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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Meet 107, Adv 6, 2/20/16

I like a low to middling magic game - there shouldn't be piles of +1 swords littering the landscape neither should there be a magic user at every corner and clerics slinging miracles left and right. It makes those items when the do come up special, noteworthy, and defining.

So when it came to the King of the Web - I always knew he was going to be a Huntsman Spider of larger than normal size, and was going to be "awakened" thanks to the constant and close proximity to the artifact in Castle Sterling - but making him a druid just seemed to be right to me.

He has his own agenda, his own long and short term goals, and he has the power of the goddess Arachne at his fingertips answering his prayers as needed. The goal of the King though is to NOT be reactive to the party's actions, but to be the initiator of the momentum - to be the one that the party reacts to.

Write up follows:

We scouted and crawled under the door from the grand room in Castle Sterling to the hallway, the mouse leading the way. The hall was large and dark, heading off in all directions. We headed back to the main room and discussed our options before the mouse (named Dartagnin – no relation) became agitated and we heard a heavy presence on the other side of the door snuffling around and scratching the area. Cat. Big assed cat – especially at our size. It yowled and growled a bit, thumping the door and we all stood quiet.

And then it was gone. We heard some faint movement and it was heavy but went away quick. Content that it was gone, we then crept under the door, trusting Dartagnin that the colony and the Den Mother were in an area that the cat could not get to (doors closed between here and there). We hit the hallway, drew back into a square formation, and then proceeded to cross the large hall (hundreds of feet to our senses).

We also then heard the cat yowling…from the other side of the door we just vacated. Somehow it had found a way around the castle to the grand room and if we had stayed, we would have victim to its attack. We moved quickly, leaving the great room behind and hit the other side of the hall, then found another door where we crawled under and followed the mouse as he led us to the right hand side for some 500’+ until we came to another door. The vinegary smell of urine was growing heavier the further we proceeded, along with it a humidity to the air that made the scent cloying and foul.

Dartagnin’s voice was mere noises once again to Flimflam but we followed the mouse without delay under the door and we came to another chamber. The floor was smoother, less porous, and had regular valleys in it every 10’ or so where a type of mortar was in place. The humidity was much higher here and from some of the scattered torn up fabric about. We were in a bathroom. And from the number of mice here and the feces abounding, it was their warren.

We were surrounded and led to the mound of torn up towels where an older female mouse came out and started squeaking at us. Flimflam had Demeter give him the ability to speak with animals again and took the time to introduce us to the Den Mother and explain why we were here. The discussion ran about for a bit but effectively, we wanted to go up the stairs (from the hall we had just run through) to the 2nd floor and try to get to the room with the King of the Web (big spider that lives there with lots and lots of other spiders). The Den Mother thought we were nuts and hinted that there were also rats up there.

However, after talking, agreed that she would ask for volunteers to lead us up the steps. We decided to go in the middle of the hot part of the day tomorrow, when the cat would be least likely to bother us. For now we could rest here (we thanked her, but took up a camp area far away from the warren of towels and mice crap) and prepare for the morrow.

We awoke the following morning, Icemonth the 1st – heart of winter. The castle felt warmer to us (at our size) and we agonized over spells and spears and swords. Then the morning moved on until about 11. We had 24 mice coming with us (Dartagnin was one of them) and they led us out of the bathroom and to the side hall. We travelled down until we arrived back at the main hall and now it was lit from sunlight. It was long, maybe half a mile to us and there was some 4-500’ width to it. But there was a set of spiral steps to the south that we headed towards and looked on with deep concern.

Between the mice, rope, out lighter size, and the almost 20 of us, it was 5-8 minutes each step to climb and navigate. But we counted them off. Four, Seven, Eleven, Thirteen…At 12:30 we were at the top and 15th step. There was another hall here, also very long. There were also some webs in the area, wide rope like ones. But there was an opening, an arch of stone to the right, 200’ or so away, 150’ wide, and maybe 200’ tall. Many many more webs littered the sides and base of that archway. Thick and heavy, layers deep.

The mice all turned and left us, returning back to the main floor, only Dartagnin stayed with us. We wanted to get closer, but not too close. So we stayed in the middle of the hall and headed towards the opening until we could see properly inside. It was like something out of this world. There was some oversized furniture in there, a table or chairs. But every available surface was covered in webs from the ceiling down to the floor. Paths, 60, 70’ wide meandered through the room, in places the ceiling of webs dropped to 40’ in height. It was macabre, gothic, unnatural.

And nowhere we wanted to enter but someplace we had to go. A trio of torches were lit and Log of Everburning was cast upon them, given to Erd, Dugan, and Corane. At this point it was decided that Marcus would use his wand once more and try to zero in on where the artifact might be. So he fired one off, and it streaked away into the room and veered to the right, punching through the webs there and disappearing into the gloom. Bingo, right room, right place.

We gave some thought on burning the webs and Tranis lit a fire arrow, arcing it high and letting it fall into a funnel shaped web near the ceiling, we watched the dusty web smolder and burn, wider and wider, also noting other webs deeper in the room burning. It was then that a number of large orb spiders came out and proceeded to cut away the burned section of webbing until it fell from the structure and hit the floor. At the end of that short action, a breeze blew in behind us, raced through the archway, and coalesced into a sudden downpour of rain in a huge column of soaking wet air.

This extinguished all signs of fire and soaked the area making further fires in that section of the room impossible (at least until the water dried away). So we thought about our options. We wanted to go in with torches and discussed doing so when another sucking breeze blew in behind us, then centered overhead – and down poured on the entire party, soaking us to the skin and extinguishing our torches.

Ok, someone is making a statement about us and our fire. We know there were spiders in there, some movement went about towards the entrance but we couldn’t see anything. At that point we heard a cavernous voice echo from within after some benediction to Arachne. It identified itself as the King of the Web and from its tone and conversation, seemed…untrustworthy. Its words said one thing but the gut reaction of the group was opposite – this was not going to end well at all. It offered to talk to one of us and we agreed in theory to do so.

Then we discussed who would go in and although Horace was willing, the party settled on Avidius. Flimflam hit him with an Invisibility to Animals spell and the scout was willing to go in and try to find a way through the webs to get to the magical artifact. He moved slowly, picking his way through the humongous arch and looked around. The smell was old and dusty, the reek of spider was strong. Looking up he noted over a dozen brown recluse spiders on the lintel over the arch frame – none of them could see him. He moved on, staying to the right and disappearing down a wide path between the webs.

While he made his way along, he did note there was a large rat here, 20’ long, on its hind leg, waiting and looking – but it also did not see him. As the path between the webs grew smaller and the ceiling seemed to hang lower, the passages becoming thicker and he still wasn’t near the artifact, Avidius was stopped by the voice of the King of the Web speaking much closer and lower so only the thief could hear him.

He admitted he could see Avidius and that he wasn’t going to just let him through. He allowed the thief and him to talk and when it seemed that Avidius wasn’t going to risk coming close, the King of the Web stepped out – a very large, 5’ tall, 9’ diameter Huntsman spider. This was not going to work and Avidius wanted to return to the party, so he backed up and the King let him, talking crooningly the entire time, always staying for 40’ away. Avidius also noted there were lots of smaller spiders in the webs above, immature ones. This place crawled.

Once he was past the giant rat and was back in the clearing, the king gave a throaty chuckle and outlined Avidius in Fairie Fire – making him visible to the brown recluse spiders and the rat. Avidius turned and ran. Seeing him changing towards us, Erd and four others stepped out with spears and shields, approaching the arch but not stepping through – just getting ready to receive charge. The rat was gaining on Avidius who choked down a stoneskin potion, the gap between the two narrowing. As for the recluse spiders, half of them crawled to the other side of the arch and began climbing down to face the party while 4 others attached webs and began to drop and try to cut off Avidius. The last 4 turned and were shooting strands of webbing down to the floor, hoping to catch the running thief.

As Avidius came close to the archway and the rat was almost on him, the King of the Web called out to Arachne and hit him with a Hold Person spell. Avidius fell to his face and the rat unable to stop mowed him down and kept going, roaring and squeaking as it charged the fighters. Two of the spiders hit the ground by Avidius and bit him, injecting the thief with poison on top of his hold person spell and draining more hit points and constitution from our floundering thief.

Steiner called out a bless spell which encircled the party as our archers sent arrow after arrow into the charging rat. It ignored the shafts and bounded on as we prepared for its impact, noting the 7 recluse spiders coming towards us were more than halfway down wall and closing. A dispel magic from Marcus’ wand slammed out and hit Avidius, dropping the Hide from Animals spell and the Hold Person, but not the Fairie Fire spell. That was enough though for Avidius to start hacking at the webs the closer spiders had attached to his leg and arm – cutting his leg free.

The rat hit the spear wall like a freight train and the spears and shields held although Erd took the brunt of the assault. For their efforts though, the spears had penetrated deep and the rat fell over dead. Bolstered by this we redrew lines and prepared to face the spiders who were even closer now. A produce flame spell followed by Steiner who hurled the burning ball high and deep to the right, setting another section of the webs on fire. A summon animal spell had a giant centipede appear, actually right by Avidius who was on his feet now but still had his left arm bound by the webbing. Marcus called out a sleep spell and sent 4 of the 7 recluse spiders to sleep, dropping our concern to 3. The King of the Web called another Cloudburst spell, dousing his webs and putting out the fire made there.

The centipede actually got tangled in the web that was attached to Avidius, which meant the other spiders that had gone up to “hoist” him up were now unable to do so. However the 3 other spiders that had made it to the ground did engage the party and Whosea was bit and poisoned. We were knee deep in combat with 3 brown recluse spiders, the King of the Web was barely one step ahead of the party in dousing the flames, and Tranis and Steiner were getting ready to send more flaming arrows and produce flame balls in the room.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meet 9, Adv B2, 2/7/16 - Youth Group

This meeting started out great, but fell apart as the 4 count wandered into a room where they were outnumbered 7 to 1 and didn’t turn and flee. It was a TPK, but I rolled a dice in front of them and let them know that the higher the number, the greater chance of being killed outright and have to re-roll. We rolled a “2” – which meant a band of wandering clerics did not show up and save the day.

Testament to the two young ones at the table, they were visibly upset and crying when it happened and I was describing their 2 months of abuse and torture, but amidst the “I hate this game” noises – they had fire and determination in their voices and mindset that they were going to come back here soon and kill every god damned goblin in the cave.

Write up follows:

Charlotte and William spent the afternoon at the inn grabbing a long meal, a drink or two, and chatting with the locals. A minstrel was playing a mindless tune near the fire, sort of background noise for the two friends. After 6 PM, they went looking around for former adventurers who had been to the caves, just to get a feel for what they might have faced.

They were led and guided to a beaten man named Bailey, an ex-adventurer who lived near Beggar’s Corner, a crappy section of the keep where many of the drunks and homeless congregate. Bailey was a big guy, almost 6’ 3” and 280 lbs. He had a wicked scar running from under his hair line and down to his jaw. He didn’t want to talk to us, content to drink his beer. William had brought him a jack of ale and the only advice we got from the broken man was that if the battles ever get too big or beyond your control, just run. Better to drop your pack and escape and live then to fight on and die.

Disturbed by this we thanked him and left him to his devices heading back to our room and getting some sleep for the day tomorrow.

On the 26th of Deathmonth we awoke and met Loq and Corg. We all went shopping, a variety of throwing knives, some cloaks, and an additional sword (William was seriously going to use it to give to the Lizardman in the Capashin Swamp). By 9:30 AM we were on our way and were heading back to the Caves of Chaos. We talked to Proserpine to invite her along for this but she asked for one more day before coming along.

We left, making good time on our trip to the Caves. We were pleased to run into the gnomish party that we had met earlier. A few of their members were wounded but they seemed to be of good cheer. It seems they had pressed on to the Hobgoblins, made some headway against them, but then gave ground when reinforcements showed up and the tide of the battle was changing. They did manage to snag some loot before leaving but in reality, they excursion seems to have cost them more than they made. They were heading back to the keep and would rest a day or two before trying again tomorrow.

Shortly after 11 we were back at the ravine and it still seemed empty. Assured that no one was paying us much mind, we made our way to the goblin cave and entered. We discussed options and decided that we wanted to head further into the goblin cave and get the 25 pairs of ears we needed for Quasar and his goblin sword. So we readied torches and set off.

We passed the original split, then the side corridor where the fountain was, continued on through the former guard room (stripped clean of everything) and the secret door where the ogre once lived. There were a few smaller alcoves but they were empty and we moved on, getting deeper and further than we ever had dared to go before. There were goblin voices ahead and some light. It sounded like a lot, and Charlotte let us know there was over a dozen voices. It seemed like a lot, but we figured if we went in and hit hard at least once, we should startle the goblins and maintain the initiative.

It didn’t go that well.

The group went in and the goblins within were sort of prepared for us. There were not a dozen, or even 20, but more like 30 of the greenskins. Men, women, children. The children swiftly were herded back to the rear of the cave and two women ran on to alert we assumed others. Charlotte tried to shoot an arrow but missed and the goblins there disarmed her and tossed her bow behind where the string was snapped. This caused the thief to draw her dagger and try to engage them in a fight but she was surrounded by 4 of the goblins and they beat her savagely.

Log, Corg, and William tried to press in and get to Charlotte but the three warriors were separated from each other and then picked apart and hacked and beaten. William received a terrible blow to the chest and he passed out and he heard Loq screaming out for Zeus’ help.

The party was then taken, stripped of their gear and belongings and after that they were abused and tortured by the goblins for the next 2 plus months. Charlotte had her head shaved, William developed a rasping cough, and the two of them were whipped and burned often. Loq had his right hand beaten cruelly by hammers so that he couldn’t wield a holy symbol in that hand again (or so the goblins assume). Corg though, our friend and companion for months no, he was the last one standing when the party went down, so the goblins made an example of him and tortured him for days before cutting his head off and feeding his body to the goblin tribe.

Finally we heard some human voices were arranging to sell us back to the Baron for some amount of money that was going to further enrich the goblin tribes. They were evil sounding and their voices made the group ill to hear. But the transfer was made on the road north of the Capashin Swamp on the 3rd of Airmonth. We had Corg’s head in a basket, we were wearing crude homespun bits of fabric wrapped around us, and the goblins took a bag of gold in exchange for us and we were helped onto a wagon and headed back to the Keep.

We had tears in our eyes and were exhausted, happy to be going home, but haunted at everything that happened. Charlotte and William and Loq all looked at one another and made a vow at that point. “We swear that we will go back and make those bastards pay.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Meet 106, Adv 6, 2/6/16

I ran this (or something very much like this) adventure about 22 years ago and the group that did it had a great time until a fire got out of control and consumed them faster than they could run from it. It's outside the box and not normal - at least for the party. Getting shrunk down to 1/24th size and dealing with the much smaller world that is in front of them.

The castle exploration is not feasible - we spent 3+ hours to take care of 1/3rd the main entrance room/parlor and didn't make any headway. What the group needs to do is find a way to get "big" first and then take care of the castle and eventually the vault.

And to do that they need to find the artifact that fired off at them and take control of it (even if just temporarily). I have a few road blocks in their way though and they will need to bring their "A" game to get past the final hurdle(s) if they expect to prevail.

Write up follows:

To our new size, the crawl under the 8’ wide and roughly foot and a half tall space was numbing. We emerged onto a large stone rough platform covered with some sort of thick sand-like grit. There was a strange ambient light coming from the east and west, but we were in a gloom broken only by our lanterns. We did light a torch or two, but the fire was strange and rounded, not flickering. It did illuminate the area for us and we just felt…small.

After discussing it for a bit, we wanted to stay near the wall if at all possible, so we lined ourselves up into a square and proceeded to head west (right) for the time being. We travelled some 100’ or so (our relative size that is) until we noted a break in the stone ahead. It dropped off and curved around to the north until it was lost in the gloom. So we approached carefully and looked down at the edge.

18’ from the crumbled rounded stone edge down to the next platform of stone below. A thick layer of gauzy dust like balls and mounds of residue filled the base of the stone cliff. And to our eyes, it moved slightly. So we attached the found grapple to a length of rope and let it drop to the airy dirt to disturb anything hiding within.

And it emerged. Grey in color, plated and segmented, perhaps two feet or so long and with a pair of wavering antenna that twitched around with started jerking motions. From our vantage we had to look at it for length of time before someone realized it was a silverfish. To our normal size, a non-consequential bit of vermin one would find in a closet or musty carpeted room. But now? An unknown and large creature we wanted to avoid.

So we made noise and startled the other silverfish from the dust and fibers, watching as they crawled forward to the edge of the NEXT cliff (step?) and pass over it heading down and out of sight. We took out an iron spike and drove it into the top of the current step (it echoed strangely and without a long ringing vibration) and then one by one, ferried our way down. Climbing was easier for some reason, and there was suspicion that we could both jump further and fall farther that we would be able to if we were normal size.

When it came time to getting the 4 dogs down, we instead rigged up a stretched blanket to catch them, leaving Avidius and Tranis still upstairs to gently toss the animals down. The party caught them one after the other until just the ranger and thief were left.  The thought was to toss Tranis and then Avidius would climb down, but they didn’t account for how far Tranis would go (both up and out) and had to scramble to catch him. As for the climb down, Avidius did slip, but again, the pains received were minimal at best.

We navigated to the other step and looked out on the floor of the castle – heading off in all directions into the darkness. The base of this step had a number of silverfish milling about again and we startled them away from the landing. However before we climbed down we noted that they began to leave the area and head enmass towards the walls and some cracks there. Before they all escaped, a skink (at 10+ long and powerfully fast) charged out of the gloom and snatched up a silverfish before running away.

Ok – quiet and safe.

We climbed down and drew ourselves back into a square formation. We didn’t hug the wall since we know there were the odd long cable like spider webs hanging down, but we did stay together as we travelled off to the west and tried to get some feel for the size of the room and where to go next.

There was a glow from ahead and some slashing beams of daylight were coming in and illuminated the floor away from the wall. It was a shuttered window and we decided to head away from the wall and head towards the beam of light where it struck the floor. We came to an area where there was a column heading up to the ceiling over 50’ in diameter (to us) and rising to god knows how high. We used a mirror and flashed the sun light beam everywhere to get a feel for the size of the chamber. We did find the far western wall at some point and the column was we guessed over 200’ tall. However the chamber was larger than our mirror could illuminate and we did not know what to do. We did come across a torch sconce on the wall though and although it was some serious height off the ground, we figured we could try to climb the wall and light it to illuminate the chamber.

So we all headed back to the wall and gave Avidius the tools he would need to climb as well a torch to light the…real full size torch. So he climbed, slowly and with great care, until he eventually made it to the base of the torch in the sconce. Then he climbed onto the sconce and took a breather before daring to walk OUT from the wall along the sconce support beam to the torch itself. Once there, he scaled the wooden structure until he was on the charred and sooty 7’ wide platform. There were webs here, a few of them, so he didn’t want to spend too much time. So he lit his tinderbox, then the torch he had, then he placed the glowing ball of fire on the torch he was standing on and made sure it was caught before coming to the edge of the torch and jumping off to be caught by the party and the stretched out blanket below (again, taking only minimal damage thanks to our size and lightness).

After this, the torch far overhead burst into light and illuminated a portion of the great entry hall we were in. There WAS a door along the western wall and it had a step in front of it. A few tapestries were on the wall, old and worn. But nearer the ceiling were webs, big 100+ diameter hanging cable like webs. And we opted to not go there if we could help it.

Marcus was getting a headache and we hoped to try and find out where the “whatever” was the magicked us small. So he took out his rod of dispel magic and held it aloft, firing a bolt upward. He hoped it would disrupt whatever had enchanted us, but the bolt behaved strangely, it seemed to be pulled UP from the rod, stretch impossibly long, then it arced toward the east and bent before firing away and passing through the ceiling above. What the hell? We discussed it and came to the conclusion that something VERY magical was above us (2nd floor) and was a bit to the east of where we were standing. Maybe the thing that shrunk us? Make us grow? Instead of wandering the castle at our size, we decided to find the whatever it was and reverse the curse.

We needed to know where it was sort of overhead so we were going to head back east across the room, try to find another torch on the wall on that side of the room, get an idea how big the chamber might be, and then fire off another bolt from Marcus’ wand.

It was when we were passing the step we had come down originally that we heard something in the dark and the silverfish in the area departed. We guessed skinks, based upon the scratching dragging sound (the skinks hang low to the ground and their guts drag when they are stalking). Flimflam fired off a speak with animal spell and spoke to one of them that was creeping closer. And closer. There were 7 of them and we found ourselves encircled, back towards the steps. As we were shuffling positon one of them darted forward and went to snatch and grab one of us – Tranis!

The ranger was hit like from a bull and he held on, torn off his feet as the skink then knocked down other party members in its mad dash to take its prize away. We fired and stabbed and shot and made all sorts of noises and assaults happen, scaring away a few of the skinks but 3 of them did come forward to join the attack. Flimflam managed to get one of them charmed and it distracted a second so we only to fight the one against Tranis and the 2nd one that barreled into the party.

Our forces were split on two fronts but we pressed the attack on the skink holding Tranis first, inspiring the lizard to let our ranger go and then finishing it off before it could make its escape. The second skink required less effort and was swiftly surrounded by our group, Avidius and Viridia making attempts at backstabbing the distracted reptile as it was being assaulted by us.

From here we then turned our attention to the last skink that our “charmed” one was fighting until it too went down and we had a chance to rest. Healing was dispensed (a little on our wounded skink) but we started talking – this room was huge, and according to our skink, there were most likely LOTS of them in the area. We had to get out of here and get somewhere else. Where were we to go? Upstairs to the “magic” place and break the curse? What about other denizens in here? And we still didn’t know how big the place was.

We continued on until we arrived at where we assumed the other full sized torch would be and then had Flimflam arrange a rope harness of some sort for the skink. He held on and coaxed it up the wall. It was jarring and rough, mixed with bursts of speed and sudden stops. There was also a slip and fall at one point, some jarring and aching, but eventually the skink and gnome made it to the top. From here they a good look at the area above – dismayed to see spiderwebs her, big ones as made by orb spiders – nothing we want to face at our current size. The torch was lit and skink and gnome jumped off and were caught back on the ground (again, with minimal falling damage).

We wandered back to the steps area and discussed our options – the room on the east side matched the room on the west side – and with the torch lit we had Marcus fire off another blast from his wand – and the shaft of dispelling was sucked straight up to an area sort of over the front door. So we knew we had to go upstairs, and it would have to be over this room. Do we climb the walls and look for cracks? Go the long way around and find stairs?

We were being watched – 6 spiders (orb) had come down and were over the lintel of the foyer door looking at us. A speak with animals did not have them talk back, but they did eventually go back up to their webs and disappear into the ceiling. Ok – climbing from here wasn’t going to work. We were going to have to climb and find stairs. We decided on the western door and then talked about where we were going to camp out. It was approaching 7 and we were getting hungry and tired from our activity. The thought was to climb back up and sleep in the coat room – but figured it would be crawling. And there were cockroaches in the foyer so that was a no.

We traveled to the western door, dodged some silverfish in the area (talking to them revealed how cowlike and slow they actually were) and were checking out the door there (after climbing up) when we figured we would need some wood for a fire. So we were hacking splinters off the bottom of the door and our banging attracted the attention…of a mouse!

It was curious about us and another speak with animals had us chatting with it. It was willing to take us to see the den mother, there WAS a cat wandering the castle on and off (usually down my the laundry room – far from here) and there was a spider or some sort on the second floor the mouse referred to as “The King of the Web”. Se we all gathered at the western door at 7:15 and proceeded to crawl underneath it to enter the hallway and hopefully not attract the attention of the cat that might or might not be wandering the area at some point.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Meet 105, Adv 6, 1/30/16

Not all items found in my game have an explanation.

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.