When I wrote this adventure I knew that the "leaving" of Darkenwoods was going to be an issue for the party and that food stuffs were going to feature into it. I guess I could hand wave tracking rations and weight but I think it takes away from the game and experience. Not every adventure is find the monster, kill the monster, take his gold, repeat. I also don't want to don the actuary tables and force the group to nit pick over every minutia they run across.
I think what works here is a balance between the two and that means that the game might bog down a little as they track their food and water, torches and spikes - but it makes for a more real experience at the table. YMMV of course.
Write up follows:
We did not want to have anyone that we picked up at the ruins of Varohelm to find their way below decks so the party (and our hirelings) were going to run doubles on watch for the night, one of us top deck and the other near the stairs.
It was cold. Bitterly cold. The temperature was in the teens at best and the mist rising from the churned river coated everyone and everything with a rime of ice. As for the watch, we did note at one point a giant, over 30’ in height, approach the river from the other bank and then look around before heading towards the ruins of the once tired city upriver.
The next morning, Icemonth the 5th, had more snow falling and everyone melting and sweeping the snow off the deck. The barge was very low in the water and we feared that we’d have little room if we found other survivors. Prayers were made, spells prepared, breakfast doled out and then a bit after 8 we had Tranis take over the rudder and captain’s hat and we set off. The ranger put the barge through its paces until he was confident and then took us up to 15’ and we travelled along at a decent clip.
There was a donkey waystation up ahead that we were aiming for, hoping to find some extra food or supplies. A thin tendril of smoke was rising from the ruins of the station and a single young man in bedraggled clothes was waving frantically by a small fire at us. We landed and made our way closer before able to talk. He was Devarrin, early 20’s and had been station at the waypoint for the last 2 weeks. He described the wall of water and the destruction of the flailing tentacles and when it had passed he had survived but all his friends and co-workers had perished.
He was gathering his thoughts on heading back to Varohelm to find his family when he heard the news from us on the destruction of the city. There were a half dozen or so broken and slain donkeys here which we could hack up for much needed meat. We lowered a few of us to help out and proceeded to lift the stone and wooden debris aside while we scavenged for supplies as well as the fallen donkeys.
It was cold and wet work, numbing and difficult without real tools, but we made headway as the hours passed along. We ended up with 7 donkeys and it was after 12 when we heard calls for help coming from downriver and heading towards us. Two more people were trudging through the remains of the roadbed and were waving wildly to keep us from pushing off and leaving.
Upon finally arriving at the waystation they were two men, an older male Kaladys who had the look of a river man or river merchant about him, and the other was his manservant Fierd. They had said they escaped the destruction of Midway’s Crossing and were heading towards Varohelm to gather supplies and their families before trying to set off from Darkenwoods and leave. Once again we had to break the news and saw two more faces fall. Our concerns were about Kaladys for a bit since we seemed to have tires to the Lords of Varohelm who had given us a hard time earlier but it was obvious after some conversation that he was not high enough in their ranks to be a problem and was actually not a part of their nefarious deeds and plots.
He helped us to better utilize the loading ramp and gave the party some insight on what to do on the barge and where to find other tools and supplies. We hacked up the carcasses and spent some time pumping the bilge out to lighten the draw the barge was making. Then we made our way once more to the south side of the river (after a brief flight which enthralled the three new people we picked up) where we spent some time slicing the donkey meat up and cooking it over the braziers. The consensus was that we would wait here the entire day and leave tomorrow and try to make it to Riverwatch and Last Town.
Icemonth the 6th dawned warmed and wet, a gentle rain was falling which did bolster spirits a bit. We studied, prayed, and prepared ourselves for the day ahead and after curing two of the party members that had gotten sick during the night we were ready to set off by 8:30 that morning.
We had a rough time getting the barge off the water, it wallowed like a pig and sloshed to and fro as Tranis got us further and further off the surface. Once we hit the 15’ limit the gossamer strands once more formed between the oars and like rippling wings they seemed to help keep the barge aloft.
We tried many many different takes on this as we passed over the Black Water River, eventually discovering that twisting the oars tightened the wings and made the barge behave strangely. Some trial and error had us tighten all 8 oars and then “flap” the oars and we moved past the 15’ limit to about 25’ in height! The barge was also going faster now and those working the oars were putting some effort into it.
Tranis was able to void the bilge somehow and a spray of water left the barge, giving us more stability. Then it was time for more experimentation. We crested down and up by tilting the wings accordingly, the dives actually having us build up speed. Quite quickly. And then it was a breakthrough moment as we went up to the 25’ limit and then Tranis dove the barge and we sped along, just shy of the water we had everyone tilt back and the barge responded and lifted up at a high rate of speed and Tranis pushed us past the 25’ limit and we were soaring like a gull.
The barge shot up into the sky over the river at over 50’ in height, soaring around like a bird. Leaving the water did have us lose altitude and for those working the oars, they found it impossible to let go of their station or remove their hands – the magic of the barge keeping them in place. As the minutes ticked by their life force was slowly drained by the barge, forced into place by the “captain”. We flew over the wreckage that was Midway’s Crossing, the great bridge destroyed, buildings ruined, the docks missing. A tremendous cat was seen eating the dead and it watched us passing overhead like some wooden bird before ignoring us and returning to its grisly meal.
A tremendous log jam of hundreds of trees had formed here, blocking the river and actually seemingly lowering it beyond Midway’s. With everyone growing weaker and more tired, Tranis slowed the barge and brought us lower and lower until the keel touched the water and the wings faded, allowing everyone to let go and fall to the deck exhausted and drained. The rowing crew was exhausted and we were about 2 miles past Midway’s on Icemonth the 6th at perhaps half past 10 in the morning where we were going to wait for some time for everyone to regain their strength before continuing on our way.