a once over and opted to start with the downstairs and the entrance room we had first come in. It was a parlor and the torches we had lit the day before had burned out. But the room showed a set of double stairs on the north wall that headed up to the 2nd floor (and most likely the spider filled room we had recently been in). There were many other doors in here and we assumed that some led to the halls and others deeper in the castle. Whatever the case, we took stock of our situation and opted to eat lunch for now and maybe hand out some healing.

A trip out to the donkeys in the tower showed they were still ok but the temperature was dropping. We refilled their feed bags and made sure they had water before getting food stuffs off the packs and bringing them back to the castle for us to eat. Some lesser restorations were also doled out and it took much of the drain off our party. Good berries were also eaten and we all felt much better. It was after 3 when we wrapped up lunch and wanted to explore some more. The door from the parlor on the right hand side, north wall was the best choice to hit next. It revealed a kitchen in some decent condition. There was a pantry as well (empty) and a set of double doors went from here to the spacious dining room – three tables and seating for 40. From here we wanted to explore the hallways and settled on the eastern halls first.

It was long, the length of the castle, with a few side corridors that we explored with care first. It was dark and Avidius, Tranis, and Viridia gave the areas a once over. The walls down one of the side narrow corridors led to an alcove area with a collapsed couch, the walls were moldy and the air smelled foul. We decided to give it a wide berth and retreated to the main hall. From here we walked north and made a right down the further corridor.

Some investigation showed it came to another area with smaller halls and rooms, from the site and spaces we passed through, we suspected these might be the guards’ chambers and corridors. The party wanted to find the Castellan’s office; this was not the right direction. The Castellan should be near the front of the castle, near the entrance, and we were already pretty deep in the castle’s interior.

The group made their way back to the hall, and then from there, Steiner deduced that one of the doors would lead to the kitchen again – and it did. From here we proceeded to the dining room and then out the dining room doors to the western great hall. The castle was built symmetrical so we followed the northern hall to the side corridor and found ourselves once again in an area of smaller rooms and chambers. Seemed to be the servants’ quarters. From here we ventured south and ended up near the bathroom with the mice that we had slept in. Private bathroom? Maybe. Who would merit one? The Castellan.

So we went to the door next to the bathroom, opened it with care, and found the Castellan’s private chambers. The clothes closet had a few items in it, a roll up desk, bed, chest of drawers. But it was all older, worn, water logged in places. We took our time exploring and checking everything out. The ring of keys we had found in the northwest tower did come from here (the Castellan’s keys were missing) and the log books showed many visitors coming in and out. Wizard Lord Erazmus featured prominently in many of the dealings and the local lord was never mentioned except in passing and typically in lower case. The only other thing of note was Lord Ceril Stormbringer of Stormbringer Tower had some dealings with Wizard Lord Erazmus and the two of them had a number of meetings and heated exchanges – typically about something regarding a cart of chariot of some sort that Erazmus was to either repair or return to Ceril.

We took a torch from the hall here and adding it to out light sources, went back to the central parlor and decided to try and find our way to the wizard’s tower via way of the doors north of the dining room and kitchen.

There was a hall here and stairs going both UP and DOWN, as well as a few doors down a narrow burned hall. Observations showed some sort of fire had occurred here and blasted some of the doors off their hinges. There were scriptoriums and from what we could tell, someone was most likely vaporized in one of them. The northern most door seemed to have held.

It was 4:30 or so and we decided to not explore further, but to get back to the tower we had stayed in earlier and rest for the night, getting a better trip tomorrow when we were well rested and in good repair. We cobbled together a few troughs and cast a couple of create water spells. Skins refilled we cleaned up and lit a fire in the stoves, ate dinner, and eventually fell asleep.

The next day, Icemonth the 2nd, was cold and bitter – and the snow that had been flaking that night before was now increasing in intensity and falling at a constant regular rate. It was already a few inches deep and from what Tranis could tell us, was going to last for many hours to come.

We returned to Castle Sterling and made our way back to the northern hall and the scriptoriums. Another torch taken from the sconces helped flesh out our supply and we made some noise about where to go next. We checked upstairs, finding a sitting room and library but nothing of value to us. So we went back to the main floor, and then downstairs. The burning from the long ago blast had made it to the cellar room and broke many of the barrels and boxes down here (seemed to have been supplies at one point).

There were two other doors out of here so we checked out the first one. It had held from the impact long ago, was stout, banded in iron, and in good repair. We opened it with the Castellan’s keys and went down a short corridor to another door, this one also stout and well made but locked with a length of chain and an excellent lock. Another search of keys showed one that would open it and we cracked the door – revealing a wine cellar with over 60 bottles of wine still here.

Many of them were 20+ to 50 years of age, and most of them were still sealed and in good repair. The vintners were not known to any of us but we suspected to the right personages the wines would be valuable. We left the room, and went back to the main store room and tried the other door. The set up similar to the first, another short hall and a locked door with a chain. We noticed the locks were keyed alike so we were pleased and expected to take the locks (and chains) with us when we left.

On opening the door, Avidius informed us that the floor and transom were floating faintly and should NOT be stepped on. With the door opened though we saw 8 stone coffers with metal tops, each one locked and stacked next to one another. We took Avidius’ advice to heart and looked around for a lever of some sort to disable the floor. There was something, a metal receiving spot on the wall where a lever might have been at one point. We used Horace’s iron truncheon as a makeshift lever and moved the port down, fixing the floor in place and making it safe for us to enter.

The coffers were unlocked and revealed: treasure. Hundreds and hundreds and even thousands of copper commons and silver nobles. There was also a large quantity of gold and most importantly – platinum bars which would be a HUGE boon for Baron Taugis should we manage to get them back. We locked the coffers back up and then relocked the rooms with the chains and locks after moving the wine bottles to the treasury.

Bolstered now and feeling good we went back upstairs to the main central door past the scriptorium and gave it a once over. There was a marking on the door with a circle and pentagram within. So Marcus stood before it, announced himself, and then placed his hand on the door – opening it to a large chamber with 6 cat statues on the walls (5’ tall, heavy stone), a door on the other side of the chamber, and a 10’ diameter cylinder of white and grey streaked metal running from floor to ceiling.

We all entered and got our bearings. The other door most likely (according to Steiner) led to the tower and we didn’t know how to open the cylinder (although we did knock on it and try to move it to no avail.). We closed the door and then the room seemed to shift. The walls pulled away and the ceiling rose and the cylinder enlarged until we were now in a 60’ x 70’ chamber, the cylinder was now 20’ in diameter, and there were 4 large 15’ wide, 6’ tall display cases with a number of bits of art of some sort adorning them.

We still couldn’t open the cylinder and now assumed we were in the vault. We did not e that if we leaned on the cases they pivoted along the center and “clicked” to a stop in two places – along the east/west axis and when either end was pointed at the cylinder. Further investigated warranted and we noted that the edges of the cases had a number written in elven ranging on all four walls, both sides, from one to eight.

We tried many ways of turning them, assuming the numbers were a combination of some sort but after 20 minutes of turning shelves we didn’t stumble on the correct method to open whatever tumbler locks the numbers represented.

Until by accident we had reset one of the cases and turned it to “1” pointed at the cylinder – and there was a hum and vibration! On to something! We looked the others over and discounted our former efforts and failures before picking the case with the “2” on it and turned that to face the cylinder – and another hum! We then did the same with “3” and “4” and the cylinder began to rise faster and faster.

A large battered chariot of some sort was seen at first as the wall rose but then a magic mouth appeared and Erazmus’ voice echoed out, “Go the Hell, Ceril! And you’re not getting your cart back! I knew you’d try to rob me – we have this as a surprise!”

And then the wall went up the rest of the way very fast and we were looking at a 5’ diameter chitinous covered large central eye, eight smaller eyes on stalks, levitating and floating monstrosity that roared at us as we stood stunned. And to add insult to injury, three of the stone cats on the wall turned and sprung to life, attacking the party!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Meet 108, Adv 6, 3/12/16

The group had a long run into the spider's lair and went whole hog right for the McGuffin needed to get larger. I had run this adventure (or VERY similar to it) twice before over 20 years ago and one group never made it this far, and the other was TPK'ed in a spider choked room filled with over running fires that burned them all.

The party had some serious luck with a few Summon Nature's Ally spells which allowed them to clear the way to the McGuffin.

Write up follows:

The party hit the three Brown Recluse Spiders with a flurry or sword blows and strikes, dropping two of them and wounding the third but Nyssa took a nasty bite that had our shieldbearer taking a hefty dose of poison and had her reeling in pain. The thought of the party was that we had to get into the room and head towards whatever Marcus had detected earlier and we had to do it no and fast before more spiders came and overwhelmed us.  Avidius managed to cut his last limb free and was yelling at the group that there were more orb spiders coming into place.

Flimflam called out for his most powerful summon nature’s ally spell but as before, there was a stuttering in the spell as it reclassed itself for our new smaller impact and dimensions. The group was surging forward, passing under the archway, trying to make their way further in. A final produce flame was tossed into the webbing, setting another section ablaze.

The King of the Web called out to Arachne and the final Brown Recluse that the party was fighting surged, enlarging to a gargantuan monster 20’ in height as a Giant Vermin spell took effect. The group ran under the massive creature, avoiding its stomping eight legs, and moved enmass to the right. Marcus shot off another Dispel blast, burning a hole that the group turned and ran towards.

Flimflam’s Summon Spell enacted and a 40’ long iguana appears with an exploding blast of concussive air. He then pointed into the room and told it the charge in and tear up the webbing, which the iguana did, scattering spiders in all directions as we raced along. The King of the Web called out a loud benediction and from the hall we heard the yowling cry of the castle’s cat as it answered and began to climb up to our level. We had to go and go now. The Orb spiders that were over the arch attached webs and began rappelling down, and we ran through the scattered webs. The Giant Spider was able to give chase but the parameters of the room were preventing it from striking at us effectively.

Erd’s poor health and Avidius’ numerous painful wounds as well as his poisoned blood, had these two party members flagging as we ran along, spiders dropping from the webbing above our head and raining to the ground behind us. The Orb spiders were giving chase and we noted there were too many of them for us to effectively turn and fight. We had to find our way to the source and do it now.

The Iguana managed to come close enough for Flimflam to call out to and Marcus shot off another Dispel Magic blast which drove a line of red sparks through the room. And Flimflam ordered the Iguana to chase it. The Iguana blurred its way into the dark interior, scattering more webs and driving a path for us directly to the amber glowing source that had the group shrunk. Any spiders in the iguana’s way were smashed and devoured.

The Giant Spider was getting closer and Steiner hurled out a blast from his fear staff, striking the spider and turning it away where it skittered in terror. Avidius slipped back and was losing ground, falling and tripping as he tried to run. We now had almost 10 spiders chasing us, the Orb spiders plus the new ones that fell from above as we passed under them. Fermius and Steiner each draped and arm over their shoulders and hoisted Avidius up, carrying the wounded and weakened thief.

From the hall we heard the Cat had arrived, was looking around the room, and started to chase the group. Meanwhile we drew ever closer to the amber light – which was now revealed to be a ring almost 7’ in diameter floating on top of a 10’ column. The spiders were now closer to us and we started throwing caltrops, bags of sharpened rocks, even a few flasks of greasy water behind us.

And it worked.

The number of spiders right behind were rapidly reduced and the party ran on, out distancing most of them except for one determined Brown Recluse. Meanwhile the cat was closing in and it plowed over a number of the orb spiders that had been tripped up, smearing them as it yowled and leapt closer.

Horace and Geld, two of the best conditioned people in the party, were ahead of the group at this point, racing for the column. Flimflam called to Demeter to summon another massive natures ally, and we had to wait for the stuttering to pass before the spell enacted. And the party was now strung out with more and more of the party losing ground.

We tried to distract the cat with lights and glowing balls but it had no effect and it was now very close. Flimflam’s summon spell fired and we got a large huntsman spider – which Flimflam had appear over the rotating ring and attack the King of the Web who was trying to grab Geld in her attempt to get the ring (which she missed in her leap). The King was fighting another spider, the webs above were writhing with numerous spiders flailing about. The cat was too damned close when Steiner blasted it with a wave from his fear staff – and sent it running away!

We made it to the column, Erd was one of the next ones there, and he LEAPT up, finger just touching the ring – and suddenly he was full size and wearing it. He willed the ring to enlarge Flimflam and then Tranis – but time seemed to slow down as the ring was talking (telepathically in his mind) about a price and costs and Erd would have to pay – and he had magic powers, yes? Erd (a fighter) replied no and the ring was disturbed – which followed by a whizzing sound and Erd’s ring finger was severed, taking the ring with it.

The ring hit the ground and Tranis wore it next. Enlarging a few other party members while the party was stomping around (at full size) the vermin in the area. Tranis was also asked about a price and he HAD magical powers but he chose to remove it and the ring hated him but he was able to take it off. Steiner went next, enlarging even more members of our group and when the ring talked about a price, he was able to remove it without antagonizing the powers within.

That then led us to Marcus who went through the process of enlarging the party one at a time. When it was time to “pay the cost” he agreed to keep the ring and was given 4 more uses – but the cost would be either a spell slot (permanent) drain, a permanent hp loss, hp loss for Tranis, or another finger loss for Erd.

Marcus willingly lost a permanent hp and enlarged more party members. He was able to deduce some of the artifact’s powers and when he used up the 4 uses, he was AGAIN asked for the price – and again he settled on another permanent hp loss. By now the group was almost entirely back to normal and he learned even more of the ring’s uses – getting the clue that the ring is normally made for Ogres and Orcs but for now was happy with Marcus.

And there were three members left to increase and AGAIN he had to pay the price – this time 2 hp, 1 from Tranis, or a finger from ERD – or he could once again sacrifice a permanent high level spell slot. He went for the 2 hp for himself (now having lost 4 permanent hps) and the ring gave him a relent by enlarging the last 3 in one swoop. Marcus also learned that if he waited too long before using the ring’s powers, he would get some debilitating headaches to remind him to use it.

So it was after 2 PM on Icemonth the 1st, everyone was together and we didn’t lose anyone (but some of us were pretty screwed up) but we were large again and standing in some upper hallway and gathering our wits on what to do next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Meet 10, Adv B2, 2/21/16 - Youth Group

Their 3rd member came back for today’s game but the first part of it was a bit off since they had to resupply and were on an emotional high from the TPK and death of their friend from the prior meeting. And the 3rd person at the table did not have ANY of that angst – so the entire party was clunky and unfocused at the start.

However, once they were out of the Keep and back on the road they managed to reconnect with the adventure and gel again as a group.

Write up follows:

The three friends arrived back at the keep where they were brought to the Castellan’s office for a meeting, debriefing, and the find out what has gone to pass in the intervening 2+ months. Loq was going to make sure the Corg’s remains (read: head) went back to his family as well as whatever riches and coins had been squirreled here at the Keep before we had gone out (very little, but it was there).

While we were given some clothes, and a chance to wash up, a page had gone to the Pig and Whistle to find Proserpine (their elven companion from a prior trip) and invite her to the Castellan’s chambers. She agreed, noting the sorrowful state of her purse and her need to get back out there or admit this trip from the Greensward Forest was a failure and return home.

Prosperpine was thrilled to see William and Charlotte again and once the reintroductions wound down the Castellan was able to talk to the party. Long and short, he was willing to bankroll the party’s losses and re-equipping – but ONLY if they agreed to two caveats: 1) they willingly accept the title of Vassal to the Baron (meaning they are answerable to him and eligible to be called in times of war, need, and civil unrest) and 2) they donate half of any coinage treasure found until they have paid back the loans given (which have a 10% penalty on them). And even though Proserpine was not there at time of capture, she also had to agree to the terms because if anyone skipped out on their debt or vassalage, the other members of the party would be held responsible.

Everyone agreed.

So we hit the markets and purchased just about everything we thought we would need, and then turned in early on the assumption we would be heading off the next day early.

It was Airmonth the 4th and after loading our ration bags and our waterskins we were out the main gate by 8 that morning and on our way to the ravine and the Caves of Chaos. The road was quiet, the fog already burning off, and the air was cool and clear. We arrived at the ravine and crawled our way through the wreckage until we arrived the mouth. The trees were budding and we noted a vulture (the same one from so many months ago?) was winging lazily to another tree and croaking out at the late morning sun.

The group then spent some time discussing our options – returning to the goblin cave and kicking ass or trying another cave? Although we wanted our revenge – we knew that as of 2 months ago there were at least 30 goblins in 1 direction…and 13 hobgoblins (according to the gnomes) in the other. And we were still only 4. Nothing was materially different. So we opted to NOT go to the goblin cave for now, instead to try one of the caves on the opposite side of the ravine but still near the mouth where the dangers should be less.

There was one close by, some 30’ upslope but not too difficult for us to get to. So we crawled over to it, inched our way up the slope, and then had a chance to look into the cave. It went straight into the mountain at least 30’ and then seemed to “T” at the end. After discussing the matter amongst ourselves we decided to risk it.

With torches lit we made our way forward, the smell of the place reminding us of a cross between a locker room and burnt bacon. We heard some noises from ahead but couldn’t place where they were coming from. However, at the end of the “T” were a number of niches and alcoves, in which severed and rotting heads of various creatures were displayed.

It seemed macabre and we talked about what to do and where to go when we heard a “whish” and “Thump” coming from the right – and what seemed like a burger attached to a grappling hook was tossed to us. When we went to reach out and take it, arrows flew down the hall and we had to retreat.

Burger? On a hook? Trap, yes. But we still didn’t know what we were facing. So, with his shield held out like a wall, William darted out and hacked the rope just at the end of the grapple and cut the burger free. We then goosed the grapple and burger back and took a look. Ok, burger. Grapple was a bit rusty and old, and the sandwich was driven through one of the prongs. As we were feathering the burger off the grapple the voice from the right was calling out in accented common that it wanted the grapple back.

Proserpine assured us it was orcs talking to us and from the sounds, less than 5 of them. We discussed what we knew of orcs and determined they were about as tall as humans, but definitely wider and stronger on average, had some porcine features, but were sloppy and not disciplined. Emboldened by our exchange, we accepted that we could parlay and came out into the hall to talk.

The orcs were asking us odd questions that seemed to require the group to answer many of the questions when Charlotte heard a faint noise and whirled around to see…4 more orcs sneaking up on the group from the left corridor.

Trapped between two orcish fronts.

The party immediately lined up back to back – Loq and Proserpine (who was suffering from the effects of eating the burger – which was not only made of rat – but was laced with a cramping poison as well!) tackling the newer orcs, while Charlotte and William went toe to toe with the other orcs charging at us.

The combat was furious and without pause, both fronts whittling away at each other until the party managed to put down a few of the orcs with some really brutal blows and the remaining 3 (still in the far room) asked the party to parlay and discuss terms for surrender (or at least to stop hacking their hurt and dying friends to pieces).