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


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Buggles

Villager
Merry Christmas to our legions of fans on here (both of you) and to the DM Goonalan (I'm not sure you've mentioned your real name on here so I won't) and the rest of the guys. Fun in the mines and marshes awaits! I suggested to poor old Erky (who was STILL a tad glum about all his friends being incinerated by a dragon) that he can go and stay at Willow Grove with my adopted family if he fancies it, that little gnome would fit right in with Mother Willow the Dryad, Grayum the Gruff and the sprites Flit and Wit. He might even get his own spin-off series while I'm tramping around a dwarven mine.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #029b Wise Words- Prophecies et al.

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


Not a write up of the action but rather a collection of prophecies, statements (helpful, or otherwise) and assorted proclamations (possibly of import). Presented in chronological order, and mostly copied directly from the story hour text (in bold)-

As part of 'Prophecy Corner'- sing it, don't say it, the Dark Squad- at the start of each session, are given 10 minutes by the surly DM (me) to talk about a few of these prophecies, in an effort to keep this info alive and in the adventurer's thoughts.

1) SESSION 19- Belphegor’s words to Newt in the sinkhole of the Forge of Fury.

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

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

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

“WAIT!”

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


Simply put Newt (& the Dark Squad) need to find Wildroot, join the Pact of Flame and then hunt down and kill/capture the missing last Bad Dead Ancestor- Nightshade. They need to somehow send the Hag back to the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors in an effort to free Garumn from his present situation.

When the hands move- does this refer to a clock, or is a reference to a 'hand'- a unit of Dark Elves (Drow) also known as a 'hand'?

Garumn could be the pale dwarf mentioned above.
Without a face- is the pale dwarf wearing a mask?

2) SESSIONS 20 & 21- Arundil the Wizard story of Man & the Crocodile, delivered in the Forge of Fury-

“Ah, there you are- do you remember the story he told us about the man and the crocodile?”

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

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

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

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

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

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


A variety of answers are explored, mostly in SESSION 21, however Durgeddin’s reason for telling the story is also made clear-

The Man with the Crocodile on his back would benefit from being able to work together, and their ability to see further.

The Dark Squad are less sure what this story refers to, or is a metaphor for.

They are aware that Ashardalon- some combination of Elf and Dragon, and nine feet tall, could perhaps resemble in some way the combination of man and crocodile, at least with regard to their combined height, and the ability to 'see further' and 'to work together.'

3) SESSION 22- Arundil the Wizard has more to say about the future according to Durgeddin the Black, who was a small albino dwarf-

Durgeddin was raving, the wee dwarf said something about the ‘time of black’, and the ‘dead becoming the dying’, he kept shouting- ‘remember, we’re dwarves- we can see in the dark’, he was laughing and grinning, wildly.

Is this about the Dark Squad or some reference to the Underdark- either way the Dark Squad's USP is that they all have Darkvision, so somehow they fit.

The 'dead become the dying', is this the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors?

The time of ash- mentioned later is the same as the 'time of black', mentioned here.

4) SESSION 23- Daktari, Sky Pony Uthgardt barbarian (and NPC tank) has a new name for the Dark Squad-

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

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


This is about the Dark Squad- "We are 'ow yew say- a bit special", is Vinnie's summary of this statement. The Dark Squad are 'the eyes in the night', and going to somehow save the day.

5) SESSION 23 & 27C- A message from Ashardalon (the Dark Squad presume) is found at the Dragon’s Graveyard, Vinnie replies-

Ashardalon: ‘I will be watching you.’

Vinnie: ‘We need to talk.’


Later in SESSION 27C Ashardalon replies-

Ashardalon: ‘We do. I will come for you.’

6) SESSION 24- No wise words but it’s worth writing here. Timor hands over the artefact, a button/coin-shaped object, made of bone/ivory- with a maze etched in one side- blank the other. Later Vinnie activates the object, it answers questions.

2403.jpg

Odd?

7) SESSION 24 & 25- The various prophecies and messages of the Seven Six Bad Dead Ancestors-

Ancestor #1-
“I am Kratchik, and I am the lore/law.*
The Time of Ash approaches,
It begins when the day turns to night.
When the dead become the dying,
And souls know no rest.
Know then that Ashardalon is abroad.
The abomination- the terror dead dread dragon,
The Lord of Ash, the Lord of Destruction,
The Deceiver- the swallower of the Light.”


Ancestor #2-
“I am Larkoz, the warden.
Check the ancient alchemist’s well.”


Ancestor #3-
“I am Kolven, and I am forever.
Seek the witch’s tor,
In the lair of the drowned ones,
But beware the demon’s spore.
Find the time.
Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.”


Ancestor #4-
“I am Spetznaz, and I am the mercenary.
When three-and-a-half bells sound,
Put one hundred crowns,
On the one with the big nose.”


Ancestor #5-
“I am Golcanz and I am forgotten.
The answer you seek [Golcanz looks directly at Buggles] is at the bottom of the Goblin’s stair/stare.”


Ancestor #6 (after taking a monstrous beating, with two Crits from Buggles)-
“I am Latgun, I am terror- vell, I fort I waz.
The hands are within one thousand teeth.”


8) SESSION 26- Garumn (on behalf of Moradin) is playing the part of the Seventh Bad Dead Ancestor, here’s his secret-

“To prove you are worth your salt,
Stand fast between the dead and the storm.
When the worst comes call upon me,
And I will send a God’s favour.
Look to the sea, to see, the sea-change.”


9) SESSION 27b- Vinnie meets Sheldon in the beautiful garden beyond the Bathhouse, “MMMmmm Little Vinnie”, but Sheldon says more-

“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.”


Next bit, well… the rest of the session.

This bit is here so that the players can translate, or else add notes- if they like, which I can annotate and re-post here.

Next bit- the Dark Squad take the quiet fishing village of Ashby by storm.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:

Buggles

Villager
OK guys I think I pretty much got this all figured out.

“Tell Wildroot that you wish to join the pact of flame, resist the urge to burn the woodsman to the ground- he will set you to your task. Discover the last ancestor, she that lives under the cover of darkness- the hag will have the answers. When the hands move the end will have begun. WAIT! For the pale dwarf without a face to beg you- only then should you take the ghost home.”

Seems straightforward enough. Don't kill the woodsman, got it. I know of two hags - the old woman with the barbarian tribe, and my dear Aunt Ingrid, an actual hag rather than an ageist slur. Now the first one, we don't have her address and I'm not sure what the postal service in Faerun is like but I doubt a letter addressed to 'Old Crone, Mad Pony Tribe, Somewhere Up North' is going to get there. So I'll check with Ingrid but it might be another Hag we haven't met yet. I wonder if either of our wizards can send a message across the miles to her?

story he told us about the man and the crocodile

I reckon this this about lizardmen, just a hunch based on my itchy lizardman slaying blade, Mongoose, which really hasn't had a decent outing yet. A deal was done, they made peace with them, and regretted it ever since.

Know then that Ashardalon is abroad

There's a dragon coming. It might be here already, Erky seems to think so but he's prone to tall tales.

Check the ancient alchemist’s well

As soon as we find it, I'll dive straight down it.

Seek the witch’s tor, In the lair of the drowned ones, But beware the demon’s spore. Find the time. Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.


So obvious I won't even elaborate.

When three-and-a-half bells sound, Put one hundred crowns, On the one with the big nose.

Sounds like a horse race to me. When we find ourselves at one, put 100gp on Schnorbits, got it.

The answer you seek [Golcanz looks directly at Buggles] is at the bottom of the Goblin’s stair/stare.

Righto, bottom of the goblin stair, got it. Must be something to do with Gwen.

The hands are within one thousand teeth

Clearly just nonsense, the raving of a mad spirit.

Stand fast between the dead and the storm. When the worst comes call upon me, And I will send a God’s favour. Look to the sea, to see, the sea-change.

OK its a beach fight, call on old Garumn when it looks bad, got it.

Stand in the surf- call my name, when you need me most.

Vinnie's mad turtle friend, OK that's another ally for the beach battle.

That just about wraps it up, aside from a possible meeting with Ashardalon, the small elfy version. I might not get invited to that.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #029c HELLO ASHBY! WE ARE 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


Just to say ahead of time this was only a short session (kinda, it just went on for a long time), mainly because the start of this part of the adventure involves the loading of a brand new campaign file in Fantasy Grounds. There were a slew of new files to download for all of the players, and modules and books et al that needed to be uploaded to a new instance of Fantasy Grounds. This lot took just over an hour-and-a-half to do, so we wished each other merry Christmas, repeatedly- and then continued to laugh and take the piss out of Newt/Bear.

Note the new campaign thing is a lesson hard learned, I’ve had campaign files in the past in FG that were the best part of half-a-gig in size. Not good for loading times- I discovered. So, fresh slate- new start.

Incidentally 500 XP, the amount of XP awarded to the Dark Squad for Newt’s adventures in demon/devil summoning (his meeting with Humphrey), is now (and forever more) known in game as the price of a tabaxi’s soul.

In section a) of this session’s write up I awarded 500 XP or ‘one tabaxi’s soul’s worth of XP’, as I stated at the time, for the fine speeches given by various PCs when Geradil, Spandwick, Bel and Erky all departed.

And another tabaxi’s soul’s worth of XP (500) for the final chat with Gundren- and his farewell/start-of-the-new-bit speech to the PCs.

It doesn’t seem a lot of XP does it- 500?

Not for a PCs soul.

It must really grate that a few speeches garnered the same amount of XP.

Really grate.

So, here we go again, something new and yet all too familiar.

2904.jpg

Views from the Waverider, en route to Saltmarsh (actually first stop, Ashby).

The Dark Squad arrive in Ashby, by rowboat from the (briefly) anchored Waverider- early morning, and to gawps and stares from the assembled fisherfolk.

Ashby is a small fishing village, maybe a couple of hundred souls all told, including those of the nearby farming families. There’s a pub here- the Red Dragon Inn; a general store- Old Ma Coddles; and a meeting house-combi-worship space (dedicated to Poseidon & Umberlee).

2905.jpg

The Dark Squad come ashore, Ashby will never be the same again.

The village folk are 99% human.

They have never…

Ever.

Seen a tabaxi before.

Then something odd happens- Newt, not known for his speeches, makes… well, a speech- to the hereby masses. Basically he (& the Dark Squad) are here to spread the word- Gundren Rockseeker and the dwarven miners of Farhill are all very nice people.

I said he made a speech, I didn’t say that it made much sense to the assembled crowd, however Newt then pays a fisherman one platinum piece (that’s just short of two months wages) to show him and his colleagues to the Inn- which is just across the road. Also, to answer a handful of very simple questions- who does what around here (mostly) and what do the locals think about Farhill mine and the dwarves that work there. “Hard working decent folk, they like a drink every now and then but make no trouble- and generally spend money hereabouts.” That’s the consensus.

Consensus because soon after flashing the money the crowd of onlookers begins to grow… and grow.

About ninety minutes later (real time) maybe three hours in game time and the following has occurred, most of it played out to howls of laughter.

Newt, Vinnie and Daktari have filled the Red Dragon Inn to bursting with locals (by putting 50gp behind the bar), at one point the windows of the Inn have to be opened to let folk outside hear what’s going on within- the place is rammed.

Newt is singing and performing, with a little magic thrown in, and he’s a veritable hit.

It’s worth noting, at this point, how generous Newt is being with his money, it seems the prospect of handing over half of it at regular intervals has increased his exuberance, and his outgoings significantly.

He’s a delight.

Meantime Ram & Buggles quickly tire of the crowd and go for a wander- the pair meet up with Lukas Gnarlyfisk*, the town speaker- he’s very helpful. The rogue pair talk briefly about what they’re doing here- working for Gundren/Farhill mine, and then state that if there’s ever anything they can do to help… just get a message to them. “Help, how?” Lukas asks, Buggles describes the Dark Squad as problem solvers, armed problem solvers- if you catch my drift. They’ll be heading for Farhill mine sometime soon- so, any problem that Lukas thinks they could help to resolve, just get a message to them there. The pair are… wait for it, so nice as to be almost unbelievable- courteous, polite- even affable. Lukas is very impressed, and states that he will find a farmer with a cart to give them a lift to the mine.

“That’s nice.” Buggles adds.

I was speechless.

“I love this place.” Buggles states next, as the pair of killer rogues wander into Old Ma Coddles’ general store, Old Ma is deaf- “What dearie?” and spends a good part of the following conversation believing that Buggles is a dwarf, from the mine (note Buggles was in fact asking about the dwarves at the mine). Old Ma Coddles’ eyesight is not up to much either. The general store is good for turnips and wooden buckets but alas doesn’t have anything to attract the adventurer’s interest. Buggles however is very keen to spend a little cash, he therefore purchases a selection of fruits for the cart trip to Farhill mine- snacks, and then pays 10gp for the fare (actual cost 2cp).

Now, I’ve told you this before- every now and then I roil a D20 Random What Happens Next Dice, well- I rolled a ‘1’. There’s a lot of it about it seems.

So, Old Ma Coddles sees the pile of cash and… faints away.

Somehow, eventually- after two failed medicine checks (one for each PC- DC 10) the pair manage to get Old Ma back on her feet, Buggles insists that she keep the money for the fruit- and eventually the very helpful rogues pack the old dear off to the Red Dragon Inn for a glass of port and lemon.

Back in the Inn Newt is still entertaining the masses, and making further impromptu speeches, he really does love the sound of his own voice- the sign of a true entertainer.

Therefore the nice young rogues decide to pay a visit to the meeting-house-cum-chapel in Ashby, and after chatting with a clerk there get escorted through to the worship space, there they meet and talk at length with Ludwig Clamzucker*, the wild-eyed, crazy-haired priest who officiates here. It’s all very pleasant, and very mostly about what’s going on hereabouts- and particularly in Saltmarsh. The pair are very definitely getting the lay of the land, as it were.

*I’ve been listening to a WFRP podcast of late, Professional Casual network- A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure, hence Ludwig Clamzucker and Lukas Gnarlyfisk- I’ve gone all Olde Worlde.

Note the conversation here also goes on to discuss elves, and in particular aquatic elves (I don’t remember how we got here) but it’s worth noting that Ram worked with a sea elf aboard Captain Rockbeard’s ship, the watery elf was called Oceanus.

Then, job done- and very happy with the fulsome answers they have received, the pair decide to leave a donation- that’s another 10gp each, and because the joke is still fresh I roll my D20 Random What Happens Next Dice and guess what- another ‘1’.

The priest sees the offerings bowl overflowing with gold coins and… hits the deck, a dead faint- and because the players are laughing hard now, well… there’s a second thump. Buggles and Ram look around to see that the clerk that directed the pair to the chapel has also just fainted away, the fellow was clearly spying on proceedings from the doorway of the room.

The two rogues scramble, and this was (for me) the delight of this session- this pair are absolute terrors in combat, great at stealth, and very hard to ambush et al. They’re really good at what they do- which is mostly kill folk, and it seems one or the other of them is always rolling high.

But they’re terrible at medicine checks (and quite a lot of other checks), I mean really bad.

They always- ALWAYS- roll low.

Buggles rushes to help the priest, medicine check = ‘1’, seconds later and the unfortunate fellow has now swallowed his tongue, and is choking to death.

Ram rushes over to the prostrate clerk and rolls a ‘1’ too, managing somehow to kick the door the clerk was hiding behind into the face of the poor innocent, breaking the fellow’s nose and in the same instance knocking him unconscious.

More frantic checks get made.

At some point during this Buggles cries out something similar to- “What’s going on here? We’re trying to be nice. We’re trying to help these people. Why does everyone we meet always end up dying?”, the wood elf beseeches the heavens.

He’s in a chapel after all.

Eventually one of the pair- Ram, has the good sense to run back to the Inn to fetch Vinnie, soon after and all is back to being well with the world, the clerk and the priest are fixed.

I appreciate it’s cheap schtick/slapstick but the dice made me do it. There was a point in there- looking back through the Fantasy Grounds chat file, when there were six dice rolls in a row- two by me, two from Buggles and two from Ram. Ram rolled the highest with… a ‘2’. The only two, the rest were all ‘1’s- don’t tell me these things are random.

At midday the Dark Squad depart Ashby, with streams of children trailing after the farmer’s cart that is taking them the five or so miles to Farhill mine.

2906.jpg

I said this was going to be old school- I've drawn a big map of the region and coloured it in- half-arsedly, I mean in a minimalist style. The PCs only get to see wherever they go and visit. People can tell them where stuff is but they've got to go explore to find it.

The villagers, for the most part- by which I mean almost all of them, have had a drink or two on the Dark Squad, and have also been right royally entertained- for hours. They have been promised, or at least the village speaker has- Lukas Gnarlyfisk, and this is if I’ve understand Buggles and Ramshambow correctly. The village has been offered protection. Who knows how this offer will be interpreted- I, for one, am dying to find out.

So, an hour or so up the road to Farhill mine, a wander through the sprawling log bunkhouses of the camp, asking directions as they go, “Can you point us towards Manistrad Copperlocks?”

The answer most often given, while pointing towards the mine proper- “Good luck with that!”

2907.jpg

Farhill Mine camp, the PCs are a little more subdued here- surrounded as they are by a couple of hundred burly (surly) dwarves and the like.

The Dark Squad enter Farhill mine… and the session comes to an end, and we played for just short of an hour over time, the longest session yet.

Lots of fun, I appreciate you had to be there at the time for a lot of it, but you know how it is- you’ve seen and experienced this before in your own sessions, it’s a joy when it all just works. Even when everything is going badly for the players its never anything less than great.

Top work fellers.

Just a heads up- no session next week (29th), next session Tuesday 5th Jan 2021, a new year- a new beginning, finger’s crossed.

GOODNIGHT ASHBY!

Stay safe and well.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

carborundum

Explorer
And in their wake, dozens of hungover, newly-rich, baffled townsfolk. Awesome.
All the best for New Year's Eve in tier whatever. Hope you can still have a good one!
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #030 Bang & Olafsson.

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


This is session 30, and the start of something- maybe, it was a quiet session- fun, as in funny, but… quiet, not boring- lots of doing, just a bit slower than what has come before.

But to begin with- “Prophecy Corner”, don’t just say it- sing it. This is a new feature in which the surly DM makes the players chat about the various prophecies and wise-words they have picked up along the way- see session 29B above, also for the results of this discussion. Prophecy Corner is just ten minutes long and will take place at the start of each new session, from here on in- an attempt by the DM to keep the PCs thinking about… well, lots of stuff.

The Dark Squad however are now in Farhill mine, owned by Gundren Rockseeker but the operation is run (day-to-day) by Manistrad Copperlocks, and she’s very much in charge. Certainly that’s the PCs opinion soon after they meet with her, she’s a surly dwarf- a little rude, maybe just brusque, but really not a people person. After being shouted at for a while the PCs deliver their letter to Manistrad (from Gundren) and then take an hour or two off to investigate Farhill’s amenities. This while Manistrad and her factotum Golf Kindle go off to read Gundren’s missive and then to find something for the newly arrived ‘problem-solving’ Dark Squad to do.

3001.jpg

Farhill Mine and its inhabitants, Manistrad doesn't look that pleased to see the guys, but the Dark Squad are going to turn that frown upside down. Just you wait and see.

Farhill is quite a place, in a few short hours the adventurers meet the Triplecrown triplets, and shop for a while in their general store. Likewise they meet with Max Damage- a dwarven high-pressure-selling weapons and armour vendor- Buggles buys a nice pre-owned (masterwork) scimitar (which, according to Max Damage, killed a Hill Giant with one strike). Later this weapon becomes Buggles’ new off-hand scimitar- Giantsbane, the wood elf names all of his weapons.

All of the gang visit Arty Swell’s Potion-o-rama, the market-trader style boisterous gnome has an ointment for everything- from downstairs itch to problems with your fleshy-goitre. Vincenzo takes a particular interest, the Druid can make healing potions but he’s looking to expand his repertoire, he also purchases a potion of climbing.

Eventually the adventurers sojourn to Rooty Goldberg’s tavern (Rooty is the biggest dwarf any of the adventurers have ever seen). Things go from very well to great in the pub, the off-duty guards and miners start off surly-ish but 30gp behind the bar can turn a few heads, and loosen a few tongues. And once more the Dark Squad are spending to get the locals on-side, and to get the lowdown- what’s going down here in Farhill.

Not much, as it turns out- and as the PCs discovered in Ashby, nobody they have met and talked to so far on their grand pressing the flesh campaign trail has told them about anything untoward. That’s not to say folk at the mine are happy- Manistrad is universally disliked, but as it turns out that’s because she’s a stickler, and with no favourites, and she’s also the toughest SOB in the place.

So, just the everyday grumbles of the hard working/drinking dwarven folk, if there’s nothing bad going on here- what are the problem-solving Dark Squad going to do with their time?

[Meet the locals and ask around 500 XP]

Well, Manistrad has an idea, the mine supervisor apologises for her earlier brusqueness but she has a lot going on-

“I have a leaky up'n'down in head shaft four, the Tinker seam looks to be almost played out- there's at least two clans that are quite frankly getting on my tits, and there's a big patch of sporch that's going to have to be hosed or burnt in the underline.”

I gave Manistrad a few nice speeches.

Buggles asks if Manistrad can speak the common tongue, only he didn’t understand a word she just said.

Soon after the mine supervisor dishes out the PCs first job-

“I gave my chief engineer Garvast Bang a tenday off, to relax I told him- thinking he'd just go for a good long drink in Ashby. What I didn't account for is that his deputy Ragbark Olafsson was off at the same time. Don't get me wrong, every sodding dwarf down here thinks they're an engineer. But, they're really not.

So, I need one of them back. They've not gone far, but I can't spare anyone to go looking for them right now. One of Garvast's underlings told me that the pair had gone to explore some old ruin they had found in Farrow Wood. They've been away maybe four or five days now, even if I could get just one of them back a day early that'd be... well, it’d be better than nothing. The pair are both booked off for a tenday.

You up for it? You never know, by the time you come back I might have found some proper work for you.”

3002.jpg

A meeting in Rooty's Tavern, we're going adventuring again...

The Dark Squad are all nods and smiles- they’re up for it.

Golf Kindle, good cop to Manistrad’s bad, a short while later- when Manistrad has departed, explains a little more-

“You need to bring the pair of them back as soon as you can, we need them here- more than Manistrad is saying, and it was her error- sending them both off at the same time. She's not used to making mistakes.”

Then, after further questions-

“Don't mind Manistrad, she's got a lot on her mind- lots of folk depend on her making the right decisions about an awful lot of things.”

Getting this job done- returning either Bang or Olafsson (but preferably both) early will surely put the Dark Squad in Manistrad’s good books. The pair have actually been gone for three-and-a-half days Golf makes clear, although they both have a tenday booked off-shift.

Note, the DM- in the guise of Gundren Rockseeker, told the adventurers all about Manistrad back in Neverwinter, so- they’re actively trying to get on the mine supervisor’s good side, and already very aware that she’s a tough dame.

Also note- Garvast Bang and Ragbark Olafsson.

Bang & Olafsson, this joke found favour about an hour later when one of the PCs, with a little help, eventually worked it out.

Anyway, Golf is much more helpful- providing directions to Farrow Wood, a two hour yomp away- but time is getting on, there’s only maybe four hours of daylight left in the day- so there’s also the offer of overnight accommodation. Which is refused- the Dark Squad carpe diem, a few more purchases and they’re off to Farrow Wood right now.

[Meetings with Manistrad & Golf 500 XP]

My but the Dark Squad have got the bit between their teeth today- off the Waverider at 6 AM this morning- the folk of Ashby amused, bemused and bested by midday; then Farhill mine likewise royally entertained, and now they’re off to save a pair of dwarven engineers. All in a day’s work for the Dark Squad.

So, two hours of tramping through stunningly beautiful countryside- of the windswept and wild variety, and the adventurers are at Farrow Wood, but now where- Farrow Wood, as it turns out, is a pretty big place.

3003.jpg

The countryside hereabouts and Farrow Woods- it's all very pleasant. Note the regional map (top right) is fairly huge, the Dark Squad have exposed about 1% of it so far.

My aim in this chapter is to get the PCs to do a lot more in the way of travelling and exploring stuff, and with all the associated skill checks, roleplay and random encounters that may bring. Although, in truth I am at present keeping them busy at the Farhill Mine (and thereabouts) while I do a bit of frantic building with regard to the rest of the region on Fantasy Grounds.

So, Farrow Woods- a plan is formed, checks are made- mostly survival, and the adventurers plunge into the foliage, eventually- maybe an hour or so later they wander into a patch of forested drumlins, and are soon after are ambushed by a pair of giant hyenas.

Note the first giant hyena is spotted as it sneaks forward to make its attack- and thus gets swiftly savaged by Ram and Buggles. The second hyena is much better hidden, and soon after tears a hole in a panicked Newt, and then repeats the trick mere seconds later.

3004.jpg

The Dark Squad in kill mode, then Vinnie gets shot in the back.

Note Buggles makes his usual Nature check (‘4’) to identify the attackers, he is convinced that the savage creatures are ‘bow-legged bears’.

Oh, and a little later on I tell Stu, playing Buggles, that his last three dice rolls in the Dice Tower (meaning hidden so that the Player cannot see the results) were a ‘1’, a ‘2’ and a ‘3’- in that order. Having just told him this his next three dice rolls in the Dice Tower are- a ‘1’, a ‘2’ and a ‘3’.

It’s a beautiful symmetry at times.

Buggles’ dice are semi-busted this session, although not his to hit rolls, just pretty much every skill check he makes.

My dice however are on fire this evening.

Vinnie entangles one of the giant hyenas and soon after the creature is slaughtered by the ferocious rogues. The second is stabbed repeatedly by Daktari, then shot by the rogues, and then finally blown apart by Newt. The fight would have been very easy except for the fact that Vincenzo, somewhere in the midst of the fracas, gets shot in the back- there’s an archer up on top of one of the wooded drumlins. Worse still the creature evades the Dark Squad’s attempt to hunt it down- the sniper escapes, most perturbing.

[Giant hyena’s and the mystery archer 625 XP]

Then, while Vinnie and several of the other PCs, are still trying to figure out who (or what) the mystery shooter was… there’s an explosion, with accompanying short sharp shudder felt through the feet- a tremor. Although the impact (or whatever it was) clearly happened several miles away from this locale.

Vinnie bravely climbs forty feet up into the canopy of the highest tree he can find, and in the distance, and in the last light of day- the druid spots a smoke cloud- south east, maybe a mile or two away.

“I ‘ave located ze dwarves.” The druid declares, and then leads his comrades unerringly to the spot- although maybe ninety minutes later.

[Find the dwarven engineers 250 XP]

The Dark Squad- moving quickly through the woods, almost run into two thick-set grumpy old dwarves heading in the opposite direction.

It’s dark now of course, but remember all the members of the Dark Squad are at home in the dusk and shadow, at least to some extent- Daktari is still getting used to his Goggles of Night.

“Who the hell are you muppets?” The first dwarf politely asks while waving his mace in Ram’s face.

“Talk fast sunshine or else I'll put my cludgie in yer speck-hole!” The second dwarf adds impetus to the discussion.

3005.jpg

Bang & Olafsson in all of their glory, Abbathor style masked dwarves- as on the statues (see below) and bottom right the newly created entrance to the ancient ruined evil dwarven temple.

The Dark Squad say all the right things- Manistrad Copperlocks sent us, we’ve come to take you back to Farhill mine etc.

But the suspicious dwarves are not buying it, they have questions, just to make sure the adventurers are the real deal-

“A likely story- what's the name of the tavern at Farhill?” The first dwarf snarls.

“What's the name of the gnome pox doctor that sells his wares there?” The second adds, and then in chorus- “And the name of the high-pressure-selling dwarven armsman?”

You have to make sure that the players are paying attention, feel free to test them every now and then- go on, I dare you.

The Dark Squad pass the test, and Bang & Olafsson get introduced, only- they’ve got an ongoing problem… Well, that’s okay- because the Dark Squad are problem-solvers.

The dwarven engineers lead the adventurers back to the great hole in the ground (actually hole in the side of one of the drumlins) within which is some sort of open space… and an ancient ruin.

Olafsson explains, at a race-

“There are a pair of doors in the entrance hall- they were open, so Bang there takes a peeky- and something lurches outta the dark. He thinks a zombie, a dwarf zombie mind. Then at the same time the other door starts opening- on the other side of the hall. Skeleton! So- we slammed the doors shut, tout sweet as the elves say, and then spiked ‘em. But I think they're trying ta break tha doors down.”

Bang adds a little detail- “It's an ancient temple- dwarven, and... well, it's not pleasant- we think it's a temple to Abbathor.”

Vinnie quickly reminds his friends (after a religion ‘20’ check) that Abbathor is the dwarven god of greed, and the only evil member of the pantheon (if you ignore the duergar gods, which you should).

By the time the explanation is done (of course) the PCs have been lead back to the site- and what do you know, the closest (formerly spiked shut) door is suddenly smashed off its hinges- zombies and skeletons spew out.

We’re fighting.

3006.jpg

Ah... that's better, combat- the first door is smashed off its hinges and the mindless undead spill out.

But these are only zombies and skeletons- dwarven mind, but here’s the thing- my dice (as I said earlier) are on fire. I have thirteen low level mooks in this fight, six spill out of the first door, and seven more get into the melee when the second (formerly spiked) door is wrenched open moments later. The dwarven skeletons are +4 to hit, dwarven zombies +3, but over the course of the next six turns I make twenty one attack rolls in total (I just counted them in the chat file), and fourteen of them are hits.

It’s not terrifying for the PCs, because even when the fighting is over none of them are particularly beaten up (bloodied), they’ve just all taken one to lots of hits each (including Bang & Olafsson).

[High to-hit-rolling mindless undead 650 XP]

Then silence, and there are no more undead to kill.

The Dark Squad make their play to B&O, again- you pair are needed back at the mine, now! But B&O have a counter-offer for the PCs, which is this- help us to explore this place (or do it for us) and we’ll split the loot 50/50. Also B&O will throw in a pair of sending stones, the magical devices are much used in the mining industry.

The Dark Squad and the dwarven engineers chat for a while, eventually they reach an accord. The thinking is- the Dark Squad have found their quarry (B&O) alive and well (and very quickly), and so they’ve still got five days to get the pair safely back to Farhill mine. But, Vinnie reasons- “we shud get zem back two or sree (three) days early, to show Manistrad we mean biz-ness, n’est pas?”

The Dark Squad will take one of the sending stones and explore the ruins- all finds split 50/50, meantime Bang & Olafsson will keep hold of the other sending stone and guard the way in.

So, welcome to the Dark Squad’s first ‘dungeon’ in Saltmarsh.

[Dealing with Bang & Olafsson 500 XP]

Note the chambers the undead exited each contain a set of stairs heading below- into crypts, best guess- so there’s some exploring to be done down there. The entrance area in the upper section is home to half-a-dozen dwarf-sized statues, depicting violent looking masked dwarves, again identified as adherents of Abbathor.

The central passage descends into an large open worship space with an altar and another much larger nasty-looking masked dwarf statue, this figure has his hands cupped before him- however there’s something glowing, hidden in his cupped hands. A birds-egg sized beautiful glowing gem, Ram discovers after a bit of climbing. This large high ceilinged chamber is over run with plants and vines- nature it seems has broken in. There are also two doors exiting this space, one either side of the statue.

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The ancient ruined temple of Abbathor- thus far, plenty more to be explored.

Note, there follows another Wise-Words/Prophecy-based chat, if you remember Newt’s premier patron Belphegor said-

“WAIT!”

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


So, the PCs want to know- is a dwarf without a face actually a dwarf in a mask?

Also, would the ghostly Garumn count as a pale dwarf?

These are smart people, have no doubt.

But we get on, however- the next thing that needs to happen is for the PCs to get a rest. Although it’s also just short of 10 PM atm, and so the Dark Squad have been on the go, pretty much, for the last 16 hours.

Time to get a proper rest then, which involves Newt evoking his latest toy- Leomund’s Tiny Hut, B&O are sore amazed- a spell casting cat!

A good night’s sleep is had by all, and with no further encounters.

Now for the exploring proper, which starts with a good look around the central chamber, and then a thorough investigation of the glowing gem in the large statue’s hands- Ram is certain that there’s something not right with it. Eventually the rogue notes that ancient fragments of bone discovered nearby show burn and scorch marks- blackening. There was an intense fire here.

Ram rolled a bloody ‘20’.

Newt and Vinnie take over the investigations, soon after the druid is certain that the gem is the source of a frightening magical (evocation) power. Newt however has a plan- it involves all of his companions getting well back and taking cover, this while his unseen servant goes and grabs the gem from the dwarven statue’s hands.

Which it does, and then is ordered to wait in the centre of the massive chamber until… eventually… BOOM!

The gem becomes a fireball, only augmented by a fusillade of slivers of red hot melting glass, just to say fellers- there were ten dice involved in the damage roll for that trap.

Well done for avoiding witnessing it.

[The shattering fire gem 500 XP]

Just to note while the above was going on, and with Newt ordering his unseen servant around- and then directly into mortal danger, Buggles had the following to say to his skeletal companion, the text taken straight from the chat-

Buggles: cover your eyes gwen
Buggles: id never treat u like this

However the danger is avoided, next up one of the sealed chambers off the main worship area is investigated, Daktari eventually shoving his way in to a tomb. The small chamber revealed is empty, save for the stately but ancient sarcophagi of a priest of Abbathor. Marked as such in dwarven.

Ram and Buggles get to work, the pair swiftly discover that the sarcophagi is riddled with small circular holes, through which the pair speculate something bad is ejected when the trap goes off- how right they are. The mechanism for the trap however seems to be within, and so is inaccessible. Therefore the pair spend nearly thirty minutes sealing all of the holes that they can find, before drafting Daktari in once again to actually get the lid off- the trap is successfully disarmed. Within there’s not much save ancient bones, and a remarkably well-preserved bandolier which holds five matching, and still sharp, steel knives, which Ram takes a liking to and soon after calls his own.

3008.jpg

Traps disabled and treasure found- the Dark Squad are back in action.

Note, I’ve found myself a treasure table I really like, and have started to pimp up the treasure parcels, so no more big bags of gold and silver for the Dark Squad. Instead there are going to be more useful (and also useless but sometimes valuable) items to be found. I figure now that the PCs have got a bag of holding I’m going to find a way to fill it with junk.

Also, the PCs are going to have to find some folk to buy this junk, which may lead to conversations… see below.

[Open the sarcophagi and get the treasure 400 XP]

But that’s it- that’s all we got up to.

DM Interlude, to the players (and reader)-

Just to make clear, the change of gear is not a bad thing here- this is the start of a new chapter of the Dark Squad’s adventures. Like I said in earlier sessions and at the VTT, the idea here is for the PCs to make Saltmarsh their new home, so- we’re playing the long game, you’ve only been ‘here’ (in the Saltmarsh region) for just over 24 hours. This then serves as a warning to the guys, the players, some adventures are going to come to you- like this one, but other events- well, there’s a timetable of sorts. While other possibilities (and adventures) are only going to happen/take place after a little investigation- i.e. when you find them out. At some point you (the players) are going to have to get involved- make friends, find folk to talk to, and perhaps also take the time to investigate a few of the outstanding ‘prophecies’ etc.

So, we’re talking smaller adventures, no sprawling multilevel dungeons, but rather a plot (or two). A bit of detective work, a lot of chatter, plenty of exploring- maybe even putting a few clues together along the way, that’s what is going to be needed.

But… to do this, we need a little time- so, this part of the campaign isn’t going to be a race (at the start) it’s going to be quieter, at times, certainly from what has come before. The PCs are going to get a little space to be themselves, and to get some downtime activities done, to explore Saltmarsh and meet its people, and to find out what- if anything- is going on here.

Remember you signed up with Gundren for a six month stint here, and with the option of another six months should it be needed.

Should any problems arise in the Saltmarsh region during this time then the Dark Squad are, at present, promoting themselves as being aggressive problem-solvers.

Let’s see if we can make that work.

So, we started a little late and finished mostly on time, and one of our intrepid explorers has got a touch of Covid atm, so an early night for all, but much more action next session- promise.

I said it was going to be a bit slower play- but, I’m still going to try to kill the pesky PCs.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.

Get better soon Bear, Newt needs to be earning because Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar will be back to collect sooner than you think.

Update: Just heard back from Bear (Newt) and he's doing just fine.
 
Last edited:



Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #031 Do Not Split The Party.

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


This is session 30, and another slow one (but not bad you understand), which was compounded by a really odd/awkward/strange decision (see the title). We’re all better now, lesson learned, and lots of smiles and laughter by the end of play.

But it got close to the wire for a while, as you’ll see.

At least for some of ‘em.

But to begin with 40 minutes of technical difficulties- Jim’s computer/Discord for some reason decided to no longer recognise his mic, even though it’s connected to his headset, the same one he uses all day at work and for every session so far.

Then Prophecy Corner- 10 minutes of chatter, see session 29b for results, and then we’re on with the actual game, better late than never.

The Dark Squad are in a recently unearthed ruined temple of Abbathor, employed by Bang & Olafsson to check the place out, prior to getting the treasure-seeking dwarven engineers back to Manistrad Copperlocks (their new patron) and Farhill Mine.

So, the exploration continues- Daktari barges the door open into a second tomb, a sealed sarcophagi within- home to a long dead priest of Abbathor, and like the last tomb the Squad investigated this one is also trapped. Ram and Buggles, get to work- although it’s the former that finally takes the risk- there’s a gas (they think) sealed within the sarcophagi, the ex-smuggler jimmies and cuts and eventually manages to wedge a blade in to break the seal- and expel the sulphurous gas within. Although it takes another ten minutes to clear the air in the chamber so that it is safe to re-enter.

A little more treasure is found within the sarcophagi, they’re really having to work for it though.

[Another trapped sarcophagi opened 250 XP]

3101.jpg

The upper level is explored...

Then… well, the PCs have located two ways down into whatever lies beneath the ruins, one stair descends twenty feet into a small-ish half-flooded chamber, with more biers, bones, rubble and associated detritus. There are also at least two dwarf zombies shuffling about down in the water, and with a closed door and another passage exiting the room. The place is scoped out by the silent but deadly rogues.

The second set of stairs descends twenty feet (also) into a dry chamber- yet another crypt-type-chamber, however there’s the sound of movement from within. Someone or something is sloshing through deep water- somewhere unseen, further on into the crypt. This area is being investigated by a very cautious Vinnie.

The adventurers think that the two chambers must inevitably meet up.

They do.

Eventually.

But then Newt suddenly dashes over to Vinnie’s side and the pair descend, accompanied by Daktari. Just to note Newt, the tabaxi, hates water- he’s a cat, remember.

3102.jpg

We're heading in...

Meantime the rogues, with Gwen following on, wade into the watery chamber ahead of them and start taking pot shots at the dwarven zombies ahead. The two shambling enemies turn out to have friends, as another pair of dwarven zombies slosh slowly (difficult terrain) through the waist deep water out of the flooded passage the rogues spotted earlier.

The fight is a breeze, although again my dice are on fire.

Keep in mind I’m dishing out zombie slam damage here, so there’s no real threat, although I do manage to Crit Buggles’ skeleton companion Gwen twice during the fracas, and both rogues have taken a couple of hits by the time that we’re done.

[Dwarven zombies in the watery crypt 200 XP]

3103.jpg

This is easy, just a few zombies.

But, I’m not going to tell you what’s going on with Vinnie, Newt & Daktari- let’s leave that for a little while. All I will say is at this point that if there hadn’t have been twenty feet of solid rock between the two groups, well… Ram & Buggles would have heard their comrades screaming.

Now you’re interested.

So, the two rogues (and Gwen) are having a pleasant time- easy fight over they find the water-half-filled passage leads to another door, both doors they have discovered- the rogues figure, head into the same chamber. So, onwards…

Alas the ancient stone doors are wedged in place, and hard to move—it takes two turns of failed shoving before Buggles relents and finally orders Gwen to barge the door open, which she does- first time.

Why are we still moving in turns you ask.

Simples, in the other chamber Vinnie, Newt and Daktari are still fighting.

I think it would be safe to say for their lives.

But, let’s get back to the rogues.

The newly revealed chamber is another crypt, although with steps up and out of the mirk and slosh and onto dry land. There’s another dwarf zombie in here, and before the rogues put it down two more of the shambling undead stumble into the fracas.

But, once again, another easy fight- although Gwen, as previously, takes a beating. She’s bloodied- keep in mind Gwen is a 50 HP Skeleton, this after Buggles had a word with Old Mare when the Dark Squad were with the Uthgardt, he got his skeleton servitor pimped.

The trio of shambling undead are killed.

[More sloshing zombie dwarves 150 XP]

The rogues continue on, up and out of the water- into yet another crypt chamber, more bones, broken things- rubble, etc. The place is searched, and a little treasure found, and yet another door discovered.

The rogues eventually combine forces to shoulder the stone door open.

Guess what, there’s another crypt style chamber beyond, and another dwarf zombie staggers out of the dark ahead.

But, let me make clear again, this is slow going- why you ask. Well, because Vinnie, Newt & Daktari are still fighting- they’re into their fifteenth turn of combat at this point.

Let us therefore take a moment to tell their story.

Sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…

Vinnie, Newt and Daktari descend into a crypt- more broken stones and bone, tangled roots and the like poking through walls and ceiling. Around the corner there are steps down… into a barrel-ceilinged much larger chamber, three feet deep with water- so the tabaxi is going to be getting his feet wet, as it turns out.

In the water are a trio of dwarven zombies, the adventurers hold the line and swiftly beat the undead down, and all without getting their feet wet. Note Vinnie and Daktari both take hits, but again- we’re talking zombie slams here, so no worries.

[Dwarf zombies in the water 150 XP]

Then the trio wade through the murk, and discover that the newly revealed watery chamber is T-shaped (an upside down T), and leads into a much larger chamber- to the north. Alas at this point several bad things happen.

A hidden choker reaches down from the high(-ish) ceiling and starts throttling and choking Vinnie, while at the same time Newt turns around to see a massive ooze (actually an ochre jelly) slithering towards him on the ceiling, the giant amorphous blob flails a pseudopod at the tabaxi and… misses.

3104.jpg

Vinnie, Newt & Daktari's problems begin.

However, things then go from bad to worse remarkably quickly.

Newt blasts a second choker which was attempting to throttle him- he mortally wounds the rubbery menace which flees the fight.

Not bad, however…

Daktari steps in to face the slow moving ochre jelly but can’t seem to hit the thing- it’s ten feet above the barbarian’s head, and only capable of hitting him because it has the reach.

The ooze slams Daktari (with a Crit) and leaves the barbarian burnt and bloodied (from full = 50+ HP to 15 HP or so in one titanic BLAP!) and the screaming begins.

When Daktari does connect with the blob it is with his greatsword- and the slashing blade just divides the beast in two (and does no actual damage).

Daktari is therefore swiftly reduced to standing, waving, swatting (and dodging, of course) in an effort to keep the two now much smaller ochre jellies interested in him, this so that his comrades can work through their own issues.

3105.jpg

They're screaming now! Note the rogues and Gwen out for a pleasant stroll.

Vinnie meantime escapes the choker initiated throttling he was enjoying by wild-shaping into Vincen G. Octopod- “Wibble Wibble”, as he is wont to say.

Alas this plan also proves to have its drawbacks, a third choker gets into the fight (because the DM is staggering the bad guy’s release). Vincen G. manages, eventually to grab/grapple the first choker that attacked him, and then BLAT it repeatedly against a wall- until it’s dead.

The remaining choker, after chasing Newt for a while, then starts clawing and grabbing at Vincen G., at one point in the fracas the two have each other gripped- and a Crit later and alas Vincen G. is no more- deceased.

Note Vincen G. started with 60+ HP.

The chokers never missed Vincen G. once with their attacks- dead in just three turns.

Vinnie is suddenly back in the room, back in shifter shape, and he’s hurt some more- particularly when the aforementioned choker grabs hold of him again and gets back to crushing the life out of the druid.

He’s bloodied and beyond.

Oh, and I said above that a choker chases Newt for a while, the warlock is trying to blast the little beast, but at the same time also trying to blast the pair of oozes that Daktari is keeping busy. Newt conjures his Mirror Images, however the rampant choker destroys the tabaxi’s shadowy facsimiles in double-quick time.

Keep in mind, while you are reading this that the two PCs here are screaming and shouting all the while, as is Daktari- and with Newt now desperately reading his Message cantrip to see if he can get in touch with the rogues. He can’t, there’s too much stone between the two halves of the Dark Squad.

Eventually- at last, and this while the rogues are just about to get into their third encounter with dwarven zombies, the fight with the chokers and oozes, finally, gets sorted.

Newt pretty much blasts the oozes gone.

The one surviving choker, wounded at last, flees into a small side-chamber located up and out of the water.

Vinnie goes after the beast, and gets throttled again but with help from his friends manages to beat the last monster down.

3107.jpg

The rogues continue their slaughter, while the last Choker is hunted down.

The druid then sets about expending all of the healing he has in his ring of spell-storing.

[Ochre jelly and a trio of chokers 750 XP]

Then Vinnie, Newt and Daktari stumble into the large chamber to the north they spied earlier- it seems to be the central chamber for the crypt.

There are strange carvings in the stone floor, a high ceiling- two doors exiting (both to the east), more biers and bones etc. Oddly the centre of chamber is mostly clear of rubble, and sitting out in the open is a small (3-inch long) silver & gem-encrusted dagger.

However, it is at this point that the beaten down trio start to hear fighting in the next chamber over- both doors from here lead in this direction, although even with Daktari trying it takes the gang another two turns to shove one of the portals open.

3108.jpg

The rogues, with help from Gwen, are in the process of setting up their choke-point, it's a stroll in the park. Meantime the heavy-breathing Vinnie, Newt & Daktari find the central chamber.

Note the DC to shove open a door is 12.

Hardly epic.

Tbh the rogues however have got things under control- the deadly trio, Ram, Buggles and Gwen have created the perfect kill zone which can only be entered by one dwarf zombie at a time.

They’re slaughtering the undead, one-by-one- no worries.

Note there are seven dwarven zombies in this chamber.

It’s only when Vinnie, Newt and Daktari get involved that things get dangerous again.

Vinnie positions his moonbeam and seers the shambling undead, alas in doing so he also manages to isolate Newt in the corner of the newly revealed chamber, there the tabaxi is swiftly ganged up on by a pair of dwarven zombies.

3109.jpg

Moonbeam corner, just after the radiant burst destroyed the second Zombie attempting to smash Newt down.

But all’s well that ends well- and, again, these are just zombies- Daktari takes a few more hits but the shambling undead are easily beaten down.

[More dwarven zombies 350 XP]

Let me just be honest here- this is your friendly DM speaking here, I didn’t put the dwarven zombies in as threat- they were just shambling flavour for the place, if the gang had been all together… well, no contest.

Then, at last, the Dark Squad are back together.

The trio’s tell their respective tales.

The rogues had a great time, a few zombies here and there but otherwise…

Newt is out of spells, Vinnie’s ring of spell storing is on empty, however he’s back to being the right side of bloodied. Daktari is bloodied again and his greatsword seems to have melted into a bulbous lump at the end. Possibly it now does bludgeoning damage- which could be handy.

The remainder of the conversation goes a little like this-

“Did you not ear uz screaming?” Vinnie asks.

“Nope, did you not hear me say ‘do not split the party’ before we headed below?” Buggles replies, and the rogues laugh long and hard for a good while more.

There are no recriminations however, just a lot of laughter.

But boy was that slow, so- next time that happens, well… I’ll not send the monsters into the fracas one at a time, I’ll throw them all in at the same time.

There was a point in the middle of this- with Vincen G. Octopod dead and gone, and Vinnie down to something like 15 hit points and being grappled and restrained; while Newt’s missing (repeatedly) and down to one mirror image; and Daktari is very bloodied and trying to dodge the two halves of the flailing (full HP) ochre jelly… When I said, in my DM voice- “I think I’m going to kill at least one of you.”

And Jim playing Vinnie replied, “I think you might be right.”

So, we laugh about it all for a while, and then get back to investigating the strange dagger and the carved symbols on the floor of the central chamber.

Best guess the carvings are some sort of pattern, a graduated circle (like a clock face, maybe).

The small dagger is actually a holy symbol of Abbathor, and the players know this- only they didn’t at first and so made a clutch of arcana and religion checks and after six rolls the highest is a ‘7’.

Note, Buggles managed three ‘1’s in a row this evening- woo-hoo, all skill checks mind, not his to hit rolls.

So, the dagger’s purpose remains a mystery.

At least for a while, what is obvious is that the thing is very valuable.

Lots of checks for traps magical and mundane follow- but nothing, and the treasure detects as magical- it’s an enchanting/enchanted item.

[Investigating the small dagger 400 XP]

Eventually Newt uses his mage hand to pick the small dagger up, this while his colleagues ship out to the room next door and take cover- they’re waiting for the blast.

But it doesn’t come, and soon after the device is being examined in hand by Newt.

The tabaxi, every now and then can hear a voice in his head- but he doesn’t understand the language being spoken to him.

It’s dwarven, of course, and the guys quickly figure this out- Vinnie can understand the tongue, and so Gwen, bravely- after Buggles instructs her, ferries the tiny blade to the druid.

The voice says in a drawl/whisper- “Greed is good.”

Repeatedly.

Menacingly.

And the druid is convinced, this after failing his wisdom saving throw, Vinnie sees the faces of his colleagues- they want to take this treasure away from him.

They cannot, they will not… the druid flees, rushing back the way he came, straight for the exit.

[Vinnie flees the scene, they want to take his precious 250 XP]

With not a word to his (former) friends.

At which point, as he exits the large central chamber and begins wading into the murky water beyond, at least a dozen dwarven skeletons instantly rekindle their animus, and re-assemble.

3110.jpg

Vinnie heads for the exit- "it iz my precious-ting, you shall never 'av it!"

But, the session comes to an end.

We were over time already.

Just to say, from a DMs POV, there’s a little more to this yet- but you (dear reader) and my players will come to understand this in the next session.

Until then stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

Bear is all better now, Covid free- hurrah!

Oh, and all of the PCs have enough XP for level 6 now- tbh they only needed 100 XP or so, at the start of this session- now they just need an extended rest.
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Great stuff!
Could the players hear each other's turns/ see each other's turns during this epic separation?

Oh yes, we're all around the VTT and on Discord at the same time.

The separation wasn't a conscious decision (or else that's the line some of the players are sticking with).

What actually happened is the dwarves- Bang & Olafsson pointed out that the door in the upper ruins on the west hand-side had been completely knocked off its hinges by the undead that spewed out of the stairs chamber there. Therefore it would be easier if the PCs entered the crypt down the western stairs. The eastern door still being in good shape could be sealed again, just in case more undead were to emerge from below.

This was me trying to tell the guys that west was the better option, because I'm so nice.

So, all the PCs gather to the west- the rogues take a look below and discover the chamber at the bottom of the stairs is waterlogged, and contains a pair of dwarven zombies.

Vinnie decides that it would therefore be wise to check the eastern stairs- and the chamber below here is dry, and no zombies, although...

Hearing this Newt dashes over to Vinnie and moments later the druid- having now heard something sloshing around down in the eastern crypt decides- "Dakatri, come wiz us- we will 'av a look ahead."

The druid figures the two chambers below connect.

And while both teams are fighting a few slow-moving zombies everything is a lark.

Then the chokers and the ochre jelly turn up.

So, the rogues are being remarkably polite about it all- as in they're not laughing all the while, just some of the time- particularly when their beleaguered colleagues next door are either missing repeatedly or else taking hits.

While Jim (Vinnie) and Bear (Newt) are concertedly, for a while, ignoring the fact that they are in trouble, although that doesn't last. When Vincen G. Octopod gets killed, and with the ochre jelly/jellies still unharmed- then things start to get much louder, and anxious.

And humorous for others watching/listening in.

The issue for me being that because of the multiple combats we ended up staying in the initiative tracker, moving turn by turn for a good long while (20-30 turns in total). For the first two hours of the session at least one (and for a good while, both) groups were in combat. Slow-going.

As I said in the session write up, I only put the dwarven zombies in as walking flavour (sorta) with the Dark Squad all marked as present and together, and making the circuit in either direction- this would have been a walkthrough.

Which was what I intended, I had planned for a short but brutal fight (the eastern way- chokers & jelly) or else a quick hack through a bunch of mostly empty crypt chambers (the western way- zombie dwarves). Then to the climax.

So, we got there- just took a while.

Toodles.

Goonalan
 


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