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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #31 Do Not Split The Party.

Goonalan

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Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #014 Inconceivable!

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 14, and another cracker.

This was a glorious session- towards the end the players were screaming for Buggles’ skeleton friend, Gwen, to hit- they were that caught up in the fray- every attack roll mattered, but we’ll get to that...

This is the Forge of Fury proper then, although just to recap the Dark Squad have been peppered (mostly misses) by orc archers en route to the Mountain Door, and then (most of them) have rushed on through the undefended portal into a chamber containing two small ledges bisected by a yawning chasm, spanning which is a treacherous looking rope bridge.

So, first the dash by the slowest members of the PCs (et al) to get to and then through the Mountain Doors, and hopefully to catch up (a bit) with the more express adventurers.

Only one injury sustained in the rush- Gwen, Buggles’ skeleton companion is hit by an arrow firing orc, she’s already wounded, and so reduced to just 1 HP- this is significant.

However, instead of waiting for his colleagues to catch up Newt decides to press on ahead, this after Buggles’ pointed aside- “if a cat can’t cross it [the rope bridge] we may as well just go back to Neverwinter and retire.” All the goading New Tricks needs.

Halfway across the rope bridge the tabaxi suddenly sees an orc dodge out of cover and onto the very edge of the ledge ahead, his destination. A moment later the javelin the orc was formerly hoisting slices across Newt’s side and he has to hang on to the ropes for dear life.

But that’s not enough to deter the tabaxi with his feline agility, the warlock rushes over and makes landfall- meantime Buggles shoots the newly revealed orc (with a readied action), while Newt finishes it off in an instant with his hellish rebuke (for 25 fire damage).

Ramshambow follows the tabaxi across the bridge- it’s easy for the agile rogue, he spots and charges into the second orc on the far ledge, and leaves the brute mortally wounded.

Note Ram is a swashbuckler- he gets his sneak attack once/turn every turn- more or less.

The foul brute retaliates and swings its greataxe, but the rogue is much too quick.

Buggles also traverses the bridge, and again with ease, the wood elf also makes it to the action.

A third orc, in the passageway beyond the ledge, hears and sees his compatriots fighting and falling, and so skedaddles sharpish, alas the lone brute is spotted by Newt who is still moving fast. The orc is dashing off to get its friends- the warlock eldritch blasts it, and the now the terrified fellow is running very quickly indeed (and down to 2 HP) it races out of sight.

Ram meantime finishes off the second orc on the ledge, the way forward is now clear…

Garumn, Vincenzo and Gwen follow on, taking it in turns to safely traverse the rope bridge, the trio can hear the bow-wielding orcs- now well behind them, shouting to each other from their respective arrow slits, they seem to be a little upset- their targets have escaped them.

However, as the last of the Dark Squad make it across the rope bridge and to the far ledge, a pair of secret doors grind up and open, this back on the Mountain Door side of the great chasm. The bow wielding orcs that peppered the adventurers earlier step out of the gloom and decide to join in the fun.

Lots of orc bow attack rolls, all misses, later.

Buggles shoots one of the orcs, but the newly revealed quintet shoulder their bows, and one by one begin the scramble to get over the rope bridge, and to the Dark Squad.

Meantime however Buggles, Vince and then Garumn have continued to race on ahead, the trio spill into a rough-hewn orc sleeping chamber- a natural cavern with a myriad exits, also with a wooden fenced and barred prisoner compound. At the bars are Geradil, a 50-something small fat wheezing human who for the next two-and-a-half hours will shout “Inconceivable!” at nearly every instance (see his token for the joke). Also trapped here is Courana- a terrified and screaming, early 30’s, human maid. It gets loud in here, even when Garumn uses Shatterpsike, his magical blade, to cut the wood stave prison open.

3.31 The Prisoners.jpg

The Prisoners.

Geradil presses the Dark Squad for an answer- how are they going to escape this hell-hole? Vinnie’s explanation, of course, proves to be “Inconceivable!”

Somehow, Newt and Ram have got left behind in the mad rush forward, and are therefore the first to face the now greataxe wielding (formerly bow-wielding) orcs that are making their way over the rope bridge. One of the quintet almost falls off the treacherous span, but manages to grab-a-hold and hang there for a while, before finally hauling itself back up and making it to the action.

14.1.jpg

A little help! Guys? GUYS?

Newt hits the first of the charging orcs to make the ledge with his burning hands, but for not much effect at all (both orcs save, and low damage rolls), Ram however cuts one of the wounded orcs down- which just leaves four furious orcs heading their way.

The pair start yelling for help.

Garumn hears his comrade’s shouts and races to the rescue, note the NPC paladin of Moradin (played by the energetic and virile DM, that’s me) prefaces every one of his attacks, in his lilting Scottish tones, with something like- “dinnae fret fellers, I’ll tek care of these”, and then rolls something below a ‘5’. Then the dwarf calls immediately for… “a little help, guys? Guys? I’m struggling here… yer ken? Guys? Guys?” That kind of thing.

14.2.jpg

Two maps into one- Garumn the Tank, and the rescue of the prisoners.

Garumn’s dice have a mostly shocking night.

Back to the action- Garumn swings heartily at an orc and misses by a mile.

Newt to the rescue, the tabaxi eldritch blasts the already wounded orc now swatting at Garumn- and it’s dead.

However the next orc off the rope bridge smashes Garumn down, with a greataxe Crit for 24 damage, the brave paladin is left slumped on the floor and bleeding out.

Time for Ram to save him, the rogue gets close and then glugs a potion of greater healing down the paladin’s throat, Garumn blinks open his eyes. The remaining three orcs however close in for the kill- therefore with an inspiration point the rogue spins out a dagger with his off hand and critically wounds the nearest.

Back in the rough cavern ahead, and there’s plenty of noise coming from the northern passage, suddenly another gaggle (actually another quintet) of screaming orcs hove into view. Vinnie reacts in an instant and fills the passageway with his deadly spike growth. The lead orc rushes on regardless, screaming in agony as its feet and legs are shredded. The brute almost makes it to the adventurers, Buggles shoots it in the face just as it gets clear of the passage- it’s dead.

A second orc caught in the spike growth attempts to rush on towards the beckoning (and grinning) Vincenzo, seconds later and the brute is hurt badly, it therefore turns and attempts to flee back the way it came- the foolish sod dies just as its about to emerge from the spikey terrain terror.

Back at the bridge and chasm Garumn levers himself back to his feet just in time to employ Shatterspike to gut the orc leering over him.

Just two of the brutes left standing.

There is much in the way of cheering, the Dark Squad are managing to hold their own, just.

Newt eldritch blasts the next orc over the bridge, it manages to stagger to the Dark Squad’s side of the chasm, however the last orc in the gang rushes past its colleague and… buries its greataxe in Garumn.

Again.

The paladin flops to the floor for the second time- and gets back to dying, Ram arrives just in time to critically wound the orc, and then to stand over and defend the re-sprawled dwarf.

Newt eldritch blasts one of the wounded orcs dead, the other slams its greataxe into Ram, and now the rogue is just about bloodied- payback time, the rogue skewers the beast and the orc threat here is ended.

Moments later Ram grabs a potion of healing from Garumn’s belt and forces it down the paladin, his eyes flick open- the dwarf grins and thumbs up the rogue.

The trio rush to catch up with their comrades, with Garumn glugging down another (his last) potion of healing, and then casting a cure wounds on himself en route.

Back in the rough cavern with Buggles, Vincenzo, Gwen (the skeleton) and the newly released prisoners- the orcs are now approaching from a different passage, having abandoned the spike growth route. Buggles fires and arrow into the first orc to come screaming into the chamber, Vinnie hits it with his produce flame, and it falls.

14.3.jpg

Garumn dirt-naps, while the rest of the guys clear out the orcs.

Two more of the brutes however rush in to action, it gets to melee- Gwen even gets in on the act with her rapier, but its Buggles’ scimitars that are the stars of the show- snicker-snack.

Then the other members of the Dark Squad make an appearance, Newt eldritch blasts an orc- at which point the PCs are suddenly aware that a large snarling, growling beast is rushing towards them from the north passage- through the spike growth, this bastard must be tough.

It’s a massive dire wolf, and it almost makes it, five feet away from the Dark Squad the multiple spike growth hits take its toll- the ferocious beast falls.

Seconds later and more growling and shouting is heard, there’s a second dire wolf it seems- and someone or something in charge of the hound(s).

Note there are still two orcs in the chamber, both swinging and missing- Buggles cuts one down and then with his off-hand leaves the other critically wounded (with a Crit), Vinnie’s produce flame finishes it off.

Just to say the Dark Squad have accounted for twelve orcs and a dire wolf so far in this session, nice work.

At which point the second dire wolf comes rushing into the chamber and the PCs (and players) start to panic a little, particularly as something large and loud- and shouting threats in a tongue they don’t understand- giantish, seems also to be approaching.

14.4.jpg

Make ready for some hot wolf-on-wolf action.

Great Ulfe the Ogre switches to common and turns the air blue, he- it seems- is not at all pleased that the guys have killed his dog.

Gwen fires an arrow into the racing, snarling, snapping dire wolf- and it’s a Crit.

The show stops for more rousing cheers, never have I witnessed a skeleton so wildly celebrated.

Newt hits the wolf with a hefty eldritch blast, Buggles leaps out of his hiding place- behind a stack of crates, and slices the beast- and now the second dire wolf is critically wounded.

Furthermore the dire wolf is looking in a mirror, well almost- Vinnie is now Vincen D. Wolf, the wildshaped druid dashes in and tears the throat out of the beast.

Alas Vinnie, or if you like- Vincen, has had to cancel his spike growth spell in order to transform into his new form, and so at this point a bunch more orcs come rushing into the cavern from the northern passage.

My but its busy in here.

Garumn hits the first orc with a flung hand axe, it doesn’t stop the brute, however the orcs prove not to be the Dark Squad’s primary concern.

Great Ulfe the ogre arrives, and wades into action- shouting, swearing and making threats about who he’s going to eat first. His opening attack, with his massive greataxe, is a Crit for 28 damage which leaves Vincen D. Wolf a mewling wreck, and the other players gasping- and littering the thankfully just post-watershed VTT with a string of profanities.

14.5.jpg

Great Ulfe- my but, he's a looker.

Gwen skewers an orc with her rapier, Buggles finishes it off- what a team, and then with his off-hand scimitar the wood elf rogue stabs Great Ulfe in the rear.

Vincen D. Wolf bites the tough ogre, but fails to shake the brute off his feet.

Newt hits Ulfe with an eldritch blast, the warlock used up all of his spell powers by the third turn of this fight… that was thirteen rounds ago.

Meanwhile still more orcs are joining the fracas, this is getting real nasty, although Ram guts the next orc brute to rush into the cavern.

Note, there are a lot more attack rolls happening here- mostly orc attack rolls, but also lots from the PCs (particularly Garumn- see later)- but I’m only telling you about the hits.

A moment later Ram critically wounds yet another orc, while the roaring Great Ulfe decapitates Vincen D. Wolf, which instantly transforms back into the badly bleeding Vincenzo.

Gwen stabs Great Ulfe in the back with her rapier, and the ogre is bloodied at last.

Buggles goes to work with his twin scimitars, and now Great Ulfe is heavily wounded- thank the gods for sneak attack, eh boys.

Vincenzo recovers slightly, gets clear of the mess, while Newt uses an inspiration point to reroll a miss- and Ulfe gets hit by yet another eldritch blast.

The orcs in the cavern continue to swat and swing their greataxes, note I have missed with six attack rolls so far- and the PCs are not that well armoured (save for Garumn).

There’s a pocket of silence around the VTT every time I announce that, “Orc N swings heartily at [insert name of good guy] and… misses”, followed- always- by a collective sigh of relief.

But the Dark Squad are stoically ignoring all enemies except for Great Ulfe.

Ram skewers the ogre, and rolls more or less max damage on his dice- including for sneak attack, the great brute staggers and then slowly collapses.

There are several hissed “YES!”s from the crowd.

The killer rogue than flings a dagger with his off hand and leaves another orc critically wounded.

Just to note, Garumn is still missing with all/most of his attacks- he has the best to hit and damage in the group, and he’s wielding the only magical weapon the gang possess- Shatterspike. He, of course, is still making speeches prior to every one of his attacks, he’s doing this so often- and missing so often, that the players are trying to persuade me to cease and desist, they figure that somehow my little Garumn speeches-

“Dinnae worry fellers, I’ll tek care of this orc scumbag”, attack roll and a miss, “… a little help here fellers.”

Are cursing/hexing the paladin.

It’s also worth noting that throughout this fight, and as stated earlier, Courana is still screaming on her turn every round, and Geradil is still proclaiming that various things are “Inconceivable!”

Remarkably this gets a laugh every turn- there’s a lot of nervous tension it seems.

Buggles critically wounds yet another orc, there are still three of them left swinging and constantly missing in the busy cavern chamber.

Vincenzo kills a badly wounded orc with a little more produce flame.

Newt eldritch blasts another- it too is now critically wounded.

Garumn (a miracle) heavily wounds the last.

Ram finishes both of them off- it’s what he does, he’s a stone cold killer.

And suddenly, oh so suddenly- the Dark Squad are alone, and unassailed (at least for a bit).

Buggles and Ram take a corridor each, get into hiding, watch the way and ready their attacks- as does Gwen, the skeleton has survived for just shy of fifteen turns (and six orc attacks) on just 1 HP.

Meantime Vincenzo and Newt are clearing the prisoners out- which Geradil finds “Inconceivable!”, note Courana stops screaming. The Dark Squad pair discover a sprawled, badly beaten but still breathing, gnome in the dark recesses of the prison chamber.

Vincenzo glugs a healing potion down the gnome’s neck, and seconds later Spandwick the Magic Gnome is back in the land of the living.

“Bel? Where’s Bel?” Spandwick wants to know.

Vinnie and Newt quickly ascertain that Bel is Spandwick’s gnomish wife, and that she was captured with him but… is very obviously not present here.

[Death to lots of orcs, two dire wolves and Great Ulfe the ogre 1950 XP]

Alas the rest of this discussion is for another time.

“What do you want here?” Old Yarrack, the platemail wearing orog wants to know- and before coming to the fight the veteran fighter has rounded up a few more orcs (five of ‘em- all that’s left in the complex), and Burdug the shaman (eye of Gruumsh).

Note the Dark Squad are not aware of any of the above, only that someone is shouting at them.

Newt and Vinnie shout threats and replies for a short while, the rogues however stay silent and remain hidden.

It’s a short back and forth- the PCs are not for leaving, and Old Yarrack is not for letting them stay where they are.

Note while this is going on Garumn makes use of his lay on hands, and also dishes out a bit more healing (particularly for himself- he took a beating earlier and has been on less than 10 HP ever since).

Then the chatter peters out, and once more the enemies rush in.

Ding-ding, round two.

The first charging orc is caught in Vinnie’s entangle spell, courtesy of his wand of the same name.

Newt eldritch blasts it- the tabaxi needs a new trick, it seems.

More orcs race into the cavern chamber.

Surely they can’t keep missing the PCs.

As it turns out- no, they can’t.

Garumn gets hit by a pair of orc greataxes, and reduced to 4 HP, so much for all of that healing.

Buggles dives out of hiding and slaughters an orc.

Ram repeats the trick, but with an additional stab to yet another orc, with his off-hand dagger.

Garumn slices an orc with Shatterspike, and then rolls minimum damage.

Which, as it turns out, is “Inconceivable!”

14.6.jpg

Old Yarrack, he's a big tough bugger!

Spandwick the Magic Gnome reveals himself to be a user of magic- alas he misses an orc with his fire bolt, at which point the Dark Squad get to meet Old Yarrack, the v. tough orog. The pantomime villain proclaims his dislike of all things dwarven, and then throws a javelin into Gwen- and shatters Buggles’ skeleton companion.

“The “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” is probably still echoing through time somewhere.

Note, just to make clear Buggles, back in Neverwinter, bought equipment and armour (he carries around with him) to dress Gwen to look like a regular dwarf, complete with full helm- hence Old Yarrack thinking he was attacking a dwarf.

Burdug, the eye of Gruumsh, already has her bless spell running, next she next conjures her spiritual weapon- a ghost-like spear, and then fails to stab Ram with it.

Buggles spends an inspiration point to turn a miss into a Crit- and thus critically wounds yet another orc. Vincenzo wildshapes into Vincen Bear, and then bites the head off the newly wounded orc.

Note, throughout the fight Courana and Geradil continue their usual commentary, although the pair’s signature verbalisations are much less noisy as they’re situated back at the chasm ledge- watching the fight from afar, and not wanting to risk using the treacherous rope bridge.

My point, the players are giggling furiously every time they hear a whispered “Inconceivable!” still.

Newt has seen enough, the tabaxi grabs out a scroll- scorching ray, and then makes a number of injudicious comments about “pulling out the big guns”, he then proceeds to miss the heavily armoured Yarrack with all four of his attacks*.

*Four attacks because he spent an inspiration point to miss again.

Ram kills an orc and then with his off-hand flings a dagger into Burdug, the eye of Gruumsh, and another Crit- she’s not best pleased.

Garumn (at last) gets into the fight, and with Shatterspike and a bunch of divine smite (for 23 damage) he leaves Burdug beginning to doubt the wisdom of coming to Old Yarrack’s aid.

At which point Spandwick flings a fire bolt at her, and Crits, and rolls 19 fire damage- the eye of Gruumsh is very suddenly reduced to 1 HP.

The Dark Squad are cheering furiously.

Buggles adds- “All hail the NPCs!”, and then cuts another orc down.

Note, that was the last of the orcs to fall- there’s just the named orc enemies left here.

At which point Old Yarrack smashes his greataxe into Vincen Bear, but the ursine is made of sterner stuff- he takes it.

But not for long- the orog swings heartily again, after a few more curses, and Crits (for 27 damage)- an instant later and the bear is gone, and Vincenzo is back, the shifter druid is bloodied and beyond.

Just to note Old Yarrack is AC 19 and has not taken a hit so far, he has approx. 45 HP, so- we’ve a way to go yet.

Also note, while the PCs are otherwise occupied Burdug, the eye of Gruumsh (on 1 HP) runs off.

Buggles stabs his scimitar into Old Yarrack, through a join in the orog’s armour- and then sneers at the great brute, and then rolls just 5 damage.

Vinnie meantime scrambles away and shifts into his more bestial form- he needs the temporary hit points.

Ram stabs Old Yarrack and Crits, and then follows up with another Crit with his off-hand dagger, and all of a sudden the brutal orog is well beyond bloodied.

Old Yarrack smashes his greataxe into Buggles, the wood elf is very suddenly bloodied too.

Then lots of N/PCs launch their attacks and continue to miss the orog (he’s AC 19 remember)- including Newt, Garumn, Spandwick and Buggles.

It’s getting edgy as the initiative tracker starts ticking back around to Old Yarrack once more.

Then relief as the hefty brute also misses with both of his attacks, and now Vinnie has a better idea, the druid bathes the orog in faerie fire.

Newt launches yet another eldritch blast… and Crits, and rolls 17 damage, which coincidently is exactly the same number of hit points as Old Yarrack has left.

There follows a lot of high pitched wailing and shouting as the orog falls.

But we’re well over time for this session, already.

The entire session, save for a moment or two of temporary reprieve- between waves of attackers, and except for the five minutes of threat and chatter with Old Yarrack, all of the rest was bloody mayhem and action.

Loved it.

Last word.

“Inconceivable!”

[More orcs, Old Yarrack the orog, and the fleeing Burdug 975 XP]

The Dark Squad need an extended rest, they’re out of everything, and have enough XP for level 4. If I had landed a few more hits with the orcs… but that was edge of the VTT stuff.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

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Playa Playa

The Dark Squad's premier poet is back in action...


Gwen


Old bones with no heart, no body and no soul

A shrill whistle calls you to another patrol

You venture alongside us with courage and tenacity

It’s no wonder our hearts you have stole



Oh Gwen

Do you remember when

You lived a full bodied life

Could it be, that one day, you will do so again?





From the pen of Ramshambo


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

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Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #015 Have you found Bel?

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 15, and lacking the terror and trepidation of the last one, but still another good ‘un.

The fighting is done (for now) and before the adventurers are the bodies of nineteen orcs, two dire wolves, a platemail encased orog (Old Yarrack) and the ogre- Great Ulfe, all strewn liberally around the small cavern and corridor space that the Dark Squad have occupied and defended with their lives.

We start with a little bit of backslapping- “We’re great!” that kind of thing before the debating team gets into action, the Dark Squad have a decision to make. The choices are, simply put (I wish)- retreat and relax, get after the badly injured shaman orc (an Eye of Gruumsh) that got away, interrogate the orc’s former prisoners, or… Well, it gets very chatty- everyone it seems has a different take on what the Dark Squad should be doing next.

Meantime the corpses of the fallen are given the once over, some coin and a few more items of interest found, the orog’s platemail is removed- Garumn will have a go at re-sizing the stuff- if and when he finds a forge. He’s a smith remember, also don’t forget the Dark Squad are here to find the lost forge of Durgeddin the Black, so- it’s a distinct possibility.

Oddly, the same orog was wielding another (fake) Durgeddin the Black handaxe- the same design as the handaxe that Erky sold to Big Al, the halfling thieves’ guild gang leader, way back in Neverwinter. In conclusion- some bugger is making knock off Durgeddin the Black’s.

Eventually, after much more chatter (and healing from Vinnie’s Healing Spirit)- and also many more interruptions from Spandwick the Magic Gnome, the PCs decide to try to find the trail of the wounded orc shaman, or else the trail of Bel- Spandwick’s missing wife. Who, according to Courana- one of the other rescued prisoners, slipped between the bars of their cage maybe a day and a half ago. Obviously, Spandwick is distraught, and the Dark Squad (some of ‘em) have kind hearts.

[Much chatter about what to do next, and info from the prisoners 150 XP]

The adventurers, accompanied by Spandwick, tramp around the orc caves for a bit, with the sneaky pair- Ram and Buggles stealthing a little ahead, and then calling the other PCs forward. It is however Newt (on a little bit of a solo wander, curiosity killed the what…) that finds an open (formerly) secret door, and within the chamber of the orc shaman. Or at least that’s what the Dark Squad think after taking a look around inside. The musty, dirty chamber has a variety of skulls and the like dangling from the ceiling, alongside other items of ornamental viscera.

A couple of sacks of silver coins are also found, and more importantly a blood trail- the missing orc went this way.

Note, like an annoying seven-year-old Spandwick asks repeatedly- “Have you found Bel?”, like every five minutes or so, he concentrates his efforts on bothering Buggles. Why you ask, easy- because Buggles always answers back, he’s possibly the most annoyed by the gnome’s constant yabbering.

15.1.jpg

Don't leave poor Spandwick behind!

The blood trail leads into a massive chamber- the grand stair, Ram thinks, remember the ancient verse (extract follows)-

Seek the stone tooth
Climb to the mountain door
Descend the grand stair
Pass the tombs of the ancients

To the glory of the glitterhame
Wary of the sinkhole
There you find the door
Within… the foundry of Durgeddin the Black

So, the Dark Squad are on their way- they’re three lines in.

Note the massive high-ceilinged chamber has the decrepit remains of stone carved dioramas on the walls and ceiling, all depicting dwarven smiths hard at work at their anvils. The chamber stretches ahead to another great stone door, there’s also a rough iron gate on the west wall- most odd. However, the largest feature in the space is the aforementioned grand stair, a dark opening that almost runs the length of the eerie location. Carved into the undressed stone are a myriad wide but shallow steps that descend into the dark unknown.

The Dark Squad however have a trail to follow, and quickly discern that the bleeding orc shaman fled along the west side of the stair, she stopped once to do a little dance (seemingly) and then rushed on to the stair proper and down below.

A mystery- why did the orc seemingly stop a while to jig, why did it not take a more direct route to the grand stair.

Traps and concealed things are looked for, repeatedly- nothing. The iron gate investigated- rags and straw and… anything really, has been shoved between the bars of the portal- seemingly to seal the opening. Also, the great stone door ahead is surrounded by the skeletal remains of at least four dead orcs.

[Tracking the Eye of Gruumsh, and other investigations 150 XP]

We spend a good twenty minutes here, the players spit-balling ideas, trying to work out what it’s all about. More investigations follow, more cautious activity- until the PCs eventually make it to the stairs, and by doing so discover what made the orc shaman dance. Stirges, at least half-a-dozen of the little bloodsucking buggers swarm from the opening and set about their feast.

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"Stirges!" repeat x 10 (and then some more, it seems no-one has a nice word to say about Stirges. They need a make-over/rebranding).

Buggles & Ram (both wielding bows) and Vincenzo (produce flame) account for the first three enemies to flap into view, the fourth pest to appear however makes a beeline for Vinnie, and darts the shifter with its proboscis (and a Crit).

Buggles to the rescue, the wood elf shoots and kills the stirge attached to Vinnie’s chest, while Newt eldritch blasts a fifth stirge into bloody pieces, Vinnie’s produce flame ends the last.

That was easy.

[Half-a-dozen stirges 150 XP]

Ram is sent forward to investigate the stone door to the north, around which the orc skeletons lie- no trap is found on the door (the trap is in the walls either side of the door, also Ram’s dice are broken). The fiendish DM even makes the door stiff, heavy and hard to open, but eventually Ram and Buggles wrench it free- which, of course, triggers a fiery response. Alas Vincenzo has also wandered close to the action, all three are therefore caught in a fiery blast as liquid flame spews from a myriad nozzles set in the walls around the portal. The trio are also set on fire.

15.3.jpg

Alas the flaming inferno trap was much too fast for any of the VTT screen-shooters to snap a picture of it. The image above therefore depicts our heroes just prior to being set on fire.

There follows several comedy moments as the two rogues drop, roll and scream in an attempt to put the flames out, but not before taking a little more flaming damage. Newt controls flame and extinguishes the fire on Vinnie- classy.

[Having hot fun with the fire trap 125 XP]

Then, however the great stone door goes to grind back shut- Newt, with a little feline agility, races hard and dives into the small stone chamber beyond the door.

The curious tabaxi is keen to find what great treasure is held beyond the trap- but there’s nothing, just the trap mechanism- which the tabaxi eventually breaks (or at least beaks part of it) so that he can wrench the stone door back open and escape his confinement.

15.4.jpg

"Meee-OH! Buggerrrrrrr..."

[Newt investigates the fire trap up-close 125 XP]

Note Ram is back to being just about bloodied, which is the normal state of affairs for the rogue- he never stays uninjured for very long. The adventurers therefore decide to back up a little while and get in a short rest, mainly so that the warlock can get his spell powers back- but also for a little more healing.

Then down the stair, and again with the rogues sneaking ahead and investigating the way. The grand stair descends for a good long while, the Dark Squad tramp on for almost thirty minutes, they’re below the earth according to Garumn- under the mountain.

Then...

The stair ahead is bisected by a shallow but fast flowing underground stream, just a few feet wide, which spews from a crack in the rock and spills down a second watery route ahead, into darkness. The stairs continue their descent. The rogues pull back to their comrades and chat a while- the decision is made to follow the watery route.

The going is tough, at least for Ram- the rogue trips and falls in the descent, although its only minor cuts and bruises (see, told you- he never stays healthy for long). The rogue however spots a cavern with a low entrance into a small but high-ceilinged chamber ahead, and stops outside of it to listen intently- he thinks he can hear the flapping of more stirges (he’s right) however he can also see a corpse within, and so ducks inside.

Note, just a reminder- Spandwick is still constantly enquiring, “have you found Bel?” Which is not at all annoying. Not at all. Just ask Buggles.

Back in the small chimney like chamber, the stirges Ram heard earlier make their presence known- descending upon the rogue. Buggles, and then the other adventurers come running, several more of them duck into the small chamber, they have to- the action is happening up above in there.

15.5.jpg

Ram locates a pair of flying exsanguinators (rebranded Stirges)- great for kids parties!

Buggles shoots a stirge dead- there are eight of the little buggers in this encounter (mostly arriving in pairs), alas another of the pests gets to the wood elf and begins to drain his blood. Ram stabs the blighter formerly attached to Buggles- dead, while the wood elf accounts for another with his scimitar that gets a little too close.

Newt gets stabbed by a proboscis and bled briefly, the tabaxi’s hellish rebuke incinerates the unlucky stirge.

Then Ram gets bitten and bled, again briefly, he skewers the offending stirge with his rapier- dead, and then with his off-hand dagger ends yet another that swoops too close.

15.6.jpg

The Stirge Disco- Ooooah-Ooooah-DUM-DUM-Ooooah-Ooooah-DUM-DUM. Thumping bass (and falling stones) courtesy of Newt's Eldritch Blasts.

Buggles cuts another dead, while Newt’s eldritch blast ends the last- that’s all eight enemies accounted for.

[Eight more stirges destroyed 200 XP]

The small emaciated body in the lonely cavern turns out to be that of a long dead dwarf- exsanguinated by the flying stirge menaces, the corpse however has a little gold.

Note Ram, at first, thought the body could have been Bel’s, the DM may even have hinted at such.

The adventurers however have seen (and had) enough, they climb back out of the stream passage- back the way they came, and then spend a little while chatting about where to go next. This after Vincenzo is convinced that while there are signs of the orc shaman passing in this direction (down the stairs) there are however no signs that Bel took this path.

And Spandwick is, of course, still asking- “have you found Bel?”

The decision is to head back up the stair and search the orc’s lair properly, Bel is probably hidden there somewhere.

Note this decision is reached because Spandwick has now graduated to shouting, every now and then, “BEL!” at the top of his voice.

Even after he receives a stern lecture from Vinnie about the danger inherent in such actions.

The DM delights in this activity it seems.

Funny that.

And at the time I noted that many of the players were laughing, so...

The Dark Squad therefore head all the way back up the grand stair, and then back into the orc caves- they search their way through several large cavern chambers, there are piles of mouldering crates and boxes here- the collected (mundane) stolen goods of the orcs. Vinnie even encourages Spandwick to shout and call for his wife- there are lots of places to hide here, particularly if you are a small frightened gnome.

Nothing.

A store-chamber cum orc bedroom is investigated and more semi-hidden treasures found- gold and gems, an impressive haul. A little further on in the passageways and a hefty great wooden door is located, with a human skull impaled upon the portal, the Dark Squad scoot into action- Ram and Buggles looking for traps and tricks- none found.

However during the manoeuvres a statue of a stout dwarf with sword and hammer is discovered just around the corner, Vinnie chooses to investigate the stone art, and in doing so triggers yet another trap- the result of which is the shifter is bathed in a cloud of greenish poison gas, expelled from the stone statue’s mouth.

Bugger!

However, Ram shares a dose of his elixir of health, and soon after Vinnie’s poison condition is gone.

[The stone dwarf with poison breath trap 150 XP]

The Dark Squad return their attention to the great portal and eventually shove their way into yet another chamber, this one by the smell of it the former home of the ogre- Great Ulfe, and his dire wolf hounds (Vak & Thrag). Yet more treasure is found and included in the haul is a beautifully made rapier, an actual Durgeddin the Black made blade.

Later Ram will attune this weapon, it’s given name- Deadend is revealed, as is its purpose- the blade is magical and bane of the undead.

15.7.jpg

Investigating Great Ulfe's stinky bedroom, note the poison breathing dwarf statue to the north- and look, that's the chasm!

[More treasure and more investigations 100 XP]

Still however no sign of Bel.

Yet another orc barracks is located, the chamber looks to have been home to nearly two dozen orcs- certainly the PCs have found the sleeping spaces for just over thirty orcs so far within the complex. I’m making this clear here on the off-chance that one of the players will read it- the PCs have only encountered and killed 20-something orcs so far.

The area is searched thoroughly, and another cache of treasure found- more gold, however the prize goes to Ram who finds a hidden panel on the western wall, which Garumn eventually wrenches open. There’s an ancient crumbling and long unused web-filled passage beyond. A secret door leading to a secret passage, and after closer very cautious investigation (no giant spiders here) the short passage ends in yet another secret door. This too is wrenched open; it leads into a long chamber containing the arrow slits and orc firing stations- the spot from which the orcs rained arrows down on the Dark Squad when they first arrived.

The adventurers search through the newly revealed chambers, and again there are more orc bedrolls here- the passage leads all the way around to the chasm chamber, to one of the secret doors there, from which the orcs with bows exited earlier to attack the Dark Squad from the rear. There’s a similar chamber with another arrow slit on the opposite side of the chasm ledge, this too is investigated- empty.

[More exploring and searching 200 XP]

Still no Bel.

Poor Spandwick is distraught, however the Dark Squad have really had enough now, and its ten minutes until cut off time for the end of the session, therefore a long rest is needed. All of the secret doors are sealed shut, camp is made- Spandwick consoled (slightly) and the Dark Squad set watch and then sleep to level up.

The night passes without incident, the adventurers rise and shine Level 4.

But that’s for next time.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan and the Dark Squad.
 
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Goonalan

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Supporter
Playa Playa

A mighty fine little ditty-


Stirges – a Haiku

Deftly swooping flight
Piercing parts yearning for blood
The flappy bastards



From the pen of Ramshambo


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

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Supporter
Playa Playa

A Buggles interlude, the wood elf while having lost Ashardalon's in the Neverwinter Forest pays a visit to home..

Buggles, accompanied by Gwen, had tracked Ashardalon the Dragonkith to the northern edge of Neverwinter, but the trail had gone cold. Before he had to return to Neverwinter to rendezvous with the rest of the Dark Squad, he decided to look in on his adopted family back at Willow Grove. He was greeted by Mother Willow, Grayum the Gruff, the sprites Flit and Wit but was surprised to see that Aunt Ingrid was also there. Ingrid was a particularly spiteful and ugly Hag who dwelled in the northern reaches of Neverwinter Wood.

The last time Buggles had seen Ingrid was a few years earlier, when he was sent to stay at her dark abode while Mother Willow and Grayum were summoned to attend a meeting of the Summer Court in the Feywild. It was not a pleasant experience. Ingrid's hollow tree-stump home was dirty and smelly, with various bits of animals and bone effigies strung up all over the place, and a cauldron out front constantly bubbling and emitting horrid smells. Ingrid, like other Hags, practiced dark woodland magic. In better times she would have been burned as a witch, but these were not better times.

Buggles remembered that summer as he caught sight of Ingrid and her feral cat, Nosiarys, who regarded him with baleful yellow eyes. Nosiarys has been catnapped by some Boggles, evil little grey fey monsters who drag their knuckles on the ground. Ingrid has been frantic to get her cat familiar back safely, and had set about a ritual to pinpoint his location. Buggles meanwhile had looked for tracks in the forest where Nosi liked to spend her time when she wasn't meowing around the cauldron, and picked up the trail of the Boggles quite easily. Following them to a secluded camp, Buggles had watched as Nosiarys was tied to a small altar by a group of Boggles, who set about gathering various skewers and bone knives. Buggles didn't think, he leaped into the fray to save Nosi, catching the Boggles quite unawares. A whirlwind of scimitars and teenage angst, Buggles cut down the first two Boggles with ease. The other three had grabbed small weapons and made a fight of it (well, the last one surrendered, which was not accepted), but in the end Buggles stood surrounded by bits of Boggle, Nosiarys mewling pathetically on the makeshift altar. Untyng her, Nosi immediately lashed out at Buggles with her sharp claws, giving him a scar on his cheek which he still bore to this day. Undeterred, Buggles had stuffed Nosi into a sack, and rushed back to find Ingrid just completing her location ritual. Amazed and delighted at the return of her beloved cat, who jumped up and purred around her shoulder, Ingrid had remarked to Buggles, “Well it seems like you have your uses after all” which was probably the nicest thing she had ever said to anyone.

Back in the present, Ingrid waved Buggles over, she looked even more hunched and ugly than he remembered. Her clothing was tattered and dirty, and Buggles was pretty sure he remembered some of the stains from the last time he saw her, some three years prior.

“Aaaaah Buggles, the savior of the forest!” she rasped, dripping with sarcasm and spittle in equal measure.

“Hello Aunt Ingrid, looking lovely as ever“ Buggles replied.

“Humph!” Ingrid snorted, “Come inside, we must speak”, she gestured towards a cross between a hut and a tree, which was clearly her home from home. Her cauldron bubbled away in front of it, filling the Grove with its noxious fumes.

Buggles and Gwen followed Ingrid into the lair, with Nosiarys purring around his feet. Nosi was a black cat with a white face, and a habit of making the most awful shrieking sounds.

“Hello Nosi” said Buggles, stooping to give the cat a tickle. Nosi purred loudly as Buggles tickled behind her ears, then ran off with a meow out of the hut towards the pond.

Ingrid sat hunched across from him, looking like she had fallen asleep.

“What brings you to the Grove, Ingrid?” asked Buggles.

Ingrid woke with a start. “You, actually. Or to be precise, that thing standing next to you”

“Gwen?” Buggles said with surprise, “What about her?”

“Why are you cavorting with the undead? I thought we raised you better than that” Ingrid seemed angry, but it was hard to tell.

“Just by chance really” Buggles replied, fishing the magic whistle from around his next, “I found this in the Sunless Citadel” he offered the whistle to Ingrid, who took it and peered carefully at it using some sort of spyglass which magnified her bloodshot yellow eye quite horribly.

“What do you know about it?” she enquired, never looking up.

“Not much really, it summons Gwen, she's a Duergar, that's a dark dwarf” he added cheekily.

“I know what a Duergar is you young fool!” Some spittle missed Buggles by inches, “What are you planning to do with it?”

“I hadn't given it too much thought, but I'd like to somehow free Gwen from this curse. I know she came from a Duergar city called Gracklstugh, somewhere in the Underdark. I thought about going there, but then Duergar aren't exactly friendly and since Gwen got turned into a skeleton there in the first place, that might not help at all. I don't know if she can be returned to life, or perhaps just laid to rest. Either way I want to help Gwen, I'm just not sure how”. Ingrid offered the whistle back, and Buggles took it and hung it back around his neck. Gwen shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably.

“You might be right there” Ingrid rasped, “I cannot undo this magic, perhaps you should seek a necromancer or a powerful cleric”. At that moment Nosiarys rushed back into the hut, carrying a small duckling.

“For fuck sake” Buggles muttered, “Is that one of the ducks from the pond?”

“She's a good cat” purred Ingrid, Nosi deposited the dying duckling at her feet, hissed at Buggles, and fled the hut once more.

“Seek your answers among the wise of Neverwinter” Ingrid said, reaching down and grabbing up the duckling, “But be careful, not everyone appreciates necromancy. Oh and good work with that druid fellow, he was causing more trouble that even he realised”

“What do you mean?” asked Buggles.

“The Feywild and this world are connected young Buggles, and his efforts here were rippling back there. It's a good thing you stopped him when you did but remember...”

“Oh no, don't say it” interrupted Buggles, for he knew what was coming.

“The fey aren't out of the woods yet!” she finished triumphantly, holding out her spindly arms to either side and cackling maniacally, which quickly turned to a hacking cough.

“Fucking hell” groaned Buggles.


~ The Tales of Buggles ~

DM aside- right, I'll see what I can do with this plot strand... Top work, Stu.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

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Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #016 Harryhausen’s Wet Dream aka Vinnie’s Day.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4


This is session 16, and yet another bloody cracker, we seem to have found our groove.

The Dark Squad rise and shine to a new day, and they’re Level 4 now- the other thing of note is it’s the Feast of the Moon, the solstice- I tell you this because it becomes important, later.

This fact, maybe, prevents a (semi) TPK later on- see now you’re interested, but we’ll get to that.

The evening begins with much chatter, mainly just to re-orientate ourselves- just to be clear we had a week off last week as I had to have a little operation. I am now the proud possessor of a hole in my leg slightly larger than a golf ball- nice. It smarts!

The Dark Squad are trying to figure out what they need to do next, the rescued prisoners- Courana and the “inconceivable” Geradil are also quizzed and later invited to have their say, as is Spandwick- although, he just wants his wife (Bel) back.

The two ex-prisoners are very unhappy at the thought of being left behind by the PCs, they fear orc patrols returning to the lair, or else other wandering terrors. In short the pair have decided they are coming with the adventurers, wherever the Dark Squad go- they go too.

Which is hardly ideal, and annoying for the PCs (and players)- Courana screams a lot, and Geradil says “inconceivable” all of the bloody time.

Oddly this session it’s Vinnie who is the most pissed off about this.

While Spandwick constantly asks “have you found Bel yet?”

[Chatter with the ex-prisoners 120 XP]

The decision eventually is Vincenzo is going to use a locate object spell to try to find Bel’s wedding ring- this after the object is described to the druid in great detail by the forlorn gnome. It’s a long shot, and… it doesn’t work.

Either the object is too far away, or else… well, the spell fails for some other reason.

The Dark Squad suck it up and head back down the grand stair, back into the deep dark below, and eventually into a high-ceilinged chamber with several exiting cavern passages, and a shallow but fast-running river rushing through it.

The rogues go for a sneak about, there are no threats to be found here- they confidently state, there are of course but the stirges are high up on the ceiling- the rogues don’t look up there. Vinnie however finds tracks left by the fleeing orc eye of Gruumsh, the only known survivor of the earlier massacre of the Mountain Door’s defenders.

[Sneaking and searching 75 XP]

However, it’s at this point that the stirges make themselves known- the first of the little bastard’s swoops down and stabs its proboscis into Courana, she’s screaming again- and down to 1 HP in an instant.

16.1.jpg

STIRGES! They all hate stirges.

It gets messy very quickly as my stealth checks for the stirges are collectively pretty bloody great- seconds later and Newt is also stabbed and partially exsanguinated by one of the little buggers, and then by a second- and with a crit. The tabaxi is very quickly meowing furiously and beyond bloodied.

Ram stabs one of the attached stirge’s dead.

Then Buggles gets stabbed and drained too- the wood elf grabs his stirge attacker in his hands and pulls it free of him, and then dashes it against a nearby wall- remarkably the little creature survives, later it even gets back into the air.

Garumn meantime skewers the second stirge attached to Newt- the warlock is now free of the winged vermin.

Courana saves herself- the feisty ex-prisoner follows Buggles’ lead, grabs the stirge draining her blood and wrings its bloody neck (it only had 2 hp).

Ram stabs another stirge dead- there are only a pair of the little blighters left- Garumn flings a hand axe and accounts for another, the last (having just escaped Buggles) manages to flutter off and out of sight.

Garumn gets to Newt with a bit of lay on hands, the warlock is less than happy… although all of the PCs are a bit grouchy- they REALLY hate stirges.

Vinnie heals Courana- the druid has ‘such gentle hands’, according to the now slightly smitten ex-prisoner.

[Stirges 150 XP]

There follows lots more chatter- this after Buggles raises the following point- “Why, exactly, are we tracking down the surviving orc eye of Gruumsh, to what end?”

The discussion rumbles on particularly after Ram re-reads the ancient dwarven scroll they found back in the Sunless Citadel-


Seek the stone tooth
Climb to the mountain door
Descend the grand stair
Pass the tombs of the ancients

To the glory of the glitterhame
Wary of the sinkhole
There you find the door
Within… the foundry of Durgeddin the Black

So, they’re looking for the ‘tombs of the ancients’, there’s much much more chatter- but no decisions getting made, and so Ram- itching to explore, decides to check out where the river south goes. Answer, it passes through a low tunnel into yet another large cavern.

The daring rogue scurries off to see, wading through the river and into another large stinking cavern- the place smells of death, and close by are the remains of a pair of orcs, a cursory check reveals that the closest body is that of the missing eye of Gruumsh- mystery solved.

16.2.jpg

Some chat... others do- Ram, making a bee-line for danger.

Just to note that while Ram is doing his thing the dastardly DM has two sneaky (and camouflaged) troglodytes moving quickly towards him, at which point (of course) Kev playing Ram calls for an active perception check and rolls a ‘20’ (total ‘27’), my trogs have stealth ‘23’.

Ram spots the threat and scarpers just in time- rushing back into the river and through the low watery cavern and to his friends. The gasping rogue gets the rest of the Dark Squad up to date with events, he also identifies his would-be attackers with a successful monster knowledge check (available as a free action- remember to use this fellers).

[Ram explores 100 XP]

The Dark Squad cluster around the river passage and soon after spot a heavily camouflaged trog heading towards them, alas the creature retreats as soon as the PCs close in.

Ram thinks quickly, and then with help manages to dump a flask or two of burning lamp oil into the stream, there’s no danger to the trogs- waiting on the other side of the opening, but it’s enough to make the pair scurry back a way- leaving the opening free for a swift Dark Squad excursion.

Nice plan, and good roll.

[Ram clears the trogs away from the river passage exit 50 XP]

Buggles scrambles through the low watery passage, he spots a retreating trog and cuts it in half (almost) with a scimitar crit- dead. Garumn follows the wood elf through and repeats the feat (nearly)- with another crit, although just not enough damage to kill the second enemy.

Newt is next to the action and into the new cavern- the warlock ends the fleeing trog with an eldritch blast.

[Trog guards dead 100 XP]

The two troglodyte guards are despatched, the rest of the Dark Squad (and company) come through the river passage while Garumn guards the way. Buggles meantime searches through the rotting remains of the two dead orcs- finding a flask of alchemist’s fire on the eye of Gruumsh.

Here’s the thing- there were three trogs in the large cavern chamber, the last enemy (camouflaged and stealthy) has in the meantime crept back to the tribe’s lair to tell his friends. As the adventurers congregate and continue their investigations, the tribe are creeping forward to meet them.

But the DM is foiled again- Ram decides to keep a close watch on the far end of the chamber, the rogue therefore is the first to spot the trogs slowly, stealthily advancing- or at least a few of them, there are actually more than half-a-dozen of the nasty creatures approaching.

What follows is a difficult fight for many of the PCs, simply because the trogs with their natural camouflage and stealth are for some of the Dark Squad almost impossible to spot (certainly using their passive perceptions). It’s not until they get to attacking that they become visible to many of the PCs.

And so...

Ram screams a warning and cuts the nearest trog down dead, Buggles ends another- the rogues have sharp eyes and senses. This fact however doesn’t stop the wood elf from getting surprised by another pair of the beasts, he’s bitten and clawed repeatedly. The trogs are in the fight- and the wood elf is quickly well beyond bloodied.

Vincenzo burns another trog with his produce flame, Newt finishes it off with an eldritch blast.

Ram scurries forward and with his magical rapier kills another- that’s four down already.

Garumn badly injures yet another, Buggles finishes it off and then gets his second wind, the Dark Squad are a killing machine.

At which point a ten foot long giant lizard skitters forward to join the fight, the PCs are a little freaked to see the new enemy.

16.3.jpg

The terrifying GIANT LIZARD! It was actually the weakest monster in the encounter.

They panic a little- truth be told the giant lizard is hardly any threat at all.

Vincenzo drops a faerie fire onto the new attacker, and a close-by trog- to cheers from his comrades.

Too soon!

Kaarghaz, the trog chief, suddenly makes himself known- this after shooting three scorching rays at Garumn- two of them hits, and the dwarf paladin is bloodied in an instant. The trog boss, scuttles back and away, chirruping and clicking his battle orders.

Newt hits the giant lizard with a hex enhanced eldritch blast, meantime the remaining trogs concentrate their efforts on clawing and biting Garumn.

Ram, poisoned by the troglodyte’s stench, rolls and crit-cuts another (faerie fire bathed) trog down, and then for good measure also stabs the giant lizard.

Garumn badly wounds yet another trog, while Buggles leaves the giant lizard critically wounded, alas Vinnie’s produce flame is still not enough to end the jaw-snapping over-sized reptile.

There are only two trog warriors left in the fight- both still trying to tear Garumn apart, the dwarf is on maybe 15 HP.

Buggles is all action however, he spots a gap and races forward to get in the trog chief’s grill, alas Kaarghaz’s shield spell keeps the wood elf at bay. Seconds later the trog chief scurries away from his attacker. He gets some space to work his magic, and then hits Buggles with two out of three of his scorching rays, the wood elf is left critically wounded (on 7 HP).

Newt blasts the giant lizard with another hex-enhanced eldritch blast, and at last- it’s dead. It had a lot of HP (30+) but a very low AC, and a very weak attack- it never hit once.

Giant lizards are very underpowered- maybe?

We’ll see…

Ram and Buggles rush after the trog chief, they’re hunting the nasty fellow down, the wood elf necks a potion of greater healing en route to the task- Kaarghaz’s shield spell however keeps the pair at bay once more.

Garumn cuts the last but one troglodyte warrior in two- with a massive crit.

At which point the co-star of the show (you’ll meet the other star of the show in a short while) makes his appearance- Vincen G. Octopod aka the return of Vinnie’s wildshape giant octopus option.

This after Vinnie (on purpose, so he says) fails to wade through the fast running stream here and ends up sliding down the water-course on his backside.

16.4.jpg

Vinnie goes "WIBBLE! WIBBLE!"

The last trog warrior is tentacle-grabbed and battered almost into unconsciousness.

Keep in mind that Vincen G. Octopod cannot speak, save to say he shouts “WIBBLE WIBBLE” every time he swings into action- it’s amazing how much information you can communicate with a “WIBBLE WIBBLE”. James, playing Vinnnie/Vincen G. explores the full gamut of the expression.

Kaarghaz employs a little more magic- a sleep spell, hoping to put one of the rogues double-teaming him down- alas they both have at least a soupcon of elven blood in them. Newt, a little behind the rogues, therefore suddenly flops to the floor and gets in a much needed cat nap.

Garumn decapitates the last trog, which is being held before him- grappled and restrained, by Vincen G. Octopod. The dwarf then scurries forward to help out the rogues- who have still not managed to land a hit on the trog chief, Kaarghaz.

Vincen G. joins in the fun- but still no hits.

Kaarghaz claws and bites Buggles, repeatedly- and the wood elf is back to critically wounded (8 HP).

But then the tide turns, the still poisoned Ram manages to cut the trog chief deep, and then Garumn finds the sweet spot with a divine smite, Kaarghaz is hurt bad- the trog chief is bloodied and worse. Buggles forgets his wounds and joins in the take-down, and now the trog is critically wounded (down to 6 HP).

Time to depart.

Kaarghaz… vanishes.

Which causes more than a small amount of upset.

Moments later a desperate Buggles spots the trog’s escape route, a splash and surge of water from a nearby deep looking pool of water, at the very end of the cavern.

The rest of the Dark Squad scurry over to see what’s going on, directed to the spot by the yelling wood elf.

The adventurers note that there’s a cavern passage exiting on the far side of the pool- the river continues on this way. Several of the PCs attempt to creep around the edge of the water- Newt desperately trying not to get wet (he’s a cat- he hates water). He fails and has to wade and yowl through the wet.

That is until Vincen G. Octopod catches up with the action and spladooshes into the pool, and then drags himself out the other side again- following the river on to see where the critically wounded trog chief has gone. They’re as certain as they can be that the trog’s no longer in the water.

Note, Vincen G. Octopod has almost 60 HP, James is feeling very confident.

At which point the giant subterranean lizard (a huge creature with nearly 80 HP, and over twenty feet long snout to tail) darts around the corner hissing, and then whips its tail hard into the giant cephalopod. Seconds later- as the other members of the Dark Squad watch on- open mouthed in horror, the octo-druid is grabbed up by the huge reptile and crushed and chewed in the massive reptile’s jaws.

Here’s a giant (huge) lizard with attitude- and the other star of the show.

Vincen G. Octopod is beyond bloodied- and also restrained, and grappled… oh, and somehow prone- his tentacles flailing in the air.

“WIBBLE WIBBLE!!!!!!”

16.5.jpg

Giant Octopus! Giant Octopus! HA! I shit 'em!

Buggles sinks an arrow into the huge lizard’s snout- and a crit, for 25 damage, that hurt- the giant reptile remembers this slight for later.

Vincen G. Octopod somehow fights back, he manages to grapple and restrain the huge reptile in his tentacles.

It’s at this point with the two giant monsters locked in a death grapple that Stu (playing Buggles) reminds us of the great works of Ray Harryhausen, the fight continues to be described in a stop-motion/clay-mation style.

Newt, having being woken up by Courana, who is/was staying close to Vinnie- although she can’t seem to spot the ‘lovely man’ at the moment.

“WIBBLE WIBBLE?”

Followed by…

“WIBBLE WIB…”

The giant (huge) subterranean lizards opens its jaws wide and… GULP! Swallows Vincen G. Octopod- that got nasty very quickly. The great lizard then slithers into the cavern pool and brings its tail up and over- smashing the appendage into Buggles, the wood elf is down and dying.

Just to recap- Garumn is on maybe 12 HP, Buggles is dying, Vincen G. Octopod is almost dead (and at present being digested), while Ram and Newt are bloodied.

A second later and Buggles fails his first death save.

There’s a lot of groaning and moaning going on around the VTT.

Meantime the acid stomach of the huge reptile is burning Vincen G’s tentacles to tent-a-nubs, the cephalopod is now critically wounded.

Newt fires another eldritch blast into the great reptile (and then rolls minimum damage), the players are screaming and shouting.

There’s also a fair bit of swearing coming from the VTT.

Even Spandwick tries his luck with a firebolt, and that’s a ‘1’.

Ram dares again, the rogue races in to face the huge reptile down, and then misses the thing with his magical rapier, only stabs the beast with his off-hand and much-more mundane dagger. Alas now Garumn can’t get close enough to attack the beast with his equally magic sword- the only spot left in range of the enemy is in the pool- not advisable in his heavy armour. The dwarf paladin therefore flings his hand axe into the reptile’s snout, and now the lizard is critically wounded (and with just 8 HP left).

There’s a lot of cheering when I announce this.

Note I don’t tell the players how many hit points the creature has left, just that the beast is critically wounded.

But my super-lizard is not done for yet, it swipes Ram with its massive tail- knocking the rogue prone and into the deeper part of the pool, and then snatches up the flailing half-elf- crushing him in its jaws.

And now Ram is unconscious and dying.

Buggles fails his second death save in a row, one more and he’s gone.

At which point Vincen G. Octopod deep within the giant subterranean lizard’s gut also expires, and with enough damage transferred over to just about bloody Vincenzo the druid. Who suddenly finds himself immersed in stomach acid, in very cramped dark place, and being crushed, while restrained and blinded.

But Vinnie has an idea- it’s the Feast of the Moon today, remember I let you know about this earlier on.

Well, Vincenzo is a druid of the Moon.

This is his special day.

The druid also has an inspiration point to spend- can he please cast a Moonbeam spell down onto the giant subterranean lizard, please Mr. Kindly DM-sir?

The benevolent DM is happy for Vinnie to try it.

Suddenly a burst of moonlight spears down from the highest point in the cavern, the shaft of golden glory spotlights the scaly back of the huge snapping reptile- and it radiant burns. The giant beast however is contentedly crunching and crushing Ram in its salivating maw.

It makes its save.

Cue lots more swearing, shouting and groaning from the VTT (actually discord).

Half damage only- 2d10, and… ‘8’ and ‘10’- half of that’s 9.

But, that can’t be- my wonderful lizard friend has only got 8 HP left.

The giant subterranean lizard suddenly looks up from its rogue-feast and sniffs the air, cranes its neck around to see the source of the smell- the moonbeam is cooking its flesh.

“Urp!” The creature announces and suddenly, simply, collapses.

Dead.

There is screaming and cheering as Vinnie pops his head out of the newly radiant burnt hole in the great creature, the druid scramble-crawls out of the beast’s belly, and then slithers into the pool- to wash the burning gut-acid away.

Seconds later Newt gets to Buggles with his healer’s kit and manages to stabilise the wood elf.

A moment later and Garumn grabs the now drowning and dying Ram from the pool and lays on hands, the rogue blinks- chokes, and with help from his dwarven friend scrambles away from the water and lizard mess.

Still floundering in the pool Vinnie manages somehow to maintain his concentration on the radiant burn of the moonbeam.

The druid spots that the DM still hasn’t dropped the action out of initiative.

At which point Kaarghaz, the trog chief, appears in the river passage just beyond the moonbeam’s radiant haze- grunts once or twice at the sprawled and gasping members of the Dark Squad, and then scurries off to fight another day.

The Dark Squad get the (collective) feeling they’ll be seeing Kaarghaz again.

Then the scramble to grab out healing potions et al, as the adventurers (and company) back away quickly from the water’s edge.

And we’re out of initiative- at last.

[Troglodytes, a giant lizard, and a giant (huge) subterranean lizard 1500 XP]

[Titanic fight with great action 200 XP]

And that’s about that- the Dark Squad (and company) are swiftly in retreat- they can see where the entrance to the trog’s lair is but… they’re not heading in there, they’re partially broken. They head all the way back to the grand stair, halfway up the rise they make camp, or at least settle down for a short rest, and to spend a few healing HD and glug down a few more potions.

Careful fellers- a healing potion may be all that stands between you and death in future sessions, keep a few in hand.

For now however they’re spent.

It’s very likely there’ll be more of this kind of thing next time.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan and the Dark Squad.
 
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Hello Goonalan

Well, having re-read a couple of your older threads (the Lost Boys and the Goodman Gang), I've now turned my attention to this one - and I'm enjoying it immensely (as expected), especially the players' poetics.

I've read up the end of the Sunless Citadel stuff so far, and I've loved the tweaks you've made to adventure as written - very effective.

I have fond memories of that module myself as, back when 3e was fairly new I used it to introduce my (then teenage) two children to the delights of D&D. I don't remember too much about how they handled it to be honest, but I know that like you're doing here we moved on to Forge of Fury. Sadly we never finished it, for reasons that I don't recall - but probably because back then I felt compelled to check that they'd done any outstanding school work before we played, and (especially in my son's case) it very often hadn't been. :rolleyes:

Funnily enough lockdown inspired me to start up another campaign with them and a third player - this time 5e of course - over Skype (none of your fancy Fantasy Grounds stuff I'm afraid). We're just wrapping up the Lost Mines, during which I managed to kill both my kids' characters in the encounter with the Black Spider. Even though they're now in their 30s, my daughter did not take this well!! :LOL:

keep it coming!
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Hello Goonalan

Well, having re-read a couple of your older threads (the Lost Boys and the Goodman Gang), I've now turned my attention to this one - and I'm enjoying it immensely (as expected), especially the players' poetics.

I've read up the end of the Sunless Citadel stuff so far, and I've loved the tweaks you've made to adventure as written - very effective.

I have fond memories of that module myself as, back when 3e was fairly new I used it to introduce my (then teenage) two children to the delights of D&D. I don't remember too much about how they handled it to be honest, but I know that like you're doing here we moved on to Forge of Fury. Sadly we never finished it, for reasons that I don't recall - but probably because back then I felt compelled to check that they'd done any outstanding school work before we played, and (especially in my son's case) it very often hadn't been. :rolleyes:

Funnily enough lockdown inspired me to start up another campaign with them and a third player - this time 5e of course - over Skype (none of your fancy Fantasy Grounds stuff I'm afraid). We're just wrapping up the Lost Mines, during which I managed to kill both my kids' characters in the encounter with the Black Spider. Even though they're now in their 30s, my daughter did not take this well!! :LOL:

keep it coming!

In truth there wasn't a plan, I just winged it to where we got too, or at least my only proviso was I wanted to make them do everything, visit everywhere. But it's easy to shape these things because you've mostly got a week between sessions to figure out three or more possible directions to take it, and then when you do something different in game, another week to join all the bits back together again.

It's a great little environ to scuttle about in though, just like Forge of Fury, which is also why I liked them so much the first time around.

These are some tough bastard PCs here though, I mean I just kept flinging goblins at them and they didn't bat an eyelid, mind you a druid that just turns into a 30 or so HP bear and at the end two rogues- gah!

By the time we were about six sessions in I'd figured that Ashardalon was going to be coming back, and much too tough for them to handle- they got that, very quickly- so I had to drop the ceiling/raise the citadel just to up the jeopardy. In truth I hadn't planned that until about half-an-hour before the final session started... still, it seemed nicely low level epic.

I also like to leave the PCs with a bit of a look back- what did we do now? Just so they ask the question, and fidget a little when they try to shape the answer.

In Forge... well, I thought I was going to kill them with Great Ulfe and the gang, I genuinely expected a TPK- and kinda had a plan for it, I even made clear my warnings to the Players prior to several of the sessions- this could get bad very quickly! But the bastards just kept on hitting (and my guy's kept on missing) and at the end... they endured.

But, there's a way to go yet, and I've done much more planning with this one... there's a few more stories to tell here.

I'm loving it by the way, and the guy's are really in the groove.

Thanks for taking the time, always appreciated.

Stay frosty.

goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #017 The thing about genocide is… chatting with Buggles.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPC hangers-on, rescued prisoners of the Orcs
Geradil the 'Inconceivable', aging trapper (Male Human)
'Screaming' Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)


This is session 17, and another bloody cracker, although only a short session because the heroic DM had a bit of leg surgery the other week and is struggling. But y’know, bravely battling on, against the odds etc.

Last we left the Dark Squad they were back on the grand stair, resting up after a titanic battle against assorted troglodytes, followed by a Harryhausen-esque monster mash between Vincen G. Octopod (and the rest of the gang) and a (huge) giant subterranean lizard.

Victory for the Dark Squad but at a price, hence the time out being taken.

Oh, and there’s a lot of Buggles in this session, not because he’s MVP (he always is, right Stu?) but just because his habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time (that’s a compliment) just hit the spot most all the time. At least, that’s how it appeared to me.

So, back to it, and after a brief chat the adventurers (and their followers- the ex-orc prisoners) head back to the scene of the fight- into the troglodyte caverns, and after the rogues declare the way clear- into the lair of the troglodytes, which it quickly becomes apparent has been abandoned.

[Back to the scene of the fight 100 XP]

The trog lair is very cautiously investigated and given a thorough going over, the following discoveries are made-

a) Various sleeping/eating/childcare quarters.

b) The spellcaster-leader’s chamber is a mess but a chest full of silver coins is eventually located- nice.

c) Someone- a trog, has been back here, possibly while the guys were resting up on the grand stair.

[Search the trogs lair 150 XP]

During the search of the trogs lair Buggles, this after rolling a ‘4’ on his nature check, declares that trogs make nests from twigs et al, actually he states- “nests dude, classic trogs”, his comrades in arms laugh heartily, as does the DM. Although this in part is because the wood elf then goes on to declare that trogs later in life, “grow wings and just fly awaaaay!”

He may have been thinking of troglodytes troglodytes.

He’s not great with his nature checks is Buggles, I honestly don’t remember him rolling anything above a ‘5’ in seventeen sessions.

After the laughter the next chamber in the trog lair is investigated and… there are nests shown on the map. Buggles has the last laugh.

17.1.jpg

"Classic trogs, dude. Classic.”

[Classic trogs dude 50 XP]

After exiting the lair the collective Dark Squad’s decision is to head on- across the cavern pool and into the chambers from which the giant subterranean lizard emerged, and through which the trog caster/leader fled.

Note while the following is going on an extended debate is also taking place, the subject of the debate- genocide, natch.

The thing is the Dark Squad are not that fond of the trogs, and vice-versa one would imagine, and they have a collective hankering to see the lot of them slaughtered- the debate actually starts up after the Squad discover signs that there were young/juvenile trogs in the lair. So, the question is- do we slaughter the lot, including the kids?

Vincenzo is, naturally, agin it- as is Garumn but the dwarf mainly keeps his peace (because the DM is otherwise busy) however Buggles, Ram and Newt are much less black and white in their approach to the trogs (and to genocide).

They all have their say on the matter, however Buggles’ reply serves as the benchmark, in summary it’s this- “if the trogs are not looking to get killed then I’ll not kill them, if they’re uppity and violent- well, count me in”. In conclusion the wood elf adds (or at least a version of following) “the elves do not have a word for genocide, however let’s not rule out killing every single one of ‘em.”

He’s an enigma is our Buggles.

[The genocide debate 100 XP]

Back to the action…

The watery way ahead however involves getting around the deep cavern pool traversing a narrow ledge (if you don’t want to get your feet wet) which mostly goes well, except of course for Newt. The tabaxi hates water, and so it’s no surprise that he (very briefly) belly-flops into the pool.

Newt hated the trog lair- “it smells like Garumn’s boots in here”, and he dislikes water intensely, Bear is really having fun with the roleplay in session. They all are this evening.

[The tabaxi blues 50 XP]

Eventually the group make their way around the pool but not before Buggles makes a discovery, there’s been a rockfall or collapse on the northern side of the cavern here, the wood elf clambers about a bit and finally finds a location he can spy through and into the chamber beyond the obstruction. He can see a sarcophagi, and there’s enough light- just, to make out the hefty stone construction, which in itself is odd. The area is tagged for future investigations, but not yet…

[Buggles spots a sarcophagi 50 XP]

Buggles (mostly) and Ram are sent ahead to investigate the watery passage further- which necessitates a bunch more athletics and acrobatics checks, the way is dangerous as the river is running much faster (and much deeper)- and the passage descends steeply for a while. The tunnel, Buggles discovers, leads on and into another large cavern, and there’s the roar of the water somewhere ahead.

17.2.jpg

Don't draw monsters on the map whoever you are Mr Cartographer sir, pretty please.

However there’s also a spur off the main passage- into another cavern, which turns out to be the former lair of the giant subterranean lizard. Within- in the creature’s crude nest are a pair of massive sea chests, which are investigated- lots more silver coins, and another pair of potions- one of which is identified by Newt as being water breathing.

[Investigate the giant subterranean lizard’s lair, claim its treasure 100 XP]

Then forwards again- pressing on, through the difficult to negotiate watery passage, which involves lots of jumping and scrambling. The last section of the river tunnel requires several of the adventurers, and all of ex-orc prisoners, to be tied on- with Buggles holding the rope, just in case things go badly during the leaping and scrambling.

[Buggles forges the way through the river passage 100 XP]

Things go badly, and in particular for the “Inconceivable” Geradil, the ex-trapper fails a jump and falls into the fast flowing river, and is duly swept away- except of course that Buggles takes the strain and prevents that from happening. The Dark Squad scramble into action- although all the while the PCs (or rather the Players) are questioning the wisdom of saving Geradil.

Just to remind you about the three NPC hangers-on, every round (when we are in initiative) and also at other times-

Geradil remarks that something or other is “inconceivable”.

Courana screams, or else compliments Vincenzo- she has a crush on the druid.

Spandwick asks “have you found Bel, yet?”

Apparently after three or four sessions of this it can get a little wearing, to be honest I’d not noticed, I was having great fun with it.

Eventually Garumn grabs hold of the rope and hauls Geradil out of the fast flowing river, the ex-prisoner has taken a few bangs and bruises but is mostly okay, “that was…” he remarks with a grin- between puffing and panting, “in-huh-huh-con-huuuuh-huh-ceivable!”

There, normal service is resumed, to groans.

[Rescue Geradil 150 XP]

The large river cavern is investigated by the rogues- it’s mostly empty, but dangerous looking- the pair discern that the fast flowing river rushes on and into the abyss- down a sinkhole. Hang on says Ram, haven’t we been warned about this place, here’s part of that ancient dwarven ditty again-

Seek the stone tooth
Climb to the mountain door
Descend the grand stair
Pass the tombs of the ancients

To the glory of the glitterhame
Wary of the sinkhole
There you find the door
Within… the foundry of Durgeddin the Black

So, this is the sinkhole- and there are steps leading down alongside the plunge, although the way is made dangerous because the area around the river is very slippery- as discerned by the still frightened Newt.

[Find the sinkhole 200 XP]

However the tabaxi, while the rogues et al continue their checks, spots another set of stairs heading down, and there’s a light below. The curious cat creature descends into a massive cavern, with a high ceiling dotted here and there with shimmering flowstone, and eerily illuminated from below by a myriad varieties of phosphorescent fungi- the place is a natural/nature wonder.

Then the tabaxi plunges on, there are carved steps nearby that lead up onto a raised area- and sarcophagi, dozens of them up here. Newt shouts for Garumn, he’s found the ‘tombs of the ancients’, see the rhyme above.

The Dark Squad are excited, they descend en masse to take in the new vista- the massive glittering (ahem) fungi cavern, and then soon after filter up the steps to the sarcophagi. Although Vincenzo is actually more concerned with the fungi- apparently he likes to eat the stuff.

17.3.jpg

The glory of the underdark, a massive sepulchral cavern abuzz with the waft and fragrance of fungus spores, illuminated like some great cathedral to... Oh. Oh, hang on- the PCs just ignore the glories of under-nature and sprint off to see if they can lever any of the sarcophagi open... I don't know why I bloody bother...

Alas the druid’s investigations are not all plain sailing, he spots a violet fungi inching towards him through the great swathe of tuberous vegetation, and so begins shouting for his comrades in arms- just prior, of course, to bravely fleeing the scene.

Newt eldritch blasts the enemy fungus, Garumn rushes in and chops at it with Shatterspike his magical longsword, and then Ram dashes to the dwarf paladin’s side and finishes the plant creature off with Deadend, his equally magical rapier.

Victory!

17.4.jpg

"Fungus Bastard!" Vinnie yells before soiling his pants and scarpering- oh so very brave Mr Druid.

At which point however Buggles spots that there are two more of the (potentially) violent violet fungi making their way towards our heroes, he moves to intercept and with his scimitars leaves the nearest fungus fiend critically wounded.

Not enough, the violet fungi lashes out with its extending (ten foot long) tendrils and scourges the wood elf and Ramshambow, with its rotting necrotic whip-like appendages, not pleasant.

Then the third violet fungi gets into action and lashes Garumn- with a crit, and the paladin is bloodied in an instant.

The fight goes up a gear.

Newt eldritch blasts another of the fungi-bastards to pieces, while Vincenzo wields his shillelagh and wades in clubbing at the last fungi-brute.

“He’s so brave…” Courana says to no-one in particular, but for everyone to hear.

Garumn makes a grand speech about finishing the last enemy off, and then rolls a ‘1’, “guys… a little help here, guys?”

Ram duly obliges and dashes to skewer the last violet fungi dead.

[Violet fungi go dead now 150 XP]

Alas the rogue needs a little healing after the fight, ain’t it always the way Ram?

After a brief scout around- no more enemies seem to be approaching, the Dark Squad hustle up the stairs and onto an elevated space containing twenty-three sarcophagi, the area is thoroughly investigated. The results are as follows-

a) Of the twenty three sarcophagi twenty of them are open, i.e. not sealed- which Garumn states means thta they are uninhabited- empty.

b) The rogues check them out anyway- they’re empty, told you.

c) There are therefore three sarcophagi that are inhabited, Garum explains that this can discerned because in death the name of the incumbent is engraved on the exterior. The three dead and interred dwarves are- Borgol the Old, Gharin Orc-Doom and Numik the Unlucky.

d) Garumn however insists that the occupied tombs should not be opened, unless the Dark Squad are really desperate, or else it becomes apparent that something important to their quest may be hidden within one of them. Note Buggles attempts to find a way around Garumn’s pronouncement… by telling the dwarf that Newt has discovered the possible presence of a magical key (or some such) hidden in one of the sealed tombs… but that doesn’t work. The tabaxi is unwilling to further Buggles’ lie, and none of the other members of the Squad take up the baton.

e) There’s nothing magical hidden in the sealed tombs, Vincenzo is certain- he’s checked.

f) There’s an exit from this chamber that heads directly back into the grand stair cavern- the way back up to the Mountain Door, the Dark Squad have gone the long way around.

17.5.jpg

"What do you mean they're empty? That can't be right- check again."

Last bit, and here’s the oddity- engraved on twenty one of the sarcophagi are the various images of your typical dwarven smith, all ages, both sexes… but all very similar- all with forge tools at their belt, some wielding weapons, but all of them… well, your typical dwarf. Which just leaves two exceptions-

a) A hefty looking dwarf wizard, robed and complete with staff in hand, and

b) A very small dwarf, half the size of the other carvings- this individual is clearly not a juvenile, just a… well, a very (very) short dwarf, or else… well, who knows?

Most odd.

Garumn further explains that dwarves, when they think they are going to die in a place- maybe because they think they are never going to want to leave that place, or else when the place is full of danger; then they build their tombs- ready to be interred should their end come.

These twenty three individuals were/are the dwarves that followed Durgeddin, Garumn concludes.

[Investigate the tombs of the ancients 400 XP]

The Dark Squad ponder this for a good while, and then while looking from their high perch over the massive glittering fungi cavern they make yet another discover. Perhaps ‘discovery’ isn’t the right word- maybe it would be better to say that they just figure it out.

The glitterhame referred to in the ancient dwarven rhyme IS the glittering massive fungi-filled cavern.

They’re definitely on the right track.

[Find the Glitterhame 200 XP]

Soon after Buggles however chivvies the adventurer’s back into action. There was a third cavern passage from the massive chamber in which the grand stair exited- let’s take a look in that direction before venturing further into the glitterhame.

Once again the rogues sneak a little way ahead of the group, edging along a rocky passage which leads into yet another large cavern- at which point they spot a pair of troglodytes spying in their direction, the creatures do not seem to have seen the sneaky duo.

17.6.jpg

"What's the plan?" Ram signals in thieves' cant, as Buggles puts an arrow through the throat of the closest trog- "Plan?" Buggles swiftly signals back.

Therefore the rogues, instigated by Buggles, open fire on the would-be trog watchers, one of the trogs is dead in an instant while the other is left critically wounded and making panicked whirrs and clicks in its strange language. There’s plenty of movement in the chamber ahead, although Buggles is swiftly in retreat, and so it’s only Ram that hangs around to see the action.

Seconds later, after a great echoing roar, a twelve foot tall cave bear comes staggering out of the darkness ahead- Ram starts shouting for his friends and retreats a bit- then more trogs rush in and it gets to fighting proper.

Note there are over a dozen trogs in and or about this chamber, all of them hidden (mostly) from sight, including a still badly wounded Kaarghaz, the trog leader/caster. That said I had some really low stealth checks here for the trogs (and all rolled with advantage).

So, here we go again- trog fight part two.

Genocide? Or just a good ol’ massacre?

Garumn rolls his usual ‘19’ on initiative and rumbles to the front of the queue and straight into action, flinging a hand axe into the already wounded chirruping trog- it dies.

Two down.

A trog rushes around the corner and attempts to bite and claw at the sturdy dwarf, not likely- Ram kills it quickly, while Buggles ends another trog rushing forward with a shot from his longbow.

Four down.

Vinnie hits another trog with his produce flame, at which point the cave bear finally lurches into action, and is swiftly hexed and eldritch blasted by Newt.

The massive roaring ursine swipes at Garumn but the paladin ducks and dodges, and then stabs the beast as close to its heart as he can reach- with Shatterspike, and a hefty helping of divine smite, the cave bear is critically wounded in an instant.

Seconds later and Ram is at the bear and… skewers the beast through its brain with Deadend his magical rapier. A trog instantly rushes over the body of the fallen bear to get at the ex-pirate, he stabs it with his off-hand dagger and then ducks as Buggles fires an arrow into the cavern dweller’s face, and that’s another trog dead.

Five trogs dead, and my approx.. 40 HP cave bear killed in seconds.

But still there are more of the stinky bastards, another half-a-dozen or so trogs rush into the action, Garumn is quickly surrounded, and clawed repeatedly- the paladin is left heavily wounded.

A swathe of the trogs are suddenly stopped in their tracks as vines and roots burst from the cavern floor to entangle a clutch at them- courtesy of Vincenzo’s magical wand of the same name.

Newt takes pot shots at the restrained creatures with a trio of scorching rays- all hits, the last a crit, although only one more enemy actually succumbs to the fire.

Six dead trogs.

Suddenly the Dark Squad spy the trog leader/caster Kaarghaz- their demi-semi-(atm)-nemesis. This after the trog’s fire bolt (even with advantage) slams into the cavern ceiling just above Garumn’s head- “get that bastard”, the surly dwarf declares. However the paladin is then clawed some more by the (mostly restrained) trog throng, he’s now critically wounded (on 6 HP). Ram also gets clawed and bitten.

17.7.jpg

The Dark Squad are enraged that Kaarghaz has had the temerity to come back for more... this after they had invaded the trog homelands, slaughtered half the tribe, all of their best lizards, and left the shamed leader mortally wounded and fleeing for his life in the last session. The cheek of some of these creatures, they're... monsters!

Note three of the PCs have had to make saving throws against the trog’s foul stench- all successes so far.

Back to it- Ram slaughters another restrained trog (the seventh), Buggles flails wildly with his scimitars, and Vincenzo screams for Garumn to retreat- the dwarf paladin is happy to disengage and get back to the home team.

At which point the druid of the moon, still on his special day- the Feast of the Moon, remember; unleashes his moonbeam- and there is screaming, several trogs (most of ‘em already badly wounded) are incinerated in the radiant glare.

Nine trogs dead.

With the trog front line cleared out Newt now has a bead on Kaarghaz, the trog leader/caster- he shifts his hex over and then eldritch blasts the bastard- with a crit.

The badly wounded Kaarghaz flees to the north gibbering in his strange tongue as he goes, several more trogs attempt to follow suit- there are only four of the trog foot soldiers left standing, only one gets away- this after Vincenzo continues to concentrate on the moonbeam’s radiant burn.

Twelve trogs dead- that got nasty very quickly, or else was just remorselessly nasty throughout, you decide.

The track stars of the Dark Squad give chase- Ram spots a cavern passage heading north and races down it, quickly catching up with the last to flee badly wounded trog. A second later and the creature’s escape attempt comes to a bloody end, courtesy of Deadend.

Buggles chases harder and faster, follows and then overtakes Ram- then lashes his scimitar into the back of the fleeing trog chief, but it’s not enough to stop the gibbering beast’s exodus.

“Meow! Make a hole!” Newt screeches, the two racing rogues instinctively crouch as an eldritch blast skims just above their heads and smashes into the back of Kaarghaz’s skull, shattering the offending article in its wake. The headless trog leader falls, as Newt grins and yowls his pleasure.

That however was the last action of the session.

[Death to Kaarghaz trog leader/sorcerer, over a dozen trogs and a cave bear 1300 XP]

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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Well now I seem to have caught up to the current state of play here. All very enjoyable as ever. But now I'll have to find something else to distract me when I'm supposed to be working, which is .... inconceivable!
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #018 Newt’s Story & the Randy Druid.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPC hangers-on, rescued prisoners of the Orcs
Geradil the “Inconceivable”, aging trapper (Male Human)
“Screaming” Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)


This is session 18, and we’re still on a roll.

Last we left the Dark Squad they had just slaughtered Kaarghaz, the trog leader/sorcerer, and a bunch more of his kin, oh and also massacred a cave bear during the action. Yet another thorough kicking for my bad guys.

The Squad, after a touch more healing- particularly for Garumn, search the cavern area and also locate a very nice fist-sized ruby on the body of the dead trog caster. Then they nose around a large low-ceilinged (in places) bone strewn cavern, the former lair of the cave bear- but there’s nothing interesting to be found.

[Search the caverns 100 XP]

The caverns here slope down to the south east, and there are many more passages heading off in that direction, however of greater interest is the narrow and very damp passage to the north that the trog leader was fleeing down when the Squad finally caught up with him (and slaughtered him).

The narrow passage heads up, Garumn lets his colleagues know this- the dwarf can smell fresh air ahead, the tunnel heads out of the mountain he swears- and so it proves. Fifteen or so minutes later and the Dark Squad emerge blinking into the light, a watery sun- late morning and the glare of the settled snow, the adventurers are surrounded by the Neverwinter Woods.

The Squad cast around and discover tracks to indicate that the trogs have made much (and recent) use of this passage- best guess reinforcements heading back into the mountain lair, while others- mostly juveniles, being shipped out of their (former) subterranean home.

[Find the trogs exit passage and various tracks 100 XP]

Then comes the chatter, the issue is- at least according to Vinnie, that adventuring in the dark caverns is a much too dangerous prospect for Courana, and the ‘inconceivable’ Geradil. The talk goes on for nearly twenty minutes- with impassioned speeches from both of the prospective lovers. Courana has a thing for Vinnie, and- it seems- vice-versa, certainly the Druid has feelings, or else he’s just being very polite... and a little saucy every now and then.

Eventually it comes to pass, after more coy and swoonsome by-play between Vinnie and Courana, mixed in with, of course, sniggering and snarky asides courtesy of the other members of the Dark Squad. Remember this is your glorious DM voicing the fatefully smitten Courana, and in my most lady-like style.

Just to complete the aural landscape I have the voice of a drill sergeant, mainly because I used to be… actually, I never made sergeant.

[Impassioned and romantic chatter, and associated giggling 200 XP]

The Dark Squad take to the woods, skirting the lower reaches of the Stone Tooth mountain- with Buggles mostly doing the hard work, and within thirty or so minutes they discover a long uninhabited cavern. They set about making the place inhabitable, cut brush to make a screen for the entrance, find wood for a fire and generally clear up the place.

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"And I'd like to take a moment to thank you for the bravery you have shown in the face of insurmountable odds, and the way that you have guided us and kept us safe through the many and varied terrors of the caverns. The fact that you have had the good grace to do this while we just slow you down is in... credible. I for one will be singing your praises long and loud as soon as we make it back to civilisation, in fact if there's some sort of award available- best adventuring party, or... well, that kind of thing, then I..." Geradil goes all wordy, many of the PCs (Players) quickly indicate that they far preferred his previous 'inconceivable' incarnation.

[Courana & Geradil’s place of safety 200 XP]

There’s an odd moment (or two) when Geradil suddenly recovers his senses, no longer are things quite so ‘inconceivable’. The short portly ex-orc prisoner goes on at great length about all of the fantastic things that the various PCs have done to help him and Courana escape the terrors of the mountain. The new Geradil is finally able to express his thanks, he declares each and every one of the members of the Dark Squad to be heroes and extols their virtues at length.

Save for Vinnie, all of the other members of the Squad are rendered mostly speechless- Vinnie is never (ever) speechless.

[Geradil’s thanks 100 XP]

Eventually, after a little more lovelorn chatter- “kiss me where I have never been kissed before, Oh Vinnie…” there’s a final parting of the ways. The Dark Squad leave Courana and Geradil with five days of food, and warm and safe (Vinnie insists), they’ll be back when they have completed their quest. Promise… snookums.

“Or we’ll die in the attempt, in which case… well, you’re dead too!” Newt shrugs and grins at the now forlorn and teary looking Courana, and then saunters off.
“Vinnie… Oh, Vinnie!” the ex-lady’s maid cries in vain as her (and our) hero heads back into the mountain.

Back to the caverns in which the trogs were (last) slaughtered (i.e. not the previous trog slaughter site) the rogues pick a passage and head off that way, while Newt- as is his wont (the curious cat, remember) picks a different passage and races off this-away.

18.2.jpg

Newt is a fun guy, a 'fun guy', get it... tough crowd.

Newt finds trouble, or else he finds a fungi filled cavern with a close-by fallen ancient human skeleton wearing a very fancy silver etched helm atop its head. Alas the recumbent figure is swathed in a carpet of mould. Vinnie is called over- the druid noses around but cannot make out what manner of fungi/mould it is. Therefore the curious tabaxi gets to work- attempting to investigate and recover the beautiful (and possibly valuable or magic) helm. Alas Newt’s actions trigger a cloud of spores to engulf the pair, seconds later and Newt and Vinnie are coughing and choking- and soon after calling for their friends. The pair swig down healing potions, or else start to panic as the infection quickly gets worse… much worse.

[Fungus cave fun 250 XP]

Initially the pair fail their poison saves and take only a few points of damage, and are left poisoned- a minute or so later and the pair have to make follow up saves- both fail (again) but this time it’s 5d6 poison damage, and the dastardly DM rolls 26 poison damage, the pair are suddenly close to unconscious, coughing- choking, gagging and retching blood.

Ram gets to Vinnie with the last dose of his elixir of health, the poison is cured- while after a few more tense investigations, and the swigging of yet more healing potions by Newt, it is discovered that Garumn has exactly five points of his lay on hands ability left, just enough to neutralise the poison. Newt is saved.

[Saving Vinnie and Newt 150 XP]

That got very nasty very quickly.

After a little more thought and time the fungi is finally identified- it’s a form of yellow mould, Vinnie is certain that it can be burned and destroyed without further danger. A combination of produce flame (Vinnie) and control fire (Newt) and the human skeleton is scoured of infection- and the silver-etched (and valuable) helm recovered.

During the operation it is discovered that there’s another fungus filled cavern a little way on- with a very low entrance into the second chamber, Newt (as always) is up for adventure- the tabaxi crawls through and discovers the skeleton of a long dead dwarf. The dead dwarf is clutching a very finely made scimitar to its chest, however- like the first skeleton it too is swathed in a blanket of yellow mould.

The druid and the tabaxi, both lying on the bellies, manage to repeat their first performance and burn away the mould, at which point Newt heads on and safely recovers the beautifully made scimitar- it’s another Durgeddin the Black weapon.

Soon after, after the weapon has been offered to every other member of the Dark Squad (and Spandwick), it is eventually passed on to Buggles, who is the scimitar specialist. However, prior to the hand-over Newt takes the time to use an identify ritual on the blade.

The scimitar is called Slitheringhate, and as the Dark Squad suspected is another Durgeddin the Black blade, it is primed to kill reptiles (a little odd, but stick with me). Buggles also learns all of the above when he attunes the weapon, the wood elf however decides to rename the blade, much to the DMs chagrin. Slitheringhate later becomes Venombane, but only for a short while- Buggles finally (for now) settles on the name- “Mongoose”.

Don’t ask me, I just roll the dice here.

[Recover the helm and scimitar/mongoose(!) 250 XP]

However, Newt and particularly Vinnie are broken- none of the adventurers have any spell powers (or anything else much) left, and between the five of them only a clutch of healing potions. Vinnie is on 8 HP, Newt a little better- the decision is swiftly made, let’s head back out of the mountain and to the cave in which we (less than an hour ago) said our fond farewells to Courana and Geradil.

Not quite a heroes return.

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"Honey, we're home!"

Vinnie, the silver-tongued druid, tells Courana- his lady love, on his return that he could not stand the thought of her being on her own (with Geradil) during her first night in the wilds.

The druid snuggles up with his honey bunny.

Which leaves the adventurers with plenty of time to kill, it’s early afternoon when the Dark Squad settle into the cave.

The session suddenly heads in a very different direction.

Newt decides to tell his tale- using the smoke and flame of the camp fire for effects he illustrates the story of the tabaxi- (his ancestors) taken from Maztica to Chult as slaves. Long suffering and misery culminating in his parents eventual escape from captivity, and then their perilous journey to Waterdeep. Then he diverts into a spot of personal history- Newt’s travels along the Sword Coast… and eventually to the here and now.

[Tabaxi/Newt history lesson 200 XP]

Thanks Bear- this was great, as was what follows.

Ram takes a moment to remind his friends of his slave experience, and then after many questions- Buggles is particularly interested, the tabaxi is asked about his warlock powers- where does he get them from etc.

There follows a second fire-animated story, Newt’s first meeting with his fiery patron Belphegor, although the tabaxi is less sure about the true nature of his master- a demon, a devil- a fiend of some sort, he’s not certain.

[Newt’s infernal master story 200 XP]

Many of the other members of the Squad weigh in with their thoughts and opinions- Garumn is very dismissive, Ram worries that Newt has signed away his life for a different form of slavery- to a new but potentially just as fiendish and cruel master, Vinnie is more concerned- and caring, while Buggles continues to fret that Newt’s soul is either forfeit, or else already lost.

The questioning goes on for a good twenty minutes here, lots and lots of discussion (including a bit of metaphysics), and Newt is on the spot throughout.

More great roleplay from Bear, but he’s not alone.

[Questions for Newt 100 XP]

Note, many other subjects are pulled into the discussion- one of which is the fact that Buggles seems to be very enamoured/interested in Gwen, his whistle-called skeleton servitor/friend. The wood elf clears up a few things- he’s intrigued by Nightcaller, the summoning whistle, and wishes more than anything to somehow save Gwen’s soul, or else to return her to life… somehow (or something similar).

He wants perhaps to find out who Gwen is/was.

Great work all round.

[Buggles and Gwen 100 XP]

The extended camp fire discussions take the rest of the day, however the cold night passes slowly. The cave proves to be sufficiently out of the way- there are no encounters, and the Dark Squad rise and shine, repeat their farewells, and then healed up head back into the cruel mountain.

It doesn’t take them long to get into more trouble.

Again the adventurers (with Spandwick- “have you found Bel?”) venture through the trog caverns, and from there follow a path that descends rapidly back into the great and glorious glitterhame. Buggles and Ram lead the way, alas while the wood elf is out front, and moving along a steep escarpment, he’s suddenly clutched and stabbed by a tentacled monstrosity, camouflaged and hidden in the rocks and scree. A grick!

Alas only Ram is close enough to see the attack, Buggles isn’t even sure what just snagged and bit him in the back.

18.4.jpg

Buggles gets a grick in/on his neck trying to spy up onto the escarpment. A grick in his neck... that's funny, I really don't know why I bother, this is comedy gold.

It gets to fighting, but not before the grick grabs and bites Buggles some more, the wood elf is quickly bloodied, the creature is also trying to drag him away- up the scree slope.

I rolled ‘20’ for the grick’s stealth, and then repeated the feat with its initiative. Note Buggles’ stealth was a ‘9’, not great.

Ram is quickly in and stabbing at the tentacled aberrant, Garumn with an inspiration point (just to get close enough) flings a hand axe into the beast, at which point it becomes apparent that mundane weapons cause little hurt to the grick.

Buggles meantime flails wildly but fails to dislodge the tentacled brute, Newt eldritch blasts the beast with a little extra hex, the thing is left critically wounded.

At which point however the second grick, lodged high up on a nearby stalagmite, makes its grab for Newt (with advantage) but somehow manages only reveal its location and to wave ineffectively at the tabaxi.

Ram crits and kills the grick still trying to drag Buggles away, and then with his off-hand spins a dagger at the second grick- just a scratch, but it’s a start.

The second grick is hard to get to- it’s up high on the stalagmite, Garumn however with a parkour like leap and slash manages to dig Shatterspike deep into the tentacled bastard.

Buggles gets his second wind and then grabs his longbow out and sinks an arrow into the grick. Newt follows up with another eldritch blast and now the beast is critically wounded, it scurries up to the very top of the stalagmite- looking for somewhere to hide.

The Dark Squad race around the base of the rock formation, finally spotting the tentacled monstrosity- Ram meantime has remembered he has a pair of +1 arrows, he sinks one of the missiles into the second grick, which duly falls from its high perch- dead.

[Pair o’ gricks 900 XP]

The adventurers take a good look about- to make sure there aren’t any more of the tough buggers, and then after monster knowledge checks they chat about gricks. Specifically, do they lair, and do they collect treasure? It’s a possibility, Vinnie remembers reading somewhere that the beasts drag their victims back to their lair to consume- which must be up on the escarpment.

The rogues and Newt are sent up to investigate, which takes the trio a couple of attempts to effect. Garumn races up the slope and then grabs a rope out to help his comrades up.

Meantime Ram and then Buggles make their way through a low opening into a larger cavern with two grick style nests, there’s plenty of coin here, and a salvageable suit of scalemail. The place is cautiously investigated, and then declared safe- the treasure collected and distributed.

[Investigating the grick’s lair 150 XP]

However, while this is going on Garumn atop the scarp spots a hefty looking door over in the eastern end of the great cavern, he recognises the design- it’s a dwarven made door, and the Dark Squad are of course looking for a dwarven door.

The excited paladin races down the slope and rushes straight to the portal, arriving swiftly before it he sinks to his knees, which is where the rest of the Dark Squad (and Spandwick) catch up with him.

“It’s the door!” Garumn states, which is surplus to requirements as Durgeddin the Black’s smith’s mark is etched into the portal.

18.5.jpg

"The DOOR!", "Where?", "That lumpy bit on the map- just to the right, see it? You'll probs need to mouse scroll in a way.", "Oh, yeah. Not much to look at is it?" What a moment, the DM basks in the Player's collective glory.

[The door to the forge is found 250 XP]

There follows a lot of cautious investigation, mostly by Ram but with Buggles also in close attendance, the portal isn’t trapped- furthermore Vinnie declares there’s no magic bound to it. So, it’s just locked- but what a lock, even as Ram is attempting to open it he can see and hear the gears within realigning to make picking the thing a nightmare.

It takes a while, but eventually the rogue has seen enough- he can’t open it.

At which point, somewhat reluctantly Garumn calls for his comrades in arms to draw back- give him room, Shatterspike he explains was forged to cut through all manner of construct(ion)s. There are very few materials that can turn aside the magical blade… alas one of these materials is adamantine, which as it turns out is exactly what the portal is made of.

“Moradin’s hairy testicles!” The paladin isn’t happy, so close…

The Dark Squad are of the opinion that they are therefore now searching the key (and Bel still, of course). Buggles immediately suggests that it’s now time to open the three sealed sarcophagi, but the paladin is much less keen to disturb the dead- “we look high and lo’, only if we cannae find it then do we break the seals on them fine dwarf’s tombs.”

[The door cannot be opened 150 XP]

The high and low searching begins, high first- the second escarpment on the far side of the glitterhame is investigated, Ram clambers up to do the searching, but there’s nothing there to be found.

Which just leaves low- the sinkhole, what did that ancient dwarven scroll say- “wary of the sinkhole”.

Cautiously, the Dark Squad re-enter the fast flowing river cavern which culminates in the sinkhole, it’s slippery here close to the water’s edge. Ram- as always, leads, with Buggles again in close attendance, the pair head down the stair which spirals deep into another large cavern. Host to the plunge pool from the drop off above, the river heads south from the pool, the cavern is full of spray and the roar of the fast moving water.

Odd, there appears to be an ancient brick wall complete with two sodden wooden doors blocking off the eastern section of the cavern, as spotted by the rogues- eventually the other members of the Squad come to take a look.

The first door is stuck Ram determines, Garumn gets to work and smashes it open, within is a massive storeroom, actually as the thieves creep forward they discover that there are actually three large store chambers. The place is rife with mould, but Vinnie is also in close attendance- the mould here looks to be mostly harmless he determines, certainly not the yellow mould they encountered earlier.

The Dark Squad make it to the last section of the chamber, and once there are coolly called to a halt by Ram, the rogue points to a pool of rippling water on the floor, it’s an ooze he confidently states, even though all of the chambers are dotted with very similar looking puddles.

Ram’s right however, this after a ‘26’ perception check- note Ram has a nasty habit in Fantasy Grounds of dropping an active perception check into the Tower and stating “I stop and take a good look around” about every thirty seconds or so, he’s assiduous. The bastard, brothers- gah!

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"Ooze yer friend?", BA-BUM-TISH. Garumn is on fire with the quips again.

At which point however the session comes to an end, a nice fight for the start of the next session, as the ooze undulates forward- towards the slowly retreating Ram.

[Investigating the sinkhole 100 XP]

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #019 Bel(phegor).

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPC hangers-on, rescued prisoners of the Orcs
Geradil the “Inconceivable”, aging trapper (Male Human)
“Screaming” Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)


This is session 19, yet another cracker, and this one with lots and lots of action.

Just to remind you the Dark Squad are at present looking for two things- Bel (Spandwick’s wife) and the key to the forge of Durgeddin the Black, the door having already been located.

Last we left the adventurers they were down in the sinkhole, and in an ancient dwarven storeroom- face-to-face (sorta, briefly) with a grey ooze. The ooze having been spotted by Ram while sneaking ahead, with a ‘26’ perception check- the lucky bastard.

19.1.jpg

Step away from the Ooze, which is pretty much all you have to do to out run it.

And so there follows a little rough and tumble with the grey ooze, made slightly more dangerous when a second ooze detaches itself from the ceiling and briefly batters Vinnie with its acid enhanced pseudopod. But the thing is the members of the Dark Squad (with good to great monster knowledge checks) and the players (with years of experience) know how to deal with oozes. The adventurers stay back, throw spells and missiles aplenty, and pretty much take down the slow moving creatures in a matter of moments.

Job done.

[Two grey oozes 200 XP]

The Dark Squad spend a good ten minutes eyeing up the contents of the store chambers, but there’s nothing of interest to be found here. Then an extended chat with Spandwick the Magic Gnome, the little fellow is keen to garner the PCs thoughts regarding the quest to find his missing wife- Bel. Alas some of the members of the Dark Squad have low tolerances for NPCs (Newt- often, Buggles- sometimes, Ram- every now and then). Therefore any conversation that begins with Spandwick asking “Have you found Bel yet?” is fraught with danger. Which is probably why I do it so much.

But I had a reason for doing it now, not just to remind the guys...

Anyway, long story short- Vinnie suggests that Bel may be hiding in a box- she’s smart, she’s small etc. she could be safe and sound just around the corner- the druid consoles Spandwick. Newt however suggests that the box could also serve as Bel's coffin. It gets chippy (but polite chippy) for a while. Vinnie, as always, smooths the way- he’s a silver-tongued bugger, and better still- a reasonable/responsible person who cares for someone other than himself.

That’s not a dig at the players by the way, that’s their PCs- and they play them very well- the PCs in question have other pressing concerns.

[Chatting with Spandwick some more 100 XP]

Soon after a second sprawling storage chamber is discovered and investigated, which proves much easier to do as it’s pretty much empty.

Then back out and into the caverns proper, following a racing river (from the sinkhole above) south which flows into a much faster torrent of water heading west to east. A fifteen foot high natural cavern running alongside the watercourse. An ancient but sturdy dwarven bridge crosses the stream, the cavern continues to the west.

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Dark Squad in exploration mode.

A waterlogged storeroom is discovered, but left for later investigation, particularly as the place is flooded to around five feet deep, and none of the members of the Squad are keen to go for a swim, and besides the last storerooms generated exactly zero percent interesting (or valuable) stuff.

Let’s head on…

Up a set of natural stairs that once again span the river and around the corner to… what’s this!

The two rogues, as usual, are sneaking ahead of the rest of the gang, and both (Buggles has fallen into line) are stopping every now and then to make active perception checks. Keep in mind that the fast flowing river is also very noisy, but anyway- I digress, over the other side of the underground torrent is a large flopping cave fish, situated just before a very large stalagmite. Again, remember these are experienced players here.

Ram spots the strange sight and cautions Buggles to stay silent and observe (in sign language/thieves cant- the pair have a system). The watched stalagmite suddenly grows a horrendous fanged maw, a whip-thin tentacle lashes out from it- snares the flopping gulping fish and flings it into the aforementioned maw.

NOM-NOM goes the roper.

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There's a fair amount of consternation in the ranks when the Roper/Stalag-biter is spotted, these guys have played this game before.

Although Buggles later declares the creature to be a stalag-biter (or something similar) after his traditional monster knowledge check roll (usually a ‘4’).

However in the moment the wood elf is the first to react, he fires an arrow at the stony beast (with a ‘1’) and then rushes back around the corner- alerting his comrades in arms to the presence of the stalag-biter/roper.

Ramshambow fires an arrow into the now furious beast and then also takes to heels, although he remains closer to the action but now hidden within the shadows.

The other members of the Dark Squad (all with better initiative than the roper) take it in turns to rush around the corner and fire off their various spells or missile weapons (eldritch blast/produce flame/hand axe/arrow) and then duck back away and out of sight.

Alas their attacks are all misses, the players quickly ascertain that the roper is at least AC 19, that’s tough.

Also a number of the PCs don’t retreat far enough away from the tendril sporting monstrosity, seconds later Garumn and Vincenzo are ensnared- both grappled and restrained. The dwarf paladin is reeled in and the roper’s maw opens wide set to receive, and… fails to take a bite (with advantage, bastard).

Buggles and Newt do the attack hokey-cokey once more, rush in- fire (eldritch blast/arrow) and then run away again.

They both miss.

Garum, before the roper, grabs out Shatterspike, "I've got this guys... I'll take care of the big stony bastard", and then flails wildly- another miss. Then an inspiration point and… he misses again. "Guys? Guys? A little help!"

Ram however is on target once again- he’s a stone cold killer, or else his electronic dice are weighted.

Just a quick note, in this session (in the dice tower) Ram at one point rolls three ‘20’s in a row (all skill checks) while Buggles rolls three ‘1’s in a row (again, all skill checks). Buggles’ dice are busted (again).

The roper chomps down on Garumn, the paladin goes from full HP to bloodied in an instant (24 damage) the dwarf will probably not survive a second bite attack.

The stony bastard also sends another pair of tentacles questing around the corner of the cavern, trying to search out the PCs hidden there. Ram is almost caught in the beast’s grasp.

Buggles dodges out, fires and... misses again, then flees back the way he came.

Newt repeats the trick.

Then again, after an inspiration point.

There is screaming and shouting around the VTT- also a few cursory curses.

Vincenzo however steels the show, he transforms into Vincen G. Octopod and tentacle grabs the roper right back, and so now the big stony bastard is grappled and restrained too.

Oh, and the roper has also been hexed by Newt, it has disadvantage on its strength checks- the DM fumes.

Just to say in game the roper makes a variety of noises during the fracas- mostly onomatopoeia, Vincen G. Octopod also has a range of battle-ready noises- all alas based around the WIBBLE-WIBBLE formula, an audio recording of this confrontation would not make for the closing moments of an action movie.

NURRRR-NURRR!
BLUBL-BLUB!
GROMP!
WIBBLE-WIBBLE!

The roleplay, clearly, is intense.

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Laydees and Gennelpersons, in the watery-blue corner VINCEN Geeee OCTO-Poddddddd! And in the red-for-blood corner, the STA-LAAAAG-BI-TERRRR! Wrastle-ON!

Garumn spends all of his lay on hands on himself, in an effort to survive another roper bite, keep in mind the dwarf (and the octopod) are still in the clutches of the creature’s tendrils.

Ram fires another arrow into the roper- he’s yet to miss, and now the stony bastard is bloodied (it started with just short of 90 HP).

The roper however fails to bite Vincen G. Octopod (AC 11 or 12) and your glorious DM is fuming.

Buggles fires an arrow into the beast, and now its critically wounded- damn!

Vincen G’s tentacles batter and squeeze… and then Ram fires yet another arrow while scampering back and forth into hiding, and hits yet again- the roper suddenly lurches forward, and it’s tendrils go slack.

Dead.

Which of course causes Garumn and Vincen G. to be unceremoniously dumped into the fast flowing river, the dwarf paladin manages to grab hold of the stony shore and hang on as the river batters him. Vincen G. spreads his tentacles and somehow manages to bridge/span the water.

The remaining members of the Dark Squad rush over to aid their companions away from danger, at which point Vincen G. Octopod is put away as Vinnie the druid returns to his everyday form.

[The roper is dead 1800 XP]

However, a moment later Newt announces, after a ‘20’ monster knowledge check earlier, that ropers are famed for eating precious gems and other forms of treasure.

At which point, of course, the slowly slumping carcass of the roper completes its fall and drop-slides into the fast flowing river. The already assembled Dark Squad- at the river’s edge, use a variety of implements to grab/secure three of the roper’s four tendrils… and then take the strain, as the great beast is flushed away.

It goes back and forth for a while, Newt is almost pulled into the racing watercourse by the weight of the dead roper (and the river’s rush). Eventually Vincenzo manages to grab out his wand of entangle and cast the spell in the area of the roper, the subsequent vegetable growth snares (briefly- act fast) the stony corpse. Then with Ram’s grappling hook embedded in the beast, the dead monstrosity is hauled out of the river/entangle area, and rolled- at last- onto the shore.

The lengths they will go to for a payday.

Job done.

[Get the roper out of the river 200 XP]

Then… well, lots of things happen at once.

Buggles spots a passage to the north and investigates, there are three ancient cells off the concourse- a prison of sorts. Two of the three cell doors are wide open- and out of the first steps a small, middle-aged, female gnome. “Bel”, she says- and smiles, and then a moment later rushes around Buggles and straight into the arms of her husband Spandwick.

Even the wood elf gets emotional- kidding.

19.5.jpg

Bel's ALIVE! The roper's dead! Get cutting- let's see what the stony bastard had for lunch... Oh, hello Bel- Garumn, have you found anything yet?

The reunion continues for a while, with a teary Spandwick introducing his comrades- Bel’s heroic rescuers, the Dark Squad. Bel communicates entirely using various inflexions of the only word she knows… “Bel”, she’s been this way since the fateful show over a decade previous.

Still she’s very grateful for her rescue, and particularly enamoured with her new tabaxi friend- Spandwick explains, she has always liked cats.

Newt, roleplays this incredibly well, eventually curling up before the entranced gnome, purring contentedly as Bel continues to gently pet him.

Meantime Garumn, with Shatterspike in hand, is in the process of gutting the roper- cutting through to the creature’s treasure-filled gizzard.

Meantime (again) Buggles has searched the two open cells- they’re empty, and then located the key to the last locked cell- within is the corpse of a long dead dwarf, and hidden beneath the skeletal remains a pouch of platinum coins and… a big ornate key. The key to the door to the forge of Durgeddin the Black the PCs figure (correctly, as it happens).

There is much rejoicing.

[Find the key to the forge 200 XP]

Then something very strange takes place- Newt decides to attempt to communicate with Bel telepathically, using a message cantrip- and she can respond to his message (he’s so very (very) clever). Somewhere within the female gnome’s mind a dam breaks.

“Bel!” Bel replies.

Then “Bel… Belf… BELFFFFFFF!”

Finally, a much louder still-

“BELPHEGOR!”

But before we go on, just to remind you that Belphegor is the name of the fiery fiend that holds Newt’s soul in thrall. Belphegor is Newt’s (possibly) demonic patron.

At which point, of course, Bel’s head also goes on fire… cue screaming and scrambling.

The DM spams the weird button.

Bel seems entirely unconcerned with the fact that she is aflame.

Bel/Belphegor has a speech, here it goes, and it’s delivered in the demon’s (possibly) gravely growling voice, but through the mouth of the small fiery Bel.

“Kneel before me my kindling apprentice!”

Newt duly complies, Spandwick screams and scrambles away- then stumbles back towards his inferno wife- and then away again. The gnome is a wreck.

The other members of the Dark Squad settle in for the show...

“Harken to me my cat-salamander!”

Newt harkens, as do the rest of the Dark Squad.

WTF is going on here?

“Tell Wildroot that you wish to join the pact of flame, resist the urge to burn the woodsman to the ground- he will set you to your task.”

Newt nods, and makes notes in his book of shadows.

“Discover the last ancestor, she that lives under the cover of darkness- the hag will have the answers.”

“Got it, master.” Newt nods some more.

“When the hands move the end will have begun.”

“WAIT!”

“For the pale dwarf without a face to beg you- only then should you take the ghost home.”

Newt nods frantically, grinning all the while- his master is in da ‘ouse.

“Do not fail me!”

Newt commits to the cause- “I will not fail you master… I will not!”

Belphegor, seconds later, is gone…

Bel's countenance is returned to normal, she's left smiling- and unharmed.

Belphegor's departure is just in time as several other members of the Dark Squad are starting to worry about the Bel to Belphegor transformation (very mostly Vinnie).

[Meet Belphegor 500 XP]

Much chatter follows… mostly circling around the expression- WTF?

However the effect of the demon’s (possibly) brief visit is made more palatable when… Bel begins to speak normally, and to once again expresses her delight at being rescued/freed by the adventurers, and specifically- by Newt. Bel is Bel again, as she was before the accident, Spandwick cries some more.

Then however Garumn, who throughout all of the above has been hard at work around the corner sawing and slicing up the roper, suddenly appears. The dwarf is swathed in blood, he announces that he has found a clutch of gems and a ring in the gizzard of the dead beast.

There is much more rejoicing, particularly when Vinnie confirms that the newly found ring is magical.

Yes- Bel's back. Yes- Newt's demon friend turned up for a look-see, got it. But look! We've found a magic ring!

It's all about priorities.

[Find the roper’s treasure 100 XP]

Eventually, after a bunch more chatter we move on… the Dark Squad are heading back out of the mountain, this in order to deposit Bel and Spandwick in the secret cave in which Courana and Geradil are currently hiding. Good idea.

Although, en route the pair o' rogues and Vinnie decide to go for a bit of a swim in the flooded storeroom they found earlier. Within Ram eventually (there was a lot of caution, and lots of checks here- the PCs were convinced the DM was going to attempt to kill them again... good work me) discovers the skeletal remains of an orc, in the last of the flooded chambers, and with the orc a sack containing three potion flasks.

19.6.jpg

"We might as well take a look..."

Cue an extra-large portion of giggling and rejoicing.

[A clutch of potions 150 XP]

Too soon.

By the time the Dark Squad get out of the mountain and back to their secret cavern lair both Buggles and Vinnie are sweating, and yet at the same time cold and shivery, the pair are also exhausted. There was something bad in the water they’ve just been swimming in it seems.

Or as Vinnie the druid puts it- while breaking the fourth wall- "I knew when we went swimming in there we were gonna get screwed somehow... here it is!"

Medicine checks follow, and it’s soon after decided that activity for the day is at an end- the unwell pair are made comfortable, and after a pair of lesser restoration spells (thanks Vinnie) are no longer diseased. They do however need to rest.

Therefore it’s more chatter and admin-style activity for a while.

First, a very strained conversation between Spandwick and Newt, the gnome is fizzing (and more than a little upset) he’s just worked it out- Belphegor has been lodged in Bel’s head for a decade or more. His wife has suffered terribly during this time, including spending three years incarcerated in an asylum in Helm’s Hold, and for what? So, that the fiery demon (possibly) could pass on a message to Newt?

The tabaxi however is also at a loss- Belphegor has only communicated with him once previously (see Newt’s backstory). Spandwick’s anger is soon spent, he’s just upset because Bel has had to endure a lot of hurt… and for what?

Later Newt gets around to using his identify ritual, the ring recovered from the roper’s gizzard is… a ring of spell storing- empty atm, but after a dice-off between Newt and Vinnie for ownership, it's soon after filled with helpful druid spells. Vincenzo for the win.

Potions of healing, water breathing and invisibility are also identified and distributed.

The rest of the day and night is spent resting- nothing happens (except a bit of Vinnie/Courana snuggling), although… on first watch Ram spots (‘20’) a huge dragon that suddenly wings over to obscure the moon, and then swoops around the Stone Tooth mountain and then away.

The rogue gawps for a while, and then rushes to wake and tell his friends- he determines the great dragon was an ancient red (this after another ‘20’ check- remember Ram spent some of his last downtime reading and researching dragonkind).

“Ashardalon?” Buggles asks, but none of his colleagues have the answer.

[Ram spots an ancient red dragon 150 XP]

Then sleep, and the morning after back to the glitterhame, and quickly and safely to the door to the forge of Durgeddin the Black, and this time Garumn has the key in hand.

Beyond are wide, well-made, but ancient dwarven stairs that lead up into a hexagonal chamber- with a blue tiled floor, and containing three great dwarven statues (of dwarves, armed with axes) and also two hefty wooden doors exiting northeast and northwest.

19.7.jpg

Four players and a GM, that's five times 30 (minutes) = 2-and-a-half hours of our collective existence on this planet that we are never getting back. Remember this day, sadly I probably will.

The rogues get into action, and… suddenly there are a lot of average to low rolls, the mooching around and checking/re-checking things goes on for bloody ages, the pair can’t find anything untoward very much. So long is the prevaricating and the false starts to an explanation regarding what's going on in here, that short fuse/curious cat Newt decides just to take an option. The tabaxi dodges forward to the northwest door, as the rogues in the room rush back and away (and out of danger) and wrenches it open. The two nearest statues swing their axes and the cat creature has taken two slashing swipes by the time he gets back to his friends and out of range.

It's a beautiful thing to watch on the VTT- Newt's token suddenly scuds forward towards the northwest door, Bear (playing Newt) begins to announce "I rush forward and just grab the door..." and in the same instance, like some sort of balletic dance, the two rogue tokens on screen dash back and away- while their handlers (Buggles played by Stu & Ram played by Kev) announce in unison "Run!"

At last, the other PCs/players are getting the hang of Newt.

“ME-OW!”

There follows more checking, re-checking and associated dice rolls- the second door- northeast, is similarly trapped Ram discovers. However, that leaves no obvious exits to the chamber. Note at this point the rogues have searched for secret doors on three separate occasions already, and have failed to break a ‘10’- including three ‘1’s out of their six checks.

I kid you not, thirty bloody minutes...

Eventually, at last, Ram finds a secret door behind the eastern statue, and they’re in…

[The statue chamber 200 XP]

Into a passage with more stairs heading up- halfway to the top and a great dwarven mouth complete with beard suddenly appears ahead of the gang and begins shouting warnings in dwarven- “Alert! Alert! Intruders approach!” Garumn and Vinnie translate.

Then on, up the stairs at a rush comes Garumn- “Come on lads, the secrets out!”

The dwarven paladin of Moradin bursts into a huge high-ceilinged, magnificently columned, vaulted dwarven hall- lit by torches on the walls, and a campfire amidst a sprawl of bed rolls, and over at the far end- a throne.

19.8.jpg

"Intaeum!" Garumn hollers- it's Scottish, or at least Irvine Welsh Scottish.

Then a voice, out of the shadows- “Turn around and leave now, this is your one and only warning!”

The voice possess a rich Scottish burr, which means…

“Evil bloody dwarves!” Buggles states to guffaws.

But that’s the end of the session- cliff-hanger.

As I said at the start- another bloody cracker.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #020 The Duergar and the Ghost.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPCs, rescued prisoners of the Orcs- hiding in a cave beyond the mountain.
Geradil the “Inconceivable”, aging trapper (Male Human)
“Screaming” Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


This is session 20, and I’m getting as tired of writing this as you are of reading it, probably, but… yet another cracker, and nearly two hours of hot-fun action to start off with.

The Dark Squad have entered the halls of Durgeddin the Black (they presume, correctly) and have been told to clear off by a surly (hidden) dwarf, or at least someone or something with a dwarven accent (Scottish for the roleplay).

The PCs (actually players) don’t know, but very quickly begin to suspect (they’ve played this game for a while, remember) that they’re chatting to duergar, the evil grey dwarves. Point of fact there are four duergar in the chamber- all invisible, including Ghared- a low level leader type who is doing the chatting for his kin.

There’s a bit of back and forth- Vinnie attempts to say some nice things, to explain the situation, and in the process to list all of the Dark Squad’s victories to date- subtext, we’re tough buggers (nice passive aggressive Jim).

But Ghared doesn’t give a stuff- he’s not buying whatever it is the druid’s trying to sell- he wants the PC intruders to depart, tout suite.

However, negotiations come to a sudden hiatus when Newt dashes into the chamber- dims the torchlight (nearby- check the area of effect for Control Flames) and then goes on a rant.

Basically, the cat-man’s patience wears thin…

The duergar (obviously) take exception to this, they’re that way inclined- and a trio of the grey dwarves, initially invisible, fling javelins at the tabaxi- and that’s a crit and two hits, Newt is critically wounded in an instant.

20.1.jpg

Duergar, giving a bad name to Dwarves everywhere.

Newt Hellish Rebukes one of his now visible attackers, and then…

Vinnie starts up again- “Wait! Wait! Mes amis, we are not ear to bring violents!”

So, we’re back to chatting for a while, but it’s only a short while because even though the silver-tongued druid is making nice, and rolling high with his various social skill checks… the PCs have just about figured out what’s going on here. The duergar are producing fake Durgeddin the Black hand axes and selling them on.

[Vinnie stops the violence, albeit briefly 200 XP]

Obviously Ghared is less than impressed that the PCs have figured out their scheme, also the druid is still doing his passive aggressive- still making sure the duergar know just how tough the Dark Squad are.

Newt in the meantime has glugged a healing potion or two, which is fortunate because the duergar are getting tired of the chatter- they soon start throwing javelins again, several of them rushing forth in their enlarged forms.

Bring on the ultra-violence.

Garumn takes a javelin hit as he stomps forward, however the dwarven paladin manages to bloody the nearest grey dwarf with Shatterspike. Ram rushes over and finishes it off- he cuts the first enemy down.

See, not so tough the duergar.

But that was the one already burnt by Newt.

Garumn takes another hit- this from an enlarged war pick wielding grey dwarf, and now he’s bloodied- yep, already.

Newt with his magic and Buggles with his scimitars are both way off target, the tabaxi spends an inspiration point to try again- and then rolls lower still.

Vinnie lets loose his faerie fire- “let uz light zees buggers up!”

Alas both of the duergar targeted make their saves, so- the Dark Squad are going to have to do this the hard way.

Garumn swings heartily and misses, and then repeats Newt’s feat- he spends an inspiration point and rolls lower still.

There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth around the VTT.

Buggles slashes one of the enlarged duergar, while Ram stabs Ghared (the duergar leader) with his magical rapier- the leader-type immediately orders one of the other duergar warriors to go and get some help.

Garumn slashes and cuts the third enemy- all three duergar are injured now, but none of them yet bloodied.

It doesn’t last, Newt’s fires a (Crit) eldritch blast into the enlarged duergar heading for the door behind the throne, to go and fetch reinforcements- the grey dwarf falls short of his destination. Killed in an instant.

Vinnie locks eyes on Ghared, shakes his head and then… hold person, and the duergar leader is frozen in position- paralysed.

Buggles stabs and heavily wounds the last duergar in the fight (atm), who is also attempting a tactical retreat while screaming for his comrades, the grey dwarf is desperate to get the message out. Garumn rushes forward and cuts the grey dwarf enemy down (with yet another crit).

Ram, soon after joined by Buggles, finishes off the still paralysed Ghared- they’re all heart the bloody rogues.

[Ghared and the duergar warriors are despatched 1050 XP]

The PCs relax (a little)- the fight is over, but they don’t have long- the DM is keen to move this on swiftly. The Dark Squad quickly search the fallen duergar and snaffle a bit more gold coin, and a potion of healing. Which is also quickly quaffed by Newt.

The adventurers also figure out that the forge is through the doors to the south east- they can hear more duergar at work in there, they think- again, correctly.

However, seconds later the door behind the throne opens and… yet another duergar warrior is revealed. The grey dwarf starts shouting and is swiftly stabbed by Ram, and then eldritch blasted by Newt. Then, just as swiftly, the now bloodied duergar warrior disappears- invisible.

The alarm has been raised.

20.2.jpg

Duergar, now you see 'em- now you don't.

The Dark Squad spot another duergar in the newly revealed chamber ahead which is some kind of meeting room complete with massive stone table, and with another door exiting over the far side.

Then, the second duergar disappears from sight too.

There follows three turns or so of the PCs trying to figure out where the two new (invisible) enemies are.

Vinnie takes a risk and conjures an entangle spell in the doorway to the newly revealed chamber, effectively blocking(-ish) the route. Alas at this point one of the two invisible duergar has already escaped the meeting room and is stood pretty much in the Dark Squad’s midst. The second duergar however is caught within the compass of the entangle spell, restrained but still invisible, helpfully the warrior is also out of sight of the adventurers (around a corner).

They still can’t see/target it.

Newt, in a panic, swigs down his potion of invisibility, he too disappears.

The duergar hunt continues for a short while, that is until one of the invisible buggers’ flings open the doors to the forge and starts yelling for his comrade’s attention (which, of course, does not affect the grey dwarf’s ongoing invisibility). There are another four duergar in the forge at their work- although now the PCs have their attention. One of the new enemies revealed is Snurrevin, another leader type, who has a few wizard spells at his disposal- although the PCs are not aware of this, yet.

It gets to fighting again.

Vinnie stops a javelin, and his concentration is broken- the entangle spell fades and the entangled invisible duergar is now freed up to alert Nimira, the warrior leader type of the grey dwarves.

Meantime the duergar warriors in the forge begin to move out- either invisible or enlarged, and start to mix it with the Dark Squad.

Just to say that in game, and ahead of (but during) what follows, one of the players stated (something like)- “I don’t think we’re going to make it…”. After the game two other players also messaged me to say that they were surprised (and gladdened) that they got through the following fracas.

It took a while, maybe ninety more minutes from here to the end of the fight- it was a close one.

Ready…

Ramshambow stops a javelin, and the rogue is bloodied in an instant.

Seconds later Nimira the two-handed sword wielding, and heavily armoured female duergar tyrant rushes into battle, Buggles holds the her up- slashing and cutting the enlarged and enraged grey dwarf.

Vinnie has seen enough, Vincen-Tiger makes his first appearance, the great beast rushes over to claw at Nimira.

20.3.jpg

Vincen Tiger, he's GRRReaaat!

An enlarged duergar warrior meantime rushes out of the forge screaming, and straight into Garum who guts the warrior in an instant- dead (with a little extra divine smite, and a Crit).

There is joy in the hearts of the players.

Seconds later a second (formerly invisible) duergar swings into action and buries its war pick in the dwarf paladin’s back, Garumn is now heavily wounded.

Ram takes an already wounded duergar down with his magical rapier, however the rogue also finds another invisible enemy the hard way- the duergar buries its war pick in the rogue’s leg. Ram is now also heavily wounded.

Nimira meantime slashes and bloodies Vincen-Tiger with a single hit.

Buggles continues to try to keep Nimira at bay but misses three times in a row- needing to spend an inspiration point to get in that final all important miss.

There is consternation and fretting within the ranks. I think at some point one of the players said something like “We just need to start hitting!” Slightly irate, and somewhat dismayed his colleagues were perhaps just not trying hard enough to roll high.

Oh, and keep in mind I’m mostly only reporting the hits here, the misses (mostly) go unreported.

Snurrevin, the duergar wizard, launches a shatter spell, a crack of thunder and Ram and Garumn are left staggering, both are now critically wounded (on approx. 6 HP each).

Vincen-Tiger gets hit by another war pick wielding duergar warrior, who suddenly just appears in the midst of the PCs.

This kind of treachery from the (cruel) DM leads to hissing and cursing from the players around the VTT.

Newt hits a duergar (for 8 fire damage) using his new spell- Belphegor’s Fiery Blast (a reskinned eldritch blast) and that’s his potion of invisibility spent.

Vincen-Tiger bites Nimira, and at last the two-handed sword wielding duergar warrior is bloodied.

Garumn takes another war pick hit- the paladin is still standing, but woozy (and now on 1 HP), seconds later the dwarf suddenly convulses- as if electrocuted, and collapses onto the floor and sprawls into unconsciousness.

Browngnaw, Snurrevin’s rat familiar, sneakily delivering that last shocking grasp attack.

Ram keeps stabbing at the enlarged duergar swatting at him, but he can’t kill it- Newt tries to help out with another Belphegor’s fiery blast- but still the grey dwarf survives.

Note there are still five duergar (including Snurrevin and Nimira) in the fight.

Nimira guts Vincen-Tiger with her greatsword, and then snarls threats at the newly revealed (and already wounded) Vincenzo. The duergar leader pays the price for her grandstanding- Buggles Crits her with his magical scimitar, and now she too is critically wounded (on 7 HP).

20.4.jpg

Garumn has taken a proper beating, as has Ram- and he's running away as fast as he can. Newt is hiding- Buggles is in action while Vinnie is no longer wearing the cat's pyjamas.

The druid however is thwarted some more- Snurrevin exits the forge and paralyses him with a hold person spell, and then immediately orders the nearest duergar warrior to head over and slay the shifter. The duergar warrior complies and buries its war pick in the druid, bloodying him in an instant.

It’s at this point that another one of the players cautions his co-players for not rolling hard enough, or something similar.

The tension is mounting, although… perhaps the above caution does the job.

Seconds later Vinnie shakes off the paralysis, although needing an inspiration point to make the save.

In the next moment Garumn makes his first death save, and… ‘20’ the paladin is back on his feet- having first spent all of his lay on hands, and now shouting the odds at the semi-startled duergar.

“COME ON! I’ll tek tha lot of yers!”

Ram meantime has taken to his heels- the rogue is mid-run away, he’s desperately trying to get some healing (a potion), however he is being chased- all the way out of the chamber and back down the stairs, by an enlarged duergar.

20.5.jpg

Run Ram! Run! And sure enough, Ram ran.

At which point the rogue gets enough distance between himself and his pursuer to chug a healing potion- that tastes nice.

Belphegor’s fiery blast comes again- and, at last, another of the enlarged duergar falls.

Nimira (on 7 HP) has seen enough, the duergar warrior leader disappears from sight and attempts to find somewhere safe to hide (actually she initially flees back to her room).

Buggles, freed up now that Nimira has turned invisible and departed, launches himself at Snurrevin- the duergar smith’s shield spell fails to keep the wood elf’s magical scimitar- MONGOOSE! at bay, and now the smith is bloodied. Snurrevin fights back- he enlarges and then sticks his over-sized war pick in the elf- honours even.

But not for long, the revived druid- Vinnie, conjures a moonbeam from his ring of spell storing- the last remaining duergar warrior in the chamber, and Snurrevin, are both caught in the radiant blaze.

The pair are burnt some more (at the start of their turns) as the druid continues to concentrate on the spells fiery spotlight.

The now badly wounded enlarged duergar warrior escapes the blaze- and then buries its war pick in Garumn- the paladin is now also back to being critically wounded (and back on 7 HP).

However the formerly fleeing Ram is now heading back into the chamber, after healing the rogue goes toe-to-toe with the enlarged duergar warrior chasing him, and swiftly takes the brute down.

The Dark Squad are getting there…

Another Belphegor’s fiery blast and Snurrevin (even with another shield spell) feels the pain.

Buggles slices the last enlarged duergar warrior, and now it too is critically wounded (on 5 HP) but the wood elf can’t finish the terror off, nor can Vinnie who repositions his moonbeam to illuminate the tough enemy (now on 1 HP).

Snurrevin meantime takes another hit, this one from Shatterspike and the snarling Garumn, the grey dwarf has seen enough. Snurrevin disappears and in one headlong dash flees the forge, and the halls of Durgeddin the Black.

Garumn, meantime- after an entire turn of misses from all of the other PCs, finally takes down the last duergar warrior, this enemy (starting the fight with only 30 or so HP) has managed to survive over half-a-dozen (low damage roll) hits and for the entire fracas (he was the duergar that opened the door and spotted the PCs in the great hall).

[Death to the duergar some more, although both leaders escape 1000 XP]

Then ten seconds of silence, as the Dark Squad hold their various poses and wait to see if any more grey dwarves are going to suddenly appear. Followed by ten minutes of run around paranoia, including Ram firing arrows into dark empty spaces which could/might contain invisible enemies. Then a sudden dash (by the entire group) to get to the front door to the halls (which they left open) and there to lock the portal.

[Searching and fretting about the missing duergar 150 XP]

This in order to seal the leader type duergar enemies within the forge, to make sure none of them get away.

Too late.

Then ten minutes more of random creeping about including the opening and closing of various doors… it was great to watch on the VTT, unbridled paranoia.

Oh, and in the midst of the rushing about the chugging of healing potions, Vinnie’s ring of spell storing is also just about on empty and Garumn has nothing (lay on hands, spells) left to use.

No duergar are found, of course.

The Dark Squad are convinced that there are two enemies still in the halls with them, but if they read this then the secret’s out- Snurrevin has already exited the place.

20.6.jpg

Spot the invisible Duergar.

Where’s Nimira, well- for a good while she was stood in the same hall as the PCs were massed- while they were expending their healing and bickering about what doors to open/close, and where to check next…

But then the duergar warrior saw her opportunity and took it… let’s leave it at that, except to say- she’s not gone away.

Although the Dark Squad, after a little more chatter (and associated monster knowledge checks) have figured out that the duergar’s invisibility only lasts about an hour.

The adventurers poke around the revealed chambers for a good while longer, including snooping around the rooms from which Nimira emerged- a smashed up bedroom, a storeroom and a toilet cubicle (the only location not searched- and the location, of course, of the secret door). Then a very brief examination of the forge chamber nearby- the duergar were indeed making Durgeddin the Black style fake hand axes, there the Dark Squad settle down for a well-earned rest.

[More duergar hunting, including locking the outer door 150 XP]

Rest done the bodies of the fallen are searched, and a little more coin found.

Then, a plan- of sorts. Vinnie discerns that Snurrevin- and the other duergar previously working in the forge have effectively left sooty trails- this after a 20+ survival check, with lots of help from Buggles. Another three or four checks later and the Dark Squad are convinced that Snurrevin has already exited the halls and has therefore been locked out.

Alas the trail of Nimira is much more difficult to find.

[Concerted hunting for the missing duergar leaders 200 XP]

The adventurers continue to nose around the opened-up chambers, the rogues sneaking ahead as always. The pair discover that the stream that runs through the forge plunges into a deep hollow. The rest of the Dark Squad catch up, and there’s more chatter- they’re now convinced that the duergar entered the forge from this direction, somehow.

Then Ram spots through the dark and mist that there’s a hard to get to ledge with a rope ladder heading down from it- down into the dark watery chasm.

[Searching and finding the ledge 100 XP]

After a brief chat the decision is made- they need to investigate the hard to get to ledge- cue Vincen G. Spider, the giant arachnid scuttles over to the ledge which has a very small door/passage leading north from it, a crawlspace. Vincen G. Spider has a rope tied around its abdomen. Ten minutes later and the giant spider is gone, and Vinnie has secured the rope, and with a variety of pitons employed by Ram to anchor the other end, and to make the crossing easier.

The Dark Squad safely traverse the dangerous drop-off.

[Safely traverse to the ledge 200 XP]

Ram, and then Buggles, are sent ahead into the crawlspace- the pair discover that a spur of the passage exits into the bathroom (in Nimira’s chambers) they decided not to search earlier.

20.7.jpg

It very quickly becomes obvious that the secret passage leads into the ancient bathroom- the only chamber the Dark Squad pointedly declared they were not searching. That's a learning moment.

The crawlspace continues on north, eventually exiting into a much larger chamber- with a well, a gathering space of some sort- the floor of the chamber however is littered with the ancient armoured skeletal remains of over twenty individuals. Mostly orcs, but also half-a-dozen long dead dwarves.

“This was a massacre”, Buggles states.
“And we didn’t do it!” Vinnie adds.

Then, suddenly, the ghostly form of an elaborately robed dwarf steps out of the nearest wall and begins talking at the nearest PCs.

What follows is a precis, not the whole shebang- I’d written up the ghost dwarf’s speech(es) previously and practised them beforehand.

“The orcs that came for us- they followed us, from the north. We travelled for hundreds of miles through secret ways, known to few- and yet still they followed us!”

“We came to settle here, he brought us here- to watch and wait he said.”

“Still they found us!”

“They were sent after us, don’t you see!”

“No! Not after us- they were sent after him- to kill him, that’s it.”

“Don’t you see! DON’T YOU SEE!”

The dwarven ghost is hectoring, and spluttering in fury as it ends its speech.

Note several of the PCs have been asking questions while the ghost is about its tirade.

“Are you talking about Durgeddin the Black?”

“Were you here with Durgeddin?”

That kind of thing, but the ghost is not here for a Q&A.

The ghost’s tirade ends spectrally spluttering in Buggles’ face, remarkably the wood elf makes the decision to chat and play nicely with the screaming strange entity, even more remarkably he succeeds.

The dwarf ghost drifts off, down a corridor to the east- the Dark Squad after a brief chat- mostly speculation and shrugs, follow after the haunted dwarf.

All the way into another larger communal space, with another well- although this area without the remains of slaughtered dwarves and orcs.

The ghost suddenly turns and spies the adventurers following after him.

“Ah, there you are- do you remember the story he told us about the man and the crocodile?” and we move into the ghostly dwarf’s second speech, again a precis follows-

“Man was sad because he had to cross the river which was full of crocodiles. Crocodile saw this and offered to safely transport man to the other side of his river kingdom.”

Long story short… Crocodile takes man safely to the far bank, although before ferrying him across he makes man promise to pay back the favour.

On the far bank crocodile immediately cashes in his favour, asking the man to reciprocate and carry him on his back across the kingdom of man.

Man tries to worm out of his obligation but caught in his promise has to return the favour.

Man puts crocodile on his back and carries him across the kingdom of man…

At which point the ghostly dwarf asks the Dark Squad about the story- what does it mean?

Of the offered answers Buggles’ is the most convincing, confidently stating the story of crocodile and man is all about having to keep your promise.

20.8.jpg

Buggles' new BF, the wood elf has a thing for the undead it seems...

The ghostly dwarf nods sagely, and then lets the PCs know that “he said something similar, but he had a another answer…”

The ghost then, as suddenly, calls for silence with a shush, and then states- “they’re in here…” and walks through the nearest stone door.

But that’s the end of the session.

[The dwarf ghost 500 XP]

And I swear at least two of the players said “Ohhhrrr!” in an effort to get me to go on… that was three-and-a-half hours of D&D with only one five-minute break. We usually have three breaks in a session.

Got ‘em, a bit.

More next time.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Excellent stuff. Looking forward to (presumably eventually) discovering what Belphegor's message to Newt means. Keep it coming.
Thanks, will do.

Also, if you find any good story hours (5e by choice) then point me at 'em.

Half-term this next week, I'll be in the building but without students- so, y'know- a little light reading, helps pass the time.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #021 Love Hurts.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPC hangers-on, rescued prisoners of the Orcs
Geradil the “Inconceivable”, aging trapper (Male Human)
“Screaming” Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


This is session 21, and screw the players- I bloody loved it.

I think they enjoyed it too.

Just a warning ahead of time- SPOILERS, this is an ongoing game- please don’t say anything in the comments section here that could spoil the player’s surprise in future sessions.

Last we left the Dark Squad they were in the long lost forge of Durgeddin the Black, they’ve chased the duergar away- or else slaughtered them; they’ve encountered a dwarf ghost that alternatively yaps at them and then (when they ask questions of the spectral wanderer) duly ignores them.

There’s a lot of the latter in this session, the ghost quite often just keeps emphasising whatever it was it said last, rather than answer any of the PCs questions- the most often asked question so far is some variant of- “do you know/were you here with Durgeddin the Black?”

However, the dwarf ghost obviously has his own agenda.

So annoying is the spectral dwarf that by the end of this session Ram has said aloud to his comrades, and therefore secured permission from them, to stab the spooky bastard up the next time it appears.

But I digress, let’s get on with the here and now- the start of the session.

Last session, and after a rambling story about Man and the Crocodile, the ghostly dwarf suddenly declares ‘they’re in here…’ and then passes through a nearby door.

21.01.jpg

They're in here...

The adventurers, after checking out the portal before them, follow the ghost in- to a ramshackle and ruined guard chamber filled with broken bunks and the armoured skeletal remains of a bunch more very dead dwarves- which, of course, seconds later, rise up to challenge the Dark Squad.

Less than five minutes in and we’re already rolling initiative, there’s going to be plenty of fighting in this session, promise.

Nine ancient dwarven skeletons rise up, the first is swatted by Buggles but keeps to its feet- Vincenzo rushes into the chamber and unleashes a Thunderwave, and still there are no casualties- bones fly but all nine undead continue to press the attack.

21.02.jpg

Let's get ready to RUUUUUMBLE!

Vincenzo is stabbed twice, Buggles and Ram once each.

And suddenly there’s a lot of “bloody hell…” going on from the players around the VTT.

Ram, with Deadend (his Durgeddin the Black undead bane rapier) at last takes one of the dwarven skeletons down, meantime Buggles and Vinnie both get stabbed again. The druid is closing in on bloodied, and much too close to the front line.

“Let me owt ov ear!” He yelps but is mostly ignored, or giggled at.

Newt rushes forward and unleashes a burning hands spell into the close-packed chamber- skeletons sizzle, although only one more of the undead falls. The tabaxi flees back the way he came.

Buggles cuts a pair of skeletons down with his twin scimitars- five left, and now the adventurers are giving ground (a little) as the unthinking undead continue to spill out of the chamber.

Vinnie conjures his shillelagh and batters another skeleton down- that’s just four left. Buggles alas gets sliced again and now he’s on just 10 HP, Ram however cuts the offending enemy down.

Three left- then a Belphegor’s fiery blast from Newt and we’re down to two.

Garumn at last manages to connect with Shatterspike- just one enemy left, the remaining skeleton stabs the dwarven paladin, and then is smashed to pieces by the club wielding druid.

The fight, at last, is over- and Buggles and Vinnie are bloodied (or worse), although soon after a little more healing is dished out.

[Destroy the dwarven skeletons 450 XP]

A brief search of the wrecked room and the sprawled undead locates a bag of silver coins, however seconds later and the dwarven ghost is back in the chamber and chirruping again. Questioning the Dark Squad with regard to their understanding of the story of the Man and the Crocodile (see the last session for the full story).

The ghost finally reveals that ‘he’, the ‘he’ in question being the original storyteller (who the Dark Squad are at present presuming to be Durgeddin the Black), was of the opinion that the Man with the Crocodile on his back would benefit from being able to work together, and their ability to see further.

Most odd.

The chatter goes on, with the dwarven ghost repeatedly ignoring the PCs questions and interruptions- note Buggles is in the spectral being’s face- not confrontational, just trying to catch the ghost out, pressing and cajoling- attempting to extract more information.

Eventually the Dark Squad garner the following new info, I say the Dark Squad- but it’s mostly Buggles doing his best Columbo impression.

1) It seems ‘he’ (Durgeddin the Black) said that someone would come along eventually, and that the ghost would recognise them when they showed up. The Dark Squad presume that they are the ‘someone/them’ in the previous rambling statement.

2) ‘He’ told the ghost to warn ‘them’ about the dragon below.

3) Also to tell ‘them’ not to worry too much about the dragon below, because there was something else far more dangerous down there with the dragon. Which isn’t that comforting.

Apologies for some of the above, by which I mean the complexity- but the dwarven ghost will not surrender its name, nor will it confirm that the stories it tells and the things it says are the words and warnings of Durgeddin the Black.

The dwarven ghost repeatedly avoids answering all such questions.

Therefore, it’s a bit of a mystery, or else presumptions have to be made in order to make sense of the situation.

The Dark Squad are therefore of the opinion that Durgeddin the Black is talking to them via the dwarven spirit, although there’s some thought that the ghost may in fact actually be Durgeddin the Black. At least the thought is entertained for a short while.

[Buggles is Columbo 300 XP]

Eventually after more chatter the ghost invites the Dark Squad to follow him into a ‘terrible place’, and then walks through a nearby wall. After a bit more muffled hinting (the ghost shouting through the wall) it becomes apparent that there is a secret door present, and then another- the PCs pass through both and into a ruined and wrecked dwarven chapel. With broken stone pews, walls carved with images of the dwarven pantheon- chipped and ancient, and with lots of broken bones and at least one sprawled dead body (an orc). Over the far side of the chamber is an altar on which rests the armoured ancient body of a dwarf.

The Dark Squad think they have found the final resting place of Durgeddin the Black, they investigate- Ram is quickly to the front of the chapel, Buggles hides behind one of the stone benches while the rest of Dark Squad hang back.

Ram is danger-man, he dares all.

21.03.jpg

Ram is Danger Man! But check out the HP bars- says it all.

The above picture supplied by Bear- more like this please- full screen FTW!


Alas (for Ram) caution quickly proves to be the watchword. Two ogre skeletons rapidly assemble from the bone piles and come staggering forward, while at the same time the orc body picks itself up, draws its battered longsword and begins barking in its guttural tongue- Orcish. Garumn translates, the undead is threatening to pick out and eat the marrow from Ram’s bones.

Friendly.

It gets to fighting.

Vinnie dodges into the chapel and attempts to ‘light up zee enemies’ with his faerie fire, alas only one of the ogre skeletons succumbs to the glowing burst, Garumn meanwhile totters forward and flings a handaxe into the illuminated brute- the missile hits but hardly makes a mark on the ogre skeleton.

To make matters worse Ram makes a bee-line for the newly risen orc and attacks, and then rolls a ‘1’ followed by a ‘2’. Buggles fires his longbow into the nearest ogre skeleton and then ducks back out of sight.

Newt gets a little closer and identifies the creature now attacking Ram- the newly risen orc is in fact a wight, which is not good. The tabaxi warns Ram, and his companions, and then fires Belphegor’s fiery blast into the creature. The wight however barely flinches, only snarls some more threats.

Garumn gets smashed over the head by an ogre skeleton, but he’s as tough as old boots the dwarven paladin, the wight meantime repeatedly fails to slice Ram with its blade.

Vinnie has seen enough, he cancels his faerie fire and launches a moonbeam into the midst of the undead trio- and yet the puddle of radiant light doesn’t bother the enemies too much (low damage rolls).

Garumn gets his range and suddenly one of the ogre skeletons is left staggering, this after a titanic hit from Shatterspike with a bit of divine smite thrown in for good measure.

Ram attacks again, and rolls a ‘2’ with Deadend- his undead bane magical rapier, he spends an inspiration point to do it again… and he does, he rolls another ‘2’.

You probably heard the groans around the VTT from wherever you were sat on Tuesday night (about 9-ish) the players were very unhappy. Ram of course hits the wight with his off-hand dagger attack but the adventurers are very aware that the creature needs magical damage to really hurt it.

Buggles rushes over and joins in the fracas, trying to help out his fellow backstabbing bastard, seconds later Newt hits again with another Belphegor special, and this time rolls max damage on his dice, and very suddenly the wight is bloodied and beyond.

Moments later the continued radiant burn of Vinnies moonbeam is enough to turn the undead terror (the orc wight) into ash, likewise the second ogre skeleton is also left staggering by the radiant flare. The beast however has enough about it to smash its greatclub into Ram (now on 4 HP) and then drag itself out of the moonbeam’s compass.

Garumn continues to keep the second ogre skeleton at bay- hitting the brute again with Shatterspike.

Ram meantime lances Deadend into the other skeleton ogre, the brute is now critically wounded, Buggles with his magical scimitar, Mongoose, finishes it off. The wood elf then dashes off to the second skeleton ogre and with a critical hit with his off-hand blade leaves the last enemy also floundering and critically injured.

Then another Belphegor special from Newt, and then- at last, Vinnie flings a produce flame and burns the last undead down.

Victory for the Dark Squad.

[Ogre skeletons and orc wight champion 1600 XP]

The fight is over and moments later, as the adventurers recover and nose around the chamber, the dwarven ghost (as usual) reappears, or else he floats through a wall and immediately starts yapping at the PCs.

Note various members of the Dark Squad are beginning to lose their patience with the dwarven ghost, Vinnie quickly determines that the spectral being is telling them lies- specifically when it tells them that the body on the altar is that of Durgeddin the Black.

After a bit more chivvying, snarling and manoeuvring the ghostly dwarf admits that he left the dead dwarf on the altar, in an effort to make it appear to be the remains of Durgeddin the Black. This revelation however only leads to more questions- which the ghost determinedly (as usual) avoids answering.

The Dark Squad continue to press the ghost but the creature is unbending, meantime Buggles and Newt locate a little more treasure hidden behind the altar, including a clutch of low level scrolls.

There follows a brief break as the adventurers discuss their situation- what are they doing here, they’ve found the forges- which was their mission, they’ve killed/run off the duergar, there may or may not be a dragon down below, or else- and this is Buggles’ theory- the way below is an entrance into the Underdark.

The dwarven ghost is therefore mostly being ignored, the decision is the Dark Squad are going to investigate the rest of the complex and then re-examine the situation depending on what they find in the unexplored areas. Only then will they decide whether to depart this place or else to head on below.

The above party discussion continues for over an hour as the adventurers take a short rest, and spend a few healing hit dice.

Note Vinnie spends all 4 HD and gets back 11 HP, that’s some great rolls right there.

Towards the end of the hour the dwarven ghost drifts off elsewhere. The PCs let it go- they’re not enamoured of the spirit.

[Lots of party chat and a bit of blather with the ghost 250 XP]

The Dark Squad head back out into the dwarven chambers and begin listening, checking and then quietly opening doors- the gang search their way through several broken rooms, each containing the skeletal remains of orcs and dwarves and the shattered remains of the various furnishings.

A few low value semi-precious stones are found, but nothing of real interest.

Then, at last, a much larger- and more interesting looking chamber is discovered, with the remains of wall hangings, a massive rug, and over the far side a desk, chair and bed. Newt dashes over to explore… and discovers (the hard way) the rug of smothering.

Moments later and the mumbling tabaxi is grappled, restrained, blinded and down to 10 HP- he’s being crushed, and actually screaming not mumbling. His compatriots just can’t hear him properly.

There follows five or so minutes of rug/carpet jokes culminating in Garum shouting ‘I am the axe-minister’ before rushing to attack.

Also Buggles cautions that perhaps this is another visitation from Belphegor, and that the rug may in fact be teaching the tabaxi a few new spells.

Newt’s hellish rebuke, in reaction to the rug’s crush, burns the carpet- seconds later and the tabaxi manages to crawl, sprawl, roll and tumble out of the construct’s terrible embrace.

21.04.jpg

Newt is looking particularly rugged this evening. Here's the RUG DOCTOR! Owww! Carpet BURN! No, leave him- he's just settling in. And other appalling quips, including one ending in... Fraid Not!

Vincenzo’s produce flame makes its mark, Buggles’ twin scimitars leave the fancy carpet frayed and torn and critically wounded- at which point Garumn delivers his ‘axe-minister’ line and the rug of smothering is slashed to ribbons by Shatterspike.

That was fun.

[Death to the big bad carpet 450 XP]

The chamber is searched, and just to note the annoying dwarven ghost has not put in an appearance for some time now- the Dark Squad are enjoying the quiet. Back to the chamber- a chest full of coin and a few nice looking gems are found beneath the bed, but on the desk is a new clue to the mystery- a series of versions (early drafts) of the ancient scroll they found all the way back in the Sunless Citadel, the poem that brought them here.

The author of this piece was Arundil, High Wizard; therefore the Dark Squad conclude they are at present situated in the chambers of the aforementioned dwarven mage. Furthermore Vinnie makes the connection- there was a carving of a dwarven mage back in the Glitterhame, on one of the sarcophagi.

[Arundil’s chambers, and chatter 250 XP]

Soon after and another trio of rooms are searched, and dismissed as containing nothing of interest- just more ancient and broken things.

Then, at last, another interesting chamber- an ancient armoury which Buggles shoulders his way into- the door was stuck. The room contains dozens of weapon and armour racks- with a few specimens of both still present.

Buggles leads the Dark Squad in, and seconds later is beaten and punched as a suit of chainmail armour suddenly animates and lurches off its stand, the second hit is a crit and the wood elf is hurt bad.

21.05.jpg

Buggles runs the gauntlet.

He slashes the animated armour right back, then Ram gets into action and suddenly the construct is critically wounded. Vinnie hits it with a little more produce flame, and finally Newt blasts it apart with another fiery blast (actually a ‘1’ followed by an inspiration point- roll again- ‘20’).

At which point a second suit of animated armour lurches into life and flails at Ram- two misses both with advantage, bugger.

Buggles slashes it, and gets punched by the creature's gauntleted fist, Vinnie smashes his shillelagh into the enemy, at which point Garumn (at last) gets into action with Shatterspike, and with a crit, and the second animated armour flies apart.

The fight is over.

[Smash the animated armour 400 XP]

As I stated earlier, they’re really clocking up the combat action in this session.

More healing is needed.

The area is searched properly, there are weapons and armour here but they’re all of mundane quality, nothing of interest.

The Dark Squad search some more, and yet another trio of broken rooms are found and explored, with just another handful of semi-precious stones gained.

Then, yet another interesting chamber is found, this one with a locked door, the portal also barred from within- and with the signs and sounds of someone (or thing) moving around within. Eventually the PCs (after knocking) get to chatting through the door- to a female dwarf, they think.

There’s a lot of back and forth but whoever’s in the chamber is not letting the Dark Squad enter, that is until Garumn says/sings aloud several prayers and psalms to Moradin, at which point (finally) the door clicks open.

The adventurers get to meet Idalla, and over the course of the next thirty or so minutes (real time) they discover that Idalla is a female shield dwarf, a military women who lead a strike team through the Underdark to this place. Their mission to secure the forges of Durgeddin the Black, alas Idalla’s squad ran into a black dragon in the chambers below, she was the only survivor of the encounter.

Idalla has, she further explains, been mostly locked in these chambers for the last tenday, licking her wounds. Although during the time she has also ventured out once or twice, she has spotted and thereafter avoided the duergar, and also had a close run in with a ‘crazy bastard dwarf ghost’, the PCs nod their heads- testify sister.

There follows a mutual ‘we hate the dwarf ghost’ rant, in which Idalla and several members of the Dark Squad find some common ground.

Good- that worked.

Note, Idalla is a not a pleasant dwarf, so the above info is in fact teased out of her, and it doesn’t come cheaply- Buggles is instantly dislikeable, he gets in her face- it's what he does, and so he's the ‘bastard elf’, while Vincenzo is insulted repeatedly and more than once described as a ‘fat ugly hippy’, or similar.

So, SPOILERS- just an insight here- and we’re going to get to this in this session so apologies for jumping the gun a little, but... here’s the secret- Idalla is a succubus.

Got it. Keep it in mind.

Idalla insults Vinnie a lot, because the DM knows that Vinnie is the really really chatty one- and the succubus doesn’t want to keep having to answer the druid’s probing questions. Likewise Buggles has been really forward with the chatter this session- so, a few more insults for the wood elf. Although, the wood elf can also be very annoying of his own accord.

Remarkably Newt is quickly onside with Idalla- “why can’t you stop hassling her, she’s wounded- all her companions are dead etc.”

Worked a treat, but then again I’m bound to say that.

Obviously Garumn also wades in once or twice to defend Idalla, who a little later on switches to using the dwarven tongue, and directing all of her questions, comments and answers to Garumn. She’s trying to exclude as many of the other members of the Dark Squad as she can from the ongoing discussion.

That said, Vinnie also speaks dwarven, and so the druid- still pissed off after being insulted, is translating everything that is being said. It gets a little strained- but Garumn is convinced that the Dark Squad should try to help Idalla.

Her duty, she further explains, is to get back into the Underdark and to her superiors- which, of course, will require the Dark Squad to aid her through the black dragon’s lair below.

In conclusion- they’re going to have to face the dragon.

Note, none of the PCs are keen (except perhaps Newt) as they fought a white dragon wyrmling back in the Sunless Citadel and it was tough (Newt, of course, wasn’t present for this fight, way back in session #3).

[Much chatter with Idalla 500 XP]

While all of the above is going on Ram has been investigating the series of chambers- and not getting involved in the chat, the rogue soon after discovers an ancient wall-safe with a bunch more coin and paperwork (including a clutch of scrolls) within. The main chamber of this suite of rooms also appears to be an ancient library- although all the texts are seemingly written in dwarvish- Newt checks a few.

Note, here’s another secret- before the session I rolled a few saving throws for Garumn, just so that I wouldn’t have to do them in game- therefore at this point the dwarven paladin of Moradin has already been charmed by Idalla.

However the Dark Squad are now coming around to the idea- ‘yeah, let’s help Idalla!’

Vinnie, after Idalla eventually apologises for her previous behaviour, even uses his last spell slot to heal the dwarven soldier. While Buggles suggest that the pair (Garumn & Idalla) should perhaps make use of the next room over (the bedroom), so well are they now getting on.

Vinnie is still suspicious of the female shield dwarf, keep that fact in mind too.

The conversation circles for a while, during which Garumn declares that he feels somewhat humbled by Idalla’s commitment to her cause, if only he was a proper paladin… the dwarf bemoans his own shortcomings. I’m dropping some hints here- not too many, but just enough to join the dots when the bad thing happens… and it’s about to happen.

The Dark Squad soon after decide that it’s time to press on, and for Idalla to come out hunting with them- there’s another chamber that they need to investigate before they head below. Idalla agrees, but then suddenly decides that she’d really like to talk to Garumn on his own first, there’s something else about her mission she needs to share- but only with the dwarven paladin. The information is not for ‘outsiders’, she explains- and then apologises- she really doesn’t mean to offend, it’s a dwarf thing.

Garumn is good with this, as are all of the other members of the Dark Squad, except one- Vinnie. The druid, as suddenly as the door closes, presses his ear against it- he really wants to know what’s going on/being said in there.

It is therefore the druid’s shout seconds later that brings the other members of the Dark Squad rushing- “she iz killing our Garoom!”

Within the chamber Idalla has simply leaned over and kissed the face off Garumn, reducing the paladin to below 0 HP in one smoochalishious instant.

Vinnie with a ‘23’ perception check has heard it all- the kiss, and then the thump of his armoured dwarven friend hitting the floor.

Ram kicks the door open (he gets initiative) and is therefore the first to spy the horror within- Garumn unconscious and Idalla wracked with laughter and transforming back into her winged fiendish succubus form.

21.06.jpg

"Whut a Kiss! I'm in heave...nnnnaaaarrrrrrrggghhhhh! Garumn's last words.

The rogue stabs but misses with Deadend, meantime Vincenzo scampers to the fallen paladin and glugs a potion of greater healing down his neck (the only healing potion he has left).

Buggles is the next to the fracas, he slashes the screeching succubus with Mongoose his magical scimitar, and once more with his off-hand blade.

But that’s enough for Idalla, the succubus still screeching and hooting with joy, fades from sight- there follows a frantic scampered search of the chambers, with Newt guarding the only exit. Idalla cannot be found, eventually after a successful monster knowledge check the adventurers conclude that the fiend has probably entered the ethereal plane. They initially thought that Idalla had turned invisible.

[Brief fracas with the succubus 200 XP]

Then however, well… Garumn is more than a little put out, “wurz Idalla gone? Ma sweet speshul laydee?”

Several of the paladin’s comrades attempt to catch the dwarf up with events, but the kindly DM after the succubi’s attack has already allowed the dwarf a second saving throw versus her charm-offensive, and he fails that one two. Garumn is therefore still enraptured.

Although he appreciates the humour- the paladin is convinced that his comrades are playing some complex joke on him, the story about Idalla being a fiend is just their warped idea of fun.

Note Vinnie’s guidance enhanced persuasion roll is… an adjusted ‘3’.

Garumn however is still fretting “wurz ma lady love?”, and so the company try a different angle- encouraging Garumn to use his divine sense in order to determine whether Idalla (clearly an angel of some sort) is still around.

But the succubi has departed, or else is out of range.

Minutes later, and after more chatter and the use of a healing spirit spell by Vinnie (it was on one of the scrolls they found), Garumn is persuaded to continue the search for Idalla, and specifically within the chamber that the Dark Squad have still yet to look in.

[Chattering with Garumn about Idalla 200 XP]

Alas the Dark Squad don’t make it to the last door, back in the great dwarven hall in which they first encountered the duergar, they bump into (although not actually) the annoying dwarven ghost.

Who has another speech for them, the last one of the session though- as there’s only five more minutes left to play.

In summary the speech is this-

Durgeddin the Black was a joke name, a name that the ghost invented.

He was known as ‘the Black’ because of his black moods, or as the ghost puts it “becauz he wuz a moody wee fecker!”

Furthermore the dwarven ghost also once told Durgeddin that he had a heart of stone- to which the dwarf nodded, and went back to his forge.

The dwarven ghosts gets upset a bit, he regrets insulting Durgeddin, and then- at last, he tells the Dark Squad the big joke.

Durgeddin the Black was actually an albino, and when the ghost refers him as the ‘wee feller’, its with good cause- Durgeddin was a runt, a dwarf-dwarf, if you like; only just over three feet high, a dwarf all the same but odd looking, not brawny or broad- just very small.

He was however the greatest smith that ever lived.

Naturally the various PCs have questions, sometimes they even try to interrupt the ghostly dwarf’s speech, but the eloquent spirit is not for answering, in the end the ghost departs- walking through the door to the south. The only chamber the Dark Squad have not as yet explored.

But that’s for next time.

It’s at this point that Ram declares that he has had enough of the annoying ghost, and after a successful monster knowledge check, states that he’s going to stab the bastard up with Deadend (his undead bane rapier) when he next appears.

So, there’s that to look forward to too.

Next time.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Nice update. Love the interaction with Idalla.
To be honest I took the easy route by having the bad stuff happen to Garumn, who's the NPC- so, I could roll the saves beforehand, but the players except for James playing Vinnie were oblivious to what was going on. I'd tried (fairly successfully) to shut the druid up early doors- he's always asking questions, and then I got Idalla to go all apologetic for a while, to try and get the guys on side; and I took everyone with her, except for Vinnie.

I would have got away with it if it wasn't for the pesky Druid.

It's harder to do this sort of thing on the VTT, around the table I'd take a player aside- much easier to do, and figure it all out in the kitchen before heading back to the table.

A couple of the players got back to me after the session to say they were taken in, and that they also liked the fact that Idalla didn't hang around to fight it out- with Garumn dying several of the guys were keen to murderise the Succubus, and she wouldn't have stood a chance against this mob. This way the threats still around.

There's a little more to this story however...

Thanks for taking the time, appreciated.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #022 Two Dead Dwarves and a Dead Dragon [SPOILERS].

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 4
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 4
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 4

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 4

NPC hangers-on, rescued prisoners of the Orcs
Geradil the “Inconceivable”, aging trapper (Male Human)
“Screaming” Courana, lady’s maid (Female Human)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


This is session 22. Corker!

Last we left the Dark Squad they were (still) in the long lost forge/hold of Durgeddin the Black, the duergar are gone (they think, hint) from the place. There is however an annoying dwarven ghost that has been following the guys around- telling odd stories, and on occasion a few lies; or else just not answering their questions. Also, Garumn (atm) is madly in love with a missing shield dwarf named Idalla.

Note Idalla is a succubus, alas Garumn was on the floor dying when this fact was revealed, and the other PC’s attempts to persuade him of the truth have (so far) not worked out. So, the paladin’s still searching for his lady love…

Oh, and so annoying is the aforementioned ghost that Ram has threatened to stab the bastard up with Deadend, his Durgeddin the Black made magical rapier (undead bane, sorta) the next time the spirit appears.

Oh (last- ‘oh’, promise), and the Dark Squad have been told that there’s a black dragon situated in the caverns beneath the forge, and they’ve located the way down.

Now we can begin, and there’s one more door still to check out in the forge area- the door, somewhat disappointingly, leads into a well-stocked but ancient and unused kitchen, with close by a couple of mouldy sack & crate filled pantries.

But before the search let’s get to some hot wooden table on wood elf action, Buggles goes for a creep about- he’s the first into the chamber, alas he strays too close to a pre-animated table which… well, animates. Which surprises the crap out of rogue/fighter, and the rest of the now giggling players. The angry furniture charges in and rears up like a wild stallion, and then slams one of its stout legs into him (for 20+ damage). Buggles is down to 10 HP in an instant.

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Animated Tables- surprisingly terrifying, and very amusing. Buggles the wood elf gets whacked!

And remember the guys have got just three potions of healing between them (and no spells or other HP-giving powers).

Buggles fails to hit the table, as does Ram- a moment later, and the pair of rogues run away (disengage and back-up) to hide behind Garumn.

Garumn bars the animated table's progress, and remarkably the bucking construct doesn’t attack the dwarf.

There follows five minutes of jokes regarding dwarven paladins and their special table-specific powers- Sense Table, Lay on Table, Resistance to Furniture etc.

Here’s the thing, none of the other animated objects that the adventurers have encountered in the forge- the suits of armour, the rug of smothering have attacked Garumn either (in the last session), the players obviously just didn’t notice this back then- so here it is writ large.

Then the Dark Squad get organised and pile on the hurt- Buggles’ twin scimitars make their mark(s) and Garumn gets into it with Shatterspike, and (forgive me) but the table’s on its last legs (BA-DUM-TISH!). Soon after Ram gets in the final skewer- it collapses.

“That’ll teach it some table manners…” Buggles declares and completes the show.

[Animated table smashed 450 XP]

There follows a very brief chat about the relationship between tables (and the other animated objects found in the forge) and dwarves- in this instance represented by everybody’s friend… Garumn. The Dark Squad are quickly of the opinion that dwarves (again, Garumn) are not subject to attacks by the various animated objects.

Therefore, and bear with me for this one, Garumn is sent forward into the kitchen to “stab-up” any furnishings that look suspicious. There are another four large tables in the area- none of them show signs (alas) of fury (or indeed animation).

[Garumn the table whisperer 150 XP]

“All clear.” Garumn declares, at which point the rest of the Dark Squad file in to begin their search, although cautiously, and so it comes as no surprise to anyone here (including you dear reader) that when Ram gets too close to the second animated table it comes alive, and attempts to clonk the rogue.

Remarkably it misses, and seconds later both rogues are at the rearing beast and slashing and stabbing.

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Nimira (Duergar Boss) is back, and she's pissed! Note the tactical arrangement shown above- the two rogues have just rushed in to attack, and then just as quickly rushed back away again- leaving Garumn (as usual) to take a beating. Vinnie and Newt never stray too far from the exit.

At which point Nimira, the last duergar standing- who has been locked in the forge with the PCs for the last five or so hours, rushes out from one of the crate filled pantries. She’s screaming threats and saying terrible things about Moradin, and also wielding a greatsword. The duergar warrior slices Garumn, and then rolls minimum damage.

Note at this point the players have two possible targets- an animated table, slightly wounded (but comedy value high), or else a screaming furious greatsword wielding, two-attacks-per-turn, heavy armour wearing, duergar warrior maiden.

Yeah, that’s right- the PCs without discussion focus fire on the table, when questioned later (by the slightly put-out DM) about the tactic the consensus is ‘the table was the greater threat’.

Newt Belphegor blasts the table with a Crit, including a dollop of necrotic hex (applied, the cat man states, by an animated compass- scratching a pentagram into the table-top). The furniture is left wooded (like blooded but… Oh, forget it).

Vicenzo becomes Vincen-Bear and then claws at the table, and yet still the animated object bucks and rears, I swear they’re just ignoring my duergar fighting fury.

The table smashes two of its four legs down on Vince-Bear (with a Crit for 25-ish damage) reducing the ursine to something like 8 HP.

Perhaps they’re right, this table is a monster!

Garumn (the NPC, played by me) screams at his companions to remind them of the fact that Nimira is at present trying to take his head off, the dwarf paladin slices the duergar.

Note the other PCs acknowledge Garumn’s predicament and then get back to attacking the animated table, however seconds later Buggles chops the dangerous furniture clean in two, and now there’s just one target for the Dark Squad.

Ram stabs Nimira, while the duergar fails to slice Garumn, repeatedly.

Newt hits Nimira with a Belphegor blast (and added hex), while Vincen-Bear tries and fails to swipe the duergar prone with his claws, then- at last- the rogues really get into action. Moments later the furious Nimira is cut down.

The fight is over, and remarkably quickly- getting double teamed by rogues rolling high is just no fun, 70+ hit point bad guys can get taken down in seconds- the pair of sneak attacking bastards.

It’s as if the Chuckle Brothers have become assassins- “To me, to you.”

[Death to another table, and the last of the duergar 1150 XP]

Nimira’s corpse is searched, a little more gold coin found, but no incriminating evidence.

At which point… the dwarven ghost appears, again.

Ram restrains himself- momentarily (he readies an action), although Buggles immediately starts shouting the odds- again, the question the wood elf (and the rest of the Dark Squad) want answering is- “who the hell are you?”

Remarkably the ghost, on this occasion, promises to tell the PCs what he knows, and his name.

The dwarven spirit, of course, has a little speech prepared (or else the DM has), here’s the info- mostly in snippets.

The ghost is very glad that the forge has been, at last, made safe- and that all of his mistakes have been put right, the dwarven spirit goes on to explain that he stood by Durgeddin the Black’s side- from Adbar to Mirabar, and then through the secret tunnels in the Underdark to here- to Khundrukhar.

Furthermore he was here at the end when the orcs came for Durgeddin.

When all about them were being slaughtered, the ghost explains, Durgeddin was raving, the wee dwarf said something about the ‘time of black’, and the ‘dead becoming the dying’, he kept shouting- ‘remember, we’re dwarves- we can see in the dark’, he was laughing and grinning, wildly.

When all around them their fellow dwarves were dying.

The dwarven ghost states- ‘I sent him to the cold tower, in the middle of the lake we saw three times- Durgeddin escaped.’

While the last part of the speech takes the form of a confession-

“I hid, from the orcs- from the slaughter; I ignored the screams of my friends dying… and I fell, something broke inside of me…”

“When the orcs had left I came out again of hiding, the sight was terrible to behold- I sealed the forge and swore that I would defend it with my life, and so in my madness I dedicated my days to learning magic and powers that would guardian this place.”

“I raised the dead you slew, I created the animated objects you battled, and then finally in my folly I summoned the succubus- which eventually proved to be the death of me.”

“Idalla soon made me her slave, and when she grew tired of my ministrations- and bored of torturing me, she took my soul.”

“But then you came along- and all my mistakes were unmade, the forges- I now realise, should hold fire again- dwarven smiths should come here and make the metal sing once more.”

“You did this- you released me from my error, and so my final words to you are these- the last weapon that Durgeddin made here is down below- with the black dragon, should you decide to try to take it, remember- there’s something far worse than the dragon down there.”

“Lastly, if you meet the bonnie bonnie Black, tell him that his friend Arundil misses him still, but is content at last to have played his part.”

And with that Arundil (former High Wizard) fades to nothing- gone forever, to rest.

[Say goodbye to Arundil 1100 XP]

There’s not a dry eye in the house- but that’s only because in the next breath the DM declares that the PCs now have enough XP for level 5.

The rest of the kitchen and associated storage area is investigated, alas there’s nothing of interest to be found.

Thereafter there is celebrating, although… first the PCs settle into the forge, this after Garumn fires up one of the furnaces- he’s a smith remember. The dwarf then begins work on the suit of platemail he took off the orog leader the Dark Squad killed earlier. It’s a question of resizing, and of killing time.

Note, Buggles (and a few of the other PCs) have finally had enough of Garumn who is still mooning over his missing ‘Idalla-love’, and so they (repeatedly) point out the flaws in the dwarven paladin’s logic. They also remind Garumn that Arundil the ghost confessed to summoning the succubus. At last, the formerly love-struck dwarf passes his save, and is finally convinced that he was smooching a fiend, and not a curvy shield dwarf.

[Garumn learns the truth- he’s a fiend-kisser 200 XP]

The dwarf paladin however still insists that it was some ‘mighty fine smooching’, and that, ‘Idalla was a hottie’.

There’s much more chatter between the PCs (about levelling-up and the ongoing adventure), and then a reconnaissance (after an extended rest and the aforementioned levelling up) back to the chamber in which Idalla was first encountered. Newt has a new ability which allows the warlock to read any language, the tabaxi therefore spends a few hours perusing the books within the chamber. He discovers that the hundred or so volumes encompasses the life and times of Arundil and the workings of the forges, and the smiths, here at Khundrukhar.

The tabaxi however doesn’t have the time (or the inclination) to read up on dwarven metallurgy.

[The Khundrukhar library is discovered 250 XP]

The Dark Squad are now however fully rested, and… level 5.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 2/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 5
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 5
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 5

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5


Then, after more chatter, the Dark Squad head below- however, it’s (not quite) decided that they’re going to meet the dragon, Vincenzo is really not keen.

Really, really not keen.

However the druid try as he might (repeatedly) cannot dissuade his comrades, and so… the Dark Squad descend, a braced rope ladder which leads down nearly a hundred feet into a massive natural cavern. The crashing waterfall nearby, and from the plunge pool a fast running watercourse heading north to join a fast flowing river.

Vincenzo however makes sure that he and all of his colleagues are subject to his pass without trace spell, if they’re going to be exploring a dragon’s lair then at least they should try to be stealthy. Note all of the PCs employ stealth throughout the following, and in a moment of d20-shaped madness, Garumn (with disadvantage in his heavy armour) rolls a pair of ‘20’s, the dwarven paladin is silent and almost invisible at times, even to his fellow adventurers.

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"Come on, people- huddle-up!" Vinnie casts the group Pass Without Trace- "Now stay together, everyone remember their partner..."

There’s a dwarven (well) made bridge that crosses the main waterway, however the PCs are keen to search the caverns to the west- the source of the river. The rogues, as always, to the fore- the place (after a lot of cautious sneaking about) proves to be deserted, although a hidden cache of iron rations (duergar-style) are located, and also a passage which steeply descends into… the Underdark. The duergar’s route to the forge has been found, but there’s still a dragon down here to be dealt with.

[Exploring the riverway 200 XP]

Once again the rogues lead the way- to the east, over the bridge and across the river- the waterside passage leads on to yet another dwarven bridge which crosses back over the waterway. The path on the far-side leading on in to a much larger (massive) cavern chamber. Within which is an eerie inky black pool of water, with a narrow spit of dry land running along its southern shore.

The second dwarven bridge however is weakened in its central span- Buggles spots that the stone is riddled with holes- acid from the black dragon’s breath, but the PCs don’t figure this out. The wood elf warns his companions.

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It's only a weakened stone bridge but it provided at least ten minutes of laughter, and trepidation- everyone knew that Vinnie was going to mess it up.

Soon after four of the five PCs are across the bridge easily leaping the central span, note Buggles is first across and then throws a rope back for his comrades to tie off before making their leap.

The last across the bridge is of course Vincenzo- he rolls a ‘1’ and after a long run up leaps maybe three feet and lands two-footed smack-bang onto the middle of the acid-weakened central span, which duly collapses and plunges with a SPLOOOOOOSH! into the river.

Note this is the first audible (and visible) indication of the Dark Squad’s presence here, up till this point they had been super sneaky.

The druid however is saved when Buggles takes the strain (remember he’s roped to the wood elf), however Vinnie- swinging like a pendulum somehow manages to headbutt the underside of the bridge- for exactly one point of damage.

Note, Fantasy Grounds automatically makes concentration checks when it needs to- Vinnie rolls a ‘2’, and his pass without trace spell is suddenly spent.

However with help from Garumn the druid is winched up to safety.

[Vinnie crosses a bridge 250 XP]

Also note that up until this point the lowest stealth check for any PC was a ‘19’ from Newt, the rogues had not rolled anything below ‘25’ since the action here started.

Super-sneaky.

However the black dragon is in the pool chamber, and now the PCs are revealed, the wyrm slithers from its hiding place and into the water.

The dragon’s stealth check is a ‘22’, so screw you guys I’m coming for yer.

But remember the dragon is not alone in here.

You’ll see.

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You've gotta love Fantasy Grounds, my screen has got a big Black Dragon (actually Young) on it- watching, waiting for the any two PCs to line up for the breath attack.

The rogues are sent ahead again, but now they’re rolling low- both of them, for their stealth checks- and the black dragon- Nightscale, is watching and waiting. The not-so-sneaky pair get across a series of stepping stones and gather at the entrance to a low-ceilinged natural cavern, at which point the dragon’s head snakes up from the depths and launches a stream of acid at the duo.

The result is devastating- Buggles fails his save (and didn’t think to spend an Inspiration Point to try again) he takes 50 acid damage (11d8) and is left dying, Ram however manages to dodge much of the blast, but is still left on just 6 HP.

The PCs (and the players) are screaming.

So, here we go- strap in.

Now by rights I should have the dragon end its turn by diving down into the watery black, but let’s be fair- this is a terrifying creature… also, this is a set-piece.

But the players don’t know this yet.

So, where were we- ah, yes- the players were screaming around the VTT.

The dragon therefore stays on the surface, hard to hit- but not out of sight.

Vincenzo calls lightning, the dragon is blasted… scratch that- irked, the druid rolls low damage and the wyrm saves with a ‘20’.

There are groans around the VTT, they must surround themselves with lucky mascots- the players. If one of my bad guys rolls a ‘20’, in any context- it’s a sign, an omen; any second now one of them will declare that their dice are broken and mine… mine, always roll high.

Buggles, acid burnt and unconscious slips further towards the black- he fails his first death save.

But then Ram gets to his co-back-stabbing-bastard with a healing potion, and then has the good sense to drag the still prostrate wood elf into the twisty dark cavern the pair were about to investigate, as far as he can away from the dragon and its deadly breath.

The dragon meantime sinks beneath the surface of the vast black lake.

Then… then… an explosion- a circular fury of fire and dark stabbing necrotic sensation, all of it encompassing the now formerly grinning black dragon- Nightscale.

A great sphere of water is instantly vaporised- revealing, even if only momentarily the whole of the now shocked and wounded wyrm for all to see.

Garumn launches a hand axe into the dragon’s side- and with a Crit, while Vincenzo calls another lightning bolt down from the broiling thunderhead that has formed above the spot- and now the dragon’s hurt, although…

What the hell just conjured that terrifying fire and necrotic fury thing?

The players are at a loss.

Bear is roleplaying well (as usual), and Newt is scampering around on the bank of the pool, gabbling and crowing like a clown as the terror unfolds, he loves the fire and the fury.

All around the dragon, now clearly visible (and audible) on the surface of the pool, the water still flames and flares.

Buggles meantime staggers to his feet and tips his potion of healing down his neck, and then gets his second wind, and then hunkers back down again and hides.

Ram (Danger-Man) still on 6 HP stealthily exits the small cavern within which he deposited Buggles, and then gets as close as he can to the action to observe whatever’s taking place.

Meantime Garumn, out of anything to throw, rushes to Buggles’ hiding place- calling out for the wood elf until he finds him, and then lays on hands.

“Let’s get ‘em!” The hearty paladin declares.

Meantime back out in the great lake cavern Vincenzo, Ram and the capering Newt watch the terrified black dragon sink back beneath the water- a great ‘V’ signals the wyrm’s rapid retreat to the east. Towards an island, spotted moments earlier by Ram, that is swathed in coin… the dragon’s hoard.

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Nightscale, the Young Black Dragon, shown perched atop Treasure Island.

However, the dragon’s progress is not all plain sailing, suddenly thrashing and splashing the great beast is brought back to the surface, a longsword stabs up through the wyrm’s wing- almost severs it. The blade comes again… and again; and the dragon is now bloodied and beyond, and still on the surface.

The beast is a screeching thrashing fury.

The druid’s lightning strike comes again, and this time the damage roll is very high.

At which point the capering Newt launches his new spell- fireball, into the mix, Nightscale (fails his save) and is blown apart.

The capering tabaxi goes crazy, he’s his own favourite audience, while the following goes on he continues to dance and cavort- praising his fiendish patron for the power he has been gifted.

[The black dragon’s dead 2900 XP]

But we’re not done here, as the PCs watch on- even Buggles and Garumn who have come to see, a nine foot tall dragon-featured creature swims to the treasure strewn island, home of the hoard, and… is shot in the back by Buggles.

Ashardalon turns, for it is he/it, and clicks and whirrs and snorts, and then stands statue for a moment staring at the longbow wielding wood elf.

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We went all the way through the initiative tracker after Buggles shot Ashardalon, all of the other PCs on their turns just moved a little further away from fighter/rogue. There was a definite silent vote taken, the result- you're on your own with this one you crazy bastard elf!

None of the other adventurers do anything, say anything… the moment extends, until finally Ashardalon turns- picks something up from one of the treasure piles and then dives into the now still black waters of the lake, and disappears from sight.

Note, Buggles tries again with the bow as the abomination departs, but it’s a tough shot and he’s way off target.

[Ashardalon says hi 500 XP]

Nothing happens for a good long while, and then reality bites and there’s a rush of bodies into the water, as all of the adventurers suddenly remember the dragon’s treasure.

Remarkably Ram is first to the hoard, narrowly beating Vincen G. Octopod who makes it late to the fight, but early to the money/treasure distribution. Note a chunk of the coin has been welded into a molten mess courtesy of Newt’s fireball.

Oh, and the tabaxi has now moved on to boring his friends about his (and Belphegor’s, natch) greatness- the later more implied than stated.

Over the course of the next few (many) hours, and after repeated castings of identify the dragon’s hoard is tagged and distributed. There’s something for everyone- a +1 longbow for Buggles, a periapt of wound closure for Ram (actually a diadem dedicated to Umberlee- the sea bitch), a +1 rod of the pact keeper engraved with flames for Newt, and for Vincenzo a beautiful miniature set of what look to be platinum panther claws- remarkably the latter bears Durgeddin the Black’s mark.

The final weapon is a +1 insignia of claws, although there’s a little more to it than that…

Oh, and Vincen G Octopod also scours the depths of the lake and recovers as many black dragon scales as he can find. The druid has a plan for these.

But what about Garumn- where’s his reward I hear you ask, well the dwarven paladin needs no reward- because he’s leaving.

As he explains to his friends-

“Well, it’s time for me to leave ya!” Garumn states, and then goes on- taking turns to shake the hand and salute each of his compatriots, who are all looking more than a little puzzled by events.

“Ram- I dinnae ken how it iz yer still alife, I thort I wuz brave- but yer always furst ta thae party!”

“Buggles- yer a very strange elf, but whut dae I know aboot elves, but like wid Ram we wouldnae made it thus far wid-out ya.”

“Newt- I dinnae get whut yer aboot at all cat man, but yer’ve bag ‘o’ style, and when thurz fire in yer eyez. Well it giz mae the creeps!”

“And Vinnie- yer tha best of uz lot, yer the brains, and tha chatter. Wid-out you we’d a got no-whur. Keep on trying tae get em tae do right.”

Remarkably no interruptions from the players so far, Garumn therefore goes on-

“So, I’m dead now, and Moradin needs me home.”

“My body’ll be back in the chamber I died in- on the lips of that fiend Idalla, help yerselves to all I had.”

“It’s been a pure pleasure, oh and good luck wid the quest. I’ll try tae look in, and send tha blessings of Moradin yer way.”

At which point Garumn fades from existence.

[Garumn says bye 500 XP]

So, there were a few questions, the DM simply explains- when Idalla the succubi kissed Garumn, and the paladin took his damage- which reduced him to below 0 HP, then… he’s dead. But then Vincenzo rushed in and tipped a potion of greater healing down Garumn’s neck, and well… I had the start of a thought, and so I allowed Garumn to get back up again. On borrowed time, as it were, and for a variety of reasons- the main one being I had already planned the finale with the black dragon/Ashardalon (see above), and so I just thought it would be nice to have Garumn there for the end of show.

There’s another campaign related reason I did this but, obviously, I can’t tell you (dear reader) about it now, because… shh… I think I just saw a player reading this.

The Dark Squad, courtesy of Vincen G Octopod, are ferried back across the lake, as is all of the treasure, and of course the PCs grab Garumn’s body (and his loot) and then head back up and out of the mountain. All the way back to their secret cave hideout, home atm to Courana (‘Oh Vinnie’), Geradil, and the very content Spandwick and Bel- all is well with the world.

[The Vincen G Octopod ferry service 100 XP]

Next time.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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