5E Against the Giants: Campaign Journal

cthulhu42

Visitor
Against The Giants: Campaign Journal

This journal is not really meant to be a story hour, but it didn't seem to fit on the main 5E board, so I asked that it be ported over here. If I were to write out my current campaign as a story hour I'd start from the beginning and write it out in a much more narrative form. What follows are essentially my session summaries and some observations about the module. Basically, it's what I'd like to have been able to read before I ran the thing. During the module run, I tried to flesh out certain NPC's to give them depth and make them interesting, and possibly have them become reoccurring personalities, be they allies or enemies. Also I tried to play the enemy strategically, moving them from their areas as written in the module description as the PC's advance into their territory. My hope was to add a dynamic that is missing from a static string of room to room encounters. In other words, I tried to play the giants intelligently and realistically. I'm sure I missed a lot of opportunities, but again, that's why I'd have loved to read someone elses session logs to see how they handled certain areas and enemies.

Hopefully it'll be entertaining and informative enough to hold the reader's attention.


***Warning! Spoilers ahead! The following will contain a reasonably detailed account of my RPG group's foray into the module, Against The Giants, as presented in Tales From The Yawning Portal.***


A bit of background.


For the past year or so I've been running my D&D group on our first lengthy 5E campaign. Starting at 1st level, as of the start of Against The Giants, they have risen to 11th level.


Set in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the PC's have become embroiled in a search for several missing parts of an artifact that, when correctly assembled, will form a scrying device unparalleled. They are in the employ of an eccentric wizard named, Annabelle Zane. Their relationship with her is strained at best, but due to events and circumstances, they still continue their work for her, which has consisted largely of finding the missing components for her, Eye Of Zane, as she calls it. They have found all but one as they reach 11th level, and she finally has a lead on where the last piece may be. Her information points to it being in the hands of a particularly loathsome giant king by the name of King Snurre, or one of his compatriots. Unable to exactly locate Snurre, her spies have indicated that he has had dealings with a clan of hill giants who have been coming down out of the Lortmil mountains to terrorize and raid villages in Ulek in a manner far more organized than is usually seen from hill giants. Her spy has located the hill giant steading and the PC's are to meet him in Ulek and follow him to the keep. Their mission is to infiltrate and follow any leads they might find that will eventually locate King Snurre and the final artifact piece.


On a personal note, several years ago one of our RPG group ran us on the 3.5E version of AtG. I played a dwarf barbarian, and it was great fun until it all went sideways. Long story short: it was the only TPK our group has ever had. We made it as far as the upper level of the fire giant king before being wiped out, to a man.


Fast forward to 2017, when I saw that AtG had been reprinted and converted to 5E, I was intrigued enough to read through it, and decided that it would easily fit into my existing campaign.


Two of my current players were also present during the aforementioned 3.5E game, and there was some worry that they would remember too much of it, but thus far it hasn't been an issue. Enough time has passed that this new run through is all new to them.


The Party.


Thoradin. Played by Ron, Thoradin is a dwarf cleric of Moradin. Honorable, generally good humored, and fiercely loyal to his clan and his god, Thoradin aspires to bring glory to both through spreading the word, being an example of Moradin's tenants, and the good old fashioned beat down of evil via dwarven steel. As of the beginning of AtG, Thoradin is chaotic neutral. He started out chaotic good, but circumstances, not the least of which was one of his own party members, have caused him to drift into a more ambivalent morality.


Krote. Played by Brandon, Krote is a half-orc barbarian. Raised by his human mother in a human village, he took to the adventuring lifestyle through the necessity of not being much good at anything other than a natural ability to swing a big axe, and the genuine desire to do good in the world. He loves his mother and misses her greatly, but he is loyal to his friends and has vowed to see their mission through to the end. He currently wields Black Metal, a great axe with a split personality, also of human and orc, that has slowly been revealing itself to Krote over time, both in terms of power and it's own agenda (or two agendas, as the case may be). What started out as a mere +1 greataxe has now grown into a weapon of substantial power, although it's continued conversations with Krote has the big barbarian worried.


Sai. Played by Ryan, Sai is an elf wizard. Bookish and reserved, Sai is an evoker with the heart of a necromancer. Despite his ability to fling fireballs without end, he is ever interested in all things undead, spending most of his off time studying ancient tomes dedicated to the necromatic arts. Not evil, but not entirely good either, Sai pulls his weight with the party and continues with them after having been freed of his apprenticeship from Annabelle Zane. He opts for real world experience as a faster means of gaining knowledge and power. He may have some overarching plan for his future, but at this point, even I don't know what that is.


Edran. Played by Chris, Edran is a cross between Spider Man and Andy Dick. He is a half-elf rogue with the capabilities of a ninja coupled with the temperament of a eight year old. Edran is the party's perpetual problem child. He wanders away from the group at the worst of times, steals compulsively, says the exact worst thing at the exact worst time, is utterly unable to keep a secret, and is generally a giant pain for all involved. He has been addicted to drugs, stolen a finger from a witch who then demanded a finger of his in return, and has even managed to make Thoradin, the dwarven cleric, question his own moral code and slide from CG to CN. He's died at least three times, and is actually a clone of his original self that was created by the same witch who used his lopped off finger to create that clone and now has Edran under contract for some future service in return for the clone's use after his first death. Even his patron wizard, Annabelle Zane, Power Word Killed him after she explicitly warned him never to try to steal from her, after which he did just that. Thoradin had to Revivify him. And yet... Edran is just likable enough that his friends can't quite bring themselves to cut him loose. That, and he is uncannily good at his job. At this point, there's hardly a lock in the land that he can't get through, not to mention his combat skills. Edran is a sneak attack maestro.


Rufus. Rufus is an NPC. He's a dog. Somewhere around their third level, while the party was en route to some location and camping for the night, I had a stray dog wander out of the woods and come sniffing around for food. He took an instant liking to Edran, who named him, Rufus, and he's been with them ever since. It was an impulse to introduce a dog to the party, but since then Rufus has become an integral member of the team, and perhaps the only real loyalty Edran has. Even I am not entirely certain as to Rufus' true nature at this point. I can say that Rufus displays some fairly non-doglike behavior, and has survived events that would spell doom for any normal canine. Most of the time he seems to have the wherewithal to keep himself just at the edge of danger. The party strongly suspects that Rufus is more than he seems. Krote has used Speak With Animals to ask Rufus what his deal is, but Rufus simply “woofed” that he is just a dog, and wagged his tail. Krote remains unconvinced. But Rufus' nose has helped them track bad guys and alerted them of ambushes, and he has a way of keeping Edran at least a little in check, so the rest of the party is happy to have him along. I'm just hoping that I figure out what Rufus is up to before the end of the campaign.




What follows are my notes made at the end of each session with some addendum added for clarity and detail. I should probably also apologize for any wonky formatting issues. These notes are pasted here from a word processing program, and sometimes the port over gets a little weird. I will try to clean it up as best I can, but forgive me if I miss something.


Also, it should be noted that the party is in possession of a few decent magic items, and the module, being old school has a wealth of powerful items to be found despite it's transition to 5E. Because of that, all creatures have maximum hit points.


Session One


We started the session on the morning of Goodmonth 12 with the party still in Pellak. That morning Annabelle Zane greets them for breakfast and informs them of her latest plan. It seems that the Duchy of Ulek, a few hundred miles to the south, is experiencing some issues with raids by giants in unusually large numbers and with uncommon organization. At the same time, Annabelle has been able to use her incomplete but still very powerful Eye of Zane to zero in on a fire giant king named Snurre Ironbelly. She doesn't know if the giant has the tooth or not, but whenever she concentrates on the tooth and lets the Eye seek out her desire, it settles upon him, although he, apparently, has some sort of non-detection magic working in his favor, as she has been unable to get a bead on exactly where he is.

However, she has been able to catch him in conversation with a hill giant chieftain named Nosnra, who just happens to have a stronghold built in the foothills of the Lortmil mountains, very close to the Duchy of Ulek. Since the Duchy is currently at odds with their southern neighbors, the County of Ulek, and has pulled the majority of it's small military to that border, it has not been able to send it's knights to deal with the giant threat, and therefor have sent out word that they are in the market for mercenaries. Annabelle arranges for the party to meet with an Ulek agent in the tiny village of Hammerfall in the shadow of the Lortmil mountains. The hope is twofold: One, that they will be able to find clues that will eventually lead them to the ninth tooth, and two, that they will relieve Ulek of it's giant problem and thus gain some heroic clout in the small kingdom.

The ride is a rather pleasant one through generally civilized kingdoms, and they arrive in Hammerfall fifteen days later, unmolested by bandits or wandering creatures.

They meet the Ulek agent, Donovan Price, at the only tavern in Hammerfall, the Loose Goose, and immediately set out for the giant hold. Price gets them to within a mile or so of the structure where he shows them a dry and abandoned cave that they can perhaps use as a base. He then leads them to an overlook where they can get a view of the building.


As night begins to fall, and rain starts to pour, Edran sneaks down for a quick look around. He manages to scale the walls and peer into the open courtyard, seeing the two dozen dire wolves that prowl the grounds. Upon his return, they consider a rooftop assault, with Thoradin arguing that his Call Lightning spell would make short work of the wolves, and perhaps draw the giants out into the open. But he soon realizes that the grounds are too big to cover with his spell, and eventually it is decided that they will enter through the watch tower to the south.


They circle wide and make for the south wall as the moon begins to rise. Unfortunately, Thoradin's forte is not stealth, and he nearly tips off the hill giant guard atop the tower with his clanking armor.


The party wait awhile for the guard to settle back in after not spotting them, and finally they reach the wall. Edran and Krote scale the wall to find the hill giant already back to sleep, and they position themselves for an assassination. Sai makes it up alright, but Thoradin is having no luck at all, and upon reaching the top of the wall, falls face first to the other side, making a terrible racket. It is only sheer luck that the giant does not wake up. Finally, they surround the guard and lay into him. The giant never wakes up as blades and spell kill him.


Edran heads down the stairs, followed by Krote and Sai. The rogue finds two more sleeping giants in the room at the bottom, and he is working his way towards them as Thoradin, not wanting to be left behind, heads down the stairs, rolling double 1's on his stealth check. He trips and drops his axe, which falls down the stairs with a mighty racket. This time it wakes one of the sentries and the battle is on as Krote leaps the rest of the way down to catch up with Edran.


Edran, Krote and Sai engage with the two giants. Thoradin makes to leap down as well, and rolls another 1, missing the table below that was to be his landing spot, and slams into the stone floor.


Eventually the two giants are killed with a minimum of damage to the party. They open the door to the outside to let Rufus in.


From there it is into the keep proper. They choose a side door to the northeast and make their way from room to room, finding and killing a few more sleeping giants. Things are still going reasonably smoothly, although Krote is taking a few hits along the way from giants that do manage to get an attack in before being overwhelmed.


They slay a hill giant matron and three servants, and then find themselves in large hall. Edran opens a door to the south, releasing a cave bear that they manage to kill as well.


They make their way deeper into the hold, finding a few empty rooms and quite a bit of treasure.


Finally, Edran decides that it is time to deal with a large set of double doors, behind which he can hear raucous carousing. They are wholly unprepared for the sheer number of giants and giant kin in the great hall. In all, there are twenty-seven giants, ogres, and at least one bear in the massive room.


We ended the night there.


It is Harvester 4th, roughly 10:00pm


Thoradin makes 12th level.
 
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cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 2

We start with the party just having opened the door to the giant's great hall so there's not much to plan here except to prepare for a fairly epic battle. They are facing some 27 giants and giant kin.

I give them ten minutes to plan, OOG, plus they get a free round to act since the giants are largely drunk or slow on the uptake.

The party opens the door to the hill giant great hall, interrupting their festivities. The giants are slow to grasp that there are intruders in their midst so the party get a free round to act.

Edran tags the cloud giant with a couple of arrows, Sai tosses in a Fireball, and Thoradin casts a flame strike, and then they all retreat back around the corner to the matron's room, setting themselves with Krote and Thoradin holding the doorway while Sai and Edran ready bow and spell behind them.

The giants start coming. And coming. And coming.

Given the narrow (for giants) hallway and the doorway to the room the PC's have taken their stand in, it's difficult for the giants to attack more than two or three at a time, but they do attack, and even though the party metes out terrible amounts of damage, the giants give as good as they get. Krote's axe bites again and again. Thoradin alternates between damaging spells and healing. Sai pounds away with Fireballs, Ice Storms and Fire Bolts, while Edran fires arrows with pinpoint accuracy. But still, when the giants hit, they hit hard! Krote goes down two or three times. Edran goes down at least once. There is some talk of using Word of Recall or Teleportation Circle, but in the end they decide to make their stand here. Thoradin fills the hallway with a Blade Barrier with devastating effect.

The fight took up pretty much the entire session, but when it was finally over, the PC's stood amongst the blood, viscera, and pulped up corpses, victorious.

Well, more or less.

The hill giant chief and his wife and their sub-chief managed to flee, and the party were so low on hit points and spells that they had to flee as well. But they left a scene of truly mind boggling carnage behind them. They even had to slay a half-dozen hill giant young to get out of the keep, but eventually they staggered through the pounding rain to return to their base cave for much needed rest.

We leave them there, hunkered down in the cave, hoping for eight uninterrupted hours with which to heal themselves and get ready to return to the giant hold.

It is Harvester 4, 11:00pm (roughly).

Notes: It has been noted that the designers did not take into account the larger footprint that giants have in 5E which causes some issues with the square footage in the locations in this module. I tend to resize on the flay, as needed during the game, and allow a bit of leeway for giant movement.

One thing I found was that, because the locations are giant sized, it can be difficult to fit an entire area on a battle mat. But we use a fairly large, gridded, white board, and as long as I just draw it out room by room, we get by.

Another issue was not having enough minis to represent the giants and their kin. I eventually cut out several dozen appropriately sized circles out of Styrofoam board, which allowed me to mark them as, “Hill Giant 1, AC 13”, etc. I use similarly marked poker chips for large sized creatures. They're not as dynamic as a 3D mini, but they work very well, and being able to number each disc is a huge help when dealing with multiple enemy combats, of which there are many.

I also cut out about 80 squares of the same styro stuff and labeled each one as an item found in a giant bag. Most of them are trash or common items, but there are a few valuable trinkets in there as well (potions, minor magic items, treasures, etc). Whenever the module notes a giant bag found among the treasure, I allow the PC's to randomly pull 3d4 items per bag from the Crown Royal bag full of styro squares. The players love it! Credit where it's due, I picked up the idea from a post here on the EN world boards. I wish I could remember the actual poster to give full kudos, but if he/she happens to read this, thanks!
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 3

An hour after they hunker down in the cave to rest, Edran, up in a tree on watch, hears Rufus whine at him. A few seconds later he hears the tell tale howling of wolves on the hunt. Ten minutes later the wolf pack is cresting the rise and Edran scurries down the tree and tries to get into the Leomund's Tiny Hut that Sai has set up only to find that, since he wasn't inside the hut when it was cast, he cannot enter it now. He and Rufus are stuck outside as the wolves close in, followed closely by fifteen ogres and hill giant servants, as well as the hill giant sub chief and hill giant wolf master.

Edran and Rufus are quickly surrounded and harried by the wolves. Rufus takes an awful beating, and Thoradin and Krote leave the protection of the hut to aide their comrades.

What follows is a very tough fight, given that Thoradin is very low on spells, and all of them are low on hit points, having only the benefit of a short rest to heal. Sai is unable to even leave the hut, for if he does the shelter will disappear, and with so many foes in close quarters he would probably be overwhelmed.

They slowly kill wolf after wolf, but the ogres and servants close in right behind. Rufus goes down, but Edran manages to save him, only to go down a moment later himself. By the time Sai is able to leave the hut with some sort of chance of staying alive more than a round, Krote is down to a single hit point, and even Thoradin, with his high armor class, only has a handful of life left.

But now that Sai is able to cast, he piles on the fireballs, three in a row, even as Thoradin and Krote take on the two giants. It is seriously touch and go for a few rounds, but fortunately for our heroes, my dice go rather cold, and despite being surrounded on all sides by hill giant servants, I'm barely able to put even a small pounding on Sai, let alone put him down.

As his fireballs pile up, the servants go down, then the sub chief, then the beast master, and finally the last servant. Thoradin is able to stabilize Edran at the last possible moment, saving their rogue.

What follows is a well deserved rest, uninterrupted by further attacks.

The following morning, at 9:00am, healed and refreshed, they head back to the hill giant keep. Only to find it deserted, except for a pair of injured orc slaves, whom they set free. It takes them a good hour of searching, but at last they are satisfied that no more giants are occupying the top level. One thing they do discover via a lucky Detect Magic casting is Wayth, the giant killing greatsword. They also find a stair case leading downwards, and soon they brave the depths of the hill giant dungeon.

The first room they enter is rather large with several exits and doors leading from it. Thoradin and Edran are having a philosophical conversation as Krote peers down a couple of darkened corridors. He is approaching one of the doors in the chamber, with the other three following, as the ambush is sprung! The door slams open to reveal a particularly tough looking hill giant wielding a huge axe. Even as that happens, a door to the south opens and bugbears begin to stream into the room, screaming their bloodcurdling war cry.

And that's where we wrapped for the night.

It is Harvester 5, about 11:00am

Notes: After the PC's initial assault on the hill giant keep, Chief Nosnra has retreated to the lower level, but before he does, he instructs his sub-chief to have their beast master round up their wolf pack and track down the interlopers. Despite the rain, the pack of dire wolves pick up the scent and follow it to our heroes. I did give the party a short rest, figuring that it would take at least that long for the giants to
organize and track them down.

The giant posse consisted of...
The sub-chief (still wounded, but had downed several healing potions)
The hill giant beast master with his whip, urging the wolves forward
2 hill giant warriors
10 hill giant servants (ogres, basically)
5 ogres
14 dire wolves

Leomund's Tiny Hut has long been a bone of contention for me, and I was curious as to how the encounter would go, with the party being holed up in it while the giants wait for them to come out. But Edran, true to form, chose to climb a tree and be on watch, neglecting to be inside the area when the LTH was cast. Upon careful reading of the spell, I realized that since he wasn't in the area when the spell was cast, he couldn't enter it at all!

Yes, it was probably cheap of me not to assume that by that time they wouldn't have known that important detail, but then again, they all have Player's Handbooks. Read your spells! So there's Edran, swinging in the breeze, as the giant/ogre/wolf horde come streaming over the rise. This forced a combat that was much more dangerous and interesting than if they'd simply been able to wait out the eight hours and come out at top form.

As it was, the presence of the Hut in the cave took up enough space that the PC's were able to retreat somewhat behind it, forcing the enemy to funnel in and not surround them. Being able to deal with their foes one or two at a time probably made the difference between success and failure.

Meanwhile, Nosnra has gone down to the dungeon and has set up another ambush with The Keeper and some forty bugbears just in case the PC's manage to survive. Nosnra plans to hide in the secret passage off of room 1 in the dungeon and watch events unfold. He has also set up an ogre to keep watch from the guard tower on the upper level. If the sub-chief returns, then all is well. But if the sentry spots the PC's, he'll come down and give the word, triggering an ambush set up.

Also of note, Annabelle Zane sends a Sending to Edran telling him specifically not to beat the drum, ring the chimes and strike the triangle. Edran has no idea what this means and Annabelle is not forthcoming with explanation, but it is certain to have Edran now on the lookout for any of those things.

This is an allusion to the Temple of the Eye located on the 2nd level of the fire giant lair, and almost guarantees that Edran will do all three of those things the first chance he gets.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 4

Some pre-session notes to myself to try to work out some possible avenues of intrigue among the different factions dwelling within the hill giant dungeon:

The party has walked into an ambush. From the NE door, the Keeper and his two ape pets will charge. The Keeper will step back to allow his two pet apes to rush out, then he will hurl stones if he can, or go right to work with his +1 axe. He will attempt to put his back to the wall, but he is still very aggressive. Remember his 15' reach!

From the South door will charge 40 bugbears (one of whom is a chief). The bugbears will do their best to surround the PC's, and cut off escape routes, specifically the stairs back up. Several of them should be armed with missile weapons and stand up on the tables to get shots off at the party.

In the meantime, the two hill giants from room 15 (torture chamber) will rush in from the south hall. Be sure to take advantage of the giant's reach.

The ambush party...

The Keeper, HP 200, AC 16, Spd 40, Int +2
2 +1 Battleaxe +10 (3d8+7) reach 15'
1 Rock +9 (4d10+6) 60/240'

2 Giant Ape – HP 150, AC 12, Spd 40', Int +2
2 Fists +9 (3d10+6) 10'

Biasco, Bugbear chief, HP 100, AC 18 (plate), Spd 30, Int +2
Advantage vs non evocation spells.
2 x morningstar +6 (2d8+4)

40 Bugbear HP 45, AC 16, Spd 30, Int +2
Surprise attack (2d6)
Morningstar +4 (2d8+2)
Javelin +4 (1d6+2)

2 Hill Giant, HP: 160, AC: 13, Spd 40', Int -1
2 Greatclub: +8 (3d8+5), reach 10'
1 Rock: +8 (3d10+5) 60/240'

I should really try to open the story of this dungeon up, considering the tension of having the orcish rebellion just looking for an opportunity to strike. The hill giants have pulled all the bugbears away from their watch over the orcs, and the orcs know something is up. An orcish spy (Jok), with the aide of his Ring of Invisibility, will find that something big is happening and has his people get ready for action.

Once the battle in room 1 is pitched, the orcs will bide their time. When the Keeper and the other hill giants are down, and the time is right, they will rush in to join the fray, harassing the bugbears.

In the end, several of the bugbears might surrender and the PC's will have to figure out what to do with them. The orcs, of course, will want to execute them, as will Black Metal. Krote's magic axe is most insistent and might even decide to force Krote to shed bugbear blood, depending on Krote's stance on the matter.

The bugbear chief might try to bargain their way to freedom, offering to map out the rest of the level and even guide them. He is, Biasco. He knows about the secret treasure in room 33. All of this should be role played out. The surviving enemy still have their motivations.

The troglodytes will hang back, satisfied to either retain their current location, or take over the dungeon if the hill giants and bugbears are destroyed.

The orcs, of many different clans, will want to escape and head back into the Lortmil mountains.

23 troglodytes, 14 young.
78 rebel orcs (2 orog, 26 fighters, 50 commoners). Key npc: Jok.
82 submissive orc slaves.
87 imprisoned orcs.


I'll need to have the stats for the female elvish knight, Selendra Rainfall, and the dwarf veteran, Joshua Ironjaw, ready for the PC's.

Selendra Rainfall, Knight (MM 347), 80 hit points, AC 10, no weapon or armor currently.

Selendra is an elvish knight of the Silverthorn order, of the Lat'iran tribe of elves. She has taken up her brothers quest to find Wayth, the greatsword now in the possession of the players. Her brother, Theatrous, died trying to find it. She tracked him as far as Ulek and was following a rumor that he'd been seen in the Kron hills. She was on her way to crossing the Lortmils when she was captured by the giants.

She and Joshua Ironjaw are comrades.

Joshua Ironjaw, Veteran (MM 350), 90 hit points, AC 10, no weapon or armor currently. Change weapon to greataxe.

Ironjaw is from the Holdernecht dwarf clan. He has been traveling with Selendra on her quest. He was a friend and fighting companion of her brother's, and now that he is missing, he has joined with Selendra, becoming very close to her in the process.

The Session

We begin the session with battle. The Keeper unleashes his giant ape pets upon the party, and forty bugbears stream into the room. Soon after, two more hill giants arrive.

Area spells quickly thin the bugbears, and the apes and giants are no match for the fully rested party. The PC's take a few hard hits, but eventually the apes fall, then The Keeper, and the remaining hill giants. Only one bugbear soldier is left, and he runs for his life down the south tunnel, while the chief bugbear flees down a tunnel to the east.

The fleeing bugbear soldier is soon ushered back into the room, prodded by the weapons of Jok and his rebel orcs. The PC's and the orcs soon realize that they are on the same side, and once they get a load of Black metal their loyalty is assured.

Edran attacks and kills the bugbear captive, which Thoradin is not happy with. Even Krote has issues with such unsportsmanlike conduct, although Black metal is only unhappy that it wasn't Krote who drew that blood.

Krote and Edran, led by the orcs, head south to free the remaining orcish captives. After setting loose 82 of them, they press on, surrounding four bugbear guards who immediately surrender. Black Metal demands Krote slay these bugbears, at which point there is a contest of wills between the two. Krote falls under Black Metal's command and unloads on a helpless bugbear captive, spitting him in half. This pleases the orcs, who, with Edran's help, slaughter the remaining three captives. Krote finally gets his axe back under control, but things are a bit tense between the two right now.

Meanwhile, Thoradin goes back upstairs to sweep the top level with a Detect Magic, finding nothing.

Once they are all back in one place they check the remaining door in the central room and discover the holding cells. They release Marcus, an engineer from Lampsberg, cure an insane man, who still is suffering from a bit of amnesia, and meet Selendra Rainfall, an elven knight. After Selendra tells them her story it doesn't take long for Thoradin to put two and two together and he soon shows Selendra the greatsword they'd found upstairs. With tears of gratitude, she takes the weapon and swears her allegiance to the party for one year.

Edran also released the wights, who are quickly dispatched.

From there, they head east, then north, discovering the cistern and the wine cellar, along with the bugbear chief who's been hiding there. They promise him his freedom if he shows them the hill giant chief's treasure chamber, which he gladly does.

The bugbear chief beats feet out of there as the party moves to deal with the manticores.

Once the manticores are dead, the party moves to the treasure room the manticores had been guarding, but even as they do, Sai, who out in the main chamber, casting a ritual Detect Magic, catches sight of the hill giant chief slipping through a secret door. It takes the party a few rounds to get to that door, but once there they find a secret chamber, but no giant chief. Just a chain on the ground laid out in the form of a figure eight.

After much back and forth, it is Thoradin who threw caution to the wind and steps into one of the chains loops, instantly disappearing. Selendra follows without hesitation, and eventually the rest of the party follows suit.

And that's where we ended.

It is Harvester 5th, roughly 1:00pm

Notes: If you're familiar with AtG you'll notice that the party skipped a good portion of this dungeon, which I was a bit disappointed with. I was looking forward to seeing them in the abandoned temple. Plus, they left a hallway unexplored which would have introduced them to Joshua Ironjaw which meant I had to figure out a way to get him to the frost giant lair and into the party.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 5

Notes: Looking over my end notes for session 5, I see that they're not very detailed, so I might try to flesh them out a bit. But before I get to them, I'll backtrack just a little to fill in some gaps in the narrative.

In the hill giant dungeon, after the heroes set all the orcs free, the orcs leave the steading, intent on returning to their clans in the Lortmil mountains. But they take with them the stories that will become legend of Krote and his greataxe, Black Metal. Jok, the orc leader, swears his loyalty to Krote, and over a hundred orcish fists pump the air and their war cries of agreement follow. So Krote is becoming something of an orcish folk hero whether he likes it or not. Black Metal (at least it's orcish side) is only too happy about this turn of events.

Regarding Joshua Ironjaw, Selendra Rainfall had a difficult decision to make when she followed Thoradin through the portal to who knows where. On the one hand, Joshua is her long time friend and connection to her brother, and she is loath to leave him behind. On the other, she swore an oath to the party (and she sort of sees Thoradin as the party leader, although the dwarf might not agree with that). In the end, her knightly pride and sense of honor and duty won out and she followed Thoradin. But she is mightily troubled by that decision.

Fortunately for her, my plan is to have the pair of fire giants who are holding Ironjaw captive eventually realize that the hill giant steading and dungeon have been compromised. They will grab their dwarf prisoner and head through the chain portal, intent on getting back to the fire giant lair. This means that they will probably cross paths with the PC's again soon enough.

Chief Nosnra fled through the portal, headed for the safety of the frost giant lair, and hopefully the fire giant hold beyond. He sent his wife on through beforehand, so she is already in the frost giant Jarl's lair. The point being, the frost giants will have plenty of warning that intruders are probably on the way.

Given the hubris of most giants, I assume that the Jarl (Grugnur) doesn't take the threat too seriously. He beefs up his sentries on watch a bit, but beyond that, he assumes that Nosnra's failure is simply typical hill giant incompetence. So the PC's will not be met with terribly stiff resistance at first. But, should a giant escape to warn that Jarl that the interlopers are not a threat to be taken lightly, the frost giants will dig in and get a whole lot more dangerous.

Also, before going through the portal, the party finds the flame tongue short sword in chief Nosnra's secret treasure room. Edran is soon wearing it at his hip. It's called, Diamond Flame, and it balances nicely with the frost brand rapier called, Icicle, that hangs from his other hip.

Finally, before session 4, I decided to implement a few house rules.

We'd been playing strictly RAW up to this point, which was fine, but I'd recently read a good thread on these boards concerning a few house rules that addressed some issues I'd been having. From here on out, going to zero hit points will cause a level of exhaustion. These levels stack if a character goes to zero multiple times. I like that this offsets the Whack A Mole effect that we'd seen all too often.

Also, failed death saves don't just go away once a PC is healed from zero. This makes the whole business a little more dangerous, which is fine.

And, just to add some more tension, I will now be rolling all death saves. The party won't know where a downed PC is with regard to death saves, which ratchets up the tension and prevents meta gaming.

On the plus side, inspiration points now stack. In general I don't give out a lot of IP's, although at the end of each session all the players can roll a d20. A natural 20 gets you an inspiration point. And even though I resolve to be a little more generous with them in game, they'll still be pretty rare, so why not have them stack?

Also, PC's now get hero points, as optioned in the DMG.

PC's now gain another magic item attunement slot at levels 10, 15, and 20.

The session

Stepping through the chain portal, they are immediately caught off guard by the blast of freezing wind and driving snow. They find themselves on a vast glacier, in a shallow ravine. They can see giant footprints in the snow, heading away from where they are standing. They must belong to Nosnra!

But they are a bit wounded and low on resources. They think better of charging after the hill giant chief half cocked and decide to rest before pressing on. Finding a spot several hundred yards away from the ravine, Sai casts a Tiny Hut and they all settle in for a comfortable, if cramped, rest. Snow soon covers the hut, and it looks like nothing more than another mound of snow on an endless plain of white.

They cast their hut at 2:pm for a long rest. They have to cast it twice to get in the rest. They head into the frost giant glacier at 6am, Harvester 6th. Taking the right fork through the tunnel and heading into the first cave they immediately have to deal with six normal yeti, an abominable yeti and two snow cats. The abominable yeti actually gives them a pretty good fight, but soon enough all of their foes lie dead.

Following the right hand wall, they press on, finding the snow cat lair, now empty, and an icy cavern slick with steam rising from cracks in the glacier.

In the next set of caverns they slay five frost giants. Krote takes a hell of a pounding, but they press on.

Soon after, they come upon a tunnel with a dire warning carved into the ice, telling all who care to listen that nothing but danger and death lie beyond. They decide to heed the warning and head down a different tunnel, quickly stumbling onto another set of giants. Selendra goes down a couple of times and both Krote and Edran take a few good hits, but in the end both giants go die.

That's where we called it.

It is 9:00am, Harvester 6

Notes: I should mention that I completely forgot about the effects of fire based AOE spells in the frost giant upper lair. Sai tossed a couple fireballs during the aforementioned fights, and they should have caused a huge bank of steam to rise up off the icy floor, heavily obscuring that area.

I remember this detail later, and implement it. It makes a huge difference!
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 6

We started the session in the room with two fresh frost giant corpses. After a quick search, and with no other exits from the room, the party carries on the strategy of sticking to the right wall which leads them back out onto the ledge overlooking the rift, and then back into the glacier. A long tunnel led them to a far south western room with another pair of frost giants. One of them was easily dispatched, but the second ran out an eastern exit. The party gave chase, but the giant knocked aside a support log as he ran by it, causing the roof to collapse behind him. Thinking to catch him, Edran ran back to the southwestern room and then northeast through an offshoot tunnel, only to run right into a room occupied by a fire giant and his hill giant minion. Edran turned tail and led the pursuing pair back to his party. The fight was swift and the giants soon lay dead.

Back out to the ledge, and down another tunnel, they found six hill giants who did their best, but were ultimately no match for the heroes, and soon all six were dispatched.

Despite their victory, they were wounded and low on spells. It was decided that a rest was in order, especially since they had all gained new powers which would only be realized after some down time. To that end, they left the rift the same way they entered, finding their secluded spot for a Tiny Hut.

It was an especially long rest, given that they had only just had one, so it was nearly twenty hours later when they set out at first light on Harvester 7.

During the rest, Edran has a dream of having dinner with Mad Malexi (the witch). While he gorged himself, even after being full, she silently read his contract.

Also, Krote has begun to experience some orc centric thoughts and dreams. He has begun to think more and more in orcish, and has even caught himself looking upon his non orc friends with a bit of disdain. He actually seems to embrace this, humming orcish songs to himself the following day, and speaking several times in orc.

They re-enter the lair, this time choosing to explore the left fork in the entry tunnel which leads them into the eastern portion of the glacier. They soon realize, after coming across several empty rooms that appear to have been cleaned out, that the giants here seem to have vacated.

They do stumble across what appears to be a frozen array of adventurers. A detect magic reveals several interesting items, which they chip free of the ice. Distrustful of such easy pickings, they nonetheless help themselves to the treasures and continue on.

After a few more empty rooms they begin to wonder if the giants may have all simply fled, when suddenly they walk into an ambush (room 9/10). Rufus gives them warning with his talented nose, so they are not surprised, but are certainly outnumbered as frost giants, fire giants, ogres, and winter wolves seem to come out of nowhere, bearing down on them. Krote, especially, took a hard beating as critical hits rained down upon him. Sai also took a critical hit from a thrown boulder, knocking off most of his health in a single blow. Badly outnumbered and already bearing some heavy hits, the party made a strategic retreat into the entry tunnel, pressed by the giants. The offense was stopped by a fireball from Sai, which threw a large portion of the room into a foggy morass, and Thoradin compounded this with an Insect Plague that any pursuing foes would have to pass through to get to them.

But the giants are not stupid, and after the loss of a few of them, they chose their own strategic retreat, taking cover behind a rock wall, and an exit tunnel to the south.

We were forced to break for the night in mid-combat as both sides wait for the other to make a move.

Currently we are at the top of the round. The foggy area has about 4 ½ minutes to go, and the Insect Plague has roughly twice that.

It is Harvester 7, roughly 9:00am

Notes: So, after having cleared out the western portion of the rift, they head back out for a rest, which gives the giants time to organize. The giant that escaped by collapsing the tunnel behind him races over to the east side and alerts the giants there, commanding them to hold the line at the last room before the tunnel that leads down to the frost giant lower lair. He then heads down there himself to warn his Jarl.

By the time the party re-enter the rift most of the giants have pulled back to await them.

When the party finally do find the giants, it's a very tough battle, made all the more so by the implementation of fire AOE spells causing obscuring steam. Sai dumped a fireball into the midst of the melee and instantly blinded nearly everybody, which obviously had a profound effect on the combat.

As an aside, it's interesting to me, given 5E's stinginess with regard to magic items, that these updates of older modules seem to contain almost exactly the same magic items as when they were first written. For example, the frozen adventurers room was a veritable treasure trove of magic items (a staff of frost, a ring of resistance, a +1 axe, etc). It doesn't really bother me since I've long since thrown out the, “magic items are ultra-rare philosophy” in favor of a, “magic items are rare, sure, but they're out there and the PC's are going to get them philosophy” and it doesn't seem to hurt things too much. The one concession I've made is to have armor buffing items be pretty few and far between. I've swapped out several magical shields and the like with non-armor buffing items in this adventure.

My point is, if they're going to update these mods to 5E that means more than just monster stats and mechanics. It seems to me you really have to embrace the whole low magic, bonded accuracy thing if you're going to call a module 5E.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 7

Note: It was somewhere around this session that I realized that I was going to have to beef Selendra Rainfall and Joshua Ironjaw up a little bit if they were going to be viable combatant NPC's rather than cannon fodder. After getting some good advice here on the boards re: leveling up Monster Manual NPC's, they get a boost that's enough to make them valuable while not outshining the PC's.

One nice thing about having a couple of NPC's is that it spreads out the xp a little bit. Given that AtG is such a combat heavy module with a lot of high xp value opponents, the PC's have made it to 13th level by this time. Generally I give xp right after every session and allow PC's to level up as soon as they make it (I don't require training, etc.), but I'm a little worried about them getting out ahead of the suggested level for the module so I'm waiting to award xp until certain key milestones. I'm also giving the NPC's a portion of the xp since they are pulling their weight, which ought to slow down the leveling a little bit.

For whatever reason, Edran takes a dislike to both Selendra and Joshua. He is snarky and unkind toward Selendra in particular, and the two have exchanged a few unkind words. Why this is, only Edran can say, and he's not really saying.

A very quick bit of back story to help make the following session notes make sense: During the campaign, Edran has so exasperated Thoradin with his behavior that one of the ways Thoradin had for dealing with it was to slide from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral. I decided that Moradin, for reasons of his own, was not pleased with this. So, during one of the times that Edran died, his soul was brought forth for an audience with Moradin (or his avatar). Moradin informed Edran that he was now in charge of Thoradin's ethical future, and that he needed to, by example, show Thoradin that he needed to return to his former alignment. Edran was not to tell Thoradin anything about his meeting with Moradin. Until this happened and Thoradin returns to CG, Edran can expect no further resurrection from Moradin, which is how Edran has been kept alive all this time.

This was strictly between Edran's player and I. None of the rest of the group knew about it. Besides laying out a challenge for Edran, it was also a way to sort of reel him in a little bit, which it did, kind of. Suffice to say, it sparked some excellent role play from Chris (Edran's player) and provided a lot of entertainment.

The Session

We started the session mid-combat in room 9/10, at something of an impasse, with the party backed into the entry tunnel and the giants, ogres, and wolves taking cover in their own way.

Determined to break the stalemate, the party charged in, ganging up on the first fire giant they came to. This led to an all out counter by the giant forces. It was a long and tough battle, and by the time it was done and all of the enemy lay dead, the party is more or less out of spells and hit points.

They search the room and, besides a decent amount of treasure, they make the happy discovery of Joshua Ironjaw. It turns out that his fire giant captors, upon seeing the carnage in the hill giant steading, had grabbed him and gone through the portal. They had made it as far as the frost giant's ambush point in room 9/10 and had stuffed Joshua into a barrel while they aided in the ambush against the PC's.

Selendra is overjoyed to see her companion again, and the gruff dwarf is glad to finally be out from under captivity. He is eager to kill giants and declares that where Selendra goes, so does he.

But the first place they go is back to Pellak for much needed rest and resupply. This is Sai's first chance to use Teleport, and the spell lives up to it's reputation, zipping the heroes out of the deadly giant lair and back to the safety of a human city in the blink of an eye.

There is much to do and only a day to do it. Thoradin gets busy dividing and liquidating treasure, of which there is quite a lot.

Krote, who is barely standing, given his wounds, finds a piece of floor at the Golden Flute Inn and promptly curls up to sleep.

Sai buys a few spells, visits Temple Urzinine for some magic item shopping, and generally keeps himself busy.

Selendra is given a goodly amount of gold by Thoradin, Krote and Sai, and she takes Joshua shopping to get him properly outfitted.

Edran, of course, promptly finds a deep end and goes right off of it. He lops off his own finger in order to rid himself of the supposed taint of Hextor given to him by Landorel the Cruel when he regenerated the rogue's finger so long ago. Then he spends the rest of the night wandering the streets of Pellak trying to get himself pick pocketed, which he is frustrated to have no luck at. He buys all the healing potions he can find, gives most of his gold away, and shows up back at the inn with enough time to get himself completely drunk by the time the rest of his party comes down for breakfast. He is belligerent even as Thoradin Regenerates his missing finger, demanding that Thoradin get his house in order with regards to Clangadin, else Edran refuse to allow Selendra and Joshua to accompany the party.

This has been a long time coming for Thoradin anyway, so he once again changes his alignment back to chaotic good via ceremony, spell and lengthy prayer to Moradin. Edran breaths a sigh of relief, and all is right with his world again.

Also, during his rest, Krote has an interesting conversation with Black Metal. This is the first time Black Metal's human side makes itself known. It's orcish side doesn't know about it's human side, and the two are not entirely on the same page. Which personality will Krote gravitate to and trust? Who knows?

Knowing that the longer they tarry, the more prepared the giants will be to deal with them upon their return, the heroes gather their gear and group around Sai once again. With another Teleport, they are back in the Jarl's lair; the cave where they found the frozen adventurer's, to be precise.

They take a look at their map and decide to check a few locations they'd passed up previously, and the very first cave they enter sees them battling ten giant ice toads.

It turns out to be a more difficult battle than perhaps it needed to be, given A) that Edran in his drunken state, is unable to sneak attack, B) they find out, to their dismay, that the magical armor they had found on one of the frozen adventurers and subsequently given to Selendra was cursed. While it provides her with resistance to bludgeoning damage, it makes her vulnerable to slashing and piercing damage. And then, C) Sai puts a hurting on nine of the ten toads with a fireball, which is fine, except for the huge, blinding fog cloud it produces from the steam rising from the ice. Much of the rest of the battle is spent blind fighting, with some of the party not even able to find a foe to attack. Edran gets swallowed briefly by a toad, and the cold aura from the toads piles on damage rather quickly. By the time the battle is over, the party is showing far more wounds than they'd like to, given the fact that they only just rested.

We wrapped there for the night.

Edran is still drunk, and can expect to be for a few hours.

Krote rolls a 20 for an inspiration point, and Edran gets one as well for finally appeasing Clangadin and good role play, electing to forgo his sneak attack in favor of intoxication.

Parsnip is going to give them 55% of the treasure value Thoradin took to him, but it will be at least a week before that gold comes in. He will deposit it directly into Thoradin's account.

Remember, Selendra is cursed by the armor and is vulnerable to slashing/piercing damage.

So is Sai, but the players don't know that yet. DON'T FORGET!!!

It is roughly 10:30am, Harvester 8th.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Gaaa! I just realized that I've been writing about Thoradin as a cleric of Moradin when he is, in fact, a cleric of Clangeden! A small detail, but one to get right nonetheless.

Sent from my SGH-M919 using EN World mobile app
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 8

Note: This was our 50th session of the campaign. As such, I decided a little bonus was in order. All players got an inspiration point.

During the big fight in room 9/10 of the upper lair, one of the fire giants had commanded an ogre to run and warn the Jarl, and that's just what that ogre did. So, with ample warning and plenty of time to prepare, the Jarl gets ready for the intruders.

First, he has the boulder that conceals the white dragon cave left just enough ajar that anyone actively looking is sure to see it. The plan is to tempt the party into the dragon cave, let the dragons soften them up a bit, then have the frost giant, cloud giant, Oni and his ogres that are all dwelling in the first of the western caves of the lair come in behind the heroes and finish them off. One ogre is to hang back and warn the Jarl if this first attempt fails, in which case all remaining giants will set up an ambush in the throne room.

The Session

We started the session in the ice toad lair, and after a bit of healing the party searched out the rest of the area, finding the toads amethyst deity. From there, they decide to check out the rest of this level, heading first to an unexplored cave on the west side of the rift, only to find it empty. Then it was down to the floor of the rift to check out the odd snow mound they'd spotted in it's southern end. Edran scouts on ahead and is greeted by the Remorhaz that lairs there. The fight isn't so tough with the whole group ganging up on the thing, despite Edran still being unable to sneak attack due to his drunken state. They take a short rest there, helping themselves to some Remorhaz blood and bile for future magic item crafting. At one point Edran sneaks off around the side of the mound to have another drink, but Rufus follows him and whines in what can only be disappointment. Edran stoppers the flask and puts it away.

At last, they finally head down the south tunnel that leads them to the lower level of the frost giant lair.

They enter the grand hall. Edran spies a boulder against the east wall that has been shoved aside, allowing passage into a cave beyond. He slips in to explore, with Krote not too far behind. It is only seconds later that Edran discovers the mated pair of white dragons that occupy the cavern, and he runs like hell out of there. The rest of the party, eager to test their mettle against the dragons, charge on in. Thus begins a protracted battle that ends in a bit of disaster, at least for Sai.

The PC's engage the dragons, taking blast after blast of icy breath attacks. Just as they slay the male dragon and turn their attention fully upon the female, the boulder at the entrance is pushed aside and a frost giant, accompanied by four ogres, steps in to attack. Unfortunately, Sai had posted himself near the entrance in a place of seeming safety, and he was the first hero the frost giant encounters. He only hits the wizard once, but it is then that we find out that Sai is still cursed by the armor they'd previously found, and is vulnerable to slashing and piercing weapons. The double damage from the giant's axe is more than enough to put Sai down.

The rest of the party gang up on the female dragon, killing her before turning their attention on the frost giant in the entryway. But as they close with him, a cloud giant appears. He Misty Steps past his frost giant brethren, and attacks from behind.

Thoradin gets Sai back on his feet, only to have the frost giant axe him again, putting the wizard back down.

In the meantime, Edran, seeking high ground, meets the Oni that has flown in, invisibly. Edran shakes off the attempted Charm spell from the Oni, but the villain disappears again.

Thoradin heals Sai again, and our wizard is finally able to Misty Step away from the giants deadly axe. He gets off a spell or two, only to have the Oni toss down a bead from a necklace of fireballs onto he and Thoradin, and for the third time, Sai is down. Thoradin has his hands full though, as the cloud giant beats hell out of Selendra, and Krote and Joshua are going toe to toe with the frost giant. Edran flits from foe to foe, but isn't much help, as he is still unable to sneak attack, a condition Thoradin finally decides to do something about with a spell (delivered with a vicious slap across the face) that instantly sobers the lad up.

Edran, at last, punctures the frost giant a good one and then races over to aide Sai, who has been bleeding out. As Edran gets to Sai, he notices that Sai's handy haversack is missing. A second later, Sai's new staff of frost disappears as well, and Edran realizes that the Oni is helping itself to Sai's possessions.

Not far away, the cloud giant clouts Selendra hard enough to take her down, thanks, in part, to the armor of vulnerability. Thoradin gets her to her feet with a heal spell, and she rises, slamming at the giant with everything she has. The cloud giant had intended to flee, but Selendra cuts him down with a mighty swing.

Both giants are dead, and Edran has used a scroll and a potion to get Sai back up again. The four ogre are determined to die fighting, and they block the entryway, going up against Krote and Joshua, even as the Oni attempts to make his escape. The ogres are little match for Krote who mows them down in about two rounds. .

On a hunch, Thoradin casts a new spell: Dawn. It catches the Oni in it's wide area, causing him to go visible. The Oni tosses down another fireball bead that knocks Selendra down, then flies for the exit with Edran hot on his heels. Thoradin chases him with the Dawn spell as well, and it is extremely touch and go for a few rounds as the Oni attempts to get away.

They are chasing him down the tunnel that leads back to the upper lair, when he manages to turn invisible once again. Did he continue on down the tunnel? Did he double back into the grand hall? One thing is sure, he barely makes a save against Sai's Fireball, that, had he not, would have dropped him. As it was, the rounds begin to pass with no sign of him. It is with palpable frustration that they realize that the slippery Ogre-Mage has gotten away with Sai's precious belongings.

Hurt, low on spells, and pissed off but good, they content themselves with securing the dragon's horde.

It is Harvester 8th, approximately 1:30pm


Notes: They found a suit of armor among the items on the frozen adventurers. When they were back in the city of Pellak, Sai went ahead and attuned himself to the suit to find out what it's magical properties were. After finding out that it conferred resistance to bludgeoning damage he took it off and gave it to Selendra. Unbeknownst to either of them it was armor of vulnerability, and even though Sai took it off, he still carried the curse. I have to admit, I got a good chuckle out of that, and waited patiently for poor Sai to take an axe to the chops. Once he did, his new vulnerability to slashing damage nearly cut him in half.

As I was looking through the creatures in the lair I saw the Oni, and at first, didn't even know what it was. Looking it up in the MM I recognized the ogre-magi. The closer I looked at him, the more I liked what I saw. He doesn't pack much of a punch, but anything that can fly and be invisible at will just had to get some spotlight. This party has been used to rolling over most bad guys of late, and it was hard knocks when this Oni got the better of them. To be fair, he barely escaped. Sai actually caught him with a fireball at the very end, and had he not made his save, that would have been it for him. But save he did, and then he was gone. He really got under their skin, and you can't ask for a better villain than that. I think he'll have a place in this campaign's future.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 9

Pre game notes: They will probably need a rest at this point, and they'll need to figure out what to do about poor Sai. Will they teleport back to Pellak?

Either way, the Oni did double back and escaped deeper into the giant caves.

The Jarl and his remaining giants are prepping a hell of an ambush for the party. Hopefully they will finally meet Laurali, the captive storm giant. Likely they will need her help with the coming ambush.

I've decided to have the Oni (his name is, Luka) ransom at least Sai's spellbook back to the party. He will ask for 10,000gp since he knows there is at least that in the dragon's horde. He will have to be careful about it though. First, he'll recover his health, which should only take a few minutes. Second, he'll want to make contact with the party before they have a chance to rest and return to full strength. If the PC's decide to teleport out, have him contact them before they go. If they stay in the lair, he'll have a little more time. Either way, he will send an ogre with a message.

The Session

What a night! Had probably the toughest fight of this entire campaign.

They start out in the dragon's lair, still searching and deciding whether or not to rest there. And then Jef showed up.

Jef is an extremely good natured, extremely dim ogre, and waved a white flag as he approaches the party with the Oni's letter.

The Letter

If this book that I've so recently procured is what I think it is, I'm sure you'll be wanting it back. I've no use for it, but rather than destroy it I feel that, as reasonable folk in an unreasonable situation, it is in both of our interests that we come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

I'm certain that you are all seething with anger just now at having been unable to secure total victory in your most recent soiree. If your capabilities that I've personally witnessed, not to mention your having bested so many giants, are any indication, I'm guessing the impasse that we now find ourselves at is unusual for you.

But fear not! Humility is as valuable a trait as courage. I, myself, am not so possessed of hubris that I am not well aware that I am indeed fortunate to still be alive to pen this letter. You are fearsome foes indeed!

The long and the short of it is, I have something you want, and you have something I want. I have nothing personally against you, and if you will set aside your wounded pride for a moment, I'm sure that you'll find no personal grievance towards me. Circumstance finds us on opposite sides of a battle. Rest assured that I have no stake in it beyond my own gain. Your reasons for being here are yours, and I have little interest in them. I would also remind you that I could have just as easily slit your wizard's throat rather than help myself to a few of his trinkets. I don't expect your gratitude for that, only that you consider it.

So, now that you understand my intentions, all that is left is to work out the details. I suggest a quick meeting between myself and a single member of your group. I fear it will have to be on my terms, but I can only offer you my word as assurance of your agent's safety.

Please understand, my intention is to talk; to work out a trade that we can both walk away happy with. During this discussion I will not have the book, or indeed, any of your possessions. They will be in the hands of an ogre who has specific instructions to destroy the lot of it should our meeting end in treachery. Ogres aren't good at much, but, credit where it is due, they are excellent at destroying things. So let us enter into our tete-a-tete with pure intentions and honor.

If this is acceptable to you, have your priest make his mark on this letter and return it to my messenger. I will take that as an agreement to the terms and a vow of honorable motive.

Obviously, if this is not to your liking, I will take either your silence or the murder of my messenger as sign of such and you will never see me again.

Yours, L

After reading it they decide to meet with the Oni to find out what it want's, and to my great surprise, Thoradin nominates Edran to be their agent! To my still greater surprise, the rest of the party agrees!To my total bafflement, Edran handles the exchange like a champ, bartering Sai's spellbook and staff back, and even some valuable information in return for 20,000gp. When they eventually claim their goods, it is in the room with the captive storm giant, Laurali. They free the giantess and she joins them in the dragon's lair as they take their much needed rest. They have to stay put for fifteen hours, during which time Krote gets to know Laurali better, Jef wanders in, lonely and hungry after having been deserted by the Oni, and Edran gets acquainted with Whisper, a fine new dagger found in the dragon's horde. Edran also slips off during his watch and does a bit of scouting, following a map drawn by the Oni (part of their deal with him) that shows the location of the ambush being set by the frost giant Jarl. Edran gets a pretty good idea of what awaits them before returning to his friends.

It might also be noted at this point that Edran is not endearing himself to Selendra, taking every opportunity to be snarky to her. The elf knight finally has enough and tells Edran exactly what she thinks of him. On top of that, Edran takes a dislike to poor Jef, and it is only Thoradin and Krote who keep Edran from killing the oblivious ogre.

Also, when their rest is complete, Thoradin rids Selendra and Sai of the curse placed on them by the foul armor.

They talk strategy as to how to deal with the giant ambush awaiting them, and decide on a direct approach, simply charging in after some serious buffing.

They charge into the Jarl's hall and quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer numbers against them. There are eight frost giants, eight fire giant servants (hill giants), four giant polar bears, the Jarl himself, his wife, Estia, and their giant winter wolf pet.

Fights don't get much harder than this one. As much damage as the party dishes out, the giants are relentless, and pile it right back. Laurali, Sai, Jef, Selendra, and Joshua all go down multiple times. Most of them have at least four levels of exhaustion. Edran goes down at least once. The giants are brutal and their hits do an average of thirty points, rarely missing. They press the attack, and it is all Thoradin can do to keep the party on their feet. But at last, a tipping point is reached, and the heroes dig in and keep swinging, killing giant after giant. The Jarl goes down. Then Estia. Finally, only a single frost giant is on his feet, and he runs. The party is in such bad shape that they gladly let him go.

But, just as the giant is about to get away, Edran draws down on him with his bow...and then shifts his aim, putting an arrow into Jef, dropping the ogre.

Thoradin is appalled and furious. Selendra is disgusted. Krote is not happy either. As Thoradin rushes to heal Jef, he promises a very uncomfortable discussion with Edran. Jef, once back on his feet, is happy as ever, and returns Edran's arrow to him. I've decided, at this point, that Jef only gets one death save before he dies for good. He is, after all, only an ogre NPC.

It is just after 10:00am, Harvester 9th.


Notes: This whole session went off very well, and was one of the most enjoyable we've had.

The back and forth with the Oni to buy Sai's belongings back was quite fun, and again, I was shocked, not only that Thoradin suggested Edran as their go-between, but that Edran didn't completely hash the whole business up by attempting some trickery.

Using Jef as the Oni's messenger proved to be an impulse of good fortune. I basically played Jef as utterly stupid, and far too good natured to be much good as an ogre. He enjoys eating and bashing stuff with his club, but he just can't muster the hate in his heart that makes for a really good ogre. Consequently, after the Oni deserted him, Jef wandered back over to the party and they just didn't have the heart to kill him or shoo him away. Edran, for whatever reason, decided he didn't like him, but Jef absolutely adores Edran since Edran makes a lot of puns, and puns are considered the highest form of ogre humor. The rest of the party take a liking to Jef and they now have an ogre tag-along.

The big fight in the Jarl's throne room was brutal! Even with Laurali, the storm giantess, it was all they could do to deal with so many giants.

This is the last session we've played. I'll update after this Sunday's game.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 10

A rather strange night, with no combat, but plenty of role play, much of it weird.

We started the session in the Jarl's throne room, the party very wounded, surrounded by dead giants, with palpable bad vibes in the air given Edran's pot shot at Jef. Thoradin is especially moody.

Laurali limps to the throne and has a seat, getting her breath after the battle. Jef, meanwhile, smells food, and heads straight for it, finding the spitted horse in the kitchen cave to the north. Thoradin, Krote, Selendra and Joshua follow him while Edran decides to wander down the SE tunnel, quickly finding it blocked by a huge boulder that he is quite unable to shift.

In the kitchen, the rest of the party discover a cage full of humans who quickly tell their saviors that they are captives from the village of Tanhaven in Ulek. They are, Dale, Win, Becca and Franz. As they tell their harrowing tale everyone tucks into some well done horse flesh, especially Jef, who happily gnaws on a leg.

Thoradin casts a Detect Magic and they move from the kitchen to the NE tunnel, finding the armory, giants quarters, and the polar bear den. There are several chests in the giant's quarters, so Thoradin fetches Edran to check them for traps. He finds the young rogue spying on Jef while menacingly twirling an arrow. This sets off a rather unpleasant conversation as the pair head back to the giant's quarters.

Thoradin is very upset that Edran shot Jef for no good reason. Krote tries to see both sides, but even he has a hard time defending Edran. Selendra looks on in ill concealed disgust as Edran defends himself, reasoning that all ogres are evil and that, of course, all of them must be slain. This back and forth escalates until Thoradin verbally dresses down Edran and finally washes his hands of him. He tells Edran that when they return to civilization, he no longer cares what he does, or where he goes, and quite frankly doesn't care if he never sees him again. Thoradin then retires to the throne room to stew on the steps of the giant throne.

Edran, for his part, appears not to heed any of this and ropes Krote into helping him move the boulder in the SE tunnel.

It takes some doing, by at last they gain entry to the Jarl's audience chamber and trophy hall. After a quick look around, Edran slips through one of the tapestries separating this cave from another to the north, and before long he spies five young giants, huddled near the rear of the cavern, armed, but obviously unsure of themselves. Edran returns to Krote, and the pair of them fetch the rest of the party. As a group, they re-enter the cavern and demand the surrender of the young giants. The five teen aged giants, seeing Laurali towering over them, comply, and drop their weapons. With stern warnings, they escort the young to the throne room exit and tell them to run and don't stop. Unable to believe that they are being allowed to live, the five giants do just that.

The party heads back to the audience chamber and collect a few pieces of loot. Selendra is particularly taken by the suit of elven plate mail, which, despite her last bad experience with magic armor, she is soon donning. Thoradin sets off a trap, but the spear it shoots at him merely bounces off his armor. They also find out the hard way that one of the walrus tusks on display sets off a Magic Mouth alarm that yells bloody murder for a full minute. But no one answers the alarm, and the group is even more certain that they have slain all of the giants here.

The next chamber to the east is the Jarl's quarters and they help themselves to his treasure, although in doing so they set off an Explosive Rune that knocks out Selendra, Joshua, and Sai once again. Thoradin and Krote scramble to heal them with potion and spell, but now Selendra is so wounded that she can no longer even limp anywhere. They put her in the Jarl's bed and are more careful with the rest of the treasure, which includes a map giving the location of the fire giant lair in the Sulhaut mountains.

But they are a long way from there, and they have wounded and freed commoners to deal with.

It is decided that Sai will take the peasants, via Teleport, back to Pellak. The rest will stay in the Jarl's quarters until Thoradin is able to cast Word Of Recall to bring the rest back to that city.

Laurali makes her intentions known. She will stay until she is at full strength once again and then return to her people. The party (most of them) will be sorry to see her go. Krote, especially, is saddened. He fashions a giant sized necklace for Laurali of his walrus skull belt buckle – his first ever trophy – and presents it to her. She is quite moved by the gesture.

While the rest of the party try to relax, Edran entertains himself by poking around the cave a bit more, and finds the hidden escape tunnel behind a bear skin on the wall in the sleeping chamber. This leads to him finding the iron lever set into the wall. Things go rapidly downhill from there.

First, he shows the lever to Krote, who is absolutely opposed to pulling the thing. He has to physically stop Edran from pulling it. Thoradin finds out about the lever as well, and of course he is also against pulling mysterious levers, given their current wounded and separated state.

So Edran waits several hours, sneaks back to the lever and pulls it.

He disappears.

Some time later Krote and Thoradin notice Edran's absence. It doesn't take a detective to figure out what happened when they investigate the lever and find the rope hanging from it that Edran had used to pull the thing. They walk back to the Jarl's quarters, discussing this, and Jef gets wind of Edran's disappearance and becomes quite agitated, convinced that he and Edran are best friends and that they must go save him at once!

Thoradin is having none of it. Edran is, as he is so fond of saying, immortal. The cleric is through chasing the boy around and picking up after him. He tells Jef that if he want's to go after Edran, be his guest.

So, Jef heads for the alcove with the lever. Krote follows and watches from the hall as Jef pulls the lever and vanishes.

Krote reports this to Thoradin, who rightly surmises that the lever probably teleports the puller to the fire giant lair, and that, by Clangadin, they are simply in no shape to go after the pair. Selendra can't be moved, Joshua isn't much better off and wouldn't leave Selendra anyway, and he is nearly tapped of spells. Krote want's desperately to go after Edran, but finally sees the wisdom in Thoradin's words.

So they settle in to rest and wait.

***

Edran finds himself in a blisteringly hot mountain range, not fifty feet from a giant pile of lava rock boasting a massive set of iron doors, utterly alone, except for the ever faithful Rufus, as volcanic ash rains down upon him. There is not a bush or scrub to be seen in the blasted landscape, and Edran worries that perhaps this time he has gone too far. He casts about for a place to hide, and finally finds a cramped cave about a half mile away. He settles in to wait, periodically leaving the cave to watch the spot he appeared at, hoping to see the rest of his party.

They do not come.

But Jef does.

Several hours later, Edran hears the ogre calling his name, searching for him. Edran want's no part of Jef and hunkers down to let him pass. But Rufus will have none of it, and bolts from the cave, barking for Jef's attention. Soon Jef pokes his head into the cave, and thus begins forty-eight hours of uninterrupted Jef and Edran time. Jef babbles. Edran double talks in his usual fashion, but where that ploy usually frustrates the average listener, Jef eats it up, hanging on every word with undisguised happiness.

Time passes. Jef hunts for lizards to eat. Edran begins to regress. Goes a bit feral. Goes a bit catatonic. Curses Clangadin and lops off his own finger – the one Thoradin had so recently regenerated. At one point Edran wakes up with Jef holding him like a child, rocking back and forth, whispering soothingly that everything is going to be all right. Day becomes night. Night becomes day. Edran can take no more and demands that Jef go kill giants, pointing to the fire giant lair. Jef shrugs and off he goes. Hours pass and her does not return. Rufus is upset by this, whimpering at Edran, who slips further and further into himself.

***

Meanwhile, Thoradin is finally able to prepare new spells, and he uses Word of Recall to transport himself, Selendra, Joshua and Krote back to Pellak where they waste no time in finding Sai. It will be another full day before they can have everyone back to full fighting strength. During that time Thoradin uses Sending to request that Annabelle Zane scry Edran to find out his status. She is soon able to tell Thoradin that Edran is in a mountainous region, in a cave, with an ogre and his dog. Thoradin accepts this as Edran being just fine and decides to let the boy stew for another day. Unfortunately, this involves lying to Krote about Annabelle's message. Annabelle, of course, is scrying them at that moment, and very soon after she Teleports directly to the inn to tell Thoradin that it is not a good idea to lie in her name, and it is an even worse idea to tarry much longer. In addition to her eagerness to get the final tooth, she has also become genuinely worried about the giants and who might be behind their machinations. She urges them to get going as soon as possible. To that end, she Teleports the party back to the Jarl's quarters where they can finally pull the cursed lever and reunite with Edran.

Which they do.

It is not a very good reunion.

Once they find the boy, they see that he is an utter mess. Nearly catatonic, his missing finger crudely bandaged, and wholly unresponsive to their questions. Selendra finally slaps him across the face and tells him to man up. Thoradin feels an unfamiliar pang of romance towards the elf knight at that. Krote uses Speak With Animals to talk to Rufus. Rufus tells him about the last two days, that Jef has gone to the giant's lair, and chalks up Edran's condition to loneliness.

When they at last get Edran moving, they head for the massive iron doors. Krote and Selendra are able to open one enough for the party to get through, and into the fire giant lair they go. The long hall stretches before them, their steps echoing off it's smooth obsidian floor. They glance warily at the tapestries that adorn the walls: scenes of fire giant violence against all manner of foes. Edran smears blood from his finger stump on them as they walk the hall.

On either side of the hall, Krote and Thoradin test the tapestries with their weapons, searching for hidden tunnels and alcoves.

Krote finds one.

As his axe finds no resistance behind one of the tapestries on the left wall, a massive horn blast fills their ears and reverberates throughout the fire giant lair. Only a few steps into the first hallway, and they are already found out!

And that's where we wrapped.

The party is 14th level.

It is Harvester 12th, about 10:00am

And best of all, the Patriots lose the super bowl!
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 11


We begin the session with the alarm sounded. Giants are mobilizing in the lair. King Snurre has been expecting them and has a plan in place.

Krote slashes through the tapestry concealing the fire giant in the hidden alcove behind it, but cannot immediately reach him. However, two Ettins have rounded the corner ahead and Krote charges for them. Selendra and Joshua take his place, leaping into the alcove and taking on the fire giant.

Thoradin and Sai move forward as well, and Edran gets off a bow shot at an Ettin. But the Ettin fall back, firing huge ballista as they do. As the party reach the corner that leads into the great hall, they spot him, King Snurre himself, seated at his massive throne at the far end, guarded by two fire giant dreadnoughts that stand, still as statues, armored head to foot, their twin shields studded with spikes and glowing with heat.

But more fire giants are coming. From the north hallway they come, crashing into Krote, who swings Black Metal without mercy.

And then Edran loses his mind.

Yelling that he sees his brother, Rowan, he bolts for the lair's entryway, exiting the structure and leaving his friends behind. It will be long seconds before he returns.

Sai and Thoradin cast furiously. A pair of Snurre's hell hounds bound forward, breathing gouts of fire. A few seconds later, still more hell hounds erupt from a second northern hall, baying and drooling lava as they close to attack.

Behind them, Selendra and Joshua finally finish off the horn blowing giant. Even before it hits the floor they are racing join the rest of the party.

Thoradin casts a Blade Barrier in the midst of a pair of fire giants and two of their servants. Blood sprays in crimson arcs, splattering the walls. But still the giants push forward, and one catches Thoradin a massive strike that causes him to lose concentration on the Barrier. It winks out.

Sai raises his staff of frost and casts Ice Storm after Ice Storm, doing terrible damage to giant and hell hound, but the foul beasts press their attack with fire and steel, and even as they drop, two more fire giants charge from the north.

The dreadnoughts move forward, slowly, biding their time.

King Snurre stands before his throne, calling orders, commanding his forces to die in his defense.

Outside the lair, Rufus whines and barks at Edran, and finally the confused rogue ceases to search for Rowan. He races back into the hall, charging it's length, sword and dagger in hand.

Edran is not a moment too soon. Krote is bleeding from a dozen wounds, Thoradin is reeling from hits, and Selendra and Joshua are just able to hold back the tide of giants. Even Sai is hurt, although his Ice Storms have taken a terrible toll on the enemy.

Thoradin unsheathes his new wand of paralysis, using it to deadly effect on a fire giant. Selendra, barely able to keep her feet, unloads on the paralyzed giant, once, twice, three times. The giant falls, unable to fight back.

Krote and Edran double team the last fire giant soldier, killing it even as King Snurre scowls and exits through a secret door behind his throne.

The hell hounds are all dead. The fire giants and their servants are all dead. But the dreadnoughts are still very much alive.

One of them plows into Joshua and Selendra, knocking both of them out of the fight. The second slams Krote with a mighty shield rush, nearly killing him.

Armored as they are, it is difficult to hit the dreadnoughts, and for a moment Thoradin and Sai think to consider teleporting them all away. But they can't reach everyone, and they will leave none behind. The fight goes on.

Thoradin uses the wand of paralysis again and again. He gets lucky, hitting the armored giants, and the heroes rally for a desperate attack. A dreadnought finally falls. Krote turns his attention to the last hellish giant, and his axe bites deep. Barely able to believe it, the dreadnought dies.

All is silent in the great hall. Thoradin begins to heal while the rest search the bodies, finding little of value or interest. Edran plucks gems from Snurre's throne, and then searches the area, finding the secret exit used so recently by Snurre. Krote practically begs Edran not to explore the tunnel beyond, but Edran is sure that he sees Rowan just around the bend and away he goes. Thoradin puts his hand on Krote's arm, stopping the barbarian from giving chase. “Edran will not dictate what we do. No more.” the cleric vows, solemnly. Krote sighs and lets Edran go.

Edran follows the tunnel around and finds a second secret door at the dead end, behind which is an opulent bedchamber. He searches, both for his brother and valuables. Alas, he finds neither.

Edran returns to the group just as they are deciding that they must return to Pellak. It is galling to have to leave so soon after arriving, but they are all nearly bereft of spells and struggling just to stand. Selendra and Joshua, especially, are in a bad way.

And so Sai Teleports them back to the city where they make the most of their time, selling still more treasures. Edran goes to find a temple and pays a pretty sum to have his finger Regenerated.

While Edran is gone, the rest of the party have a serious talk about what to do with him. True, Edran has always been impulsive, but now he seems utterly unhinged, and even Krote cannot deny that the boy presents a danger to himself and others. Selendra is all for leaving him behind. She recognizes the bond between Thoradin, Krote, Sai and Edran, but she is a soldier first, and knows that Edran is a hindrance in battle. She tells them that she will honor her vow to serve them, but she has no intentions of committing suicide.

A difficult decision must be made.

That's where we broke.

It is Harvester 12th, roughly 3:00pm
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
A few post game notes: I was very much looking forward to seeing the differences between frost and fire giants. After this battle I can say that's it's notable! They both do roughly the same amount of damage, but the extra hit points and higher AC makes a pretty big difference. I noticed far more misses during this fight, and while there were fewer giants here than in the frost giant Jarl's throne room, the ante seemed to be upped quite a bit, to the point where I had planned to bring in another set of giants and servants from another chamber, but decided against it. Up until now, the Jarl's throne room had been probably the most difficult battle of the campaign, but this go round with the fire giants was even harder.

Of course not having their storm giant ally, Laurali, in this fight, coupled with Edran's disappearance for three or four rounds didn't help matters at all.

Then there were the dreadnoughts.

I have finally had time to dig into my Volo's guide, and after reading the section on the dreadnoughts, how could I not introduce a couple of those bad boys into this module? They were custom made to serve as Snurre's personal guard!

It was great fun watching the players sweat as they fought the fire giants, knowing full well that those dreadnoughts were just waiting for their opportunity. And when they entered the fray it was brutal. Even more hit points and a 21 AC, not to mention their devastating shield rush made them truly fearsome opponents. If not for the wand of paralysis, things could have gone much differently.

A word about that wand: As you might know, the entry for the wand of paralysis in the DMG is in error, so I went with it as best I could, ruling that it required a successful attack role to hit an enemy, which resulted in a round of automatic paralysis, after which we treated it like a Hold Monster, giving the paralyzed foe a reoccurring wisdom save vs the users spell DC.

I've since looked up the errata on the wand, and obviously a giant's con save vs DC 15 makes for a much greater chance to ignore or break the effect. This oversight was a boon for the party, but that's on me. I intend to use the correct version of the wand from here on out.

But the players did have an awful lot of fun rolling handfuls of auto crit dice against the paralyzed giants.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 12


We begin the session with the gang just having ported back to Pellak. First things first, Thoradin, Krote, Sai, Joshua and Selendra head for the temple of Clangadin in search of Restorations to rid them of the exhaustion they've built up during the last fight. The priest there has to charge them this time, although he does so at a considerable discount, given Thoradin's status.

Krote stays behind afterwards to have a quick chat with Clangadin, which Black Metal is less than pleased about. Once again, the axe's orcish side demands that Krote embrace his orc self and head back to the Black Bone tribe to claim his rightful place on the orcish throne. Krote declines, and things are tense between barbarian and weapon.

On his way back to their inn, though, Krote has an interesting moment when he spies a group of children playing in an ally. They are arguing over who gets to play Krote in their games. An obviously half-orc child claims the right, given his heritage. Soon they spot the real Krote, and they are rightfully awestruck. Krote gives them a bit of heroic advise (stay in school, kids!) while Black Metal whispers in his mind to slay them all. Krote ignores that.

Meanwhile, Edran is off doing Edran things. He gets his finger Regenerated again, and then sets off to find something to spend his money on. He wants magical armor, but Temple Urzinine is not in the city at the moment, and the wizard's guild isn't interested in talking to him. So he heads to the seedy part of town and proceeds to throw gold around until he gets the attention of a rotund fellow named, Tiny. The pair become fast friends and Tiny assures Edran that he knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy that has some enchanted studded leather for sale. Only 30,000gp! A price suggested only after Edran assures Tiny that he has 30,000gp. Edran eventually hands over a down payment of 10,000gp and happily watches Tiny disappear with his gold, sure that he will soon have his armor.

Once Edran gets back to the inn and explains all this to Krote, and that he needs another twenty thousand, Selendra laughs uproariously and Krote is less than convinced. Edran, still short the final sum, heads out again, first thinking to rob the temple of Clangadin, then the bank of Pellak. He reconsiders both ideas and winds up giving away what gold he has left to street urchins, along with his shoes, cape, and most of his clothes. With no money left, he eventually curls up in the ally next to the Gold Flute and dreams his own weird dreams.

Later that night he is awakened by a presence in the ally. It is Joshua, come to find him. Joshua pulls up a bucket to have a chat with Edran, wondering why the boy treats the only people who can really relate to him like such garbage. Edran, of course, denies doing any such thing. Joshua shrugs and tells Edran to come inside, that he has purchased a room for him. Ever obstinate, Edran chooses to spend the rest of the night in the ally.

Thoradin, meanwhile, has sought out a dwarven bar and spends the night getting drunk and lucky. Come the following morning, he is in much better spirits, having spent some quality time among his own people. He is in too good a mood to let even Edran's tale of Tiny and armor and ridiculous sums of money get him down. He shrugs and agrees to lend the gold to Edran, and they all head off to find Tiny.

Which they do, after a bit of asking around and spreading still more gold around. They find a sleepy Tiny in a back ally apartment. He tells them that it will be a couple of days before the armor can be found but that he needs the gold up front. After a few menacing threats as to what the party will do should Tiny try to screw them, they hand over another 20,000 gold, sure that Edran will have his armor in two days.

At last, they are ready to head back into the giant lair. Sai gathers them near and casts his Teleport, zipping them back into the throne room.

The throne room is weirdly quiet and empty. The heroes head back down the secret escape tunnel used by King Snurre, but this time Thoradin spots a footprint disappearing into the solid stone. Soon they find another secret door and follow the revealed tunnel down stairs into Snurre's treasure chamber where they are immediately attacked by a guardian hydra. But at full health and power, the hydra is no match for the party, and two rounds later the beast lays dead.

Edran sets to work, checking nearly twenty chest, coffers and trunks, setting off a few traps, managing to poison himself and Sai, and even getting bit by several snakes. And while there is loot to be had, it is obvious that someone has picked through these chests, likely taking the best of the lot.

They find yet another secret door that leads into the rear of an armory full of giant sized weapons. Exploring further still, they find a room, it's douple doors open, that must have once been the pen of some sort of monster. Near that room they find another cache of weapons, only this time they find a human sized bow that radiates magic. Selendra realizes with distress that it is her brother's bow. She is newly worried for him and urges the party to make haste.

Leaving the armory they find themselves in a wide east/west hallway. Edran takes off to the west and the rest follow until Sai lets out a warning yelp. The rest turn and see the Chimera running toward them.
Already around a corner to the west, Edran sees a fire giant, and the fire giant sees Edran.

Krote and Edran take on the fire giant while the rest fall back to deal with the chimera, but soon Edran realizes that he is still poisoned from a chest trap and is unable to sneak attack.

Meanwhile, two more fire giants and two more of their servants round the corner, following the chimera and the fight goes from manageable to deadly very quickly. In short order Selendra and Joshua are both taken down. Sai piles on Ice Storms and Thoradin follows them with devastating spells of his own. Edran races back to Thoradin, yelling at him to get rid of the poison in him, which Thoradin does. Edran happily jumps back into the fray... only to find that he is STILL unable to sneak attack. Something is terribly wrong!

A hasted Krote finishes off the first fire giant and charges at the remaining giants as Sai unleashes a maxed, 6th level Lightning Bolt through them, doing terrible damage.

Back and forth the battle rages until the final giant falls. Thoradin quickly casts Mass Heal, but Selendra does not move. Thoradin is forced to use a Revivify to save her before she crosses over to the other side for good. She is grateful, thanking the dwarf for saving her life a second time.

Battered and bruised, but not yet ready to retreat, they gather for more healing (except Edran, who runs off down the south tunnel.

That's where we broke.

It is Harvester 13, roughly 9:00am

Post session notes: A bit of bad news for our group: Ryan, Sai's player, got a new job that has him working on our game night. He's trying to figure a work around or tinker with his work schedule, and we can but hope for the best. For now, I am running Sai as an NPC while taking input on what hhis actions might be from the other players. It works, but obviously it would be better to have him at the table.

A bit of a milestone was reached in this session. When we played AtG 3.5 so long ago it was in Snurre's treasure room where we met our collective end. Fortunately this group survived it.

I've been a bit perplexed over the course of this module about my players general lack of tactics. Up until this adventure the campaign has seen it's share of tough encounters, but I made a conscious decision to ratchet things up considerably with these giants. I've seen plenty of ENWorld forum comments advising not to be afraid to throw very hard encounters at high level PC's; that they are way tougher than most DM's think they are. With that in mind, I've been running the giants as strategically as possible, not to mention maxing out every creature's hit points.

The advice on the boards is, I think, generally correct. This party has faced some extremely robust foes who generally strike from ambush, and have survived thus far.

But... it's no thanks to their own tactics. Every session I sit behind the screen, bemused, as they hurl themselves, headlong, into yet another giant ambush. Given how hard this module has been I'd have thought by now that they'd start to come at it with a little more forethought. After all, they have a powerful wizard and one of the sneakiest beings on the planet with them. I keep waiting for Edran to have Sai turn him invisible so he can go running through the lairs, mapping the whole thing out, noting points of ambush, and giving the party the info they need to either catch the giants flat footed, or circumvent them entirely. Instead, they are fighting tooth and nail through every inch of this thing.

Which is fine. And to be fair, while they are actually in combat, their tactics are pretty good, with the obvious exception of Edran. And that might be the issue: maybe they all just assume Edran is such a loose cannon that they don't even suggest that he recon the place.

I'm at a bit of a quandary regarding this because of Selendra. She is a knight, a professional soldier. Discipline, tactics, and smart combat are her meat and drink, and it's silly to think that she wouldn't suggest such. But still, she's an NPC, and I want the PC's to come to smart conclusions on their own. Having her suggest too much feels a bit like spoon feeding, and at least two of these players have played this game way too long to need a spoon.

I suppose as long as they get through it, it's their choice as to how to do so. For now I'll arbitrate and watch.

On another note, Edran had a dream while in Pellak wherein he was visited by Mad Malexi, a witch of considerable power with whom he is under magical contract. Long story short: she saved his life at one point, and now he owes her. And she is ready to collect.

This whole campaign has revolved around the collection of nine of Tiamat's teeth with which their patron wizard, Annabelle Zane, will construct a scrying artifact that has the ability to scry anyone, anywhere, regardless of magical protections, and can even glimpse the future. Currently the party is in search of the final tooth, which lies somewhere in the giant's lair. Malexi, one of Annabelle's rivals, wants the last tooth, and has commanded Edran to get it for her once they find it or suffer dire and final consequences. It'll be interesting to see what he does.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 13

We start the session with Thoradin gathering the group around him for a healing ritual, although Edran is already on the run. Thoradin shrugs, unwilling to let Edran dictate his actions and begins to cast anyway.

Edran sneaks down the southern hallway and spies a group of gnolls down a westward tunnel. Letting them be, he continues south, back to the throne room, then circling around to find the group once again. He does a little more searching to the west, but finally stays put long enough for Thoradin to cast his ritual and benefit from healing.

Hearing Edran tell of the gnolls, they head down to deal with them, calling out a warning to surrender. The gnolls are having none of it and respond with crossbow fire. But in the end, they are just gnolls, and the party wade into them, soon killing five of them in short order. The last two gnolls drop their weapons and cower for their lives.

From a nearby door comes a call for help, and soon the heroes meet Obmi, the dwarf prince, who has been held prisoner here lo these last twenty-five years. The party is suspicious, but with no good reason not to trust the dwarf, they welcome him into the fold.

From there they head south into the council chambers where Edran attempts to disarm a trap on a chest they find in a hidden alcove. He fails spectacularly and is hit by all six poisoned arrows, taking a gawd awful amount of damage.

After a bit more searching, they decide to move on. Edran tries to open the door to the west, only to have it pulled open as he does so by a fire giant on the other side. The giant pounds Edran mercilessly. Krote steps up, but the giant scores a critical hit, piling on around fifty points of damage. The heroes do manage to kill the giant, but a short rest is called for.

After the rest they head out again, stepping around the dead giant and turning south, discovering the kitchen and storage room. Edran lowers himself via rope down the garbage chute in the kitchen, but at fifty feet the rope isn't long enough to get him to the bottom. Smelling truly terrible, he has Krote pull him back up.

They head north now, following the hall as it then angles to the north/west. Down a side hall they discover a barred door holding another prisoner. This is Gerit, a merchant from Ulek, held here for the last three weeks after his caravan was ambushed by giants. He promises the heroes a hefty reward if they can get him to safety, and so he joins the group. He isn't much of a fighter, but they set him up with a crossbow and tell him to stay towards the rear.

Next they find an empty barracks, devoid of much else but giant belongings. Edran decides to use a recently found wand of Detect Magic, powering it on and racing off to backtrack, searching for any magic they might have missed. He goes full circle through territory they've already trod, but then decides to have a peek behind a set of doors they'd passed earlier. He manages to open the heavy doors, but hears giant voices beyond. In a rare moment of discretion, he hot foots it back to the party, telling them what he found. Thinking to deal with the giants, they follow Edran back to the doorway.

Thoradin, Krote and Edran step through, and are immediately spotted by a giant. The fight is on.

These are the remnants of the upper level giants. The fire giant cook is there, calling out orders to nine fire giant servants and seven gnolls thralls. The servants are not nearly as tough as their fire giant brethren, and Sai takes out most of the gnolls with a well placed Fireball. But under the command of the matron she giant, they use tactics that make them dangerous indeed, falling back to draw the party deeper into the room, attacking from both sides. That, and the fact that Edran is still unable to sneak attack, make the fight much harder than it probably would have been otherwise.

But then things get even worse. Obmi, hanging towards the back, suddenly lashes out at Sai, dropping the wizard with a single axe blow! Krote, meanwhile, is Dominated, and has no choice but to attack Thoradin. It is only when one of the giants hit Krote and cause a lucky save against the spell that he comes out of it.

Edran manages to swipe a healing potion from Krote and races to Sai, dumping the potion down his throat. A very confused Sai Misty Steps back down the hall, trying to get his bearings. Heeding Edran's warnings that Obmi and Gerit are villains, Sai tags Gerit with a Firebolt, only to have it splat against the merchant with no damage at all. Gerit, in fact, merely smiles evilly at Sai.

We had to break there, unfortunately, as it was 11:30. We will start the next session in mid combat.

It is Harvester 13, roughly 11:00am.

Post game notes: An interesting night with the introduction of two nefarious NPC's, and a little bit of error on my part for not properly thinking them through.

Obmi, the assassin dwarf, is fairly easy to deal with. Given his “cell” and all the items he had in his secondary cell, it was a bit of a tough sell to make the PC's buy his story of having been held captive for twenty-five years. Certaily I could have made that shorter, but again, not enough forethought on my part. Still, he was convincing enough that the PC's let him come along.

Gerit is a whole other ball of wax. He is a Rakshasa in disguise, and I am utterly guilty of not having delved into the 5E version of what those guys can do (it's been a busy couple of weeks, give me a break already!). So when I decided that it was time for him to strike, well, it could have gone better.

As a side note, I decided that Obmi and Gerit were at least familiar with one another and snuck in a few hushed conversations as they trailed the exploring party. Gerit is obviously the boss here, and Obmi is firmly in the minion position, at least for now.

As the fight with the giants developed, I had the pair of them hang back with Sai. When it looked as if the battle was at that tipping point where the PC's were set to prevail, they struck, hoping to shift it the other way in hopes of getting into the giant's (and ultimately the drow's) good graces. Obmi scored a crit against an unaware Sai. The doubled sneak attack and poison damage was just enough to put our wizard down.

In the meantime, Gerit used his Dominate Person on Krote, which would have been fine had Krote not been hip deep in giants at the time. His wisdom save is terrible, but what with getting smacked around by giants, he got about three chances to save in the first round of his being Dominated and eventually passed after only beating on Thoradin for a single turn. In hindsight, I should never have had Gerit use that big gun in that situation.

Gerit's second attempt was a Suggestion against Krote, which took hole, but then we got mired in the discussion of what constitutes “reasonable” with regards to what he could actually suggest that Krote do. In the end, he Suggested to Krote that Thoradin was an enemy, secretly in league with the giants, which is very unsatisfying, and not up to Rakshasa standards, I think. It was getting near the end of the night, and right after this discussion we wrapped. I'm actually thinking abut retconning Gerit's last action after doing some more research on rakshasa in general, and digging into Suggestion, which I can't believe is still so poorly and vaguely worded. With forty years to work on it, you'd think a decent version of that spell would have been written by now.

But the problem is largely mine. Rakshasa are obviously not toe-to-toe combat monsters, and Gerit should have way deeper aspirations and machinations than I've given him credit for. In hindsight, I can see that the best thing to do is to have him Planeshift himself and Obmi out of there and reappear later as a much more interesting reoccurring villain. I'd love to blame the module for not hinting at his real motivations, but really, it's on me. The module provides the bones. It's my job to flesh them out.

Oh well, live and learn.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
One other note: I half expected Edran to just jump down the garbage chute in the kitchen. That chute empties into a pool of lava on the second level of the lair, and I'd already decided that if he was reckless enough to do something that dumb it would mean the end of him. He's 14th freaking level, after all. He's been chaos embodied for two years of this campaign, and while I'm all for playing your character as you see fit, at this point the gloves are off. If he kills himself doing something easily avoidable, so be it.

Fortunately, he showed rare caution and actually roped himself off.
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 14

We start the session mid-battle against the fire giant matron, her servants and her wards. We had to retcon a bit when it was discovered that Gerit could not have cast Suggestion against Krote as he was out of range. He instead switched his target to Edran, suggesting that it was of vital importance that Edran kill the matron, which caused Edran to turn his full attention upon her. Krote broke away from the giants to deal with Gerit and Obmi only to have Obmi first deal a heavy wallop to Krote, and then Gerit cast a spell which caused them to disappear.

With the two unknown villains gone, they turn their full attention on the remaining giants and it turns into a very difficult battle indeed, largely because of Edran's inability to sneak attack. Joshua dies, Thoradin is put down, Krote is at a single hit point and is up and down several times, and for a brief moment it looks as if the PC's might have met their match. But they rally, with Selendra cleaving away at giants as Sai exhausts nearly every spell at his disposal, piling on damage.

When the dust clears, the giants lay dead, but the party is forced to hole up in a tiny hut and rest, after which they teleport back to Pellak for even more recuperation. Thoradin Raises Joshua, but it will be a few days before the stout dwarf will be back to full capacity. Even so, he insists they not let him slow them down. So after another day to recover, they teleport back to the lair.

They also finally figure out that it is a collection of six cursed statuettes found in Snurre's treasure chamber that have been causing Edran such grief. He'd been carrying them around with him after their discovery. Thoradin narrowed down the possible culprits at last and quickly tossed the offending relics down the garbage chute.

They follow a downward trending ramp that leads to the lair's second level and are immediately ambushed by ettins, more fire giant servants, the remains of the hill giants who fled with Chief Nosnra, a pair of fire giants, some fire giant young, and Chief Nosnra himself. The giants attack from three directions, strategically pressing and retreating as needed, but the heroes, at full health and capabilities, give as good as they get.

There is a bad moment as Thoradin is grappled by a fire giant who carries the hapless dwarf all the way to their forge, which contains a pool of bubbling lava. Thinking to toss the dwarf into the pool, he very nearly does. It is only with Krote, Edran and Thoradin himself hampering the giant with attacks that the giant goes down mere feet from the lava. A close call indeed.

By the time Thoradin returns to the fight it is all but over. The giants gang up on Krote and take him down to a single hit point, but there is no putting the stout barbarian down completely. With Edran at full sneak attack and Selendra rolling crits right and left, not to mention Sai being able, at last, to heap Fireballs on the many non fire resistant foes, the giants and their kin drop one by one until only Chief Nosnra is standing.

He runs!

The party give chase, hampering him as best they can, but the wily giant makes it to a room down the hall. He staggers in and slams the heavy, iron door, sliding the bolt into place.

The party is furious, especially Thoradin, who rages at the giant chief, calling him every name in the book and threatening horrible consequences if he doesn't come out. Of course Nosnra, safe for the moment, answers with taunts.

And that's where we broke, with the PC's gathered around the door, scarcely able to believe that such a simple thing can stymie them.

It is Harvester 15, roughly 12:30pm
 

cthulhu42

Visitor
Session 15

We start the session with the crew gathered outside the door behind which Chief Nosnra is hiding. The hill giant hurls taunts at the party and for a moment they seem at a loss until Edran rummages through his bag of holding and finds his Marvelous Pigments. He immediately sets about painting a door on the locked door and in a few moments he swings the new door open to let Thoradin march through and confront a very surprised Nosnra.

There is a bit of negotiation which involves Nosnra surrendering and the rest of the party trying to keep Edran from stabbing their new captive, but at last Edran wanders away to explore while the rest of them interrogate the chief.

Nosnra tells them that he no longer has the tooth. He's given it to Snurre, who, in turn, has given it to Eclavdra, a dark elf who, apparently, used it in some sort of mystical rite in a hidden temple. Nosnra explains that the temple is not far away, hidden behind illusionary walls. As much as Thoradin wishes to slay the giant, he's true to his word and sets him free. Nosnra, scarcely able to believe his luck, turns tail and runs up toward the lair's upper level.

In the meantime Edran has discovered a giant burial chamber full of sarcophagi, but much to his dismay his gem seeking sword and magic detecting wand reveal nothing. The rest of the party show up and mention the hidden temple with it's altar, chimes, drum and bell, and Edran takes a keen interestt, first demanding to go directly there, and then demanding to return to Maldrave. The group refuse both demands, electing instead to take a short rest and withhold the information on the temple's whereabouts. Edran shrugs and heads out again to snoop around.

He finds the hall of prison cells and comes first across Jef, who is singing happily behind locked doors. Edran ignores the ogre.

Further investigation finds a young female, human prisoner who names herself as Farrah Gallows. She tells Edran that she had come to the giants lair to steal their treasure but was instead captured. Edran picks the lock of her cell and frees her. She happily follows him back to the rest of the party and introduces herself to their untrusting stares.

With their rest over and Edran's information about the prison hall, they head that way, checking the cells. This time, they free Jef, and he is ecstatic to see Edran again. Edran, not so much.

They find the stairs down to the torture chamber and engage with the torturer and the king's headsman. Selendra is tossed down a 90' well and Thoradin is thrown into an iron maiden. I believe this turn of events upset Ron almost as much as it did Thoradin!

But the pair of giants is no match for the rest of the party, and Krote keeps frustrating the giant's attempts to grapple him for another well toss. In seconds, the two lay dead and the crew quickly free Thoradin and rescue Selendra.

On they go, opening still more cells, releasing a pair of centaurs, eight elf men and an elven noble. They instruct the freed prisoners to await their return, promising to get them back to civilization as soon as they can.

Following the hall, they find a doorway covered with sickly tentacles. It is disconcerting, but they make short work of the things by standing well back and pummeling them with cantrips.

In the meantime, Jef leans against a wall and falls right through it, revealing the hidden temple! Edran is all set to charge on in, but he sighs and heeds the pleas of his friends to deal with what lies beyond the now dead tentacles first.

The revealed rooms are posh and expensively adorned for human sized folk, but otherwise empty. A search finds some treasure and enough clues that the PC's believe this may have been Eclavdra's chamber.

And then it is time to deal with the temple. With a sigh of resignation they follow Edran into the massive chamber and are soon struck with unease at the grizzly wall carvings and the general pall of evil that hangs in the air.

But there is the altar, the drum, the chimes and the bell that Edran has sought for so long. He remembers the words of Annabelle Zane: Edran, do NOT touch the altar, then beat the drum, then strike the chimes, and at all costs, do NOT ring the bell!

Edran rushes forward to do just that.

The rest of the party stand well back, watching in horror, pleading with Edran to stop. Only Jef and Rufus join him near the altar. As he strikes the bell, a resounding tone pierces the temple and reverberates them all to their bones. The far wall goes cloudy, and a gigantic eye breaks through the fog, peering without mercy or soul at the ones who have summoned it.

Madness and death permeate the room. It's effects attempt to take hold of all who are within it. Selendra begins to babble helplessly, staring wide eyed at nothing. Sai is suddenly wracked with pain and his flesh erupts in bloody slashes. He drops to his knees, barely conscious. Jef is overcome with fear and flees back toward the entrance, leaving only Edran and Rufus to face the Elder god.

Tentacles writhe behind and around the eye as it bulges inward, threatening to tear the very fabric of reality. A tentacle whips toward the pair at the altar.

In the blink of an eye, the mottled, grey tentacle wraps itself around Rufus and pulls the dog through. Rufus does not even have time to yelp as the infernal gate closes behind him. All who are able to realize it understand that Rufus, their loyal mascot and canine friend, is gone forever.

“Name your wish!” An otherworldly voice intones.

“I want my dog back!” Edran cries.

The voice is without reason or pity. “The sacrifice has been made. Name your wish!”

And that's where we ended for the night.

It is Harvester 15, roughly 4:00pm.
 

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