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

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #027a The Dark Squad are Dead!

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 27, I loved it, and the players seemed to be giggling a lot (and in all of the right places), so… it worked.

Bit of a chapter end this one, as you’ll see… eventually.

So, the Dark Squad are still in the land of the bad dead ancestors, and they’re running out of ideas about how to escape this place- they need to talk to all seven bad dead ancestors you’ll remember- but there are only six ancestors here. So, that’s not going to happen- even when Garumn turns up and volunteers to play the part of the missing ancestor- job done, but then nothing continues to happen.

That didn’t work.

They’re still stuck here.

Vinnie has also activated the artefact the Dark Squad received from the Uthgardt, and when prompted enquired of the voice within the strange maze-etched device- “how do we escape zis place?”, the answer given- “DIIIIEEEEEE!”

So, that’s not good either.

But ding-ding, the bell rings and we’re off again, the session’s started.

First up, and as at the start of most all sessions- lots of chatter, and the Dark Squad are desperately searching for a way out of here, something they’ve missed, or else… “I don’t bloody know”- is the consensus.

Eventually they track down and read through all of the Uthgardt prophecies (and Belphegor’s instructions to Newt), taking each one in turn to ‘work through’.

When I say ‘work through’, I mean take it in turns to make great (and sometimes frenzied) efforts to try to bend the various prophecies into a variety of shapes to fit the Dark Squad’s present situation, but… they’re reaching.

Really reaching, and getting absolutely nowhere with it.

So, Garumn- who is still a bit miffed that his former comrades have not departed yet, they need to be getting on with finding the missing seventh bad ancestor so that he doesn’t have to keep up his barrow-sitting job. The former paladin, latterly ghostly smith, goes for a chat with the light above- his master, the All Father- Moradin.

It’s a one-sided conversation, with Garumn mostly nodding along, and at the end of it he reports back to his friends- “it seems the All Father has miscalculated, this isn’t his home turf- so, I’m not the last bad dead ancestor, therefore me telling you my secret has achieved nothing. Well, hardly nothing- it seems my fate is sealed, I’m stuck here- I may not be good enough to be the seventh bad dead ancestor, but I’m good enough to be the stand-in.” Garumn makes it clear- “I’m stuck here until you find the missing ancestor, thanks.”

With that the grumpy paladin retires to his dilapidated barrow.

“What ‘appens to us, mes amis?” Vinnie calls out after Garumn, but the dwarf just shrugs and heads off to begin making much needed repairs to his new abode.

There follows lots more chatter- more desperate attempts to co-opt any loose piece of information from here, there or anywhere- to try to make sense of the present situation. To figure a way out from the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Then Vinnie, as usual, has an idea- “We should just try walking through ze shadow walls that surround zis place- ow do we know zer iz nuthin’ beyond zem?”

[Walk through the walls idea 250 XP]

The Dark Squad gather at the nearest wall of shadow and… take another fifteen minutes to talk themselves out of making the attempt.

When you’re stuck- you’re stuck, or at least it seems that way.

Vinnie’s second idea follows soon after, the druid decides to follow Garumn’s example, he kneels beneath the circle of light (the source of the tethers connected to the PCs, remember) and… he prays to Moradin.

“All Father, I am not an adherent to your cause, and yet a sink I have lead an honest life- I have tried to do zer right ting…”

And on he goes, and it would be beautiful but… Buggles follows suit, the wood elf drops to his knees beside the druid, and calls out to his Aunty Ingrid (she’s a hag) in the hope that she will hear him and use her powers to get the Dark Squad out of this place.

It doesn’t sound much when you write it down but at the time- Vinnie (played by Jim) is earnest, solemn, whole-heartedly beseeching; and next to him Newt is offering not to kill Aunty Ingrid’s cat (Noseyarris) if she’ll use her powers to get them out of this dump.

All that’s wrong with our game, and all that’s great about it- and at the same time.

The pair make promises, they beseech, and… the light above goes out.

[Prayers and promises to Moradin/Aunty Ingrid 300 XP]

The Dark Squad are back in the land of shadow proper, and now- very obviously, the walls of the pocket plane are closing in. The land of the bad dead ancestors is shrinking, and rapidly so.

Garumn, soon after, is swallowed by the black- and without a word, the dwarf and his fixer-upper barrow simply disappear from sight.

From existence?

The Dark Squad scramble into the middle of the map- the last spot that will be swallowed by the rapidly approaching tide of gloom.

I'd love to show you a screen shot but- nope, nothing. Bloody players- they had it coming to 'em.

Vinnie casts a daylight spell and thunders a few more brave words at the heaven. Alas the only effect of the illuminating spell is to enable Daktari (the only member of the Dark Squad without darkvision) to also clearly see his approaching doom.

The circle of shadow gets smaller- the land of the bad dead ancestors is coming to an end.

And suddenly the rubbery freezing cold, numbing walls of this existence are crushing the adventurers.

Crushing the life out of the adventurers.

At which point Ram acts- “Screw this!” The rogue pushes his way into the numbing shadow black.

And is the first to die.

Although the rogue’s comrades succumb mere moments later.

The Dark Squad are dead.

Just for info- Buggles, the tough elf, was the last to perish.

He’d want you to know that.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 

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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #027b Ups & Downs.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 2/Rogue Lvl 3 RIP
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 5 RIP
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 5 RIP
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 5 RIP

NPCs
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 5 RIP
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)


Then, suddenly- a trace of light- lightning but without the storm- no noise- not even the sound of the constant rain, just the white thunder light etched on cloud- black on black clouds, and all the shades between.

And the wind.

The wind howling without sound- holding the five members of the Dark Squad aloft.

They’re somewhere, nowhere, and…

WTF?

The five adventurers are at altitude held within the air, surrounded by dark clouds- the see-scape traced by constant forks of silent lightning. It's raining, but here's the thing- they don't seem to be getting wet. They can move, but only slowly- and at great effort- swimming, tumbling against the gusty torrents. They’re not falling- they’re not flying, they’re… they’re… they’re, even I’m struggling to tell you what’s going on here.

They’re being held.

They’re waiting.

They’re in-between.

They can shout to each other, which they do- of course, “Where are we?” is a favourite.

But then, suddenly, and with giggly jumps- Daktari floats upwards, and out of sight, shouting and hollering in his odd cod-Russian as he ascends.

Nice choice of word there, did you notice it, I wrote- ‘ascends’.

“I am floating upawayz, it feelz niice! Woooaa!!” The Uthgardt barbarian hollers as he disappears from view.

Nothing for a while, then…

The sound of drumming.

The drumming becomes the tattoo of horses hooves.

But what a ride- the horse is racing, tearing along- a thundering headlong dash, it sounds joyous.

And gradually, above the sound of the horse’s thunder, can be heard the sounds of Daktari- exulting and proclaiming his joy… louder, then louder still. Daktari’s voice drowning out the drum’s salvo.

“Faster my glorious stallion! Faster my beauty… my love!”

And it would be a shame for the players not to see what I see, the same for you guys reading this, so here it is…

2701.jpg

Daktari at full throttle- is this what love feels like? While the other members of the Dark Squad float and wait within the silent storm.

That’s Daktari, the proud Uthgardt Sky Pony barbarian- he’s doing what he has been bred to do, clamped tight between his legs is his beautiful mount, the pair racing the wind through the steppes just for the joy of it.

Is this what love feels like?

It is for Daktari.

Love is a headlong plunging dash on the back of Vincen D. Horse.

“I love you, my beautiful Vincenzo horse!” Try shouting it in cod-Russian, I did- several times, and it worked for me.

Some others also found it amusing.

But then we’re back to the soundless storm and the shadow- and now there are just four members of the Dark Squad hanging in the air.

Waiting.

“What happened to Daktari?” Buggles shouts but the wood elf’s question is mostly lost to the wind.

Who’s next to depart?

That’d be Vinnie, the druid is suddenly lighter than air- giggly, he too ascends. Waving frantically at his friends as he goes.

“Zee Yew!”

SPLA-DOOOOOSH!

The druid falls into water, warm- soapy water, a hot tub; and he’s feeling particularly mellow- surrounding him are the beautiful smiling faces of the three maidens of the wash- Keke, Peke & Cheeky.

2702.jpg

"A'right." Say hello to Vinnie-san.

“Arise Vinnie-san, out of the tub, chop-chop- Sheldon wishes to speak with you.” Cheeky coquettishly states, and then giggles some more.

“A’right.” The druid slurs and sploshes out of the tub, because… because… well, why not.

Vinnie, alas, is sans clothes- but the ladies of the wash don’t mind- and so Vinnie don’t mind neither, he’s a man in tune with nature.

“Free-ballin’, yeah.” He gurns and then plods through a lotus flower curtain and outside, to beauty- more beauty…

A decorated and ordered garden beyond the bathhouse, and the three maidens of the wash are keen to lead the druid by the hand, and up the garden path.

“Sheldon is waiting, Vinnie-san.” Cheeky calls, a little way ahead.

“Comin’” the laid back druid smiles and shambles on.

To a softly-bubbling naturally heated pool situated before a golden halo of light- the dazzle and the blind is suddenly shadowed as Sheldon pokes his head through the ringed-portal, and into Vinnie’s reality.

“MMMMmmmm. Little Vinnie.” Sheldon chews on the words and then lets them out real slow.

Sheldon, or else all that can be seen of him- his head and neck, seems to be a member of the genus chelonia, some sort of turtle.

Oh, but Sheldon’s head is about thirty to forty feet long.

So… he’s a big turtle.

2703.jpg

MMMmmmm Sheldon.

“Little Vinnie. MMMmmmm.” Sheldon announces again, savouring the morsel.

Vinnie grins up at Sheldon.

“You have come a long way, and yet you have much further to go- to your end. Your end, little Vinnie is however in sight- on a far shore, under a burning sun- you will suffer before the silence.”

“Stand in the surf- call my name, when you need me most. I will come to you and bring you respite, recovery and restoration. Know this though little Vinnie, you can call upon me just once. Just- once.”

Vinnie grins some more, and then finally- full beam, offers a double thumps up to the massive turtle.

“MMMmmm. Little Vinnie” Sheldon finishes and then nods forward its wrinkled neck, opens its mouth wide agape, and with its eight foot long tongue, licks the druid- like a popsicle.

“Mmmmm.” Vinnie adds.

But suddenly we’re back in the clouds and the miming lightning- and there are now just three members of the Dark Squad left hanging around.

Waiting on… their ascent?

Ramshambow, Newt and… aaarrrggghhhhh!

Buggles falls out of sight rapidly, flailing furiously as he goes- and boy does he go, snatched from vision in under a second.

Newt, because he’s Newt, begins raging- “Belphagor is my Lord! He protects me-aaarrrrgggghhhhh!”

Catkins, like Buggles, is quickly gone from view.

Ram manoeuvres himself, as best he can- subject to the wind’s howl, assuming the position of a man at ease with the world- as if reclined on a chaise longue in one of the better salons. It doesn’t make him scream any less as he too, the moment after he gets settled, falls rapidly down- down- down and out of sight.

The three adventurers experience the same journey, and yet they’re not together… not yet.

It went a little like this…

Darkness, heaviness- you cannot move, your arms, your legs, your… nothing moves. You are object.

You cannot speak because you cannot move.

Not the diaphragm, not the epiglottis, not a breath.

There’s water all around you- lapping.

You can hear!

You are on a boat.

You are lying on a boat.

You cannot see- there is something on your eyes. Two somethings- one on each eye.

The two somethings are circular, and cold.

BUMP!

The boat just hit something, else BUMPED against something.

The smell of animal.

You can smell!

The smell of a dog, two dogs, three dogs? A big dog? Big dogs.

Growling- low and mean.

Rough hands upon you, grabbed up- shifted around a body- hefted, manhandled. Like a sack or a dead thing.

And then… stood up.

You can stand, although not without trepidation.

Warmth, it’s hotter here.

You can feel!

The sound of scratching all around you- surrounds you- up and over you.

Like the sound of the book back in the seventh ancestor’s barrow, scratching the story of the Dark Squad in ink.

That same noise.

Then the light- light and tears, as the two somethings that were covering your eyes fall away.

The light!

You can see!

Although not much at first, seeing it seems is the slowest sense to recover its faculty.

Focus.

Focus.

A lush red deep-pile carpet, expensive. Nestled on the rug one, two, three… four, and maybe some others- coins.

Coins on the rug.

Not coins- but coin shaped, several of the dull white discs have intricate mazes etched upon them, others show blank- at least the sides showing.

Six of them, of the objects/artefacts on the rug, and then you look up and you’re not alone.

You are far from alone.

Buggles, Newt and Ramshambow stand statue- they cannot move their limbs.

To the left and right and up above, as far as can be seen, floor after floor, balcony after balcony- each level rammed with a myriad tiny devils, each of them- all of them, quill in hand making notes in hefty open ledgers before them.

The ornate chamber ends in a dock, at which is tethered a boat, a three headed bat-winged hound guards the way.

2703.5.jpg

This doesn't look good.

“Turn around you bozzos! Ya got ‘em facing da wrong way knuckleheads!”

The voice comes from behind the three former adventurers, large invisible hands roughly spin the trio around to see…

To see…

A horned demon (or similar) sits at a desk, weighing scales to one side of the fiend, a large gavel on the other- a great open tome before the creature- quill poised at the ready.

But that’s not all.

A forty foot tall (maybe taller), six-limbed demon/devil squats over the proceedings, passively watches on, every now and then taking draws from a cigar as long as Garumn is/was tall.

2704.jpg

"Anythin' you'd like ta get off ya chest?"

“That’s better… Ah, Mister, or should I say- Monsieur Buggelz, we’ve been expecting you.” The demon/devil at the desk snarks.

But now the secret’s out, so I’ll drop out of the stream of consciousness and get to the end.

The three gathered members of the Dark Squad are afforded the opportunity to have their say- a few final words, if you like. To recant or to make recriminations, if that’s your bag. To deny, again the choice is yours. Disavow, whatever. Just get it off your chest.

It goes like this-

Buggles- “I’ve not done anything bad, and besides- screw you, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Buggles has been in touch, he wishes to make clear (he is insistent) that his reply to the devil/demon (Larry) at the desk was-

"Who the fuck are you?"

Which he repeated until he was no longer able to speak. It is of course vitally important that we set the record straight about this, not least because Buggles' forthcoming autobiography, penned from a very warm place in hell, bears the reply for its title.

Newt- Belphagor this… Belphagor that… it’s a bit of a rant really.

Ramshambow- “I should have rescued more people, people like me- slaves, I mean. I regret not doing that, but there’s nothing else I’m sorry about. Come on. Get it over with!”

But then…

“HEY! HEY! LARRY!”

“What?” The demon/devil at the desk shouts back.

And fluttering down from one of the high balconies comes… Jot.

Remember him, the quasit that made his appearance right at the end of the Sunless Citadel, just prior to the Dark Squad unleashing Ashardalon on the world.

So, here goes…

“Dese are dem ass-hats I wuz tellin’ yer about Larry.”

“Dese guys?” The desk demon (Larry) queries, “dese guys are jus’ piss ‘n’ vinegar, I mean- sure, dey gotz da wood elf, and he’s playin’ fer der home team. But… but… da puddy tat?”

“Dese are the guys Larry, dese are the fellers that let Ashardalon out, that’s what I’m tellin’ ya!” Jot whines.

“Sheesh, adventurers Jot man, not a thought fur anyone els.”

“Tell me abaht it Larry, eyes on da prize and…”

But Jot’s interrupted.

“HEY CHAZ, CHAZ?” The desk demon (Larry) bellows, and flails one arm- as if waving.

A cowled boatman appears at the far end of the hall, nods it’s head to briefly reveal a leering skull.

“Anuver muck* up at head office, take dese fellers back.”

Rough hands grab up the three adventurers, and the procession shifts into reverse gear.

Then.

Three.

Two.

One.

And the Dark Squad are back in the room.

The room in question being a draughty yurt owned by Old Mare.

2705.jpg

"Inconceivable!" Geradil, not for the first- or possibly the last time, captions reality.

[Whatever that was 2000 XP]

So, that’s nice.

More of this kind of thing in a bit.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan

*Or a word that sounds like ‘muck’.
 
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carborundum

Explorer
"up the garden path" - very nice. Actually there are very many amusing wordplays there, several of which should never be uttered again. Bravo!
Also interesting that Asmodeus allows Lahndahn Tahn accents - must be one of the upper circles :D

Quite the trip - are they almost level 6?
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
"up the garden path" - very nice. Actually there are very many amusing wordplays there, several of which should never be uttered again. Bravo!
Also interesting that Asmodeus allows Lahndahn Tahn accents - must be one of the upper circles :D

Quite the trip - are they almost level 6?
They're on the way to Level 6, but I do XP my way- because I give out lots of RP and Investigation awards, and the like as I go on.

They need 18,500 xp for Level 6, they're on 16,229 as of now.

But it's downtime next, and I tend not to give out lots of XP for downtime activities because we're just mostly getting through stuff- growing the PCs in other ways, and building for the next part of the story. So, each players submits a list of activities and we just RP through 'em- sometimes a bit of intrigue takes shape, other times stuff just gets done.

Nice easy session, I'll get my slippers ready.

Stay safe and well, oh and Part C of this session coming in a bit.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Meet the Uthgardt

Session #027c I’m Going To Change.

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*
*Trapped in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

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)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


So, we’re out of the land of the bad dead ancestors and back to… reality, and in the tent Old Mare, the Uthgardt wise-woman.

The PCs are a little groggy but otherwise unharmed, they all appeared back in the tent about an hour ago, it has taken them as long to regain consciousness, take food and drink, and start chatting.

So, what’s next- the answer being repeated attempts to get Vinnie to tell his colleagues where he went, and what he got up to.

Keep in mind that we all saw what we saw around the VTT (i.e. everything) but the conceit is Vinnie saw what he saw (and experienced), same for Daktari- but the other three guys, well they just shared a spot in hell.

And Daktari is an NPC, so the other three PCs don’t particularly care about him.

Note I used the word hell up above, that’s not my word – that’s a word used by the players.

There have been e-mails and questions since the session- did we die, did we go to hell, that kind of thing, but the DM is playing it cagey (yes, I am). You saw and experienced what you saw and experienced- as described/presented to you, dear player.

You’re conscious now, so clearly you can’t have been dead, or else… well, there are one, two, some, many, several explanations for events- pick one, work with it, if you don’t like it then pick another. What difference would it make if I told you- yes, you died, or else- no, it was all just a dream.

Nothing changes, you’re still alive and here.

2705.jpg

Here being Old Mare's yurt. The gang are back together again, although... where's Vinnie's special friend, Courana?

There follows lots and lots more chatter, which branches off in a myriad directions as Old Mare is interrogated, several of the members of the Dark Squad (but very mostly Newt) are really not happy that she sent them to the land of the bad dead ancestors to fail. To die.

So, the adventurers learn the following-

1) Old Mare didn’t know that the seventh bad dead ancestor was missing, she does however know that the ancestor in question was not a former Uthgardt chieftain like all of the others. The missing ancestor is/was called Nightshade, and she was an evil Uthgardt wise-woman/shaman, accused while alive of being a fiend and/or a hag. So, that’s worth knowing.

2) Next up- the Uthgardt tribe have departed, there’s just Old Mare left from the barbarian (modest) horde, but hang on- how can that be, we were only in the land of the bad dead ancestors for a day- but we’ll get to that, keep reading. Daktari is, of course, distraught- he looks to Vinnie for solace and support in his hour of need.

3) You’ll also note in the above picture- Courana, the lady’s maid the Dark Squad rescued from the orcs, is also missing- you remember the one, screamed a lot and latterly started to get googly-eyed over brave Vincenzo. Well, long story short- she and Timor really hit it off, a whirlwind romance apparently. Old Mare conducted the ceremony, the two got hitched, and like the rest of the tribe- skedaddled back up north.

4) Last up- the Dark Squad were in the land of the bad dead ancestors, or wherever they were, for- 24 days. I’ll write that again- the Dark Squad have been away from Old Mare’s tent for 24 days. The rest of the Sky Pony tribe headed north over a tenday ago, Courana married Timor about a tenday after Vinnie (and friends) departed this place, so- she held out for a while, but clearly the ready charms of the big barbarian chief won her over. Also the Dark Squad have 24 hours to get themselves ready to travel because Old Mare will be departing this place tomorrow.

After yet more chat Daktari is officially welcomed into the Dark Squad, actually the big barbarian asks Vinnie- “I would like to come with yew Vinnie, my stallion… I mean, my friend?”

Daktari is in the gang, for now.

[Much discussion about the heaven/hell event, and lots and lots of other stuff 500 XP]

Note in an effort to steer the story to the here and now Spandwick makes a speech, with a little help from his beautiful wife Bel- basically it’s this. Bel is fixed, Spandwick therefore wants to pick a few things up from their lonely hut in the wilds, and then head on to Castell Gwythyr, he wants to see his brother Erky. He- sorry, they (Spandwick & Bel)- want to re-join the world.

It’s a tender moment, and it works- the PCs jump back into action, and cease- at least for a short while, their pondering and navel gazing.

[Spandwick motivates the Dark Squad 100 XP]

The Dark Squad also take a loud moment to reaffirm their intent- they’re going to find the seventh bad dead Uthgardt ancestor (the fiend/hag, Nightshade) and send them back to their barrow, and in the process rescue Garumn from the shadowy hell in which he presently resides.

Go team Dark Squad!

Just to note at this point the collective bothering by a variety of PCs (but very mostly Buggles) finally causes Vinnie to relent and tell his colleagues about his bathhouse fun, and his encounter with a massive turtle called Sheldon.

After Vinnie’s revelation there follows yet more grouching from the various members of the Dark Squad who briefly sojourned in hell (again, their word). There is consternation in the ranks- but, let’s be realistic here, the players are not quibbling with the DMs judgement call. They’ve just got their elbows out and are looking for someone to complain to.

Although, at some point during this clutter, Buggles makes something akin to the following statement- “I’m going to change.”

This gets the biggest laugh of the night, and is a constant theme for all that follows.

However in amongst the chatter is an idea- Newt has got it into his head (maybe) that the ‘thousand teeth’ referred to in one of the bad dead ancestor’s prophecies could be something to do with the dragon’s graveyard the Dark Squad visited earlier in their adventurers. It doesn’t, I’ll save you a little time dear reader.

However, the spot is only a couple of hours away and so the Dark Squad make the journey, and take a look around. They also want to find out if Ashardalon has answered them. Remember Buggles found a message from Ashardalon here (‘I will be watching you’), and so Vinnie left a reply for the abomination- scratched on the bones of an ancient dragon skeleton (‘We need to talk’).

The dragon graveyard is as it was, Newt however (ulterior motive) takes the opportunity to collect up a myriad bone fragments of long dead dragons- he’s started in on collecting for his DIY Home Weird Warlock Kit, for when he gets a lair.

Note all the stuff the PCs stole from the land of the bad dead ancestors- which was chunk of junk for Newt (old bones, skulls, desiccated organs taken from ancient corpses- that kinda thing), alas disappeared when the pocket plane popped out of existence.

However, the journey is not a bust- Ashardalon has replied to Vinnie’s missive. The new message states- ‘We do. I will come for you.’

Just to make certain, the conversation so far is-

Ashardalon: ‘I will be watching you.’
Vinnie: ‘We need to talk.’
Ashardalon: ‘We do. I will come for you.’

So, Ashardalon will be along for a- ‘chat’. That’s nice- and now Vinnie is playing it cagey, the druid has doubts. Note, Vinnie’s translation of Ashardalon’s message was much watered down- with no threat present, something like- “It sez- Ashardalon agreez wiz uz, we will meet wid ‘im.”

The fact that Ashardalon is ‘coming’ for the Dark Squad is only revealed when a full (and accurate) translation of the message is requested and gained from Newt- the warlock tabaxi can read any language remember.

Is Ashardalon the bad guy? The good guy? Something in-between?

[At the Dragon’s Graveyard again 250 XP]

Mystery unsolved we head back to Old Mare’s tent, one last final chat and then there’s no time like the present- the Dark Squad (including Daktari) and with Geradil, Spandwick and Bel in tow, are heading off back into the Neverwinter Woods.

First stop will be Spandwick and Bel’s hut in the wilds, although after a late start the gang only get a few miles into their journey before they have to set up camp for the night.

Note- we’re in the month of Uktar now, and the snow is coming down, the temperature stays around the freezing mark for much of the day, drops a little during the night. So, the going is arduous and yet the adventurers for whatever reason (I’m as amazed as you are) are all getting on- pulling together. The Buggles ‘I am going to change’ joke is still being mined for all its worth, but whisper this- the short section we’ve played so far- between the return from the steppes/bathhouse/hell and now, they’re all playing nicely and quipping and riffing off each other.

So, first night in camp and- stirges, lots of the little buggers, actually fifteen of them in two dense waves- and there are victims- including both Bel and Spandwick (but Vinnie, Ram and Newt also take hits). The gnome pair are close to death when they’re saved by quick work from Buggles and Ram, phew- that was close.

2706.jpg

They HATE stirges. Which, I am happy to admit, is the entire reason the blood-sucking bastards are here.

Note the fight comes to a climactic end when Newt, babbling and raving again, launches a fireball into the air and explodes it amongst the densest part of the stirge surge- killing nearly half of the flock, and also incinerating the upper reaches of a number of nearby trees.

The ensuing fire does not, fortunately, take hold.

[Flock of stirges 375 XP]

The rest of the night passes without incident, and the next day- the same again, its tough going in places but the Dark Squad see it through, and arrive at Spandwick and Bel’s hut mid-afternoon.

The rogues, travelling a little ahead of the main group (and remember this is Buggles’ home forest) creep up on and discover an orc nosing around the hut, and the sounds of commotion within. The pair tell their friends, and then- just before the discussion can begin regarding how best to play this, Buggles puts an arrow in the back of the orc outside of the hut.

“I’m going to change!” Is the battle-cry.

Remarkably the Buggles-shot orc survives, and starts bellowing, but not for long- Belphegor’s fiery blast ends its struggle, and then Buggles is quickly to the hut- through the window he sees another orc within, the orc also sees Buggles.

The wood elf shoots the bad fellow- another hit, but another survivor, Buggles positions himself hidden behind the door to the building, and while situated there hears straining sounds coming from around the side of the building- another orc? Maybe.

Vinnie follows Buggles in and with a produce flame ends the life of the badly wounded orc in the hut.

At which point a hill giant, sans pants- it was mid toilet, straightens to its full height, strides around the corner of the hut and smashes its greatclub into Buggles- bloodying the wood elf in an instant, and also caving in a good six feet of the wooden structure.

2707.jpg

Hill giant caught short.

Newt hisses and a second later the great giant clutches at its eyes and roars, it’s blinded.

The dirty tabaxi bastard (forgive me).

Well, that was fun while it lasted- all of the members of the Dark Squad give it all they’ve got. Buggles crits the giant with Mongoose his magical scimitar, and then slices it again with his off-hand blade.

Daktari rages, after a few choice words, and then begins cutting chunks out of the giant’s tree-trunk legs, the great beast screams at it dances and stumbles.

Gwen skewers it.

Vinnie bathes the thing in faerie fire- just in case it throws off the warlock-induced blindness.

Ram stabs it up good and proper, the hill giant lashes out furiously, blindly swishing and swatting with its greatclub- managing only to slam the flat end once into Daktari, who in his rage ignores the hurt.

Note the hill giant’s second save was… a ‘1’.

There follows more slicing and cutting- Vinnie is the first to crack, “I feel zorry for zer poor fellow!”

The giant is soon after critically wounded, it flees- and in a random direction, which as it turns out is directly through Gwen the Skeleton. The ex-duergar undead, skewers the beast with her piercing rapier rather than attempt to dodge the rushing panicked creature- she kills the giant dead. Alas the resulting collapse almost shatters Gwen, Buggles’ companion- when rescued from beneath the beast, has gone from full (52 HP) to 4 HP.

The battle however is won.

[Orcs and a hill giant 2000 XP]

Newt, still working on his Grisly Warlock Home-Starter Kit attempts to remove the eyes from the fallen giant, alas the tabaxi manages to burst both ocular orbits attempting to prise them out.

There follows a brief sojourn at the hut, Spandwick and Bel grab the few things they want to keep, and then after another motivating speech by the former- it’s on again.

Into the cold and wilds- and that’s how it goes for the next two nights and days, with a bit more snow- but nothing that the Dark Squad can’t handle, all the way back to, at last- Castell Gwythyr.

What the hell?

2708.jpg

Castell Gwythyr, before and after."Oh, I've sent you the wrong map", I told the players, and then sent them the ruined version.

Castell Gwythyr is a wreck, a ruin- and after a thorough search and a myriad checks from the investigations team (mostly Vinnie and Newt). The following information is recovered, or else inferred-

1) Castell Gwythyr was destroyed by a very large red dragon- scorch marks here and there, even after the all the snow, one large dragon claw shaped footprint (over six feet long)- the other foot seemingly kicked down one of the five foot thick walls of the fortress. This was a very big dragon.

2) The Dark Squad saw a huge ancient red dragon a while back! Newt suggested that the dragon could have been Ashardalon, the tabaxi thinks the abomination can change shape.

3) This action here happened a while ago- note the Dark Squad (with not great rolls) can’t pin down exactly how long ago this all took place. They’ve been gone from Castell Gwythyr for over a month remember.

4) The smallest charred fragments of bone are all that are found to indicate that many (all?) of the folk that lived in the Castell also perished here.

5) Correction, a secret hiding place with a c/old fire pit is found- and scraps of scavenged ration packs, someone survived- Ram concludes. Later a set of small footprints are located by Vinnie, the tracks lead away from the Castell, heading- possibly, in the direction of Neverwinter. The footprints are at most only a few days old.

6) Did Erky survive? He’s only a little guy- a gnome, surely they must have been Erky’s footprints, after all Lady Luck, Tymora, is in the little guy’s corner. Several fine speeches are made in an effort to buoy the spirits of Spandwick and Bel.

[Lots of investigating in Castell Gwythyr 750 XP]

The adventurers swear to get back to Neverwinter as soon as they can (with Geradil, Spandwick & Bel), they sincerely hope that they will find Erky alive and well there.

They’re going to make every effort to find out what they can about- well, a dozen or so different things (they each have a list), and have sworn to find Erky, and to get Garumn rescued from the land of the bad dead ancestors (by finding Nightshade and sending her back).

Next session- Downtime in Neverwinter, redux.

Just a note from the kindly DM- we’re about thirty minutes into the film here, or so it seems to me- the gang are set up and pretty gnarly with it, this session- for some reason or other, they really started to enjoy each other’s company, and get along. Don’t get me wrong- they always ‘get along’ but there was a lot more warmth and bonhomie here. So, they seem to be in it together. Time then for the difficult middle section of the movie- something happens, it gets investigated or its arse kicked, and a new piece of the puzzle (mostly sky, no edges- or better still a corner) is found.

I’m building something of my own for the next bit- although stealing stuff left, right and centre. I like to look at great fantasy maps and wonder what could happen here? So, I’ve got lots of bits of plot, a place to call ‘new’ home for the Dark Squad, a few new NPCs, and a veritable gang of villains. It seems I’m going to be drawing the picture on the jigsaw just ahead of the Dark Squad finding the pieces. That’s going to be fun- I enjoy that kind of thing.

Also, just to say I’ll be putting together a separate post here with all of the ongoing prophecies and communiques the Dark Squad have uncovered to date- just so that the players can find it all in one place.

Also, for no clear reason, I decided to copy and paste out all of the notes from the calendar section of Fantasy Grounds, just to show the adventures of the Dark Squad in diary form. I’ll also post that here.

Cracking session fellers, as Stu (Buggles) e-mailed the next day- best one yet.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
In Fantasy Grounds I make a few notes, these are the basis for the session before recap I do at the start of each new game time.

Here they are, just to show how long things took to get done, a diary as it were-

1492 Year of the Three Ships Sailing.

25th Flamerule

Session #1:
Dark Squad hired by Gundren Rockseeker in Neverwinter.

26th Flamerule

Session #1:
Travel from Neverwinter to Thundertree.

27th Flamerule

Session #1:
Travel from Neverwinter to Thundertree, arrive late and get a room in the Ol' Boar Inn, later head to the Coley Farm to fight the Scratchy Bastard- turns out to be a bunch of Twig Blights. Princess Lucky is saved.

28th Flamerule

Session #2:
Investigations in Thundertree, including meeting with Kerowyn Hucrele- Dark Squad hired, with salvage rights, to enter the Sunless Citadel to rescue the Hucrele kids.

Head to the ravine and enter the Sunless Citadel, kill Giant Rats, avoid traps and then unleash an Ice Mephit. Meet with Meepo- Kobold Dragonkeeper, taken to see the Kobold Queen- Yusdrayl.

Session #3: Depart with Meepo and Fraggle (tough kobold guard), in pursuit of Cornflakes the Dragon, although first stop to see the Dragon Door. Then follow tracks- investigate fountain and get potion but cannot enter the "Rebuke the Dead" door.

Onwards- fight way through three chambers worth of Goblins- eight killed. Rescue Erky Timbers (Gnome Priest of Tymora) and kobold prisoners.

On again- Meepo killed by Cornflakes, White Wyrmling. Cornflakes killed by Dark Squad- although Garumn takes a double beating.

Session #4: Find Khundrukhar Dwarven Scroll in Cornflake's treasure. Retreat to the Kobold’s lair, claim rewards for successes.

Relaxing- attacked by Hobgoblins, Goblins & Twig Blights; Dark Squad defend themselves and the Kobold's lair. Success. Yusdrayl not happy- promise to get rid of the Goblins.

Discover the Dragon Key is stuck in the jaws of the Dragon Altar- need the 'light that does not go out' to get the key- probably.

Long rest, at last.

29th Flamerule

Session #4:
Head back into Goblin territory, Level 2 now, and with Vincenbear. Take down a bunch of Skeletons and a few more Goblins- there are lots more ahead.

Session #5: Do a deal with Grenl, Goblin Wise-Woman- they all hate Durn the new Hobgoblin chief of the tribe. Dark Squad slaughter Durn and his Hobgoblin cronies, followed by more chatter with Grenl, and info about the Twilight Grove. Discover Talgen Hucrele killed by Durn, Sharwyn & Sir Braford sent below. Karakas- unknown, presumed to be a bad guy.

Send Grenl and Goblins away, then descend into the Twilight Grove- kill more Twiggies and Skellies, and then take care of Ballsack (Bugbear) and his Giant Rats. More investigations- Underdark one-way, more Goblins another, and a ravine (with a possible Fire Worm) in the other direction. Take a well-earned short rest.

Session #6: Ramshambow completes his translation of the ancient dwarven scroll found in Cornflakes' hoard- the lost clanhold of Durgeddin the Black is near Mount Hotenow, that's just down the road.

Then Buggles puts his head around the door and gets interrogated- welcome to the Dark Squad. Then adventuring again- a bunch of tree-etched goblins are taken down- more grisly magic/evil nature experiments are found and investigated, the Outcast is a very bad druid, is the consensus.

Onwards, through a bunch more garden chambers, taking down a scythe wielding bugbear (Buggles gets sliced) and a bunch more goblins. More growing rooms (and more gardeners- skeletal this time) are discovered and avoided. On again, into a very dark chamber with a great big statue of a red dragon...

Session #7: Newt activates the Red Dragon statue and is enhanced, this after flushing the Shadow out- the undead foe strangles Ram for a while. On through a broken (small) library, with a few finds, and all the way to the Twilight Grove proper. Bust in on a clutch of Goblins and a few more Twig Blights- they're killed swiftly.

Break into the Outcast's office- find lots of money and a few other tomes, debate whether to go on/short rest/long rest- thirty minutes of chatter and the decision is eventually made- retreat, back to the Goblin experiments chamber for an extended rest.

30th Flamerule

Session #7:
In the Goblin experiments chambers, towards the end of the extended rest Ram hears more Goblins moving around outside. It turns out to be Grenl and her friends, Vincenzo chats with the Goblin Shaman- it becomes obvious to the Druid's colleagues the Goblins are not here (initially) to help out. Ram initiates the slaughter, although his companions (save for Vincenzo) are as keen to get their hands dirty. It's a massacre... no, really, a massacre- just ask Ram.

Extended rest taken- the PCs are Level 3.

Session #8: After the rest all the way back to the Twilight Grove proper, a massive fungi and briar filled cavern with ruins of another fortress within. Vincen G. Spider makes an appearance and does a bit of scouting ahead- Twig Blights attack and are repulsed. Then onwards to the Outcast, the Gulthias Tree and the plant's new supplicants- Kerowyn and Sir Braford. It kicks off after a bunch of chatter, and twelve rounds later and it's the end of the session, the bad guys (including Kulket, the Giant Frog) are dead. Kerowyn and Sir Braford have been saved, courtesy of a magic apple, and the Gulthias Tree has sprouts of green. Victory!

Session #9: After the fight, chat with Kerowyn & Sir Braford- as best they can, the pair are seriously unwell. A good look around the chamber, and then spy in on the ex-Skeleton gardeners (they're destroyed) and then sneak up on a pair of Fire Worms- leave the beasts alone.

Then back up to the Sunless Citadel, through the Goblin scrap pile looking for stuff. Still searching for Karakas (Ranger) and the candle- the light that never goes out.

Find and explore the rat lair- in which, Sir Braford hoarsely states Karakas gave his life to save them. Ram triggers the poison spewing fountain and then the guys get jumped by more Giant Rats, including Guthash. Victory! Then discover Karakas' body, take the Ranger’s ring back to tell his tale.

Then back to the Kobolds to claim the rest of the PCs prizes from Yusdrayal at the altar. Then with Erky back to the door that will not open- rebuke/turn the dead to open the way. Erky gets it done- there's a single candle within, on a dragon altar. Skeletons burst out of the sarcophagi and it gets to fighting- another win for the Dark Squad. Take a strange whistle, a candle and a potion bottle.

Candle in the Dragon statue/altar and watch the show- a projection (maybe) of some ancient times, the collapse? An attack? What's going on- the PCs watch the nine-foot-tall vaguely Elven/Draconic (maybe) robed guy run all the way to the Dragon Door... then back to reality.

The Dragon Key is in the Dragon Door- and there's a room beyond... but that's for next time.

Session #10: Beyond the dragon door is... first up, a chamber with a glowing globe that plays “also sprach zarathrustra", at least when Newt gets to it- the volume is terrific but none of the PCs seem to mind- the kobolds run off, the globe gets smashed- shut up. Onwards, into a trapped corridor- Buggles gets shot, the PCs get across. Into another ancient undisturbed chamber- high ceilings, and a fifteen-foot-tall dragon statue- menacing pose, it talks- asks its riddle, and the answer is stars. Thanks Vincenzo. A secret door opens and into the tomb of the Dragon Lord- you can see the great sarcophagus through the archway ahead, alas there's a spiked pit in the way, and a bunch of other life-like statues. The figures here look exactly like the guard elves in the PCs earlier vision (last session).

Ram heads over the pit (just) and is attacked by a stirge/small demon (a quasit called Jot). There's a bit of panic but Buggles shoots the demon attacker, Jot disappears, and then for the rest of the session mostly harangues the PCs for the remainder of their stay here- which turns out to be both short and long, you'll see- read on.

It's open the sarcophagi time, only- there's an earth tremor, this after Garumn gets hurt trying to jump over the spiked pit- they need the dwarf because it requires strength to open the sarcophagi. Note Vincen G Spider makes a brief appearance- he webs the pit, safety first. But back to the earth tremors, and the PCs are starting to doubt their actions- should they really open the sarcophagi? The earth tremors are getting worse, meantime Newt has found a secret tunnel- I wonder where it goes? Vince really doesn't want to open the sarcophagi- alas Yusdrayl and her kobold friends have a different opinion- "Open it NOW! Release the Dragon Lord!"

It gets to fighting, and as it turns out the kobolds are very good at jumping over the pit too... the fracas is interrupted however- the place is quite definitely collapsing. Time to get out (the decision is eventually made) through the secret tunnel and into another hidden chamber, written on the wall in draconic- "Never let it out..."

Too late. back in the sarcophagi chamber the Dragon Lord has arrived- "I AM ASHARDALON", that's not good- Ashardalon, the PCs know, is a (ancient?) dragon that was worshipped here by the Dragon Cultists in times long past. Well, he's back...

Then flee to the exit, with Newt following the nine-foot-tall robed dragon/elf (Ashardalon) as it tears its way out. The kobolds are mostly forgotten about- except for Yusdrayl who is cut down by the rogues, the rest either die or flee. The PCs are also trying to outrun the ongoing collapse, hampered by the fact that the floor is bucking and roiling at every step.

Eventually, back to the battlements, this after a brief bit of further of nastiness with Jot- the quasit appears and gets eldritch blasted by Newt, that's not very friendly.

On the battlements are Sharwyn, Sir Braford and Erky- they got out, and the elf/dragon abomination- Ashardalon, but that's not the strangest thing- the entire Sunless Citadel is being propelled upwards, to the surface.

The Sunless Citadel gets to see the sun one last time before finally collapsing in upon itself- Ashardalon, ignoring everyone/thing still- strides off. The PCs and the other survivors scramble free and clear- watch the continuing destruction of the ancient ruin and count their blessings.

They're out of spells, powers, everything- three of them are very badly wounded- Ram (as usual), Garumn and Buggles, but they have survived- and rescued two of the folk they were sent to fetch. Alas Jot has also survived- "See ya later ass hats!"

The adventure, save for the retelling, is over- back to Thundertree.

Midsummer

Session #11:
The after-party coinciding with Midsummer. The Dark Squad collect their rewards from the Hucrele's, visit with Rurik the smith- eventually taking him Shatterspike, this after Sir Braford has gifted them the blade. Plenty more meetings, and then on the road back to Neverwinter.

1st Eleasis

Session #11:
On the road to Neverwinter, arrive on the 3rd Eleasis.

3rd Eleasis

Session #12:
Selling stuff, buying stuff- downtime activities in Neverwinter. Then on to the problems with Gundren Rockseeker, Big Al of the Shoremean and Erky Timber, the Gnome Priest of Tymora that 'sold' Big Al the fake Durgeddin the Black hand axe.

Downtime in Neverwinter et al continues until the 20th of Uktar.

20th Uktar

Session #12:
The Dark Squad get their gear together and head off for Castell Gwythyr in the Neverwinter Woods- five days of travel to get there. They’re going to search Mount Hotenow for the Stone Tooth and find the entrance to the lost forges of Durgeddin the Black.

25th Uktar

Session #12:
Arrive at Castell Gwythyr, meet with Lord Boskin, Lorrelade the Scout and Erky Timbers.

Discover that Lord B has an Orc problem, and the Orcs are laired in a place called the Stone Tooth, funny that the Dark Squad are searching for the Stone Tooth, Khundrukar lies nearby- the former holdfast of Durgeddin the Black.

Also, Erky's brother Spandwick the Magic Gnome (ex-stage magician/mesmerist) and his wife/assistant Bel (a bit addled) need to be checked in upon.

Next step, into the cold wilds of the Neverwinter Woods and the Crags of Hotenow, in search of Orcs and Durgeddin's forges, onwards to adventure.

Session #13: Into the Neverwinter Forest, the cold and wilds- good progress is made. No encounters, they're on their way to the Stone Tooth, although first stop Spandwick & Bel's hut.

26th Uktar

Session #13:
Into the Neverwinter Forest, the cold and wilds- although a hard slog- with plenty of snow. No encounters, they're on their way to the Stone Tooth, although first stop Spandwick & Bel's hut.

27th Uktar

Session #13:
Into the Neverwinter Forest, the cold and wilds- easy travel but crossing the main trail an encounter with an Orc hunting party heading home- the Dark Squad slaughter all five. Onwards and to Spandwick and Bel's hut, the place is a mess- ransacked. It seems the pair of gnomes have been captured- by Orcs, and a big wolf. Rest here and follow the Orcs the next day.

28th Uktar

Session #13:
Into the Neverwinter Forest, the cold and wilds- another hard slog through the snow, eventually the Dark Squad locate a bunch of old ruins, the Orcs (and big Wolf) stopped here, but seemingly fled the area in a rush. Then the Owlbear shows up and gets slaughtered. Later, around the campfire a pair of Giant Spiders attempt to grab some lunch- Ram is grabbed up and paralyzed, Newt comes to his rescue, while Vincen G. Spider delivers the killing blow to the other. Then rest- continue following the Orc hunters tomorrow.

29th Uktar

Session #13:
Into the Neverwinter Forest, the cold and wilds- a day spent travelling- following the Orc (and big Wolf) hunters, eventually a hidden secondary trail is found- the Orcs headed into the lower reaches of the Stone Tooth. Rest here, and then make the climb tomorrow.

30th Uktar

Session #13:
Four hours climb to a high ledge on the Stone Tooth, a couple of Orc guards are taken down by the rogues, then- after the discovery of Orc archers above, the Dark Squad make their dash to the Mountain Door. We're mid-dash when the session ends, the front of the party has discovered a narrow ledge beyond the door and a rope bridge over a chasm... Bugger!

Session #14: Three plus hours of play and about five minutes of actual in-game action. The Dark Squad power through twenty or so Orcs and their various leaders et al- Vak & Thrag (Dire Wolves), Old Yarrack (Orog) and Great Ulfe (Ogre). Alas Burdug (Eye of Gruumsh) gets away, although she's badly wounded. Also, the prisoners- "Inconceivable" Geradil, screaming Courana and "Where's Bel?" Spandwick the Magic Gnome are rescued, well... sorta.

Session #15: Wander about a bit in search of the missing Orc Eye of Gruumsh, and Bel (Spandwick's wife)- find the Orc Shaman's lair- then the Grand Stair, and a bunch of Stirges. Then Ram unleashes fiery hell- the Dwarf door trap. Venture down the stair- after the missing Orc Shaman/Bel- more Stirges down a narrow crevasse.

Wander back upstairs and through all of the various Orc chambers- lots of treasure, but no Bel- where is she? That's what Spandwick is constantly asking. Vincenzo manages to get a poison breathing Dwarf statue trap to work. Then find the secret door back into the Orc archer's former quarters- and rest.

Level 4 is achieved.

The Feast of the Moon

Session #16:
Rise and shine Level 4- after much chatter it is decided that the Orc’s former prisoners are travelling with the Dark Squad- that's not good. A Locate Object spell fails to find Bell's wedding ring- as described by Spandwick, and so the Squad head below again.

First an attack of Stirges and then Ram goes exploring and discovers a nest of Troglodytes, the Rogue gets away in time and then returns with his friends. The entire tribe including caster leader, and giant lizard turn up for the fight- victory for the Dark Squad, although at a price. Then Vincen G Octopod- chasing after the invisible Trog leader is confronted by a (HUGE) Giant Subterranean Lizard, it gets bloody- particularly when Vincen G. is swallowed by the beast. Also, Buggles and Ram take dirt naps- but victory at last, courtesy of Vincenzo's Moonbeam. The guys retreat back to the stairs to lick their wounds and rest.

Session #17: Back to the trog caverns, search the abandoned lair- silver found, and the former lair of the giant subterranean lizard- more silver found, and a few potions. Then through tricksy caverns by fast flowing water into the sinkhole cavern, and from there to the Glitterhame and the tombs of the ancients- a fight with a trio of violet fungi. Time spent examining the dwarven stone sarcophagi- mostly empty, but a few clues here. Then check out the other thus far uninvestigated cavern passage- trogs, the bastard Kaarghaz is back, and they have a cave bear- kick their arses.

Session #18: Clear up after the Trog fight and check around, find passage out of the mountain- locate cave and persuade Geradil and Courana to stay there. Head back into the mountain- soon after Newt and Vinnie poisoned by mould and very badly injured. Find nice silver helm and slitheringhate (mongoose!) a Durgeddin the Black scimitar (taken by Buggles). Beat up- head back out of the mountain to Courana's cave to rest and tell stories- about Newt's slave history, and his Warlock pact, also a bit from Buggles about him and Gwen. Then rest.

1st Nightal

Session #18:
Rise and shine and back into the mountain, back to the Glitterhame- Buggles gets attacked by a Grick, and then another one shows up- tough fight but both tentacled monsters killed, and their lair found- a little treasure. Also, the door to Durgeddin's forges spotted from above, alas it won’t open- no key, great (great) lock and the thing is made of adamantine.

Now searching for Bel and the Key to the Forges. Down the sinkhole, ancient storage chambers found... and an Ooze!

Session #19: Defeat two Grey Oozes, check through the storeroom- nothing to be found and then go exploring. Spot the Roper and attack- Garumn is grabbed (and bitten) Vincenzo just grabbed- tough fight until the tentacled Vincen G. shows up.

Then... lotsa stuff, save the Roper's corpse from floating off (treasure inside), meet Bel- find the key to the door to Durgeddin's forge and then Bel(phegor) turns up and issues instructions to Newt. Then find lots of stuff in the Roper's gizzard. back to the secret cave- en route check out the waterlogged storeroom and find potion sack.

To the cave to deposit Bel and Spandwick, although now Buggles and Vincenzo are both poorly (and exhausted) some sort of disease in the water they've been swimming in. Cure up and rest up, another overnight stay.

Ram spots huge ancient red dragon wing-over during his watch.

2nd Nightal

Session #19:
Head back into the mountain, and to the door- then through, into Durgeddin's forges, but first a chamber with big statue dwarves with axes and two doors- it's a trap, and so it proves- Newt gets slashed repeatedly. Through a secret door, alerting a magical mouth- "Intruders!" and on into a great dwarven hall.

The Dark Squad are curtly told to do one (clear off) and by a hidden dwarf?

Session #20: Fight the duergar, after Newt upsets them. Then stop to chat- then fight again, kill 'em all. Mooch about a bit and then yet another duergar opens a door- and then disappears, and another. Hunt the duergar- the doors to the forge are opened and the secret's out- more duergar including Snurrevin- Smith & Wizard. Also, Nimira- heavily armed and armoured female duergar warrior. Big fight- close to the wire. Dark Squad FTW although the two duergar named above escape.

Search for enemies and anything to find, shut and lock the door to the forge- then rest. Follow river cavern from forge- spot a ledge- rope ladder leading down. Vincen G. Spider shows up scuttles over to ledge and finds secret crawlspace. Rest of Dark Squad make their way over. Rogues sent into crawlspace- one branch leads back to Nimira's chamber (which they chose not to search earlier).

Crawlspace leads on into communal area with well, and the bodies of two dozen ancient fallen- orcs and dwarves. Dwarf ghost shows up- rages and splutters about the orcs following them here- to get him? Who's him- is it Durgeddin the Black?

Follow ghost on- tells the story of Man and the Crocodile- taking it in turns to carry each other across their respective kingdoms. What's the story about do the Dark Squad think? Buggles with a good answer- fulfil your promises. Although 'he' had a different answer. Then dwarf heads through door- "they're in here..." There's obviously more to the ghost's story...

Session #21: Fight ancient dwarven skeletons- find some silver, talk a bit more to the dwarven ghost- and then follow the spirit through secret doors into ancient dwarven chapel. Fight undead skeletal ogres and orc champion wight- find the body of Durgeddin the Black, only it isn't- the dwarf ghost was lying.

Chat a while longer and rest, then head back and search the dwarven chambers (avoiding the ghost). Newt gets smothered by a massive carpet and the first drafts for the ancient dwarven scroll (that lead the Dark Squad here) are found in Arundil (High Wizard's) chambers

Then an armoury in which a pair of animated armours attack, then a locked door and Idalla.

Female shield dwarf turns out (at the very end) to be a fiendish succubi- Garumn briefly kissed into oblivion that is until the Dark Squad to the rescue- Vinnie with his ear to the door. Idalla turns ethereal and departs.

Oh, but Garumn is still in love with Idalla.

Last stop, en route to the final unopened door, another encounter with the dwarven ghost who finally reveals that Durgeddin the Black was an albino- a stunted dwarf, not big and brawny- only just over 3ft tall. But he was the greatest smith there has ever been, the ghost quite sad.

Session #22: Fight tables and Nimira, the last duergar- in the kitchen. Tables hurt. The dwarven ghost turns up- it's Arundil, High Wizard to Durgeddin the Black- who, incidentally, got away. Lots more of Arundil's story- he summoned all the bad things including Idalla, but now he's been saved (by the Dark Squad). Rest up for the remainder of the day and night- Level 5.

3rd Nightal

Session #22:
Newt checks out the library, the tabaxi can now read any language. Then down below to meet the dragon and recover the last Durgeddin weapon. Sneak about a bit- Vinnie falls off (nearly) a bridge but the Dragon is alerted. Ram & Buggles get acid hosed (the latter to unconsciousness- from full) then the fight back (sorta) begins. But Ashardalon is also in the mix, with his help the Dragon (Nightscale) gets slaughtered. Note Ashardalon only reveals himself at the end when he climbs on to treasure island and after getting shot by a just-healed Buggles, grabs something from the hoard and swims away.

The Dark Squad soak up all of the treasure, and then Garumn reveals he's actually dead- what now?

Eventually exit the mountain and back to the secret cave, with the corpse of Garumn.

Session #23: In the secret cave telling stories and chattering about what has been going on, subjects- Ashardalon, Garumn & Durgeddin the Black. Then the Uthgardt arrive- meet Daktari, convinces the eyes in the night/Dark Squad to come to camp- the Uthgardt have a prophecy, oh and get buzzed by Nightwing (Pegasus black as night).

To the Barbarian camp and meet Timor, he's not pleasant (first and last) the PCs get him onside for a while with nice gifts (bits of dead things) until Newt uses his magic- and now he's not going to hand over the artefact the Sky Pony clan have been keeping for the PCs for generations.

Bugger, back to the tent for more chat and Schlapp, fermented mares milk booze- tasty good. Vinnie gets dronk and turns Octopod, Daktari doesn't know whether to fuck him or fight him.

Sleep it off.

4th Nightal

Session #23:
Rise and shine and go to Thricewatch Lake- Ashardalon exited the mountain here, as did Durgeddin the Black centuries past. Then on to the Dragon's Graveyard- a great many skeletal wyrms here including a huge specimen. Ashardalon has been here, and then a Skeleton Juggernaut arises and attempts to slaughter the guys.

There's a message from Ashardalon- "I will be watching you", Vinnie messages back "we need to talk", top work.

Back to camp- more Schlapp and chatter, then a meeting with Old Mare- top up the Dark Squad's gear for the next adventure, into the land of the bad dead ancestors. But that starts tomorrow morning- cu there.

5th Nightal

Session #24:
More chatter with Old Mare, then go and fetch Timor- we want our artefact, the Dark Squad get it- and it's a button, magical but not sure what use it is. A button with a maze on it.

Then after an hour-long ritual it's over to the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Barrow/Ancestor #1- Kratchik, and skeletons and a flameskull- it gets very bloody but eventually the ancestor is bested and tells his secret. Buggles chat, then rest.

Barrow/Ancestor #2- Larkoz, and Buggles and Newt make the ancestor river dance for 10-15 minutes, and then he tells his secret.

Barrow/Ancestor #3- Kolven, seeks forgiveness and tells the Dark Squad what he knows almost immediately. Vinnie absolves the bad dead ancestor of his sins.

Barrow/Ancestor #4- Spetznaz, and the guy likes his horses and so after defeating skeletal equicephs convince the ancestor to go for a ride on the back of Vince D Horse. Brilliant! He tells his secret.

Then out into the open and the dead come for the Dark Squad, including a decrepit version of Cornflakes. The battle won lightning strikes and Ram and Vinnie have a lifeline- Garumn, Vinnie thinks, is looking out for them, the sound of the forge.

Session #25: On again, in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Barrow/Ancestor #5- crawling claws/orc hands from the PCs backpacks- Vinnie turns it into a performance but Newt steals the show (the tabaxi is clawed unconscious, healed by the druid and then performs acrobatics while firing off the light show). Ram juggles dead hands, and Buggles... plays his flute. The bad dead ancestor Golcanz is delighted, he tells his secret.

Daktari gets a hair cut from Newt.

Back out of the barrow and to the next, but not quite- here come the dead again- mostly goblins and hobbos- Spike Growth takes care of them, and then the lightning strikes- and nobody's dodging.

Lightning gives PCs inspiration points- cool, which can be used for healing.

Then more dead- including Ballsack the Bugbear and a few other named folk the Dark Squad offed back in the Sunless Citadel. It's a duck shoot with added Spike Growth mangler. The dead are soon dead again- lightning strike and the PCs are buzzing.

Barrow/Ancestor #6- Vinnie tries the chatter but that doesn't work, Latgun is not impressed, he frightens Ram just with his stare.

Buggles plugs the guy in the face twice- two Crits, and then Newt fills the chamber with fire- Latgun is toast. Then back again to share his secret.

The Dark Squad watch and wait- and sure enough the dead come again. More Spike Growth follows, all the PCs back in the barrow- except for Gwen who gets stuck in the dead Outcast's entangle. Kulket, the giant frog gets close to getting into the barrow but another massacre. Except the dead Outcast and the witch doctor goblin- Grenl stay outside and hidden. Newt and Buggles exit to kill the last two dead. Lightning strikes- and then the second wave, Yusdrayal (dead kobold queen), a few dead orcs, goblins etc, a pair of dead giant spiders and... the dead owlbear. Most everything gets shot, spike growthed or otherwise slaughtered. But the Owlbear tears Buggles a new one, and then rips open the side of the barrow- but victory for the Dark Squad and more lightning.

Then the final wave- orcs, lots of them- rushing into the barrow, also Great Ulfe the dead Ogre, and Old Yarrack, the dead Orog, and also a pair of deceased dire wolves- its tense. At the end Buggles and Ram have taken a beating, Newt is hiding and sniping- Vinnie is a badly wounded Bear and Daktari is raging.

Lightning strikes- one more barrow to do.

Session #26: Still in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Barrow/Ancestor #7 and the last ancestor, else a bunch of guardians quickly beaten down, but no ancestor- but then the dead come- Trogs, Giant Lizards and Stirges. Dark Squad FTW- and then the scratchy box is dug up, and there's a book inside of it. Then more dead- a Cave Bear, Gricks and more Trogs- with Kaarghaz the Trog Chief- and the Dark Squad FTW.

The book seems to be writing the story of the Dark Squad- ongoing, and from the start of their adventures- there's not much time to figure things out however as the dead are here again- Duergar, and invisible with it. Dark Squad FTW as usual, and Newt gets a chance to try to re-write the Dark Squad's story- and get them out of the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Then more dead- Ogre Skeletons, Orc Champion Wight- dwarven Skeletons and Nimira... Fight! Fight! Fight! All the way to Nightscale, the rotten black dragon killed in the forge- tough fight but a flying Ram, a fireball from Newt, and plenty of back up from Buggles the marksman.

Done- but still the Dark Squad are stuck in the land of the bad dead ancestors and there's still no last ancestor. Search everywhere- nothing, there's no way out... except death.

Then Vinnie talks to the light or is it Garumn- certainly the dead dwarf paladin is unhappy to be here, as it turns out he's been sent here by the All Father to be the seventh bad dead ancestor. So, Garumn gets situated in the last collapsed barrow, and then he gets bested by Buggles in a shooting competition. The dwarf hands over his secret.

But that's not enough- nothing happens, the Dark Squad are still stuck in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

Vinnie then traces the maze on the Uthgardt artefact- a voice, "Ask, and I will tell?"

"How do we get out of here?"

"DIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE..."

But that's for the next session.

Session #27: More chatter to begin with, a variety of attempts to figure out how to escape the land of the bad dead ancestors. Garumn speaks with Moradin, the All Father miscalculated, and now the former paladin is stuck here, although- he's no idea what's going to happen to the Dark Squad. Wait and see- Vinnie prays to the All Father too, as does Buggles- although the wood elf beseeches his Aunty Ingrid.

The lights go out, and the shadow walls of this pocket plane come crushing in- and kill the members of the Dark Squad...

In the middle of the storm, up high- no sound, except perhaps the whistle of the wind- the five members of the Dark Squad float.

Daktari ascends to a heavenly wayward dash racing the wind through the steppes on the back of his beloved beautiful mount- Vince D. Horse.

Vinnie ascends, into the bathhouse attended by geisha girls- Keke, Peke & Cheeky. Freeballin's he's sent to see Sheldon, a massive (MASSIVE) turtle. He can call on Sheldon just once, and only then when standing in the surf on a far shore.

Buggles, Newt & Ramshambow descend, and after a cold dark boat ride into some sort of hellish office. The trio's eyes covered by maze-etched coins, like the artefact the Dark Squad got from the Uthgardt. Tiny demon’s/devil’s scribe in books- and before them a demon at a desk (Larry), any last words...

Then suddenly a winged devil- it's Jot, the little terror informs Larry (the devil/demon) at the desk that these are the ass-hats that let Ashardalon out. The deadly trio are sent back to the world.

The five members of the Dark Squad awake in the yurt of Old Mare, they've been gone from Faerun for 24 days, so we'd better skip to then...

29th Nightal

Session #27:
The five members of the Dark Squad awake in the yurt of Old Mare, they've been gone from Faerun for 24 days, so we'd better skip to then... here we are.

More chatter, and recriminations, but Old Mare didn't know that the seventh ancestor had escaped- the missing fiend/hag is called Nightshade, not an Uthgardt chieftain but an old witch/wise woman, like Old Mare. The Dark Squad must get the ancestor back to set Garumn free- this they pledge.

Yet more chatter- the Uthgardt have gone, Courana with them- she married Timor, and the guys- as stated earlier, learn that their one day in the land of the bad dead ancestors has cost them 24 days in Faerun.

To the ancient dragon graveyard, Newt has an idea- something to do with a prophecy about a thousand teeth, but it's not to be. Although Vinnie has had his message to Ashardalon answered- the druid stated- "we need to talk", the reply- "We do. I will come for you." That's a little worrying.

Then no time like the present, get the gear together and out into the wilds.

At night camp stirges attack- a fireball makes the blood-draining flock go away.

30th Nightal

Session #27:
Tramping through the snow all day to Spandwick's hut- get there to find the place being turned over by orcs. Buggles starts the war, as it turns out there's a hill giant at its toilet- it comes roaring to the fight, gets blinded and then gets slaughtered, although it smashes Buggles and crushes (almost) Gwen.

Spandwick and Bel grab their stuff, then they're outta here. More trudging through snow, and another night camp in the cold.

1493 Year of the Purple Dragons.

1st Hammer

Session #27:
More trudging through snow, and another night camp in the cold.

2nd Hammer

Session #27:
More trudging through snow, and arrive at Castell Gwythyr late in the afternoon, the place has been destroyed.

Investigations- Red Dragon, a massive beas-t fire and force ripped the Castell apart and killed everyone here. Except perhaps one- a small person, or else a gnome- the trail leads in the direction of Neverwinter.

Is Erky still alive, Spandwick & Bel hope so, the PCs the same.

3rd Hammer

Session #28:
The return journey to Neverwinter, arrive at the city on the 6th of Hammer.

Cheers Goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Playa Playa


The Dark Squad Christmas single (see attached) words by New Tricks, as Vinnie said- "incredible mes amis, you 'ave managed to miss every note."

\ Not The Witcher /
\ Sing Along with The Dark Squad /
==================================

When this pretty cat
Went to seek the grail
With the Squad of Dark
Along came this tale

When those Black Hands fought
A White-scaled dragon
It's captors of goblins
All slain, we raised a flagon

They came after me
Wanted to hear me purr
Chased me down a tunnel
And messed up my fur

Citadel crashing down
No longer sunless
So cried The Dark Squad
We free'd Ashardalon

Sing along with the Dark Squad
O' Never of Winter
O' Never of Winter, oh oh oh
Sing along with the Dark Squad
O' Never of Winter

Stood before the Stonetooth
Upon Durgeddin's quest
Attacked by an owl-bear
They fought their best

The Dark Squad slew the orcs
Roasted them in flame
Deep inside Khundrakar
They found the Glitterhame

Ah-ah

She fell for his beard
A succubus revealed
She avoided demon genocide
So she must be feared

That's our epic tale
The Dark Squad prevailed
We cut-down Nightscale
Don't throw us in jail

Sing along with The Dark Squad
O' Never of Winter
O' Never of Winter, oh oh oh
Sing along with The Dark Squad
No strangers of Genocide

Sing along with The Dark Squad
O' Never of Winter
O' Never of Winter - oh oh oh
Sing along with The Dark Squad
No strangers of Genocide

Sing along with The Dark Squad
O' Never of Winter
O' Never of Winter, ah-ah-oh
Sing along with The Dark Squad
No strangers of Genocide

\ Lyrics by Bear /
\m/

Never has the following statement been more true-

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

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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Neverwinter Downtime Redux, but Darker

Session #028a Everything is Coming Up Erky.

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*
*Trapped in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

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)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


So, here we go again- the Neverwinter Downtime Redux, or at least the first bit of it, which in all truth, isn’t really downtime. Instead lots of good RP to follow.

Just a quick recap- Castell Gwythyr has been destroyed by a (huge Red Dragon, most likely)- although Erky may have escaped/survived the ordeal. The Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors has been bested/escaped- oh, but Garumn’s still stuck there so the Dark Squad now need to find the seventh bad ancestor- a hag/fiend called Nightshade, and send her back.

And… what was it, oh yeah- the forges of Durgeddin the Black have been found, and cleared of dangers.

Oh, and Ashardalon is going to pop by for a chat.

That’s nice.

2801.jpg

It's NEVERWINTER DOWNTIME TIME! Again... catchy.

And so we’re into it- Neverwinter that is, and I have a surprise for the PCs this evening, but for later on- only, well… the guys jump the gun at the start of the session and so the surprise comes sooner than I had expected- keep reading, it’ll hopefully start to make sense.

But first up because it’s just easy admin, the Dark Squad sell all of the loot that they found on their adventures- and what a haul. However loot selling, particularly for gems and jewellery etc. was much more profitable in the past because Garumn was with the Squad. Garumn is/was a jeweller by trade, so that helped considerably. Still, the Dark Squad now each have a big bag of cash to spend. Just for info around 1,500gp each, I don’t know how that equates to your games, but it’s plenty in mine.

However for purposes of the narrative the first thing the adventurers actually do back in Neverwinter is to meet up with Gundren Rockseeker, the Dark Squad’s patron, of sorts, for a debrief. They’re back in the Dog Arms Inn, where the adventurers will also be staying, Gundren gets them cheap rooms here.

2802.jpg

The Dog Arms Inn, Neverwinter- the map must have just loaded, two seconds later and the image would show Gwen sitting by Buggles' side, all cosy.

So, the Dark Squad have a story to tell (you’ve read it) and they try not to leave anything out, and they’re really very keen to chat, and also to embellish, and also very happy to take questions. Gundren is suitably overjoyed as a map and the front door key to the forge of Durgeddin the Black is handed over- he pays the guys in full for a job well done, and then also agrees to pay for food and ale for all of the adventurers (and hangers-on), for the evening.

The dwarf, soon after, is however saddened to learn of Garumn’s demise- although the Dark Squad’s follow up chatter regarding their meeting with Garumn in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors just leaves their patron somewhat confused about what to do for the best (see later).

[The Dark Squad’s story 500 XP]

Lastly, and the most worrying part of the Dark Squad’s tale is… the destruction of Castell Gwythyr by a huge red dragon- note this last fact isn’t a matter of record, but the PCs are pretty certain of what they saw there. Gundren is rendered speechless, this is a big deal- the Neverwinter authorities need to be told. Lord Boskin was a friend of Gundren’s, so… but, the PCs prevaricate, as in they (Buggles) quickly figure out that reporting the incident is going to lead to questions (remarkably prescient). What the wood elf actually said was something like, “they’re going to be looking for someone to blame, and that’ll be us.”

This conversation trundles on- it even sprawls for a while, two of the guys- Vinnie and Newt are keen, nay eager, to go and talk to the watch and tell them their tale. The rogues are keener still to avoid doing so, for reasons already made clear.

[The news that Castell Gwythyr has been destroyed 250 XP]

Well, question time is the surprise I had in store for the PCs this session, so after another ten minutes of listening to the players circle and offer opinions, well… I call the cops.

My secret for the session is Inspector Clawed (pronounced ‘Cloooor-D’) of the New Neverwinter movement, who is accompanied by several no-necked members of the Winterwatch. They pay a visit to the Dog Arms Inn- and interrupt the Dark Squad’s chatter. No time like the present, I figure- let’s force the issue.

The urbane dragonborn Clawed, invites the PCs to accompany him to Horsefetter Lane Watchhouse for a private conversation- the PCs are not being arrested, providing they- of course- agree to accompany Clawed of their own volition- as above.

On the map in Fantasy Grounds, I drop in a bunch of veteran watchmen, they’re blocking all of the exits to the Inn- the only way out is through them. Meantime, as the conversation is rolling on- back and forth, Buggles’ token- and of course that of his skeleton companion- Gwen, both suddenly bolt through a door and into a greyed out area on the map that the players cannot see into. Alas the greyed out area, when I reveal it on Fantasy Grounds, turns out to be the kitchen of the inn. A little later, and somewhat reluctantly, the Dark Squad (all of ‘em) agree to accompany the affable Inspector Clawed to the station.

2803.jpg

There they are- Buggles and Gwen attempt to hide in the fog of war, turns out to be the kitchen.

Note I maxed the HP of all of the members of the watch for this visit with the Dark Squad- and there were plenty of them, just in case. I figured that if the Dark Squad were going to go tonto resisting arrest then they’re going to have a proper fight on their hands. Just for info, for any fellow DMs out there, there were ten max HP heavily armoured veterans, and Inspector Clawed- a gladiator (also max HP) with a few extra skills and smarts.

So, to the watchhouse- and separate interviews- although how to do this? I have a plan.

2804.jpg

The Dark Squad are helping with enquiries, note Buggles and Gwen are sharing a cell- the wood elf threatened to flip out should the two be parted.

Each player/PC opens a note in Fantasy Grounds- calls it PCs NAME Interview, and then without talking to each other they write their answers to all of the good Inspectors numbered questions. No chatting at all- not on discord, or any other textual devices. I tell the PCs ahead of time that I can see what they are writing as they write it- so, no cheating.

It works like a dream.

Which is remarkable because that last part was a lie, I can’t see what they’re writing unless they close the note- then it updates and I can view the text. But the players didn’t figure this out until the very end.

So, approx. 30-40 minutes of silence later, save of course for my questions and the sound of the players tip-tap-typing their replies.

The questions, all eight of them are-

1) Name and any aliases.

2) Occupation, employer/s etc.

3) What business did you have at Castell Gwythyr on the 25th Uktar 1492?

4) Where have you been, and what have they been doing, for the period after leaving Castell Gwythyr (26th Uktar 1492) to your arrival in Neverwinter (6th Hammer 1493)?

5) Any dragon sightings during this time?

6) How do they think Castell Gwythr came to be destroyed, and its inhabitants (save one) slaughtered?

7) Any other information, no matter how trivial you think it is, that can help us to try to solve this mystery/terrible tragedy?

8) Why did you spend several months researching a creature called Ashardalon here in the temple of Oghma in Neverwinter, before heading off to Castell Gwythyr?

Note the first seven questions are asked by a mild-mannered Inspector Clawed, for the seventh question the dragonborn even goes so far as to plead/beg the PCs for help. The eighth question only gets asked after the PCs have been considerably thanked and told that the interview is over. The last question is growled by Inspector Clawed, with menace.

Results- so, second time around- I ask each of the questions again and then call upon the PCs in turn to read out their answers, the notes have been locked so the text cannot be changed.

The process proves to be a big hit- or else the results are, not so much (on reflection) for the disparity of their answers- that really doesn’t happen, much. But for the way that each of the player’s answers reflect their PC’s character.

So, four PCs-

1) Buggles, crazy trigger-happy killer.

2) Newt, fiery fiend-worshipping immolator.

3) Ramshambow, stealthy & cold-blooded, assassin.

4) Vinnie, friendly, clever and talkative goodbody.

And the four sets of answers given could be described as-

1) Honest & open, with lots of detail- regularly going above and beyond.

2) Honest-ish, but very mostly curt, surly & guarded.

3) Mostly honest with a touch of BS here and there, and very obvious omissions.

4) Honest but keen to omit details, keener still to add extra details (of no import).

So, who did/wrote what/which?

The answers- and this surprised me, and (I think) everyone around the VTT.

So, we’ll start with 4) Vinnie = d) Honest but keen to omit details, keener still to add extra details (of no import)- the druid says plenty, but leaves gaps- plastered over with thoughts and observations that have little to do with the questions being asked.

Next up 3) Ram = b) Honest-ish, but very mostly curt, surly & guarded- the rogue doesn’t play friendly, his longest answer is a single blunt and uninformative sentence, he doesn’t lie, but likewise he’s not saying anything much at all.

Next up 2) Newt = c) Mostly honest with a touch of BS here and there, and very obvious omissions- the warlock also adds plenty of flavour, and again- no lying, but he often omits lots/all of the substance, or else just makes stuff up.

Which just leaves 1) Buggles = a) Honest & open, with lots of detail- regularly going above and beyond- the wood elf’s replies are longer than all of the other player’s combined, they go into much more detail- as much as he can remember. No lies.

2805.jpg

The PCs statments, ready to be signed. Take a good look at that last entry- Buggles and Gwen, every one of Buggles' answers ends with- (Gwen nods). I'm just going to say it- this isn't hijinks and adventure, it's a love story we're writing here.

Then later on, after the interviews have been concluded, and Buggles has remembered more detail- he volunteers this information too.

He’s a delight.

[Interview with Inspector Clawed 1000 XP]
[Extra info volunteered by Buggles 250 XP]

Inspector Clawed is highly impressed with the charming and eager to please young wood elf- “if only we ‘ad more citizens like you ‘ere in New Neverwinter, mes amis.” Note, I played Clawed as French/European, I figure if it works for Vinnie/Jim.

Buggles is, of course, delighted- with himself.

Note, when I say Buggles tells the truth, and he very mostly does, as do all of the PCs- but, it’s worth keeping in mind that no-one here is stupid enough to tell the good Inspector that they let Ashardalon out of the bag.

Although, as the PCs go on to explain- Ashardalon is a bit of a mystery to them. The DM is happy to note that more of the players are taking this line, basically- as Vinnie said, “We do not know what zis creature iz, only zat it wishes to communicate wiz uz.”

Ashardalon, at least for the purpose of this conversation, seems no-longer to be the enemy.

I think that may be progress.

As to the destruction of Castell Gwythyr, a huge red dragon did it- the PCs are convinced, as is Inspector Clawed, most likely the great dragon seen by the Dark Squad (1st Nightal 1492) but this creature is nothing to do with the adventurers.

Inspector Clawed believes the Dark Squad’s collective story, and they’re free to go- they have been very ‘elpful.

Busy start to the session, particularly for downtime.

But bit the next- the PCs of course also pick up on the fact that Clawed said in question 6 above- How do they think that Castell Gwythyr came to be destroyed, and its inhabitants (save one) slaughtered?

It’s that save one.

Joy upon joy- it’s Erky Timbers, the luckiest gnome (adherent of Tymora, so…) alive. The still distraught gnome priest is released from his ‘helping with inquiries (cell)’ and allowed to depart with his friends, including a tearful Spandwick (Erky’s brother) and Bel.

Back to the pub, Gundren’s still buying.

There is joy in the adventurer’s hearts, only that doesn’t last long because Erky has a story to tell- of a huge red dragon swooping down onto/into the Castell and incinerating every guard- more or less, and maybe another quarter of Gwythyr’s inhabitants with one fiery breath. Then not content with that the great terror returned to incinerate anything else still standing. Erky is reduced to a gibbering wreck in the telling of this tale.

[Erky’s story 500 XP]

Which gets a reaction- but alas not the reaction the DM was hoping for.

Let me explain.

Buggles is not that sympathetic to the gnome- the deal is, as far as he can make out, Erky’s still alive- what’s he carping on about, celebrate that- remember the dead but, they’re dead. Nothing can be done for them, why don’t you get yourself some crisps while you’re at the bar.

Or something similar.

Newt.

OMG, as the kids these days are want to exclaim, at almost any juncture.

Newt’s reaction is worse still.

And by worse, I mean nastier.

He expands on Buggles’ repertoire (see above) adding to the horror/terror by making regular enquiries about how (in detail) the flame turned Erky’s friends to ash. Repeatedly asking if the incinerated looked to be exalting with joy during their final moments- as the fire cleansed them? Yes/No, just shake or nod your head if you can’t speak due to the ecstasy you are feeling right now as you re-live those glorious moments.

That kind of thing.

Helpful.

His last line to Erky is something like, “What are you complaining about, you were spared the cleansing flame- as far as I can tell everything is coming up Erky?”

Which is how we got the title for this bit.

Even Buggles was heard to comment- “good one”, while Vinnie, nearly silently, continued to weep.

[Everything is coming up Erky 250 XP]

Obviously Vinnie quickly gets in with the reasoned and kind words, and even Buggles caves a bit (this after he and Gwen try to tickle the Gnome Priest of out of his blues) but Erky keeps screaming about the death of all of his friends. The wood elf’s final reply is something like- “Oh. Yeah. That probably hurts- that’s bad. Do you want some peanuts? I’ll get you some peanuts- you’ve had a rough time.”

He’s a one, that Buggles.

Erky, Spandwick, Bel and the ‘Inconceivable’ Geradil get rooms at the inn, and soon after make for them.

But, the Dark Squad are still not done in the bar- and this is all happening on their first day/night back in the city, it is therefore time for a brief re-hash of the ‘did we die?’ conversation- see Session 27b Ups & Downs. Again, it is very mostly the three PCs that had a hellish time in the afterlife that are making the running in this diatribe/moan. Buggles is now very much of the opinion that either it wasn’t hell they were in, or else if it was, then there must have been some sort of administrative error. Ram is still very mostly ignoring the event- although he’s now very keen to start rescuing slaves, and making those that are involved in the slave trade pay. The ex-slave, ex-smuggler, rogue is hoping to get even, and perhaps to rebalance the scales.

[Hell was an admin error 100 XP]

Newt however is still ranting, he’s also being encouraged by his friends (mostly Buggles) to put a strongly worded complaint in to Belphegor, the over-fiend is supposed to be looking out for the tabaxi’s best interests etc. Newt screams and shouts for a quite a while.

But we eventually get on. Just a few more bits to get through before we actually arrive at the downtime stuff proper.

Next up Gundren arranges a meeting, the very next day, with a dwarven priest of Moradin, called Grimphart- basically, what’s to be done with Garumn? Note the paladin’s body is at present being stored in the cold room at the Inn. The vote goes three to one: Newt, Buggles & Ram are keen for the paladin to go on the fire/pyre, he’s done his time.

This may sound a bit cruel but… at least two of the PCs (Ram & Buggles) are convinced that Garumn would be happier in the All-Father’s workshop, this after they spoke to him back in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors. Newt is just a pragmatist.

Therefore, while Ram and Buggles have lots of praise for Garumn… he’s all used up, and as above- happier where he is (or would be if he wasn’t still in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors). While Newt, on a roll this session, manages to add a few more cheery words for the brave dwarven paladin’s send off before concluding that Garumn is however, at present, a useless husk that needs to get immolated as soon as possible. Vinnie, in the end, convinces (and then pays- 100gp) for Grimphart to preserve Garumn’s body (Gentle Repose) for 100 days.

[What to do with Garumn 250 XP]

Vinnie, you are getting steamrollered, dude.

Last bit, before we get into the downtime stuff proper (in Session 28b), the two rogues however have a conscience- it seems, in the chat window throughout all of the above the pair (Buggles & Ram) have been messaging each other back and forth about what to do about Erky and Big Al. If you remember Big Al, head of the Shoremen Thieves’ Guild had employed Ram to bring back something of Erky’s- a hand or an ear, possibly. Something to ensure that Erky doesn’t cross the guildmaster again.

Therefore the pair of villains, the very next day, pay a visit to Big Al, and Ram decides to take with him a bag of ash, swept from one of the fires in the Inn.

2808.jpg

They're good people, Buggles and Ram. Always trying to do the right thing by their friends...

“Here’s Erky, probably…” Ram captions as he empties the bag of ash on to Big Al’s desk, and then goes on to explain about the huge red dragon attacking/destroying Castell Gwythyr. Buggles (& Gwen, they go everywhere together) nod in unison and attempt to keep a straight face- much easier, of course, for Gwen.

Remarkably, and without the need for the use of inspiration points, both PCs roll high and sound convincing, so much so that Big Al starts to feel bad about the whole affair. The quartet drink a toast to the memory of Erky, and then the rogues say their goodbyes and skedaddle sharpish.

Good work.

[Rogues with a conscience 250 XP]

And that’s enough for this bit, except perhaps to say a last word about Gwen, Buggles’ skeleton friend. Now normally there’d be a fair amount of consternation about a member of the undead roaming the streets of Neverwinter. However, you need to keep in mind- Gwen is armoured, head to toe, and layered to give her a bit of bulk- substance. She looks like a heavily armoured, shambling but still quite slight dwarf- she also nods her head (a lot) and at all the right moments. So, she’s taciturn. She goes places (with Buggles) and… she stands there, or just sits there, obviously not speaking- not doing anything.

Except every now and then nodding.

She’s very anonymous- remember you can’t even see her face.

So, I’m allowing it.

Also, it’s much more fun this way.

The oddity comes however in-game, when we change maps on Fantasy Grounds- I plonk the PCs tokens down on the new map, maybe they’re back in the bar, and the players slide their tokens about to take their seats. Buggles always sits next to Gwen. If another PCs token is in Gwen’s spot then Stu (playing Buggles and Gwen) moves it, often with a “Come on Gwen, sit here”, by way of explanation.

Which is weird- right?

If Buggles goes to the bar, then Gwen follows- and I swear to you that it looks like the two tokens are both moving together- at the same time.

They’re… inseparable, it’s a bit creepy.

Every now and then Buggles will end one of his sentences with- “isn’t that right Gwen?”, and then add, after a suitable pause- ‘Gwen nods.’

Just weird.

Actual downtime activities in the next bit which is X-Rated, thanks to Newt.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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carborundum

Explorer
Wow, nice job with the interviews! The musings about Garumn got me to wondering if they could rescue him by raising/resurrecting him...?
It'd probably cause unrest elsewhere :)
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Neverwinter Downtime Redux

Session #028b X-Rated.

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*
*Trapped in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

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)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


So, here we go with the actual downtime activities, just to note that when we play this around the VTT then each PC gets to attempt to do one of their downtime activities- we roll/roleplay it out, and then work out along the way how long the activity has taken (in tendays) and obviously the costs incurred.

Then your thoughtful DM goes back to the PC that has spent the fewest tendays so far to see what they want to do next, and we keep moving on this way, so that all of the PCs get a go, but also so that we kinda move forward all of the PCs timelines at the same time.

Note the players send me a list ahead of the downtime session- I’ve been bothering them for weeks, of all of the stuff that they’d like to try to get done. The most comprehensive of these lists (from Buggles) was maybe half-a-side of A4, maybe a bit more with later addendums. The shortest list- just three lines of text, well… I’ll not shame them.

So, sometimes I don’t have a lot to go on. I try, of course, to prep a few maps or images, or else an NPC or two ahead of time, but- anything goes.

However, to recount the tale here it’s easier if I just concentrate on the activities of one PC at a time.

Right, let’s get to it, and the below action- keep in mind, represents about three months (actually eight tendays so far) of downtime in Neverwinter.

Note during this session we also talked a bit about the buying of magic items- I don’t generally get on with this kind of thing, but- I am happy for the PCs to convince me otherwise, on an item by item basis. So, I allowed some of this- but only, of course, for items that wouldn’t overly/dramatically change the toughness/damage output of the party. They’re pretty damn tough and lethal already.

So, and this is for the players- minor magical items (that’s +1 stuff, and anything else low level within reason) I am okay with, but always ask to be certain.

So, downtime.

Vincenzo does stuff...

The shifter druid starts off by tracking down a reputable armourer/leatherworker who can work with ‘specialist’ materials, namely the black dragon scales that he took from the corpse of Nightscale. Alas the druid doesn’t have enough cash to make the suit of magical armour that he wants, either +1 or else acid resistant. He does however have enough money to get a dragon scale shield manufactured, and then enchanted- a +1 shield (cost 200gp). He also manages to sell, or give away to his friends, the dragon scales he has spare.

Next up the druid spends several tendays chasing down, and then purchasing a bag of holding (cost 750gp), which the DM is keen for the PCs to have. I’ll just set up a separate character sheet on Fantasy Grounds called Bag of Holding and everything they find that’s treasure, or stuff they want to keep, can go in there.

Then the druid spends a tenday or two in the Temple of Oghma, having first paid his dues, he also hires a research assistant (cost 25gp/tenday), Vinnie checks out a variety of names/descriptive phrases from a number of the prophecies that the PCs have been given. For example, ‘the lair of the drowned ones’, or, ‘the ancient alchemist’, and a few others- alas all of the phrases are generic. There’s no legend of the ‘ancient alchemist’ to be found, likewise there are no known maps that point to a specific region being the ‘lair of the drowned ones’.

The hired research assistant, Brother Alan, believes that the phrases are descriptors only, the ‘ancient alchemist’ indicates, perhaps, a very old or else undead alchemist, while the ‘lair of the drowned ones’, perhaps a swamp.

So, a little headway but no actual progress.

Last up, and for the remainder of the downtime (so far) Vinnie manages to find a back alley apothecary who is happy to allow the druid to use his alchemical apparatus (but not his materials) to make a bunch of healing potions. Basically the druid can craft five healing draughts/tenday, at a cost of 175gp for the rent of the equipment and materials. When the session comes to an end the druid has manufactured ten healing potions so far, of course, he then sells on a number of these (at cost- maybe) to his friends.

Note, in all of the above there are obviously plenty of dice rolls- to track down someone to point the druid in the right direction, or to haggle over a price, or to locate much needed ingredients etc. Success isn’t a given, that’s what I am trying to tell you, why- well, you’ll see later, when we get to Newt.

But for Vinnie, great work.

Ramshambow does stuff…

First up the ex-smuggler tracks down the ‘Treasurer’, there’s one in every port- actually Ram already knows the guy in Neverwinter so this is easy to achieve. The ‘Treasurer’ guarantees, for a price, to get money given to him/her to a named other- within a reasonable time frame. Note this is the last instalment of Ram’s payment (I think) to Captain Rockbeard, the dwarf pirate that bought him out of slavery. Payment 350gp, I think- to go with the 400gp Ram paid last time.

Next up Ram goes in search of a magic items also, specifically he wants a set of Goggles of the Night for Daktari, he figures that the barbarian- like all of the other members of the Dark Squad, needs to be able to fight in the dark. However the hunt takes a while, and in the end requires the spending of money/bribes, but eventually he is directed to a dodgy tiefling who has a well-guarded ‘shop’, of sorts, in the Neverwinter sewer. After a bit of bargaining he gets the guy down to 800gp, which he pays himself. Later, back at the Dog Arms Inn- the PCs remember are all staying here; Ram hands the goggles over to Daktari and formerly welcomes the barbarian to the gang.

2806.jpg

Nice place you've got here.

Note, it has also been agreed that Daktari should use Shatterspike, the magical Durgeddin the Black manufactured longsword formerly employed by Garumn.

Daktari is close to tears- “So, very nice peepuls. Zo very nice!”

Ram then spends a tenday or two also making use of the services of the Temple of Oghma, the House of Knowledge, with help from a research assistant he comes to understand where it is on the Sword Coast, and who it is, that is involved in slavery. He’s looking for likely targets for his ire.

Last up the rogue then reacquaints himself with the dockside, and the sea- it takes a while but eventually he gets taken on to help with a gang of folk mending nets, and then a bit of stevedore work. He’s looking to get ship-shape, and particularly to better his knot tying skills, and rope use in general- he wants to get back in the rigging.

Good work.

Buggles does stuff…

First up the wood elf heads for the Temple of Oghma- that’s right, the college of knowledge, don’t look so surprised. There he spends plenty of money to hire a senior researcher, Senior Brother Degas, to answer a bunch of questions he has about Gwen. This also necessitates that Gwen is thoroughly examined by the researcher (like a minor sage).

2807.jpg

Buggles & Gwen go to the Library.

So, and maybe there’s some new info here that I have thought of since the session, so- check it out Stu/Buggles-

Gwen was a duergar in life, a female grey dwarf- most likely she was middle-aged when she died/animated. Clearly, powerful dark magic was employed somehow to capture her within Nightcaller (the whistle that summons her) or at least her physical, ahem… skeletal form.

Gwen’s soul very likely resides somewhere on the Fugue Plane, the home of the wandering dead, there it will- most likely, remain forever.

Destroying the Nightcaller whistle would prevent the physical, ahem… skeletal form of Gwen from appearing, but it would not free her soul- it would in fact break the link between Gwen’s physical, ahem… skeletal form, and her spirit.

There is a way, possibly, of contacting- and perhaps even locating, Gwen’s departed soul but these methods would most likely require high level magic, and may prove to be very expensive- if someone could be persuaded to even try.

For answers to a variety of Buggles’ other questions, senior researcher Degas, somewhat reluctantly, discloses that the wood elf may have greater success if he consulted a necromancer, perhaps.

Note senior researcher Degas is happy to answer any other questions that you have Buggles, but only those that are sent to me before the start of the next session, that’s the cut-off point. Need more info after that then you’ll need to spend some more money, and time.

Very good work, intriguing.

I’m really looking forward to Gwen’s story.

Next up Buggles finds a great scrimshaw artist called Four-Fingered Pee-Wee (thanks for that Stu, remember the players get to name the NPCs they meet/contact- gah!). So Pee-Wee does his job, and then through a few more contacts Ashardalon’s Fang is crafted- an enchanted dagger made from one of the teeth extracted from the skeletal ancient/huge dragon found in the dragon’s graveyard.

More remarkably, and having spent about 400gp on this project- and two tendays, Buggles gifts the blade (+1 dagger) to Ram.

Last up, the wood elf has also got the bit between his teeth- he eventually searches out an Underdark dweller in Neverwinter, a svirfneblin refugee, a deep gnome called Ramikin Nosefinder (thanks again Stu/Buggles, such a great name). Ramikin, after a bit of chat- and negotiating, is convinced to teach the wood elf how to speak Undercommon. This project however will be ongoing, and it’s going to take a while. Buggles however spends three tendays hanging around the workshop in which Ramikin mostly resides (the deep gnome makes crossbows) picking up as much as he can of the strange tongue.

Great stuff.

And so finally we get to Newt.

Oh, Newt.

What were you thinking.

Right then.

Newt does stuff…

The tabaxi starts off small, first up he locates and then negotiates with a variety of magical purveyors- a few low level spell scrolls. Then he buys expensive inks and copies the newly purchased texts into his book of shadows. Note the spells selected- three of them, are all low level, and are now able to be cast as rituals from his book.

The above takes two or three tendays.

It’s also worth noting that Newt, because of bad dice rolls, had to spend his last inspiration point in order to get one of the spells he wanted, remember this.

Then it gets tricky.

Note, when Bear (playing Newt) sent me a list of what he wanted to do during his downtime he wrote something like- ‘summon Jot (the quasit) to be my familiar’, we discussed at length the process. However, what happened next- well, that was all new/s to me.

So, Newt is going to attempt to summon a quasit (Jot) and to bind the fiend into his service, there are stages to this. The tabaxi first off locates a mage, Lira Vanderbilt, who is willing- for a price, to consult on the process. He then hires a small unused warehouse, and acquires a variety of summoning paraphernalia- chalks, candles, powdered gems et al. He also has a horizontal crucifix style device (with restraints) manufactured, for sex games he tells the carpenter. He then preps the space in the warehouse, and remember the warlock has been collecting dead things (‘of power’) for the last ten or so sessions- dragon bones, orc hands, assorted viscera etc.

And you thought he was such a nice kitty-cat.

The hired mage is of course on hand for the ritual, but again she’s just consulting, she has however previously made Newt aware that a blood sacrifice- his, and another sentient creature, will need to be made for the ritual to work. The sacrificed creature must be bled to death, note the mage suggests that a cat, a rat or a dog are all viable options.

Then, on the night of the ritual, it gets X-rated, and this all happened in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the session.

Newt disguises himself, very well as it happens- remember he’s making checks at every stage here. The tabaxi heads to the docks and finds a lady of the night, retires to a nearby alley to negotiate a price with her and then casts a hold person spell on the poor woman. Again- I made him roll all of this, every step of the way- stealth, persuasion, initiative- the lot.

The woman is bound, gagged, restrained- stuffed in large sack, and then taken to the nearby warehouse. With all the appropriate checks- all good to great.

But its getting a bit scary.

And I’m making this hard for the warlock, because it’s dark, and it’s very risky.

The consulting mage is very obviously upset by proceedings- as stated she recommended a cat/rat/dog be sacrificed. Newt however is in full flow- the tabaxi screams at the mage about the need to grasp ‘the flame of power’, and not to hesitate when dark deeds must be done- or some such. Newt needs to make a hard intimidate check (DC 15) and then as he piles on the charm to convince Lira to the dark side, a harder-still persuasion check (DC 18)- he beats both with plenty of room to spare (‘17’ & ‘23’).

2809.jpg
Bear/Newt had prepared a short slide show- a variety of images showing his preparations for the summoning ritual. If this happens to you as a DM, this is the time you phone the authorities.

The mage of questionable morals, Lira, decides to go along with the enterprise, although she’s still a little on edge.

In short order the terrified streetwalker is bled out- killed, and the ritual completed.

Which just leaves us with one last dice roll, just to see how the ritual went- and the warlock has bonuses because of the help he has received, and the industry (and successful checks) that has gone into this grisly endeavour.

Newt rolls a ‘1’.

2810.jpg
Slide 4, "And as my voice rings loud above the flame, an adoring flock of fiery demons salute me, and this is what happens..." Then Newt rolls a '1'.

He has no inspiration points left, he used it to get a scroll of Leomund’s Tiny Hut, shame…

With that the session comes to an end.

Just to make clear Newt (Bear), this is a downright evil act- with malice and aforethought.

We’ll have a little more of this next time, when Newt and the hired help discover who or what has just stepped out of the portal to the nether planes they have just opened.

Oh, and then we’ll conclude the rest of the downtime, and get on with the next bit of the campaign.

Or at least some of the adventurers will, for Newt things are very much in the balance right now…

Toodles.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Have you played since? (Before I start shouting suggestions)
No, this happened last Tuesday night, next session- this Tuesday (22nd) 7.30 AM.

Don't give Newt any ideas, I've sent Bear (playing Newt) a little heads up about what's going to go on in the next session- not a lot, just to say nothing good... and to think about how he wants to play it.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 


Buggles

Villager
PLAYA PLAYA:

Hey everyone, Buggles here (hero of Neverwinter and guardian of the Feywild, self appointed). The summoning went GREAT! Honestly I can't imagine a better outcome. Newt may disagree.
 
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PLAYA PLAYA:

Vincenzo here; I wrote a short piece of Christmas prose inspired by the last session. Enjoy.

Twas the night before Christmas, and Newt murdered a whore.
A treasured, early present to Belphegor
Through torture and fear, the madam met her end;
All because New Tricks wanted a friend.
The preparations went well, but hark, a “1”, he's out of luck,
And now Newt is the one that is royally fucked.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in Neverwinter Downtime Redux

Session #029a Hello Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar & goodbye to the Dark Squad.

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*
*Trapped in the land of the bad dead ancestors.

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)
Spandwick the Magic Gnome, ex-stage mesmerist (Male Gnome)
Bel, the beautiful and lovely wife of Spandwick (Female Gnome)


So, here we go again- the last bit of the Dark Squad’s downtime in the city of Neverwinter, and very specifically the bit in which we get to see if Newt lives or dies. The tabaxi has been a bad lad- in an old and dirty, hired for the occasion, warehouse the warlock has completed a ritual, with the help of a mage with very loose morals, Lira (also hired for the occasion). The ritual was to summon Jot, a quasit that Newt really would like to boss around (as his familiar), the bait for the summoning being a recently deceased streetwalker (it all got rather dark at the end of the last session). However, the last roll of the dice, to see how the ritual went, and a ‘1’, and Newt has not got an inspiration point, so he’s stuck with it.

Bear, who plays Newt, has been in touch via e-mail between sessions- he’d really like for Newt to live on, he went a bit far in the last session- but now he has seen the light, and would really (really) like to survive- pretty please, Mr. DM sir.

So, here we go-

POOOFFF!

2901.jpg

"Chin-Chin!"

It’s a little old skool, the theatrics, and suddenly standing between Newt and Lira is a white tuxedo wearing handsome young man, a full mane of blond hair, a caramel suntan, he’s all cheek bones and white teeth.

The fine fellow brandishes a martini glass, which he slowly empties while spying his new friends over the rim.

“Chin-chin!”

Which as opening gambits go, is a doozy.

There follows an incredibly weird conversation.

Lira Vanderbilt, the hired mage-consultant, however is soon after not for hanging around- she attempts to flee, although the feeling quickly passes- seconds later she’s draped over the newly summoned young man, and complimenting the beautiful fellow at every turn.

“Oh. Humphrey, you’ve thought of simply everything, you’re so deliciously devilish…” Lira gasps.

That’s right the summoned creature introduces himself, he’s Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar.

He’s very polite, very posh/rich (clearly a noble), very well-educated/spoken, and incredibly charming.

And Newt is very much on his best behaviour.

The trio soon talk out the conundrum, Humphrey takes a moment to precis the situation-

“Just think, if it wasn’t for your mistake young Newt- we would never have met, we would have never have got to know each other, and I am certain that we’re going to be very… very good friends.”

Just for info Lira is subject to Humphrey’s charm person spell- and she failed her save with a ‘1’- so, that’s catching, while Newt is having his mind read- detect thoughts, and so the summoned being has very quickly got the measure of this encounter.

I can’t believe Bear/Newt spent all week fretting about what was going to come through the portal, this fellow seems hardly dark at all. A little devilish, perhaps. Besides what would be the point of just porting in some fiery hellion to start a fracas.

No, fighting is so gauche- it’s what the PC/players do, I am a DM- a class above, and understand that devils and demons are not (at least the management) interested in short term gains, they have their eyes on more (terrible) long term goals.

Eventually Humphrey indicates that the chitter-chat is over, now to the serious business of the evening- there are the three persons/bodies in the warehouse- Newt, Lira, and the dead prostitute. Newt has to decide, who does what. Humphrey states- “One dies, one comes with me, and one stays here to serve me- you choose who goes where my new best friend.”

Newt choses to stay here on Faerun, the alternative- the tabaxi enquired, very politely, was a one-way jaunt to Avernus. He chooses to serve, and for Lira to go with Humphrey (to Avernus), and the dead woman, well- she stays dead- an elegant, simple solution.

Although the DM is unsure why he didn’t choose the following (or a version)- one to die= the dead prostitute, one to serve= Lira, one to go with Humphrey= the dead prostitute, again. That would work too.

Nobody said they had to be different ‘ones’, as it were. Newt just seemed to assume this, most odd- and Bear is such a clever fellow in real life. Let’s hope he doesn’t realise how foolish he has been.

Humphrey, before his departure also takes half of everything that Newt owns- half of all the tabaxi’s money, that’s approx. 500 gold coins. He also takes possession of the warlock’s magical cloak, a +1 cloak of protection- I think that cost him around 700gp. Well, this turning into a very expensive evening.

That was a lovely conversation to have, Newt/Bear was seething- but keeping a lid on it throughout, while the rest of the gang- well, they were pretty much laughing all through the encounter, it took us over thirty minutes of back and forth to get to here.

I thought at one point Stu (who plays Buggles) was crying on the VTT/Discord, he was so amused.

Humphrey gets Newt to sign a blood contract, actually the page he signs is blank- as Humphrey stated at the time- “awful rush, but I’ll sketch down a few thoughts and details later on. It’s important to keep it all legal like, for your protection.” The ever-so considerate Humphrey will be back to check in with Newt in ten sessions time, that’s an abstract/non-specific amount of time later, but- it’ll do for now. At which point he will, of course, take a bunch more of Newt’s stuff- as tribute. The fiend makes it clear that when it comes to the final wrangling over Newt’s soul then the lawyers may have to get involved (Humphrey vs Belphegor), but until then- he’s going to be calling in at regular intervals, to collect his dues, and maybe also to set Newt at a task or two.

“You’re mine now.” Humphrey makes it sound as if the tabaxi has just won a holiday.

Newt spends much of the rest of the night (after Humphrey and Lira depart) cleaning the warehouse top to bottom, and then creeping through the dark streets to an open sewer- in which the dead prostitute’s body is deposited. Then hot foot- all the way back to the Dog Arms Inn.

As it turns out Gundren Rockseeker and Daktari are still in the barroom, enjoying a little after hours refreshments- a ‘lock-in’, the elderly dwarf is delighted to see the tabaxi- “You’re a lucky feller, you missed all the excitement tonight.” Newt is, of course, wondering what could be more exciting than the night he has just had.

Newt has won the Dog Arms Inn meat raffle- half-a-pound of pork sausages, and a tray of lamb chops- he is, indeed- as both Gundren and Daktari declare repeatedly, an incredibly lucky feller.

Note the meat raffle was a big thing in the boozer when I was a much younger man.

Also, as a good DM I didn’t want Bear/Newt to think that he hadn’t got anything out of the experience. Newt has always been a winner in my eyes.

[Newt summons Humphrey 500 XP]

So, I can’t tell you who, or indeed what, Humphrey is- and please don’t guess in this forum, that would spoil the surprise.

Next day.

Nothing untoward happens, and Newt is very relieved. However he’s also very keen to get the show on the road, the tabaxi convinces his colleagues that downtime in Neverwinter is done- oddly the only PC that still has a list of downtime tasks to do is… Newt. The list gets scrubbed.

So, next- the saying of farewell, firstly the inconceivable Geradil says adieu, and rewards each of his rescuers with a healing potion; Spandwick and Bel have no money or treasure with which to reward the Dark Squad- they are however tearful, and very grateful for their lives. Note Newt is Bel’s favourite, the beautiful female gnome likes to stroke the tabaxi, and he’s happy to oblige her. Bel goes to do so but shies away at the last moment- something doesn’t feel right, something’s different- she’s suddenly very nervous of Newt. Most odd.

Last to depart is Erky, who like his compatriots has nothing of great value to give, except his heartfelt thanks, and maybe a few friendly words of advice. Buggles is certain that they will meet again somewhere further along the road of life.

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Final Farewells.

[Goodbye to the NPCs 500 XP]

The farewells done with, now for the voice over for the Dark Squad’s departure, on a boat called The Waverider, bound for a small town on the edge of the Mere of Dead Men, almost exactly halfway between Neverwinter and Waterdeep. Their final destination is Saltmarsh, although the Waverider will be dropping the Dark Squad off in a small fishing village called Ashby, from there it’s a couple of hours walk to Farhill Mine, owned by Gundren Rockseeker.

Here’s the story in full, although for ease of digestion broken down into bite-size morsels-

1) Gundren tells the Dark Squad about how he made his money, courtesy of a mine in/near Phandalin, but he paid the price for his fortune- his older brother Tharden was killed, he was kidnapped by goblins- beaten to within an inch of his life, while his younger brother Nundro was reduced to a child-like state by a vicious torturing drow.

2) Gundren has had enough, he wants to retire while he can, he’s going to need at least six months to sort out something with regard to the newly found Durgeddin the Black forges, and to sort out his operation in Phandalin.

3) Gundren wants to retire to Saltmarsh, he’s been there half-a-dozen times and the sea, and the wilds, and the size of it- not too big, not too small, excites him. It’s a great place, close to his latest venture- Farhill mine, but…

4) It seems some folk in Saltmarsh are still finding it difficult to accept the presence of the mine, and particularly his dwarven compatriots (see below) in the region. Saltmarsh, as Gundren describes it, is experiencing growing pains.

5) Farhill mine has been a going concern for three years now, and is starting to really make some money. There are now two hundred workers on site, mostly dwarves from Gundren’s clan, but also a good number of locals. The mine supervisor- Manistrad Copperlocks is great at her job, although… it seems she is not so adept at dealing with the locals.

6) Eventually, here’s Gundren’s offer- he’d like to purchase six month’s of the Dark Squad’s time (maybe longer). He’s written a letter to Manistrad by way of an introduction to the Dark Squad- they’re to help her out, she’s to put them to work. Not as miners, but as problem solvers. As Gundren states- “first, you need to earn Manistrad’s trust.”

7) Manistrad’s trust won, Gundren will suggest that the Dark Squad move to Saltmarsh proper and start to get involved in the town- fixing whatever problems exist, helping out the local authorities, making a name for themselves, and perhaps even representing the Farhill mining concern on the local council.

8) Gundren is happy to divulge that the money to set up Farhill was a three way split, with loans secured from the Neverwinter and Waterdeep authorities, along with a large chunk of his own capital. It seems no-one wants this project to fail, and this being the case the mine is allowed to have a representative on the Saltmarsh council. At present this is Manistrad but chatter doesn’t seem to be her strong suit. Gundren was wondering if one (Vinnie) of the Dark Squad could perhaps step up?

9) Last bit, probably, Saltmarsh sits on the edge of adventure- the Mere of the Dead Men is but a stone’s throw away. So, in conclusion- go to Saltmarsh, sort whatever needs sorting out. Make it a happy place for Gundren to retire to, and in the process- get away from Neverwinter (& Ashardalon etc.), start afresh, and perhaps make your fortune.

2903.jpg

Saltmarsh is just about here on the map.

Or something similar, and keep in mind that the PCs are buying this because we’ve had a number of chats about what comes next.

This is collusion, we’re all in this together.

[Gundren’s new task 500 XP]

Just to remind you- no spoilers here.

NO SPOLIERS!

So, I’ve drawn a map of the Saltmarsh region, I’ve got at least three (small) adventures planned- all set in and around Farhill mine, and while the Dark Squad are sorting these out it’ll give me a chance to build something on Fantasy Grounds with what comes next.

Some things I have stolen, some things I have mangled and reshaped, some things I have just plain gone and made up.

I sold the players on the fact that this was to be an old school style campaign interlude, their PCs are going to spend six months to a year in Saltmarsh. They’re going to ride into town (sorta) make friends and enemies, solve problems- go on wild adventures, uncover whatever needs to be uncovered and… well, all of the usual stuff.

This is how I/we used to do it back in the (g)olden days, generally (I was pretty much always the DM) I’d draw a pencil map of a region, put six dots on the map- towns and villages, and fill in all of the other hexes only when the PCs explored them.

We’re back to this, and I for one, can’t wait.

However there’s no reason to wait, because it starts… Now.

Or else, in the next (but one) bit- the rest of this session.

This was the funniest session of D&D I have played for a good few years (most amusing, and happiest- everyone riffing off each other), and particularly (of course) Newt’s excellent summoning ceremony as described above. The rest of the session was also a joy to behold, but we’ll get to that.

Great work fellers- Merry Christmas, all.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

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