The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #132 The Threat to Saltmarsh.

Goonalan

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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #067: “Are You Trying To Kill Us?”

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 7
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 7
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 7

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Servants/Familiars
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar


This is session 67, and tee-hee, a bit of squeaky bum time for the players.

The title of this session is simply the question that Bear asked of me about an hour or so into this one. I am happy to report that in the later stages this question, or else a variant of it, got asked several more times, and by all of the players in turn.

So, I really enjoyed this one.

Do you remember the chatter at the start of the last session, the players held up the game a while to talk tactics for their level eight PC builds.

I said nothing at the time, but I took umbrage.

So, back to it.

The Dark Squad are far below Squabblepot and Arty's Labs, at present in an ancient ruined dwarven redoubt. They're in pursuit of Ian with one I, the nothic. Who, they believe, has warped the murdering Arty's brain, they're trying to save their friend.

They have 72 hours to gather evidence before the trial starts back in Squabblepot, actually they're down to about 61 hours atm. That said the Dark Squad, in their infinite wisdom (hubris), are attempting to get this case wrapped up in just 24 hours, they therefore have just 13 hours left to meet this self-imposed deadline.

So, at the end of the last session a bunch of low level undead were put to the sword- easy, but the chamber here has more of the strange stone drying stations, and on them- well, metal sheets that must have come from the mould that was discovered by the adventurers earlier.

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What is it?

Inverna grabs and then, miraculously, lifts one of the sheets of ancient metal, the thing is over ten feet long by five feet wide, and incredibly thin (2.5mm). It's as light as a feather, so light that the elf soon discovers that she can balance it easily on one finger, and when she gives it a bump it floats up a few inches, and then takes an absolute age to incredibly slowly float back down into her hand.

It really is as light as a feather, but also incredibly strong/resistant- Ram can't scratch it at all with his dagger.

“What iz eat? Quelle fromage? What wur ze sneek-e dwarves may-kin down ere?”

The DM informs the PCs/players, who are not at all skilled in metallurgy, that a suitable skill employed followed by a natural '20' and he'll let them know what the substance is.

Ram, Vinnie, Daktari and Inverna all fail their checks to find out.

Newt spends an inspiration point, to roll with advantage, and... '20'.

The bugger!

The sheet of metal that Inverna is holding in her hand is adamantine, it is therefore incredibly valuable... and much sort after, the dwarves of Farhill Mine would be very interested.

There are four sheets here, but again- they're ten feet by five, very light, but obviously not very portable.

[Adamantine sheets 200 XP]

Then we move on, Ram is sent ahead- the stairs up lead in to a pillared chamber, with stairs heading down into long wide corridors to the north and the south. There are more stairways leading off both of these passages, staggered in pairs. There are also more of the shambling undead standing statue in both directions- more dwarven zombies and skeletons.

But here's the thing, the passage to the north is also home to a puddle of swirling black mist, all low level- obscuring the floor and the legs of the undead in the fog there.

Ram heads back to tell his friends.

The consensus is- more low level undead, more easy kills- two PCs block the passage north and hold the line, two more- same plan, to the south.

The action begins, and it's easy...

To the south there are only three or four of the shambling undead, and it's Vinnie, Ram and Newt in action here, the bad guys really don't last very long, maybe a turn.

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Daktari & Inverna, it's a formidable pairing.

But to the north, well... Inverna and Daktari, who have been really getting on lately, press forward down the stairs into the passage- cutting the undead down as they go. But, there are plenty more zombies and skeletons in this direction. Therefore Newt comes over and drops the bomb- a Fireball, and that's cleared the way a little.

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Apres the Fireball, it happens a lot.

However at this point a raging Daktari, and a calm and collected Inverna, have had to wade into the freezing fog here, and the pair are taking necrotic damage, then... a cowled hunched figure appears from the first staired opening to the west.

The figure stares intently at the Sky Pony barbarian- it says nothing, just stares, Daktari is left nonplussed.

“There is strange little man with bad face!” The barbarian yells and points.

Seconds later Inverna scatters down the stairs and into the western chamber to which Daktari was pointing, she too spies the odd hooded creature and... the sight stops her heart. Inverna drops prone and straight to zero hit points.

There's a lot of swearing around the VTT.

Actually the swearing is all just one word, but oft repeated, and at times with fervour.

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Who's the guy in the hoodie? Note the Zombie just standing there, when the Bodak appeared then this guy just plain dropped off the PCs radar, he got ignored.

There's a rush as the Dark Squad bustle into the chamber, and there they too take it in turns to meet the gaze of the creepy bodak, they were given the option of looking away, more fool them. There follows quite a lot of saving throws, and following these the spending of inspiration points to try those saves again.

Just to say, each PC can have up to two inspiration points- five of these get spent in the next two turns.

Vinnie, after suffering in the bodak's stare (a bunch of necrotic damage, or worse), wildshapes into... the Moonboar!

Keep in mind he can also speak and cast spells in this god-given wildshape, er... shape.

However, the terrifying undead creature continues to caper away from the Dark Squad, although it also manages to punch Daktari once or twice, and it hurts, with lots of necrotic damage. Then it disappears through a crack in the northern wall of the chamber here, making its way to another parallel running ruined room.

Ram is in hot pursuit, alas that doesn't last long, seconds later and the rogue too is sprawling, down to zero hit points and making death saves (but see below).

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Ram Down! Ram Down! Note, Newt is hiding in the corner.

But here's the thing, the bodak's necrotic aura is also inflicting damage to the unconscious PCs, the Moonboar (Vinnie) therefore scrambles to heal the pair, although Ram's Periapt of Wound Closure makes things much safer for the rogue.

Note, It's Newt that gets to Ram with his last Potion of Greater Healing (his last healing of any kind), the tabaxi also has a little pep talk for the rogue once he has blinked open his eyes.

“Get up and get 'im. You're the only one of these naughty word pathetic bastards (he means the other members of the Dark Squad) that is of any use. Go get 'em tiger!”

And what surprised the rest of us around the VTT at the time was the vehemence of the above, it was like he had been wanting to say it for some time.


Oh, and all five PCs have attempted to use monster knowledge checks to identify the undead horror, all low rolls except for Vinnie, although the druid only remembers the creature's name, but nothing else.

Newt, getting desperate, drops a second Fireball into the next chamber over, the blast however also encompasses the tabaxi, but he's still got a Potion of Fire Resistance running.

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The Bodak is looking mighty fine. Mutual destruction via Fireball, but both the tabaxi and the Bodak are just slightly singed. Note Daktari has taken a beating, and the zombie... still standing, still being ignored.

Note, at this point the bodak is not yet bloodied- it's only taken a couple of hits, and is resistant to fire, which is Newt and Vinnie's element of choice, and as just made crystal clear when the Fireball hits. Newt takes as much damage as the bodak.

But still the bodak gets away, it scampers back into the long northern passage, to which Inverna- still very badly wounded, has retreated.

Note, there's no pictures of this bit because, I think, the players were having a bit of a panic- the bodak was quite definitely about to get away again.

However, the sidekick fighter uses her action surge to send a trio of arrows into the retreating horror's back, and seconds later a screaming Daktari chases the creature down and stabs it repeatedly, and eventually, dead (again).

Note Daktari was down to around ten hit points by the end of it all, it was an odd thing to see- Ram and Inverna down and dying, Vinnie trying to revive the pair, and Newt and the barbarian attempting to chase the bodak down.

[Zombies, Skeletons and a Bodak 2800 XP]

Then... the Dark Squad scurry back to the centre of things here, Newt gets his Tiny Hut up and running and the battered and broken PCs quickly dive inside. There follows plenty of chatter, and a whole heap of healing.

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And relax... Say hello to the Moonboar, again.

At the end of this short rest Vinnie, I think, is the only PC still with HD healing to spend, they're all also very low on healing potions, and on spells for the druid.

But the chatter here is more about what do we do next? How much do we keep pushing it? Do we try to get an extended rest in now, and then push on with the chase?

As I say, much chatter.

But this is the first time that we have heard the Moonboar speak. So, Vinnie sounds continental, or else French, but the Moonboar.

Imagine if you can a slight French accent, but in a gruff voice interspersed with grunts and snorts.

Remember, as gruff as you can go-

“I fink SN-SN-GUR zat we shud GURGUR go on after ze SN-SN leetul bas-turd GURGUR!”

It's funny and odd at the same time.

[The Moonboar speaks 100 XP]

But the decision is made, it's too soon to rest, the Dark Squad press on, and the way forward is very close to hand. Daktari and the Moonboar quickly rediscover Ian's tracks here- and they lead to a section of blank stone wall straight ahead. Soon after Ram locates the secret door, and with help from Daktari wrenches it open.

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Down some more...

Note, the PCs are not exploring anywhere (so far) that isn't on Ian's route.

Beyond the secret door spiral stairs descend further into the dark.

The rogue leads the way, however the stairs soon after turn to nothing, Ram finds himself squatting on the last step, peering down thirty or forty feet from an opening in the centre of the roof of a large cavern. The rest of the spiral stairs are heaped in a pile of broken rubble below. The ruin here, the rogue quickly determines, is ancient.

The rogue therefore secures a rope and then when his colleagues arrive, he descends into the newly revealed space, the rest of the Dark Squad follow after, although the Moonboar chooses to walk around on the ceiling for a while.

[Down, down, deeper and down 200 XP]

What's the duration on your wildshape Vinnie?

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Two passages and a pile of rubble, what's left of the lower section of the spiral stairs.

There are two passages exiting the cavern, both lead to smaller chambers which overlook a much larger (massive) cave chamber. The first passage enters the space through an opening thirty feet above a pool of bubbling hot mud. While the second opens out only twenty or so feet above a solid looking stone shelf, with the same mud pool as spotted earlier just to the north.

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The view from the first passage opening, a bubbling mud pool.

Ram leads his colleagues down, cautiously, because on the shore of the mud pool here are the skeletal remains of several large creatures, they look to be the remains of half-a-dozen or so huge snakes.

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The view from the second passage opening, WTF are they?

And sure enough...

When the rogue gets close the first of the undead creatures rears up, soon after all of the Dark Squad are down into the chamber, and into action.

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They're just big skeletons.

Note, these guys are skeleton versions of giant (huge) constrictor snakes- there are two of them. Daktari gets bitten and then caught in the coils by one of the undead foes, and then crushed and pierced by its needle-sharp bones.

But, they're just big skeletons, hardly a match for the Dark Squad.

[Two huge Skeletal Snakes 900 XP]

But that's what the snakes are there for, to distract the PCs, because for the last few rounds the grinning DM (that's me) has been moving his latest big bad guy into position.

Suddenly the Moonboar has to tumble to the side, as a ten foot wide and five foot deep divot is eked out of the formerly solid stone, in the spot that the wildshaped druid was formerly standing.

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The Zombie Beholder keeps on rolling '4'.

At which point the Dark Squad spot their new attacker.

Immediately after the players start shouting again, further enquiring as to whether the DM has grown bored with this campaign and is trying to end it as soon as possible.

But... Players, man! They tend to exaggerate, have you noticed that?

Note, the zombie beholder was quickly identified by the Dark Squad, although there was a moment at the start when they thought that it was the real thing, a beholder.

Also note, when targetted I made the player roll (1d4) to see which eye ray the zombie beholder used on their PC, with the caveat- don't roll a '4'. Four being the disintegrate ray, in the course of this encounter I only managed to get off two attacks with my big bad dead eye-guy- both of them '4's.

So, the Dark Squad unleash everything they've got left, they also remember to spread out, but there's very little cover here.

Daktari takes to throwing javelins and insults, at disadvantage for the former- his trash talk is really coming on strong.

“Come down and fight me you big-giant-eye-ball-bag!”

That sort of thing.

It's edifying every time Daktari speaks.

My zombie beholder then randomly targets Ram with its second disintegration ray, but that's no fun- the evasive rogue's dexterity save bonus is sky high, he avoids the blast in style, and then the Dark Squad missile salvo continues, and...

That's enough for the eye monster. My zombie beholder had 125 hit points (I beefed him up a little), the PCs put him down in two turns- although keep in mind that Ram was using a mixture of magical and walloping arrows. Point of fact, its the rogue with his sneak attack that finally does for the zombie beholder.

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Dead again!

The very former eye tyrant crash lands half in and half out of the bubbling mud close by.

And then breath.

There's a lot of this, is the consensus.

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The Moonboar's Moonbeam torch.

Vinnie uses his Moonbeam, which he conjured earlier to burn the beholder, to illuminate as much as he can of the massive cavern. Newt, meantime, sends Gerald his bat servitor for a look around. There's a rocky ledge to east that has a pool of bubbling lava welled there, but of more interest is a stone shelf to the north which has a stone door in the cavern wall. The door is open...

Then a short break for a little more discussion, this while Newt fills a variety of bags and pouches with viscera and parts taken from the undead beholder.

Then, the Dark Squad make their way across the mud.

Note, that's a really simple sentence to write.

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It all got very complicated very quickly, the rope depicted here is being held aloft by the two Immovable Rods that the PCs possess. The Acrobatics DC to shimmy across hanging from the rope = 12. To jump across (Athletics) DC 10. It took a good 10-15 minutes to come up with and then implement the rope idea, and then everyone except Newt jumped across.

But, to do.

On the final jump, only six feet (DC 6), the Moonboar has to spend a moment with his arms quickly spiralling, balanced on the very lip of the far ledge, attempting desperately not to fall backwards into the bubbling mire. He succeeds.

Newt, the tabaxi (cat man), just plain falls in.

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Newt relaxes in mud. He was spitting feathers.

He has to be rescued, although that doesn't go too well either, Daktari only narrowly avoids joining the warlock in the mud with his attempt to rescue Newt.

Meantime Newt also fails to struggle his way out and sinks a little further into the gloop, so that only the top eighteen inches of his being are clear of the bubbling mud.

Note the mud itself is only inflicting 1d4 fire damage/turn, but it is also quicksand.

Then, at last, Inverna grabs hold of Newt and drags the cat man out of the mud.

[Newt falls in 200 XP]

[But the Dark Squad get across the mud cavern 200 XP]

However, at this point, another clutch of staggering zombie dwarves have exited the door ahead here, and shambled forward to attack the Dark Squad, this while Newt attempts to Prestidigitate himself clean.

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It's a bit of a shambles really.

However, and again, they're just a bunch of zombies, the Dark Squad beat them down, and then after a tiny bit more healing, they head on through the door- Ram first.

Into a small crypt.

A dwarven crypt, and with a door across the far side.

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A small dwarven crypt.

The door is slightly ajar, and if the Dark Squad want to check for muddy footprints next session, well- I'll save them the time, Ian with one I went this way.

But back to the crypt, there are three dwarves interred in the floor of the chamber, their tombstones showing there- Vinnie reads the names of the dead dwarves.

Moments later the spirits of the dead incumbents float up through their tombstones, moaning and caterwauling, and lashing out at the adventurers.

With advantage, guaranteeing several nice hits.

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A small inhabited dwarven crypt.

As one of the players said earlier- there's a lot of this...

But that's where we got up to this session.

I rather enjoyed it.

The Dark Squad have now spent thirteen-and-a-half hours at the mystery, and they reckon (after a chat with the very helpful DM) that it is definitely going to take an hour, at best, to get back to the surface from where they stand.

So, in reality the Dark Squad have only got nine-and-a-half hours left to go, and keep in mind guys that there are going to be Constitution checks coming for exhaustion, and particularly if you are going to attempt to do the 24 hours straight through.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-

  1. Find Ian with one 'I'. The elusive bastard.
  2. Save (the bastard) Arty Swell (maybe).​
  3. To the Moon Pool.​
  4. Goblins in the Dreadwood.​
  5. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.​
  6. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.​
  7. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.​

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #068: The Greater Evil.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 7
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 7
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 7

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Servants/Familiars
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar


This is session 68, and let's just dive into it.

And so...

Blah, blah, blah save Arty, about thirteen hours to go, or rather thirteen or so hours to get the job done in time to claim the big reward, because this is what's going on here people. I know this because it got discussed quite a lot this session. But, it's not even about the money- it's...

Oh, but yes- for Newt it is about the money (a share of 5,000gps worth of alchemical stuff).

But for Ram it's about the fact that they said they would do save Arty in 24 hours and so... they have to do it, there's not another option- if you say you are going to do a thing, you do it.

Vinnie (in Moon Boar form atm), and Daktari, and Inverna are obviously less... rigid.

This fact means the debate- should we stop now and take a long rest, gets repeated quite a lot this session.

But, the action...

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Spectral Dwarves!

So, a dwarven crypt- spectres, three of them, but they don't last long- although they do make their mark on the PCs.

But here's the oddity, the three spectral dwarves, their names are known to the Dark Squad (they're etched on their tombs) they are- Master Smith Stiggy Poprock, Forge Master Smurg Picklittle & Ragvik 'The Firestarter' Firestone. Anyway, these three, when they expire they deliver a final word or two, a warning- maybe, to the adventurers.

It's only Vinnie and Daktari that can speak the dwarven tongue however, these then are the dwarven spectres final words-

“We must build it, he said so...”

“Tao! Tao! We have built the future!”

“Waiting for the Moon Man!”

And this stuff causes a lot more chatter- after the fight, particularly as Vinnie believes that he may be the Moon Man...

Is he right?

He's a Moon Druid, and a part-time Moon Boar.

Could be.

[Zombies and spectral dwarves in the crypt, and a bit of chat 1000 XP]

However, the chatter diverts into a debate- do they open the tombs. Daktari (oddly, the barbarian doesn't often have an opinion) makes the point that dwarves don't like their tombs being robbed, it's just wrong to contemplate doing so. Obviously, the barbarian isn't quite as elegant.

“Mm... Dwarf tombs, bad ju-ju!”

That kind of thing. As it turns out Vinnie is against it too, and Ram's not sure, nor Inverna... So, when Newt blasts the first one open...

The chatter gets a little more intense, and more so when the tabaxi then climbs into the first tomb (they're situated in the floor) and grabs out the skull of Stiggy Poprock, hides himself within, and then with his hands manipulates the skull's jaw as he ventriloquisms-

“Alas, goor Poprawk! I new 'im, Vinnie, a fart dwarve off ginfinit vest, ov moist exgellent van-cee.”

Then...

“Gert da bag ov holgin opun ders lotz of shy-knee stuff gin ear!”

He's a hoot the warlock.

[Tomb robbing and ventriloquism 300 XP]

So, that was fun.

Ram is sent through the door ahead, and guess what... there's another set of stairs spiralling down, and nearly another hundred feet.

The Dark Squad must be getting deep now.

The rogue eventually emerges via an ajar secret door, in through the back wall (behind an altar) and into a very large partially collapsed tomb like chamber (with a sixty foot ceiling) exit over the far side. The place looks to be deserted.

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Deeper and down to the secret beneath the mountain.

A statue on the altar depicts the dwarven deity Dumathoin, also bearing the legend “the secret under the mountain.”

The Dark Squad take a moment to have a look around, although at some point the two spinagon devils that are hidden up high in the recesses of the chamber, well... they start swooping down to fire off their tail spikes.

Remarkably the DMs dice, like the spinagons' tail spikes, are on fire.

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Spined Devils.

Ram gets hit repeatedly, Vinnie and Daktari also soak up a few hits, but eventually... the first devil is blasted from its perch, but the second... well, here's a turn up.

Newt rants at the little devil.

“I am Newt the Magnificent, cease this tomfoolery, we are here to see your Master- Ian with one I”, and then he rolls a '20' on his Persuasion check.

So, Newt and the spinagon- Arfur, chat for a while.

Here's Arfur's first line-

“Ian wiv wun I is no-one's master, all-vo an' oddly, my Master sum-times calls 'imself Randall ver Magnificent, all-vo 'is real nayme iz Randall ver Black!”

So, Ian may be the fellow the Dark Squad are chasing but... it looks like Randall the Black is still alive and well (maybe) and in charge down here. Or else some version of this.#

Do you remember Randall the Black, we met his wife earlier all the way back in Squabblepot.

So, the chatter continues between Newt and Arfur, but finally the tabaxi orders the spinagon devil to head on in advance of the Dark Squad, to alert his Master of their imminent arrival...

[Newt and the spinagons 1200 XP]

So, that's nice, although a little later Newt translates the conversation to his comrades, after the little devil has departed. The rest of the Dark Squad are, of course, a little less appreciative of the warlock's efforts.

Vinnie asks the tabaxi to confirm-

“Zo, zer leetul de-ville zat yew ave allowed to depart, who werks vor an ancienne e-ville gnom ov sum zort, an yew tol dim to zay zat we wur come-ing?”

Newt nods.

“But yew did not ask any per-tin-nent questions abowt wat lies a-head?”

Newt shakes his head, but he's still grinning like, well... the proverbial Cheshire Cat.

“Sacre-bleu! Yew are un idiot! Merde! Merde! MERDE!”

But Newt, of course, has a beautiful reply-

And try to do it in a harsh but whispered voice, full of threat.

“Vinnie! You are not seeing the bigger picture, there is a greater evil down here, I can sense it- and that excites me. It excites me a lot!”

And at this point if you're still doing Newt's voice you should have strayed into creepy territory for the end of the above sentence.

But Ram has the best line.

“Oh, there's a greater evil down here, we're all very aware of that.”

The rogue, and his companions, are all pointedly staring at the warlock, of course.

Who doesn't get it, or else just chooses to ignore the complement.

[The Greater Evil 300 XP]

But then the conversation gets forgotten, because Ram is absolutely certain that he's spotted that there's a secret entrance over on the eastern wall, hidden (badly) behind one of the sarcophagi. Note the outline of the opening is illuminated, clearly there's a light on beyond the secret portal, a bit of a give away.

And so...

Ram checks it out, no traps but the ancient stone portal is stuck- it seems to have been broken/disturbed, maybe back whenever the rest of this chamber suffered its partial collapse.

Daktari, with a lot of help from his friends manages to wrench the great stone slab open a littler further- beyond a set of steep and low-ceilinged (dwarf size) stairs lead down into an torch illuminated chamber. The rogue can see two large chests down there and a number of once sturdy sacks that have spewed their contents- coins, lots of them... thousands of them.

Newt has this to say.

“Too easy. We should go on.”

Later this statement will be thought remarkably prescient, and keep in mind the members of the Dark Squad keep on saying its not about the money (the reason for their rush) and that they should stick to following Ian and ignore everything else.

Well, that doesn't happen.

Ram descends the stairs, only...

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The Dark Squad are nobodies fools.

Its one of the very few times that he hasn't checked for traps before making his move, and he pays for it- a quartet of poisoned darts fire up into the stairwell, the rogue is hit twice- but manages to make his saves (after spending an inspiration point). He is however now very badly wounded, and out of there.

But now the challenge has been set.

Five minutes later and a spider climbing Vinnie has entered the chamber, avoiding the stairs altogether by creeping along one of the walls of the stairwell.

The chamber below is empty save for the treasure- a slew of coins (over 20,000 of them)* and two large and hefty looking chests- both seem to be locked, although the druid's not the expert.

The coin pile is examined, it's safe- the druid therefore starts scooping the loot up before he realises that this procedure could take him hours, keep in mind Vinnie is still walking on the walls of the chamber, avoiding the traps (he suspects) on the floor.

*The coin haul, when it is finally calculated/examined consists of 23,000 and change copper pieces, and about another 300gp in other currencies. So, not much of a haul, although keep in mind the Dark Squad have two bags of holding atm, so it all gets taken.

Then, the druid goes over and grabs up one of the chests- he's still not touching the floor, remarkably he manages to lift the thing, but that's when it all goes pear-shaped.

The chest is a mimic.

The druid, less than a second later, is glued to the aforementioned shapechanger and also being snapped at by the mimics fanged maw.

It all gets very silly.

Inverna braces herself feet on one wall, hands on the opposite wall- she attempts to descends the stairs without touching any of the steps, and... gets stuck about halfway down. A little later Ram finally manages to rescue the elf- to grab and drag her back to safety without triggering the trap again.

When the way is clear again Daktari leaps down into the chamber with much greater style, the barbarian rages and starts slashing with his magical longsword- Shatterspike. Meantime the Moon Boar has contrived to get his head stuck to the chest also, this after he successfully tusked the mimic.

A little later Daktari also loses Shatterspike when it gets stuck to the second mimic chest down here.

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That's right, both chests are mimics.

That went down well with the Dark Squad.

While all of this is going on Inverna, Newt and Ram are taking it in turns to dodge into the opening at the top of the stairwell and snipe at the mimics, which is very hard to do because of the angles, and because one of the beasts is stuck to the Moon Boar's head.

It's a struggle let me tell you.

But eventually, and I do mean... eventually, both of the mimics are slain.

The Moon Boar and Vinnie bag the coin (Daktari carries one of the Bags of Holding) and then exit the chamber safely.

[Treasure and mimics 1000 XP]

But here's the thing- the Moon Boar has taken a beating, Daktari is back down to less than twenty hit points, Ram- after the trap went off and he took multiple hits, well... he's down to about ten hit points.

So, we cannot go on, or at least-

“Zis is madness, I am sorely beat-un. I 'ave only a petite few spells left- and my spell selection du jour wuz aimed at solving a mystery.”

The druid is a bit bent out of shape, and almost defeated. But here's the thing- Newt is all for going on (after a short rest) as is Ram, it's a matter of principal for the rogue (see above).

But the argument goes on for quite a while, so long in fact that Newt erects his Tiny Hut and the Dark Squad take an hour to chat about the situation, and to do the calculations. It is however getting very late, and so an eight hour long rest taken now would leave the Dark Squad pretty much out of time. They would have about an hour to locate Ian, grab the bastard, and then get back to Squabblepot.

The discussion/argument goes on and on- its mostly Vinnie and Newt going back and forth (in character) with the druid trying to persuade Ram to take the sensible option.

Round and round they go, but... Ram's not for stopping.

At the end of the short rest all of the PCs are still hurt, although Vinnie wildshapes back into his druid shifter form, and then after the rest is done, he changes back again to the Moon Boar. None of the PCs have any healing HD left to spend, three of them (the DM can confirm) still have one healing potion each.

Other than that... not a lot.

Vinnie has maybe three spells left.

Daktari has one rage left.

Note, also during the above frank exchange Inverna has questions- particularly with regard to Newt, simply put- is the tabaxi in league with devils and demons?

Vinnie (and Newt) delight in explaining, the druid however best sums it up- the warlock has a promiscuous soul, he's a veritable devil/demon groupie.

[Lots more discussion 200 XP]

Then, after the above discussion finally plays out, we move on.

6806.jpg

Tracking Ian continues... down again.

The door north out of the high-ceilinged crypt, and there are three possible ways to go- door east, smashed and partially collapsed doorway west, or more spiral stairs heading down.

Ian, Daktari is convinced, went down again- of course he did, and so once again Ram is sent ahead.

Spiral down another fifty or more feet and into, an ancient ruined chamber- the walls are all partially broken and collapsed, the ceiling here and there likewise.

6807.jpg

More ruin...

The tracks head through a broken door south, into... well, it's the largest constructed chamber yet, although it too is smashed and broken, clearly the place was once an immense dwarven temple. At the far end on a raised dais stands a thirty foot tall statue of the All Father- Moradin, clad in armour (but mostly destroyed). Also the water has come in here, the south western side of the pillared chamber is waterlogged- the wet seeping in through a collapsed wall.

The rest of the chamber is a wreck, with broken bones and rusted fragments of armour here and there.

However, there doesn't seem anywhere else to go here, and so... Vinnie tries a little chatter, calling out to Ian, and more remarkably the telepathic Ian (a nothic, probably) is keen to chat, but less keen to surrender.

The chat goes back and forth for a while, and keep in mid that Ian is in hiding for this- that is until Vinnie spots the creepy bastard up on the ceiling.

The Dark Squad quickly learn that Ian also serves Randall the Black, Ian however is less convinced (than Arfur the spinagon) that Randall would like to meet with the Dark Squad. Although he's happy to let the adventurers know that Randall used to be an adventurer too. He and his companions called themselves The Eyes in the Night.

So, we go back and forth, but Ian just wants the Dark Squad to push off.

However, it is about this point that the Moon Boar spots where Ian is hiding (after a '20', all of the PCs were making Perception checks and looking for the nothic).

Vinnie climbs the nearest wall, and remarkably does so without alerting Ian.

But the spiralling telepathic conversation is starting to grate on the nothic, and seconds later a dozen or more dwarven skeletons rise up from the rubble- they don't initially attack, but... that doesn't last long.

Why?

Because the Moon Boar, having spotted the nothic- but not been seen by Ian, decides to charge the creepy creature, and with a fantastic hit with his tusks further manages to butt the beast of its ceiling perch.

Ian very suddenly feels the effect of gravity (Ian's Strength save to avoid being knocked prone was a '1') and falls a hundred feet to the floor. Ian survives, but he's pretty beat up.

At which point the dwarven skeletons get into action, and then seconds later a large skeleton snake reveals itself and fires a lightning bolt into Newt and Ram (for very little damage to the latter).

It all gets very fighty.

A little while later the skeleton snake creature fires a second lightning bolt into the Moon Boar, and that hurts a lot.

6808.jpg

Fireball!

Meantime the Dark Squad have started to work their way through the undead courtesy of a Newt Fireball, and a Vinnie Moon Beam.

6809.jpg

Moonbeam!

But... that's all we have time for this session.

The Dark Squad have now spent just over sixteen hours at the mystery, and they reckon (after a chat with the very helpful DM) that it is definitely going to take an hour-and-a-half, at best, to get back to the surface from where they stand.

So, in reality the Dark Squad have only got approx. six hours hours left to go, although Ian's right here...

Oh, and as soon as this fight is done they'll need to make a Constitution save or they're Exhausted.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Grab Ian with one 'I'.​
  2. Save (the bastard) Arty Swell (maybe).​
  3. To the Moon Pool.​
  4. Goblins in the Dreadwood.​
  5. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.​
  6. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.​
  7. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.​

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 



Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Well, that was a corker.

I particularly liked it when Inverna got flung 120 feet into a wall and then immediately commenced dying.

That was, obviously, before Ram got crushed and he too started dying.

Thank heavens the Pit Fiend turned up to save the day...

Newt was sooo pleased.

Then, of course, there was the watery ex-paladin, I bet you didn't expect him.

A busy night- I did warn you, I said it for weeks- there's a finale.

Still, all's well that ends well... relatively speaking.

G'night from goonalan
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #069: Meet Vernon.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 7
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 7
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 7

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Servants/Familiars
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar


This is session 69, and it may live large in the memory...

This is the finale, at least of this bit- and I had been warning the PCs about this for a while, whenever they sat their PCs down to discuss (yet again) their resource and time management. I said- be warned, there's a finale.

This is it.

The Dark Squad have chased Ian with one I down into a wrecked and ruined ancient dwarven temple, once dedicated to Moradin. Ian alas isn't playing ball, he's certainly not in the mood to surrender to the Dark Squad. Although the adventurers have also learned that Ian is the puppet of a 'greater evil' who also dwells down here, a gnome warlock (possibly) called Randall the Black. Who, it appears, may have also been a member of an adventuring group called- The Eyes in the Night.

The Dark Squad?

The Eyes in the Night?

They sound quite similar.

And you'll remember that the Sky Pony Uthgardt, in an earlier chapter of these adventures, referred to the Dark Squad as The Eyes in the Night.

There's something going on here... but right now that 'something' is fighting.

The Dark Squad are up against Ian (a toughened up nothic), a dozen or more newly risen dwarven skeletons, and a lightning bolt throwing skeletal snake.

The latter is actually a bone naga, but the PCs didn't ask, so I didn't tell.

6901.jpg

The Moon Boar is actually on the ceiling- 100 feet above the action, that's his Moonbeam in the yellow. Note, there are not many pictures for this session, as you read on I think you may be able to work why the paucity of action shots.

And keep in mind the Dark Squad, courtesy of their self-imposed twenty-four hour dash to victory, are... semi-broken. All of them are at about two thirds hit points or below, there are maybe three Potions of Healing distributed amongst the five members of the happy band. None of the PCs have any healing HD left to spend (so a short rest will help no-one), and Vinnie is more or less out of spells. Daktari has just one rage in the bank.

So, skeletons, a naga and Ian- not a massively tough fight perhaps, certainly in less desperate circumstance.

Some skeletons get smushed, others take it in turns to shoot Ram, Daktari gets his last rage going, Vinnie his last offensive spell- a Moonbeam, and...

The players, the fools, think that- a) this is the finale, and b) that they're winning.

Well, they're winning for now.

We go on for a while, and inevitably the skeletons are getting thinned out.

Ram chases down Ian, the nothic tries a variety of tactics- invading the rogue's mind, telepathically surrendering to the rogue and then attempting to claw his face off, but... this is Ram. Ram's a killing machine and so the inevitable happens.

Point of fact Ram turns the tables on Ian, who at his last gasp eventually surrenders, and plays nice for a while, the rogue plays along and then stabs the nothic one last time.

6902.jpg

Ian tricks Ram, Ram fatally tricks Ian right back. The lesson is, has always been, don't naughty word with Ram. Get it on a mug if it'll help you to remember.

Ian is dead, the Dark Squad obviously need to get his body back to the surface, back to Squabblepot.

But then other events get in the way.

[Ian is dead 700 XP]

So, while this fracas has been going on the naga has been spending time with Daktari and Inverna, the barbarian is mostly the subject of the skeletal serpent's ire. The evil creature has tried enthralling, biting, poisoning et al, but the elegantly coiffured Uthgardt is not for bending, nor for breaking. He soaks it all up.

Vincenzo, as the Moon Boar, in the meantime has been directing his Moonbeam while making his way down from the very high ceiling.

Newt? Newt's been getting attacked by skeletons (a lot) and he's been blasting.

And eventually it's the warlock, with his six millionth Belphegor Fiery Blast that puts the bone naga down, and suddenly there are only a few skeletons left on the field of battle.

But then a sturdy looking human, dressed in the remnants of good quality platemail, the fellow looks like a sunken cheeked knight, post battle... well, this fellow wades through the water towards the conflict, shouting as he goes-

“Verily, thou art the swain and swine of demon- I will end thee! I swear by all that is right and holy! Bloody Hell! This water's deep...”

The unarmed knight wades closer...

Who the hell is this guy?

“Look what you have done! Look what you have done to me! You have made me thus, spoiled my amorous countenance and left me a hazard to humanity. You bounders!”

He seems to be a mite perturbed, but he's unarmed, and after a bunch of quick insight checks the majority of the Dark Squad are starting to think that the verbal barbs are being flung in their direction.

But again, who's this guy?

And, what have the Dark Squad done to upset him?

Do you know who he is, dear reader?

More Insight checks follow, and the lowest roll for this one is a '16', so...

“Mes SNORT amis, zat SNUH-SNUH iz ze fellow we seen wiz iz men SNORT in zer Underdark, he wuz SNUH-SNUH trapped in a watery chambre. SNORT Remember- we fought 'im and iz men SNUH-SNUH an stole zer treasure. N'est SNORT pas?”

See...

Session #042 The Dark Squad Get The Flip-Dickings Out Of The Underdark.

Note the fellow is referred to as a Greater Zombie Knight in this encounter.

Anyway, we go on...

Or rather the Dark Squad go on- killing skeleton dwarves, for the most part, although Daktari decides to intercept the rapidly approaching and strange sounding knight, and quickly it gets to fighting.

The knight is unarmed, it's trying to punch the barbarian.

“May the holy might of Torm send you scurvy miscreants to hell! You should abase yourselves before me you foul demonspawn!”

This guy is really not happy, and now the Dark Squad- having disposed of all other enemies are concentrating their fire on the water-logged armoured knight.

[Bone naga and a selection of dwarven skeletons 2100 XP]

6903.jpg

Just the clean-cut fellow in the platemail trying to deliver haymakers, and spouting old time posh-folk gibberish. What's going on here? The Dark Squad are doing a lot of head scratching, and fighting.

They're also doing plenty of chatting (OOC) because they know who this guy is, but... who is he? What have they done to piss him off so much?

Newt finally manoeuvres closer to the fellow to get a real good look at this new enemy, and then he makes a monster knowledge check, and rolls a '20'.

This is a revenant, the risen remains of someone who's life quest was curtailed or else fatally thwarted, and thus in unlife the revenant seeks to exact his revenge upon those that were responsible for his failure and/or demise.

The Dark Squad?

And then after more checks the Dark Squad remember that within the cavern in the Underdark they also found a chest of holding, and within this the campaign diary- which they have only partially translated, of a knight with the initials VH.

This is VH.

VH, from what the Dark Squad have learnt, was questing to destroy The Eyes in the Night, who he declared were the harbingers of destruction.

Are the Dark Squad and The Eyes in the Night on the same quest? Has all of this happened before...

Perhaps if the PCs had decoded the rest of the entries in VH's diary they would have learned more about this.

Just a thought.

“Scaly hell-fiends, I denounce thee! Thou the art like the scummy wash that besmirches my shoes in puddled yore!”

VH certainly sounds like he's from a time long past, and he talks like a posh folk knight.

The fight rolls on, and in all honesty VH isn't making much of a mark on the Dark Squad, but they're only slowly cutting the errant knight down- he has a shed load of hit points (hundreds, after all- he has things to say, I need VH to hang around).

“I shall end thee, in the name of all that I hold dear. For glory! For Torm! Bless me holy father for I fight for the right, and with a fury!”

Oh, and just to say that between all the action there are lots of other checks getting made- lots of chatter between and betwixt the various members of Dark Squad, the general consensus being- I don't know what to say to him? Let's just kill him.

As modus operandi go, well- the above, at times, could be the Dark Squad's motto-

“Quid ei dicam nescio? Modo eum occidamus.”

But again, let's get on- we still have a way to go yet.

Next up is the earthquake, or at least a tremor- it's all over very quickly, although stones rain down from the ceiling for a little while after. The earthquake (maybe) is preempted by a huge shuddering crunching sound. The word preemptied is the important one to watch out for in the previous sentence.

The twenty five foot tall statue of Moradin totters left to right but eventually staggers back to rest.

Several members of the Dark Squad meanwhile are knocked off their feet, or else hit by fallen debris, or... both.

Note these are Dex saves that are being made here, Ram fails his every time. Irony is a wonderful thing.

But ol' VH, he's still up and punching.

“Eyes in the Night! Hah! You are more akin to the droppings of the squamous dung-worm! You are an excrescence, a vomitous appendage!”

That doesn't sound at all complimentary.

But the Dark Squad are still taking chunks out of this guy, but he's still hanging around (hundreds of hit points, believe me).

So, the earthquake comes again, only this time the Dark Squad are certain it's actually not a seismic event, rather they have another new visitor.

The adventurers (some of them) pick themselves up (again) only to witness the arrival of an eighty foot long reaching, crushing, swatting, smashing tentacle. The appendage seems intent on bringing destruction to the ruined temple and everyone situated within it.

6904.jpg

At one point Newt shouted out something like- "I DON'T UNDERSTAND. WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO US?" Then, after a very successful Monster Knowledge check, he changed his tune- "RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

Still got it.

But meanwhile...

“For I am Sir Vernon Hucrele, and until the end of my days I swear my holy vengeance upon thee!”

VH states, and then stares intently at the various members of the Dark Squad.

But hang on- Vernon Hucrele?

The Hucrele's? The Dark Squad were hired by Kerwyn Hucrele to enter the Sunless Citadel and rescue Sharwyn and Talgen Hucrele, that was right back at the start of their adventures.

Back to the action...

6905.jpg

This is pretty much the same image as the one above, as stated earlier there were not a lot of pictures taken in this session. Bear and Jim take the pictures, it is worth noting that they both caught this one. Clearly it made an impression.

The great tentacle reaches in- plucks up Inverna, crushes her briefly and then flings the armoured sidekick one hundred and twenty feet into a solid stone wall.

Inverna is down and dying.

Just to say I rolled randomly to see which of the Dark Squad the tentacle was going to attack.

My point, it could have been any of them...

Now, truth be told, there was a lot of swearing going on at this point, so it's difficult to write coherently about some of what comes next.

LOL.

Inverna fails her first death save,

Welcome to the Dark Squad, Inverna- congrats, your initiation is complete- almost.

Then VH's deathly stare paralyses Daktari.

So, things are going splendidly.

Ram goes full pelt, eventually the rogue gets over to the fallen Inverna (she got thrown a long way) and glugs a potion of healing down her.

Inverna is now an official member of the Dark Squad.

The Dark Squad now have just two healing potions left in reserve, just thought I'd mention that.

Then, at last, Newt blasts VH twice more and the revenant is spent. VH staggers. VH falls, and Newt starts screaming (after another '20' monster knowledge check)-

[VH 1000 XP]

“KRAKEN RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES YOU FOOLS!”

And just for form's sake, it isn't the kraken, it's just one tentacle of the mega-kraken.

True to his word, Newt- off he goes, he's not hanging around, the tabaxi legs it.

But you know its not over yet.

The great tentacle immediately grabs up the Moon Boar, crushes (with a Crit) the beast and then flings the wildshaped druid eighty feet and, as with Inverna, straight into a solid stone wall.

But my damage rolls are terrible, and I rolled 17d6 plus bonuses.

The Moon Boar doesn't just survive, he lands on his feet, and a little while later he grabs up the dead body of Ian.

“SNORT Let's SNUH-SNUH go!”

And now the Dark Squad are, as one, stumbling, rushing and scrambling to get the hell out of the chamber.

The Moon Boar summons a giant (huge) constrictor snake to help him, the great beast carries the body of Ian.

There follows a dash for the exit, but here's the thing- this cavern is almost all difficult terrain and...

What was that?

The Dark Squad stop in their tracks.

6906.jpg

“Kneel before me writhing worms, for I am Lord Belphegor- I am fiery death!”

And suddenly, from nowhere, there appears a fifteen foot tall red-skinned massively-muscled horned devil, the thing exudes terror and malice in equal measure. Later it is identified as a pit fiend.

6907.jpg

“NEWT!”

Belphegor roars, and you'd better believe that the warlock comes rushing.

Note, the map from Newt's POV to the left of the above image, the tabaxi rushes around the corner and...

The tabaxi abases himself before the brutish devil and slavers with his silver tongue.

“My glorious Lord, your coming is beyond my wildest expectations, I am not worthy of your...”

It goes on for a while.

Also keep in mind that there's an eighty foot tentacle thrashing around searching out new victims as this conversation is taking place.

The rest of the Dark Squad, the DM notes, are rather more relaxed about their exit process- none of them want to miss what happens next, but neither do any of them want to head back into the temple to mix it with the kraken, or Belphegor for that matter.

It's a rare and rightly forbidden pleasure when you realise that the terrible thing is happening to a close friend of yours and... well, it's not happening to you, and you've a front row seat.

“You have proved yourself worthy of my notice. I will dispose of these fiddling obstacles and clear your path.”

Belphegor declares and then tears into the great thrashing tentacle, and truth be told the pit fiend more than makes his mark, inflicting just over ninety hit points damage on its turn.

Which gees Newt up immensely.

You should have seen Bear's face on the video camera.

Newt capers to his feet and starts blasting at the kraken- screaming his own threats.

And still the remainder of the Dark Squad are sticking around to see what happens next.

They're not helping- just watching.

Open-mouthed, I suspect.

Just for info the mega-kraken tentacle has a simply ridiculous amount of hit points.

Newt Hexes the kraken anyway, honestly... did you really think you could kill it?

But then... then...

Belphegor's ongoing threats suddenly start to sound a little squeaky, the pitch of the devil's voice gets higher as, as... the fiend shrinks to nothing. And... POP!

Belphegor is gone.

Standing next to Newt is Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar.

The following conversation takes place very rapidly, although here's the conceit- I (your glorious DM) deliver Humphrey's line (in a cut-glass RP accent) and as soon as Newt goes to reply I move on to my next line and trample all over whatever the warlock was trying to get said.

Much fun- you should try it.

And I'd love to show you an image of this... but, Bear playing Newt was too busy shitting himself and Jim (and Kev) were crying with laughter as the conversation went on...

Humphrey's lines are in the quotes, Newt's lines (such as they are) are without.

So, back to it , and... POP!

“Just kidding, Newt! Did I getchya?”

I, Master?

“So, are you busy?”

Er...

Keep in mind Humphrey is Newt's patron, he's also blocking Newt's escape from the great chamber, and there's an eighty foot long tentacle destroying the temple and trying to grab anyone in reach.

“How are the new spells going? Had a chance to Friend a Fiend yet?”

Tiddles is...

“And the underlings, are you keeping them in line, like I said- I notice they're all still alive so either they're on their best behaviour and the problem is fixed, or... well, you've not been listening to my advice.”

I would...

“Just kill one of them, I promise you its remarkable how quickly they fall in line after that. I mean do it slow, and don't just pick a random sherpa.”

Sage advice Mas...

“Only, well... I've a little job- if you're interested?”

I...

“Easy money, and it wont take long- an hour tops, probably much quicker.”

I...

“Obviously, I'll make it worth your while- and you can bring your friends along.”

I...

“In fact, I insist you bring your friends along.”

I...

“Come on, Nuke!”

It's New...

“The job wont be happening for a while, the DM hasn't written it yet, but... I need your word, now. Oh, and I think it'll mean an away day to Avernus, so that'll be nice, but don't worry though the bad guys are a bunch of clowns.”

I... I mean... Master?

“I NEED YOUR ANSWER NOW, NEWT!”

Yes, Master. YES!

“And your friends? You'll need to convince them too.”

I...

“And, of course, I will help you with this...”

I...

“You want to get to the bottom of this don't you?”

I...

“So, I'll open the door for you.”

I...

“Call me when you have your answer.”

I... That is... I...

“Toodles, Catkins- and remember, Uncle Belphegor says stay frosty kids!”

And with that Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar fades to nothing, its like he was never even there.

[Chatting with Humphrey, always a pleasure 500 XP]

The tentacle brings down another chunk of the ceiling, a piece of stone slightly larger than the Dark Squad's house back in Saltmarsh.

[Tentacle of the Mega-Kraken 1000 XP]

Newt departs, at speed, oddly he seems lost for words- or at least he's gone quiet- things to think about no doubt.

He eventually catches up with his friends (I say friends) at which point the fleeing procedure really gets going full swing.

6908.jpg

The rush for the exit.

Except that there's one more thing to report, when Ram rescued Inverna, well... by the statue of Moradin, there was a great stone door.

“I... “ Newt begins, but, that's all he's got.

So, that was the finale, or at least finale A. Finale B is in abeyance, it lies just beyond the door spotted by the rogue and the sidekick fighter.

Oh, but just to say the fight in the ruined temple of Moradin started at ten minutes past midnight, and concluded three minutes later.

It was simply marvellous, or else I liked it a lot.

The rest is fleeing, and I'll not describe every twist and turn, but just to say- you remember it was tough getting down here, well... it's just as tough getting out of here.

En route to Arty's Labs, in which the session ends, the following occur-

There's another earthquake or two- as the kraken continues to try to find a way to get through to the Dark Squad, during this Inverna gets hit again by falling rocks and is thus very close to dying (again), and so the second to last potion of healing gets used.

Newt almost falls into a pool of lava (it took an inspiration point for a re-roll and then Dark One's Own Luck in order to adjust the second roll in order to pass his save).

Inverna narrowly avoids the same fate.

Daktari, the Moon Boar and Inverna all get caught in a boiling water-mud mix geyser, the later (again) needs to be healed, the Moon Boar now has only one spell left.

All of the adventurers have to swim through very hot sulphuric waters, Inverna makes it through with three hit points left. But there's no healing for her- one potion and one spell is all the Dark Squad have in reserve.

Amidst all of the above goings on, keep in mind, the Dark Squad are also making constitution saves, that is exhaustion checks- these are not going well, for some of them.

The Dark Squad get lost, Daktari tries to discern the way out (but he rolls a '1') and so the DM leads the adventurers into an encounter with a trapper.

The trapper engulfs Ram and sends the rogue to the land of unconscious and dying, also the rogue fails to take a breath and so will begin suffocating in two turns.

6909.jpg

Ram is suffocating and being crushed, not even his Periapt of Wound Closure can save him...

The Dark Squad go hog crazy and kill the trapper, it's actually Inverna with her bow and an action surge that ends the beast. Vinnie has to use his last spell to get the rogue back on his feet.

[Ram and the Trapper 700 XP]

There's just one potion of healing left.

And, at last, the Dark Squad make it back to Arty's Labs.

[Back to Arty's Labs 750 XP]

Daktari is bloodied, and spent.

Inverna is on three hit points and has two levels of exhaustion.

Ram, very similar.

Newt, same but a few more hit points.

The Moon Boar has a few more hit points again, but he has three levels of exhaustion.

The time is 2:10 AM, the Dark Squad therefore still have another five hours and fifty minutes left to make it back to Squabblepot, which is just upstairs.

Victory is within their grasp.

But it has been a rough day.

There endeth, for now, an eighteen hour working/adventuring day.

The PCs are approx. 1000 XP off level eight, so that's nice.

That's all we have time for this session, we were over time in truth.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Get Ian with one I back to Squabblepot.
  2. Save Arty Swell (maybe)`.​
  3. Take a break, remember exhaustion takes a day/level to get rid of.​
  4. Read the rest of Vernon Hucrele's diary.​
  5. Go down again, and then through the door, Randall the Black is down there.​
  6. To the Moon Pool.​
  7. Goblins in the Dreadwood.​
  8. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.​
  9. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.​
  10. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.​

We'll be revisiting the above list in the next session, although keep in mind folks that's not until the 16th, me and Jim are not available next Tuesday, and so have a lovely week off.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 



Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #070: Arty's Trial & Vernon's Diary.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 7
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 7
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 7

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Servants/Familiars
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar


This is session 70, and we've had two weeks off, so- it was a great session, but quiet in comparison to the terrors that had come before, and with no fighting (not any), but again- another good one.

So, brief recap- the Dark Squad have the evidence they need to get Arty Swell off the hook (the murder charge), and they've also got quite a tale to tell, at least that's what they think.

Point of fact, the real problem- as elucidated below, is what to tell of their tale, by which I mean- what to leave in/out?

The revenant?

The kraken?

The fact that Randall Blackthorn, or as he's better known, Randall the Black, ex-member of The Eyes in the Night is also situated somewhere below Squabblepot (still), and... he's probably not a nice fellow, certainly Ian with one I was in his employ, so...

The Dark Squad need to get their story straight.

So, what to include/exclude, and remember at the trial Arty's Speaker (that's Vinnie) is going to be subject to a Zone of Truth spell. Actually, the whole chamber in which the trial takes place, and everyone in it, is going to be subject to the spell.

[What happened, a recap- getting their story straight 200 XP]

The Dark Squad thereafter take to resting, hidden away in Arty's Labs, and keep in mind the guys are all pretty beat up right now, and except for Daktari they are each subject to at least two levels of exhaustion (Vinnie has three).

7001.jpg

Some of the Dark Squad are a little under the weather.

Therefore, chatter- lots of chatter, which is good for me because I get to listen in on the PCs attempting to put the story (plot) together, or at least to unpick what happened down below.

Eventually, maybe twenty minutes later or so, we get there. There's still a little disagreement around the edges but for the most part the Dark Squad have their story.

Then sleep, lots of sleep, and keep in mind it's nearly 4 AM when the PCs decide to finally knock it on the head.

To wake again, a little more refreshed, and... yet more chatter, and the thing is the Dark Squad really want to see Arty Swell, to tell the imprisoned gnome that they're back, and that they have been successful, and in doing so to practice the telling of their story.

To Squabblepot, back up the stairs and first off a brief meeting with Sgt Ecky Thump, the gnome guard gets a good look at the body of Ian with one I, and an explanation of the dark creature's powers. To invade the minds of folk and to make them do terrible things.

7002.jpg

Sgt Ecky Thump is convinced, but with all due respect, she's just a burrow guard.

Then, soon after, the PCs meet with Arty and tell the alchemist gnome their story.

Not everything that happened down below mind, just their story.

Arty is... very upset, that doesn't quite cover it, and keep in mind the adventurers have with them the dead body of the bastard (Ian with one I) that invaded his mind, the creature that made him commit that terrible act.

7003.jpg

Catharsis may come later, but for now the over-riding question for Arty is- Why?

As in, why me?

But also just, WHY? What pleasure did Ian with one I derive from this diabolical act?

Truth be told the Dark Squad are still working on the answer to that one.

Although the usual caveats apply.

Fiends/Devils/Demons/Aberrants*, tsk!

*Delete as appropriate.

[Arty meets Ian, and gets an explanation, of sorts 300 XP]

But the Dark Squad are still mostly broken (skill checks at disadvantage etc.), and so they retire again- back to their beds, back to the Lab, and... chat some more.

That's right, another half-hour (at least) of how the jigsaw best fits together, refining the story in light of their interview with Arty. Truth be told the PCs are being very clever here, getting the DM, in the guise of at least two NPCs- Ecky & Arty, to ask questions and to try to pick holes in their narrative.

It's working, the story is getting tighter, the explanation more mundane- less specific.

Less complex... simple.

But here's the thing the PCs are forgetting, Squabblepot is a place of not quite serenity, but certainly of calm- it's a community founded on trust, and sharing, and kindness. In truth the gnomes that are going to oversee the trial are looking, more than anything, for an easily understood explanation of events, in short- they want a palatable truth.

[Much more chatting about the story to be told 300 XP]

Then, after one more sleep, the trial itself.

I wont go into great detail, but it was glorious, and we're in what is obviously an ancient temple dedicated to the gnomish gods. A pit within the centre of the temple defines the deep, while a glowing boulder, etched and written upon, hovers and pulses with a radiant light that illuminates the room.

7004.jpg

The Trial begins...

Through this elemental artefact Habblepop of Garl, the priest here, controls the Zone of Truth spell, and perhaps other (divination) spells.

There's a short ceremony, the charge is read, and then the Speaker called, that's Vinnie...

Jim (playing Vinnie) came to me the next day at work to say that the trial was superb, and that he could happily spend many more sessions doing something very similar.

In truth the trial was a good thirty minutes of Vinnie taking his time to tell the story of the Dark Squad's investigation, and maybe another five to ten minutes of his comrades in arms adding their two-penneth to the narration.

With the odd question thrown in here and there from the gnomes, of course.

Also present are Burrow Warden Fifthstrike and the presiding judge- Magistrate Halfberk.

It begins, or else Vinnie does...

“Mes amis, zer wuz not just wun victim ov zis whore-endous crime, zer wur two. Yew see be-four yew a broke-en gnome, monsieur Arty Zwell az suffered tew!”

But in precis, here's a nothic- followed by an explanation of the evil creature's history and intent-

“Zis fowl cree-chure, zer ling-gering many-fast-a-shun ov a caw-rupted wiz-ard, in-tent on spread-in iz un-hole-sum-ness into zer 'omely para-dice of Squabblepot.”

So, the nothic got into Arty's head, witness the scribblings discovered in Arty's bedroom, which the court members have previously visited.

Then, all that's left to tell is the Dark Squad's adventures in the deeps, the race to catch up with Ian with one I, and to bring the supervillain to court.

Vinnie doesn't hesitate to paint a picture (or a ten) of the geographical and environmental terrors that the Dark Squad had to face down below- lava, boiling mud, tremors, cave-ins etc.

But the rest- the kraken, the revenant, Randall the Black?

Any of the other monsters?

A few rats maybe, they get mentioned. A few undead- skeletal dwarves and zombies, they come up.

But the terrifying bad things down there?

Not a whisper.

But again, the entire explanation has a structure, it answers all of the obvious questions (and a few others besides) and it flows.

I don't even bother with asking for a skill check, and besides there's a little spontaneous applause at the end. It's a winning performance by the Moon druid, and his little helpers.

The Dark Squad let the court know that they intend to venture back into the depths, after the trial has ended, and when they are full recovered. This in order to ascertain that all of the dangers down there have been accounted for, or else nullified.

They do have a habit of saying all the right things, and they're very convincing.

Newt was on best behaviour, sure he sounded creepy at least once or twice, but Vinnie never gave up centre stage for long, the druid was 95% of the action.

The court- Magistrate Halfberk, Burrow Warden Fifthstrike & Habblepop of Garl (the priest) are all mightily impressed, they even have a speech or two of their own.

The first by the Magistrate to exonerate Arty of all charges.

The second by the Burrow Warden to thank the Dark Squad for their extensive endeavours.

But let's skip back just a few moments to the poignant bit- the answer to the question, why Arty?

Vinnie surmises-

“Arty wuz an ee-zee tar-git fur zer loathe-sum E-An. He iz a leetul melon-collie n'est pas? Par-tick-yew-larl-lea aft-ur zer deaf of iz wife many years pass. Arty iz a loner, an zer fur eye say tew yew all. Reach out to Arty Swell, cherche 'im, do not shun 'im, embrase 'im to yer buzz-ums, fur friend-ship iz zer best ov sings in such desp-ear-ate times!”

Or some such codswallop.

He's very good is Jim.

[Arty Swell is innocent 1000 XP]

Then, more resting, and more chatter- lots of it a variety of attempts by Arty to say thanks to the Dark Squad, repeatedly.

But there are things that still need doing, and the PCs (some of them- Vinnie) are still on light duties.

Obviously, the plan is to head back down into the depths, but there are other things that need doing before then- and more rest is needed, before the Dark Squad go adventuring again.

Arty and Vinnie however get to work the next day, the gnome is keen to teach the druid all that he knows about alchemy. Vinnie spends over 1,000gp of the Dark Squad's promised alchemical reward money (3,850 gp left to spend) learning a variety of recipes, and the associated techniques needed to brew half-a-dozen or more different potions.

The alchemy lessons continue in the Lab, as the pair work together to finish off the six potions that were left brewing there, the results of these brews (all successful) are distributed to the Dark Squad members for free.

7005.jpg

Vinnie is learning Alchemy.

The lessons continue for a few more days to follow, although see below.

[Arty teaches Vinnie alchemy 250 XP]

While this is going on Newt finds a space all for himself, in the ancient demon/devil summoning chamber within the Labs- as it happens, he just feels so very safe there.

7006.jpg

"This is nice!" Newt purrs with contentment.

The tabaxi when situated takes the time to read the three ancient tomes that the Dark Squad found in the basement here. The three tomes that were formerly owned, the Dark Squad determined earlier, by Randall Blackthorn (aka Randall the Black).

Note, I forget the exact titles of the tomes in question, but they were something like- “The Voices in the Shadows”, and, “Into the Terror Black”, and, “The Bumper Book of Ghoulies”, or something very similar. The point being these are all quasi-arcane/religious tomes devoted to all thinks very naughty.

The crazy (it seems that way) gnome (Randall) has annotated the works extensively, with glimpses of his own thoughts and ideas; and a modicum of his story.

So, this is what the warlock learns-

Randall was/is a warlock, he often refers to himself as- Randall the Magnificent.

Randall frequently bemoans the fact that he is/was not better appreciated by his adventuring companions, not given the credit he truly deserves.

Randall comes across as a bit of a crazy unhinged individual- full of his own self-worth, scornful of others, and... he has a very odd view of the world. He believes, it seems, that folk are out to get him. All of the time.

It appears that Randall was in thrall to not one but two diabolical masters.

One of which, Newt believes he knows the name of.

Randall, and his colleagues in the Eyes in the Night, were attempting to prevent the coming of a great darkness, 'when all of the light will fade from the world'. This terrible event Randall speculates will be brought about by the arrival of a great and terrible serpent unleashed upon the realm of Faerun.

And yes, it all sounds very familiar/similar.

To Newt, and to the Dark Squad's story.

Newt, very obviously, reports back some (but not all) of what he discovers to his colleagues.

Oh, and all of the Dark Squad are aware (even Newt) that Randall and the tabaxi warlock are not so very different from each other.

Obviously.

[Newt reads up on Randall 400 XP]

Last bit, and Ram starts the ball rolling with this one, but later on- when the above jobs have been completed; then Vinnie, Newt and even Inverna help out with this task.

But not Daktari, because the barbarian cannot read.

It's time, at last, to translate all of VHs campaign diary (VH = Vernon Hucrele, the well-spoken revenant), this is a book the Dark Squad have had in their Bag of Holding since session... DM flits back to check, session 41.

The Dark Squad fought Vernon Hucrele the first time around in session 42, he's described there as a Zombie Knight. The fight took over two hours to play out- Vernon was pretty tough back then, or else the Dark Squad were less experienced (lower level). They took a proper kicking.

The first dozen or so sections of this campaign diary are translated in session 43, but the detail is repeated here.

Over the course of the next two or three days the Dark Squad therefore translate and then piece together Vernon's diary, this is what they learn.

Oh, but before we get too far into it- remember the Hucrele's? They were both patron and the folk being sort in the Dark Squad's very first adventure, all the way back in the Sunless Citadel.

So, here we go...

Vernon Hucrele was a paladin of Torm, the action in this campaign diary takes place in DR 1300, also known as the Year of the Starfall, that's nearly 200 years ago.

Oddly, the Dark Squad have received a prophecy about a star fall, we might get to this later, maybe.

Vernon was selected for this special/secret mission by the high authorities of the church of Torm, this after a great prophecy came to light, a terrible end-times event- the coming of the Time of Ash.

Vernon, and his men, were first sent to Candlekeep to investigate, there they were enlightened by the brothers...

They learned that a great red dragon called Ashardalon will wake from its slumber, and that the great wyrm will be a harbinger of this coming darkness.

Further research reveals that the prophecy will be enacted somehow in or near the Mere of the Dead Men, which is just to the south of a place called Saltmarsh.

But then, a report from a friendly faction, it seems the true enemy, the instigators of the Time of Ash, are already at their task.

Note the enemy are described here as a band of powerful individuals who call themselves the Eyes in the Night- see below for more detail.

Vernon and his elite force therefore immediately depart for Saltmarsh, which is the place that the Eyes in the Night have been reported, there task to prevent the coming of the Time of Ash.

By any means possible.

The Eyes in the Night, as identified individually in the prophecy, are the folk that need to be stopped. They are the diabolical agents who wish to bring the great darkness on.

The Eyes in the Night are described thusly (but in precis)-

A capricious capering demon/devil summoning terror.

A well-fed foppish abomination of nature, said to be able to assume any form.

A simple-minded and yet silver-tongued, heartless, killer.

A maniacal terrifying elf who laughs in the face of his victims, and befriends the undead.

And the fifth member of the Eyes in the Night, is either-

a) A magnificently hirsute but mindless killer from the frozen north, or

b) A terrifyingly well-armed and armoured dwarf without a beating heart.

The prophecy, as Vernon recalls it, seems a little unclear about who the fifth member of the Eyes in the Night is.

Hmmmm...

Furthermore the five members of this diabolical band (the Dark Squad, I mean- the Eyes in the Night) are given titles in the prophecy, but not alas their true names.

They are described as-

The Black.

The Alchemist.

The Consort.

The Map-Maker.

& Ub.

Yep, that last one threw the PCs for a while, I'll say it again- Ub.

So, you'll have noticed that a lot of these descriptions could, of course, apply to the various members of the Dark Squad.

The present members of the Dark Squad, quite obviously, acknowledge this.

They did so at the time.

Except for one of them.

Vinnie wholeheartedly believes (he says/keeps saying) that the 'well-fed foppish abomination of nature, said to be able to assume any form' refers to Belak the Outcast, the druid the Dark Squad fought and killed all the way back in the Sunless Citadel.

Belak was a skeletally thin chap, a druid- correct, and doing terrible things to nature with his experiments et al, but we didn't see him assume any other shape...

Odd that it's the PC with a 'G' for Good in his alignment who can't see that there are two sides to every coin.

You'd have thought the 'N' for Neutral in his alignment would have helped him to see the light.

But, let's get back to Vernon and his diary/story.

Vernon and the force for good arrive in Saltmarsh, and soon after discover that the Eyes in the Night are known to some of the folk there. They further discover that the diabolical group have just recently headed off to a place called Farhill, said to be a series of ancient caves that riddle a nearby escarpment.

Vernon and his men are in pursuit, en route they further learn that one of the Eyes in the Night- the terrifying killer elf, is known to some as...

Wait for it.

Giggles.

Vernon, of course, sees this as an affront.

He's a bit po-faced is Vernon.

Anyway, Vernon and his men go after the Eyes in the Night, eventually chasing down one of the diabolical abominations in the dark and depths, to whit- one, Randall the Black.

However, then things start to go badly for everyone concerned in the dark deeps- the grey dwarves (the Duergar) get involved. Soon after- after much fighting, chasing and... a ceiling collapse, Vernon and his men get trapped in a watery chamber, sealed off from the world and...

Well, there they end their days, starving (and worse) to death.

I say, 'and worse' because at some point during this time Vernon's mind/devotion breaks and, long story short, he becomes a revenant.

That, of course, is the end of mad Vernon Hucrele's story, at least the bit in the book.

And that, that's all we got done this session.

Shame the Dark Squad didn't translate this book earlier, it could have proved useful to know some of this stuff in advance.

Jim (playing Vinnie) also said to me out in the school yard (we work at a university) at playtime-

Jim in quotes to distinguish.

“When did you write VH's diary?”

About session 35.

“When did we find it?”

Session 41, it was in the chest with all of the treasure.

“When did we start translating it?”

Session 43.

“Why did we stop translating it?”

But alas reply came their none, the bell had gone perhaps, break time was over.

The PCs are less than 500 XP off level eight, so that's nice.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-

  1. Go down again- back into the deep dark depths, and then through the door, Randall the Black is down there.​
  2. To the Moon Pool.​
  3. Goblins in the Dreadwood.​
  4. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.​
  5. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.​
  6. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.​

But we'll revisit this list sometime in the future, no doubt.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 


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