Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh
Session #112: Shafted!
Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari/Dak (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
Fellowyn Silverstream (played by George) Male Eladrin Wizard Bladesinger Lvl 8
New Tricks/Newt (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo/Ram (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo/Vinnie (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8
Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick) RETIRED
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1 (When we remember)
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar
The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
- An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
- The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
- Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
- Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there any more, but a big red dragon is?
- Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
- To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
- To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 112, and here we go again, if you've been following thus far then you'll know that the Dark Squad are running for their lives. Last we left them they had explored three levels down into an irritating dungeon that seemed to spit out skeletons at random intervals- and was getting quicker at doing so as they descended deeper.
Also, a capering image of Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit pops up at the start of each of the aforementioned dungeon levels in order to signal the start of this level's challenge/rush. Therefore, for a couple of sessions now the Dark Squad have been playing this game- rushing to find the stairway down before the seventh bell tolls, waiting for the stairs to fill with water and then... diving into said water- within which is a portal like light.
That was until Ram (of all people) decided that he no longer wanted to play this silly game, he refused to descend further, which caused a few arguments at the time. That is until all of the Dark Squad got on board and decided to sit the game out, and ignore the haranguing seventh bell.
Soon after the bells started up again- this time on a countdown... six, five, four, three... and at this point some giant mechanical/magical trap was in the process of being triggered (the PCs could hear and feel this). One bell, and... now the water, in the form of a giant wave of destruction, is chasing the Dark Squad all the way back up the stairs.
Got it? Good.
One last thing, the very first chamber of this dungeon complex was a little odd, I made sure the PCs knew this when they first arrived here, I took my time with it. The chamber in question is a small ten by ten room with (seemingly) no ceiling, actually it's the bottom of a shaft, the ceiling is way up above (250 feet). Up above is also illuminated, there's a (tiny) light on up there, or else it exits to the sky above (maybe)- Daktari briefly investigated this much earlier in the piece. Alas his sleuthing was curtailed by a skeleton at the bottom of the shaft firing arrows up at him (and more remarkably hitting the barbarian once or twice).
That was me (the DM), I did this- because I didn't want the PCs to spot the secret too early.
What a bad fellow I am.
Anyway, last bit- promise, before we get to the here and now, when the PCs first got into the watery sarcophagi that lead to this strange tomb, well- the sarcophagi was full to the brim with water, and it had no bottom- just a water-filled shaft below. Ram lead the way in, and swam into... a light (which turned out to be a portal, of course). Likewise, the water-filled stairs that after the seventh bell have appeared to take the PCs to the level below here are, of course, water-filled- and within the water... a light, which the PCs must swim into to appear on the next level.
Hmmm... there's something in that.
Now however, time for the action...
Newt is hit by a holy-moly crushing wall of water (for 6d10 bludgeoning damage).
The screaming, he hates water (and dying), tabaxi warlock survives the hit and then somehow manages to not be entirely engulfed by the tide (saving throw 21), he body surfs the wave. Then, seconds later (on his turn), he puts on a burst of speed that sees him extricate himself entirely from the watery doom, and then somehow sprint off ahead of it.
Like a cartoon cat.
The rest of the Dark Squad are faster than Newt, and more importantly they don't fall down as often as the cat man.
The other four members of the Dark Squad are in the strange first-chamber, which I described above, what are they doing there?
They're climbing of course, because now they think that up is out.
And they're right.
So, there are not going to be too many more pictures to follow- when all the PCs get in the shaft, because- well, I didn't have a picture of a shaft. Instead I have a page of notes, mainly to indicate who is at what height as they climb.
I say climb-
Ram has a Potion of Climbing on the go, Vinnie and Daktari both have Slippers of Spider-Climbing and... Fellowyn?
Moments after the above image is taken the Bladesinger Polymorphs into a Giant Fly.
But, let's flip back to the fleeing Newt for a moment.
And also take the time to say that out of game some of the players are atm coming out with lines like-
“I don't know how you think we're going to get out of (survive) this?”
“Are we not seeing something, is Paul (that's me) just taking the piss? Did we miss something?”
Obviously I remain cool, calm and professional during these moments, or at least I try to remember to turn my mic off before I giggle, snigger and try not to wet myself- what with all of the laughter.
So, the Dark Squad are fraying at the edges, or at least some of them are.
I keep assuring them however, 'you have everything that you need, you just need to work it out', or something similar.
Nice of me, I reckon.
Then Newt (yes, Ben playing Newt is getting frustrated- who would have thunk it?) trawls through his PCs character sheet and comes up with a way out.
“GERALD! Fly me up the shaft my big-eared sonarous beauty!”
And so that's what happens.
Obvs, we can't fit everyone into the shaft on this here map. The rest of what follows (for a bit) is for the imaginarium.
Oh, and Fellowyn is in fly-form on the above image.
But a moment, a short word about Ubmo- he's destroyed by the wave (when Newt first got hit) and every time he re-materialises he's destroyed again by the same engulfing wave as he more often than not usually re-appears right next to the watery sledgehammer.
Sucks to be Ubmo, briefly.
And... back to the Dark Squad who are flying, climbing or else running up the shaft.
The water of course is following them up very quickly into the narrow space.
And at some point during the panicked ascent the tidal wave catches up with Daktari, and then the Moonboar who even with their Spider Climbing Slippers are still not moving fast enough to out rush the deadly tide.
There follows a dramatic rescue as the Moonboar is grabbed and wrenched back out of the surging wave.
The PCs are expending inspiration points and other resources to keep running ahead of the tide.
Every time the water hits the PCs, of course, they take damage- and if they fail their save they are also sucked into the wave and tumbled about a bit (for more damage). They're also drowning while they're in there- although all of the PCs that get to this (Newt, Daktari and the Moonboar from memory) manage to catch their breath before submersion.
So far, so bad.
And so it comes as rather a shock to discover, Giant Fly Fellowyn is the first to get to this, that the shaft has a terminus, it ends with a very solid looking wall. There's no way out up here.
However, there's a not very bright light- no more than a pin-prick of light, which hovers just a little away from the terminus wall.
But again, no obvious way out, and after a frantic check for secret doors- nothing.
The Dark Squad are not amused.
The 'how do we get out of this?' offensive grows new fronts- the DM is getting bombarded.
The kindly DM therefore asks the following question-
“How have you got anywhere in here so far? From the tomb on the surface to this dungeon, and from one level of the dungeon to the next?”
Ram gets it immediately.
The rogue salutes his comrades, and springs away from the wall- he plunges into the rushing water that surges up to meet him (and takes a little damage, but not as much as he would if hadn't timed his leap just right etc. basically it's a lot less damage if you get into the water in a controlled(-ish) fashion).
The rest of the Dark Squad fall in line, because Ram screamed the answer for all to hear before being engulfed by the tsunami.
“The water needs to hit the light, we need to be in the water!”
That's right folks, the last 2-3 turns in the shaft have been all about the PCs doing everything they can to avoid getting into the water, the PCs have been expending all of their resources to do so- or else to rescue comrades that have been caught in the maelstrom.
The answers is... as Ram states, you need to be in the water.
Buffeted- a little, battered- a bit, but then seconds later the pin-prick of light (as the water hits it) expands into a glowing portal.
Just like the others.
The Dark Squad are through...
That went well.
Here they are.
Although in the above image Newt has put up his Leomund's Tiny Hut, because all of the PCs were gasping at this point.
Here, as it turns out is at the base of some muddy hillock of fetid vegetation, surrounded on all sides by a vast choking, and very smelly, swamp.
Fellowyn, who is still in Giant Fly form when he gets here, buzzes up high and... there are no lights to be seen, only a rolling mist and stinking fog that encompasses all the bladesinger's vista.
It doesn't help of course that it's the middle of the night.
However, the Dark Squad work it out...
They're located somewhere in the Mere of Dead Men.
Still, a brief look around the area ahead, and they're also certain that they have located the true tomb of Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit.
However nobody is going anywhere, the PCs have burnt through a variety of spells and powers (and hit points, some of 'em). A long rest, and besides it's very late at night, and it's been a long day- at least the last bit of it. Very long.
Note, starting from the point the PCs entered the tomb through the sarcophagi in Session #109 to here, well- the Dark Squad have played through 47 turns of action, all of it in the initiative tracker, and most of it in combat.
That's four minutes and forty-two seconds of in-game time.
In two and a bit sessions.
The Dark Squad guffaw a bit, swear a lot and then get some rest.
At some point in the wee small hours a bunch of folk (three or four of 'em) are spotted peering down from the noisome mound above. One of the creatures fires an arrow into the Tiny Hut, it ricochets away.
Ram and Fellowyn are awake for this, Newt is briefly woken but the sorcerer is not keen to get involved, 'go to sleep' is his advice, only with added swear words.
The creatures, whatever they are, eventually go away.
Then, rise and shine- although there's not much sun to be seen here in the Mere of Dead Men, and after a brief check of the area before the door the Dark Squad are keen to get into the tomb.
It's at this point that Ram determines that the stone doors (which look wet) are both slathered in some sort of very sticky glue. Furthermore the doors are not locked, they're sealed (glued) shut.
But again the rogue is on top of this, in the De La Crane manse on the cliffs the Dark Squad found a bottle which they later identified as being filled with Universal Solvent, possibly made by Antonio De La Crane, the alchemist druid.
At the time they had no idea why they would need the solution, but Ram kept it anyway.
As I say, funny that.
Ten minutes later and the doors to the tomb are unstuck, and soon after opened.
The rogue creeps in, very quietly and sticking to the shadows, Ram is having a sneak around for a bit when Fellowyn breaks ranks and he too (much less silently) trundles on inside.
It's at this point a capering image of Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit appears just inside of the door and... well, the image freezes, shudders a bit and blinks on and off for a while, it's broken.
However, other things are then kicked into motion (as it were), a pair of skeletons armed with bows scoot out from hiding to the west and shoot arrows at Fellowyn, and a hit.
Combat. Again? Already?
But as it turns out the attackers are indeed just two skeletons, which Fellowyn and company quickly smash apart.
West is therefore chosen as the destination of travel, but alas moments later and Ram triggers another trap.
A sudden gout-which-turns-into-a-roiling-cloud is belched from one of the sewer like drains close-by.
The panicking members of the Dark Squad rush to get out of the stinking miasma, they're all successful of course, except- yep, you guessed it- Newt.
The tabaxi fails his save and is left wandering at random engulfed within the cloud and vomiting with all of his might (every turn until the save is made).
Keep in mind that Newt is carrying a Cursed Luckstone, and all of his saves are at disadvantage.
Then, some zombies triggered into motion when the trap went off, but hidden entirely within the choking fog, stumble out to play.
Four of 'em, but y'know- they're just zombies.
Eventually the shambling undead are knocked down again.
Then Newt, at last, manages to stop vomiting long enough to escape the noxious cloud.
But then, and don't ask me why, because I really do not know the answer to this one...
Newt rushes back into the stinking cloud, ostensibly to get to the other side.
I, the kindly DM ask, are you sure?
And Newt fails his saving throw again, and spends a little more time lost and spewing.
At this point Fellowyn and Ram start shouting- there are more zombies approaching the pair from the west.
It's at this point that Daktari and Vincenzo, working together, take a deep breath (there's the magic phrase, we covered the breathing underwater/taking a breath rules comprehensively earlier in this session) and then plunge into the gassy fug.
The clever pair quickly locate the puking Newt (he's a seven foot cat-thing, keep in mind) and then grab him up and drag him out of the choking cloud.
Which is where we end it.
A short session, just for info I had a touch of surgery on my leg about ten days prior, and while I can walk (of a fashion, at times) I can't put the leg down (like under a desk) for any period of time. It swells and starts to go wrong inside if I do. So, short session.
More of this kind of thing next time.
Although, and I hope the players read this- it is getting much harder now. I am going to be pushing the limits with this one.
You have been warned.
Suck it up or go home crying.
Oh, and it's the morning of the 8th, you need to be back in Saltmarsh for the extraordinary town council meeting on the evening of the 10th. Just a reminder.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.
Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.