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5E Castlevania campaign log

J-H

Explorer
This is a campaign log of a Castlevania-based campaign I put together, focused heavily on being a dungeon-crawl. This has been my first time DMing, and I'd only gotten to play in person maybe half a dozen times before that. I have done a lot of reading on DMing and have run a few PBP games, so I didn't really walk into this a newbie.

I have been told that I need to take all the stuff I've written up for the actual campaign and post it on DM's Guild or similar when it's done. Most of the monsters and some of the magic items the party has found are homebrewed. We're using milestone leveling with a levelup and free long rest after each boss fight. It's been 2-3 sessions between levelups, with what I've built generally following the XP guidelines (+-15%) for a party of 5. PHB races only, 27 point buy, starting level 3.

This game started last summer, and as of posting (5/9/20) is about 3 sessions away from finishing. The party gets to level up to 13 after defeating Dracula and leaving the castle.
 

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J-H

Explorer
5/16/19 – 1st session

7 players! 3rd level start.



1 sorc, 1 arcane trickster, 1 Battlemaster fighter, 1 Life cleric, 1 Paladin, 1 Barbarian (of some sort that gets +radiant damage), 1 rogue/fighter.



Over half of the character sheets were made at the table, so we lost some time there. The party decided to bash through the front gate, and then split up to engage the two patrols of skeletons. They defeat the skeletons handily, although some take damage. The two roguish types mostly don’t participate, exploring the building nearby.



The group then splits into 3: The sorcerer and the rogue/fighter go check the next center building, while the other two groups check the buildings towards the edge. Both groups decide not to do anything with the buildings full of bats. The sorc & rogue check the inside of the building, even lighting it up, but fail to spot anything (a DC 15 perception check would have let them look through roof boards to spot the skeletons hiding motionless on top, but they didn’t get it). The 3 sneak-attacking ambusher skeletons jump them as they move towards the right group, doing substantial damage to the fighter/rogue (I think he dropped to 3 in this fight). They run towards the right group, which deals with the skeles. The left group runs to help, but is too far away. They start taking fire from the keep, and everyone abandons the search (missing the building with 2 healing potions and a giant spider).



The group moves up through the keep, easily splattering the two skeletons on the top floor. They pretty easily figure out that the half-skeleton impaled by a spear-sized arrow was put there by a ballista, and some good stealth rolls let them grab the loot from under it. They try to trick the skeletons into firing early, but fail, as the skeletons are ordered to wait for a good target (in their ADA role). The Paladin runs on up to make himself visible, and people stack up in the stairs or hide behind him. The ballista fires and misses by 2, and the skeletons are killed before they can fire again.


The group then checks the basement, where hilarity ensues as nobody can land a single attack roll against the swarm of venomous snakes for about 2 rounds aside from the battlemaster, who plays very conservatively and pours oil on them from the stairs (it gets lit, 10 total damage). The group then takes a long rest, getting to watch a dragon fly overhead, get shot at by ballista bolts, and then get forced down and way off to the side. There are some mutterings about maybe helping it, but I don’t plan for it to show up again…. But they now have evidence of why a strategic aerial assault is a bad idea!



We ran a bit low on time on the next part – I need to review # of encounters and compress a bit to fit everything into a night, as the game ran for 4.5 hrs and I want to keep it at 4. They ascend into the valley, taking the central route. The group splits into three AGAIN, and the ones who lag behind (cautious) get attacked by 4 vampire bats. The bats actually land some decent hits despite being stirges with 8hp each.



They twig on to the skeletal brontosaurus creature I described (no name given, just description). The fighter/rogue sneaks towards it, and makes a perception check to see 3 skeletal velociraptors stalking him. He runs back to the group, and the raptors are killed quickly. The group then decides that they have a one-in-one-hundred year shot at killing a gargantuan creature, so they take a quick break while I find a stat block for one. I use a brachiosaurus block I found online, but remove the natural armor and increase dex by 2 (AC still only 9). They kill it with the barbarian tanking damage…action economy is against it.



After this, they go and encounter the boss. I bump boss hp by 50% on the fly, and add a skeletal mage (with +50% Hp) and a regular skeleton. The Javelin of Lightning knocks the cleric to 0 and gets their attention! The skeleton mage goes down first, then the regular skeleton, then the horse, then the boss. Because I’m using the horse’s mobility, there’s a lot of running around chasing it and trying to reposition. The fighter/rogue likes to sneak, then use his whip at 10’ range to proc sneak attack. The Battlemaster (a halfling) uses a lot of time sneaking around on the open field and generally not being useful. The sorc pretty much just used chaos bolt, magic missile, and fire bolt.



At no time in the entire session did any of the monsters have to make a saving throw of any time. There was zero crowd control usage.



I skip the very last encounter (6 disembodied horse heads in the stables) and identify the loot for them.



Top lessons:

  • I have a party that wants to smash down doors, kill big monsters, and ignore warnings. Plan accordingly.
  • Big damage gets their attention. Spell/AOE damage is the only thing that reliably hits. Give multiattack out more freely.
  • I need to prep spell descriptions for spellcasters instead of having to look them up.
  • Instead of one large enemy, use 3 medium enemies, or have a “mate” or something around.
  • I need to use some crowd control to help them learn to use it.
6/13/19 2nd session

First half of forest of monsters



I handwave the team cutting through the razorvine hedge because there’s no time crunch and they can Fire Bolt at will and have plenty of cutting implements. They deal with a horde (13) of zombies pretty easily, although Dmitri the Barbarian takes several hits thanks to his reckless fighting style. Tib the Paladin rolls several 1s and doesn’t do much damage. Adrian the Sorcerer spends his spell slots pretty freely. It takes most of the party 2 or 3 rounds to figure out that every time someone stands still, a zombie hand reaches out of the ground and prevents him or her from moving (AC 9, 4hp, or STR DC 10 to shake free). Some fun is had after the battle with zombie hands as back-scratchers, projectiles, etc.



The group approaches the cross-covered mausoleum with four gargoyle-like statues (yes, they are) on top. Two people plink at them once each, but neither attack hits, so they don’t do anything more. Adrian the Fighter/Rogue climbs up to the top and starts poking at one. He hears a noise behind him, but when he looks, nothing’s moving…but one of the other gargoyles is in a slightly different position than before. I guess most of the people at the table have seen Dr. Who (I haven’t) and associate this with the Weeping Angels. It worked well.



Dmitri the barbarian climbs up, and right as he reaches the top, Corwin the arcane trickster says “I open the door.” The gargoyles animate. The two in the back corners leap overhead and land next to Corwin, but don’t do much damage. He ducks inside. While most of the group deal with the other 3 gargoyles (slowly… Ratel the Battlemaster spends his time throwing daggers for 1d4+3 damage instead of using a melee weapon, while Adrian the sorcerer spends pretty much all of his spell slots), Adrian the Fighter/Rogue engages in a duel with the gargoyle he was next to. He decides to tackle it and push it off the mausoleum, and wins the strength check, then he keeps trading blows with it. Several times, he decides to punch it with his off hand attack (2 damage, reduced 1) instead of stabbing it…for reasons of cool.



The rest of the group ends up holding their attacks “Until he’s almost dead” while he continues to fight it. Once he’s dropped to 7hp, they step in and kill it. Corwin, meantime, has spent this time alone inside the mausoleum (a safe resting place). I then use the 3x5 card he dropped off while walking past me in the middle of the fight.



Stop investigating the room and set up a scene of being sacrificed. When aprty opens door, minor illusion of a demon standing over me. “You see a large red winged demon standing over the unmoving body of Corwin, his bloody hand holding Corwin’s heart. He looks up at you with red feral eyes and howls.



There were some pretty dumbfounded expressions from the party members, who had just finished blowing all their spell slots on the gargoyles. Dmitri rages and charges in, and then Corwin’s player says “I cancel the illusion and stand up cackling.” Dmitri: My hammer’s still swinging. “I stand up and move away while laughing.”

The group investigates, but doesn’t do anything with the big polished silver mirrors. They do find some potions (climbing, healing x 2, holy water x2). So far nobody has used a single consumable the entire game. One of the characters started messing with one of the crosses mounted on the wall, but stopped when the Zealot Barbarian and the Paladin both pulled out their holy symbols (crosses, we are in ~14th century Europe). I rolled a d20 and got a 20, so when he woke up the next morning, he decided to check it again, and found that it was concealing a silver longsword. The barbarian’s character uses Rage-generated advantage to win an arm wrestling contest for the longsword, and gives Adrian the fighter/rogue the Javelin of Lightning instead.



They approach the edge of the graveyard, and a couple of people quickly twig on when I describe the bone pillars, a staple Castlevania foe. “You might want to get ready to duck.” The first one rolls poorly on initiative and doesn’t get to go, but the second one lights up Dmitri for 22 points of fire damage in a single round.



The group continues onwards, running into a bunch of spider webs high in the trees. They spot them from far away, and light the webs on fire. The spiders pretty much die (I don’t roll much for this- 12hp spiders falling 40’ from flaming webs just die), and the group ends up lighting several trees on fire.



This definitely qualified for one of my pre-determined triggers, so a few minutes later they see the werewolves approaching (at least one party member figured out that werewolves would be around). I had two shamans (cast as level 5 druid but with fewer slots) and 4 regular wolves, but with adjusted damage resistance vs. the MM.

Adrian the fighter-rogue sees them first and climbs a tree. He spends a couple of round sniping early in the battle before throwing the Javelin of Lightning at one, then jumping down onto it and trying to stab it. He’s marginally effective but definitely cinematic. The wolves bite Tib (the paladin) and Dmitri (the barbarian). Two wolves go down, and Tib is reduced to 0 by a combination of Heat Metal on his silver lance and some hits. Dmitri got hit by Hold Person but broke free, and then he got Slowed later. A couple of the party members also got Entangled. Despite all the crowd control, the team was winning, and so one of the shamans makes her speech, offering them a deal: She won’t activate the curse of werewolf transformation on the two people who are bit, if they agree to let the juvenile wolves hunt and harry them all the way to the snake-headed witch’s domain (I am not sure if anyone noticed that bit). After a bit of discussion, the group and wolves agree instead on them challenging the pack alpha (or the one who’s filling that role now) to a fair fight in exchange for being able to move on un-attacked.


That’s where we left off. I’m going to run a simulation with dice rolls to see if the Pack Lord has a chance of taking on 3 PCs at a time, or if he’ll just limit it to two enemies. The group will be going in with some resources expended (spell slots, smites, 2/3 barbarian rages gone, etc.).

[Note: I did this and showed the two PCs winning with less than 7hp left]

7/11/19: 3rd session
Forest of Monsters, Part II



We start off with the duel against the pack lord.

(“Svalbard” Werewolf, Pack Lord CR 8 (equipped)

Size Medium (but Powerful Build)

AC 18 (Breastplate + dex 2 + shield 2)

HP: 110

Speed 40’
STR 20 (+5) DEX 15 (+2) CON 18(+4) INT 13(+1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 14 (+2)

Saves: Cha +5, Con +7

Skills: Perception +6, advantage on smell & hearing checks

Damage resistance: Non-magical weapons that aren’t silvered

Multiattack: 2 axe attacks + bite

Returning Greataxe +8/+8 to hit, 1d12+5 damage plus

Bite: +8 to hit, 1d8+5 damage; If claws hit, advantage on bite attack roll; curse or

Ranged Returning weapon +8 (disadvantage beyond 30’, max range 60’) for same damage. Functions 1/round

Powerful Build: Advantage when rolling against grappling, shoving, etc.; Able to wield a heavy weapon in one hand

Loot:

Returning Greataxe: functions as base weapon, but is magical; can be thrown and returns once per round. Also allows bearer to always know which way is north.

Breastplate of Fire Resistance.)



I gave the party some time to figure out if they wanted to switch gear around or do anything else as they travel through the woods, and they did not (they later realized that they could have tried to sneak in a casting of Bless, or moved healing potions around). The paladin also blew half of his Lay on Hands topping up Dmitri instead of having the cleric spend a spell slot.



Deep voice, broad open stance. “I shall show these young ones what a true battle is like – not some capped-claw spar!” You see a big werewolf, probably close to seven feet tall. His shoulders are broad and well-muscled, and his grey-tinged brown fur carries several white streaks marking old scars, including one that crosses his left eye, which seems to have a permanent squint. He carries a greataxe in one hand and a shield in the other, and is also wearing an orange-tinted breastplate. “If I triumph, you will see how to fight against greater numbers instead of as the hunters. If I fall, you will see how others may hunt you, and learn in turn that you might live and grow stronger.”



The rest of the party takes seats along one edge of the arena, while Tib (HOrc Paladin) and Dmitri (Dwarf Zealot Barbarian) enter the arena and introduce themselves. Svalbard’s initial axe throw catches them by surprise, as they’re just out of range after their first moves. He gets one more throw in before they close to melee. The combatants also figure out that the silver weapons they are using are “just” normal damage (weaker werewolves). Svalbard taunts them some and calls out instructional moments to the werewolf juveniles watching:



“Always prepare at least one surprise.”

“A true warrior uses not only his muscle, but his speed and his mind. Watch as they try to flank me, and as I in turn try to outmaneuver-them.”

“Find the weakest enemy; single him out and kill him first!”

“See, he moves to protect the weaker one and distract me. They fight not as individuals, but as part of a pack.”




There’s some moving around and attacks of opportunity on both sides. Tib’s weapon is a



Dmitri gets dropped to 0 despite his resistance. Tib moves in and heals him, and the damage mounts on both sides. Dmitri gets dropped again (having started the fight with only one Rage). Svalbard has 10 hit points left and plays cautious, moving back and throwing his axe. He drops Tib to -4, but then another player remembers that Tib is a Half Orc and can instead be dropped to just 1. Tib gets to go, then Svalbard goes again and would likely kill him with his 3-attack routine. I point out to the party that “If you’re going to cheat, now’s the time.” They don’t seem to figure out a way to do so, and Tib moves forwards to attack… he hits, and does exactly 11 damage, defeating Svalbard.



At the end of the combat, there is exactly 1 hit point left on the field between three combatants.


The group loots the body and moves away from the village to rest. The dice are kind and they are undisturbed. During discussion of “who gets the Breastplate of Fire Resistance,” we determine that:
-Tib is wearing full plate armor despite it not being in his starting gear, and his AC should have been two points lower.

-Tib had Great Weapon Master and could have re-rolled at least 3 “1 or 2” rolls with his 1d12 lance during the duel.

Oooops.

Fixed. Tib’s player doesn’t keep track of the details very well.



The group then moves on and fights a pair of Shambling Mounds. Corwyn (Arcane Trickster) gets critted in the first round and dropped to 0, but Ratel drags him away for safe healing. The mounds go down (I think I dropped their HP by 15 because it was getting boring).



The group then comes to a stream, but I have it mapped out so they get super cautious (except for Adrian the rogue, who washes his head in it). Anyway, they end up not fighting the Black Pudding.



A little ways further on, they fight a trio of leaf ambushers (stats above), who move around a lot during combat. Their damage and AC is anemic, so it’s a nice easy fight. After the Shamblers, I think everyone enjoys having something that takes bonus damage from fire and resists only piercing damage. They are at least sneaky, so they get to go first.



After that, they approach the lair of Crotalisa, the medusa. They do some history checks and figure some things out, and I probably should have planned for that in advance. It’s a big set of ruins with walls of varying heights. They advance very carefully, eyes down, and end up successfully finding and killing a swarm of snakes – a big change from session 1! I have some rattlesnake rattle sound effects pulled up on my phone, and cue them whenever the snakes move or when Crotalisa taunts them. Some of them think that it means there’s another big rattler somewhere out there….



Adrian the rogue splits off to one side and spots a very large snake (constrictor). He moves away from it, then Medusa climbs up the wall behind him and hits him with two arrows for near-maximum damage.



Off to one side, Ratel the halfling Battlemaster who’s super cautious ends up constricted by the snake and slowly works to kill it, while Corwyn the Arcane Trickster helps.



The remaining players move down a hallway towards the Medusa and Adrian the rogue, finding another swarm of snakes in the process. The cleric drops Bless on the barbarian, the paladin, and the sorcerer. Adrian the rogue runs away. Medusa moves in close to melee with Dmitri the barbarian, who hasn’t raged yet. Sword hit, sword hit, and snake bites deal over half his max HP in one round. He then critically hits her for 60 points of damage while looking. A few other people move up, I don’t remember the details, and then Dmitri fails his next CON save and is restrained. There’s some discussion that characters may indeed not survive.


Earlier, the sorcerer had used Prestidigitation or something to conjure up a small mirror that he was carrying around, facing out. Medusa saw it and was slowed, so she backed off some. Dmitri passes his 2nd save, but Tib the barbarian fails his first one after looking at her so he could attack/smite.



They end up killing Medusa, and then Tib fails his 2nd save and is turned to stone despite Bless. The other snakes are dealt with, and the one potion of Remove Curse is used to de-stone Tib.



Medusa is looted (Short sword +1 to rogue, Stone of Good Luck to barbarian, 2 scrolls of Sleep that I forgot about to the sorc, ring of swimming to I don’t remember who). Adrian the rogue cuts off Medusa’s head and wraps it in some cloth before putting it in his pack. I’m not sure what to do with that yet.



The group levels up!



Next time: The cave, and dealing with the tremendous level 5 power spike. Extra attacks, fireball, and bigger cantrip damage.
 

J-H

Explorer
I forgot to write down the date. Stage 3 (Caverns, Part 1)



The paladin and the fighter/rogue were out, so the party took on the caverns with only 5. It worked out well, as the caves are very close quarters. Most fights had Dmitri (the barbarian) in front, soaking and dealing the most damage, while the rest of the party stacked up behind him. He absorbed enough damage to kill the entire party at least once. He got dropped to 0 and had two failed death saves at one point, but wasn’t worried since the party cleric has Revivify. They fought basically every enemy on the map except the last two bone pillars near the waterfall.



The party went east and up pretty early, and figured out pretty quickly what was up with the two Stone Men. I eliminated the “resistant to non-magical damage” bit, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t have them use the “earth glide and drop stalactites for 2d6, dex save half” ability much, as the party has zero way to counter it.



Highlights:

The dwarf being ahead and finding the giant pile of gold in the Xorn lair. “I know it’s a trap of some kind, but I’m still going to do it”. He actually was smart, throwing a rock ahead and then picking up only one piece of gold. I had the xorn wait until everyone else was busy stuffing packs and Dmitri was checking the other path. Xorns hit super hard! At only 70hp, it went down quickly.



Other highlights:

Dmitri the dwarf (barb) climbing down first, and taking fire bolts from a couple of Bone Pillars. He dropped on down, even though the rest of the party was 35’ above him. The sorcerer started climbing down; the halfling rogue held his action to “attack when I’m in range”, waiting for the halfling fighter to tie a rope and lower him down at barely-safe speeds. The chimney was only 5’ wide, but the sorcerer made the Acrobatics check I called for (18) to not get knocked down as a halfling rogue went sailing down past him.



The bone pillars throw a lot of damage, 4x +3 2d10 firebolts each per round, but they have low AC, low HP, and take +50% damage from bludgeoning weapons. Also, the barbarian was wearing the breastplate of Fire Resistance from last session.



“You approach the next room and hear chirping and hooting sounds, kind of like the bats you fought earlier.” The sorcerer fireballed the room, killing the swarm and letting me introduce the next Stone Man as showing up pretty damaged.


The final fight of the night was the last two Death-piloted skeletons plus a bone pillar hidden in the corner. The barbarian charged in again, saw what he was up against, and requested that the sorcerer fireball the room with him in it. He made the save, then took only half damage thanks to fire resistance – so he took 6 damage while 3 enemies took 24 damage each. Danger close fire support!

Also undated: Session 5: Stage 3, Part 2



We permanently lost the player of the Paladin to RL commitments. The party now has:

1 dwarf zealot barbarian tank

1 halfling battlemaster

2 arcane tricksters, one of whom has two levels of fighter

1 life cleric

1 dragon sorcerer (fire)



Items and armor were reshuffled, and the halfling is now at AC 20 (full plate + shield). Partway through the session, we discovered that the Fighter/Arcane Trickster had never picked a Fighting Style. Ugh.



I skipped the last two bone pillars in the caverns as redundant, and the party began climbing up the waterfall after some concerns about the distance they’d fall. Due to the climbing involved, the barbarian carries the halfling fighter on his back (STR 18, he can do it). This is helpful, because they climb up onto a ledge and are faced with a bone pillar in front of them spitting fire, and a thornvine attacking them from behind.



The fighter/arcane trickster uses his agility to get right up in the bone pillar’s face, but ends up eating a “drop to 0” amount of fire damage in the process. Some vampire bats are attracted by the fight and fly down after a round or two of combat. The only serious damage was the rogue.

There may have been one more thornvine at the top, but I think I skipped it.



They then emerged into the sunken city in a giant lake. The barbarian, wearing his ring of swimming, checks the houses and finds that they are mostly empty, but appear “lived in.” Most of whatever was living there apparently got up and left en masse in an organized fashion not too terribly long ago (the fishmen are off sacking Venice). One of the arcane tricksters puts Dancing Lights underwater for visibility, and spots one of the fishmen closing in. The group is attacked by two spitters and 3 of the jumpers that move up to melee. They are dealt with pretty quickly, although everyone seems to hate the spitters since they have ranged attacks with a save and a possible blinding effect at short range.



I skip the second “random” encounter because I’m concerned about time, and it’s good that I did. They then explore the temple, and try to talk to the fishmen. I need to be prepared for them to try to talk to everyone!

They focus down the water elemental and close-range fishmen while the two spellcasters hit them with Shatter, Fear, Slow, etc. Everyone saves against Slow; two characters have to dash off for two rounds due to the Fear effect (note: this knocks them out for 4 rounds of time so it’s not too fun). The halfling Arcane Tricksters spends his time sneaking and trying to get into range, but does some damage and lands some good Chromatic Orb damage. A couple of players get knocked to 0, almost but not quite including the cleric.


Loot: Circlet of Blasting, 2 healing potions

Short rest on top of the temple.



At this point it’s close to 9pm. “I have work tomorrow and should go. How close are we to finishing and leveling?” “Ahh…two more fights.” “Screw it, I’ll stay!”


The rogues successfully sneak up to the outside of the palace tower and do recon. The rest of the party climbs up sneakily, except that the barbarian rolls poorly and gets spotted. The fishman boss slugs down a potion of Enlarge Person and gets bigger! The spellcaster with him is focused down in the first round (60hp) and doesn’t get to do anything at all. The big fishman doesn’t last much longer, and the skeletal hydra heads tied down on the 1st level end up pretty irrelevant and get picked off quickly without doing much. I was expecting the party to come in on the 1st level, where it would have been much more relevant…but they didn’t, and their plan worked!

Loot: +2 Trident; 1 healing potion.



Then they fought the 8-headed hydra. There was a lot of maneuvering in this battle, as the hydra tried to stay in range for its 30’ line poison breath. The sorcerer, who kept pelting it with annoying fire repeatedly, went down to 0 like 3 or 4 times. I ran with the rule that you have to kill all heads of the hydra for it to die, but that when it went to 0hp, it started attacking with disadvantage and its poison breath was weaker. The sorcerer was out of Fireballs and, aside from one Action Surging round from the Battlemaster, the barbarian was the main source of head-killing. In total, they did 649 points of damage to the hydra before the last head was seared shut!



(no loot, it’s just a monstrosity).

Level up!



The only characters who haven’t gotten substantial loot so far are the Arcane Trickster 5 (he has some mundane stuff but hasn’t used it, and he’s gotten use from the +1 bolts) and the Life Cleric (she inherited the Adamantine Breastplate). I’m not sure what loot a cleric needs…it’s not like she needs to be “even better” at healing right now, and she rarely uses melee weapons or offensive spells.



9/12/19: Stage 4A

Only 5 players. The Fighter/Arcane Trickster has to miss again. I think I have to assume he’ll be gone about half the time.



The party approaches a large building with a big tower rising up from its rear after leaving the lake. They cautiously approach the double doors, after finding scratch marks and bone chips in the path. These scratch marks and bone chips are noted several times throughout the building, but they never really figure out what they are.



They hang a left, tripping a weak ambush of 6 skeleton ambushers, who are all dispatched with nearly no damage. Then they enter the skull room, figuring out quickly that something’s up. The Sorcerer uses his wand of Detect Magic, spotting one of the 4 skulls sitting in alcoves (along with a bunch of non-magical skulls). The barbarian, Dmitri, throws his axe at it, but misses (cover/disadvantage) since it’s in a small cubby and his axe is big. The skull goes blurry. Then four other skulls go blurry.



Puxiweil (paralysis skull) paralyzes Dmitri, and gets focused down first. The group generally focuses down the skulls one at a time once they can force a failed CON save and remove the blur. This works out okay for them, but all three of the other skulls do manage to get their big AOEs off (Lightning Bolt, Fireball, Lesser Cone of Cold), for 8d6, 8d6, and 6d6 respectively. I had intentionally planned to avoid a TPK by having the skulls only use one big AOE per round (using their energy rays otherwise, aside from one Hold Person). I forgot to have them use Shield, but oh well.

Somehow the group manages to not die, and I think only one person even drops to 0.



They then take a short rest, finding another healing potion and two vials of holy water, before checking out the rest of the building. The ghosts don’t last long, and they loot the loot I had rolled. I realized that the Scroll of Protection is enemy-specific and roll it… 84. Yep, they got a Scroll of Protection from undead, 5’ radius, lasts 5 minutes, Cha DC 15 or undead can’t go in. That’s pretty strong!



They enter the spinning tower (I finally remember music), and dispose of the “training” encounter of four skeletons before it even has a chance to do the once per round rotation.


But that’s okay, because there’s plenty of spinning while fighting Elizabeth Bathory! I pre-rolled the initial checks, and she charmed two people before being caught. They just let her talk without answering her, and I was not subtle about it… I walked around the table and dropped off notes to the charmed people (Dmitri the barbarian who does radiant damage “just close your eyes and listen to my voice”, and Ratel the halfling fighter “keep your casters from upsetting me”), and to the one who spotted her (Reybella the cleric). The cleric’s player needed some nudging to decide to do something… and so she finally said “I cast Fire bolt” and rolled a crit for about 35 damage. I was really surprised at how quiet the table was compared to the usual. O h well.



Elizabeth went after her and knocked her to 0 pretty fast, and charmed someone else somewhere in that timeframe. We had a moment where I had the party cleric at 0, 3 party members charmed, and the last one was a sorcerer who had no radiant damage available. He was trying to break the charm by doing things like Magic Missiling his party members (after having been knocked down by the charmed halfling who was “trying to keep him from doing something that would anger the vampire”). “Roll an intelligence check real quick for m.” “4.” “Ok, you think it’s a great idea to magic missile your party members!” He probably should have cast Blink, but oh well. It’s also worth noting at this point that the half-elf (1) and elf (1) character players forgot about the advantage vs. charm, and so did I.



A couple of moments helped turn this around:

  • Said halfling fighter had gotten the spellcaster down, then looked around and said “Oh, look, our cleric is down. I’ll go stabilize her.” Elizabeth says “I didn’t say to do that” and he says “You didn’t say not to.” The next round he puts a healing potion into the cleric, and she ends up putting up Spirit Guardians, an AOE Radiant emanation to stay safe with.
  • The halfling Arcane Trickster (charmed) has tossed away his weapon, as instructed, and goes up to her and tries to pick her up. “So, is there a Mr. vampire somewhere?” (We found out earlier in the evening that this halfling, Corwyn, is aged 30 and on his third wife). Instead of biting him, she hits him (legendary action), then hits him twice more on her turn instead of biting him. He ends up getting a couple of sneak attacks in and annoying her.


It’s still very much “could be TPK” territory, but Elizabeth has taken less than 40 points of damage and is healing rapidly with a “snack” or two (freed someone from charm). She ends up going right over to the dwarven zealot barbarian (Dmitri) with legendary actions, right before his turn, and biting him. He takes some bad damage, but Dmitri’s eyes immediately go bloodshot with rage and he goes to town on her (a good turnaround for the player who had previously been forced to do nothing for multiple rounds!). Elizabeth is dead in about two rounds, after having transformed to a swarm of bats at low HP (legendary action) in preparation for flying out a window (legendary action planned). She takes a Guiding Bolt to the Bat Swarm for about 20 points of radiant damage.



The group is paranoid about her coming back to life, so they engage in several different tactics to try to prevent it, and they loot the body (Ring of Protection +1, Cloak of Spell Resistance). They continue up the rotating tower. Instead of having the rogue poke his head out the top, the barbarian does it, giving the ballista-operating skeletons time to turn the ballistas around. Our two arcane casters (AT & Sorc) both cast Minor Illusion, while the halfling fighter throws a blanket up out of the trapdoor to give some motion. I have two of the three ballista operation teams fall for it. The group rushes up, taking only a single ballista bolt to the raging barbarian (targeting randomly rolled) for moderate damage before clearing all 9 skeletons. The arcane trickster gets the bracers of archery (+2 damage), and they decide to bed down for a long rest after reloading two ballistas and pointing them across the bridge. The third ballista was damaged with the sorc decided to fireball it and its operators to shut them all down at once…



The rotating tower was okay, but a bit of a pain. I don’t think I’ll do anything quite like that again. It was hard to remember to rotate it each turn (should have put out an init card) and they all just ended up running downhill the whole time… okay, I guess it did keep it from being a static fight.



I got good feedback from several people about how the vampire fight went; apparently a couple of them are reluctant to even try running vampires because the Charm/fragility/lethality combo makes them hard to balance. They had fun with it. It was still super, super close to a TPK! I don’t mind killing one party member, but killing all of them would have been a bit much.



The Life Cleric is dishing out massive amounts of healing, and despite what the guides say, does make a big difference in keeping people alive in battle.
 

J-H

Explorer
10/3/19



We got a late start today, and then one of our players (Dmitri the Barbarian) got a call from his wife asking him to come home because their (little) kids were having a rough night. He rode with someone else, so the game stops for that; and then when they get back, someone else has to go pick up a kid… so instead of the usual 4-4.5 hours, I’d say we had less than 3 hours of play time.



While long-resting after fighting the vampire, they hear scraping and scratching noises from the rotating tower. Four skeletons dragging big rope nets full of bones are coming up, and the group kills them all – using at least two spell slots and the barbarian’s very last rage, for 13hp skeletons that never even attack back.



Then, about the time the skeletons would have emerged onto the platform the party was on, the doors of the building across the bridge open and two big bone golems (the type from Baldur’s Gate II) walk out. The ballistas are used to do some damage, but the DR/magic keeps them from doing much. The golems are brought down, with our fighter briefly being knocked to 0 in the process. Our Arcane Trickster finally uses his Hat of Disguise (from session 1) to look like a skeleton. Bone golems have INT 3, so I run with it. The golem notices that it’s been sneak-attacked with a crossbow, but all it sees behind it is a short skeleton with its hands behind its back. Other skeletons are not enemies, so there’s nothing back there. Proceed forward, ignoring the damage.



The long rest is then completed, and the party moves into the bone golem factory.


They pretty quickly kill the skeletons that are shuttling parts around, and then split up. The barbarian and fighter get some big ballista shafts to feed into the intake area, the two casters start slowly chipping away at the runes in the golem assembly area, and the arcane trickster climbs up on the machine and attacks one of the balls of lightning. Everyone starts coming over and the lesser lightning elemental is dealt with pretty swiftly. The group kills the second one, and as they’re lining up on the third one, the door at the far end slams open, and Koronok the stone golem strides in. At this point, the barbarian and fighter are on top of the machine, and the other 3 party members are on the wood catwalk 30’ above the ground.



Koronok wakes up the gargoyle sapphires in their packs, and then spends the next couple of rounds doing a move->jump->grab routine to pull down large sections of the catwalk, dumping people onto the ground. The gargoyles serve as a nice distraction, and he lays out some good damage at +10 for 3d8+6, but nobody comes too close to dying. The party then loots the body (after I remind them), and kills the rest of the lightning elementals, before going back to the top of the tower for a short rest and to identify their loot.



I go ahead and tell them to level up before the next session, as the only thing left in this “area” is a non-combat encounter before entering the castle.



Our Fighter/Rogue multiclass player hasn’t shown up, so I think he’s gone. I am considering adding a 6th player, as a 5 player party seems a bit more stretched. Then again, maybe the party should feel stretched.



10/24/19



I gave the opportunity for everyone to revamp their characters. 2 of my players took it:
Our Halfling Battlemaster Fighter is now a Wood Elf Kensei Monk, with weapons of Trident (since he has a +2), Longsword, and Longbow.

Our Elven Life Cleric is now a Dwarven Life Cleric (effectively swapped STR to DEX).

The Sorcerer swapped out Twin for Maximize, but he may have been able to do that just as part of being a sorc.



Our Fighter/Rogue(AT) is back, and is now a Fighter 2/Arcane Trickster 5.



The group left the bone golem factory and headed across the eerie open fields towards the castle. They spotted the statues around the altar, and were initially puzzled with the whole “prove you don’t work for Dracula” thing. A religion check gave them a hint, and out came the signs of the cross and their holy symbols. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that the candles contained something, and similarly they worked out the whip upgrade (regular whip to 1d6, +1 whip). I don’t think the whip was actually used, but it could have been.



The group entered the castle (I’m skipping the description for brevity). They chose to investigate the cloak room, which was, yes, really the “Cloaker Room”. The cloakers did not last long, although they did manage to latch on to a couple of the characters for a bit. Our cleric got stabbed and punched repeatedly by the monk while wearing a Cloaker.



Investigation revealed an ancient invitation in poor condition. This was pocketed. They were very, very wary of the room full of mirrors, but eventually entered it. The mirror portal (to the library) occupied them for a bit before they gave up.

“I try to go into the portal.”

“Give me your character sheet.”

(whole table gets concerned)
“Nope, you can’t pass through.”



Our Fighter/Arcane Trickster uses Disguise Self to pretend to be Elizabeth Bathory, the vampire. There’s some dialogue with the really rather dumb Cyclops butler, who requires an invitation but thinks hers is too messed up to read. Our Arcane Trickster 7 has a Forgery background, and remedies this quickly. Even with the Cyclops rolling at advantage, the forgery is unbeatable (2d20b1-2 versus a 26). The group is given leave to enter the Ballroom area.



They thank the Cyclops and make a U-turn for the locked and barred door to the dungeon. The cleric has Dispel Magic prepared for the first time ever, and breaks the Arcane Lock on the dungeon door. They enter it, and the vampire-disguised player successfully bluffs his way past the unintelligent golems (2 flesh golems, 1 bone golem) at the bottom.



They proceed down the hall towards the central point checking doors. Some skeletons on the western wall, manacled there as decorations, rattle their bones and try ineffectually to reach the group. The party barbarian smashes them with his maul…. And yep, they’re hanging on the wall just outside the Minotaur bunkroom/rec room area.



A minotaur opens the door and sticks his head out.

Minotaur: “Oi, what’s all that racket about”

Disguised-As-Vampiress: “Oh, that was just one of the people following me” (or something) “I’m here to feed from one of the prisoners.”

Minotaur: “Well, you’ll have to clear that with Adam”

DAV: “Who’s Adam?”

Minotaur: Eyes widen. “Schiess!” He shuts the door and the group hears yelling.



Adam is the Frankenstein’s Monster/boss running the dungeon.


Cue a battle where the party ends up lined up against 5 stock minotaurs, a minotaur sorcerer who opens with Lightning Bolt, and the 3 golems plus two bone pillars. Despite two fireballs doing a ton of damage to the mino’s, I’m getting worried about a TPK.

Cleric: “How thick is this wall?”
Me: “Why are you asking?”
Cleric: “Stone Shape will work if it’s 5’ thick or less. I want to make a door.”

Me: “The wall is 5’ thick, you can do it.”



The party cleric uses her only 4th level spell slot to Stone Shape a hole into the minotaur rec room. Several of the party members duck into there, using it to hide from the golems as the minotaurs are finished off.


The minotaur sorcerer should have used Dancing Lights to alert the other minotaurs, but I genuinely had him “not worried” since there were so many of them and the golems were there to help. By the time it became apparent that the golems were too slow in arriving, and the minotaurs were falling too fast, he had lost his chance.



The Fighter/Arcane Trickster heads up the stairs from the minotaur rec room, arriving in the Ballroom kitchen. He investigates the two doors from there, quickly closing the door before being spotted by the Spectres in the blue room. The other door? He unlocks it, sees what an Arcana check identifies as Hero’s Feast, and then leaves.



The group decides that it’s too risky, Hero’s Feast is a high level spell, and that they’d rather lock themselves in the (small) minotaur armory for an hour for a short rest.


The Arcane Trickster 7 player returns to the table at this time, and says “Well, I’m going to sneak up there anyway.” So he gets to start next session with the benefits of Hero’s Feast.



I’m not sure if they will continue to do the dungeon next, or if they will try to explore the ballroom area from the kitchens on. If they leave the dungeon for any length of time, the minotaurs will definitely find the dead “off duty” guard shift and will take measures including tripwires, caltrops, ball bearings, etc. I may have some minotaurs go hunting for them….


If they stay, I sort of have the question about why the central guard post didn’t hear the fight. I have some ideas on that front, including simply the portcullis being shut (in which case they will need to bash through it).


The only loot this time was the dungeon key and the returning dagger+1 & whip upgrade from the area outside, but no worries.


There were also only two battles the entire session – the cloakers and the minotaurs. Lots of talking, a couple of non-combat encounters, forgery, lockpicking, trying to figure out how to get a portal to work, etc. It was fun and productive.



11/14/19



Everyone was there! The team departed the dungeons (which will now be well-prepared behind them), and explored partway through the ballroom maze. They fought some skeletons, some flying swords, some specters, and a Death-possessed wizard skeleton that opened with Circle of Death while under the effects of Greater Invisibility. They overcame the invisibility by spraying oil in a 10’ radius AOE (including 2 players) and then lighting it all on fire. The skeleton’s 2nd spell was Black Tentacles, and after that, its 105hp were gone and it was dead.



At the end of the session the barbarian’s player mentioned that he had been at 8 hp when Circle of Death went off. He thought it was “save for none” instead of “save for half”. Oops.



There was some good fun trying to piece together how this maze is laid out and how all the rooms link together. I think they’ve covered about 1/3 to ½ of the rooms.



They investigated most of the rooms, but did not follow up on the aura of magic in the blood fountain (Mace of Disruption in the top) or investigate that room (secret passage to dungeon). Oh well!



Highlights include dice poker (yahtzee) to see who got the spider climbing armor and who got the ring of sneakiness, and a debate over what to do with a well-crafted 10x10 3D map table of Europe. The barbarian (Russian Orthodox) smashed the location of the Vatican on the map anyway.



The session ended with a long rest as the party returned to the Hero’s Feast room from a different direction. Most of them are actually running short on Attunement slots.
 

J-H

Explorer
12/5/2019



One arcane trickster (the one with no fighter levels) not attending; sorcerer late.



The party continued wandering around the ballroom maze, giving up on mapping and using the Outlander background our barbarian has to find their way back to where they’d been before. By the end of it, they had hit all but 2 or 3 of the rooms, but had not done much Investigating/detailed checking, so they’ve missed most of the up-and-down connections to the Library and Dungeon areas.



They fought the Wicked Tree, a tree with 120hp, two good slams, and casting as a 7th-level Druid. It put Spike Growth between itself and the door; our barbarian took the damage to cross the distance, while the monk jumped part of the way to avoid some of it. It got off a Hold Person after dropping Spike Growth, but was put down really quickly. The cleric used Sacred Flame, and the fire kept it from regenerating. It had snake swarms up in the top of the tree, and the 1st and 3rd hits dealing 10+ damage dropped the swarms down on our barbarian. The swarms didn’t last much longer. It dropped an item that requires attunement and gives +1 floating stat point (reassignable at long rest), a 2nd level spell slot, and vulnerability/disadvantage vs poison. Our dwarven cleric took it, neutralizing her advantage/resistances vs. poison.



The antigravity room was fun (walk in, fall to ceiling), and the arcane trickster with the spider climbing armor had fun showing off and bothering people who were climbing up. They then went from that into a pitch-black room. The sorcerer player was running late and arrived at just that time, which was good. The whole big room was covered in a Darkness effect, and nobody had any light spells…so they spent a round or two fighting Shadows (8 of them) in the dark before figuring out that Dispel Magic would take down a Darkness effect. One Fireball on the Shadows later and there were only a couple of them left… Shadow damage is nasty, but they are very fragile.



After that, the group fought a few specters, was sufficiently paranoid about a room with a few “magical” tables (animated objects) and no guano from the bats above to skirt the edges and not trip the tables. They then dealt with a room with a high dark ceiling by sending a light up; that agitated the bats (2 dire, 2 swarms, 4 vampire bats). They dealt with those by Fireballing, closing the door, and then Fireballing the remaining (approaching) bats again. One dire bat survived with 7hp just long enough to trip a readied action from the Barbarian.



I changed where a door pointed on the fly as there wasn’t much left to the maze, and had them head towards the boss area. There was different music for this (“Chandeliers” from Super Castlevania IV) and it was a pretty cool fight.



(post boss stats).

Note that I gave separate initiative turns to the two dancers, and that when one moved, they both moved. If they’d hit someone – no AOOs from that person.



The fight ended with the monk bloodied, the barbarian badly injured even with healing. Highlights:

The entire fight, only one out of four characters on the ground failed the DC 10 Acrobatics check!

The Arcane Trickster climbed up the wall and moved around on the ceiling, shooting arrows down from chandeliers. At one point, he dropped a chandelier on the boss (and the adjacent barbarian), dealing about 20 damage to the boss and about 4 to the barbarian thanks to resistances.

The arcane trickster up in the ceiling repeatedly rolling natural 20s on his Perception checks to spot the boss dancers after they spun off into the dance and became “hard to spot”.

The sorcerer had used all his 3rd level spots earlier and I think forgot that he could upcast, so he dropped Sickening Radiance on the dancers, with one taking initial damage (the other passed the save) and then damage again for one on the next enemy turn…then he dropped concentration on it before the Barbarian went and got hurt by it.



I had the dancers sharing up to 50% of the damage received with each other at will (a better version of the ability granted by the rings they dropped), so they both went down at the same time to the barbarian – after parrying away a killing blow from the monk.



Everyone is leveling up to 8. The monk increased Dexterity, the Sorcerer took Spell Sniper (Eldritch Blast), and the barbarian took Great Weapon Master. The GWM-Zealot-Barbarian’s player was happily calculating his non-crit max damage as somewhere around 100, especially if hasted. Oi. Monk’s theoretical max damage (if everything hits) is in the 60s, I think. He keeps using his Ki points to Flurry and has yet to ever use Stunning Blow.



They may go to the Library next, or they may decide to backtrack to the dungeon or to further explore the Ballroom maze. I’m not sure which.



12/19/19


After a recap and a bit of discussion, the party heads into the library entry room. They assess the books in the library lobby, which are all (as far as they can tell, with 80% of it being in languages they don’t read) published this year. The library contains copies of all books or writings published or reproduced in quantity…magical duplication. There are 5 doors in the lobby. I learned today that my party will just follow the left-hand door/wall when exploring…so that’s nice to know for the future!



They go into the History & Geneaology stacks, a huge maze-like room, and spend a few hours looking for useful information. They find little, and end up hearing and fighting two axe armors. Ghosts attack the back of the party during this fight, dealing quite a lot of necrotic damage. The arcane trickster, who spider-climbed up to the top of a bookshelf, uses Fire Bolt, and the group has their first encounter with a Halon Elemental, which they attack and kill. The AT uses his bat familiar to scout the room, eliminating the planned need for survival or INT checks to navigate their way back out. He also takes a few books, which means if they ever try the mirror portal (currently in library lobby), he’ll be able to use it.



The next room they try is the librarian’s office. “This is a long, narrow office about twenty five feet deep and, after accounting for shelving, ten feet wide. Books, scrolls, tablets, etc., line shelves going seven feet high on both sides and the back of the room, and more are stacked on a desk and table near the back. An elderly elf sits in a comfortable-looking chair behind the desk, glancing up at you from the tome he’s currently reading. A mage-light hovers over the desk, providing excellent illumination of his book.”



They are immediately wary, but get a bit rude when he doesn’t help them find things, and refers to them as young and needing time to learn. He namedrops Shaft, but I’m not sure if the players who are familiar with Castlevania got it. When they ask about magic, he mentions the need for a key. His response when they ask for it? “No.” The Barbarian comes really close to attacking, but the group ends up deciding to leave. There is serious discussion about coming back for him later.

The librarian is a disguised Lich with some super powerful items that give him an extra spell slot at every level, and will be very hard to fight.



The next room is fossils on display – illithid, purple worm, drider, elephant. They proceed through there (no combat) after identifying them. They end up in the library of lesser magic. Detect Magic early on shows them one of the Rugs of Smothering, which the barbarian goes up to and pokes. It misses its attack, and they shred it.



They start finding loot immediately, and declare that they’ll stay as long as it takes to find it all (that’s 8 hours based on their rolls). About an hour in, 10 Spellbooks attack. These are little flying animate objects with AC 14, 18HP, and spellcasting. Roll 1d8 for each book to determine what spell it will cast that round, off a predetermined chart. The most common spell cast was Magic Missile. The party didn’t use any AOEs (Sickening Radiance could have one-shotted them), so this went on for a while and a substantial amount of damage was dealt to the party. The Kensei has a longbow as his kensei weapon, but his damage was much less, as was the barbarian. The AT had no way to trigger sneak attack either.

They got a lot of scrolls of questionable utility, and some other minor supplies, like a Wand of Secrets that I hope they remember to use. They also took a long rest, as they’d spent a solid 12-14 hours exploring two rooms for useful materials.



The door leading from there to the Library of Greater Magic is locked with Arcane Lock and a very high DC, and they roll poorly. (no rerolls, otherwise just take 20). Crowbar rolls are also poor. The barbarian gets out his (magic) greataxe and decides to start chopping through the door, because whatever’s on the other side must be valuable! Most of the rest of the party moves away to the sides, assuming that some sort of retribution would come. I had not planned for this.

Anyway, I had a chime sound (like the one that goes when the halon elementals appear), and I have the librarian walk in, walk halfway across the 120’x120’ room – with the party having time to say that they do something…but one of them perceives the fossils in the prior room moving. The librarian casts a spell. “Make a Wisdom save” – not enough to beat the librarian’s spell DC for Dominate Monster. “Stop that.” “Prevent damage to my library.” (I forget the exact words – both commands telepathic)



Then the librarian calmly walks out of the room without saying anything else.



The barbarian spent the fight after this trying to get damaged so he could make new Wisdom saves to break the Dominate effect. He failed every single save despite a Luckstone and a Mantle of Spell Resistance!



The party then went to the room of the oriental stuff, and immediately identified the naginata-wielding statues as likely hostile. Two fireballs dropped on the monk, the barbarian (who wears fire resistant armor), and the naginata armors did a lot of damage. The four halon elementals so summoned (one at casting point, one at detonation point) did some damage as well. Lacking a way to refer to them, I let the name slip, and our retired Navy guy pretty much figured out their purpose from that.



They took a short rest after this fight, letting the domination expire, and gave the Helm of the Crescent Moon (from the samurai statue in the middle of the room) to the cleric. It gives +30’ DV range, and 1 battlemaster maneuver & superiority dice (short rest).



We ended the session there, and there was more discussion of going after the librarian. There are only four rooms left in the library, including the boss room. They managed to circle all the way around the fiendish gynosphinx’s room. The door in the north wall of their current room will be the 3rd door to her room that they have seen!





….



1/2/20

First game of the new year! We got a late start, the cleric was absent, and two of the players (barbarian & sorcerer) did not arrive until well into the evening due to work.



The group looted the chapel, getting the +1 heavy flail and the mithril crucifix (1/day counterspell death/necromancy; 1/day negate damage/effects to self from one death/necromancy spell; usable by Good only). They then locked it back up like it was before, and went to the other main room they had not explored, the lair of Nebetah, the fiendish gynosphinx. (why gynosphinx, why not just “male sphinx” and “female sphinx” – are they different species?). They interacted with her peacefully, amusing her with a song (Performance check 22 and some good flattering words), a limerick (actually composed by a player), and a haiku (also actually composed). After some discussion, they learned more about Akmodan, who will show up later as the boss of the Clock Tower, and received the key to the Room of Greater Magic that she was holding on to.



The library is Unhallowed with Silence. They ignored all of the doors except one hidden door leading to a bedroom (empty), which they found. The party looted the library for a few hours, getting a number of good items. Whilst spread about it, one of the doors they had not explored opened. The sorcerer got a chance to move, but nobody else in sight made the perception check (silence, remember). He used his turn to move around and grab two other characters to alert them. Shaft the Death Priest, standing just outside the library in the hallway, where there’s no Silence, got off a Hold Person that hit all 3 of them. He then critted the sorc. The next round, the Barbarian saw it and came over, but Shaft used his dagger force disadvantage on the save vs. Harm person, cancelling out the Mantle of Spell Resistance’s advantage. I believe his next round was when he upcast Inflict Wounds and rolled a 20 on his attack roll for 18d10 damage, knocking the barbarian to 0 and coming within 20hp of an instakill. One rogue and the sorcerer (who had zero non-V spells) were plinking with crossbows. The other rogue came over to douse the barbarian with a potion, and got hit with Contagion (Slimy Doom). He used his turn to chug a potion of vitality to remove the poison. Over time, the rest of the party broke out of Hold Person and started damaging Shaft. He used Shield a couple of times and eventually took enough damage to make him use Word of Recall to retreat (down the hall, which is semi-blocked by Spiritual Guardian.



The group shut the door, locked it (he had the key), and then jammed a couple of items through the door handles. They then ran to the hidden bedroom, locked it, and took a short rest. I looked over Shaft’s spell list and did not find anything that would let him teleport, reach through the door, or otherwise remove the blockage. Any damage to the library infrastructure (ie, destroying the door), was out, as the Librarian doesn’t like that sort of thing. Had I thought of it, I could have had him take the hinge pins out completely and push the door over, but my DM brain didn’t keep up with INT-19/WIS-20 death priest. Oops.



After resting, the group charged through the Spirit Guardian, spreading the 60 points of damage out across everyone but the sorcerer. They engaged Shaft (winning initiative) and did a lot of damage pretty quickly. The giant-sized (Huge) suit of armor that’s the technical level boss animated and started laying down a healthy amount of damage. At one point, 3/5 players were down. Ultimately, they killed Shaft, dead far enough before his turn that I threw away the original plan of him casting Earthquake and shattering the floor of the entire room. After that, it was mostly a matter of wearing the animated armor down before it could kill them dead.



Mistakes I made with Shaft:

-Completely forgot to use his Legendary actions. They were on a 2nd page and I didn’t spot them until 2/3 of the way through the battle. Worked fine without them.

-Failed to use Shield at the beginning of the player turn (initiative worked out so that they all went in a big block), then failed to use it on each successive hit. He lost half his HP in one round, but saved a 1st level spell slot! (Oops)



They were still worried about a TPK due to the # of players knocked down, though, so it was good.



That was the end of the session. Half the floor in the room collapsed down to the dungeon, giving them a route down there, or they can backtrack and finish looting the library area.



The group ended up with two tomes (INT & CON), but the tomes require 48 hours of study. They’re going to have to do some figuring and finagling to actually get one or both of those to kick in before the campaign ends. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.




1/23/20



The barbarian’s player wasn’t able to make it tonight, and the sorcerer was very late. Without the damage-soaking/dealing Leeeeroy Jenkins barbarian, the party has a very different dynamic.



They never went back to finish looting the Library of Greater Magic.



They went down the pit into the dungeon (via spider climb, slow fall, and ropes), used Mage Hand (Arcane Trickster) to pick the lock for the ruined cell they were in, and eventually found the portcullis leading to the central dungeon area (command post). It was shut. They interacted with both groups of prisoners. They freed the Transylvanian natives (19, mostly civilians), who were polite and seemed harmless, but ended up being pretty hostile to the Turks (54, military) after I over-played the arrogance of the officer who was speaking for them. The party helped the Transylvanians get going up the rope, and then spent a while dithering about what to do next… long enough for most of the civilians to make it up, and for me to roll and determine that the minotaur patrol (which covers both prisoner-holding wings) was heading their way. They saw it coming and made a fighting retreat with archery and ambush, ultimately using the bottleneck of the cell door to the vertical pit to stymie then. The minotaur sorcerer stuck his head into the cell door, took an arrow, and cast Wall of Fire up at the top of the ledge, burning the tops of both ropes down, damaging 2 party members, and killing 5 of the civilians. The cleric dispelled it, and then the group retreated up to the top.



They worked with the remaining civilians (one of whom was a druid, they instantly recognized Goodberry) to give them a copy of the map and talk them through all the dangers heading out of the castle. They almost forgot to tell them some things, but I was nice and mentioned them walking towards the library with their torches held high to see (which would trigger halon elementals). The two arcane tricksters gave them surplus gear (non-magical weapons and armor) in addition to the map and recommendations for where to go. As they left, the civilians asked for the names of their rescuers, and then their druid cast Pass Without Trace on them.



There was some discussion partway through the session of other routes, and I mentioned that if there were secret doors that they hadn’t checked for or hadn’t found, I couldn’t tell them about them.



The group ended up cautiously going down and finding a spread of ball bearings in front of the cell door, left by the minotaurs, making it harder for them to go in and out. There was some taunting back and forth, arrows through the doorway, etc., but nothing definitive. The minotaurs, who lacked ranged weapons, weren’t going to squeeze into a 100’ deep killbox, and the party didn’t want to come out and fight. Eventually, Goris, the minotaur boss (modified Goristro without all the resistances) arrived. He used his Cape of the Mountebank to teleport straight up right next to the archer rogue, the cleric, and the sorcerer. The kensei monk sped back up the rope (using his walking on walls ability) and they worked together for a few rounds to kill Goris – it was really touch and go for a while. The other arcane trickster played spider-climb keepaway downstairs. Goris went down, and the spellcaster who came with him (who had been too far back to interfere in the upstairs fight, slinging spells at spider-climber) hit the exact same spot with Wall of Fire, destroying another rope and knocking the monk to 0. The minotaurs then retreated in good order, and are now behind a closed portcullis with renewed HP (short rest) but down spell slots. It’ll be a tough nut for the party to crack next time.



Out of the whole session, they freed 14/19 prisoners, ignored 54, and killed 2/9 minotaurs. It was definitely a tough scenario tactically due to the verticality, the choke point, and the way I played the minotaurs as a disciplined, planning enemy.
 

J-H

Explorer
2/27/2020



It lives! After several delays due to sickness, life, etc., we got to play again tonight. The group started with the cleric, monk, and two arcane tricksters. The barbarian & sorcerer didn’t show up until later.



They finished their short rest to find that (most) of the minotaurs from the previous session were now coming up the hallway, angry and looking to finish the fight. Dice were such that nobody was surprised, and the minotaurs ended up being too far away to actually move in and attack the first round – they could only double-move in. The rogues had already hidden themselves, one on each side of the 10’ wide doorway, so this lead to a pair of sneak attacks that killed one (injured) minotaur and hurt another before much else happen.



There was some movement around, and one knockdown/shove close to the edge, but nobody got knocked off the 100’ fall, which is too bad. One player got knocked to 0 and another was hurting, but the minotaurs were reckless-attacking with 14 AC and pre-existing damage. Corwyn, the arcane trickster (Rogue 9) burned the remaining charges in his ring to go Improved Invisible for a couple of rounds, and went right after the minotaur sorcerer. Blade Ward (bonus/quickened action) blocked some of the damage, but it pulled the sorc out of the fight, making him waste a round on See Invisibility, and then retreat back into the hall to deal with Corwyn. Ultimately, the sorcerer was able to line up a lightning bolt on ¾ party members, and then died. The monk (Ratel) had wall-run around him to block his line of retreat.



I mention that they could see the impressions that the 800# minotaurs had left in the carpet, and they decide to back-track the minotaur’s route. Corwyn has +12 on his Investigation checks, and a helper, so with a 29 and then a 31, they are easily able to figure out the entire route, helped by any doors on the path having been left open. They run into a single Invisible Stalker in the library stacks, but other than that, the tracking is so good that it’s like Corwyn can smell their path. The group finds an open secret door and takes the spiral staircase down to the dungeon, where they emerge into a large-sized bedroom (Adam’s room, though they don’t know this). The barbarian (Dmitri) and sorcerer (Adrian)’s players arrive just in time to fight a pair of spellstitched Flesh Golems. Each golem has a different cantrip or 1st level spell on each arm, but the only hits they land are a pair (on the same character) that trigger Inflict Wounds. Then they’re toast.


The party emerges into the hallway and has about a dozen doors to check. They pick the alchemical storage area (just pots, vials, etc). One of the players excitedly loots a dozen or more glass vials, and then they open the next door to the giant chemical-filled lab belonging to Adam (Frankenstein’s Monster). There are a bunch of 5x10 tables full of chemicals, burners, glowing things, etc…. a giant mad-scientist chemistry lab. One of the Arcane Tricksters (Adrian) disguises himself as a short minotaur, while the other sneaks into the room and starts hiding under tables and trying to tie table legs together with rope.



The disguised one has some dialogue with an annoyed Adam, who chastises him for interrupting his experiments. Some of the rest of the party stacks up outside, and disguised-minotaur keeps talking about adventurers that they chased off. Igor becomes visible, and the disguised player offers that they found hydra blood and werewolf blood on one of the adventurers, and that it could be useful. Adam sends Igor over to collect it, and the disguised character stalls for time. “one…. Two….” Slowly handing the vials over, and unconvincingly (Deception 3+5) dropping a couple. Igor gets impatient, grabs the character’s bag, and starts yanking them out. In doing so, he brushes against Adrian and discovers the magical disguise. Igor earns a rapier wound to the chest for this, and initiative is rolled.



I had too many options for Adam: Do melee; spellcast as a 13th level bard; throw alchemical weapons; mix the different options together. I ended up not using half of the choices. One of Adam’s legendary actions is “Igor, the Wand!”, which triggers his levitating little hunchback helper to use the Wand of Lightning out of turn, healing Adam and damaging whoever’s in the path of the lightning bolt. That only got used once before everyone focused Igor down. The sorcerer cast Fireball twice during the battle, ruining most of the tables by causing their contents to explode (3d6 damage to adjacent creatures, Dex DC 14 half). This did serve to boost the power of his fireball by 6d6 against both Igor and Adam. Adam used Vicious Mockery as a legendary action on misses, doing damage. Two party members went to 0 from this and thrown items (I think from Igor).



Corwyn (Arcane Trickster 9) spent part of the battle ducking around, using ropes to link a bunch of tables together so that they could all be pulled over at once. Unfortunately, a party member ended up at 0 hp between a couple of the linked tables, and then the sorcerer caught a couple more of them inside the Fireball. The rope did get pulled, but most of the random effects were simply “broken glass and puddles, difficult terrain.” (I rolled 4 on the 1d4 3 times out of 4). Great idea, messed up by the rest of the party getting in the way.



The monk was ducking in and out of the door, shooting arrows and retreating, so Adam stepped outside and cast his highest-level spell, Forcecage, completely shutting down the character. I don’t like doing that, but it’s only one battle and it was on the spell list and made sense. HP damage continued to mount, and Adam was unsuccessful in causing any failed CON saves with his Stinking Cloud. The party never grouped up enough for Confusion to be worthwhile, and there was never enough dialogue for his Mass Suggestion to kick in as useful.



The party then looted the area, and re-distributed some items. Everyone has full Attunement slots now, with items left over. Some Attuned items were not being used and now reside in backpacks. With the area boss defeated, the party leveled up.



The door to the Treasury area lies ahead of the party, although they could also go back and explore the rest of the Dungeon. By backtracking the minotaurs and coming out through the secret door, they missed the central control area (monsters and portcullises and acid pits with bridges that dump you in) and all of the flavorful areas, like the zombie-animation room, the blood-draining room, the flesh-golem animation room, etc. They also missed an entire wing of prisoners who will probably go un-liberated. However, they did defeat the area boss, found pretty much all the magic loot that there was to find, and bypassed the most heavily fortified and potentially annoying area in the dungeon. I consider that a success on their part.



They could also go back to the library and help Nebetah the sphinx, or the prisoners who they directed to the library chapel, or kill the librarian (lich). I think they’ll push ahead and probably won’t get around to going back.



3/5/20



We got a bit of a late start. Only one rogue this session due to work, the spider-climbing one (Adrian). When I describe a room, ceiling height is pretty much a mandatory piece of information now. He and I had some discussions between sessions, and he used the alchemy lab to make several doses of giant spider poison ready, as well as create a modified Vitality potion that removes 1 level of exhaustion and grants advantage on STR & DEX checks for 1 round (using werewolf blood). Later (during the session) he bottled up some of the dungeon despair fluid into a 3-dose injury potion, Wis DC 14 or take 1 level of exhaustion on hit (does not stack with self). That pretty much just gives skill check penalties, so I don’t think it’ll break anything.



The group decides to go back and explore the rest of the dungeon. They check out the other doors in the hall they were in, finding an empty library with safe resting area, a room with cages for Large creatures (empty), and a room with a non-animated flesh golem hooked up to what’s heavily implied to be a lightning rod. They disconnect the cables, and the monk opens up the flesh golem’s chest, shoves a dart into its heart, and then sews it back up. I counted that as successfully sabotaging it!



They then approached the nerve center for the prison area, but from the back side. It’s a 40x40 building with a 25’ perimeter of floor around it. There were two minotaurs (1 caster, 1 regular) in the building, left over from a previous session, but healed up. Each of the four corners of the larger room had a bone pillar in it. There were also 3 Nothics (damage type changed from necrotic to psychic), each on the far side of an acid moat, and each controlling the bridge over the acid as well as the portcullis to a given section of the prison.



The spider-rogue sneaks across the roof and drops down onto the top of the central building. The monk dashes over and onto the building… then the sorcerer drops a fireball through the window (no glass), severely damaging both minotaurs (49 damage out of 8d6+3). The two in the middle run in and kill the minotaur caster before he even gets to go. The four party members proceed to wipe out the rest of the enemies; I roll randomly, and 2 of the nothics get aggressive, then plastered. The last one drops his bridge into the acid moat and tries to make himself less noticeable. The monk dashes across the top of the acid, and the rogue spider-climbs across. They interrogate the nothic, who doesn’t know much but points to where other prisoners are. They ask about weapons and magic items, and he tells them about enemies that they’ve already killed. Ultimately the rogue tests the despair fluid on him, then throws him into the acid pit, where he dies. They raise the bridge out of the acid pit.



They then go down the other wing of the prison, liberating both groups of captives. There wasn’t much friction (Lithuanian peasants and Magyar cavalry), and the captives easily persuade the group to help them get out, also cluing them in to the fact that they missed a couple of rooms in the dungeon entry block (they did). Crossing back, they go down the hall towards the dungeon entry, defeating two flesh golems handily – one golem didn’t get to go at all due to bad initiative and being destroyed (93hp) by two or three players. The captives then leave the castle happily.



The group goes over to the hall of mirrors, and successfully goes through the teleport-mirror to the hallway because the rogue has looted a bunch of books. They pop back and forth, and almost decide to take on the (massively powerful spellcaster lich) Librarian, before deciding to come back to him later.



They go back to the dungeon, waving at the Cyclops butler as they pass. The party checks out the other two rooms, being seriously impressed by the one that provides a huge boost to Animate Dead (which nobody in the party uses). The other one is where blood is harvested for the blood fountain. There was supposed to be a flesh golem in there, but based on how the last fight went, I just say that they killed it before it could act. They check the room and find the (barely concealed) route up, which takes them up to the blood fountain in the ballroom. They consider going to the red skeleton/map room, but decide against it. One of the characters sticks his face into the blood fountain, and I’m sure to point out that it’s warmer than body temperature. They chalk it up to magic and still never investigate the room or fountain more closely. They are finally finding some of the connections between levels, and one of the players said it was very Castlevania-like to be doubling back between areas and feeling over-leveled for some enemies.



Finally, they head through the door at the back of Adam’s lab into the treasury. They touch coins before trying to gather them, so 4 ghosts pop up. They kill 2 ghosts before the ghosts get to act. One ghost (injured) possesses the party monk. The other one moves around the room and wakes up 3 of the skeletal hydra heads, which were last seen in the Sunken City long ago. The possessing ghost is driven out by Turn Undead. The skeletal hydra heads do minimal damage, as a Hasted GWM barbarian doing 2d6+5+1+10 damage x 1.5 for bludgeoning x 3/round (with a kill) plus 1d6+4 radiant once per round…. Tends to make them basically explode.



They search the room and find a shield and a path to a rest area, but don’t follow it yet. The shield is magic but still unidentified. They start picking up coins, and pass most of their wisdom saves. I decide that a handful of coins is 25gp. One character fails a save and mindlessly picks up handfuls of coins for a while before deciding to stop, and successfully saving. They figured out pretty quickly that it was a simple compulsion to continue looting on a failed save.



The barbarian walks over to the south side doors, which are air-movement elevator shafts. It looks like the party’s about to go through that door and face a vampire at the start of the next session (sans Barbarian, who arrives late due to work). That’s going to be a tough fight for them. It was late so I called a good stopping point. We have 6-8 sessions left.







3/19/20



Another slightly short session with a late start. The dry-erase battle mat was left at someone’s house, so I had to make do with a pencil and paper for an under-sized map with over-sized minis. It was a bit confusing and annoying to run at times, as the first fight had 6 enemies and the second had 12, and that was a lot to keep track of.



The party decided to short rest, then turned left instead of right. This put them in a big (80x40) room full of statues on bases every 5’, for a bunch of rows and aisles. The foes here were 6 gnome burglars, each with 4d6 sneak attack, good hide scores, uncanny dodge, etc. One of them had been killed and possessed by Death, and was still wearing a mirrored helm that gives great protection against charm, domination, gaze effects, and psychic damage. The dead one specifically held back and hid until it could go after the cleric. It took 4 scorching rays to the back, including 1 crit, and didn’t survive long.



The group ended up killing all but gnome; that last one, the arcane trickster/fighter managed to grapple and put manacles on after having the cleric blind him.



They interrogated the gnome, and he talked for his life, a very chatty fellow. He proclaimed himself a member of the Brotherhood of Serendipitous Meetings, and a Venetian. He told how they had broken into the castle to steal Dracula’s wealth, and then had met a kind of scary/creepy, but strangely trustworthy, vampire woman who offered them a deal; they could wait and kill some adventurers with good loot for her and be paid and work for her, or she could kill them. They took the deal and were outclassed. He tried to run a line about a very high reward being paid for his release, but the party beat his deception check. They know that there is a female vampire, not the one they already fought, in this area – probably very nearby.



In the end, they took the long round trip to take the gnome to Nebetah, the fiendish gynosphinx, and leave him with her as a toy/chew toy. They chatted with her for a bit, but didn’t learn much new, as she hadn’t seen most of the rest of the castle.



As they leave, they hear Nebetah ask the gnome what stories he has…based on how I played him, I think he’s got a LOT to tell, and will probably befriend her. He might even pop loose the magical collar keeping her contained, and perhaps escape with her. The party says they’ll go back for her later, but I don’t think they realize the castle will start to collapse. They also discussed killing the librarian, again, and decided against it, again.



They returned to the treasury and went into the next room, an art room full of whip-equipped skeletons. With no map, this one was a bit of a slog. The session ended with them looting the area, including a number of high-value art pieces and a Tentacle Rod (DMG item). Not sure who will attune to the Tentacle Rod (should be the cleric) or if anyone will wear the Mirrored Helm. The Mirrored Helm will really help against the vampire that they will soon face…
 

J-H

Explorer
4/2/20 – Via Discord thanks to the Coronavirus



Several party members were busy and couldn’t get online, leaving it a 3-man band with the monk, the barbarian, and the sorcerer. With resources moderately depleted (monk out of ki points, everyone a few HP down), they go to take a short rest in the safe room. They take no precautions to conceal the previously hidden entrance. Additionally, last session, they learned that the gnomes were charmed by a vampire, and that she returned once a day to renew the charm, and that it had been at least 16 hours since they saw her. Her route to the gnomes goes right by the entrance to the resting area, although they didn't know where she was.



I stop them from rolling dice to recover HP, and have them roll a d10. Nobody makes the roll to be in a corner of the room immune to the Cone of Cold, so they all get blasted by the invisible Oni. The safe area is warded against undead, but Carmella the vampire’s servants, an Oni and a Genie, can both see it, enter it, etc.



Initiative is rolled, and they proceed to kill the Oni before it can act. They then step out into the room and start trying to deal with the vampire, who is up on the wall and hard to reach. She drops a Synaptic Static; the party all makes their saves, but it’s more HP down for everyone. They correctly deduce that she’s giving orders to the genie via having its lamp after she pats the lamp and orders him to kill the group.



The monk runs up the wall, hits her several times, and slow-falls down, but he’s low on HP and she drops him to 0hp. The sorcerer puts Sickening Radius up on the ceiling, forcing her to come down (she makes her save). I don’t recall the exact order of events, but the barbarian charges her, and instead of attacking twice, makes two sleight of hand checks to steal the genie’s lamp. The second one succeeds, and he runs away (she tries to grapple with her AOO, but he breaks free). They start trying to get the genie to work for them, but only give the command of “Help.” He offers some advice about Carmella not being able to see into the warded area, and then goes invisible; plainly concerned that the party will not be victorious, and that he’ll end up with an upset Carmella if he turns on her without specific orders to do so. The barbarian then pops back out to pick up the 0hp (stable) monk, and gets hit by a readied eldritch blast (3d10+12 force damage, ouch). He doesn’t make it back to the warded area, and gets charmed and ordered to give the vampire the genie’s lamp. She does so, then orders the genie to kill them all.

The genie’s attacks (3 @ +9 for ~3d6+5 each) knock the barbarian to 0hp.



The party sorcerer steps up, pouring a healing potion into the barbarian’s mouth and casting Chill Touch in melee while standing over his two unconscious comrades’ bodies. After some confusion about whether or not disadvantage is applied (it’s easy to forget that Chill Touch disadvantage applies only to undead), he ends up getting dropped to 0hp. The barbarian gets up on his turn, grabs the monk, and limps away. The sorcerer’s head is cut off, and the genie makes a show of displaying it to Carmella – playing for time, as he doesn’t want to do this. I re-vamp the map to make it more obvious that there’s a back route out of the resting area, and they take it. The sorcerer’s sacrifice is what gave them the time to escape. Hurray for a heroic death.



The two escape at 9hp and 8hp respectively. They enter a large display room; it was supposed to be guarded by four CR5-ish Cerberus Hounds (3 heads, fire breath, etc.), but I cut it to two. They engage the first one, doing over 60hp of damage and bloodying it, and take only minor damage from the 3 retaliatory bites. Still, at such low HP, they know only 1-2 hits will kill them both and it’ll be a TPK. They escape, taking the aerovator (elevator) to the art room. They’re discussing going back and dying on their own terms, and I revise the map to show all exits – including the hidden drow art room they explored last session.



They hide in there, and take a long rest. I roll dice and get a single ghost random encounter, but I can’t think of a way to make it work in a hidden 10x10 room that’s off a room that doesn’t even have ghosts, so I ignore the dice. The sorcerer player’s replacement character, a level 10 half-elf vampire (sword & board) joins the party.


We spend the rest of the time discussing loot – the people whose characters are carrying all the “extra gear” aren’t here, so I go back through the loot list and suggest a few items that I know they have that he could use. Now he’s kitted out with a magic hammer, Full Plate +1, and a shield that grants lightning & thunder resistance.



I did not have the vampire use her legendary actions. Other than that, I played this straight up with the NPCs acting consistently based on their motivations.



The party, however large it is, has encountered Carmella, lost a member, and run away. They are eager to go back. When they do, her (sorcerer) spell slots will be recharged, the genie will have some new scars and be down 30hp, and the genie will also be wielding the +2 Scimitar that the Oni was carrying, which puts the genie at 3 attacks at +11 for 3d6+7 each, making him a huge melee threat.



Had the party cleric been there, or even one of the two arcane tricksters (for lamp-stealing), this would have gone differently – but it did not, and that’s how the dice fall. Had they not taken the chances I gave them, all 3 characters would have died. Hopefully we have a bigger group next time.



….



4/16/20

5/6 players, woohoo! Playing via Discord. We only had about 2.5 hours of game time due to the later start and someone having to get up early the next morning.



The session started off with a recap, and some summarizing and re-attuning of items, as items collected 2 sessions ago still hadn't been attuned to by anyone. Our barbarian ditched his Breastplate of Fire Resistance (which he had down as requiring attunement correctly, and I had thought did not, incorrectly) and put on the Mirrored Helm, which gives immunity to Charm, resistance to Psychic Damage, and some substantial bonuses against enchantments and gaze attacks. The new character (Teador the Paladin) was introduced, the brother of the dead sorcerer - although he did not know his brother was dead.



The party left the art room and back-tracked their flight from last session, easily killing the 2 cerberus hounds. As written, there were 4 in that room, but I cut it to 2 last session because there were so few players; I can't have more magically appear, so they only faced two. The hounds were cleaned up pretty quickly, and the party looted some high-end mundane gear. They did not investigate the room further, so they didn't find the small secret room containing a magical leather armor (nothing great, but still).



The party backtracked to the rest area, and then to the room where they'd previously found Carmella. They looked around for her, didn't find her, and started yelling insults and taunts, trying to draw her out. They got no response, but it did alert her (next room) that they were there. When they came up the air-elevator to the next room over, they found the genie and air elemental flanking the door, ready to dish out a beat-down.



They knew that the genie didn't really want to fight them, but was following orders from the vampire, so they didn't attack him at all, the whole battle. Wielding the +2 Scimitar from the Oni, he was attacking 3x/round at +11 for 2d6+7 slashing + 1d6 lightning damage. That's a lot of pain! The party is level 10, so they could take it. They killed the Air elemental fairly quickly, and got blasted by Synaptic Static (3 failed saves and got a debuff), although the damage roll was terribly low. The arcane trickster went invisible, then used the invisible mage hand to take the genie's lamp off the vampire's sash. He rolled a 27 and used an invisible hand, so it was pretty much a case of "NOBODY" saw that happen, not even the genie. That led to the genie getting in 1 more round of attacks at Carmella's behest.



Shortly thereafter she was dogpiled by a raging zealot barbarian, a vengeance paladin with a critical smite, and a kensei monk with 4 attacks. She had too few HP to survive escaping when she transformed into a swarm of bats. The genie would have attacked them (at their strong lamp-holding suggestion), but was at the wrong place in the initiative order to do so.



The aftermath of the battle consumed the remainder of the session. I may not have this down in the correct order.



-They dismantled Carmella's body, and used holy water, a stake through the heart, etc. to prevent her coming back. Don't recall the exact list, but it was what they did to Elizabeth Bathory also - they are pretty thorough. She had a Ring of Evasion, which nobody took.



-The genie gave them the Scimitar of Sobek, a +2 Scimitar that the Oni had previously been wielding. As a bonus action, it (once per day) allows the wielder to Wildshape into a Giant (huge) Crocodile, and gives advantage on saves vs. Fear. The Barbarian took it, and is now without his Luckstone. He can still rage, so it's a ~100hp w/ DR buffer shape that does major damage. We discussed the power level, and I said that if it became facerollingly powerful, we'd potentially change it to just Polymorph.



-They talked about the genie coming with them, and he asked to be freed, that he did not like being a slave. They offered to be good masters, but he pointed out that most thought that. (he had some claw marks and lost HP due to Carmella punishing him after last session). They offered to free him, but asked that he check to make sure that the prisoners they freed escaped. At this point, Teador (new character) interjected, listing off some names of people to watch for from his party and people he knew - including the dead sorcerer. "Uh, let's talk about that later" was the response. The genie offered some sort of boon, and I really pushed back on them to decide or ask for something instead of having me give them options. "This is DM-Limited Wish" sort of. There was a LOT of discussion over this, and it included 3 people using the Discord dice-roller to play virtual Rock Paper Scissors. In the end, the Paladin (Teador) asked for a weapon he could use. I had the genie spin a line about the intent going into it, etc... ultimately giving them the Anyblade, a +2 weapon that can, as an action, change shape into any simple or martial melee weapon. It also counts as silver, adamantine, etc. for purposes of penetrating DR - basically the old Metalline property. He was happy with that! This is only the 3rd +2 weapon in the party (Scimitar of Sobek, Trident, now this). The genie wind-walked on out of there.



-They then sat Teador down and discussed his brother's death with him, assuring him that Adrian had died heroically saving them, etc. Quoth the player: "To spare you my bad acting, I'll tell you that, yeah, he breaks down crying for a while." They loot the room, finding a few healing potions, and a gear list that exactly matches up with Adrian's gear (minus a couple of items that'll show up on his shade later), including 835gp. They recognized it right off, especially since there had just been discussion about his old character having about 800 gold. It worked really well...and the Paladin ended up insisting on keeping his brother's Wand of Magic Detection.



They stopped there with a short rest. They thought this was a tough fight "If the vampire, the Oni, and the Genie isn't the boss, I'm worried." - whereas to me, it was a pretty easy fight since nobody got hit to 0, charmed, stunned, or seriously CC'd. They are at least down some spell slots and HD so that they won't be able to fully nova in the boss fight. Everyone had fun.



4/23/20


5/6 players again. Late start, but we ended up running about 3 hrs 45 minutes anyway.



Quick recap of last session, confirmed nobody shuffling items around. They head east through an unexplored door and find a 30x30 room of gems, jewels, crowns, lining the walls, etc. after the thief unlocks the door. There’s some discussion, including the exact line “I feel like ghosts are going to appear and attack us if we take something,” followed about 20 seconds later by a player grabbing something off the shelf. 8 ghosts promptly appear as scripted for the room. I was glad they couldn’t see my face when someone made the comment about ghosts! The ghosts do some damage (I run them without the fear/aging aura) and then get killed. One player is possessed, grappled by another player, and then the ghost is Turned right out.



What follows is a 10 minute diversion into Adventurer Accounting and De-junking, as most of the characters drop excess non-magic items (starter chainmail, the maul carried from level 3 on, etc.) in order to fit as much high value loot as possible into their backpacks. The entire contents of the room are worth about 140,000gp (rolled) and require 9 cubic feet of space. Most of them walk out with about 15,000 gp worth of stuff, and dreams of building mansions or living in luxury for the rest of their lives. “I’m getting rid of my coins to stuff in more gems.” “I don’t need my mess kit.”

In a lowish-magic setting (most of Europe is level 5 and under, with +1 weapons considered prized heirlooms), excessive monetary wealth doesn’t buy you better gear – it buys social status, lands, properties, and high offices. In other words, it buys plot hooks J

They enjoyed it.



The next room is another one full of piles of gold. I decided that “3 Huge skeleton dragons 60’ up on the ceiling right over the door” requires a perception check when everyone’s looking around at ground height… only the last 1 in made the check. Two of the dragons opened up with their breath weapons, dealing a good amount of damage, while the third went to melee. Although plenty of HP damage was dished out, no PCs were seriously inconvenienced by all this. The Paladin killed 2 dragon skeletons and burned all of his spell slots on smites, while the arcane trickster finished off the last with a crossbow bolt sneak attack. There were a couple of crits. They are burning through 200+ enemy HP a round some rounds now.



They investigate the western room, which has a cabinet by the door containing a Rod of Telekinesis, some Alchemist’s fire, and torches. After picking the lock on the acid-warded door, they find a big “cube of force in iron frame” type box with a lid that they can open. As one of them said: “I don’t think we should open it, but I want to.” So they do.

I call for arcane checks as something wrong and ugly sticks a pseudopod through and starts pulling itself out. Arcana 24 gets “A word pops into your mind. “Shoggoth.” You feel like fire would help, or that telekinesis might be effective.”



They use the Rod’s one charge for the day to hold it in (advantage on opposed check + good roll) while two others run in and slam the lid on it, latching it shut. They then leave the room.



That was the expected outcome. It was only technically a combat encounter, although a real screw-up could have made it one (I do have the Shoggoth statblock ready)… it was really an exploration encounter.



They then investigate the hole in the wall, which leads down to an 80’ deep 3’ wide pit containing a +1 Shield of Angel Wings (Feather Fall, Bless D4 is always 4, Bane D4 is always 1) and a Staff of the Woodlands. It’s literally a hole that Dracula threw useless items into. The cleric takes the shield, boosting her AC to 17. The group short rests.



They head into the boss room, where a Reverse Gravity effect triggers, slamming all the coins on the floor against the ceiling. All of them made their Dexterity save thanks to being within 10’ of the Paladin’s +4 Aura of Nope. The boss is a reskinned dragon that’s a giant bat. It falls in 1 or 1.5 rounds of combat… the GWM Barbarian/Fighter action surges for 4 attacks, crits, and does something like 130 points of damage in one round out of 200hp. I don’t think anyone took double-digit damage.



Then the “other” bosses drop in, Slogra & Gaibon (source direct from Castlevania). Unfortunately, I gave Slogra vulnerability to bludgeoning damage (as a dinosaur skeleton knight), so he went down super fast to, yep, another crit. Gaibon flew around for a while, missed all but one of his talon attacks – as in, 3 of his 4 or 5 attacks were natural 1s – and spat acid balls at them, wearing them down while the party plinked back at his 260hp with ranged attacks. He knocked the monk (kensei weapon: longbow) to 0 hp, but was then killed by a 5th-level Guiding Bolt. A highlight of this battle was the halfling arcane trickster holding his attack so that the barbarian could throw him 20’ as an improvised weapon, dealing 1d4+str damage on hit and getting his one melee attack in.



They then got the loot (Skyfall boots: Immune to falling damage, redirect it to a 10’ AOE, a +1/2d6 fire lance, and an Ioun Stone of Mastery) and leveled up to 11.



I need to look again at boss monster HP for the rest of the game and inflate it some. I really see why “giant bag of HP” status is needed, although a lot of it is also due to the # of crits they rolled.



5/7/20

A monk, a cleric, an arcane trickster, and a paladin walk into an evil shadowy Clock Tower.



The first floor is a big (80’ diameter) room with three trap doors down and one stair up. There are three large driveshafts spaced around the room that are driving the gears and the shadow-generating functions of the clock tower (it’s doing a “Sauron’s Shadow” type thing over the surrounding area). They investigate them all briefly, go up to the room full of gears, decide that it’s a pain to cross, and then go down one of the trap doors.



They skip the two with “long stairs down” and go down the one that’s a shorter ladder, spotting two fiends. The religion checks are flubbed, and the arcane trickster invisibly tries to walk across a big open room towards an Erinyes with 120’ Truesight and a Chain Devil. He gets spotted, and initiative is rolled. The Erinyes casts “Illusory Dragon” from a scroll, hitting the rogue and the monk. The rogue ends up deciding to use Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, and succeeds (I overlooked her spell resistance, so he, as a halfling, had advantage from being hidden behind the monk). The incapacitation cancels the Illusory Dragon, and that’s how a 1st-level spell shuts down an 8th-level spell.



The Erinyes did substantial damage with her +1 longbow and +1d6 electrical arrows, plus the innate +3d8 poison and DC 14 CON or be poisoned effect on her attacks, but they ultimately brought her down. The Chain Devil was a speed bump. The monk took both the arrows and the bow, as longbow is his kensei ranged weapon.



They take a short rest. There’s substantial back-and-forth about how to destroy the mechanism that uses the despair fluid from the dungeon to power a driveshaft. After trying a few things, the paladin turns the Anyblade into a pick and bashes a hole in the bowl holding the fluid, so that it drains out much faster than it flows in. This starts to slow the driveshaft & associated gears, but it’ll take some time.



Returning to the entry room, they’re confronted by Akmodan’s Simulacrum. It rolls poorly on initiative, so by the time its turn comes, it has fewer than 10 HP left thanks to a critical sneak attack. It manages one cursed touch (curse resisted) and one Harm (saving throw made) before being reduced to snow. Arcana checks flubbed.



The group ends up going up and around/through the gears, rather than disabling power to the other two driveshafts. The movement/exploration challenge is much harder, and they miss out on some good gear, but this does get them to their goal faster and without a couple of tough fights. They didn’t need the +2 spear, +1 repeating crossbow, +1+damage maul, or the +1 trident+blind 3/day items anyway, right? On the balance, probably smart play. Akmodan (the boss) can cast Simulacrum every 6 hours, so if they long rest at all, they get to fight another Simulacrum. The idea was that they’d disable all the driveshafts and have a resource-drain challenge, but it looks like they’ll make it through the next 2 floors without even needing a long rest. So much for lots of extra build-up! That’s DMing for ya. I’m not going to punish smart, goal-oriented play.



It’s hard to convey all the problem-solving of trying to navigate past moving gears. The Arcane Trickster’s reliable talent let him no-fail the entire acrobatics experience, while the Monk’s wall-running let him do it in a couple of stages. They used rope and pitons to make a path onto the ladder, off it around obstacles, and back on, and reached the next room.



The next room had 6 of the regenerating red skeletons, plus some hazardous spinning helicopter-blade things. The skeletons weren’t much of a threat, so the paladin shoved the last one into the spinning blade thing. It did not make the DC 15 dexterity save, nor did the skeleton survive 2d10 bludgeoning + 2d10 electric + 2d10 necrotic. To prevent the skeletons from regenerating, they removed all femurs and humerus bones, then threw them down into the room of gears below. If they come back through, the skeletons will have to wiggle after them and try to bite them. Good solution.


Stopped there.
---and I'm all caught up for now!
 


J-H

Explorer
Well, there were 7 players the first session, and usually 5 or 6, so it's not like splitting a 4-man party.

The Life Cleric is really good at healing. Very few non-healing spells cast. The only near-TPK was the first vampire, and that was because she kept charming them.

5e is a bit lacking in ways to drain resources other than HP and spell slots, and of course they end up saving against most of the status effects. I don't feel like I'm going easy on them at all. With a few crit-bbq exceptions, most of the battles are the right length. I completely don't worry about how they will handle or solve a problem; they'll find a way.

I like making links and callbacks between different areas, even though I know some of them are getting missed, or in the case of the clock tower, completely bypassed. I try to build up some of the bosses, but I'm not sure they always pick up the hints. Next session, some of their werewolf interaction will come back into play, although in an unexpected way. I expect them to be upset at the inciter of that.

I think we've got 3 sessions left. The final Dracula fight is suitably epic/difficult, and it plus the denouement will likely consume the entirety of session 3. I am not sure how they'll handle the fight tactically...
but they will have just been told about the sun being visible on their way up, and there will be blacked-out windows in his throneroom that can totally be broken out to let shafts of sunlight in, constraining his movement and potentially damaging him. I'm about 65% sure that they will figure this out and use it.
 

J-H

Explorer
5/14/20

4 players, barbarian had internet trouble and the dual-class AT was busy with school.


The party continued upward without taking a short rest, crossing another room of gears with no problems (the medusa heads never hit). That room had a pillar of shadow running vertically through it, and out through a lense in the (50’H) roof. The next room, which they scouted, had that pillar of shadow, plus some magic darkness and some animated armors. They used the Rod of Telekinesis to lift the Paladin up to the lense, and he smashed it at the price of a bit of necrotic damage. I went to all the future areas and reduced the amount of magic shadow substantially.



They then fought four axe-throwing animated armors that did a bit of damage, plus four shadows that moved out of the pillar of darkness and then flubbed every single attack roll.



Before taking a short rest, the arcane trickster popped up to the next level to check it out. He saw nothing, but inside the magical shadow were 3 werewolves that had been killed by Death (for objecting to hunting the party). Death has Lifesense, so he can auto-sense living beings and their hit points. Death waited 30 minutes, then walked the werewolves down halfway through their short rest. Two pack lords (low-AC/high HP brutes) that hit with some attacks, and one shaman corpse that Death could cast some higher-level necromancy spells through. He cast Finger of Death on the character with the lowest HP, who failed the save and took 70-something damage with 30-something HP left and turned into a zombie. (“Hey, do you want to run Corwyn as a zombie and fight the party?").



Shortly after that, I learned that Zombies can’t be Revivified. Party took a short rest and we waited for a new character to be rolled up… possibly should have ended the session because it took >40 minutes for an 11th level Gloom Stalker w/ gear, partly due to the player forgetting that we did point buy instead of rolled stats.



They then head upstairs to the boss fight, Akmodan the (modified) Mummy Lord + 2 regular (CR 3) mummies. To get into the room, they have to walk through a Guardian of Faith (except the monk, who wall-walks past it), and then Akmodan rolls high on initiative and drops Insect Plague on them. The cleric (downstairs, with LOS to the spell but not Akmodan), Dispels it on her turn. For the entire fight, every mummy was using Dreadful Glare every turn, plus sometimes as legendary actions, and not a single Dreadful Glare save was failed! As a result, I’m not going to mention that ability again in this write-up. Assume it was used. All Mummy Rot saves were also made successfully.



One Mummy goes down fairly quickly, while Akmodan stays at range and uses the shadow pillar in the middle of the room as cover. The Paladin tries to close in on him, but can’t cross the distance. Three times during the fight, he casts Firebolt – and gets counterspelled every time! The monk runs a wide flank and does quite a bit of damage with his bow, and then gets hit with Banishment, which sticks for about 3 rounds before the Concentration save is failed. Akmodan uses a legendary action to end up next to the ranger and the cleric, and does more damage to them than they to he. The Paladin is still chasing him trying to get in range at this point. Akmodan looks at the Ranger, decides he’s low on HP, and casts Sleep…and it takes the party 2-3 rounds to wake him up. The Paladin then finally gets in close, blasts him with a searing smite for a lot of damage, and of course the DC 34 Concentration save on Banishment is failed. Akmodan promptly uses a legendary action to activate the Stopwatch, a custom item that gives him a charge-based Time Stop (recharges 1 round of Time Stop per day). The world judders slightly, and he’s no longer in the room (he went downstairs). The group heals and moves around, and then right before his next normal turn, he uses the legendary action whirlwind to appear at the top of the stairs, then cast Harm on the Paladin, and then legendary actions himself back downstairs. The Kensei Monk moves to the top of the stairs and eats an Insect Plague to the face; Akmodan is low on HP and out of sight, so the monk readies an action to attack…and on his turn, the mummy lord walks forwards and gets shot twice, shattering his death ward and leaving him at 1hp. The paladin runs down and dashes towards him, but can’t…quite…reach him…and has to stand there for 3! Legendary rotting fist attacks, only one of which hits. The monk then runs up, hits him, and takes out that last HP.



The mummy lord’s form collapses into sand, and a small grey cloud races past the party and through a small mirror in the far corner of the room; the mirror then shatters. Akmodan is now back in Egypt in his labs. The party assesses the loot, including the aforementioned Time Stopping stopwatch, a nice +1 light hammer that does +2d4 poison damage, some healing potions, a brooch of shielding, and a black potion labeled in Latin, which none of the characters can read. They are able to determine that it’s not poisonous, and the paladin drinks it. I PM one of the other players to let him know that one of the paladin’s eyes has turned completely black. We have a bit of fun with it… it’s a potion that permanently grants the effects of the Devil’s Sight invocation (120’ darkvision, works through Magical Darkness).



They level up to 12. The Shadow generator in the clock tower is still online, which will impact their fight with Dracula if they do not disable it next session. Only about 4 fights left in the total campaign from here.



The party composition is now: Barbarian, Ranger, Paladin, Monk, Cleric. Zero arcane casting, very little utility casting. Not what I expected.
 



Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
If you are serious about writing this up, you really should put there and point folks to read it and the other stories in progress there.

Just my (biased) 2 cents.
 

J-H

Explorer
5/28/20

5 party members – the Fighter/Arcane Trickster made it back for the first session in a while, the barbarian wasn’t there, and the new ranger character got re-done into a sword & board + archery gloom stalker.

The Arcane Trickster rolls a double 20 on his Helped check to use the controls to turn off the shadow generator. Total success vs a DC 25.

They looked out at the bridge towards the central keep and decided to go back down to explore the areas they didn’t go to before, so that they can kill every foul creature in the castle!

They go down the staircase to the water power area (an underground river with water wheels). The arcane trickster sends his bat out to investigate it (200’ upstream, dark), and the bat gets shot by a hidden fishman assassin. They decide not to mess with it, go up, and then go down to the lava/geothermal area.

They’re immediately attacked by three Stone Men (from way back when they were 5th level). A couple of the smaller Stone Men splits get shoved into the lava as they play around. They then move across a bridge to the main area, a large island of rock in the middle of a river of lava. The AT disguises himself as an Azer, but his Deception check isn’t so good, he’s speaking the wrong language, and they don’t recognize him. One of the Azer approaches, trying to touch him and clearly suspicious. They deal with the 3 Azer and the fire elemental that crawls out of the machine…but one of the Azers takes the Dodge action and runs, yelling across the river of lava to the Azer camp.

He’s dead before the forces over there come into action: 2 more Azer (who never amount to much), a ~level 10 equivalent battlerager with a +1 dwarfbane maul that never gets to hit a dwarf, and a spellcaster. The caster has two magma mephits, who end up spending most of the battle providing ¾ cover from the group Kensei, who takes up a position and lands at least one shot a round with his bow for an average of about 18-20 damage per hit (despite the disadvantage of shooting across the heat distortion of 60’ of lava). The caster does manage to get off a Vitriolic Sphere, a Fireball, and a Wall of Fire. The Kensei wears him down over 3 rounds, and of course I forgot to have him Quicken Blade Ward each round. HP damage is inflicted, but nobody is seriously inconvenienced. The caster had Disintegrate, but never got into range – plus I don’t want to kill a PC with a random mook at this point.

They shut down the Geothermal plant with a 31 on an Investigation check to figure out how to do so. That means they found the gearbox, disengaged the clutch, then smashed all the gears and control panels.

They ended up with the Rock-Smasher, a +1 Maul that does +1d8 thunder damage, and against dwarfkin does 2d6 bonus damage and a STR DC 15 or knock-back 10’… plus Boots of Cold Resistance and Gloves of Healing, which do Cure Wounds 1/day (no attunement needed for those two).

We stopped there after about a 3-3.5 hour session. A couple of my players are very slow at dice-rolling math, plus we had a side trip into two of them being attuned to the same shield due to absences. It’s a bit frustrating to repeatedly have to explain or go through the same class features repeatedly for the same people. I think the Arcane Trickster has changed spells known around three times, although he’s been gone for the last 3 levels – so he could have done a level-up swap-out anyway.

Still two sessions left as they side-trip for more killing and loot. PCs…gotta kill everything!
If they decide to pull another long-rest after getting right next to Dracula’s keep….something bad will happen to them. I’m not sure what yet. Maybe more minions sent by Death, or Dracula making a hit-and-run pass at killing them, or something. Maybe I’ll have an NPC send a Sending to one of the characters with a “we have 2 hours before Vienna falls and 300,000 people die” message? This is not the point in the game where it makes sense to sidequest.
 

J-H

Explorer
6/11/2020



Everyone was able to make it! We ran for about 3.5 hours.



I reminded them that they are not due for another long rest for a long time, and they decided not to pursue shutting down the last power source for the shadow generator. They went back up the clock tower, and then started crossing a 200’ long bridge. 8 ballistas opened fire with disadvantage, averaging about 1 hit (for 3d10) per round across 6 party members. The monk got to use his Deflect Arrows ability on a ballista bolt. Our spider-armor wearer crossed along the underside of the bridge.



As they got close, we went into initiative and they moved up to engage four Dullahan fencers backed up by a Dullahan caster. These are undead with a rapier, pack tactics, and a d12 superiority dice (once per round on offence, once per round reaction). The caster opened with Confusion, but everyone (3 in AOE) saved. The cleric lagged way behind on the bridge, and the paladin and ranger were also farther behind… one because he’s slower than the barbarian, monk, and rogue, and the other by choice.



The rogue (arcane trickster) popped up from beside the bridge, grappled one of the dullahans, won, pulled it into his space, and then dropped it. 60’ down to the bottom of the tower…. 5d6, 12 damage, ridiculous roll. Anyway, it was out of the fight. The next one he tried that on made the roll and was not grappled, and then almost made him drop his weapon while he was still over a 60’ drop.

Looking down, the trickster spotted a LOT of skeletons coming out of trap doors on the top of the castle and rushing towards the tower. I started running a ticker each round to keep track of when they would reach the party. This gave them a hard deadline.



The monk and barbarian did their thing (damage), and the caster dropped Stinking Cloud on the entire area. Everyone made their saves, and the Arcane Trickster used his Storm Shield to blow part of the Stinking Cloud away. Everyone made their saves against the Gust of Wind blowing them off the ledge, which would have been really bad and also fun. As casters do, the caster didn’t last very long, although an upcast magic missile did drain more party HP/resources. The cleric & ranger finally made it off the bridge and out of the line of fire, only taking a couple of ballista bolts in the meantime (when there are only 2 targets…). The ranger temporarily disabled two of the ballistas by shooting at their skeletal crew, reducing their rate of fire from once per round to once per two rounds…. At 250’ range.



With the skeletons getting closer, they run on up some stairs and to the room overhead. The monk stays behind to block the skeletal horde, using the 5’ wide stairway as a choke point. The ranger notices that there’s nothing architecturally holding the roof up, and decides to point that out to the party…. Just in time for the wooden roof to collapse, as three Dullahan fencers cut the ropes holding it up, and drop into the room, along with three Bone Golems. I kid you not, the barbarian one-shotted a 135hp bone golem and did damage to another, and averaged >100 damage/round for most of this fight. Reckless GWM action surge and bonus attack on kill with a magic maul = 5 attacks with advantage for something like 2d6b+16b+4r+1d6r+1d8t.



Anyway, they mopped the room up in a few rounds, but took some hits in the process, and almost nobody had been healed yet. The monk took a crit for about 10 points of damage from one skeleton, and otherwise, just bottlenecked them. The group then ran upstairs into the next room, calling the monk up and slamming the door.



Suddenly, from nothing – something – a slightly translucent figure floats in the air before you, with glowing purple eyes under a tattered grey cloak, and bearing a massive scythe. The avatar of Death needs no introduction. “My friend is doing a great work, and even now directs the storming of the walls of Vienna from his throneroom. You shall not disturb him. It’s time for you to shuffle off this mortal coil.”



He has advantage on initiative rolls and goes second. “Dmitri [barbarian], what’s your HP?” “Uh, less than 100.” “DIE”. I wish I had logged what happened round by round, but I didn’t. I had the shade of the killed sorcerer show up, using the sorcerer’s signature spells. He jobbed it a bit by using the Wand of Lightning once and Scorching Ray once instead of just spamming Fireball for 8d6+3 AOE. Death’s flying sickles were unexpectedly potent, and his “start your turn next to him AOE” will be toned down. I skipped a couple of the legendary action options.



He spent two rounds flying and casting, and then went to the ground next to the monk, who’d taunted and shot him. When the rogue came over and sneak attacked with a magical chain whip, his response was to Finger of Death the rogue for using that kind of weapon here… how dare he! Anyway, one round on the ground was enough to take him from about 150hp of damage to about 320, and he decided to fly off at the end of his turn, which led to about 40 points of AOO damage (a crit and a sneak attack), which finished off his 350hp. The whole fight was either 4 or 5 rounds. Death cast only 3 spells – Power Work Kill, Circle of Death, and Finger of Death… plus he had AOE damage, the sickles, and a fairly dangerous scythe attack that still missed more than it landed despite advantage.



The barbarian went to 0hp 3 times, the monk once or twice, the ranger once or twice, the arcane trickster barely survived a Finger of Death, and the Paladin spent most of his time playing healbot with Revivify and Lay on Hands – I think his only offensive contribution was throwing a Javelin of Lightning. The cleric used an upcast 5th level Cure Wounds and a Heal. Discord chat was flying with memes about “How you feel when the DM asks for your exact HP,” “How many HP? Make a death save. No wait, don’t bother,” and the like. Two of the players were discussing what kind of character they’d make next.



With my on-the-fly modifications, which I’ll balance into the final module, I’d say the Death fight went very well…they really felt like their characters were going to die and that it could be a TPK – but that they managed to heroically and BARELY pull through. This is one of the battles I’ve been wanting to run since conceiving of the campaign, and using the “Room of Close Associates” soundtrack fit it very well. I’m overall very happy with it.



Loot: Death’s cloak, a legendary-grade item, plus a Ring of Protection +1 and Wand of Lightning from the sorcerer’s body.



After this they hear wheezing, and discover the last Belmont chained near a door to the outside. He’d been tortured and magically kept barely alive. They carry his body outside, and he thanks them and dies in the sunlight. They all get a supernatural blessing of an instant short rest and ½ their expended daily resources (spell slots, Lay on Hands, rage, etc.) restored. This was a nice short non-combat interlude, and gave me a chance to recap all that they’ve done to slow and stop Dracula already, although my Internet decided to drop out for 5 minutes right around this time, so it got cut a bit short.



Dracula is next!



I am getting frustrated by how many “minor” items (like boots of levitation, or Resist 1 thing armors) require attunement. I think I may try to increase attunement slots or say “no attunement required” for some items in my next game. Or maybe class items as Minor or Major, where minor items take half a slot? Not sure, but some of the fun utility items never saw use due to attunement issues.
 

J-H

Explorer
6/25/20 - This is it!

Between sessions, I let the arcane trickster know that since his whip has traveled through the whole castle, has been used successfully against the Avatar of Death, and the party just got blessed from freeing the last Belmont, the whip is now a +2, and deals 1d6 fire damage versus undead and evil creatures.

Our Gloomstalker had to stay home to watch his kids and attended via Discord on speakerphone. One of the other players had it pulled up on his laptop, and would take photos of the battlemat and post them in Discord for the remote player to see. It worked pretty well.

After a short hurrah re-cap, the party heads up into the throneroom. The doors slam shut behind them with a boom, and Dracula gives a short monologue, then we roll initiative. Nobody chose to interrupt or yell back at Dracula. The throneroom is 120' x 90', with 5' marble pillars 15' off the wall at 15' intervals. There are blacked-out windows between each pillar, with curtains over them. The windows were there to provide the party with an option to cut the curtain and smash a window to let some sunlight into the room, which would create some no-go areas for Dracula. I even marked North on the map so they'd know which side to smash...nobody went for it.

Both forms of Dracula has 408hp as written, but I bumped them both to 510hp. Even so, the combat lasted 3 or 4 rounds for Dracula's first form and 2.5 rounds for his Vampire Dragon form. He regenerates 30hp per round, but there was so much radiant damage that he almost never got to use this. I had no resistances on him, and no vulnerabilities. I thought about radiant vulnerability, but one reason to skip it was simple bookkeeping...plus, you know, Lord of Shadow and Darkness and stuff.

In his first form, he got two turns per round. During both turns, he can teleport anywhere in the room as a bonus action.
In one turn, he would act as a warrior, either doing a typical claw/bite, with the bite's necrotic damage being 6d6, or he'd use his Shadow Blade for 5d8+7 damage. His to-hit bonuses were in the +13 to +14 range, so he hit with almost every attack made the whole battle.
In the other turn, he acts as a caster, and I roll off a 3-option table to see if he fires 8 Melf's Meteors, uses Charm (15' cube), or uses Fireball (8d6, leaves a Fire Elemental behind).

Warrior Dracula was super unimpressive. The party Barbarian has a helmet that grants immunity to psychic damage, so the Shadow Blade flat out did nothing on hit. Dracula tried to grapple the barbarian a couple of times to bite him, but failed. He then teleported across the room and Shadow Bladed the Paladin, but was Smote in return. Warrior Dracula ended up successfully grabbing and biting the Gloomstalker, but this was near the end of the fight.

Casting Dracula fired off two fireballs - I forgot the fire elemental for one. The fire elemental tied up the paladin for 2-3 rounds working through its 102hp. He used Charm once, hitting only the monk, who failed his save...but then used Still Mind on his next turn to negate it. He used the meteors once, splitting the damage across 3 targets and doing some damage.

Lair actions turned the room shadowy & short-ranged, which didn't imact much, summoned bats twice through the battle, said bats landing a total of about 20 points of damage over 4 rounds because a swarm with +4 to hit for 2d4 is nearly irrelevant at level 12, and then did a minor (18 point?) heal on him by draining a bit of life from everyone around him.

Everyone except the cleric (Bless, Guiding Bolt on Dracula, healing) & paladin end up contributing large amounts of damage to the Transylvanian Anti-Vampire fund, and Dracula soon is down to 0, at which point darkness swirls around him. I play an evil devil laugh that gets really deep on my phone, followed immediately in the playlist by a dragon roar, and it's now Vampire Dragon time. The barbarian eats a full attack including a claw crit and a bite (which reduces max HP & heals Dracula some) and is brought below half, but thanks to resistances, is still standing. The monk runs over and does damage, while the gloomstalker backs off and does archery, and the Paladin finishes off the fire elemental. The arcane trickster moves closer and has his familiar use Dragon Breath (cast earlier) to do like 18 points of fire damage.

Dragon Dracula uses his legendary wing attack to fly over to the door right before his turn (knocking two characters prone for minor damage), and then fires off his breath attack, hitting 4/6 party members and the familiar. 18d6, 66 necrotic damage, Con DC 21 half. Two party members go down at 0hp, but the cleric's Channel Divinity brings them right back up. The cleric also threw a Heal in there at the barbarian for 77hp of healing somewhere in there, which must have been before the breath weapon. Everyone piles onto Dracula, taking tail attacks in retaliation (legendary actions), but ultimately killing him before he can take another turn. The Gloomstalker gets in the final hit, and he dies in a burst of shadow.

Overall, Dracula was less threatening in terms of player kills & TPKs than Death was, but he was still no pushover, and lasted for about 6 rounds. I'm pretty happy with how it went, although I may give him a better choice of Legendary Actions, as "move around the room or make a melee attack" options were not useful when nobody was next to him and he didn't want to be next to anyone. He didn't have to be a super-death-hard battle, as long as he was a good tough fight that FELT like a tough Dracula fight... and I think it did.

The party quickly loots the Crystal Ball of Truesight (next to throne), the +2 Breastplate, and the Ring of Fire Elemental Control, and then the castle starts shaking under them before the AT can get very far with ritually casting Identify. They are 150' up in the central keep and need to get down. The solutions are:
-AT Spider-Climbs with the Gloomstalker on his back
-Cleric Feather-falls (thanks to shield) with the Paladin holding on
-Monk Slow-falls
-Barbarian jumps out the window and rages before hitting the ground; Arcane Trickster casts Web to cushion the landing.

Then they run 300' across the roof. I make some rolls for "castle disappearing under you as it phases into the Plane of Shadow", but all that happens is the monk (fastest party member) has a stone disappear under his foot, then phase back in, dealing 5 force damage. They then have to go 100' down again to get down the castle wall. Same solutions as before, except the Barbarian climbs. The wall briefly disappears under him, and he falls the last 20'.

The party then walks down the road away from the disappearing castle, enjoying the sunshine and seeing things return to normal.

What do they do next?
Everyone hits level 13. They are all fabulously wealthy, about 8 levels higher than almost anyone else in Europe, and being super-famous as the people who killed Dracula.

They decide to form "The Belmont Order" in honor of the vampire-hunting family, and build a manor, village, and training academy right where Dracula's castle was. They will train monster hunters and become a regional military power, as well as building a temple (cleric) and will help to restabilize and repopulate the devastated countryside. This will include a large library, alchemist's lab, and fortified underground areas.

Dmitri the Barbarian will go home...he rolled for "this is your life" in Xanathar's during the session, and decided that he'd been exiled from his dwarfhold for 100 years, so he went back to see his family that he hadn't seen in 100 years. It's pretty vague, but returning as famous, wealthy, and super-powerful generally grants success in resolving old issues like that. He takes the scenic route across eastern Europe with his wife and adult children, doing some adventuring on the way back to the Belmont Order, returning after about a year to live there.

Reybella the Cleric will help heal the area, build the temple, and adventure with Ratel (their characters aren't married, but the players are).

Ratel the Monk will finish reading his Stat tome, do some adventuring to clean out the monsters in the region, and will learn how to ride and handle horses. He will also take on some monk apprentices later.

Malcolm the Ranger will oversee construction of the Belmont Order facilities and training grounds. He will also help find the captives that the party freed, and see if some of them will come back to settle around the new Order.

Adrian the Arcane Trickster will run the Belmont Order, and will study alchemy & monsters. He wants to upgrade his chain whip with holy water, and he wants to redecorate his obviously-drow Spider Armor to be less drow-like.

Teador the Paladin will go home and break the news to his brother's wife & kids that Adrian the Sorcerer is dead. He will give them his brother's Wand of Lightning, and will later return to the Order. He will work with whichever military he was with to build an organized military force around the Belmont Order to give is some organized punch.

And that's what everyone does for the next 5+ years. I have copies of everyone's level 13 character sheets, and we may see a sequel campaign in a year or two real-time.....
 

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