log in or register to remove this ad

 

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


log in or register to remove this ad

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Awww, that's me caught up now. Thanks for the laughs and the tension, sounds like you guys are having great fun :)
Looking forward to the next installment!

Having a great time around the VTT- I saw that you were hitting the LIKE button as you were reading through, thanks for taking the time- very much appreciated.

And now, bit the next...

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #023 Meenya Zaboot Daktari!

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 RIP

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 23, different to the last few, but just as good.

So, the Forge of Fury has been conquered- the duergar run off or slaughtered, the ghost of Arundil laid to rest (and his secrets told- Durgeddin the Black escaped) and the black dragon, Nightscale- killed.

Although the later was achieved as much by Ashardalon, as it was by the Dark Squad.

That’s right- Ashardalon, the nine foot tall dragon/elf (dragonkith) turned up in the black dragon’s lair- stole a little something from Nightscale’s hoard, and then buggered off (although with one of Buggles’ arrows sticking in its back).

So, VICTORY!

Although, Garum is doing his best impression of a doorstop atm, he’s dead Jim. The paladin having been smooched into an early grave by a succubus.

The Dark Squad therefore start this session back in their secret hidey-cave, home also to the various NPCs they’ve picked up along the way, and so we begin with… chatter, and lots of it.

23.01.jpg

"Well, here we all are again...", Vinnie starts the mother's meeting while sitting on the stiffening corpse of the recumbent dwarven paladin- "I don't sink he wud mind- selfless in death, as in life."

First up a discussion about what to do with Garumn, the debate has edges- Newt thinks the paladin was marvellous- and gave his all, but now… well, he’s dead- let’s forget about him and move on (or else a version of the same that’s nicer, and yet nastier at the same time). Buggles (played by Stu) defends Garumn (formerly played by Stu) and clearly wants the sturdy dwarf back. His point however is well made; the other four members of the Dark Squad do not do what Garumn does, which is stand in the middle of the nasty stuff and take a beating.

The voice of reason is Ram, oddly- eventually it is sorta settled, Garumn will be given a choice, a priest will be found (probs back in Neverwinter) who can speak with the spirit of the paladin to discover whether he wishes to come back or not.

Decision made, or else put off until more info available.

[What to do with Garumn chat 250 XP]

Next up, and just to say I (your friendly DM) have barely uttered a word so far this evening- the PCs are all just very chatty, or else they have knots that need unravelling.

Discussion number two, topic- what’s with Ashardalon? The Dark Squad mostly don’t have a clue what the dragonkith is up to, save the end of the world, probably. Later (the next day- in the real world) one of the players was carping about a future face-off with Ashardalon (he was mighty tough against the black dragon) and fretting a little too, when I asked him- why do you think Ashardalon is the bad guy? That shut him up- the truth is, I think (ask the players) they’re still not sure what part Ashardalon has to play in all of this.

They did however release Ashardalon from his slumber, so- they’re obviously a little concerned, they have a hand in all of this- whatever ‘this’ is.

Note, I keep referring to Ashardalon as ‘he’, I want to be clear- ‘he’ isn’t certain. ‘He’ could in fact be a ‘she’, and just as likely an ‘it’.

The discussion takes a slightly strange turn when Newt suggests that Ashardalon was also the ancient red dragon that Ram spied while on guard duty in the cave several nights earlier.

Ashardalon can take many forms is the tabaxi’s theory.

You could hear the whirr of the cogs and gears in the player’s brains, recalculating and recalibrating their own Ashardalon theories in the face of this new suggestion.

But, with nowhere much to go, and not having ranged far either- the discussion peters out, Ashardalon remains a mystery, one that Buggles is going to solve with his weapons, the wood elf makes clear (several times).

[Ashardalon WTF? 400 XP]

Next up we switch (actually, they switch- I’m just an eavesdropper here) to discussing Durgeddin’s escape from the slaughter of the orc invaders back in the forge. Arundil the ghost dwarf told the guys that the runty master smith escaped to the ‘white tower on the island in the lake we saw three times’.

Buggles repeats the phrase several times- ‘the lake we saw three times…’, at which point Spandwick volunteers that the lake just up the road is called… Thricewatch Lake. Buggles goes Columbo again and pumps the gnome for more information.

He then repeats the information he has just garnered from the gnome, in his own words, to his colleagues and claims credit for getting to the bottom of the mystery.

Buggles has really started to shine in the last few sessions, he’s a pain the backside (when he wants to be) but he’s funny with it.

[Buggles solves the mystery 200 XP]

Last up, the wood elf- on a roll, decides to reinvent the finale of the Forge of Fury, the fight versus Nightscale, this for his new audience- Courana, Geradil, Spandwick & Bel. In the new straight to DVD version of the dragon fracas Buggles lures Nightscale into using its acid breath in order to set Newt up for his final fiery masterpiece, as I said previously- he’s funny with it.

Just enough to keep everyone onside.

[The story of Buggles (and some others) versus Nightscale 100 XP]

And we’ve been around the VTT for forty five minutes already, and I’ve done squat.

Top work!

So, then the Uthgardt show up, although- let’s take it steady, what happens is the guys hear the sound of horsemen approaching, just over half-a-dozen rag-tag mountain men on small but very sturdy looking shaggy mountain horses.

23.05.jpg

The Uthgardt- mostly a dour lot, except for... "I am Daktari! I am Uthgardt! I am Sky Pony!" It would be fair to say they liked him from the off.

The lead character shows his hands- the universal sign for peace, and then launches into his speech, except it’s all in Russian, or else a chunk of Russian followed by a swathe of cod-Russian.

“Meenya Zaboot Daktari! Kak vas Zaboot?”

Remarkably the PCs get it instantly- “Meenya Zaboot Buggles”, and on it goes- including compulsory chest thumping for each new naming.

It turns out that Daktari, a jolly Uthgardt barbarian who, unlike most of his companions, has seen the world beyond the tribe- and more importantly speaks the common tongue, has travelled many days with his companions to talk to ‘the eyes in the night’.

Again, the PCs (Players) figure this in less than a second- they are the Dark Squad = the eyes in the night, Vinnie and Ram actually prefer the new name, it has a bit more mystery to it.

Let me just add, I had a page and a half of A4- scripted plays and ploys to get the Dark Squad to accompany Daktari and his chums to their winter camp, I didn’t get to use any of it.

Daktari explains that he is ‘Sky Pony’, and then moments later Nightwing, a jet black Pegasus buzzes the assembled crowd and even before the flying horse has turned for a second run Buggles has agreed to go visit with the barbarians.

23.04.jpg

Nightwing, or as Daktari tells it- "Night-ving!"

“Cool ride!” The wood elf smirks.

There follows a brief chat between the members of the Dark Squad- ‘should we just head off with these strange barbarians?’, but three of the four PCs realise that they have days ahead of them lugging the dead (and very heavy 350+ lbs) body of Garumn back to civilisation. Note Vinnie is also totting over 50lbs of black dragon scales- all that he could find. Then there’s the nearly 10,000 silver pieces they collected in the forge and environs, and plenty more coins of other denominations.

So, horses- that’s a good idea, and besides Daktari is funny and friendly- a lot like Garumn was back when he was alive.

To camp…

[Say hello to the Uthgardt and Daktari 250 XP]

The camp is very… barbarian, with lots of wild folk coming out to stare at the weird and wonderful looking members of the Dark Squad.

23.02.jpg

The Sky Pony camp, glorious maps available from Heroic Maps- lots more of their stuff to follow. It's a cracker.

Note en route to camp, and for a short time after their arrival the PCs go Q&A with their new found friend Daktari, they learn that-

1) Daktari isn’t the chief of tribe- or anyone important, the chief is a very nasty fellow ‘he crazy…’ called Timor, who Daktari promises will not kill them- Old Mare and Nightwing have told Timor (repeatedly) that he cannot kill the eyes in the night/Dark Squad. This last fact perhaps requires a little more explanation, at least the PCs thought so at the time...

2) Timor is newly married, and was just settling in to good times hunting game, shooting wolves and wrestling grizzly bears when… Old Mare and Nightwing ordered him to leave his wife and travel 42 days south to meet… the eyes in the night. Which, of course, just leads to more questions…

3) Old Mare is the tribe’s wise women- ‘she bad witch’, Daktari advises.

4) Nightwing is still the Pegasus, and remember these are Sky Pony clan- Nightwing has high status, a living embodiment of the clan’s totem.

5) So, Timor is not allowed to kill the Dark Squad/the eyes in the night because the adventurers are somehow part of an ancient tribal prophecy that has been handed from wise woman to wise woman (and Pegasus to Pegasus) for the last however many generations. Even Daktari has heard of the eyes in the night.

6) The prophecy also concerns the coming of the Time of Ash, and… you guessed it- Ashardalon.

7) Daktari would say more about this (the PCs are very keen for him to say more) but he doesn’t know any more about it, history and prophecy are the preserve of Old Mare, and Nightwing.

8) Next bit, first stop for the PCs when they get to camp is to be introduced to the chief… that’s right- Timor. The adventurers must make a speech of greeting (Daktari will translate) and then offer a gift to the chief.

9) Not everyone is happy with this last bit.

Note, Vinnie too has started to find his voice again- and by the time we get to camp the anthropologist druid has already made Newt promise not to antagonise anyone, and for the tabaxi to try really hard not to set anyone on fire.

Newt promises only to set people on fire that deserve to be on fire, which is as good as it gets.

Likewise Buggles has also had his caution- “Why are we giving this idiot Timor a present?”- “Because it iz zer culturally correct zing to do, they zeem to have travelled a long way to zee us, and we are guests in zer camp…” A little more gets said- back and forth, but Vinnie is in parent mode, and doing his level best to pre-empt the inevitable squabbling when the kids decide to play up, or push the limits of their host’s patience. More remarkably the druid’s gambit works- don’t get me wrong, on occasion the limit is pushed (see below) but throughout all that follows- it’s wonderfully restrained, for the Dark Squad.

Spoiler- Newt only sets one member of the barbarian camp on fire, but that’s not until much much later on.

Keep an eye out for it.

[Pumping Daktari for info 300 XP]

So, here’s Timor.

Although none of the Players took a screenshot of Timor- are you listening, guys?

Note this meeting involves me (your kindly DM) screaming cod-Russian and raving (as Timor), and then as swiftly diving into my Daktari persona to translate the apoplectic yelling- “Timor says that the weather is remarkably fine for the time of year…”. Timor continues to scream his frustration- having had to abandoned his new wife, having being ordered here by Old Mare; while Daktari continues to offer platitudes and small talk.

Then Vinnie makes a speech of greeting- short and to the point, Timor is alas mostly unimpressed.

Then it’s present giving time, at which point Daktari lets slip that the tribe have been guarding the artefact that they are about to bestow upon the Dark Squad/the eyes in the night for many many generations.

This new piece of information concentrates a few minds, soon after almost all of the PCs have presents for Timor.

The word artefact can do that.

Particularly to players of RPGs.

So, it starts with a very fine ruby (a gift from Vinnie)- which Timor tosses into the fire- no good. Then owlbear feathers from Newt, won in battle- Timor is delighted. Then a beak and claw set (again, owlbear) handed over by Ram, which leaves the barbarian chief giggling like a child. Then finally back to the beginning- try again, a black dragon scale or two from the very smart Vinnie who has cottoned on to how this works.

Timor hugs the druid, nearly snapping the shifter in two.

Timor is 350+lbs of corded muscle.

Then however it all goes very wrong (as it is wont to do- often), Vinnie- while Timor, tears in his eyes, expresses his thanks- whispers for Newt to grab the very expensive ruby that the barbarian chief tossed in the fire pit. Newt decides to use a mage hand spell, seconds later and the no-necked monstrosity (Timor) is very suddenly of the opinion that there is an invisible attacker within his tent and… well, it gets worse when Newt uses a control flames cantrip to turn the chief’s abode into a flaming disco.

Timor goes bonkers.

In the end Daktari has to rush the Dark Squad out of the chief’s tent and the maelstrom…

Daktari explains again- he is a cosmopolitan member of the Uthgardt Sky Pony tribe, he worked in Neverwinter for a while- he has seen window glass, once had a bath, and knows hedge magic when he sees it. However, his brethren… much less tolerant, much less sophisticated, much more savage and violent in their hatred of all things arcane.

Timor later refuses to hand over the artefact the tribe have been holding for the Dark Squad/the eyes in the night for generations. The chief will only pass the item on when the PCs have returned from the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Did I forget to mention the land of the bad dead ancestors… my mistake, but we’ll get to it in a while.

[Meet Timor 400 XP]

Audience with Timor done the PCs retire to the guests tent to drink Schlapp with Daktari- Schlapp is fermented mare’s milk (and then some). Several of the PCs get quite giddy, a few stories are told (to Daktari) and the exchange turns into a further discussion about the nature and the desires of Ashardalon.

“What did he take from the dragon’s hoard?” Buggles, and others, repeatedly enquire. That and other questions.

I’m starting to think that Ashardalon not fighting the Dark Squad is beginning to bother them… or at least some of them. Certainly the subject keeps on coming up.

The drinking continues into the wee small hours, Daktari reveals that Nightwing saw Ashardalon appear from the lake- ‘which lake?’ Ram asks. ‘Thricewatch’ Daktari adds, and promises to take the PCs there in the morning.

Many birds- one stone.

All roads lead to Thricewatch Lake, or so it seems.

The climax of the evening however occurs when the drunk druid turns into Vincen G. Octopod, Daktari having never seen such a creature before doesn’t know whether to scream or have sex with it- the barbarian settles for running into the door frame of the yurt and knocking himself out cold.

23.03.jpg

Vinne the morning after, "I wuz soo dronk last night, I barely remember any-sing. I did not... how you zay, embarrass my-zelf did I?" Note, that's the interior of Timor's yurt on the right- the clues in the picture.

It would be fair to say that the Dark Squad are beginning to like Daktari, Buggles asks Vinnie to continue to sound out the barbarian, while Newt just plain states- ‘we should hire him’.

[Schlapp! And great RP 500 XP]

Morning, and an early start- meat-porridge and then horseback to Thricewatch Lake, which is quite a place- ruins here and there, investigated by Buggles and Ram, nothing of interest. Then the frozen lake itself, with a hole in the ice- Ashardalon sized (and the ice is very thick here, several feet thick- imagine the strength it took to break through it). There are tracks from the ice hole- to the tower in the centre of the lake, and then onwards- to the north east, into the forest (actually Neverwinter Woods).

23.07.jpg

Thricewatch Lake, note the Ashardalon shaped ice-hole.

[Investigating Thricewatch 250 XP]

Next stop then is the ruined tower in the centre of the frozen lake, Buggles finds an ancient and well-concealed trapdoor, buried by snow and ice. The portal is wrenched open by Daktari, the passage beneath has been partially collapsed but best guess it heads back into the mountain… to the forges, this is the way that Durgeddin got out.

A thorough search of the tower by Buggles (after a ‘20’) reveals the presence of ancient graffito- the tell-tale ‘DB’, Durgeddin the Black’s smith’s mark. The stunted dwarf was certainly here… although centuries past.

[Buggles is on the trail 200 XP]

There’s nothing else to be found here however, but Daktari knows where Ashardalon went next- mainly because Nightwing followed the creature’s progress from above.

Another hour of riding through the woods and the Dark Squad are faced with yet another discovery, a huge depression with thirty foot cliffs, almost a perfect circle cut into the rock- snow and ice within, but also a myriad bones, actually complete skeletons- a dragon’s graveyard. One of the skeletal wyrm’s was clearly of gargantuan proportions.

23.06.jpg

The Dark Squad and Daktari take a moment- they're bottom left. "Big dragon...", Buggles helpfully captions the view, he's not wrong.

The Dark Squad climb down to investigate- Newt plummeting the last ten feet, the tabaxi may have a climb speed but his dice are broken when it comes to athletics checks. I’ve never seen him roll over a ‘3’, admittedly he doesn’t make the check often- but it rarely ends well.

Tracks (of Ashardalon) are found and followed, they lead- of course- to the skeletal remains of the gargantuan long-dead wyrm. Point of fact the tracks lead to the ex-dragon’s skull, which is bigger than any of the PCs.

The adventurers congregate, search about- cautiously, they’re expecting the skeletal wyrm to come alive, and so the kindly DM does nothing for ages, except allow the PCs to make myriad skill checks, and continue to guess- what’s this all about?

It takes nearly twenty minutes of continued mooching, skill check rolling and speculating for the PCs to forget their trepidations, at which point, of course, the skeleton juggernaut comes (un)alive. The terrifying undead is vaguely humanoid in shape, although nearly twenty feet tall, constructed from a tottering pile of mostly dragon bones. The thing suddenly lurches to its feet and slams both splintered ivory fists into Ram, who survives the ordeal- just, on something like 8 HP (from full).

23.08.jpg

"What are you looking at me like that for?" Ram snarls, as the twenty foot tall Skeleton Juggernaut silently lurches and sways to its full height behind the rogue.

It gets hectic.

Just to say in advance, the skeleton juggernaut is hit point heavy- approx. 200 of ‘em, but as soon as it takes damage it starts falling apart- losing 10 HP/turn. It was semi-terrifying, but only for a short while- and when the Dark Squad have just one enemy…

Ram stabs the thing with Deadend (undead bane, sorta, rapier) and then gets the hell out of dodge, allowing Daktari to step in and soak up the skeletal giant’s attacks- that sound familiar to anyone.

The barbarian warrior swings heartily, and misses repeatedly, the next line then comes in cod-Russian- “guys, a little help…” It’s like Garumn’s back in the room.

An inspiration point later and Daktari smashes his greatsword into the undead monstrosity, and then starts shouting the odds.

Vinnie hits the thing with a moonbeam (and rolls spectacularly low damage) while Buggles slashes hard with his twin scimitars, and then like Ram, gets away from the terror.

Newt adds a Belphegor’s fiery blast to the mix, and also stays back and out of the way.

The moonbeam burns some more but the skeleton juggernaut escapes the spotlight and then… and then… does something stunning- the bone pile inverts- from bottom heavy to top heavy. The bones that describe the undead tyrant skitter and flow- upwards, until the entire structure is standing on pipe-cleaner thin skeletal legs, it’s upper half a swelling bolus of bones- and then gravity takes effect.

The creature crashes down- spreading a carpet of shattered bones and flying splinters in a huge radius, all of the Dark Squad get hurt, although (the bastards) all manage to make their saves- even Daktari.

Just as remarkably the carpet of bones flows almost instantly back to its former form and shape, back to being a vaguely humanoid skeletal giant.

Ram dodges in and cuts again, Daktari rages and begins screaming insults and slashing wildly, there’s even a crit in there- the barbarian is also in a frenzy, and already the bone juggernaut is bloodied and beyond.

Buggles gets to work again, and with an extra attack from his action surge slashes the undead beast three more times- it’s tottering.

Newt follows up with a pair of fiery blasts… the undead giant teeters, and then… collapses.

Destroyed.

We pause the action for maybe ten seconds, as the PCs take it in turns to slap each other on the back for a job well done, at which point rising from the remnants of the undead monstrosity come a dozen oddly constructed (with dragon bones of all shapes and sizes) skeleton warriors which set about the PCs.

“Oh, Shit!” is the consensus, particularly as the first skeleton crits Daktari (as does another seconds later). Another pair get to Ram and cut the rogue down (yet another crit- my dice!). What’s worse all of the PCs still standing have at least two of the bony bastards facing them down, and all of the PCs take hits.

That was nice.

Note, only one skeleton succumbs to Vinnie’s moonbeam- there are still eleven left after the opening moments.

Buggles starts yelling- “Newt, Fireball!”

Then the fight back begins- Daktari takes more hits, but manages to smash another skeleton down, Buggles ends yet another… and then Newt drops the fireball.

Eight (of the nine) skeletons are within the compass of the explosion- as is Daktari (alas).

The fire and noise is terrifying, but over in a flash- and when the smoke clears the only skeleton left standing is the one outside the range of the spell.

23.09.jpg

Suddenly skeletons! Note the circular marker- the Fireball is about to hit, and Daktari is in the hot zone. Newt doesn't bat an eyelid- sacrifices have to be made.

Daktari, clothes singed- on fire in places, staggers forward- “I got zis!” the barbarian declares and then skitters over and cuts the last undead enemy down.

The barbarian duly collapses (he was actually on about 4 HP but… his rage/frenzy is over, and so he’s exhausted, also- drama) the heat of his singed body creating its own snow-angel in the wintery white turf.

Vinnie dishes out some healing- to Ram, and then to Daktari- the latter (it appears) has now been fully accepted as part of the gang, or at least granted temporary membership.

Which was, of course, my intention.

[Skeletons- big and small 2400 XP]

And yet there’s more, after a five minute cool down- and chat, note it took about seven seconds for one of the players to say something like- “Ashardalon, the bastard- he left a trap for us.”

I think that was Vinnie’s line.

But here’s the thing- Ashardalon is in their heads.

That worked too.

Then Buggles continues to do the clever thing- the wood elf searches the area from which the skeleton juggernaut arose, as it happens the chest cavity of the fallen ancient dragon, his eagle eyes (‘23’) spot a series of markings cut into one of the dead wyrm’s massive ribs.

Newt can read any text, the warlock has just been granted the ability by his fiendish patron- Belphegor. He does so- “it’s written in draconic, it says- ‘I will be watching you’”.

Maybe Vinnie’s got a point.

The area is double searched, but there’s no forward trail to be found- Daktari confirms this oddity, Nightwing saw Ashardalon come here- move around the huge skeleton dragon, and then simply… disappear.

Then Vinnie is cleverer still, the druid scratches his own message on the same rib- in draconic, “we need to talk”.

You’ve gotta love it when the players write the story for you.

That’s going to happen.

Maybe.

All out of investigating, the Dark Squad head back to camp.

[Ashardalon & Vinnie’s messages 500 XP]

And still there’s more… it’s amazing how much stuff you can get through when you’re not spending hours fighting to stay alive.

Back in camp, and still a bit beaten up, its time for more Schlapp, and… Old Mare comes a calling- she too wishes to talk with the eyes in the night/Dark Squad- if only to warn them about what lies ahead, in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

23.1.jpg

Old Mare, and the story of the bad dead ancestors.

So, it’s time for the bad dead ancestors story I mentioned earlier- in point of fact this element was introduced to the player’s much earlier in the narrative- but this is the full explanation, and the first opportunity the PCs have had to ask questions of someone who knows a bit more about what’s going on here.

Here’s what the Dark Squad learn-

1) The Uthgardt bury their great chiefs in barrow mounds, these become sacred places- to be visited, for ceremonies and the like.

2) However, every now and then an Uthgardt chief goes bad- y’know the kind of thing, blood thirsty maniacs and the like. These bad folk, when they die, are buried in a shadowy place not of this world, in barrows there- as per the great chiefs.

3) This shadowy place (plane) can only be accessed by the wise women/witches of the tribe- or at least by the powerful ones, like Old Mare. Nobody else can (or should) go there for the place is home to the furious dead. Also the bad ancestors are less than pleasant.

4) Now for the fun part- the eyes in the night/Dark Squad, Old Mare explains- according to the tribe's ancient prophecy, must be sent to the terrible place so that they can question the bad ancestors about… well, the Time of Ash, Ashardalon… and whatever it is that’s going on here. Basically, the bad ancestors have got some secrets they’re holding on to- again, according to the prophecy.

5) There are seven bad ancestors, they will all, inevitably- Old Mare cautions, attempt to kill the eyes in the night/Dark Squad- it’s what they do, she states. However if the eyes in the night/Dark Squad can best them, then… they will be forced to reveal what they know.

6) Simples, except- all seven ancestors must be made to reveal their secrets for the eyes in the night/Dark Squad to be able to return to the land of the living. It’s all or nothing, except…

7) The only other way to get back from the land of the bad ancestors is to… well, die there. If this happens the PC will be returned to the land of the living but… (obviously) they’ll be dead. Contrary, ain’t it.

There are of course lots of questions along the way, and a fair amount of trepidation- remarkably the question- “should we even be doing this?” only gets muttered and mostly ignored once. Consensus is “Yeah!”

However, there’s also time for a top up, Old Mare is happy to sell Schlapp-based healing potions to the PCs (at 75gp each, they didn’t even haggle), which is fortunate because the Dark Squad had only one potion of healing between them all (garnered from Nightscale’s hoard).

More mundane items are also stocked up on- mostly arrows, but a few other odds and ends.

After this Buggles also gets a private consultation with Old Mare, he has the witch examine Nightcaller, the magic whistle which conjures Gwen (a female duergar skeleton, remember). Soon after Old Mare’s ministration Gwen materialises (earlier than expected- Gwen can normally only be summoned once every tenday), also Gwen has levelled up- she’s got a bag more hit points.

The last surprise however is for Daktari, note the barbarian since he met the eyes in the night/Dark Squad has been repeatedly remarking how brave the PCs must be for heading in to the land of the bad dead ancestors. It therefore comes as a shock for him to learn that he’s going too, it seems the bad dead ancestors only speak Uthgardt, therefore he’ll be translating.

Remarkably the PCs are very glad that their new barbarian friend is coming with them, as am I.

Next session- the land of the bad dead ancestors, most probably.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:



Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #024 The Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors

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
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 5
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP

NOW STARRING- Buggles’ undead servitor
Gwen Female Duergar Skeleton, in full-face helm and armour

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 24, and for a short while it could have gone either way, but as it turned out in the end- yet another cracker.

So, the Dark Squad (sans Garumn- he’s dead) are at present at home in the camp of a bunch of Sky Pony Uthgardt barbarians, about a dozen miles away from the Stone Tooth mountain- the location of the long lost forges of Durgeddin the Black. The Dark Squad, or rather- ‘the eyes in the night’ are the subject of an ancient Uthgardt prophecy- and so here they all are, and Old Mare- the wise woman of the tribe, wants to send our heroes into the land of the bad dead ancestors.

The land of the bad dead ancestors being some shadowy place/plane in which ‘bad = maniacal’ ex-Uthgardt chiefs get parked for their stay in the afterlife. It seems the bad dead ancestors have some things to say to the eyes in the night/Dark Squad about ongoing events vis- the Time of Ash and the fact that Ashardalon has been unleashed.

The Dark Squad, of course, inadvertently let Ashardalon out.

Note the session starts with a bit more chatter- just so that the PCs, and particularly Vinnie (who likes a lot of chatter) can get clear in his head what the score is. Old Mare is on hand to answer all of their questions, so-

1) Old Mare is going to send the Dark Squad to the land of the bad dead ancestors.

2) The bad dead ancestors live in barrows, they’re ex-tribal chiefs and so command respect.

3) There are seven bad dead ancestors = seven barrows.

4) The bad dead ancestors will (most likely) try to kill the PCs. It’s why they’re where they are- they’re mostly very bad and violent folk, or else they were in life.

5) The bad dead ancestors need to be ‘bested’ in order to give over their piece of the prophecy.

6) There are only two ways that the PCs can return from the land of the bad dead ancestors- a) success- they talk to all seven bad dead ancestors and collect the information they need, b) failure- they’re all dead. The problem, of course, with option b) is that, well… when they get back to the land of the living… well, they’ll all be dead.

Note, number 5 above, is going to become important a little later on, this piece of information was also stated, again in answer to Vinnie’s questions, back in the last session.

2401.jpg

Q&A with Old Mare, note Daktari is having a laugh riot!

The key word is ‘bested’, and I think/know a couple of the PCs figured this out- ‘bested’ doesn’t mean they have to be fought and killed.

But let’s get on with events.

So, more discussion with Old Mare, and eventually the Dark Squad are getting a little uppity- they want their artefact. If you remember Timor chief of the tribe here was scheduled to hand over an ancient artefact to the eyes in the night/Dark Squad, but then refused to do so (last session) when Newt started using magic in his yurt.

The Uthgardt don’t like magic.

But Vinnie, and others, have started to worry- what if we need the artefact in the land of the bad dead ancestors- if we’re there, and it’s here- then we are right royally screwed. So, the druid, and then Ram- and even Newt, start getting bolshie- “yeah, where’s our artefact?”

Eventually Timor is called for- the Uthgardt chief’s not happy, he never is, but after listening to Vinnie ramble on (and make a few good rolls) he’s had enough- he flips the long kept artefact over to the rambling druid.

24.Timor.jpg

Timor, have a nice day now!

It’s a coin.

Or at least coin shaped- circular, an inch in diameter, and thin. It has a maze (of sorts) delicately etched on one side. The reverse is blank- it’s made of bone, possibly- perhaps it’s ivory, or else something similar.

2403.jpg

"It's a what now?"

Newt settles down with the thing and gets an identify ritual going. The tabaxi learns, and repeats to his friends, the following-

a) It is ancient.

b) It is magical, possibly very powerful- an artefact, like the Uthgardt said.

c) It’s powers are benign.

That’s your lot- Newt is very much of the opinion that the item is difficult, perhaps impossible, to identify- at least using the spell of the same name- it’s workings, history and purpose are obscured.

So, not much help there…

[Get the Uthgardt artefact 250 XP]

Then, after an hour or more of standing about while Old Mare dances around the PCs, chanting in her strange sing-song voice… the members of the Dark Squad slowly fade to nothing, only to reappear- after a brief journey through the trammelled dark, in… the land of the bad dead ancestors.

The land is small, or rather contained- seven barrows, dark earth and vegetation that is wizened and past its prime. From the ground- every now and then, wisps of smoke swirl and rise- they seem to briefly assume strange almost identifiable shapes, only to quickly curve and fade. Above and around the area, encompassing the space- a dome of dense cloud-like shadow, and above the cloud flashes of light to illuminate briefly, like a storm happening a long way away.

2404.jpg

"Well, this is nice." The Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors- smoking or, well... actually, there's not an option.

The place smells of smoke, as if there’s a fire nearby- Buggles feels rain on his face, while Vinnie is convinced that it is ash that’s falling. There is hardly any sound here, and even when the PCs talk their words seem somehow faded and quiet.

[The land of the bad dead ancestors 200 XP]

Then after a brief chat- the Dark Squad approach and peer into the first barrow, Ram- as usual, is the first into the opening- a five foot wide, eight foot high passage with alcoves, skeletal remains dot the place, and at the far end a stone altar or similar, with a human skull atop. The rogue heads all the way in, while his colleagues huddle and watch from the outside of the barrow.

2405.jpg

Ram sighs- "ME! AGAIN!" But yes, the swashbuckler holds the short straw in his hand, "Huh!" The Rogue heads in...

At which point, of course, the skeletal remains come alive- but there are only four of the undead creatures. The PCs take a moment to belittle the DMs (monster) efforts and then get into the paltry bad guys- Ram gets sliced, but Buggles’ scimitars slash and cut and leave one of the skeletons critically wounded.

Ram cuts his attacker down with Deadend, his undead bane rapier, Gwen (Buggles’ skeleton friend) stabs another of the skeletons (ironic ain’t it), Daktari finishes it off- and that’s two down.

And now the Players (not just the PCs) are mocking me (your beneficent DM) for my feeble enemies.

Second to last laugh coming up.

Buggles critically wounds another of the undead, jumping on top of the altar at the far end of the barrow, and kicking the skull formerly atop the stone off in the process.

At which point the aforementioned skull rises from the dirt and swathes itself in flame- it’s a flameskull, identified by a now screaming Vinnie- “Zut alor! Run!”

Then comes the fireball.

All of the PCs spend an inspiration point (only Vinnie has more than one of these- so everyone else is out) to get advantage on the following saving throw- the fireball fills the interior of the barrow, destroying the two remaining skeletons and leaving all of the PCs singed and wounded, Vinnie (failed save, even with advantage) critically so (on just 7 HP).

Panic sets in.

Ram, the least wounded of the Dark Squad (oddly)- thanks to his uncanny dodge, almost bloodies the flameskull with Deadend, Gwen stabs it, Daktari hits it repeatedly with his longsword- but the pair’s weapons are not magical, and so the fiery undead resists much of the hurt.

Vinnie stumbles out of the barrow and gets the cure (wounds), meantime Buggles gets into action and with a Crit manages to at last cut the flameskull down- it’s destroyed, and to cheers.

[Skeletons and flameskull 1300 XP]

Here's the last laugh.

Although a second later and an undead hulk bursts from the ground, the bad ancestor it seems was buried in the entrance to the barrow…

“I am Kratchik- it is time for you to die…”

2406.jpg

Kratchik, bad dead ancestor- now do you get it?

Note, the bad dead ancestors only speak Uthgardt, and so Daktari translates- although Vinnie has also, over the last few days with the tribe, used his anthropological skills to pick up a little of the language.

Ancestor Kratchik stabs its sword through Newt, briefly impaling the tabaxi- and leaving the warlock critically wounded (and on just 4 HP).

For an easy fight, this is going very badly.

Ram stabs Kratchik in the back, it seems not to care.

And so… Vinnie starts talking, actually shouting- explaining to the ancestor that they are the eyes in the night, and here as part of the Uthgardt prophecy, and more remarkably Kratchik stops fighting too, and then reminds the druid that he must be bested in order for him to reveal his part of the story.

The druid and the warlock, who is now also in the conversation- after first swigging down an emergency healing potion, are trying to figure out how best to ‘best’ the ancestor when, Buggles shoots Kratchik in the back of the head.

Kratchik reacts in fury and skewers Vinnie with his sword, the druid slips to the cold dirt unconscious and dying.

And so we’re back to fighting- Ram stabs the terror with Deadend, and then Newt paralyses the ancestor with a hold person spell. The living members of the Dark Squad (and Gwen) give it all they’ve got- attack, attack, attack!

While Vinnie makes death saves- note Vinnie is outside of the barrow, the rest of the PCs are within- with Kratchik standing statue in the doorway (although he’s not moving so they could have got past him if they tried).

It takes two turns of attacks to cut the paralysed Kratchik down, at which point Newt dashes to Vinnie with a potion of healing.

Moments later however Kratchik gets back up again- he’s been bested, and so he has his say-

“I am Kratchik, and I am the lore/law.*
The Time of Ash approaches,
It begins when the day turns to night.
When the dead become the dying,
And souls know no rest.
Know then that Ashardalon is abroad.
The abomination- the terror dead dread dragon,
The Lord of Ash, the Lord of Destruction,
The Deceiver- the swallower of the Light.”

*Note the above is spoken, so some of the words here have to be guessed at; is Kratchik the law, or the lore- who knows.

And with that Kratchik fades to nothing, and the fighting really begins.

[The first ancestor and the first part of the prophecy 1100 XP]

So, now the fall-out chatter- and I’ll not go into too much detail but… Vinnie isn’t happy, and he’s not alone- the upshot is, they were talking to Kratchik- trying to figure a way to best the undead creature that didn’t involve further fighting. Then however, without warning, Buggles shot the ancestor in the head- and while he was thirty feet away and fairly safe from harm, but the ancestor was standing next to two of the wood elf’s still critically wounded colleagues (Vinnie and Newt).

Note when the fight was halted for the chatter Vinnie was on perhaps 11 hit points, and Newt was on 10- and with the rest of the Dark Squad also wounded.

Oh, and there are six more barrows that need investigating.

These are, briefly, the points that get made- sometimes with vehemence.

Buggles obviously defends his actions, he shot the ancestor because the conversation was going nowhere. The DM however is also a little peeved, and is at this point happy to let folk know. The point being we didn’t get to find out whether Vinnie and Newt were going to succeed with their endeavour.

It’s a game- everyone gets to have their go, if they want to chat then that’s their choice, the polite response would be- to let them try.

Or just to say something…

And that’s the thing, all of this could perhaps have been solved in an instant, if the PCs just took a moment or two just to have a chat- amongst themselves. I get that we’re on the VTT, and when you talk you are often talking over someone else, or else waiting for your moment to dive in to say whatever it is you need to say.

But in this instance, the conversation had already started…

Also, we’ve been six months doing this, you could probably talk to each other between sessions- if you have concerns, or else want to figure out how better to play together.

Your call.

But y’know- just talk a bit more chatter, amongst yourselves- just a thought.

I’ll not go on, I’ll just leave by sharing with all of you readers some ancient wisdom-

“Last bit, and in conclusion- at the end of the Sunless Citadel retrospective stroll the following idea is mooted (by Buggles) perhaps in future we should talk about what we are going to do before we actually do it. The discussion here, again, is about the opening of Ashardalon’s sarcophagi, at one point in the action Newt was trying to open the thing while Vinnie was the opposite side trying to close it… there may have been another/better way.”

Taken from session 11, as I say- ancient wisdom.

But don’t worry dear reader, it’s all very friendly and not Player on Player, only Vinnie just doesn’t trust Buggles anymore… the elf is a hot-head, or something similar, according to the shifter druid.

[Recriminations 250 XP]

The Dark Squad thereafter huddle up in the barrow, they need a short rest- and to spend some of the healing HD, obviously Newt and Vinnie the most- the pair were both critically wounded. It’s the end of the first fight and the pair are now both out of healing HD.

Then on… and into the next barrow, the Dark Squad are much more cautious this time, and the trick is- if (they think) it’s an ancestor before them, they’re going to try to find some other way to best the fiend rather than attempt to slaughter each and every one of them.

This conclusion reached because they still have six more barrows to get through, and if they’re all like the first one… someone is going to get very badly hurt, or else killed here.

2407.jpg

"Easy now... Easy now... HSST! Stay quiet- Buggles, stop fingering your scimitars, put them away!"

The second barrow is much smaller, Ram as usual is sent in first, and soon enough the ancestor is on his feet and we’re about to start the action- “I am Larkoz, and I will destroy you…” Vinnie however immediately starts chattering but alas he’s not being very persuasive, and so as the Dark Squad retreat, Larkoz comes on, until… but what’s that heavenly music?

It’s Buggles on the flute (and with a Crit check- ‘29’ in total for his performance), and then seconds later the wood elf is being accompanied by Newt on his axe (lute), and the tabaxi even has the tune lined up on his PC. Apologies guys but I didn’t recognise the song- it sounded to me like a cross between Big County and the music from River Dance.

2408.jpg

"I vill destroy yew all... But vhat iz zat zound- it iz enchanting. I cannot help myzelf. My feet are aflame- I muzt DANCE!" Larkoz succumbs to Buggles' flute solo (Check '29').

Whatever it is the bad dead ancestor is entranced- “I cannot help myself, I must DANCE!” Larkoz cries, and is transported.

Note Vinnie helps ancestor Larkoz unwind and get loose by convincing the dead Uthgardt maniac chief to chew on the last of his brewbark (a poisonous/hallucinogenic healing fungi). Keep in mind Larkoz is a big feller, and not really built for grooving, but… he’s river-dancing, and bits are falling off of him.

Ten to fifteen minutes later and the ancestor is exhausted, but… willing to share-

“I am Larkoz, the warden.
Check the ancient alchemist’s well.”

And then he’s gone.

[Ancestor and prophecy number two, done 450 XP]

There is good cheer to spare, the Dark Squad are back to laughing again.

Then on to the third barrow, which proves easier still- the Dark Squad employ the same approach, with Vinnie now calling out to the ancestors even ahead of their appearance.

24.something.jpg

Kolven- he's already bested himself.

Kolven is the name of the third bad ancestor, and after telling the PCs about his regret- all the bad things that he did in life, he’s happy to regale them with the third part of the prophecy.

He’s no threat at all- he’s already bested himself.

It goes a little like this-

“I am Kolven, and I am forever.
Seek the witch’s tor,
In the lair of the drowned ones,
But beware the demon’s spore.
Find the time.
Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.”

It’s easy this, Kolven fades to nothing.

[The third ancestor, and the third part of the prophecy, easy- 250 XP]

Vinnie takes the time to say a few words over the skeletal remains of the dead ancestor, an attempt to absolve Kolven of his sins.

[Vinnie offers absolution 100 XP]

The Dark Squad are making great progress, and soon after we’re into the fourth barrow, and within are the remains of two horses and a chariot, which gives Vinnie an idea.

A very good idea, he’s full of ‘em.

But first up the skeletal equines are soon back on their feet, and (very briefly) into action.

2410.jpg

The Sky Pony barbarian is not keen on his new ride.

Daktari hits the first undead beast as it rises and shoves the barbarian out of the way, moments later Newt destroys the foe with a Belphegor’s fiery blast, and then wrecks the second equiceph as it too attempts to stand.

Buggles’ flash of scimitars finishes it off.

That was very quick.

[Two dead equicephs 200 XP]

At which point the fourth dead ancestor steps out of his ancient stone coffin.

“I am Spetznaz, and I am the mercenary- prepare to die…”

But Vinnie is into it in an instant, “Monsieur Spetznaz, you shall ride again.”

And with that Vincezo swiftly wildshapes into Vincen D(raft) Horse.

Spetznaz blinks back his surprise, and then climbs aboard- twenty minutes later, as the now slightly bored Dark Squad yawn and watch on, Spetznaz finishes riding the wildshaped druid into the ground. Vinnie has however made all of his strength and constitution saves, and the ancestor is a big hefty feller.

2411.jpg

Spetznaz mounts Vincen D Horse- "Giddy up, my beauty!" Note the ancestor's shadow hound materialises- "Begone- foul Rover, daddy got a new toy!" And with that Rover, the shadow hound, fades to nothing.

Spetznaz is overjoyed, and happy to tell the Dark Squad what he knows, which is-

“I am Spetznaz, and I am the mercenary.
When three-and-a-half bells sound,
Put one hundred crowns,
On the one with the big nose.”

Still grinning the dead Ancestor fades from view.

[The fourth ancestor, and part of the prophecy 450 XP]

But things are different when the gang exit the barrow… the smell of ash is palpable- to all, and suddenly a skeleton steps out of the perimeter wall of shadow, and rushes sword in hand at the adventurers.

And then another skeleton, only this one strides forward a short way and then starts up with its bow.

Buggles cuts the first undead down while Newt blasts the artillery.

Both enemies are destroyed.

Vinnie conjures and casts a daylight spell which cuts through the shadow and reveals that there are more enemies approaching.

I wish there was a picture to show you- but there isn't. Guys?

A third skeleton is revealed, it rushes to attack.

Buggles spots a giant rat scurrying towards him- although the beast has already been cut and mangled, a zombie giant rat- perhaps?

Vinnie smashes the skeleton down with his shillelagh.

Then out of the shadow rush a pair of goblins, both armed with scimitars- moments later and Vinnie is cut but the wound is cold and numbing- the damage necrotic than rather from the weapon. Most odd, and up close- the goblins- like the giant rat- are already dead, i.e. undead.

Another dead giant rat scurries out of the black and shadow and sinks its teeth into Daktari’s boot (and foot).

And a few of the PCs are getting it- “Giant Rats! Skeletons! Goblins! We killed these!” I think it was Ram who first called it, but Vinnie and perhaps Newt had also already figured it out.

Ram cuts a dead goblin down, and stabs another with his off-hand.

Yet another dead giant rat emerges from the shadow, this one sinks its teeth into Newt’s leg.

Then more dead goblins, all rushing to swarm the PCs- and Gwen takes a hit.

Daktari cuts the dead giant rat biting him in two.

At which point the secret is definitely out, as diving down from the darkness overhead comes a very dead Cornflakes, the white dragon wyrmling the Dark Squad slaughtered way back in the Sunless Citadel.

“You killed me, now you bastards will pay!” dead Cornflakes’ croaks, the winged beast is a mess- the Dark Squad, if you remember, claimed a variety of mementoes from the wyrm- including a foot, as many teeth as they could carry, they also (Garumn) put the boot in to the corpse- hacked it up good and proper.

So, Cornflakes is a mess, and obviously not happy about it.

Daktari and Newt are engulfed in a swathe of necrotic fury, Cornflakes’ new breath weapon, although the pair both make their saves, and the damage is somewhat underwhelming.

Buggles cuts another dead giant rat down, while Newt gets the heck out of dodge and then fires a pair of Belphegor’s fiery blasts into Cornflakes, and now the wyrmling is critically wounded.

Vinnie gets stabbed by a dead goblin, Gwen helps out by cutting the thing down.

Ram ends another, and then Vinnie gets stabbed again- the druid is really soaking up the hits in this session.

Daktari growls and launches a spear at dead Cornflakes, the wyrm is manoeuvring in the air and coming around for another attack- the missile skewers the dead dragon- dead. It flops out of the air and lands hard at Buggles’ feet.

The wood elf ignores it and gets into action, slaughtering the last two goblins in the fight, dead- dead- deaditty- dead.

All done.

[Attack of the dead things, and Cornflakes 315 XP]

But there’s no rest for the Dark Squad just yet, as moments later the lightning bolts hit.

So, what happens is- suddenly a glowing white circle of light blazes up above, the spectral white light punching a hole in the shadow dome surrounding the land of the bad dead ancestors. In the same instance comes the roar of thunder. Then five PC seeking lightning bolts flash down at… well, obviously the five members of the Dark Squad, if you include Daktari, and I do- for now.

Alas Vinnie, and Ram are too slow (yep, Ram- with the best Dex save bonus in the pack) the pair are hit by the ear-shattering bolts, but… are left miraculously unharmed, or else…

A tether, a loopy spectral glowing white cord now runs from the centre of Vinnie and Ram’s chests- curling and swaying up into the new fiery hole burnt in the shadow dome above.

The pair feel glorious, and that thunder rumble before the strike- that wasn’t the sound of a storm, it was the sound of a hammer’s echo and reverb as it pounds forged metal on the anvil.

Both PCs gain an inspiration point.

They’re going to need them… but that’s for next time, we’ll leave the last word for this session to Vinnie.

“Mes amis, the zound of ze anvil- can you not ear it? It is Garumn up zer- he iz protecting uz!”

[Lightning strikes twice 250 XP]

Next session- more of the land of the bad dead ancestors, only three more barrows to explore, and three more ancestors to best in order to gain their secrets.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

carborundum

Explorer
My players' plan for almost everything is "frontal assault", and even though we're fairly high level there's no research or divination. And then they get indignant when they're surprised by developments/ they get badly hurt. Sigh. They always seem to scrape through though, so no lesson learned :)

Nice touch with poor, mangled Cornflakes!
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
My players' plan for almost everything is "frontal assault", and even though we're fairly high level there's no research or divination. And then they get indignant when they're surprised by developments/ they get badly hurt. Sigh. They always seem to scrape through though, so no lesson learned :)

Nice touch with poor, mangled Cornflakes!

Part of the problem (which is not a significant problem 99% of the time) is that some of the guys- Vinnie particularly are happy (and keen) to chat with anything/one that they encounter. In the last session the fighting was very bloody... and as Vinnie said at the time- there are six more barrows/ancestors to investigate. If we keep doing this... we're screwed.

Obviously the problem isn't as one-sided as that, it's not Buggles' fault. I had tried in the previous session, and in this one (in the questions to Old Mare recap- which I instigated for just this reason) to make clear that the ancestors need to be 'bested'. I also, of course, made clear that the ancestors would (mostly, Old Mare presumes) want to kill the guys.

But if at any point prior Vinnie, and Newt (I think he had figured it also), had stopped to let Buggles and Ram know, then... well, maybe it would have been a different outcome.

The issue is also as much about VTT vs tabletop- because only a limited number of things can get said- other people are talking/doing, then sometimes (but not often) we end up with one or two players who are working on option A, while the others are working towards option B. The end result is usually the same, but the methods can differ.

I have tried to allow for this by telling the players that because this is a problem they can drop a message (just one word) in the chat window, and I will stop at the next convenient point to ask them to speak, ask their question, or else have their say. I'll call them next- even if it is during another player's turn.

To the best of my knowledge they have used this protocol once, and I remind them about it as often as I can.

Apologies but I am writing this out for you, but also for them- in the hope that one/all of them will read this.

VTT is a very similar but different beast- you really do have to stop the action every now and then, or else find a safe space before or after the event, to chat about what's going on and how 'we' (the Dark Squad) should handle things.

Likewise, in-game, I really wanted Vinnie to shout out- to let his comrades know- "Let me/uz zpeak wiz zis ztrange cree-chure. Hold your fire mes amis." I promise you, that's exactly how he'd say it.

But here's the thing- it's a great game of D&D, and I have DM'ed a ton of these things so I think I am in a good position to call it. Usually, actually pretty much after every session, I'm still giggling about the general daftness, and coolness, that has gone on. I even bore my Mrs with it some evenings... ask her, sometimes she even asks- "What happened to Garumn then, did they find out he's dead already?"

The players are very mostly an absolute delight, although they all have their little peccadillos, but then again- don't we all.

Stay safe and well.

Goonalan & the Dark Squad.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #025 You Only Die Twice.

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
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 5
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP

Buggles’ undead servitor
Gwen Female Duergar Skeleton, in full-face helm and armour

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 25, and a double helping of marvellous with extra sprinkles on top- we went over time, and then spent another ten minutes reliving and giggling over events.

It would be fair to say that I really do look forward to my Tuesday night at the VTT.

Settle in- it’s a long ‘un.

So, the Dark Squad (sans Garumn- he’s dead) are in the land of the bad dead ancestors, a shadowy place/plane in which ‘bad = maniacal’ ex-Uthgardt chiefs get parked for their stay in the afterlife. It seems the bad dead ancestors have some things to say to the eyes in the night/Dark Squad about ongoing events vis- the Time of Ash and the fact that Ashardalon has been unleashed.

Last session, after a bit of intra-party chatter about how best to get things done, the Dark Squad investigated four barrows, bested the four ancestors within (one in each barrow) and learned, well lots of things.

Ancestor Kratchik started off by telling them-

“I am Kratchik, and I am the lore/law.
The Time of Ash approaches,
It begins when the day turns to night.
When the dead become the dying,
And souls know no rest.
Know then that Ashardalon is abroad.
The abomination- the terror dead dread dragon,
The Lord of Ash, the Lord of Destruction,
The Deceiver- the swallower of the Light.”

Then Larkoz advised them…

“I am Larkoz, the warden.
Check the ancient alchemist’s well.”

And then…

“I am Kolven, and I am forever.
Seek the witch’s tor,
In the lair of the drowned ones,
But beware the demon’s spore.
Find the time.
Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.”

Finally…

“I am Spetznaz, and I am the mercenary.
When three-and-a-half bells sound,
Put one hundred crowns,
On the one with the big nose.”

Which just leaves three more barrows to be investigated, and three more bad dead ancestors to be quizzed, you’ll remember that in order for the Dark Squad to return to the land of the living (back home to Old Mare and the Uthgardt) they need to learn the secrets of all seven ancestors.

The only other way home is… well, if all of the PCs are dead. So, that’s not an option.

Still, the Dark Squad are on it- as I said above, just three more barrows/ancestors to go… how hard can it be.

Well, we’ll see about that.

Although at the end of the last session the Dark Squad had just beaten off an attack by the shambling undead- mostly goblins, skeletons and giant rats- but also the much abused Cornflakes (a white dragon wyrmling the Squad hacked apart earlier in their adventures). Which is odd- or at least several of the PCs thought so at the time.

Oh, and Ram and Vinnie were hit by lightning strikes after the fight was over, no harm done- the pair both now possess radiant rope-like tethers which connect them to a circle of light up above in the dark dome of shadow that encapsulates this strange place. They each gained an inspiration point after the lightning strikes, they’re feeling GRRRRREAT!

Oh, and Vinnie is certain that Garumn is watching over them- he heard the sound of the forge when the lightning struck him.

So, apologies for the rambling intro, but here we go, remember the above is as much for the players as it is for you dear reader.

The Dark Squad chat for a while, it’s remarkably pleasant and not at all strained- the next barrow for investigation is selected (the nearest one) and… we’re in. Within three large stone altars, all with skulls atop- two of them human. The clincher however is the third- a much more interesting cranium, with antlers- and according to Vinnie some sort of mixture (possibly) of human and… bison? Or else some other large bovine, but then, as investigations continue, Newt suddenly becomes aware that something is moving about inside his backpack.

Odd!

What could possibly be moving around in Newt’s backpack?

An orc hand suddenly claws its way out of the pack and tries to strangle the tabaxi. And then another… and then another... and then…

Just for info the guys killed twenty four orcs back at the Mountain Door in the Forge of Fury, they took the hands of the foul humanoids so that they could claim the reward for their slaughter from Lord Boskin, back at Castell Gwythyr.

Right now Newt, Buggles and Ramshambow have each got eight of the lopped-off appendages in their backpacks.

Oh shit!

Ten orc hands (crawling claws) come alive- four scuttle out of Newt’s pack, three each from Buggles’ and Ram’s- clawing, punching and scratching their way out.

We’re into it proper.

And I’ll not do a blow by blow account of the action because… well, they’re just crawling claws- three hit points each, hardly a menace, although…

Buggles gets punched in the face, a Crit- 8 damage, he’s not happy, Ram gets clawed- as does Newt- repeatedly, blimey that was a lot more threat than I expected.

Newt gets clawed again- he’s bloodied, already, and caterwauling and meowling.

Then Buggles gets clawed some more.

Daktari grabs a dagger out and starts stabbing and killing orc hands, he’s the go to guy in a crisis- it seems, in the opening turn all of the other PCs miss their attacks, except Newt who blasts a single crawling claw dead.

Then however the Dark Squad get into gear.

Buggles rolls a Crit, remember this, a crawling claw is stabbed and destroyed.

Then Vinnie turns around and sees that there’s a strange looking stocky humanoid with a skull head complete with antlers, the kind of thing you’re bound to notice- it’s the fifth ancestor. The creature stares at Vinnie (and uses his glare-type attack) but the druid shrugs off the weird feeling and begins again his endless chatter.

“You see before yew Monsieur Ancestor, the eternal struggle n’est pas…” With a flourish the druid steps aside to reveal Newt. The tabaxi, at this point in the fight, has five crawling claws attached to various parts of his body. He is screeching in fury and seemingly engaged in a choreographed dance routine somewhat akin to a break-dancing whirling dervish.

2501.jpg

Newt's health bar is plunging fast.

The rest of the Dark Squad have now slaughtered the crawling claws that were attacking them, and are now trying to clear the appendages from Newt.

Which is harder than you think- disadvantage to attacks because the enemies are on Newt, and in his clothing.

The druid goes on, “We call zis performance piece ‘Non-consensual Heavy Petting’, zee how Newt mirrors the struggle of the individual within zee dystopian fractured societee in which we exist, zee his wild cavorting, ze cat-man embodies truth, n’est pas?”

MEOWWWW! HSSSSSSTTTT! Etc.

Vinnie rolls a ‘19’ on his performance check as he continues to curate, and at the same time MC, the production- actually, it’s just Newt taking a beating.

“Is dis theatre- I have heard of zis! It iz very good. I like da action. I am Golcanz by the way, pleased to be greeting you.” Golcanz, the ancient ancestor, is entranced by the performance.

And so it goes for a short while longer, Vinnie narrating “… a metaphor for zer troubling notion- the dew-al-i-tee of man, n’est pas!” That kind of thing. While Daktari, Buggles and Ram meantime continue to try to get the orc appendages off their friend Newt, but at the same time to not get in the way of the spectacle- the show must go on. Newt, obviously, also attempts to get the crawling claws off himself, but he’s much less adept than his friends, and they’re not great either.

Dice rolls are mostly low, except for my guys…

In short order Newt gets Critted again, he’s almost unconscious… and then he is- unconscious, that is- after another punch in the face Crit.

[Non-consensual heavy petting opening night performance 250 XP]

Seconds later Ram, Buggles and Daktari swing into action and slaughter the remaining crawling claws- which are much easier to hit now that they are no longer attached to a thrashing Newt.

[Crawling claws and ancestor bested 440 XP]

“A voila!” Vinnie cures Newt who, party to the performance, comes alive with a tumble roll and flashing pyrotechnics (prestidigitation) display, and then rolls a consolidated ‘24’ on his performance check.

Ram grabs up a trio of the now inert orc hands and juggles them- performance check- ‘20’, while Buggles trills along on his flute.

[Finale 250 XP]

The crowd (Golcanz) goes wild. “I luv zis- zo honest, zer kitty-kat iz zo dedicated to his art. Magnificent!”

A short chat later and the Dark Squad have what they need-

“I am Golcanz and I am forgotten.
The answer you seek [Golcanz looks directly at Buggles] is at the bottom of the Goblin’s stair/stare.”

“Tank you.” Golcanz fades from existence, and the Dark Squad giggle for a little while longer- see fighting and RP at the same time, it can be done.

[More riddles from the bad dead ancestors 250 XP]

Then a little break for a chat, also much needed healing- potions and spells (Buggles and Newt both took a beating), and… a wash and brush up, let me explain- Newt is unhappy having had the crawling claws creep all over him, he uses his prestidigitation to give himself a bit of hair/fur pampering. Daktari looks on longingly as the tabaxi does so, and then quietly asks Newt whether he could do anything with his hair- it is unruly and he thinks it is holding him back.

Newt tries a few styles on the Uthgardt barbarian, again all prestidigitation enhanced, and Daktari is soon after overjoyed- “I look like a god!” The Uthgardt settles on a perm/ringlet/mullet mix- nice!

[Newt- thrall of a fiery fiend, and hair stylist 100 XP]

Then back out of the barrow and into the shadowy twisted and dark demi-plane, or whatever this place is, the forever home of the bad dead ancestors.

That was easy.

Too soon.

Rushing out of the shadows that define the border of the locale come a dozen or more intruders- all intent on doing the adventurers harm.

The dead are here again.

Skeletons, goblins and a pair of shambling hobgoblins… but they’re all easily put down- the Dark Squad don’t break a sweat, particularly when Vinnie lays down a vast swathe of spike growth and then orders his comrades to retreat a little in to the barrow.

The mostly mindless undead shamble into the terror and spike filled terrain and are very mostly torn to shreds, although the PCs also take the time to shoot a few of the emerging enemies.

Fourteen of the former victims of the Dark Squad are dispatched (again) in about ten seconds- two turns.

[More of the Dark Squad’s dead 255 XP]

And as with the last fight- the lightning strikes, and this time nobody is attempting to dodge the flash and thunder. All five N/PCs are tethered to the glorious light above, which has also expanded a little.

Note when the lightning strikes each PC ‘connected’ gets another inspiration point, they can have up to a maximum of three inspiration points each. They can use their inspiration points to do… well, whatever they can convince the GM to allow. Mostly they use them for healing, the DM rules that the PCs can spend a point to use a healing HD (like a healing surge), and if they use one of their own then they can have a second healing HD for free.

[Lightning strikes 100 XP]

I’m a generous fellow, or else you’d think so… keep reading.

Just a note the mostly shambling dead that are attacking here have been identified by the Dark Squad- they’re the folk that they killed as they were working their way through the Sunless Citadel. Or else they’re weaker undead versions of the same, for my fellow DMs a short explanation- take monster, add undead traits, reduce AC, reduce HP (a lot- goblins approx. 3 HP each, hobgoblins about 7 HP each, skeletons maybe 6 HP each). Then halve the creature’s damage output, and while they continue to wield a variety of weapons all damage inflicted is actually necrotic, because that’s the flavour.

Last bit- the CR of all of these decrepit creatures has been reduced by two places, so CR 1 becomes CR ¼, obviously to a minimum of CR 0. The PCs gotsta get paid (their XP).

Note the players figured all (most) of this out by the end of the session, so- no secrets revealed here.

These guys are minions, mooks, call them what you will- they’re fodder.

However, the dead creatures that have names… like Cornflakes (last session) they’re a little less crippled. Likewise the guys figured this out too by the end of the session, the named guys are also a little more switched on- smarter, and more tactically aware (less mindless, which of course is impossible, you either are or you aren’t- mindless, but you get me).

There’s barely ten seconds between the destruction of the first wave and the onset of the second wave- here they come again, and there are plenty of them- over twenty more of the Dark Squad’s victims.

But the only way that the bad guys can get to the adventurers still hanging in the barrow is through the spike growth terrain, and so its another massacre- and the players during what follows are very keen to commiserate with me.

Actually some of them were just plain laughing like drains, as I (your usually incredibly tolerant DM) huffed and puffed as my bad guys died in their droves.

But, this is the long game- keep watching, keep reading.

A bugbear (about 14 HP) and a bunch more hobgoblins, and goblins, all fail to get to the guys and rush to their deaths.

A shadow (approx. 11 HP) drifts forward, cringing- remember the area is also bathed in Vinnie’s daylight spell- cast on his shillelagh, the flying enemy is spotlighted and shot down by Buggles with a Crit. Dead.

That’s the wood elf’s second Crit.

Then Ballsack (about 30 HP), the dead bugbear crazy arrives, and after looking around and seeing the swathe of fallen he pointedly stays out of the spike growth area and starts flinging javelins, aiming into the dark interior of the barrow in which the coward PCs muster.

You heard me- coward PCs.

Meantime more goblins fall, also a pair of skeletons are sundered by the spike growth.

Then comes Durn (about 15 HP), the former hobgoblin boss appears from the shadow wall surrounding the land of the bad dead ancestors, he grunts and shouts his threats and then is also swiftly ripped apart as he attempts to charge through the spike growth. Although he nearly made it to the Dark Squad.

Closer.

Newt with a pair of Belphegor’s fiery blasts (including a high damage roll Crit) and Buggles with his bow conspire to shoot down the javelin flinging Ballsack.

Rip and Fang (approx. 8 HP each), the bugbear boss’ (former) giant rat companions are likewise torn to pieces by the violent terrain.

Spike growth!

And just to say I checked Vincenzo’s spells before I put this area together, he didn’t have the spell learned- he changed it in session, just before the Dark Squad headed out to the land of the bad dead ancestors.

The lucky bastard.

A metric ton more goblins expire… and the fight is soon over, maybe four turns to play through.

[Another wave of the dead enemies 630 XP]

Oh and I'd love to show you the pictures- but nothing, but I forgive the players, it got a little tense- particularly later on in the session.

Then lightning strikes, again- and another inspiration point for all, but the Dark Squad hold station- waiting, watching.

Huddled in their burrow… sorry, barrow.

But the fight really is over, there are no more enemies for them to watch tear themselves apart trying to get at our heroes.

Victory, the Dark Squad go on.

After a little more healing- Newt and Daktari both took a single hit from missile firing/chucking bad folk, the only wounds for the PCs in the entire fight

Newt also uses his rod of the pact keeper to recover one of his warlock powers.

Then on… into the second to last barrow, within are canopic jars (and similar) a swathe of scattered gold coins- although all of the currency seems to be covered in mould (dangerous mould Vinnie confirms- “leave it be, mes amis”). While over the far side of the chamber is a skeleton sat on a stone chair, maybe- a throne.

2502.jpg

The sixth bad dead ancestor waits to be bested.

The Dark Squad nose around a little, very cautious- waiting for the ancestor to appear.

The ancestor however is already present- he’s the skeleton on the throne, and every now and then he takes a moment to move his head slightly to settle his stare on another member of the Dark Squad. The ancestor’s glare leaves Ram frightened, the rogue yelps a little and then starts backing away- towards the exit, “he looked at me… it’s here… it’s come for us…” Nice work.

But Vinnie is unmoved- and he’s the only one to spot the skeleton move, and so he starts up the chatter, and then as part of his presentation- after spotting the gold on the floor, he offers the skeletal ancestor some more gold- spilling coins from his purse.

“Zis iz fur yew. Zer tribute for zer great ancestor.”

But his guidance enhanced persuasion is v. low, the ancestor snarls and goes to get up.

“I am LATGUN! Time to die foolish mortals!”

2503.jpg

Latgun, also available for children's parties.

He doesn’t get far.

Buggles (readied action) fires an arrow into Latgun’s face, with a Crit, and just about bloodies the bad bastard in an instant.

That’s three Crits for Buggles.

Then, because the wood elf also has initiative- he does it again, and another Crit and another massive bag of damage.

Four Crits.

There is whooping, and unashamed giggling- it belittles me, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Bloody hell- this ancestor is a restated mummy, he can’t go down having only managed to use his dreadful glare a few times.

But he can…

Newt covers the barrow with flame- a fireball, and manages to singe himself slightly as he does so- as the blast fills the chamber and then some, he was fortunate that all of the other PCs were out the way.

The ancestor, known briefly as Latgun, and vulnerable to fire, is blown apart.

[Yet another dead ancestor bested- the sixth so far 700 XP]

But not for long, and then he’s back…

“Well, that did not go vell!”

“I am Latgun, I am terror- vell, I fort I waz.
The hands are within one thousand teeth.”

And with that the sixth bad dead ancestor is gone.

[More bad dead ancestor jibber-jabber 250 XP]

Easy! Easy! Easy!

Note this time the Dark Squad are much more cautious- they congregate in/at the entrance/exit of the barrow- weapons out, watching to see who is coming...

And the dead, of course, are coming, again…

More goblins (about ten), a clutch of giant rats- all suitably mangled and decrepit looking, but also in the surge a few more named creatures- Guthash, the six foot diseased rat mother; Grenl- the goblin witch doctor; Kulket- the giant frog and animal companion of… the Dead Outcast.

A little more of a challenge.

The Dark Squad on spotting the new dead enemies swiftly head back into their hidey-hole, alas not quickly enough- Daktari and Gwen (Buggles’ skeleton companion) are both caught in the dead Outcast’s (necrotic flavoured- twisting strands of shadow vegetation) entangle spell.

That said the barbarian, seconds later, tears himself free and follows his new friends into the barrow.

Vinnie, the bastard, conjures another spike growth in the area, which is also difficult terrain because of the entangle spell- it’s a mess out there. Gwen, throughout all that follows, is very mostly just stood about ten feet outside of the barrow- within the nasty vegetable terrain, calmly (she’s undead) shooting stuff with her bow.

Buggles shoots- Crits, and kills Guthash- the massive rat.

That’s his fifth Crit this evening.

The goblins and rats keep on coming, some of the former content to get close enough to take pot shots at Gwen. These are mostly taken down swiftly by the Dark Squad artillery back in the barrow.

Kulket, the dead Outsider’s giant frog leaps over much of the spike growth (he lands just before the entrance to the barrow) but is then cut to pieces by Ram who dodges forward and at the beast with his twin blades.

However at this point things have gone quiet outside- enemy-wise, and yet the Outsider can still be heard, moaning and taunting the Dark Squad, and so the PCs are stuck in the barrow- with a spike growth spell in place just before the entrance.

And the recently returned bad dead guys are still outside, but out of sight- the Outsider, and the hidden goblin witch doctor- Grenl, and they’re staying where they are.

Eventually Newt climbs his way up and out of the barrow, the tabaxi is hit by the Outsider’s produce (necrotic) flame spell during his clamber, however the cat man spots his attacker and fiery blasts him straight back. The dead evil druid is left critically wounded.

Seconds later the tabaxi gets rushed, and then hit by a (necrotic) thunderwave- only it’s an appallingly small amount of damage.

Buggles, likewise attempts to clamber up and out of the barrow- it doesn’t go so well, even after he spends an inspiration point- the wood elf inadvertently steps into the spike growth (for maximum damage). However moments later he climb free of the spot and fires his longbow at the Outcast.

It’s a Crit.

Of course it is.

The dead Outcast is… well, he’s dead, again.

That’s Buggles’ sixth Crit of the evening.

Moments later Grenl, the goblin witch doctor, is spotted- and then blasted into oblivion by Newt.

Victory!

The dead are… bugger, dead.

[More returned dead destroyed 490 XP]

Only not for long.

Lightning strikes- every PC gets another inspiration point.

Yeah, got that, let’s get on.

Inside the barrow Ram is working at one of the walls- he figures it can’t be more than a couple of feet thick- he wants to make an opening, a window- or a firing station, or else an emergency exit should it become necessary.

But he’s really not built for this kind of activity, he’s struggling- and none of his comrades are interested in helping him.

Vincenzo remains concentrating on his spike growth spell, Daktari is guarding the barrow entrance when Buggles and then Newt, still outside and up on top of the barrow, call out.

“Kobolds!”

The pair on the roof begin firing at the newly revealed enemies, the aforementioned kobolds, but then there’s a skeleton- and then a fast moving orc- who is shot down at the very last instant, he nearly got to the wood elf.

Then the mangled remains of a once living giant spider crawls down from atop a stunted tree- Newt has seen enough, the tabaxi scarpers back into the barrow, swinging down safely into the dark subterranean chamber.

The decrepit giant spider continues on and crawls past a very well hidden Buggles, and then it too climbs into the barrow.

“Oh bugger!” Is the collective feeling of those within.

But Ram is on hand again to swiftly cut the arachnid down.

Outside a pair of kobolds are staying out of sight and using their slings to take pot shots at Gwen, she’s taking hits.

Then suddenly Buggles is on the move, this after being spotted- by what looks to Yusdrayal, the ex-kobold queen- who fires off a ray of (necrotic) frost at the wood elf, seconds later kobold slingers start up aiming for the wood elf too. He’s definitely been spotted.

2504.jpg

Incoming! Note Gwen, calm as a cucumber stood within the spike growth just shooting the dead down.

Then a second giant spider crawls around the side of the barrow, hidden by the slope it sneaks sideways and like its dead comrade- inside, but Daktari with a readied action and an inspiration point manages to cut it down.

Buggles has seen enough, he too scrapers all the way back to the entrance to the barrow, but then (hubris?) decides to hold station.

Orcs come rushing in, more fodder for the frontal assault- but the spike growth is more than sufficient to shred them.

Gwen is, of course, firing back at her kobold attackers- and having great success.

Then out of the shadows ahead emerges the ravaged remains of the owlbear (sans beak, claws and plenty of other stuff the Dark Squad took for decoration) it snorts rushes forward and rips into the fighter/rogue. Buggles is bloodied and beyond in an instant, maybe down to about 8 HP.

The wood elf cuts hard at the beast and then swiftly gets the hell out of dodge, scampering over-under the lintel and swinging back into the safety of the barrow.

“Bear… huh-huh-huh… Owl…”, the badly wounded wood elf gasps and then points vaguely back towards the entrance to the tomb.

That’s all of the Dark Squad back in the bunker, and now the skeletons outside are no longer attempting to ford the spike growth area, they’re standing front and center and firing arrows into the barrow opening.

Somehow safe is beginning to feel a little more like trapped.

The Dark Squad meantime are dodging into the entrance to the bunker to fire off whatever they have in the way of missile weapons- it’s mostly Newt that is accounting for the enemies with his fiery blasts.

Although now even the kobolds are trying to climb up, over and in to the bunker… it’s only Daktari stabbing with his spear that is keeping them at bay.

Time for the tin-opener.

Suddenly the interior of the bunker gets an airing, the owlbear rips out a swathe of the wall- the area that Ram was digging at earlier.

The massive undead monstrosity has much greater success with the project.

2505.jpg

Bear-Owl! The red square is the breach...

Gwen, meantime, is still shooting and killing kobolds.

Ram rushes forward and stabs the decrepit owlbear with Deadend (undead bane, sorta) and ends it- but that just makes it easier for the waiting enemies behind it in the shadow.

The first orc rushes over the deflating owlbear and in to the barrow, then the second, then the third… and so it goes.

Ram cuts one down- Buggles another (with his seventh Crit of the night), and then another falls to the wood elf- with a… Crit (eight).

But it’s getting frantic.

Daktari is dodging between the door and the breach, Ram and Buggles defending the latter. Vinnie is maintaining his concentration on the spike growth spell, and switching between dodging and throwing produce flames spells at anything that gets too close.

Newt is now crouched down behind the ancestor’s stone throne, bobbing up every now and then to fire very close quarter fiery blasts.

Yusdrayal, the kobold queen is spotted and blasted out of existence by the tabaxi, and just as she was going to unleash her (necrotic) burning hands into the barrow.

And then suddenly, very suddenly, as Gwen takes down the last kobold.

The attack is at last spent.

[More dead for the Dark Squad 810 XP]

There’s a lot of nervous giggling.

Lightning strikes, yet again, everyone gets an inspiration point- note the PCs have been spending these as they go on for healing- as a free action, particularly Buggles and Newt.

Also at this point Newt and Vinnie have exactly zero healing HD between them, they a few have potions (maybe)- and probably a few spells (for Vinnie).

They’re all breathing hard in the barrow- but they’re not coming out, I know this because I was patiently sat there waiting for them to do so.

There’s a lot of “I thought I was [naughty word] but then that giant spider just crawled right past me”, Buggles is still gulping air- “You should have just killed it.” Ram states, shaking his head. Or else the players are doing something similar.

But they’re not coming out… just not coming out, so I’m going to have to go back in there and get them.

Old Yarrack, the Orog commander at the Mountain Door rushes out of the shadow and into the breach- he’s a mess, and wearing his long johns, Garumn stole his platemail remember.

But the guys are ready- Buggles slices and… it’s a Crit (number nine) but the Orog is a tough bugger (with 40+ HP). Vinnie is producing flame, Newt Belphegor flavoured blasts, while Ram and Daktari’s blades are biting.

By the time Old Yarrack falls there are another five orcs in the barrow with the PCs, this is getting bad…

Buggles gets hit by an greataxe- a Crit, serves the bastard elf right, he’s back to being heavily wounded, and then he’s hit again- another Orc greataxe and the wood elf is on 4 HP. Ram is also taking hits, and moments later he too is bloodied.

Then an orc gets to Vinnie and buries its (necrotic flavoured) greataxe into the druid.

Ram cuts a pair of orcs down, but there are more charging in through the breach- Vinnie gets hit again (and yet another Crit) and now the druid is also critically wounded.

Daktari rushes in to the furore and rages- two orcs fall, both cut in two, the barbarian has a little more room to manoeuvre and now has his greatsword in hand.

“I am Daktari! I am Uthgardt! I am Sky Pony!” Only now it sounds much less friendly.

2506.jpg

Orcs! Orcs! And more- ORCS!

The orcs are falling, the Dark Squad rally- the way is clear, and then as suddenly- it’s not.

Great Ulfe the ogre steps into the breach (and the big bugger has 60-ish HP).

Vinnie drops the spike growth, he needs to be in action- the druid becomes Vincen Bear. Ram steps in and stabs the dead ogre repeatedly, as does Buggles- also repeatedly, and then again with an action surge.

They’re throwing everything at the enemy.

Newt is still blasting- keeping the orcs away from Vincen Bear.

Note, I threw something like nineteen orcs into the barrow in maybe five turns, as well as the other creatures listed here in this wave.

The orcs are coming in both entrances now.

Vincen Bear surges up onto his hind legs, rocks forward and then slams, and then bites the face of Ulfe, the Ogre- at bloody last- is dead again.

The raging ursine claws yet another orc down.

But there are still three orc enemies in the barrow- all with greataxes, and Vinnie Bear is taking hits, and is swiftly down to being bloodied.

Daktari still raging employs his reckless attack and cuts another pair of orcs down.

But.. more orcs come rushing, and Vinnie Bear is still taking hits.

Then… a dire wolf, one of Ulfe’s former hounds rushes in and fails to savage Ram.

Gwen wounds an orc with her rapier, and gets a cheer.

That’s a signifier by the way, if they’re cheering when Gwen hits you know they’re in trouble.

Buggles takes another hit.

Note, the wood elf has been spending inspiration points between times to stay alive.

Ram cuts down the dire wolf. Phew!

Buggles sucks up more healing and then guts a pair of orcs.

Newt blasts another- dead.

But… they’re still coming for the Dark Squad- and still from both entrances.

Vincen Bear claws another orc dead.

Daktari guts another two.

And for a second the barrow is empty of enemies.

Just a second.

As another orc rushes into the breach and buries its greataxe into Vincen Bear.

Then the second dire wolf follows on and fails to savage Daktari- Gwen wounds the beast, more cheering- Ram finishes it off with a Crit, and then with his off hand stabs the last enemy standing- an orc, in the throat.

It sinks to its knees and then topples into the pile of bodies that litter the floor, that spill out of both entrances, and that swathe the ground hereabouts.

The battle, for now, is won.

[The final dead assault 1010 XP]

That however my friends is the end of the session.

Nine Crits in the session for Buggles, that’s nice…

The Dark Squad have one more barrow to explore, and one more secret to gather from a bad dead ancestor, and then… at last, they can go home.

The players spent a good ten minutes whooping about events after the curtain fell, it seems we all enjoyed this one.

To the wire.

At the end of it all Buggles was on maybe 10 HP, Ram somewhere in the neighbourhood, same for Vincen Bear- Newt was a bit better off but he’s out of surges (as is Vinnie) and more or less everything else. Daktari and Gwen, remarkably the pair are only just about bloodied.

Just one more… one more… that’s all.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:

carborundum

Explorer
Woah! That's a long entry, I'll save that for after dinner :)
In reply to your previous post, I totally agree about vtt, I think I'll start trawling the forums for tips and tricks, i miss facial expressions and half the joking. It doesn't help that my home game is 16th level 3.5 at the minute - every combat takes five hours and we may as well be playing draughts. I'm looking forward to wrapping it up in a few weeks and starting something in 5e.
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Awesome meat-grinder session! Is this all your own campaign now?
Steal what you need (and is good) and make up the rest.

This bit is entirely mine, but later on I will snaffling maps, plots, stories, NPCs from everywhere and anywhere. The first two Sunless and Forge were pretty much as written, with a bit of my/our campaign twisted in. The next bit is more me and less any particular book, although as I say a lot of books are going to get plundered.

Take care.

Goonalan
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
You've done a great job on finding the maps for your own stuff, sir!

Often the map dictates what's going to go on- I subscribe to Heroic Maps (and a few others) on Patreon, but a good map is the thing- I know what I want to do, so I know the kind of map I am looking for- so I find 5-10 and then usually peer intently at the one I have selected to use (most often Heroic) and then think what goes on here- and the rest is adventure-time.

In truth I used to build 57 sessions worth of stuff ahead of time, I am atm one session ahead of these guys, and while that can cause a little consternation (for me) it's a whole lot easier to build if I know what happened in the last session, and what's expected in this.

Don't get me wrong- I know the story/plot- the big picture, so some stuff I have in hand- and ready to roll, but other stuff- I do between sessions. So, lots of stuff for the next session I built and mapped out on Saturday just gone.

This next session might get very good- depending on what the PCs do. I have a couple of routes we can go, with maps and encounters ready.

Looking forward to tomorrow night.

Cheers Goonalan
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #026 The Seventh Bad Dead Ancestor.

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
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 5
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP

Buggles’ undead servitor
Gwen Female Duergar Skeleton, in full-face helm and armour

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 26, and not as good as the last one- or at least I thought not, but let me instantly caveat this, after the sessions every week I get 20 minutes or so with my brother Kev (playing Ramshambow) on Discord, mostly happy families stuff- but also a short chat about the game. He really enjoyed this one- the fool. Same-wise, always the next day at work I have the chance to catch up with Jim (playing Vinnie) to gather his thoughts- he liked the session a lot.

So, what do I know- but here’s the thing, I was fed up with the fighting towards the end, but I realised then (and now) that’s mainly because I know what comes next, and I’m keen to get to that.

Also, we’ve been fighting without much in the way of roleplay and/or investigation for the last few session- obviously we’ve had some fun and hijinks with the previous six bad dead ancestors but… not this session, just plain old terror and a rolling maul maybe two to three hours long.

And that, of course, is my fault- too many dead bad dead guys.

Strap in, although- no big who did what to whom, turn by turn (promise), maybe just the best of the action for this instalment, but It’s another lengthy one.

So, the guys are in the land of the bad dead ancestors, and with one barrow left to explore, the theory is- slaughter the inevitable guardians of the barrow, chat with the last (the seventh) bad dead ancestor then… home again- home again, clickety-click.

Sounds easy- never is.

But first the Dark Squad get some more healing done after last session’s fight-fest, just a note to say that Buggles and Ram have taken plenty of hits, while Vinnie and Newt have already burned through all of their healing HD. The latter of course being used here like healing surges (from 4e) activated as a free action by the use of an inspiration point, courtesy of the pulsing tethers that power the PCs on.

So, the last barrow- and we’re in, an empty (save for ancient shattered bones) central chamber with five alcoves leading from it, each home to an entire/complete sprawled humanoid skeleton.

Ram, as usual, scopes the place out- and inevitably (although very cautious) he triggers the arrival of the barrow’s guardians. Four hefty zombie/skeleton barbarian’s that have been levelled-up (with metal armour somehow affixed to their bones (and skulls)). The four undead enemies burrow up through the floor of the chamber. They’re actually Dread Warriors but none of the players got around to figuring this out in-game- the action was frantic initially. They also have high AC’s, two attacks and big bag of HP each (about 45-50 apiece) and so the fighting is fast and furious- particularly for Ram who quickly gets surrounded, or else three of the Dread Warriors concentrate their efforts on putting the rogue down.

2601.jpg

Peek closely and you'll note the Dark Squad's attackers are labelled as "Unidentified Creature", and thus they remained even after their demise, that's the real story here- and I'm welling up. The anonymous dead not even afforded a label by the callous and uncaring adventurers. Monster Knowledge checks are a free action, just saying- how would you feel?

Ram’s uncanny dodge saves his hide time and time again in this session, but even then he has to make use of his inspiration points to trigger healing HD/surges. It’s a lengthy fracas, the guys are rolling low, and the bad guys are tougher than the usual swarms of dead they’ve been getting used to fighting. That is until three turns into the fracas when Vinnie drops the faerie fire, and now the Dread Warriors are much easier to connect with.

Buggles finishes off the first enemy (in the fourth turn- so, they hung around) and with a Crit to end the undead terror- please Lord, not the Buggles Crit-train again. Ram accounts for another two of the Dread Warriors, while Daktari ends the last- but it’s a war of attrition, with everyone contributing.

[Dread Warriors in the last barrow 800 XP]

There is celebrating, but here’s the thing- the last bad ancestor has not shown his or her face- that’s odd, so there’s much searching, investigating- shouting “Monsieur dead ancestor, where are yew?” that kind of thing but… nada.

The Dark Squad, after Buggles shuts them up- listen intently, there’s a scratching sound, eventually pinpointed to beneath Vinnie’s feet.

Sixty frantic second later and a hole has been dug, and a box located buried maybe two feet deep.

The Dark Squad queue up all manner of readied actions (all attacks) as Daktari levers the box free of the dirt, it’s not a coffin- which was where the big money bets were at, it is instead a packing crate- with the scratching noise definitely coming from within.

However at this point the first wave (for this session) of Dark Squad dead has already been unleashed into the shadowy plane, the undead mooks (for the most part) are closing in fast.

Decrepit stirges swoop into the entrance to the barrow, and after a scramble are violently curtailed from intruding further- and yet more swoop in and so Daktari is put on permanent watch of the way- taking hits but swatting the pesky buggers dead as quickly as he can.

Note the new undead stirges don’t drain, they’re content to stab and spike with their elongated snouts.

While this is going on however Vinnie has directed his comrades to two of the alcoves- there are more digging/scratching sounds coming from these places too- although that just turns out to be half-a-dozen or so decrepit troglodytes (in two groups) working their way through the walls of the barrow.

So, the trogs get in- but… they’re really not a threat, and made less so when the few stench saves that the PCs have to make are all successes. Damn them.

There’s a brief moment of consternation when a huge decrepit subterranean giant lizard (the one that swallowed Vincen G. Octopod back in the forge) forces its way into one of the trog made openings. Then the beast starts flailing around with its massive bludgeoning tail, but it fails to connect with the PCs repeatedly, and gets swiftly beaten to a pulp mostly by Ram and Buggles.

2602.jpg

When the Giant Lizard's appeared Catkins (that's Buggles' special name for Newt*) spammed his Mirror Image- in fright. I loved the fact that in this rolling fracas that the guys were seemingly reacting more to the memory of the foe- the Giant (Huge) Subterranean Lizard was v. tough first time around, rather than, well... experiencing reality. The Giant Sub Lizard never hit once and was taken down in a turn, surprise!

*Buggles, helpfully has special names for most of his companions, but it's situational- funnily enough it's a remarkably similar approach to Garumn, at the start of these adventures- with 'Druid' (Vincenzo) & 'Elf' (Ram). Odd that. Atm Ram is 'Ram', Vinnie and Newt are usually known as "Wizard #1" & "Wizard #2", while Daktari is mostly being ignored.

Just to note although this fracas is gentle in comparison to some that have come before the Dark Squad nevertheless go full shields up- with Newt using his Mirror Image spell to create duplicates- this when the huge subterranean lizard first got into action. Likewise Vinnie has got the Spike Growth up and at the door- so, we’re locked down again.

But the bad guys are mostly making their own ways in to the barrow (or else flying).

Note Newt’s Mirror Images are reduced from three to one, to none- in a matter of seconds by marauding trogs, that was his first use of the spell, it didn’t last long.

As Buggles said at the time- “Is that a new spell. I think I prefer Fireball.”

And so it goes, as it always does, for another five or six turns- until the Dark Squad for the win, although Ram (again) and Buggles (again) have both taken a beating.

Note at the end of the wave of the recently dead the lightning strikes, the PC’s tethers pulse, and they all get another inspiration point. Yay!

As always.

[Yet another wave, mostly Trogs and Stirges, of the Dark Squad dead 630 XP]

But then back to the box the Dark Squad have just dug up, although only briefly, the container is prised open- and keep in mind the PCs are expecting something very nasty to leap out here- it’s like pass the parcel with a live grenade, with folk taking cover- readying actions et al.

So, Daktari gets the box open- there’s a book inside, it looks to be an oldish looking journal (no title)- the scratching noise is coming from within the tome.

Most odd.

Daktari hands the book over to the science monitors (Vinnie & Newt), the Uthgardt barbarian may have once seen window glass and taken a bath (he’s cosmopolitan) but he doesn’t hold with book learning.

So, and get this- Newt is trying to open the book as quickly as possible, just to get a glimpse- the latest collective thought is that something (the last bad ancestor) is going to escape the tome and attack them should they open it all the way and let the creature out.

I swear to you, they do about 50% of my job for me.

Where do they get these idiot ideas, although perhaps this one’s not that idiot- I’ve written it down for later use.

So, there’s text in the book- or at least on the random page that Newt opened the book at (very very briefly) and the text is written in the common tongue, but… what’s that?

Shit- the dead are back again.

Do you see what I’m doing here?

Another wave of the Dark Squad dead have been creeping up, and now they’re here and ready to rumble. But again, I’ll skip to the good bits, just to say this wave included a battered and broken decrepit cave bear, a pair of similarly forlorn looking gricks, another half-a-dozen trogs (or more), and last but by no means least, Kaarghaz, the sorcerer trog leader the PCs offed back in the Glitterhame.

So, as before the trogs come in the back door tunnels, while the gricks come slithering/climbing in from above through the entrance to the barrow- avoiding the spike growth entirely, while the decrepit cave bear just takes the easy/direct route through the terrible terrain.

Remarkably the cave bear makes it through the spikes and into the front entrance of the barrow, at which point- already badly broken, Buggles slices the great beast down.

2603.jpg

"Where's the seventh bad dead ancestor?" Send your answers on a postcard to-

Dark Squad
Barrow 7
Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors

Make cheques payable to Goonalan.


More trogs rush in- mostly they get slaughtered, but a couple or three manage to land a few hits here and there.

The gricks stick around for a short while, but they’re not tough enough to do any real damage to the PCs. Shame.

Gwen (Buggles’ skeleton companion) is in the wrong place at the wrong time, repeatedly, and takes a beating- the former duergar is reduced to around 20 HP. Note Gwen was given a power up by Old Mare, the Uthgardt witch- the skeleton now has around 50 HP, but still can only be summoned once every tenday.

But when the enemy stop coming… no lightning strike, which the Dark Squad have learned from previous encounters means that there are more enemies on the outside of the barrow waiting for them to emerge.

In this instance it’s a decrepit Kaarghaz (the trog chief/sorcerer remember), invisible and with a readied action- come on out to play.

Buggles and Ram sneak out to take a look around, however the pair are way too stealthy for my trog sorcerer, he doesn’t even see the pair exit the barrow, but obviously the duo also cannot see Kaarghaz (invisible).

Newt however…

The tabaxi finally loses patience and follows the rogue’s out- and is swiftly hit by two out of three scorching rays, and left meowling in pain (and frustration). He blasts the newly revealed trog leader right back, and then screeches his comrades into action.

Buggles chases the trog down and with his twin scimitars (and a miss, thanks to the trog’s shield spell- inspiration point, roll again- Crit) guts Kaarghaz- dead.

Lightning strikes- tethers pulse- inspiration points all round, and the fight is over.

[More dead Trogs including Kaarghaz 430 XP]

But then swiftly back in to the barrow, and back to the box- and the book, at last Newt takes the plunge and opens it up- to have a proper look, and to the first page of text which goes a little like this-

“Divil!” The old farmer screamed in Garumn’s face once more, and then staggered back flailing for an edge, any surface to grab hold of to save himself- to keep him on his feet. He failed and sat down hard on the spit and sawdust barroom floor, a moment later he clutched his head and started to weep.

It takes the above section for the PCs/players to figure out what they are hearing/reading.

“Zat is our story mes amis.” Vinnie nods along… and then after a collective realisation there’s a sudden scramble to get the pages of the text turned to, well… the end, or at least to the present.

Buggles scratches his head as he leans in to read. Vinnie and Newt each holding half of the tome, their mouths agape in wonder. “How the hell are we going to get out of here? Where’s the seventh bloody ancestor?” Ram snarls, breaking the spell.

That kind of thing- but you get it, it’s the narrative- the journal of the Dark Squad, and the scratching sound, well- it’s an ongoing project. An invisible pen leaves its inky mark upon the page as the adventure unfurls and unfolds.

Most odd.

But, as always, there’s no time to ask questions or inspect the book further- the third wave of the Dark Squad dead has arrived, and when I say arrived- I mean several of them are already in the barrow.

They are duergar.

Invisible duergar.

Actually invisible recently slaughtered duergar back from the dead for their bloody revenge, but y’know- I’m preaching to the converted here.

It gets frantic for a bit, as Ram and Gwen take more hits, and again the former’s uncanny dodge gets spammed.

2604.jpg

A few more HPs each (they had only 11 apiece) and the Decrepit Duergar would have been real bad news for the Dark Squad.

So, more of the same- with the PCs cowering in a cluster- in the centre of the barrow, waiting for the invisible duergar to pop up, Buggles at one point had this to say- “I feel like we live in this barrow.”

But the duergar are, like all of the other former victims of the Dark Squad, low on HP, and so… attrition, except when Ghared (one of the duergar leaders killed by the Dark Squad in the forge) shows up and starts shooting his hand crossbow and with sneak attack- Ram is soon after sub-10 HP.

Note Buggles at this point is shouting (repeatedly) at Newt to- “Quick. Gain a level. We need more spells…”

During this fracas the trog excavated tunnels into the barrow also get enlarged, this courtesy of the decrepit duergar pumping up to large size while in the region- the barrow has, by the end of this fight, also taken a beating. It’s falling apart, collapsed in places.

In the last moments of the fight Ram, badly wounded, gets cagey and fills the entry to the barrow he’s guarding with a bag or two of ball bearings, and then retreats to watch the way, and chug a healing potion, and then to use an inspiration point to heal some more.

Miraculously (I gave the duergar bonuses on their rolls because of the mud/earth to ball bearing issue) the trap works- repeatedly.

Daktari for a good long while has been guarding the main entrance to the barrow (with a readied action), but nothing has come this way for quite some time. The barbarian is therefore ordered by… I want to say Newt, to go out and get the last duergar standing. Ghared, the rogue-leader type with the sneak attack.

The barbarian salutes, offers a few cod-Russian words of homespun wisdom, and then duly chases the last duergar down but alas fails to make a mark on the enemy. Buggles, following up, slashes and almost slaughters the foe, leaving a racing Newt to finish the creature off with another of his fiery blasts.

Lightning strikes- and another fight is over.

[Duergar dead 450 XP]

The adventurers quickly scurry back in to their wrecked and ruined barrow home, for yet more investigations of the newly unearthed book. These include an attempt by Newt to write his own ending to the story- basically to narrate the Dark Squad back to Old Mare and the Uthgardt barbarian camp, but that doesn’t work.

The ongoing race of the pen-less ink obliterates the line ahead in its charge across and down the page.

Fiddling with the maze-sided coin Timor the Uthgardt chief reluctantly passed over to the Dark Squad, alas also proves to be ineffective, as does using it (?) in conjunction with the book.

There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of tutting, and “Well, I don’t know how it works!” But still plenty of humour, things are not desperate yet.

Yet.

But then the magic pen writes, and the Dark Squad read-

Buggles and Ram are suddenly aware, there are more enemies rushing into the barrow, the dead are here again…

[Uncover the magic book, and get frustrated trying to figure it out 500 XP]

And so more Dark Squad dead, dwarven skeletons as it happens- and the PCs can’t even remember when they fought and killed these guys- it was in the forge after the Dark Squad were tricked into opening a door into an ex-dwarven guard ready-room by Arundil the dwarven ghost. Just for info.

So, dwarven skeletons- easy, but then a bigger and better enemy falls prey to Ram’s ball bearing trap, it’s Nimira- the decrepit version of the duergar big chief warrior- and she has a big bag of HP, a great AC, and two semi-hefty attacks.

2605.jpg

When will it ever end... but the Dark Squad have already figured that out.

Which is probably why she rolled a ‘3’ for her Dex check as she passed into the barrow and ended up cursing and sprawled on her arse.

But the orc wight champion is also here, and with a pair of decrepit ogre skeletons for company- and they’re not going into the spike growth at all now, save sometimes to drop from atop the barrow into the entrance tunnel and take just one hit.

Daktari as it happens is also taking hits, as is Ram- but that’s nothing new.

Vinnie cancels his spike growth and shoots a moonbeam down into the entrance to the barrow- a smaller area covered by the spell but much more damage- and he can shift the focus of the beam should he need to.

Meantime Nimira (the duergar boss) is not faring well, Ram gets her with a Crit- and with his opening attack, and then rolls stupid high and does 48 damage, in just one hit. Nimira had 52 HP full whack. Seconds later after a Belphegor’s fiery blast the decrepit duergar leader is toast.

Buggles takes down the orc wight champion, and then with his off-hand attack destroys one of the ogre skeletons. They were both wounded, but that’s still pretty fly.

And keep in mind that 90% of these decrepit former victims have low ACs, very few HPs, and much reduced attacks/damage- they’re weak, except for the bad guys with names- they’re at about 75% normal strength.

Vinnie’s moonbeam continues to burn, turning dwarven skeletons into shattered charred fragments of bone.

While Ram gets smashed on the head by the last standing ogre skeleton, this after the rogue chases outside the barrow to attack the brute, seconds later however the swashbuckler takes the giant skeleton down.

Lightning strikes- the fight is over, but the next wave is already on its way…

[Nimira the duergar boss and a bunch of decrepit undead 660 XP]

And here’s the thing- Ram is outside of the barrow to see it happen, which I had hoped would not be the case- Nightscale, a thirty foot long black dragon (with approx. 130 HP), or else a decrepit version of the same- sans approx. 30% of its scales (Vinnie took ‘em), descends upon the barrow.

And when I say- descends, I mean crashes into the roof of the Dark Squad’s bunker.

2606.jpg

Nightscale, note- token enlarged for Close-Up!

But that bastard rogue- Ram, has already screamed at his colleagues to “GET OUT OF THERE! DRAGON!”

If he had not exited the bunker in the last round of the previous fight, then… well, this might have been a very different finale.

I would have buried the bastards under a half-a-ton of earth, and then caught up with the survivors individually (I wish).

So, everyone gets out of the barrow except for Daktari who is left stuck in the entrance corridor to the chamber- which doesn’t collapse. The barbarian is moments later however trapped between the collapse and Vinnie’s moonbeam which fills (and burns) the only exit available to him.

The barbarian therefore takes to digging through the collapse.

For a follow up, after the semi-crashlanding, Nightscale unleashes its necrotic breath weapon, and after an inspiration point to roll again- pretty please Mr. DM sir, Newt manages to just make his save, and thereby stay alive/conscious.

The yowling tabaxi attempts to blind the dragon, but my saving throw’s a ‘20’, it means nothing- as long as Nightscale makes the save, but it feels good.

And it elicits groans from around the VTT, so- good.

Ram, in cover, fires an arrow into the wyrm- the dragon is still aloft, and he fishes his last +1 arrow out of his quiver for the attack- nice hit. Buggles repeats the trick, although the wood elf’s hit is much less painful.

Therefore Nightscale descends to rip Ram apart… or, almost- the rogue is down to single digits HP when Nightscale back-sculls and gets some altitude.

Soon after Buggles and then Gwen sink arrows into the hovering rotten wyrm some more.

Oh, but a note about Gwen.

Stu, playing Buggles- and therefore Gwen, has now got a new gig for his undead ally, a typical skeletal duergar attack, as narrated by Stu, goes something similar-

“Gwen pulls up her fencing mask (?) eyes the great dragon with a look of respect, and yet- eerie menace. She nods, the great wyrm struggling to stay aloft locks eyes for a moment with Gwen, and then out of respect nods back. Battle is joined, and… the ex-duergar warrior draws her bow, and rolls… does a ‘6’ hit?”

Every turn, actually that’s not true- at the start of the fighting Gwen was rolling and missing all of the while, but now- in the finale (and for a while before) she’s turning it on (mostly).

Come rain or shine, it doesn’t matter if its Nightscale in Gwen’s sights, or a stirge- respect is a big part (it seems) of the fighter’s code.

Always the nod- the acknowledgement of the terror about to be unleashed.

Gwen has one attack, for something like 1d6+2 damage, if and when she hits.

Vinnie refocuses his moonbeam to target the wyrm- alas just in time for Daktari to break out of the barrow and directly into the radiant glare, note the barbarian was digging in the other direction when the moonbeam got shifted.

Newt hits Nightscale with a fireball, but the wyrm makes the save and that’s just 13 fire damage, but the creature is now bloodied and beyond. Ram forgoes healing- he’s danger man, remember. He grabs out a potion of flying- swigs it down, double moves (with a bit of cunning action) and flies up to the dragon. Who, it must be said, is sore amazed. The rogue- with an inspiration point, stabs the dead flying terror in the face.

Vinnie’s moonbeam burns the beast some more.

Nightscale recharges its breath weapon and fires its necrotic blast point blank at Ram, who makes his save and then with little extra uncanny dodge somehow manages to stay alive (breath weapon = 6 necrotic damage, note that was from 11d4- half, and half again- the bastard).

Buggles sinks another arrow into the wyrm, Gwen alas- even after respect is paid and earned- fails to land the killing shot. As does a spear flinging Daktari- it takes another pair of Belphegor’s fiery blasts from a ranting screaming Newt “I warned you!” to blast the wyrm out of the air.

Kinda similar to the last time the Dark Squad and Nightscale went for it.

[Nightscale, the final wave of the Dark Squad dead 1800 XP]

Needless to say moments after the fight is done Ram, and Newt- and several others, are snaffling healing potions (those PCs that have any left) or else begging cure wounds spells from Vinnie. More healing is needed. Note at this point, save for Daktari, then all of the PCs are pretty much out of healing HD/surges.

As my brother (Kev playing Ram) said later- “to the wire, again.”

But the mystery isn’t over- barrows, ancestors- one missing, a book- writing the Dark Squad’s story, a strange coin with a maze on it and WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

It’s ten minutes before the end of the session, and so only half-an-hour left to play (we went over time, of course). But the guys can’t figure it out- they’re mooching all over the map, looking at standing stones- snooping around barrows, but…nothing.

Things are getting desperate- not shout at each other and fall out desperate but, lots of “there’s something we’re missing…”, here comes the repeated stating of the obvious, and louder with each echo.

Then Vinnie gets it, he mostly always does, the druid mooches to the centre of the shadowy space and stares and shouts up into the light-

“Garumn, we don’t know wot to do- ‘elp uz my frend.”

[Vinnie gets it right 250 XP]

And Garumn appears, and I’ve been waiting for this, and so after a very brief moment of shared smiles, nods and mutual hello’s, Garumn rips into his once bosom chums.

I’ll summary the Scottish-accented garrulous paladin’s diatribe-

1) No sooner than I’m dead than you shack up with another pretty boy barbarian meat-shield, admittedly Daktari has great hair- but that’s really not a justifiable reason. Have you fellows never heard of loyalty? Discuss.

2) Vinnie used dead Garumn as a seat! A SEAT! Discuss.

3) Garumn was having a fine old time upstairs working in the All Father’s forges, he had even met a nice redheaded dwarven lady who had repeatedly asked him about his ‘melt thresholds’, which in dwarven culture is tantamount to foreplay.

4) But, then he’s called into the overseer’s office and caught up with events vis-a-vis the Dark Squad in the land of the bad dead ancestors™.

5) And so, we move to the source of Garumn’s ire- it seems that the stout paladin is here to fill in for the seventh bad dead ancestor, it’s the only way to get the Dark Squad out of their present situation. Oh, and the implication is that this is Moradin’s scheme- as it turns out it was the All Father that was on the other end of the glowing tethers keeping the PCs alive- so, that’s nice.

6) So, Garumn- as he’s dead, is going to occupy the seventh barrow, to tomb-sit, as it were. The Dark Squad therefore need to best Garumn in order to win his secret, it seems the All Father has thought of everything.

7) There’s a lovely moment when the Dark Squad show Garumn over to his new home/barrow- which has been crushed flat by Nightscale, holed and wrecked by trogs and enlarged duergar. Garumn is not happy- he goes on to explain that he has tried 47 different varieties of dwarven ale in the last few days of R&R (and soul-warming work) in the All Father’s workshop. He only had another couple of thousand varieties of dwarven ale to try… In precis, Garumn has gone from ‘heaven’, to- ‘hell’; and looking at the last barrow- ‘hell’ is as Vinnie explains, “it iz a fixer-upper, n’est pas?” Garumn’s new home is a shadowy, cold ruin- it doesn’t even have a roof. He’s not happy, and Garumn (and the DM) really get into it when he’s ticked.

8) But back to the rescue, once the PCs have bested Garumn and learned his secret they can depart the land of the bad dead ancestors, and… find the missing seventh ancestor and get whoever s/he is sent back here to relieve Garumn from his tomb-sitting.

9) Simple as, and as Garumn states, repeatedly- Moradin has thought of everything.

So, next up Buggles bests Garumn at shooting things- no surprise there, and then there’s a secret revealed-

“To prove you are worth your salt,

Stand fast between the dead and the storm.

When the worst comes call upon me,

And I will send a God’s favour.

Look to the sea, to see, the sea-change.”

Job done!

Garumn makes clear that Moradin is the deity that needs to be called upon, so- they’ve got a favour in the bag from the All Father, although its use is clearly situational- and subject to the Dark Squad making sense of the secret.

[Garumn is the NEW seventh bad dead ancestor 1000 XP]

But, here’s the thing… nothing happens.

Then more nothing.

Times ten.

The Dark Squad are going nowhere, or so it seems… and Garumn is as confused as the PCs are.

But Vinnie’s not done, he’s about to have another clever moment- the druid grabs out the coin like artefact given over by the Uthgardt chief- Timor, he traces the maze on the thing, with his little finger- very carefully.

Suddenly there’s a voice- in his head.

“Ask, and I will tell you the answer.”

The druid goes on a long mental journey and replies, in his head, “How do we get out of ear?”

“DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Comes the reply.

[Vinnie activates the artefact 500 XP]

But that’s the end of the session.

However before I depart there’s one last thing I want to remind you, and the Dark Squad about, do you remember what Bel(phegor) said to Newt during the fire Lord’s brief appearance back in the forge? Well, here it is-

“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.”


Hang on, what was that about the last ancestor?

More, of course, next time.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:



Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
I have no idea what going on here* but it's damned entertaining!! :)


* But then to be honest I don't in most situations.

We played last night, and it was a corker- I'll get around to writing it up soon-ish.

I got great feedback after the session- Kev/Ram (my bro) talked it up straight after we had done, Stu/Buggles e-mailed me soon after to say best session so far, and Jim/Vinnie was still grinning when I got into work this morning.

And Buggles didn't slaughter not hardly anything.*

*Well, maybe a couple of things- a stirge or two, oh- and a hill giant.

But we'll get to that... and plenty more, best map award so far last night as well. I'm still semi-buzzing.

It's a cracking game this D&D-thing.

Cheers goonalan
 


Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top