I mention this because sometimes after the game session, the party will ask me questions about things they have found in the game that they couldn't deduce and might want to know. If it has no impact on them and any further game enjoyment, I'll let them know about what they saw and why it was there.
Like the tower with the dead donkey, barred door, three dead guys (one of which ate the legs and arms of the other two) and the grapple on the roof. I mean...WHY???
So in the game the party was just disturbed as all fuck as to what happened and couldn't figure it out, but after it was over I didn't mind letting them know (out of game) what they saw. Was a party of 5 at one point, got hit with a poison blast trying to force their way into the castle - two failed the save, one made it. The 2 healthy ones dragged the dying ones to the nearest tower and tried to make they comfortable. They couldn't go out the main door/gate since SOMETHING had chased them to the tower so they used a grapple to go over to the swamp and were going to get antidote or the like for the poisoned men. Meanwhile the two who failed died and the remaining one grew hungry and in order to try and survive, cut off pieces from the two dead men and lasted 8 more days until HE died from his poison. The donkey starved to death.
Now...does any of this matter? No, but it adds to the world around the party as they play and explore, giving more scope and breadth to the land they travel in.
I didn't have to tell anyone what was going on with the strange and macabre scene, but it didn't remove anything from the game telling those who were interested AFTER the meeting was over.
Write up follows:
It was after midnight and we split up the watch, vowing to spend up till noon the next day resting since most of us were already exhausted from the grueling trip. We established a good round robin of watches and tucked in for the night. Those who were on watch went up to the top of the guard tower often to look over the landscape, hearing the sound of the not too distant Black Water River gurgling its way north and past Castle Sterling.
Dawn came slowly, bringing with it a heavy ground choking fog. And even after everyone mostly woke up and got themselves ready, it still took till almost 11 for it to burn off. All of our watching and looking showed that there were no lights or smoke coming from Castle Sterling, or anywhere in the surrounding countryside as well.
After we had eaten lunch and took stock of the tower again, we decided that a few of us were going to look over the courtyard before the rest of the party got themselves together. Tranis (and Ringer), Avidius, Viridia, Liscinia, and Flimflam (along with Whosea) gave the cobbled courtyard a good exploration. Once satisfied it was empty and clear, they approached the main doors of Castle Sterling itself.
A set of double steps led up to the front door which was closed and from what we were able to tell, not locked or trapped. What was discovered was a small metal token, a bit larger than a gold crown and shaped like a shield. It was very thin and we didn’t know what it was. There were 4 ridges on the back of it but other than it being scratched up, nothing else could be told about it. We kept it and continued our exploration until after over a half hour, we were convinced the courtyard was safe and the rest of the party could join us.
Before entering the Castle, we wanted to walk around the entire courtyard and check out the other 3 guard towers to make sure there was nothing hidden or dangerous sitting around to grab us later. We travelled clockwise around the courtyard, coming to the Southwest tower next. The door was ajar and the interior was set up similar to the tower we had spent the night in. About the only material difference after checking all 3 floors (and the roof) was the chimney sleeve on the stove here was not in as good shape as the tower we had stayed in, and had slipped down during the intervening years.
We left the tower and proceeded to the northwest one where we stopped to see a dead crow in the courtyard. It’s neck was broken and it seemed a bit bloated but not chewed on, guessing it to be dead a few days tops. The fact that it was still here made us more comfortable that there were no cats about (since a cat would have most likely devoured the crow). Even so, we were spooked and gave it a wide birth, heading further along to the next tower.
The door to this tower was sealed shut from the inside and when we looked through the arrow slits we saw a skeletal donkey lying at the base of the stairs. We debated opening the door for a bit but eventually let Marcus cast knock on it and disturbing the locking bar. We entered and gave the dead beast a once over. It had some adventuring gear (spikes and lantern and what not) in its bags but little else. We then climbed the stairs to the sleeping room and there were three bodies here in the beds. Two of them had limbs missing but the limbs were in the bed with the last body. There were also 8 scratches on the wall behind the lone body and all that was found was an eating belt knife – no swords, weapons, books, notes. At the top of the tower we discovered the remains of a grappling hook and some scraps of rope that led to the side of the tower and down the outside.
We took the grapple and left the bodies, disturbed that something had happened here and it was some 4 or 5 years ago. From here we walked out and looked at the back of Castle Sterling.
For the most part, the courtyard was 40-50’ wide around the castle itself, except for the rear of the Castle. The main building was shaped like a fat “E” with the middle leg sticking further out than the two outer ones. In addition, there was a tower that abutted the center leg which meant the spacing in the courtyard between the outer wall and the tower was not 50’, but only 7’. And no one wanted to risk walking in that narrow space.
What we did do was look over the courtyard space here. It was the remains of an overgrown garden of some sort, most of it had gone to weed but there were stills signs of planters and paths that once dominated the area. What we did note was there was no door so far into the Castle except the main one in the front.
The party walked all the way back around to the front of the courtyard and then from there, proceeded to the last tower in the northeast corner. Satisfied it had no issues or problems for us; we looked over the final courtyard here and noted it had fruit trees that had grown wild over time. We DID find a secret passage INTO the castle from here, but there was no obvious way to open it. After talking we decided that forcing a secret door open was not a good idea and we should just go back to the main front door. Just to satisfy our sense of symmetry we went back to the other courtyard and researched the area again, this time finding a secret door here in the exact mirrored space as the other courtyard. Again, we opted not to open it.
Back at the front (it was after 2 PM now) we discussed opening the main door and other things we could and should do. We did note there was a crow here on the roof looking down at us. Flimflam cast a speak with animals, the crow was immediately disturbed and try to fly away when our gnomish leader then hit it with a charm animal spell and it stayed, but was disgruntled.
Turns out it had been hit by animal friendship spell in the past and reported that others had come here and tried to open the door. When they do, the crow said “You hear a Poof then AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Did not fill any of us with confidence. There is also an owl that lives on top of the wizard’s tower. It was going to watch us and wait.
Before opening the door, Marcus stood in front of it and announced himself as a Tower Wizard and was here legally to get the items Wizard Lord Erazmus had stuck aside for him. We all felt a faint rumbling and vibration…but then nothing. So we opened the door…and beheld a foyer.
There was a cloakroom to the left, and the foyer had 3 dusty couches here. We took a couple of the doublets that were in the cloakroom but there was little else. There was a double door leading further into the castle so after verifying it was free of traps and not locked, the party readied weapons and opened the door.
And there was a loud inrushing of air, a great wind blew us all from behind, and the party was yelling but losing consciousness from the forces battering our bodies.
Only Horace and Whosea remained conscious and they had to scramble because now it appeared we were in a strange ghostly darkish grand chamber or cavern with a wooden wall in front of us that had a foot and a half gap underneath it. And we were being assaulted by three 10’ long hairy insectoid monsters that tried to drag Viridia away into the darkness. The two standing party members jumped on the nearest one and proceeded to bash and beat at it, with Horace now seeing there was a glowing metal shield here on the floor. He picked it up and it flared blue and wrapped around his forearm, light to his grasp and easily turning the chittering monsters’ bites aside.
They managed to hold the line for a few minutes as the rest of the party awoke and added their weight to the battle line. It was Flimflam who first discovered our problem as he tried to call on Demeter to summon some aid but the spell was delayed and did not return an ape as he expected…instead it deposited an 11’ tall rat. He pressured it into helping us and them let it go on its way when the three insectoid monsters fled.
Taking stock we could not tell exactly where we were, the ground had a gritty layer of small stones upon it, and the light was indistinct in the distance. As for the wooden wall, we were going to crawl underneath it (it was an 8’ crawl) but after taking a better look at the place we deduced that we were still in the foyer in Castle Sterling…Except that we were now small. Much smaller than we originally were. Our best guess was that whoever was 6’ before the blast of magic hit us was now only about 3” tall.
We wanted to get further into the castle and try to find out what happened to us and how to return to regular size so we girded our wares and crawled “under” the inner double doors from the foyer and into Castle Sterling itself.