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?