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The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #136 Into the Mere of the Dead Men.

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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #052 Blight Fight Night!

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
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

Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7

Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 51, we started the game at about 7.45 PM and finished up at 10.45 PM- for a chat/denouement, and with two 5-10 minute breaks in there. We spent the entire session fighting, just one three hour long brawl.

Needless to say another victory for the Dark Squad, but it was hard won.

If you remember at the end of the last session the adventurers had sneaked in to an ancient ivy covered woodland manse, the home to a half-orc Talos worshipper, a boss- his name is Grannoc, we’ll meet him later. The place is also home to a clutch of gnolls who are obviously working for the Talos bad guys.

Also here, within the courtyard of the ancient manse- growing up out of a well, is another evil tree, a Gulthias Tree- similar to the evil tree the PCs encountered and destroyed back in the Sunless Citadel, their first adventure.

So, last session- Newt had his Wall of Fire going- incinerating twig blights and the upper branches of the evil tree. Vinnie had his Spike Growth situated beneath a hole in the ceiling of another chamber, from which the gnolls are about to exit- the PCs (correctly) believe. Ram has also distributed a bunch of marbles on the floor in this room- just to add to the gnoll’s fun.

He’s so thoughtful.

The above has been achieved by the Dark Squad mainly because of their great reconnaissance of the manse- initially by Owly, Vinnie’s owl familiar, but latterly by the very sneaky Ram.

Set up done, here’s what happens next…

More twig blights- the four that emerge from with the well are incinerated in an instant by the cackling tabaxi’s greatest creation so far, his Wall of Fire. However, more twig blights scramble down and out of the chimney in the dining room of the manse, and start scratching and clawing at Vinnie and Tarbin Tul there.

Likewise lots more of the little scratchy bastards exit Grannoc’s lair, and continue to block Ram and Daktari’s progress.

But, they're just twig blights.

While this is going on the gnolls get into action, although the PCs can’t see some of the following, they CAN hear a lot of it however. One of the nasty buggers (a plains gnoll archer- I have a new splatbook) hangs out of a window on the upper floor, overlooking the courtyard, and from there shoots arrows into Ram (well, he hit the rogue once).


Upstairs plains gnoll archer is just about to plug Ramshambow.

A second gnoll, a plains gnoll runner, blithely unaware leaps down directly into Vinnie’s Spike Growth- that hurts. Then, the same poor fellow, staggers into one of Ram’s marble patches- the gnoll goes flying (arse over tit) and impales itself again in the Spike Growth area. The unfortunate fellow ends its turn curled on the floor yowling and screeching (and on 1 HP).

Another plains gnoll runner attempts to come to his packmate’s aid, but is also hurt badly after leaping down into the Spike Growth. The gnoll makes its perception check to spot the hazard, and so abandons its forlorn colleague and scrambles back up and into the gnoll's lair above. to share the news.

The gnolls are trapped upstairs- but not for long.

Meantime Grannoc, the half-orc Talos boss, has climbed out of the window of his room and is in the process of rounding up his boar friends.


It’s not just twig blights, although plenty more of these turn up too. Now there are vine blights climbing in through the windows, and needle blights too.


Blights for all occassions!


The gnolls cannot be contained, a trio of the beasts clamber out of windows and drop down into the courtyard- alas all of them suffer a little as they land in Vinnie's Spike Growth zone.

A plains gnoll archer takes up position and just lets loose, repeatedly, while a plains gnoll spearman (tough- approx. 40 HP and with four attacks/turn) rushes into the dining room- in which Vinnie, Tarbin and Newt hide, and starts stabbing with its spear- although the beast doesn’t hit much.


Vinnie has seen enough, and has already taken several hits- the druid is just short of bloodied, therefore Vincen G Squeezy Snake (Huge Constrictor) suddenly occupies much of the dining room. The plains gnoll spearman is grabbed up and squeezed, eventually crushed to death- but not before the terror (with help from a myriad blights) reduces Squeezy to just about bloodied, and very quickly.


Squeezy gets into action, note the PCs are in retreat already... keep watching.


Another pair of gnolls leap down into the courtyard, and one of these is my big bad gnoll- a plains gnoll warrior (in half-plate- AC 19, 80+ HP, and with five attacks/turn- two of them with his massive flail, inflicting 6D4+ damage).


"Hiya, can I have this dance?", the plains gnoll warrior makes it to the fight. As soon as Ram took a hit from this guy, Kev playing Ram (in his nonchalant way, still) said- "What the F was that?"

The gnoll warrior does a lot of shouting (in gnoll, which none of the PCs understand) and then smashes Ram and Daktari, thank heavens for Ram’s uncanny dodge. The rogue stabs the gnoll back, but then has to retreat into a corner to swig down a greater healing potion.


Daktari to the rescue, the now raging, frenzied and reckless barbarian goes smash-crazy trying to take the gnoll warrior down, alas on his first turn he only manages to connect with the terror once (from three attacks).

He therefore resorts to brute force on his next turn- Daktari grapples the gnoll warrior- picks it up and then flings it into and through Newt's Wall of Fire. The gnoll brute is still only just bloodied, but then has to get out of the Wall of Fire on his turn (and therefore gets burnt some more).

Soon after the plains gnoll warrior is killed to death by a rejuvenated Ram.

Job done.


Well, there are still lots of blights- and a few more gnolls in action- including an archer that is just sinking arrows into PCs at will- none of the guys can get to this fellow. Squeezy is beaten and broken, and Newt, Ram & Tarbin are now facing a clutch of needle and vine blights.

Note, the tabaxi attempts to use Blind/Deafen on a pair of vine blights that are closing in on him- the plant creatures both make their saves, which saved me having to inform the tabaxi that these blights are immune to blind/deafen anyway.

Remember to make monster knowledge checks if you need to.



Note- Newt's marked those for destruction by his Fireball, also- that's the plains gnoll warrior inside Newt's Wall of Fire- where Daktari chucked him.

Newt uses his rod of the pact keeper to regenerate one of his spell slots, and then spends an inspiration point to employ it immediately- FIREBALL, he burns down a swathe of the blights.

But just to say, and the PCs were not aware of this- Grannoc, my Talos boss guy, is at this point stood the other side of the main door into the manse- just about to open the portals and let loose with a lightning bolt.

At which point Newt’s Fireball hits the doors and explodes- wrecking the portals and setting the hallway on fire (because I thought it would be cool to do so) and causing Grannoc to abandon his plan and rush for cover.


Apres le Fireball. Note this is obviously a screenshot from one of the players, on my screen my big bad guy- Grannoc is just the other side of the doors that are on fire. Having just had the crap scared out of him, he was about to open the door and join the party on his next initiative.


Oh, and I forgot to say- the boars from the pumpkin patches are now all inside the manse, there are four of them- charging around the blights and attempting to tusk the Dark Squad.

Squeezy falls, Vinnie instantly reappears in his place and is immediately set upon by a variety of enemies.

Out in the courtyard Daktari is being wailed upon by three gnolls, although they’re just plain old gnolls and therefore not too tough, certainly not tough enough to thwart the barbarian.


Squeezy's gone and Vinnie is about to get mobbed, like Daktari is right now.

He’s bloodied though, and so is Ram- again.

Also just to note, I was rolling randomly as I went on for the spread of the fire (started after Newt's Fireball) but the conflagration didn't really get going, mainly because I wanted the PCs to explore the manse after the attack.


Vinnie retreats into a corner of the dining room and summons to the party a pair of brown bears, which fill the room with their wild roaring and clawing. The bears are, of course, also given names- they are Yogi, and Paddington- only say them in Vinnie’s French/Italian accent for full effect.


"Yo!-ghee", and, "Pa-Ding-Ton!", they lasted 12 seconds in total.

Paddington is swiftly grappled and restrained by a vine blight, and then torn to shreds by a charging boar and a bunch more needle and twig blights- in a turn.


"Yo!-gheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" But too late, and the fire's spreading, and the Dark Squad are heading for full retreat, although I've pretty much run out of enemies at this point.

Yogi lasts just a turn longer.

But the summoned creature’s sacrifice has not been in vain, the Dark Squad are temporarily unleashed, they go hog happy and starting blasting, smashing, burning and slashing their enemies down.


Just as the adventurers have cleared a space for themselves in the dining room, suddenly a large snarling hyena appears in a cloud of smoke and brimstone- it tears into Vinnie and Ram, but misses Newt- most everything does this evening.


Dark Squad huddle up in the corner, the crocotta only lasted for maybe a turn and a half but it caused a fair amount of panic in the ranks.

What the PCs didn’t know is there’s a gnoll caster also in the building, only this guy has climbed down the outside of the manse and to the window that looks into the dining room.

The Dark Squad concentrate their attacks, and at this point Daktari is on fire- after taking down all three gnolls in the courtyard the barbarian rushes in and starts wailing on the large and ferocious hyena- later identified as a crocotta, the bestial offspring of a high ranking gnoll and a hyena.

Doesn’t bare thinking about.

So, where were we- ah yes, Daktari’s dice hit red hot, in two turns he rolls four crits, from six attacks- all with advantage (reckless)- the other two rolls are misses. The crocotta is gutted in seconds, and poof- like Vinnie’s summoned brown bears it too disappears.

At this point all of the PCs are in effect hiding in the corner of the dining room.

Now, I know they wont like me for saying that but their tactics are- for all of ‘em, move two or three squares into position- attack- move back into the safety of the dining room huddle.


Well, the boars charge about some more- a few more blights arrive, but I’ve run out of enemies to throw at the PCs at this point. I have unleashed (in total) thirty eight twig blights, six needle blights, four vine blights, four boars, the crocotta and eight gnolls of varying calibre.

So, there’s just Grannoc awaiting his opportunity.


Daktari moves forward to attack the remaining boars and blights etc. and at last he moves into a space in which Grannoc can see him.



The lightning bolt hits- it kills a boar and a vine blight, but also leaves Daktari staggering, and on 6 HP.

But… there’s Grannoc, the bastard (thinks Daktari), and so the stumbling barbarian switches direction- charges into Grannoc and unleashes merry hell.

Grannoc has a big bag of hit points however, about 120 from memory… Daktari, remember, has 6 HP.


The rest of the Dark Squad rush to support the barbarian, the first to arrive is Newt- who forces the Sky Pony hero to glug down a potion of greater healing.


Newt & Vinnie have just both raced to Daktari's side to deliver healing, and then retreated as quickly to find cover. Note that's Ram just making his way out of the window for a bit of a skulk.

Note, potion of greater healing = recover 4D4 + 4 hit points, Newt’s rolls – 1, 1, 2, 1 + 4 = 9 HP healed. The last potion of greater healing Newt used (on himself) he rolled – 1, 1, 1, 1 +4 = 8 HP recovered. So, he’s improving.

Vinnie arrives next, and with a third level cure wounds for the barbarian, and Daktari is loving playing the hero.

Meanwhile Ram has mopped up the last two blights, and then clambered out of the window of the dining room.

Note, the gnoll spellcaster that summoned the crocotta has already seen enough, it fled into the woods maybe two turns previous.

Daktari keeps hacking at Grannoc, and keeps shouting random things- which Jim/Haggis playing Daktari delights in giving voice to.

If you remember last time I've added a new Mod to Fantasy Grounds, Daktari now has sub-tables for his random chat lines. It made us laugh a lot.

"I am cutting off your insert body part!"

Note, I had to do a bit of tweaking to get the sub-tables to work in the Mod, although Jim quite liked yelling the above anyway, he did it a lot.

Vinnie meantime dodges in and fires off his new fourth level spell- Blight, Grannoc feels the hurt. While Newt dodges in and out with his Belphegor’s Fiery Blasts.

Grannoc is suffering but he hits the trio right back with a pair of Thunderwave spells, but it’s just not enough, particularly when the creeping Ram sneaks in a backstab, although it’s actually Newt that takes down the boss of the half-orc Talos adherents.


The fight is won.

Although Grannoc has a few last words-

“Hear the thunder… Garthok comes!”

The Dark Squad are suitably fretful.

So, there were times the PCs/players were worrying…

Vinnie is usually the first to crack, I remember him saying- “Zis iz not going zo well, mes amis!”

This when Vincen G Squeezy lasted just two turns.

Then it was Newt-

“Ram! Ram! Tell Daktari- we need both of you back here, they’re coming from the walls Ram!”

Newt repeated some variant of the above statement about half-a-dozen times, starting his chivvying when Vinnie, Tarbin and the tabaxi found themselves trapped in the dining room of the manse.

But while I had lots of enemies in action they were little folk. I landed lots of hits but as soon as one of my big guys got into action- one of the tough gnolls, or the crocotta, or Grannoc, as soon as any of these guys got going the Dark Squad really concentrated fire and took them down, and quickly.

So, a great fight- it took the entire session, and we had a chat about that afterwards, I just wanted to make sure the players were good with this kind of thing. Obviously it isn’t going to happen often, an entire session to play out just one fight.

But all is well- positive feedback from the guys.

So, briefly back to the action, the Dark Squad over the course of the next twenty or so minutes put the fire out within the manse.

Newt isn't happy about this, and refuses to use any of his magic to Control the Flames, Ram has words (briefly) with the arsonist tabaxi, but the tetchy moment passes.

Newt wanders off- leaving his colleagues to their blasphemy.

The gnolls and Grannoc are searched, just coin- although souvenirs are also taken from the fallen enemies, there are rewards available for these guys from the Falcon.

Last bit, while Newt is staying out of the way of his companions- who are putting out his beloved fire, he discovers… well.

Actually, the well- the trunk of the evil tree descends the well-shaft into… a cavern, a large cavern- maybe. Basically, there’s a way down into the well, and the rest of the evil tree down there.

Do you remember anything about a well? Readers? Dark Squad?

But we’ll get to this next time.

That was a cracker- don’t get me wrong, the Dark Squad- although they were fretting at times (but not Ram) seemed to be mostly in control throughout, or at least they had the stamina (and spells) to just keep on surviving. There were brief moments of hope for me- if the plains gnoll warrior could have got in one more turn of attacks then Ram would have been down. If at any point two of the PCs had lined up so I could get Grannoc in with his lightning bolt…

But they didn’t, it gets very tactical on Fantasy Ground sometimes, and the players know what they are doing, Newt even stated several times-

“Watch out for the lightning bolt bastard! Don’t stand together! Keep in cover and away from the doorways!”

Note, I also locked down as many of the PCs as I could every turn with the tide of twig blights, I don’t remember Ram starting a single turn without at least one of these little bastards stood at his side.

The Dark Squad suffered over a dozen AoO in this fight, collectively, because as soon as they identified a genuine threat they all moved towards it (took their AoO) and concentrated fire. As I say, it got tactical, and so took a good while to play out.

Very astute by the Dark Squad, and a top move from Daktari when he threw the big tough plains gnoll warrior through Newt's Wall of Fire.

The MVP for this session was clearly Daktari, played by Jim/Haggis (who plays Vinnie too). The barbarian was well into his second rage in succession when Grannoc fell, and with +8 to hit, with advantage every time (reckless) and three attacks/turn… well, he did a naughty word-ton of damage.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Investigate the woodland manse- and below?
  2. Track the other half-orcs/boars.
  4. Back to the Falcon?
  5. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  6. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  7. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  8. 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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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #053 The Ancient Alchemist's Well?

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
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

Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 53, and it was a cracker.

The Dark Squad are within an ancient and mostly ruined woodland manse- former home of Grannoc (RIP), a half-orc Talos worshipping boss, and a bunch of other bad things. This after the fifteen turn long combat last session, which involved the various N/PCs above and, wait for it... sixty two enemies in total.

The adventurers, after a short breather- and having put Newt's fire out, are keen to take a look around, and also to investigate the well in the courtyard. The well, Newt has noted, opens into a large cavern chamber below- home to another Gulthias Tree which grows up and out of the aperture. Newt really wants to investigate this place.

But first, the manse- the lower level is systematically searched, in truth there's nothing much to find here except in what were Grannoc's chambers, the rest of the place seems unused- a ruin. Grannoc's chamber however shows signs of an ongoing ritual- with lightning bolts scoured into the wooden floor, and annotated in blood. There's also a still burning brazier- something magical was going on in here. The half-orc's chamber also contains a swathe of (minor) treasures, including a few potions and a packet of dust of disappearance, and a slew of coin- although mostly copper.

The Dark Squad after further investigation are of the opinion that the various low level treasures they find here constitute the former belongings of folk slaughtered by the Talos worshippers during their operations in the region.

The PCs during their extensive search also find another item of note- an old portrait of a grumpy looking noble, possibly the original owner of the manse- Maximo De La Crane. But wait a minute, that name rings a bell. Vinnie, finally makes the connection- the De La Crane crypt back in the Saltmarsh cemetery was the location of the secret entrance that lead to the portal to the Pact of the Flame chamber.

Who were the De La Crane's?

[Searching the lower level of the manse 500 XP]

That done the adventurers head upstairs, through a hole in the ceiling and into the former lair of the gnolls. The place is a stinking mess, and there's more evidence of the gnoll's predation, the adventurers find a backpack stuffed with beaver pelts, and alongside it the visceral half-eaten remains of a human trapper.


"Stirges!" The Dark Squad hate stirges.

Investigations continue, and in an upstairs hallway- while failing to creep around quietly the Dark Squad disturb a flock of stirges, which were happily nesting in the attic above. A dozen of the pesky flying exsanguinators descend to feed on the adventurers, and remarkably my dice are on fire. At one point Newt decides to try to get the hell away from the cloud of stirges that are pestering him- in doing so he generates so many AoOs that he ends the turn with three stirges attached and syphoning his blood.


Newt has some new friends.

And keep in mind the PCs at this point have not done any healing since the big fight last session, however the stirges are swiftly dealt with, and Ram sent into the attic to check the place out- no more stirges, just lots more junk.

Time to move on, into the main bedroom of the manse, but this area is also a ruin, no-one has been in here for decades. Vinnie, with help from Ram and Daktari discovers that the mantelpiece over the fireplace here is hollow. The secret compartment is opened and a staff found within, later identified as a staff of birdcalls.

Note, later in the session Vinnie uses his new staff in conjunction with his shillelagh spell, expending charges on the item when striking his foes to create various birdcalls- while hitting his enemies in the face. Nice. Jim, playing Vinnie, even does the sound effects.

Ram makes another discovery, a secret chamber- within which the PCs find a chest which cannot be opened- it's arcane locked, and... a cloak of billowing, which the Dark Squad decide should be gifted to Tarbin Tul, the Bard is much impressed, and very grateful.

So, next up- a bit of a discussion with regard to the well (with the Gulthias Tree in it) back down in the courtyard, the Dark Squad are searching for the ancient alchemist's well, it's one of the prophecies they received back in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors. There's enough evidence in the manse to convince the guys that someone in the De La Crane household had the magic needed to manufacture a few of the enchanted items discovered here, were they an alchemist?

Is this the ancient alchemist's well?

[Further investigations and discussions 500 XP]

Time to find out, although not quite yet, the PCs are still pretty beat up- also it's already early evening, and therefore time for an extended rest. Newt conjures his Leomund's Tiny Hut in the main bedroom of the manse, a watch rota is sorted, and both Owly and Gerald are sent outside to keep an eye on the exterior of the building.

Which proves to be a very good move, Gerald sends a mental call to Newt on second watch, there are more plant creatures approaching the manse from the woods hereabouts.


More blights on the way...

[Spot the enemies approaching, good precautions 300 XP]

The tabaxi rouses his comrades just in time as half-a-dozen needle blights climb in through the windows of the main bedroom, alas the fight is made much more difficult when Newt exits his Leomund's Tiny Hut- which causes the spell to end.


Blights in da 'ouse! Daktari is just about to take a bunch of hits.

Daktari is quickly surrounded, and again my dice are on fire- the barbarian is clawed and shot full of needles, repeatedly- he's quickly bloodied. Tarbin Tul also suffers, as does Newt. In total ten needle blights attack the adventurers, but again... this is the Dark Squad, and they're seventh level now, so they beat their enemies down dead.

[Needle blights from the woods 500 XP]

Watches are reset and the remainder of an extended rest taken, undisturbed this time.

Vinnie, with a fresh spell list, dispels the arcane lock on the chest Ram found, the rogue unlocks it and discovers an immovable rod- that's the second of these that the Dark Squad have found.

Morning comes and the adventurers ready themselves and then- Ram first, and roped up, the Dark Squad descend the well- down the trunk of the burned tree, and into the dark. Fifteen feet of mortared stone and then through a hole in the ceiling of a large cavern chamber. Another thirty or forty feet scrambling through the branches of the great tree and the rogue touches down- all clear.

Daktari begins his descent, with the other members of the Dark Squad following after.

The cavern below is carpeted with straggly grasses- like the plant life back in the Sunless Citadel, the natural stone walls of the seem to have lots of markings on them- but not text, most odd. There's a pit or depression, and beyond it- to the west, ruined remains of mortared stone, most intriguing.

[Down the well 500 XP]

The DM, in the guise of the evil tree, waits until the Dark Squad are all clambering down before unleashing its attacks- snake-like vines unfurl and grasp hold of Daktari, the barbarian in the following turns is very quickly bloodied.

Note, I incorporated an assassin vine (which does 6d6 ongoing poison damage) into the Gulthias Tree (and then gave the thing 500 HP), why- because I'm a bastard.

Daktari eventually rages and escapes the clutches of the tree/vine, he then takes the quick way down- he lets go and plummets forty or so feet to the hard earth of the cavern.


Down the well.

While the barbarian extracts himself from the grappling plant-life the rest of the Dark Squad make their way down into the cavern, although all of them take AoOs aplenty as a variety of other blights emerge from their hiding places within the evil tree.

Vinnie is good enough to stop off on the way down to help Daktari extract himself from the snarling vegetation.


More hot Blight action.

There are a dozen or so blights, mostly twiggies but a few others, and again- my dice are on fire- Newt is quickly bloodied, Tarbin Tul is badly wounded.


Newt takes a beating.

Vinnie wildshapes into Vincen G Squeezy Snake, and then uses his reach to get at the blights that are hiding in the branches above, particularly the needle blights which are firing down into the adventurers.


Squeezy snakes his way back up the Gulthias Tree to rescue Tarbin Tul.

But the Dark Squad struggling here, a bit, there are a lot of low rolls and therefore missing going on. In the course of this fight, and the last, Vinnie/Squeezy manages to roll a '1' four times.


Targeting the evil Gulthias Tree.

Newt has seen enough, he conjures another Wall of Fire, but alas Squeezy is caught within the compass of the inferno- so big is the huge constrictor, he's impossible to avoid. The huge reptile is reduced in less than ten seconds to approx. 5 HP, soon after he's done- Vinnie's back, and now he's pissed too.

But the huge tree has a massive reach, vines and roots emerge from the grasses in the cavern and grasp hold of Tarbin Tul, the bard is caught and clutched again.

Note the Gulthias Tree/assassin vine delivers 6d6 ongoing poison damage to whoever it has in its clutches- Daktari suffered two turns of this, the bard- Tarbin Tul, just one.

The fight rumbles on, the blights are eventually destroyed but the tree is made of sturdier stuff (500 HP, remember).

At which point at least one of the inhabitants of the caverns below comes to see what all the noise is about, the creature in question is a meenlock- the creepy insect creature manages to catch Newt unawares. The tabaxi glimpses the beast but briefly, and then is left paralysed as the fey creature seems to fade and disappear.


Newt gets away from the violence, glugs down a potion of greater healing and then gets clawed and paralysed by the Meenlock six seconds later.

Vinnie hits the evil tree with a maximum damage Blight spell attack, and the Wall of Fire continues to burn; Daktari, Ram and Tarbin Tull are making use of missile weapons, but... the Gulthias Tree still survives.

Note, the Dark Squad's attacks on the evil are really bad, their dice- at times, are truly broken, they just kept on missing. Obviously I'm supplying the narrative as Ram with his bow (and an inspiration point) manages to fire high wide and handsome while attacking a fifty foot high tree from only twenty feet away.

But the above took us until 11.30 PM, half-an-hour over time, the fight has been going on for eight turns and there's probably a bit more to it yet...

That, however, is all we had time for this evening.

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

1) Investigate the woodland manse/ancient alchemist's well.

2) Track the other half-orcs/boars.


4) Back to the Falcon?

5) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

6) Nightshade in the Dreadwood.

7) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.

8) 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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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #054 Camping in Granny Frogwart's Backyard.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
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

Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7

Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 54, and it was another cracker, although perhaps not for the players...

But let me take a moment to expand upon that- I had the Dark Squad on the run, actually not so much on the run but... stuck, it was a very hard slog for them. At the end of the session Ramshambo was still restrained, he'd been stuck to his spot for the last ninety minutes (real time), and the rogue was down to approx. 10 HP by the end, and with both of his inspiration points spent. Vinnie and Newt had taken a beating- and both had spent time paralysed, poisoned, grabbed, grappled, and restrained. However, by the end of the fracas the pair were no-longer bloodied. Tarbin Tul, the NPC bard, ended the session poisoned, restrained, grappled and on approx. 6 HP.

Daktari on the other hand mostly had a fine old time of it, he got bogged down for a little while, but with his rage still going he was MVP for the session- again. The barbarian rushed to the front of the action and then a while later rushed back to help his colleagues when things were starting to head south.

We played until well past midnight, but we started late, and even then there was another twenty minutes at the end in which the players continued to bemoan their misfortune- low rolls etc.

So, there was some low rolling (just ask Ram) from the PCs but not as much as they think (I've checked the chat file), and I had them worried for a good while, they were on the ropes.

But truth be told- it was a bit of a mess, and I let the players know at the end of the session- I'm not finished with them yet.

So, here's what happened...

The Dark Squad have clambered down the Gulthias Tree, descending the well shaft into a large and spacious cavern, with a forty foot high ceiling, the ground beneath swathed in stunted grass. Note the walls of the chamber bear some strange markings, also there's a depression to the west, and beyond this the jagged edges of broken mortared walls. That said the adventurers have not really had a chance to take a look around down here- they've been fighting for their lives. Against the Gulthias Tree (with it's Assassin Vine appendages), a bunch of blights, and latterly a pop-up meenlock- which at the end of the last session managed to catch Newt by surprise and leave the tabaxi paralysed.

The Gulthias Tree however is not long for this world- surrounded by Newt's Wall of Fire, it's burning nicely- with the roiling smoke exiting up the well shaft. The tree however is trying to fight back- it has Tarbin Tul in its viney poisonous grasp.


Fantasy Grounds Unity, and the image is darker because we are viewing the map through the eyes of the PCs, with their darkvision. Note there's a little light around the evil tree, that's Newt's Wall of Fire- in game this light pulses and flickers, very nice.

So, here we go... although, just to spoil the surprise, the session begins in this cavern, and... ends in the same place.

I did say the Dark Squad were stuck, but its not all fighting- promise, so read on.

The tree burns some more, meantime Daktari gets to Tarbin Tul and in his fury rips all of the vines that are grasping and poisoning the bard away- great work.

As the big man states-

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am MVP!

If you remember we've incorporated a random chat bot type MOD thing into Fantasy Grounds. The above statement was added to the possible list of war cries on Daktari's list, mainly after his great work in the previous fight in the manse above.

Oh, and in other news- we're using Fantasy Grounds Unity now, and it's a step up.

And then Newt's Wall of Flame finally puts paid to the 500 HP evil tree.

[Death to the blights and the Gulthias Tree 1500 XP]

The fight versus the tree and the blights is won, except for the pesky meenlock, but what's this- suddenly a skinny little arm reaches out from the solid stone wall to the side of the Newt, and punches the paralysed tabaxi in the mush.


But Ram is watching and waiting, and with his bow at the ready and arrow nocked- ostensibly he's waiting for the reappearance of the meenlock, but the rogue is happy to accept other targets.

He fires an arrow with pinpoint accuracy (and a whole heap of sneak attack) and skewers the appendage arm before it can retract back into the stone wall, and with enough damage to kill the creature on the other end of the skinny limb.

There's a yelp, and then a sigh from down the nearby pit.

A brief inspection concludes that the strange markings on the wall are all hollow shapes- small potential portals the rogue surmises (after a '20' Insight check), and he's right- the arm belonged to a boggle, a small oleaginous fey creature. Unbeknown to the players the DM unleashed a clutch of these buggers towards the end of the last session- along with the meenlock.

There are thousands of these chalked potential portals all over the walls.

Newt recovers from the meenlock's paralysing poison, just in time for the fey insect-like assassin to reappear and claw at Vinnie this time, and now the druid is paralysed.


The Meenlock appears out of the shadows and claws at Vinnie. Note the Wall of Fire's light is much more apparent.


And so it goes for a short while, the PCs manoeuvre and then ready actions, while the meenlock pops in and out of the shadow- seemingly able to disappear from sight at will.

Note, I'm rolling stealth checks for the meenlock every round, for the next three turns I roll '19' +6 = 25 for stealth every time. The meenlock continues its hit and run tactics- Tarbin Tul is clawed and paralysed next.


FAILURE- it's Tarbin Tul's turn to be paralysed. The skull and crossbones in the pit denotes the dead Boggle, while the O token is a newly dripped puddle of Boggle oil.

But there are also still a few boggles at work, and some of them have managed to exude and drip puddles of sticky or slippery oil for the PCs to have further fun with.

Meantime the meenlock keeps at it, Ram takes a hit but withstands the strange insect's paralysing poison, and then after a fiery blast or two from Newt, the rogue manages to spot the little bastard at last and sink another arrow into the horrible insect fey- dead.

Vinnie shakes off the paralysing poison, rushes to the edge of the depression, and down below spots two boggles in the pit- one of the creatures is dead- with an arrow through its arm.


Vinnie spots the Boggle in the pit.

Just to make clear, a boggle can see through- and reach through, any outlined frame- so, it's arm snakes into one of the chalked outlines down in the pit, and emerges from another such chalked frame somewhere close by. It's a very neat trick.

Daktari rages and then jumps into the pit, well... I say jump, but what actually happens is the barbarian rushes into an unseen patch of slippery boggle oil and then falls into the pit. The barbarian lands next to the second boggle in the hollow, he picks himself up and almost slaughters the fey with two '20's in a row.

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am riding you!


Daktari: You are my Little Pony!

Daktari really does have the best lines.

At which point Ben/Bear, who plays Newt arrives in session- he's a poorly fellow but he's committed to our cause. Ben has got a couple of cracked ribs, a broken collarbone (he was showing off on his bicycle) and has also just this afternoon undergone big bad dentistry- root canal work. Ouch!

Back to the game...

The critically wounded boggle shouts its surrender (in sylvan, the only language it knows) which Vinnie translates and then swiftly manages to convince Daktari to cease his raging and stand down.

The Dark Squad have a prisoner, and the fight... is over.

[Meelock and a pair of boggles 500 XP]

The boggle however proves to be a difficult prisoner to secure, the creature naturally exudes a slippery oil- neither Newt's manacles nor Ram's rope can secure the little bugger. That said, the badly wounded fey is happy to chat if it will keep its life.

The boggle introduces himself to Vinnie as Herbert Petite-Pantalon, and over the course of the next twenty or so minutes is happy to answer questions, although keep in mind some of the following information has to be worked for, Herbert really isn't that bright, and certainly not on a management pay grade.


Herbert Petite-Pantalon, cute ain't he?

The Dark Squad (actually just Vinnie) learn-

1) This place is the domain of Granny Ethel Frogwart, she's in charge of operations here.

2) There are other named bad guys and gals in the lair, including- the Rug Doctor, (Mrs) Fastpants and Big Evil Alan.

3) The Rug Doctor is big and hairy, Fastpants is little and fast, and Big Evil Alan is big and evil, who would have guessed.

4) There's yet another terror down here- Mr Bad Chutney, but he's crazy.

5) All of the above folk work for Granny Frogwart.

6) People are sent down into the well (from the manse above) for Granny et al to 'play' with. None of these folk ever get to go home...

Note, there are obviously some gaps in the information presented above (by Herbert) but the boggle is, as already stated, not the brightest of creatures. The above information is about as good as it gets.

Vinnie, now that the Wall of Fire is spent, allows Herbert to flee back up the well- although Newt is less inclined and has to be persuaded- the tabaxi is all for blasting the little bugger, but the druid has seen enough violence.

“I am fed up wiz all ze killing!”

Too soon Vinnie, too soon.

[Talk with Herbert Petite-Pantalon 400 XP]

Next, and this (for me, your kindly DM) was really weird, Newt erects his Leomund's Tiny Hut and the adventurers crawl within- for a short rest. Alas there's no retreat for the Dark Squad, and so they make camp (as it were) within Granny Frogwart's lair.

I'm not having that, but the DM knows that just launching attacks against the adventurers while they're within the hut is a fools game, and Granny is a clever woman, so...

Granny Frogwart, who still has minions aplenty down here, makes a very brief appearance. Granny is a hag, Vinnie determines, although the crone is only glimpsed briefly- over the other side of the depression, within the crumbling stone walls there.

There follows a rather marvellous conversation, marvellous because I get to give voice to Granny Frogwart, or Ethel as she insists 'Vinnie dearie', calls her.

Ethel wants to know who the hell the Dark Squad are, and mores the point- what the hell are they doing down here?

There's a lot of chatter, a good thirty plus minutes of it in game- and enough for the DM to allow the PCs to get their short rest.

Just to note a lot of the guys were pretty beaten up after the evil tree and blight fight, and Newt is out of spells (again).

It is, as usual, mostly Vinnie that's doing the chatting- although at some point Newt also gets involved, he introduces himself as Newt the Magnificent.

To which Ethel replies-

“I finds that folks what appends their names with terms like 'Magnificent' very rarely are.”

Vinnie cautions the now fractious tabaxi-

“She has found you out- seen through your charade, mes amis. She iz most insightful.”

And so the conversation rolls on, and encompasses many themes- partially to keep Granny talking (so they can get a rest), but also because the Dark Squad have questions. The adventurers explain that they are here to explore the 'ancient alchemist's well', and that they are attempting to fulfil a similarly ancient prophecy.

“I don't know what the bloody hell you are raving about Vinnie dearie!” Is Ethel's reply to this, even when Vinnie explains further- about the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors etc.

Finally however a connection is found- Ethel knows who Nightshade is, and more importantly where she is.

Just to remind you Nightshade is the seventh Bad Dead Ancestor, a hag or witch the Dark Squad have been told, who escaped from the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors- her return there will allow Garumn to be set free.

Nightshade, Ethel informs the Dark Squad, is the dark queen of the Dreadwood- she lairs within her Fortress of Dread in the deepest, darkest reaches of the forest.

Ethel will happily inform Nightshade that the Dark Squad are keen to meet with her, however, only if the Dark Squad bugger off now and leave her alone.

This is the Dark Squad's one and only chance to escape the place with their lives, Ethel makes clear.

It goes back and forth, with Vinnie being polite and chatty, Newt making threats- but only in a half-hearted way, while Ram et al whisper conversational suggestions. But we're going nowhere, an impasse- the Dark Squad are not going to leave here, and Ethel is not going to let them stay.

“Have it yer own way Vinnie dearie, it's been nice talking wiv you- but if you insist on staying- then so be it. Welcome to yer new home- yer not going anywhere, yer going to end yer days here dearies.”

So, while the chatter is going on Granny's minions have been at their work, in this instance Granny's minions consist of a clutch of kenku who are armed with bows and swords and are guarding her. A clutch more boggles- who are getting in position at their portal windows, and... a host of spiders and their spider-friends who are at present crawling about on the ceiling of the cavern.


Kenku, ready for action!

However, after the short rest has been concluded- and although the chat continues, Ram too has not been idle. The rogue has taken to the shadows, crept around the outside of the cavern, and then climbed across the pit/depression- so he's on the same side as Granny and a lot of her minion friends.

Alas Granny has been watching Ram's progress, the rogue's stealth check (made in the dice tower on Fantasy Grounds, and so unseen by the player) was a '2', that's a '9' with bonuses.

“Where are yew going little man?” Ethel asks, and very suddenly a small boggle arm, hand and fist snaps out of one of the chalked frames on the cavern wall and punches Ram in the face.

“Have it yer own way!” Ethel declares once again, and very suddenly we're back to fighting.

[A pleasant chat with Granny Ethel Frogwart 500 XP]

Newt starts up with his usual ranting and raving, cursing and threatening the hag, but Granny's not bothered about that.

Ram, somewhat sheepishly- after being spotted, leaps down from the wall he has been clambering across and lands in a pool of sticky boggle oil- he's stuck.

Note, this event happens at 10:31 PM (real world time) the following fight rages on until the end of the session, which was at 00:13 AM, at which point Ram is still stuck- and he spent both of his inspiration points trying to escape the glue (DC 11 strength check needed).

So, just the highlights- giant wolf spiders drop down from the ceiling, swarms of spiders scurry down the cavern walls, puddles of boggle oil- of both the sticky and the slippery variety are discovered the hard way. Puny boggle fists and feet emerge from chalked portals and kick and lunge, a bunch of kenkus start up with their bows, and eventually two ettercap stranglers get into action.


Ram gets stuck in Boggle oil, he's still stuck there even as I write this...

Granny Frogwart meantime heads off for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

But the highlights-

Daktari charges forward, leaps the pit and makes it to Ram's side of the fight- to defend the rogue, and then press the attack. The barbarian alas is kept at bay by the kenku and a bunch of spiders.


I am Daktari!

Ram, gives up trying to escape the sticky boggle oil (after spending two turns and both of his inspiration points attempting to do so) and so starts up with his bow, while trying to dodge a variety of attacks- difficult to do when you are immobilised and restrained.

Daktari starts taking hits- the barbarian rages again.

Tarbin Tul gets swarmed, by spiders of course- it's not pretty.

Vinnie launches a Moonbeam into the midst of the enemies- kenkus and boggles are radiant burnt, however moments later the druid is also beset by a swarm of spiders.


Vinnie's Moonbeam burns- note, I also put a little flickering light on it. I like Fantasy Grounds Unity a lot.

Newt keeps on fiery blasting, and then a bunch more spiders arrive, and he too is having problems.

Ramshambo, still restrained (of course), keeps on getting bitten, and punched, and shot... he's trying to figure out each turn when to spend his Uncanny Dodge, in an effort to stay alive.

Daktari is still trying to hack his way through the kenku.

Tarbin Tul, still beset by spiders, tries to Thunderwave his way to freedom- it doesn't work, but it does help. Tarbin is almost out of spells- also he's back to being bloodied.

Vinnie's Moonbeam continues to radiant burn- another kenku drops, but the druid is also taking hits, and it's at this point that the first ettercap strangler bungees down from the ceiling (Mission Impossible style) and attempts to garrotte the druid. It misses but this is the moment that the PCs become aware of this (soon to be these) guy(s). They're a little shaken- things are pretty tough as it is.


Hello Mr. Ettercap, will you be my friend?

Another kenku expires in Vinnie's Moonbeam, the other birdfolk guards- unseen by the members of the Dark Squad, although I'm writing this here because I think the PCs need the help- retreat from the radiant sphere.

But now Daktari, still in the front line, is fighting spiders.

Newt casts Mirror Image, he's taking hits- it takes approx. two more turns for the scurrying arachnids to reduce the tabaxi's conjured images from three to zero, and then get back to biting the warlock again.

Daktari kills a boggle.

Several more boggles retreat and get away, and no- the PCs don't see this happen either, but let's pretend Ram and Daktari heard them exit, because (again) the Dark Squad need all the help they can get.

Tarbin Tul keeps on getting bitten, he has to Thunderwave some more...

Vinnie refocuses his Moonbeam on the Ettercap that is threatening him- it burns.

However, the spider bastard is still in good shape and so it tries again- seconds later and the druid is being garrotted- he's also poisoned, and then... the druid fails his concentration check- his Moonbeam blinks out.


End of the Moonbeam!

Vinnie is beyond bloodied, as is Ram at this point.

The second ettercap strangler sneaks down the wall to make Tarbin Tul's acquaintance, and now the bard is also being strangled.


It's behind you Tarbin!

Tarbin is critically wounded.

Newt keeps on fiery blasting- he's out of alternatives, and at last the ettercap strangling Vinnie is left swinging by its thread- and dead.

Vinnie gets bitten by a giant wolf spider and poisoned some more.

Daktari abandons the front line- the enemies there are either dead or have fled, and rushes back the way he came. The barbarian leaps back over the pit (landing in another puddle of sticky boggle oil- he breaks free instantly) and then races to save his companions, slashing in a fury.

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am MVP!

Yes you are, my friend.

Tarbin Tul is reduced to using his Vicious Mockery on the ettercap throttling him... although how can he speak?

And at this point a lot of the spider bastards have been killed, and at last the battlefield is starting to clear.

Although Tarbin Tul gets swarmed again- and also bitten by the ettercap that's throttling him, the bard is now down to 6 HP, and grappled, and still poisoned.


Tarbin is very unwell, Ram is looking a little peaky too.

Ram is also being spider swarmed, the rogue is down to 10 HP.

Newt keeps on fiery blasting... I'm sure I've read that before.

Newt: Belphegor consumes thee!

But then, in a stroke of genius, the tabaxi rushes over to Tarbin Tul and force feeds a potion of healing into the bard (he rolls double '1' naturally for the healing draught).

Ram shoots the last ettercap dead, there are just three spider swarms (all badly wounded) still in the fight- they don't last long.

Particularly as Daktari is still in his frenzied rage-

Daktari: I am Daktari! Look at my beautiful hair!

Vinnie is back to Producing Flame-

Vincenzo: Stand by for ze most danger-ouse spell in ze entire Donjon & Dragons game, 'ere it comes!

The fight is soon over, actually it took another two turns, but we'll leave the last words to Daktari's chat bot-

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am Uthgardt! I am SKY PONY!

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am Killing You!

Daktari: Vinnie is my Little Pony!

[Some of Granny Frogwart's minions get killed 1825 XP]

The Dark Squad (some of them) are still badly wounded- although in the last few turns of the action several of the adventurers took the chance to swig down a healing potion or two, or to distribute a few cure wounds.

Ram however is still stuck, and...

I'll be honest, and this is the DM talking now, the Dark Squad have not put a scratch on my bad guys- not really. I still have a clutch of boggles and kenku who are about to head on back to the fight.

Also, the four named guys that Herbert Petite-Pantalon told the Dark Squad about earlier- the Rug Doctor, (Mrs) Fastpants, Big Evil Alan and Mr Bad Chutney, well- they're just waiting in the wings.

Then there's the hag, Granny Ethel Frogwart.

So, what I'm saying is this guys- you ain't seen nothing yet, you have just cleared out some (but not all) of the minions, the proper bad guys have not even got into the fight yet.

This is a heads up fellers, this could go bad.

After the action above, when the session had ended, there was a lot of player chatter, about how badly they were rolling- and how great my rolls were, well... that's just not true. I've been through the chat file and counted everything up. My bad guys hit with just over 20% of their attacks, and I rolled three times as many '1's as you. The Dark Squad on the other hand hit with over 65% of their attacks.

All of you, except for Ram, have inspiration points left.

And I really think you need to get Ram free somehow, perhaps like you did with Tarbin, although you might not get a chance next session.

Granny Ethel Frogwart is a clever enemy, but all she's done so far is co-ordinate the attack, she's not lifted a finger other than that to get involved.

The bad people are coming, there's the potential for a TPK here, I'm just saying.

I think you may need a plan for the next session.

That, however, is all that we had time for this evening.

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

1) Survive the ancient alchemist's well.

2) Track the other half-orcs/boars.


4) Back to the Falcon?

5) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

6) Nightshade in the Dreadwood.

7) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.

8) 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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I have every confidence that all the party will get out of this alive ... well, maybe not all of them, some of them though ... well, maybe one of them ... probably Daktari ... if he's very lucky. :unsure:


I have every confidence that all the party will get out of this alive ... well, maybe not all of them, some of them though ... well, maybe one of them ... probably Daktari ... if he's very lucky. :unsure:

Ram got ko'd (but he auto stabilises- he's the guy with a Periapt of Wound Closure), then he got healed, and then he got ko'd again. Then Daktari really got cooking while Vincen G Squeezy rescued Ram.

And what a rescue, the huge constrictor swallowed Ram and then regurgitated him back on the other side of the depression, and next to Tarbin who had just one spell left.

Meantime Newt used his Rod of the Pact Keeper to get a spell back and hit my bad guys with another Fireball.

The Dark Squad really are tough to kill, a little later (about two turns later) I sent Mr Bad Chutney out to blat Newt, Mr Bad Chutney was a max HP Flesh Golem, 'was' being the operative word. I had four 100+ HP enemies in the mix, and a lot of mooks, and still they survived. Although Tarbin Tul spent much of the rest of the fight hiding, and straight after the fight declared that he never wants to go anywhere with the Dark Squad ever again.

The players, at the end of the session, agreed- if it was anyone but Ram with his auto-stabilise then they would have been dead. Remarkably, a little later they had a wonderful chat with Granny Frogwart, Vinnie even tried to convince the guys to let her join the party, although Granny wasn't much for accepting the druid's offer anyway, she made it clear that she was an 'independent freelance evil operative'.

It was a cracker.


Ram got ko'd (but he auto stabilises- he's the guy with a Periapt of Wound Closure), then he got healed, and then he got ko'd again. Then Daktari really got cooking while Vincen G Squeezy rescued Ram.

And what a rescue, the huge constrictor swallowed Ram and then regurgitated him back on the other side of the depression, and next to Tarbin who had just one spell left.

Meantime Newt used his Rod of the Pact Keeper to get a spell back and hit my bad guys with another Fireball.

The Dark Squad really are tough to kill, a little later (about two turns later) I sent Mr Bad Chutney out to blat Newt, Mr Bad Chutney was a max HP Flesh Golem, 'was' being the operative word. I had four 100+ HP enemies in the mix, and a lot of mooks, and still they survived. Although Tarbin Tul spent much of the rest of the fight hiding, and straight after the fight declared that he never wants to go anywhere with the Dark Squad ever again.

The players, at the end of the session, agreed- if it was anyone but Ram with his auto-stabilise then they would have been dead. Remarkably, a little later they had a wonderful chat with Granny Frogwart, Vinnie even tried to convince the guys to let her join the party, although Granny wasn't much for accepting the druid's offer anyway, she made it clear that she was an 'independent freelance evil operative'.

It was a cracker.

Looking forward to the full write-up


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #055 This is not the Ancient Alchemist's well, it's my well! NOW BUGGER OFF!

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
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

Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7

Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 55, and it was another cracker...

When we left the Dark Squad they were primping and preening, pleased with themselves after they had defeated a (small) horde of creatures (a few boggles, a trio of kenku and a bunch of spiders and spider-things) in a cavern below the woodland manse that they had been investigating.

However, after reading last weeks write up of the session the PCs, or rather the players, are now very much aware that the fighting isn't over, particularly as all of the named bad guys that they have learned about are only just about to make it to the fracas.

So, they're about to meet Granny Ethel Frogwart (again), and for the first time- Big Evil Alan, (Mrs) Fastpants, the Rug Doctor and Mr Bad Chutney, who are all working for the lovely Ethel.

And so it goes, although... first off the PCs, scratch that- the players, take time out for a bit of a chat- the subject, simples- where to go with this one, how to play out the rest of the fight? Keep in mind that Ram is stuck- and on his own, and on just about 10 HP. Tarbin Tul is on a similar number of HP, and low on spells. Newt is out of spells* and has taken a few hits. Vinnie is just about bloodied, but he's got a bunch of spells left. While Daktari is still kicking ass and taking names, he's down 20-30 HP, but the barbarian is in a perma-rage and 2 tuff 4 u.

*Newt has a Wand of the Pact Keeper- which allows him to get a spell back once/day, the bastard.

But back to the player's pre-session chat, in truth they all have different ideas about what should happen next- Newt (played by Bear, and even OOC) still wants to burn everything down. Vinnie (played by Jim/Haggis) on the other hand wouldn't mind a little bit of a retreat. While Ram- if he could get away, well he would. But he's stuck. However, the players all concur- the first task is to get Ram healed and back to the pack.

Ram is stuck in a patch of boggle oil and all alone (with the enemies) on the far side of a twenty foot deep depression.

So, 1..., 2.... 3...

And Granny Ethel Frogwart swings into vision, “I bloody told you, Vinnie- this is not the Ancient Alchemist's well, it's my well! NOW BUGGER OFF!”

The hag's ire however is saved for Ram, because he's only ten or so feet away from her, and he's stuck- which serves him right, figures Granny. Remarkably Ram survives the hag's Vicious Mockery (3d4 psychic damage)- he's on 1 HP.

Granny Ethel Frogwart: You're so useless, when you join a group of monsters, it goes down a Challenge Rating.

I've bought a Vicious Mockery Chat MOD generator-thing, I may try to cast the spell a lot.

Note, as soon two of the player's saw that Granny was doing 3d4 damage on her Vicious Mockery there was consternation in the pack. “3d4, she must be at least an 11thlevel caster!”, Jim states. But she's really not, I fiddle with all of my monsters, they're almost never just straight from the Monster Manual, my way messes with the player's heads.

Ram's survival doesn't make Granny happy- she shuffles back into cover and orders a full attack- “give 'em hell boyz!”, she cackles. A second later and a squawking kenku steps forward and shoots Ram in the chest, and now he's down, although the rogue has a Periapt of Wound Closure, and so he stabilises instantly.


Ram dirt-naps. We've not turned a token on its side for 13 sessions, basically- I've not been doing my job, time for the fight back.

Next up comes (Mrs) Fastpants, she's... actually, she's a blur to everyone except Vinnie, who identifies the small speeding fey for his companions- Fastpants is a quickling. She is constantly in motion, and spinning out daggers as she goes, but my dice are truly broken with three misses in a row (all attacks against Tarbin Tul AC is 13, Fastpants is +8 to hit, go figure).

At which point Big Evil Alan arrives at the fight, Alan is a redcap- which is funny, right? Because redcaps are small- as in not tall, although the 'big evil' referred to in this instance better describes Alan's disposition. The sweary mad little bastard leaps the gaping depression (just) and lands in front of Daktari, and then starts swinging, and swearing- and misses three times in a row.


Big Evil Alan & (Mrs) Fastpants, rolling low since... 4 ever!

I think I've read that somewhere before?

Daktari swings back, after making his usual declaration (or at least one of them).

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am riding you!

The barbarian keeps on cutting and bloodies Alan in an instant.

It's at about this point, maybe 10 minutes into the re-started fight that I get the feeling- this ain't going to go my way.

Tarbin casts a Healing Word on the fallen Ram, and the rogue blinks open his eyes- he's face down in a puddle of boggle oil, but here's the thing- he's still breathing.

Tarbin Tul: Get up you arse, and get back to killing!

I've added a few chat lines to the MOD for Tarbin Tul, nice!

Then Vinnie becomes Vincen G Squeezy, he really does like his huge constrictor (fnarr), and then he slithers into the depression, more or less filling it, reaching out to (very gently) grab up in his mouth the prostrate rogue- Ram. He succeeds.

Only, even after spending an inspiration point, he can't make the strength check needed (DC 11, he's +4) to rip Ram's body free from the (super) sticky boggle oil.


Squeezy has Ram gripped, but can't seem to pull the barely conscious rogue free of the taffy/chewy/boggle oil.

Keep in mind Ram is conscious when this is going on- and murmuring his encouragement, although more than a little freaked by proceedings.

A pair of kenkus arrive, and start shooting at Squeezy, the snake proves very easy to hit, he's massive.

Then the Rug Doctor, a seven foot tall bugbear brute (from a splatbook I bought) arrives- and he's armed with a two-handed spiked club. His job, as instructed by Granny Frogwart, is to grab Ram's body and bring it back to the hag, for reasons of leverage.

Or else just to cut the rogue's throat, we'll see how it goes.

Ram however atm is in Vincen G Squeezy's mouth, mostly (he's still stuck in the boggle oil)- and so the Rug Doctor takes to smashing the huge constrictor repeatedly in its snout (?) in the hope that it'll drop the rogue, and he doesn't miss.


The Rug Doctor, only he don't have no shield- that spiked greatclub is two-handed, and hits hard.

Then Newt remembers his Rod of the Pact Keeper, and instantly recharges a warlock spell power, and then uses it with an inspiration point- Fireball!

Two of the three kenku are instantly incinerated, while the Rug Doctor is badly singed, but don't worry he started with well over 100 HP.


This seems to happen a lot.

After the fiery maelstrom Ethel is back, the hag instantly spots that Ram is alive- and whispering to Vinnie, she therefore tries again with her Vicious Mockery-

Granny Ethel Frogwart : Bless you. Oh, I'm sorry, was that supposed to be an Eldritch Blast?

Ram gets back to dirt-napping, he's unconscious again.

Fastpants, having entirely evaded the Fireball, also rushes back into the action- spinning yet more knives out at Squeezy, the huge constrictor is hit repeatedly- and is very quickly bloodied and beyond.

Note Ethel and (Mrs) Fastpants don't hang around, they rush in to attack and then retreat to cover as swiftly.

Meantime Big Evil Alan the redcap goes bonkers, he drop kicks Daktari (who is still raging) with his iron boots, and then gets to work with his scythe on the prone barbarian. Daktari soaks it all up and then goes into a frenzy... Big Evil Alan, alas, does not survive the experience (even after I maxed the redcap's HP, and then gave him a few extra just in case).

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am Killing You!

Squeezy fails (yet again) to rip the now unconscious (again) Ram free of the sticky boggle oil, still only a DC 11 strength check to do so. This check has been failed seven times in a row so far. Vincen G therefore spends his last inspiration point, and- bloody hell- he succeeds, the huge reptile swallows Ram (briefly) and moves away, which the evil DM rules triggers the Rug Doctor's opportunity attack.

The bugbear brute crits, but it's still not enough to deflect Squeezy from his purpose, which is to deposit the unconscious Ram at Tarbin Tul's feet.

The terrified bard casts his last spell, another Healing Word- and Ram opens his eyes (again).

Tarbin Tul: Sweet Selune heal this mighty hero (or Newt).


Everything is just about dead/dying, including Squeezy, Tarbin and Ram.

The last kenku standing shoots Squeezy, who is now critically wounded (on something like 2 HP)- Newt starts Belphegor blasting, the birdman doesn't last long.

Newt: Light 'em up!

Ram meantime starts scoffing from his jar of keoghtom's ointment- that tastes nice!

Ramshambo: Almost like new!

That done he picks himself up and gingerly moves off to hide, note at this point Tarbin has also been hiding for a good long while- pretty much since the fight restarted.

The bard has his hands over his ears, and is squatting down within an out of the way niche in the cavern wall, trying to blank out the terror before him. It's all very visceral, and bloody, Tarbin isn't feeling very well.

Tarbin. at this point. is a little broken inside- it would be fair to say that he has seen enough, and as he stated in previous weeks (i.e. repeatedly).

“I'm not great at fighting, I earned all of my XP performing in bars.”

Daktari takes a moment to swig down a potion of extra healing, and very suddenly- there are no more enemies present. When Squeezy grabbed and hauled Ram back to the right side of the depression, well... the Rug Doctor turned and fled back the way he came, while (Mrs) Fastpants and Granny Frogwart were attacking and then retreating on every turn. But neither of them head back to the fracas.

So, the fight's done...

At least for a round or two, but Vinnie's not certain, and so he shapes back to his shifter form and fills the area beyond the depression with Spike Growth.

Only the DM is still fiddling with the Initiative Tracker on Fantasy Grounds, and then there's boom, and then a crash- and unseen by the PCs a wall collapses. Only the wall in question is on this side of the depression, the same side as the PCs. Suddenly, as the PCs turn to stare, racing at Newt comes Mr Bad Chutney.

Mr Bad Chutney is a massively muscled (max HP, and some more) flesh golem, roughly constructed, and very moody because of this.

Newt gets punched, repeatedly, and it hurts the tabaxi- a lot.


Mr Bad Chutney!

But he takes it, and then starts up with more of his Belphegor's Fiery Blasts, and even with disadvantage Mr Bad Chutney proves to be a large and easy target, and the golem really doesn't like fire.

Newt: Set the oven to 350.

Ram, at last, is back in business, he puts an arrow in his bow and fires, and from almost point blank range, straight into the back of Mr Bad Chutney's big wobbly head.

Ramshambo: This is going to be over a lot quicker than you think.

But, it's not.

At which point the rogue discovers that it takes a magical weapons and/or ammunition to hurt a flesh golem, a fact that he shares with his colleagues immediately.

Daktari rages, it's his third and final one for the day- just for info the time in-game at present is a little after 9.30 AM, the Dark Squad went down the well at 8 AM, they've been in the thick of it- save for the hour they had off in Newt's Tiny Hut, ever since.

Daktari is making a mess of Mr Bad Chutney, because he's using Shatterspike, his magical longsword which does extra damage to constructs- like golems, it doesn't help (me) that he also crits.

He's in hog heaven.

Daktari: I am Daktari! I am MVP!

Vinnie takes a moment to scuttle into hiding to spoon keoghtom's ointment into his mouth, he's still hurting.

Vincenzo: Zat feels nice doesn't it?

Mr Bad Chutney fails to land a hit on Newt- the golem is at disadvantage because of Newt's fiery attacks, and so the tabaxi just keeps on blasting and burning- and he doesn't miss. Mr Bad Chutney is bloodied very quickly.

Then Ram finds out his magical arrows-

Ramshambo: Are you crying?

Mr Bad Chutney gets hurt some more.

But then Daktari starts up again with Shatterspike, and that's that- the flesh golem thumps into the floor, the barbarian takes the opportunity to decapitate Mr Bad Chutney.

There's a brief moment in which nothing much happens- save for Daktari holding Mr Bad Chutney's severed head aloft and making threats, the moment could almost pass as pleasant (for the Dark Squad, see Tarbin Tul above). Because then, screaming and running in through the hole in the wall so recently made by Mr Bad Chutney comes... the Rug Doctor, the bugbear smashes its spiked greatclub into Daktari, and here we go again... or at least, some more.


The Rug Doctor!

But it's an unfair fight, and besides the Rug Doctor is just buying time for me (your much abused DM) while I get Granny Frogwart safely out of the lair.

Newt is Belphegor enabled, as usual-

Newt: Too hot to handle?

Newt: Lord Belphegor take this soul!

The last one is slightly premature, but it doesn't take too long, what with all of the members of the Dark Squad unloading all they've got, even Vinnie with his Produce Flame-

Vincenzo: Per'aps a little 'ot snack iz in order!

Although it's actually Newt that delivers the last fire to the bugbear brute's corpse.

The fight is won, and the lair- well, it's now uninhabited (sorta), all of the remaining enemies have got out. Although the Dark Squad don't know this yet, and so spend the next hour or so being very very (very) careful as they go.

[Granny Ethel Frogwart and friends 3375 XP]

Then... well, there's a whole lot of healing going on- with the PCs throwing potions of healing down their necks as fast as they can- and keep in mind that the Dark Squad are still waiting (and expecting) Granny (the 11th level caster, remember) to come back.

Then gingerly, gradually, and with a now very weary Ram leading the way, stealthily- the Dark Squad are off and exploring.

The adventurers find a second way out of the hag's lair- an earthen passage that leads up to a trapdoor in a tree stump, very well hidden, within the woods.


There's another way out!

However, they're more interested in a bunkroom with a very ornate (and expensive looking) dressing table, complete with all manner of (equally expensive) beauty products and paraphernalia (perfumes, hair dyes, talcs, powders, brushes and combs etc.). The hag's, Vinnie has no doubt.

There's a beautifully ornate mirror atop the equally fancy dressing table, and in the mirror- when Ram takes a peak, is Granny.

“You Bastards!” Granny isn't happy, she repeats her line-

“I bloody told you, Vinnie- this is not the Ancient Alchemist's well, it's my well! NOW BUGGER OFF!”

And so the chatter starts up again, the mirror is two way (at least for conversation) and Granny Ethel makes clear- she built her lair beneath the well, it's nothing to do with any 'ancient alchemist', and eventually after a bunch more checks a majority of the Dark Squad are convinced.


The Dark Squad kicking back and chatting with Ethel, that table to the south is a very fine dressing table, and not at all how it looks on this map. By the time the conversation was done the hag and Vinnie were well on the way to being firm friends. "I like 'er, we shud ask for 'er join wiz us?", the other members of the Dark Squad are a little less welcoming.

The conversation rumbles on, Granny describes herself as a 'freelance independent evil operative', and not part of the Talos-shaped conspiracy which was based in the manse up above. Sure, the hag has benefited from the alliance but, she's not aligned with the storm lord's mob.

That said, Granny is happy to let the Dark Squad know- the Talos worshipping half-orcs are/were working towards summoning some sort of big bad avatar of their terrifying god, a creature they referred to as Garthok!

This information was also (partially) imparted by Grannoc, as he was dying back upstairs in the manse.

So, the Dark Squad definitely need to track the remainder of the boars down, the ones that departed soon after the adventurers arrived here at the manse.

The chatter continues, eventually a deal- of sorts- is done. Granny will get a message to Nightshade, asking the ancient evil laired at the centre of the Dreadwood for a powwow with the Dark Squad, or else she will set up a dialogue of some kind- if she can.

A little more chatter and Granny let's slip, Nightshade, it is rumoured, has been promoted, or else... well, she might very well be a lich. Granny makes clear that Nightshade has a lot of undead things working for her these days...

The players, and their PCs, are less than pleased to learn this new info, I think the chorus went- “Oh, fu...”

Right now however, the Dark Squad are going to take a nose around Granny's lair, see what they can find in the way of compensation for the injuries that they have suffered here. They will also rescue any prisoners that are down here, then... then- they promise Ethel, they will bugger off and leave the hag, and her well, alone.

It's the best deal Granny (and the DM) can make, so be it.

Vinnie at this point is really getting on with Ethel, he even supplies her with the Dark Squad's address in Saltmarsh, the hag promises to get a message to the adventurers there.

[Chatting and doing a deal with Granny Frogwart 750 XP]

Then, more (stealthy & careful) investigations, this after robbing lots of the saleable items from Granny's beauty parlour.

The spider-friend's lair is found, as is a small gaol with attached office, and within the cells a clutch of prisoners- five in total, all humans, and one of them is very definitely Alfonzo Kalhoon. The Dark Squad you'll remember were looking for this fellow, they had investigated Big Al Kalhoon's fortified farm earlier in their journey, it had been overrun by gnolls.


It's a prison.

The other prisoners look to be locals, probably... most likely folk that have been kidnapped by the Talos worshippers and their gnoll friends, perhaps.

The prisoners are however in a very sorry state, beaten to within an inch of their lives- there's no conversation to be had, even after Vinnie uses a little magical healing on Big Al and a few of the others. After investigating the rest of the lair, and finding a little extra treasure, the now ex-prisoners are carried, one by one, out of the terrifying place.

[Rescue Granny's prisoners 750 XP]

Back on the surface the survivalists- that's Vinnie & Daktari, go searching for the trail of the boars, some of them Talos worshipping half-orcs in boar form, that fled the manse yesterday. The trail is easy to spot, and easier still to follow- after all there was an entire pack of the porcine terrors.


The boar's trail, looks inviting doesn't it. Deeper into the Dreadwood [Shivers] not for me.

But, the Dark Squad can't take the ex-prisoners with them, they're all still unconscious- and so badly beaten (& Exhaustion 5).

And so, ensconced within another Leomund's Tiny Hut- its cramped in here, the Dark Squad rest for the remainder of the day, and then through the night. They take turns to stay awake, to keep watch and care for their new charges. They're uninterrupted- no new encounters.

The prisoners, when they wake on the morrow, will at last be able to speak- and to tell their stories...

That, however, is all we had time for this evening.

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

1) Chat with the ex-prisoners.
2) Return the ex-prisoners (and Tarbin Tul- he wants out) to the logging camp.
3) Back to the manse/well.
4) Track the other half-orcs/boars.
5) DESTROY (Garthok)!
6) Back to the Falcon?
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.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

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