D&D General Age of Worms Upgrades - Encounter at Blackwall Keep (Spoilers, don’t read if you’re playing in the campaign!)

TheSword

Legend
So looking back at the Three Faces of Evil chapter of Age of Worms I have a read a lot of the criticism. Firstly the campaign doesnt make sense - there are many inconsistencies of motivation of the three factions of the cult of the Ebon Triad and other NPCs like Balabar Smenk. Secondly the adventure is pretty much a railroad. Three areas tackled one at a time from the same area and the adventure finale happens when the third one is complete. The cult lairs dont really relate to the town above and feel like a missed opportunity.

With that in mind I've made some alterations to the structure of the adventure and the hooks. I'd be really interested people feedback on the changes and whether they make sense. For reference the campaign is set in the Forgotten Realms with Daggerford standing in for Diamond Lake I have a party of four. A dwarf paladin of Tyr; a human rogue who is a member of the local garrison; a dwarf transmuter; and a human cleric of Helm. The Whispering Cairn chapter went well. The PCs killed Filge and Burnt down the observatory recovering the worm sample and the letter to Smenk. They also successfully explored the cairn and have returned to Daggerford with a fair amount of treasure. The party have formed the strongest relationship with the local wizard Allustan, to whom they sold a baby owlbear. I had already planted a few seeds on a previous visit to Daggerford.
  1. The local wizard Allustan was concerned about break ins as two passing wizards have been robbed. (The rogue arranged for some soldiers from the garrison to earn some extra gold guarding his house)
  2. The local temple of Ilmater was broken into and several items were stored from their vault. They have been very quiet about what was taken.
I changed the three temples in town. Heironious to Helm (to match the PC priest), St Cuthbert to Ilmater; and Wee Jas to Kelemvor. Other than that Daggerford is Diamond Lake as written just with a town wall and a river instead of a lake.

There are several rumours circulating town when the PCs return at the start of the chapter
  1. The guards the rogue arranged to watch Allustan's house were pulled back to the garrison due to a number of desertions.
  2. Almost a dozen guards have deserted over the last ten days or so from the garrison. Mostly they are a bad bunch and responsible for two thirds of the garrisons disciplinary cases. No one at the gates saw them leave.
  3. Farms surrounding the town are abandoned, no sign of the inhabitants.
  4. The previous high priest of Helm, Father Keoghtom, was cast out of the Temple as a heretic by the orders of the Church Heirarchy in Waterdeep. His replacement Father Theldrick conducted the inquiry and cast the old priest out. He then disappeared. Theldrick informed the temple that Father Keoghtom had gone senile following his excomunication and wandered off into the hills. (Keoghtom was the PC priests mentor).
  5. Tidwoad the jeweller is desperate for gems to sell. In particularly amethyst, jet and carnelion.
  6. Tidwoad the jeweller is desperate for gems to sell. In particularly amethyst, jet and carnelion.
The adventure begins properly with bells ringing in the night.

When the priest visit reports to Theldrick about the disappearances at the Garrison, Theldrick berates the PC for involving himseff and the church with grave robbing, murder and arson. He states that he has been having them watched (appropriate for Helm but not in the spirit of the god of protection). He points out that Necromancy is not illegal in Daggerford and that several council members want to see them punished for their crimes. Theldrick asks for the PCs oath to Helm not to leave Daggerford until the council has made its decision.

Brother Randolph a perambulating priest of Helm that supports the farmsteads and villages in the area has returned to town after searching the hills. He is convinced Keoghtom is true to Helm and searches the hills for him. He has seen the abandoned farmsteads. He intends to travel to Waterdeep and petition the Temple Heirarchy to understand Keoghtom's heresy.

The Garrison Sergeant that authorised the rogue's leave of absence to explore the Whispering Cairn needs her back. He agrees to keep her return quiet for a few days so she can explore the defections but she should keep a low profile.

At the end of the PCs first night in town the bells start ringing all across town. The Govenor Mayor Lanod Neff (Allustan's Brother has been killed in the night) Guards arround the house saw nothing but it was a new moon and the house was dark.

The monthly council meeting is called forward to elect a new Mayor. The PCs are expected to attend to consider their case. Allustan asks them to accompany him as he was made an councillor-adjunct by his brother with a seat on the council, he just rarely attended. At the council several matters are discussed that the PCs were partly aware of. Disappearances, defections, the murder of Neff, and the PCs burning of the observatory. Balabar Smenk wants them arrested and convicted. Theldrick is not much help. The PCs get the chance to make their case. They can either convince the council on their merits or at worst case Allustan will lie and say his brother appointed him to deal with magical threats to the town and that the PCs were acting on his direct orders. Smenk's connection to Filge is revealed either by the PCs letter or following questioning. Theldrick demands the garrison reduce patrols in the countryside to properly guard the town gates and prevent further defections. Most of the watch is also directed to the gates as the only way in and out. Only Theldrick knows that he has his own ways of getting in and out of the city.

The council ends with the selection of a Mayor. Smenk is the richest mine owner. Ragnolin Dourstone supports him reluctantly (blackmailed). Zalandra from the Emporium supports him (largest customer). Sheriff Cubin supports him (Bribed). Suprisingly Theldrick supports him on the pretense that he is the most successful mine owner and the town needs stability (Really just part of a bargain Smenk made with the cult). The churches of Daggerford always vote as a block so the priest of Ilmater supports Smenk too.

However the priest of Kelemvor refuses to vote with the others in a break from tradition due to Smenks association with a necromancer. The four other mine owners refuse to support him. The garrison commander Trask abstains as is his policy not to intefere with interna town matters. Finally Allustan refuses to support him. All but commander Trask all vote for Luzanne Parrin. Brought to a tie, Smenk tries to claim that Allustan isnt a council member because he was appointed as special advisor and asks the council to have him removed. Allustan would not be able to vote in such a motion. However Allustan points out that only a major can appoint or remove a sepcial councillor. Tilgast as the oldest member confirms that this is the case and in the case of a draw the council defers the decision by one week. Smenk leaves enraged, as does Theldrick. The aim at this point is for Theldrick to be an absolute S.O.B but not to do anything to make them think he is evil, per se. Just corrupt.

After the meeting the Garrison Commander summons the rogue. He appoints her as a special liason between the Garrison and the town, citing the unusual occurances. Allustan has requested urgent assistance after investigating the worm they found at the observatory. The commander also wants the PCs to investigate the farm disapperances - barefoot humanoid tracks leading back to town. He also has found a copy of a chapbook called the Way of the Ebon Triad in one of their rooms. The commander thinks something untoward is linking the defections. The PCs also know something is amiss in the Dourstone Mine.

If they aquit themselves well. After the council meeting the Church of Ilmater will be more accessible. The high priest will confide her reluctance to support Smenk, but that Theldrick has promised extra guards following the break in. Several items were stolen, relics of three churches Bane, Myrkul and Bhaal that the church has secured in their vault. The church suffered the prensence of their evil in their temple for that is the way of Ilmater, to suffer that which others cannot.

If amenable, Smenk may reach out the PCs to try and find Merrovin Bask who the PCs separated from Kullen's gang and beat up to find the location of the bodies in Whispering Cairn. Merrovin has gone missing and Smenk wants him back. Smenk will approach the PCs and say that he thinks someone his targeting his peope. He will be very cagey but will mention the old mine outside of town. After the two temples are defeated. Smenk comes to the PCs with brusies on his neck and throws a strangler on the table sent by the Faceless one. He will explain about the cult but in such a way as to make him a victim. He will explain that the Faceless one paid him for the shipment in amethysts. Giving them away as if they were nothing.

The three temples are not connected to the temple with locked doors, but instead with two way portals - a brazier into which powdered dust is flung. Jet for the Arena of Bane. Carnellion for the caverns of Bhaal. The laboratory of Myrkul is hidden behind a cunningly hidden door. The brazier there is not magical and nothing they throw in the brazier will work. There are two deserters (now cult guards) guarding the catherdral. If interogate they can reveal information about the arena of Bane.

The temple of Bane is actually beneath the temple of Helm. Theldrick is really a priest of Bane who has been enticing recruits from disaffected soldiers and town unworthies. They stay in the arena of Bane's barracks and receive supplies sent down the elevator to the cathedral by Dourstone and Smenk. They form the bulk of the cult and are their human agents when needed. I have replaced the boar with a max hp Basalisk because its more fun. Also added a series of portcullises that corral the basalisk to the arena. These are controlled at several points, including the platform above. The following links lead to the Temple of Bane. If confronted Theldrick will try to escape.
  • The cultists in the dourstone mine if interrogated could lead to the temple
  • Becoming suspicious of Theldrick and searching the temple of Helm could reveal the entrance to the Arena
  • The shortage of jet Tidwoad mentioned is a clue to opperating the brazier of Bane.
  • Mad Grallak Kur can offer crytic clues to location of the temple of Bane - "The Black Fist Wears a Steel Gauntlet."
  • Randolph will return after 10 days with an escort of Helm soldiers to arrest Theldrick as a liar and an apostate.
The entrance to the Grimlock caverns is in an abandoned mine that Smenk once used to dump bodies and for storage. The grimlocks broke through into the mines from their caves following Gralluk Kur's visions. It is their main route into and out of town without anyone knowing. The grimlock caverns are linked to the Cathedral by a brazier that uses powdered Carnelion. The following clues lead to the Grimlock caverns
  • Footprints lead towards the town but also towards the mine. These can be tracked with difficulty (DC 15) all the way to the mine.
  • Investigating Lanod Neff's house following the murder reveals muddy footprints, it is iron rich slag runoff.
  • Small amounts of red power can be found on the ground next to the brazier in the cathedral.
  • Tidwoad can confirm a shortage of carnelion gems... though he gets a shipment in the next day.
  • If the PCs get too close to the cult activities Grallak Kur sends Grimlock Rangers to take them, either to the temple of the bane if subdued or to his own caves if not. If killed the Grimlocks also have the iron slag runoff on their feet.
The entrance to the Faceless One's laboratory is behind a secret door though there is a normal brazier in front of it to maintain the illusion. There are three Kenku spell thieves inside the maze. I will ask the players to call out distractions using the whisper function. The maze will be used as a single encounter with sliding walls to isolate the PCs. This will be very effective with a VTT and line of sight I think. Should be a very creepy combat. Particularly for the wizard and rogue. Inside the lab is the Faceless one and Keoghtom who was taken by Theldrick. The faceless one is testing the process of worm embedding on the old priest using a potion of slow disease (a concotion of his own unique creation). The priest is conscious but very exhausted and near death. The worm can be seen moving under the old man's skin. After the Faceless one is defeated the old man tells the party that the worm imeddding can't be cured by normal means once the worm deep in the tissue. He has an ointment in his chambers that might help, it is potent against all diseases. Lesser restoration and paladin lay on hands won't cure the corruption at 4th level. (Only a lesser restoration boosted to 4th level or 25 points of lay on hands healing can cure the worms), or of course a dose of Keoghtom's ointment. The lab only has one more potion remaining enough to keep Koeghtom alive for six more hours. Keoghtom has a pot of his ointment in a book in his old office (Now Theldrick's). He will urge the PCs to save it for themselves and says that they will need it in the future. Including the potion. Clues to the Faceless One's Laboratory is as follows.
  • Grallak Kur says that "The Faceless One Lies Behind Deception" a clue to the fact that the Faceless One's lair is behind a hidden door, not the brazier.
  • The party may hear a grinding noise if they are in the temple when the Kenku enter or leave
  • Theldrick's journal states that he was told the Faceless One's brazier uses amethyst powder. There is no sign of amethyst powder in the alcove.
  • The Kenku Rogues will be sent to try and kill the party if they defeat the first two temples and haven't found the Faceless One's lair.
  • A dead body of a Kenku won't have amethyst's or any gems.
  • A captured Kenku will reveal the secret if persuaded.
  • If the party have a barbed strangler and travel through one of the portals then it will messilly explode as the animating magic reacts with the creature. Suggesting the Faceless one's servants dont use portals.
The Faceless One's death triggers the birth of the Ebon Aspect that now blocks their escape from the Cathedral.

As a final denoument. Unless the PCs made friends with Smenk. When the PCs reach the temple of Helm to find the ointment Smenk has sent the rest of Kullen's gang to get revenge on the party. At this point they should be easy to defeat.

The Adventure ends with the repeat Council Meeting. Without Theldrick the Smenk has 2 votes. Zalandra and Dourstone (1 if Dourstone is implicated in the cult). However the PCs can sway things the other way if they want. Their influence can persuade Allustan, the temples and even the Garrison commander which will be enough to swing the council to whomever they want. I wan the PCs to have an investment in the town... all the more rewarding when Ilthane returns to destroy it in chapter 6.

Anyway lots of thoughts there. Any feedback is much appreciated!!!
 

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GuyBoy

Hero
I’m not familiar with this campaign so it is hard to comment on specifics. Having said that, the level of work you have put in on making the changes for your group shows immense dedication.
 

TheSword

Legend
I’m not familiar with this campaign so it is hard to comment on specifics. Having said that, the level of work you have put in on making the changes for your group shows immense dedication.
I learnt from the best. Don’t worry though, this one isn’t for you so you’re not spoiling anything. I’d love to run the group through it, but I’ve already DM’d the first five chapters for Pete and his brother. While Ryan can’t remember what happened in a campaign 3 months after it ended, Pete never forgets!

It’s the same with Rise of the Runelords, I know Nick ran at least three or through chapters of it with you all. I’m just at the section with the Hillbilly ogres with my Leicester online group and I must say I’m having fun with the Graul farmhouse! It’s a shame these classic campaigns can only come once in a group. A bit like Pete missing Curse of Strahd, and me missing Night Below and Savage Tide.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
The Graul farmhouse is epic. Truly revolting.
I’m happy with the epic-ness rating of the two campaigns we are engaged in right now.
I keep hoping Night Below will get a revamp for the 50th Anniversary; I’d jump at the chance to run that again.
 

TheSword

Legend
So The Three Faces of Evil went very well. Not quite as expected but I was really happy with. Lots of improvisation meant that things didn’t quite go as expect. Yet nevertheless all three cults were dispatched and the Avatar of the Overgod banished.

How it concluded.

- The party found the Faceless One’s lair with an unlikely natural 20 search of the secret door. Therefore they defeated him early on. He melted to ice, suggesting that he was a simulacrum, defaced so as not to be identifiable. The Faceless one implicated Theldrick but only circumstantually. They already hated Theldrick because he was an ass to the Pc Cleric in the same temple, so this prejudiced them even more.

- The party we’re summoned to a council meeting where Theldrick accused the party of arson and murder in burning down the observatory. The PCs had a good case and had the support of Allustan (building that relationship) and the temple of Kelemvor. It was agreed to withhold judgement until after the events were fully investigated.

- That evening Smenk did a deal with PCs after convincing them that he could be trusted so far as he would act in his own best interests… which included making Daggerford as prosperous as possible. In exchange for material evidence implicating Thurrick the PCs would support his bid for Mayor with the council. The wording of that support was carefully agreed (a bit like a negotiated reference).

- The Grimlocks ambushed the party in the dark as they returned home after meeting Smenk. It became clear that the grimlocks also killed the mayor… based on their tracks and seeing in the dark.

- With Smenks evidence Thurick was unmasked as a traitor and retreated to his lair beneath the temple of Helm, the PCs defeated him after a really challenging fight.

- Balabar Smenk was elected Lord Mayor.

- The party entered the grim lock tunnels through the brazier and soon realized that Grallak Kur being the last prophet of the Overgod wanted to die. Their encounter with him then ended up trying to keep him alive. They managed to fend of grimlocks and get him back through the portal. In the temple Grallak Kur kept trying to bash his head on the stone floor so the Pc priest tried to knock him unconscious. However rolled a natural crit so killed him instead this awakening the overgod anyway… it was very memorable.

Now on to Encounter at Blackwall Keep. The Party are third level and have a fair bit of treasure at this point. The last session ended with the party contracted as special agents of Captain Tolivar Trask to find out what has happened to the Garrison on the edge of the Lizard Marshes. Allustan will accompany them as one of his apprentices Marwenna is stationed there. This is also near where the rumours of worm riddled zombies came from.
 

TheSword

Legend
So I have seen a lot of criticism of Encounter at Blackwall Keep…

1. Allustan running away for reinforcements is pretty cowardly, damaging the reputation he has built up with the party to this point, and reducing the likelihood they would want to help him in the future. Plus reinforcements means that the PCs can just hold their own and other folks will save the day… Daggerford / Diamond Lake isn’t far at all.

2. The Lizard Folk are trivially easy to overcome as written meaning they pose next to no threat… not very satisfying.

3. Kobald ninjas defending the Lizardfolks eggs is a bit anachronistic. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

4. A lot of the behind the scenes info, is never revealed… even when it is supposed to be revealed later on.

5. Why is Shushak the mighty lizard king not part of the attack on Blackwall Keep.

So I’ll be making a lot of changes. Soon to post. The first session of the next module is tomorrow night… so I’d better get a wriggle on… no pun intended!
 
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TheSword

Legend
I’ve broken the adventure down into several phases. Here are the first two.

Getting In: Whereby the PCs travel to Blackwall Keep and confront the Lizardfolk Picket.

I’m gonna start the adventure with a combat to keep things spicy. An ambush with the lizard king’s favored son and six lizardfolk. I’m sticking with the theme that Ilthane has enhanced the Lizardking to half dragon status and his children carry that bloodline… so acid breath and tougher scales, stronger hitting etc. The son will speak a tiny bit of common… enough to be belligerent and say this is twisted branch land. Human trespassers will die. The fight should be relatively straightforward but show the strength of the half-dragons.

Arriving at the pickets they will see something is amiss. Blackwall is scarred and the PCs can see a lizardfolk assault repulsed in the distance. Now there are three camps around the keep blocking the the way in. The main one in the center is the lizard kings and covers the main route up to the keep. The second is the shaman’s and covers the left hand most waterlogged side. The kings other favored son runs the camp to the east which guards the cave entrance. The north side is sheer cliff and practically impossible to attack. Each camp will be more than the PCs can handle in this status even with fireball. There are dozens of lizardfolk in each one, along with shaman and enhanced lizard folk known for now as blackscales more half dragon lizardfolk.

Defeating the camps isn’t necessary at this point. Though any lizardfolk killed may benefit the later parts in the adventure. In particular killing or disabling named characters. If the PCs want they can run a guerrilla fight against the camps to the same effect as the later siege. If enough lizard folk/black scale lizard folk are killed, or if the lizard king is wounded the lizard folk will break off the siege and retreat back to their village. Allowing the PCs to explore the keep without the threat of siege. Though any camp they make in the swamps will be at great risk, and there are more lizardfolk than they can hope to defeat in one go.

Getting to the doors of the keep in a running battle will be enough for the guards to help repel the Lizardfolk and for them to get inside. Though it may be a tough fight. The players are free to use any tricks and stratagems they can think of to sneak past or distract the Lizardfolk camps.

At this point, the full strength of the lizard folk tribe has marched on Blackwall keep. Why? Two reasons. Firstly the chief has told the tribe that a worm monster lives in the keep… the same worm monsters that destroyed the tribes eggs. The grand shaman has reluctantly confirmed this with the auguries. Secondly the lizard king has said that the humans have a sword of lizard slaying (partially true but the sword is actually a sword of dragon slaying. Ilthane knows of it and has commanded the sword be returned, both to prevent it being used on her and also to recruit its master - more on that later. The king doesn’t tell the tribe this, just that the humans have a sword of lizard slaying. The shaman reluctantly promised the same.

Reinforcing Blackwall: Whereby the PCs explore the keep and use resources to shore up the defenses.

This is where the Allustan and the PCs come into their own. The keep has 14 surviving guards… I’ll keep this the same. 12 are regular guards and 2 veterans. (1 veteran, and 6 more guards were killed in the first surprise attack, and a further 3 guards and Marwenna were captured in the first raid) The Lord Captain of the tower is quarantined in his rooms, the keeps Chaplain died in an accident.

The original keep was deadly boring, apart from the thing in the cellar, so I’m using the map of the Keep from Seafoot games. It has a great underground area which I’m repurposing into crypts and some battlements which are great for a siege fight. There are three key areas the PCs can explore.

Marwenna’s Lab: A basic wizards lab with lots of notes on the lizard folk, and a couple of a spell scrolls and a dodgy looking potion that Marwenna notes as dangerous. There is also a scrying mirror gifted to her by Allustan that he can use scry the camps - useful! There are notes inside that detail the Captain condition.

The Captains Room: The previous Captain has taken I’ll after drinking a potion gifted to him by the Lizardfolk. One week before the attack a tribute was brought by two Lizardfolk. It consisted of several deer, a large amount of fish, some bone necklaces and three potions of strength. The potions were in ornate silver vials. They were said to be a gift from the lizard king. The Captain drank one in order to help repair the and a few days later fell ill. The chaplain attended him (a junior priest of Helm) but on the fifth day the Captain got up from his sickbed and bashed the chaplains skull in. The soldiers, unable to reason with the Captain locked him in his rooms and have barricaded both it and the room beyond.

The soldiers don’t know what to do, but have removed all light from the entry room as the Captain seems to react badly to the light outside the room. Of course the tribute was a ploy by the lizard king and the soldiers know it weakened the keep.
The last area is the crypts beneath the tower. The only people who went there were the Chaplain and the Lord Captain. It had an ill reputation among the guards as haunted. While secured with strong doors the guards won’t stand on watch down there so it is a potential weak spot. They do have keys though.

The crypt is in fact haunted. The inspiration for this section came from a very old copy of Ruins of Myth Drannor! A previous lord commander who built the keep, was a famed dragon slayer who had a powerful magic sword. He is buried in the crypts beneath the keep.

His weapon was a magic sword +1 sword/+2 vs reptiles/+3 vs dragons called dragonslayer. Dealing an extra 2d6 damage against dragons. The sword is also an intelligent weapon and can cast the spell protection from energy without concentration 1 per day. It’s purpose is to slay dragons. The sword is in truth named Dragons Lair and is the phylactery of a dracolich. What better way for a dracolich’s spirit to find a new dragon corpse to inhabit than to have its phylactery kill one. What this means effectively is that any dragon the character kills in the campaign (there are a lot) could come back as a dracolich. It sets up the backstory for the end game well with Dragotha, and gives the Pc a difficult decision of using the sword or not when they work out what is happening. I love the play on words of the phrase Dragons Lair.

When the PCs head down to the crypts for the first time they see the door to the caved beneath carved in and lizard folk corpses all over the room, sliced to ribbons. The crypts are closed again. The lord commander and his three subsequent commanders are wights that protect the resting place of the sword. They incidentally will also protect the crypts from lizardfolk siege.

The Wight will only give the sword to a lord commander of the tower. If the PCs have defeated the existing commander they might be able to convince him that one of them is the acting lord commander. With a cryptic warning that sometimes killing isn’t the answer or words to that effect. The commanders are a tough foe and undead and if the PCs defeat them for the sword they will lose the protection they provide for the crypts. This sword is also the main reason the lizard folk are attacking the keep. Giving the PCs a way to end the siege without further risk to the guards. If they do take the sword though the wights crumble to dust. So either way, take the sword and that entry to the crypt is vulnerable.

Allustan will support however the PCs want and will remark that he has enough diamond dust to cast glyph of warding twice in the keep. He will ask the party where they wish him to place them as he is no tactician. He can also place four alarm spells at locations they suggest (regaining the slots with arcane recovery). He will then offer to scry on one of the camps - saving the rest of his magic in case of an attack. Finally he can cast wall of stone to reinforce the east wall that is badly damaged. Or another place the PCs suggest. Allustan is a sage, not a warrior wizard though he will use his magic carefully. He didn’t reach this age by taking undue risks and using up all his magic. By using Allustan’s highest slots for scrying and wall of stone I hope I can reduce his impact on the siege, while also tying him up while the PCs deal with the crypt and the commander. At the same time keeping him useful and a good friend to the PCs.

With these three areas, after exploring the second an attack will be triggered. A lesser shaman will entangle the roof guards and cast levitate to raise a lizardfolk with ropes up onto the roof and start attacking the guards posted up there. A group of five lizardfolk will try and take the roof. The attack will fail with the intervention of the PCs but it will hopefully get them to consider the use of magic in both attending and defending the keep.

That’s probably enough to get through tonight’s session. The siege can continue in my next post.

As always, feedback and suggestions are appreciated.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
So I have seen a lot of criticism of Encounter at Blackwall Keep…
If these are the criticisms you're seeing, they're easily answered.
1. Allustan running away for reinforcements is pretty cowardly, damaging the reputation he has built up with the party to this point, and reducing the likelihood they would want to help him in the future. Plus reinforcements means that the PCs can just hold their own and other folks will save the day… Daggerford / Diamond Lake isn’t far at all.
I don't know that I'd consider it cowardly. Rather, it places the focus on the PCs where it should be, not the relatively powerful (at this point) NPC while giving him a credible reason to do the prudent thing. The reason the PCs can't just 'hold their own' until reinforcements arrive is because the lizardfolk attackers hauled off live hostages, including the wizard colleague of Allustan's. Heroes who turtle up and wait days for reinforcements aren't very good heroes.
2. The Lizard Folk are trivially easy to overcome as written meaning they pose next to no threat… not very satisfying.
Depends a lot on how the PCs approach them and how you play them. Lizard folk aren't the toughest of opponents, no. But that's OK.
3. Kobald ninjas defending the Lizardfolks eggs is a bit anachronistic. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.
What's anachronistic about kobold rogues? I'm not seeing it.
4. A lot of the behind the scenes info, is never revealed… even when it is supposed to be revealed later on.
So look for opportunities to reveal it. Do your players never talk to NPCs?
5. Why is Shushak the mighty lizard king not part of the attack on Blackwall Keep.
Kings send their officers to attack things. Leading in the field is Kushak's job along with Shesht.
 

TheSword

Legend
Thanks for the feedback.

My personal feeling is that adventures have changed and the style of adventure I run has changed. I try and inject more mystery/strategy into them and less dungeon crawl. I also like to create more opportunities for debate and choice in an adventure.

Allustan I think shouldn’t run away and leave the PCs to deal with a lizard man army themselves when he could make a meaningful difference. It isn’t in the character the way I play him. The changes I made were to allow the PCs to shine and simultaneously build a sense of connection with Allustan that will make them tackle a dragon to find him later.

Secondly in both the adventure and my version Daggerford is a day’s ride from the keep. Reinforcements only takes two days max. I want to enjoy the siege not to rush it, but I also don’t want Allustan and the Lords Alliance to solve the problem for the PCs.

Unfortunately I can’t abide trivial combats - particularly a set piece such as the siege. basic lizardfolk just aren’t a challenge. As written there is nothing stopping the players heading out and slaughtering the Lizardfolk en mass in one go… they have fireball etc. I’d like them to use some tactics, display some problem solving and add some leadership to the siege. I think my players will enjoy that more.

I’ll talk about Ninja Kobalds and the background and how it could be revealed in a later post. Let’s just say the sole lizard folk character able to provide exposition in the adventure as written is the shaman Hishak - who the party only meet in the lair, after having fought and probably killed 60% of the Lizardfolk tribe - who at that point they have every reason to kill.
 
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Quartz

Hero
His weapon was a magic sword +1 sword/+2 vs reptiles/+3 vs dragons called dragonslayer. Dealing an extra 2d6 damage against dragons. The sword is also an intelligent weapon and can cast the spell protection from energy without concentration 1 per day. It’s purpose is to slay dragons. The sword is in truth named Dragons Lair and is the phylactery of a dracolich. What better way for a dracolich’s spirit to find a new dragon corpse to inhabit than to have its phylactery kill one... I love the play on words of the phrase Dragons Lair.

Yoink!
 

TheSword

Legend
So. We are two sessions into the third book and I thought I would share events with y’all.

First session.

The adventure started as the heroes made preparations to leave Daggerford. A bit of buying and selling and Thurrick researched some methods to make magical leather armour for Mae.

As the PCs travelled to Blackwall Keep they were ambushed into the swamp by a patrol and one of the lizard kings sons. A nasty half dragon lizardfolk brute. With a nasty acid breath weapon and higher AC and strength/hp etc. It was a tough fight and demonstrated the Lizardfolk weren’t to be trifled with. But they prevailed.

When they reached the keep they realized that something was seriously wrong. Three camps of lizardfolk around the keep with patrols between. The heroes resolved to fly to the castle. One drinking a potion of fly, and Allustan and Thurrick casting the spell once each. They did have to leave a fair bit of camping gear, rope etc behind as the carrying capacities for fly are pretty tough.

Inside the keep they were greeted warmly and given free run of the place. Informed the mage is missing, the lord commander is under quarantine and the tombs below the keep are a risk.

Second Session.

The PCs visited the crypts first and found the tombs… and a few sliced up lizardfolk. Approaching the open tomb of the original lord commander the sword rises up and the PCs hear a dry voice say, this is the resting place of the sword Dragonslair. A curse on all who try to take it save the commander of this keep, who must themselves swear to protect it. A great history roll revealed the name of the original Lord commander and founder of the keep who slew many dragons but was eventually slain by a dracolich who he slew in turn.

The Partt decided to bypass the current commander and headed for the captured mages lab. They found a spell book which Thurrick opened triggering a glyph of warding with a suggestion spell in. “Go to the Lord Commander and tell him you’re a trespasser and a thief and beg for his mercy.” Thurrick failed his save and then determined to break the quarantine and present himself. Which he duly did. The rest of the party tried to stop him, but when he tried to smash the window they resolved to let him and try and keep him safe.

Unfortunately the PCs ignored the warnings of tbe duty guard and when he took down the barricade and opened the door to the antechamber and proceeded across the dark room to the bedroom beyond the door was yanked open and the Spawn leaped out at him. It was scary because spawn of kyuss are brutal in combat. But also funny because Horris grappled and yanked him away before he could present himself to the wormy commander and state the words (which Horris did know were needed). He tried to re-barricade the door. They picked a worm off Thurrick and stomped it. And Duncan used his twilight aura so Thurrick could end the suggestion.

At that point I rolled a natural 20 on the commanders attempt to burst the door out (I love when this stuff happens - particularly on Roll20). We then had an epic battle with the commander almost infecting another guard before several blows and acid breath took it down. The rest of the guards were dismayed and explained about the potion gifts from the Lizardfolk before the troubles started. The potions were fetched and given to the PCs to investigate.

Then a guard runs in and says the keep is under attack. We had a great little defensive fight with the PCs manning arrow slits (and Horris misty stepping outside to defend the single file route to the posters gate). Six lizard folk and a black scale half dragon lizardfolk attacked the main doors (and Horris). It was really close they almost broke through. Bringing the door down to 7 hp before they managed to defeat everyone. The acid breath was really tough on the door. Thurrick started to mend the door.

The party approached the two servants at the changing of the watch and explained the need to choose a new commander and that whoever they picked needed to help them get the sword from the crypts. Both sergeants balked and suggested a battlefield promotion for one of the PCs just until the siege was ended (hoping to keep the party here for the duration of the siege). Horris agreed and was given the seal of the keep.

After giving Allustan suggestion to use magic the wall off tbe damaged wall section with his magic the PCs resolved to get some sleep while they can.

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Both sessions were really fun. It’s a tactical party but they roleplay really well and the suggestion spell impact was hilarious. And then suddenly very scary. Couldn’t have asked for better.
 

stebehil2

Explorer
I recall someone from paizo commenting on the too easy fight against the lizard folk at the siege. It was supposed to be easy, to give the PCs a break and allow them to show off their new 5th level powers.
 

TheSword

Legend
I recall someone from paizo commenting on the too easy fight against the lizard folk at the siege. It was supposed to be easy, to give the PCs a break and allow them to show off their new 5th level powers.
I think there is a lot of credit to this approach. I just think helping defend in a siege is too good an opportunity to solve with a couple of fireballs… probably why this campaign is taking six or seven sessions per adventure instead of 2 or 3 😂
 
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stebehil2

Explorer
I guess so. Each installment should be good for quite a number of sessions, especially if the players are somewhat invested in Diamond Lake for the first three parts - which they should be.
 

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