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The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #137 Into the Mere of the Dead Men Part 2.


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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #035 Saltmarsh Reprise.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 3/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 6
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 6
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 6

NPCs
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 6
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Buggles’ undead servitor
Gwen Female Duergar Skeleton, in full-face helm and armour

Buggles’ new non-undead servitor
Halibert Shambles Male Human Ex-Warehouseman (Level 3), newly armed and armoured


This is session 35, and it was possibly my favourite so far, def-o top three.

The Dark Squad were back on it, man- they were so far back on it they were up in it. Whatever that means.

So, we’re straight to fighting, there are a pair of manticores that the adventurers can see, the nearest is hovering thirty feet above Fiveways- pinging tail spikes at a peasant hiding behind the wall of the well here. At least it was until the Dark Squad started their reign of terror, in short order the beast is shot, speared, lightning blasted, fiery flamed, and… it survives, but only just, and- of course, not for long.

Vinnie’s second (call) lightning bolt sends the flying lion thundering into the ground, the beast hits hard and instantly becomes a sprawled lump. Dead before it hits.

3501.jpg

The second Manticore is incoming!

A second manticore comes swooping in from the north, it too fires its tail spikes- tagging Daktari and Newt in the volley, and then spying its fallen cousin thinks better of it and tries to get a little altitude.

Too little, too late, although… Buggles steps out of the cornfield he was hidden in (briefly) and sinks an arrow into the beast’s flank, the wood elf a second later steps back out of sight.

Buggles is one of the children of the corn.

Ram repeats Buggles’ trick, and then Newt flings a Fireball up into the heavens, or at least the bit of the heavens closest to the newly arrived manticore, and a second later and the beast is badly scorched and beyond bloodied. Yet another lightning bolt streaks down from up above and frazzles the flying terror.

However, screams and shouts coming from within the ruined farmhouse that marks Fiveways draws the Dark Squad’s attention. Several of the adventurer’s rush to investigate. Within the ruins they discover a third manticore, this one on the ground- and swatting and snapping at a trio of cornered farmers, formerly hiding within the shambles.

Although my to hit rolls were ‘1’, ‘4’ & ‘1’ again- that’s right, the ferocious manticore, king of the skies (he reckons) fails to land a blow on any of the AC 10 peasants.

The badly wounded but still in flight manticore takes advantage of the distraction- it back-skulls its wings and climbs furiously, and then swoops around in order to get as far away, and as fast away, as it can from the terrifying Dark Squad.

It departs with just 6 HP left.

Meantime the rest of the Dark Squad, and their various hangers-on, including the ex-warehouse man Halibert Shambles, wade into the fracas within the ruined farmhouse. Even the farmer’s get their clubs out- the last manticore is surrounded. It is also being shot by the rapidly arriving rogues who are rushing to the kill.

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The third Manticore is swiftly surrounded and beaten to death. There was some talk of Buggles signing the farmers up- the wood elf needs an entourage, it seems.

It’s a massacre, although the beast manages to almost (bloody hell- my dice) kill one of the peasant farmers (AC 10, just to remind you).

So, my dice are broken, the Manticores made 12 attacks in that fight- five of those rolls were ‘1’s.

[Death (mostly) to the stupid low-rolling Manticores 1750 XP]

The farmers are rescued, and soon after they’re rejoicing- and I mean proper rejoicing, hugging the various members of the Dark Squad and cavorting, and guess what the Dark Squad are all touchy-feely too.

What a turn around.

The adventurers are also plenty chatty, all of ‘em- and the peasants are happy to re-live the excitement and keen to both answer and enquire of their new heroes. The Dark Squad, just let me make absolutely clear, are almost to a man self-publicists.

It’s usually some version of the following-

“We’re the Dark Squad, we work for the dwarves at Farhill Mine, but we’re for hire, and here to protect, to solve-problems, and to save the day. You might call us… heroes.”

“If you need anything rescuing, slaying, saving, solving or in some other way- sorting out, we’re the Dark Squad- give us a call at the mine.”

Obviously, Vinnie’s version of the above is a little more Mediterranean, n’est pas, while Buggles’ version of the tag line sometimes gets sweary. Ram mumbles, or else delivers it off-hand, as if he’s just stating facts. Newt usually just sings the advert at ‘em.

But back to Fiveways.

The PCs have a good long chat with their newfound friends, they learn that there’s a healer- a priestess of Chauntea at Umber Hill, a settlement an hour or so up the road. That’s useful knowledge, the farmers who live near the place will put in a good word with the priestess.

[Lots of chat with the peasants 400 XP]

While the above is going on Vinnie is having a real good look at the manticores, the druid is immediately suspicious, and the farmers have earlier confirmed that manticore attacks are in no way common around here.

They are in fact unheard of.

Both of the dead beasts show signs of recent injury, prior I mean to the Dark Squad getting hold of them, both creatures it seems were subject to a fire- they had been burnt/singed, within the last two tendays.

Vinnie is very suspicious, he vocalises his concerns, and also figures out the kind of places that manticores like to lair- somewhere with elevation, a cave or ruin up high perhaps.

There’s a lot more chatter here amongst the Dark Squad- the question is, well… not so much a question as a concern- the Red Dragon, the Ancient Huge Red Dragon (who could be Ashardalon, or is being controlled by Ashardalon) that they saw back in the Neverwinter Woods, and that most likely also destroyed Castel Gwythyr.

Is the bad bugger following them?

Is it here, already?

Is it Ashardalon?

Plenty to think about.

[Vinnie’s Manticore investigations 250 XP]

Last bit at Fiveways, as we’re taking our time here with the farmers and fallen manticores then Buggles decides to get a bit of the action- he skins both beasts, and somewhat miraculously manages to do so without error.

Note, Buggles has tried and failed to skin, flense or else take mementos from a variety of deceased creatures along the way, I think this marked his first, and then soon after, his second success.

The meat from the beasts is further divided between the farmers.

Nothing wasted.

Then after more heartfelt thanks the Dark Squad head off to Farhill, and the peasants for home.

Note Grumpy and Porthole Slagg were, of course, witness to the attack, the Dark Squad legend grows some in the next few days back at Farhill Mine.

So, next up- a Buggles led chatter, basically Stu playing Buggles goes through all of the points he raised in an earlier post in this forum. The PCs, and the players, debate all of these, and then also have a long chat about how they’re going to playthings in Saltmarsh in the future.

I’ll not bore you with the details except to say- less forceful, more questions, free and easy with the money, and nice and polite.

[Buggles instigated chat 500 XP]

Stu/Buggles states that he should never be allowed to talk to NPCs again, but he’s already broken that promise this session, and within ten minutes of being back at the mine he even manages to persuade Grumpy Slagg to give him a hug- “come on, bring it in little-big man, you know you want to”.

[Buggles gets Grumpy onside 250 XP]

Grumpy is a bit of a softy, when you get to know him- but whisper this, it’d kill his rep if it got out.

You had to be there.

When he’s good- he’s very good, but when he’s bad… Buggles, tsk!

So, a new approach to Saltmarsh.

Also a good air-clearing chat with Manistrad Copperlocks, yes- the wagon work to Saltmarsh is beneath the Dark Squad, but Manistrad isn’t Gundren- she doesn’t know the Dark Squad, so do what you’re told for a while longer and… well, you earn trust, and respect.

The Dark Squad get it, and they’re six days (out of ten) done with this task, so- just four more days at it.

[More chatter with Manistrad 200 XP]

Newt, in an odd moment (for him) of social responsibility even takes the time to take Manistrad (and Golf) aside to tell them all about the burnt manticores, and the Dark Squad’s (maybe) problem with (Red) Dragons.

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Newt has a conscience? Are you sure? When did that happen?

Manistrad is sure that the tabaxi is jumping to conclusions, but… the mine will be on the lookout.

[Newt tells Manistrad about the Red Dragon 100 XP]

So, back to Saltmarsh and the players have a plan this time, they’ve also convinced Grumpy and Porthole to allow them to spend a few more lunch hours having a wander around the town.

They have tasks to do.

Here’s how it goes, over the next three days, more (and better) lunchtime activities from the Dark Squad.

Ram visits The Whicker Goat, grabs a pint and a sarnie and takes in the ambience, the bar is full of off duty guards, and other folk that look like they prefer to drink in a place that is orderly and safe.

The rogue eventually locates a couple of off duty watchmen, and after a bit of blather and a couple or rounds of ales manages to convince the pair to tell him all about the Empty Net tavern. This after the charming fellow- and new in town, he makes clear, tells the tale of how he wandered into the place by accident a few days previously, and then was forced to vacate the establishment in a hurry (see last session).

The Empty Net is a bad place, the head of the Watch- Eliander Fireborn wants to close the it down, but… the tavern is somehow protected, someone in authority is all for keeping the place open. Possibly. It’s a dangerous place for the uninitiated, but Ram already knows this.

[Ram enquires about the Empty Net tavern 200 XP]

Newt spends an entire lunch hour going up, down, around and all about Sharkfin Bridge- the place that Buggles and Ram got weirded out on the initial trip into Saltmarsh. He also quietly casts a few divination rituals/spells while he’s on his wanders. There’s nothing much to find here however, and even less to tell- the construct is massive, which in itself is a little odd- it is very obviously the largest construction in the town. Odder still (perhaps) the bridge, after close inspection, appears to be ancient, certainly from what he’s seen so far, the oldest building in the town (again, perhaps).

In the last few minutes of his lunch hour he spots it, or else he spots, well… there’s something not right about the stonework within the central span of the bridge, but… he needs to get beneath the bridge, and on the water, to get closer to better investigate- but that’s for another day.

[Newt investigates Sharkfin Bridge 200 XP]

Vinnie uses his lunch hour off to head back to see Ferrin the Halfling Druid of Saltmarsh, and this time he’s keen to fill in the blank places on their map of the region (and the DM is feeling very generous). Ferrin is quickly convinced to help the Dark Squad, and over the course of the remainder of the hour Vinnie gets to learn about all of the places of interest in the area.

Note the kindly DM gives a short fifteen-minute lecture on what is where on this side of the river Dunwater.

See the new map-

3504.jpg

Civilisation, at least- hereabouts.

[Vinnie gets the lay of the land 200 XP]

Buggles meantime visits again with Kester, of Kester’s Leather Goods fame, he’s back on the trail of magical armour, although Kester’s still unable to do the deal. Magic armour, she explains, needs a finely crafted suit of armour (which she can supply) but then also the services of a mage to cast the spells to enhance the item.

Remarkably, the incredibly polite and attentive wood elf manages to convince Kester to help him to find a mage, it seems Mafera (owner of the Dwarven Anvil) a few years past needed help with a similar project. Kester directed Mafera, and now Buggles, to Arty Swell, a gnome (known to Buggles) who works at the Farhill Mine.

Kester thinks that Arty Swell, while not a mage- he’s an alchemist/potion maker/seller, knows someone who can magically enhance armour, and the like. So, Buggles has got a lead.

Kester is keen to buy the manticore skins that Buggles shows her, and keener still to purchase any more ‘exotic’ hides that wood elf (& the Dark Squad) can supply, she even remarks and how well the skins have been removed/preserved.

Everyone’s happy, and Buggles now has just over 300gp burning a hole in his pocket, but he has a plan to spend it, and it’s a corker (and suitably Buggles, by which I mean- daft).

[Buggles on the trail of the magic armour 200 XP]

But now the PCs/players want to spend a bit more time in Saltmarsh, it seems they’re enjoying their new ‘play nicely’ stylings.

And so, we go again.

More lunchtime activities in Saltmarsh.

First up- Buggles again, that money really is burning a hole in his pocket, and I did say he had a plan- here it is.

Buggles has already won the heart and mind of Grumpy Slagg but this bit is the clincher, he takes the dwarf to the Dwarven Anvil, the blacksmith Grumpy was very suspicious of earlier.

He takes Grumpy to meet with Mafera (the owner)- to hear her story, and to see that the shrine to Moradin here that is still being lovingly maintained by the smith and her family.

Then he buys Grumpy two new axes- a handaxe for everyday use, and a battleaxe for Sunday best.

There’s a touching moment when Grumpy gets something in his… sniff… sniff… eye.

And more hugging.

Moments later, and this time with Halibert Shambles in close attendance, the wood elf- caught up in the emotion of the moment, goes further. Buggles dares to dream, of a time when little Saltmarsh(ian) boys and girls can hold hands (and adventure) with little dwarven boys and girls (from Farhill Mine).

“Free at last!”

Actually, he didn’t do the MLK thing, that’s my spin on it, but it was fairly righteous.

From this acorn a (possibly mighty) oak grows, or at least sprouts. Later on, back at Farhill Mine, the wood elf with the addition of associated social skill-type checks (for which he has a penalty- on all of ‘em) manages to convince Grumpy, Porthole & Halibert* to go adventuring together.

His last roll was a ‘20’, adjusted to ‘19’ with his penalty.

*With the addition of Nancy, Halibert’s would-be girlfriend. Note Nancy works at the Sea Temple in Saltmarsh, which is dedicated to Poseidon and Umberlee.

The Twilight Squad is born-

Twilight Squad 1.01.jpg

Buggles spends the rest of the money he made from the manticore pelts on equipping the new adventuring party.

He’s a love.

[The Twilight Squad is born 500 XP]

Meantime, the thing about Sharkfin Bridge, and now all of the adventurers want to find out what’s going on here (except Buggles, he’s in impresario/Svengali mode).

So, a local fisherman- Salty Pete, is persuaded for two gold coins to row his skiff out to inspect the underside of the Sharkfin Bridge, this after being convinced that Ram, Vinnie and Newt are very interested in the architecture. Not that he cares much- two gold for an hour’s work, well… that’s daylight robbery.

Ten minutes later and the gang are beneath the central span of the bridge, the stonework here- in places, is ancient, although swathes of it have been repaired over the ages. On one clear length of the ancient stonework is a single word, hard to make out at first, but that’s because it is written in elvish.

It’s clear that there is more text here, but it has been covered over by the repairs.

The one visible word is the elvish for ‘fire’.

Now that’s odd, and keep in mind that when I type the text in Fantasy Grounds it appears in the player’s chat window in undecipherable elvish script, only one of the PCs present gets the translation in their chat window, that’s Ram- the half-elf.

So, it goes like this…

“Whut does it zay Monsieur Ramshambow?” Vinnie asks, while bobbing in the skiff.
“Fire.” Ram simply states.
“Zat is not- ow yew zay- Gud!” Vinnie sucks his teeth.
Newt grins.

Then, for some unfathomable reason (a DM instigated Insight check, actually), Vinnie thinks to turn around- to inspect the underside of the arch/span opposite.

“Sacre bleu! Wut duz zis one say?”

Newt and Ram spin around to see where Vinnie is pointing, on the opposite wall in six-foot-high Elven swirls is another (much longer) word.

The rogue snorts as he reads the translation of the text in the chat window, and then giggles, which duly turns into a belly laugh.

“Whot iz it? Monsieur Ramshambow?” Vinnie begs.
“It says ‘Ashardalon’.”
“Oh! Sheet! I mean Merde!” The Druid concludes.

[Sharkfin Bridge ‘Ashardalon’ & ‘Fire’ 500 XP]

But that’s not all, although it would have been a nice place to end it.

Last but by no-means least, on the route back to Farhill Mine, on the ninth day of the operation and we’re back at Fiveways. There are a bunch of farmers waiting for the Dark Squad to pass, and they spot their heroes and come at the first cart running.

They’re the four farmers that the adventurers rescued from the manticores, and they have gifts for their heroes- a flask of cherry brandy, a leather belt with pouches made by one of the farmer’s sons, a clutch of cloth and wood charms- for luck, and a slew of other small items, including a stone shaped like a curled sleeping snake.

There’s no value in any of these things- save for the warmth of human kindness, in which the Dark Squad bathe for a while longer, possibly even after the session ends.

[The saved farmers say thanks to the Dark Squad 250 XP]

More of this kind of thing next time, you gotta hope. One more day on the cart and then the PCs know they’re going to be put to the test- Manistrad has already told them that she has a proper job for them.

Should they continue to impress.

Until then 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 #036 Bandits & Boars in Witch Wood.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 3/Rogue Lvl 3
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 6
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 6
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 6

NPCs
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 6
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Buggles’ undead servitor
Gwen Female Duergar Skeleton, in full-face helm and armour

Buggles’ new non-undead servitor
Halibert Shambles Male Human Ex-Warehouseman (Level 3), newly armed and armoured


This is session 36, and yet another corker although not much in the way of roleplay this evening, it seems Tuesday night is alright for fighting.

Lots and lots of fighting this evening, so only a short report this one.

But first, back to Farhill Mine after the Dark Squad get their presents from the peasant farmers they rescued from the manticores a few days past.

Later on in this session Vinnie will discover that one of the farmer’s gifts is a magical item. A small black stone shaped like a sleeping snake turns out, as identified by Newt, to grant poison resistance (although it needs to be attuned).

So, that’s nice.

Back at Farhill and more chats- Buggles has a long chinwag with Arty Swell, he was directed to the gnome alchemist in the last session, the wood elf requires magical armour (it’s a quest he’s on, or else it seems that way). However, the cost of the armour is prohibitive (2,500gp for +1 Studded Leather) he’s going to have to get saving. Vinnie has also got a whole lot of glassware on order from the gnome alchemist, it’ll be arriving on the morrow. The druid has also been doing evening classes with Arty- he’s keen to learn alchemy, and to start brewing his own potions (not just of the healing variety).

Then more chats amongst the PCs, mostly about the ongoing situation, but the DM is keen to get going. There’s only one more day left of the cart trips to Saltmarsh with the Slaggs, and so it goes- but the last day is a remarkably easy, that is until the wagons get through Lowden on their return journey, on the road that curves around Witch Wood and back to the mine.

As it turns out one of the things the Dark Squad have been talking about is the fact that they are looking for the Witch’s Tor- one of the prophecies of the Bad Dead Ancestors mentioned this place. They are therefore keen to check out Witch Wood.

They’re about to get their wish.

However, back to the present and a swarthy and nasty-looking man steps out of the foliage before the lead wagon (with Grumpy Slagg, Buggles, Vinnie & Halibert Shambles on board).

The bandit leader declares-

"There are thirty trained marksmen waiting my command to fire, save yourselves- abandon your wagons and walk away- back to town."

"Or back to the hole in the ground you came from..."

"Choose quickly..."

The PCs take a good look around them and spot maybe ten or so other semi-hidden bandits in the greenery hereabouts, however eagle-eyed Buggles can also see a clutch more of crossbow aiming enemies lying in tall grass atop a nearby rocky ledge.

Still, hardly ‘thirty trained marksmen’…

Vinnie however is the voice of reason-

“It iz a plezant day mez amis, and I alzo am in a plezant mood. I will leaf yew a leetle payment- a tithe, if you will. Providing, and I will attempt to yewz wordz of your low understanding. I will pay yew a leetle, providing yew naughty word off very quicklee!”

There follows a little more back and forth between the druid and the bandit leader, soon after however a second bandit boss is revealed, the fellow is positioned (with friends) at the rear of the stopped wagons, this surly fellow also gets chatty. This in response to Newt standing tall in the rear wagon and yowling threats at the nearby enemies.

[Vinnie chats while Newt threatens the bandit leaders 250 XP]

The bandit leaders argue their case, and obviously threaten some more, at which point Newt begins ranting in his demonic tongue, and then incinerates a tree and the four bandits stood around it with a Fireball.

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The circle pointer to the south east indicates the area affected by the Fireball, I'm sure there were some bandit tokens there just a second ago...

We’re fighting then.

Just to say there are actually sixteen bandits positioned around the stopped caravan- reduced to twelve after Newt’s Fireball, and also a pair of bandit leaders (the duo with maxed hit points).

It’s a long fight, but let’s not go turn by turn, here then are some of the best bits-

On the first wagon all of the adventurers (Buggles, Vinnie & Halibert Shambles) quickly get off the cart and swiftly into action, in the meantime Grumpy Slag gets shot (by a crossbow wielding bandit) as does the draft horse pulling the wagon. The dwarf however keeps the beast and the vehicle under control, but is soon after stabbed in the back repeatedly by a bandit who clambers up and onto the cart. Note, Newt blasts this fellow dead eventually but not before Grumpy gets stabbed some more.

Buggles, unleashed, dodges from cover to cover- alternating between his twin scimitars and his longbow, the wood elf quickly accounts for a pair of bandits with his blades. He then helps Vinnie out by slaughtering the chatty bandit leader here. That done, and towards the end of the fight, the wood elf terror then rushes to menace the shooters on the ledge. He gets around the fight, more often than not finding somewhere to lay low between his attacks- he’s a bastard.

Halibert Shambles, the ex-warehouseman turned adventurer, miraculously almost never misses an attack, the neophyte warrior attempts to follow Buggles’ lead, and does well in his first proper fight, even delivering a killing blow to one of the bandits. At one point the players even suggest that the young lad should perhaps replace Daktari.

Vinnie… the druid slinks off the cart and swiftly wild-shapes into a (huge) giant constrictor snake (on screen- Vincen G Squeezy Snake), the reptile is nearly thirty feet long. Seconds later and the nearby bandit leader is grabbed-up, and crushed by the slithering druid. Vinnie also holds the grappled and restrained villain out for Buggles to savage with his scimitars, eventually he eats the screaming fellow*, but not before the vicious enemy has bloodied the giant reptile.

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Vincen G Squeezy Snake snaffles a bandit leader down- the sweet you can eat between meals, apparently.

*The eating of the bandit leader leads to a short debate about what happens when Vinnie transforms back into his shifter form- where does all that undigested flesh go? Will Vinnie closely resemble Obelix? Lastly, how does the druid ‘pass’ the gargantuan meal later?

And so now to the second cart with Porthole Slagg at the reins, the dwarven miner- like his brother, is shot repeatedly- as is the draft horse that is pulling the wagon. The horse bolts, and Porthole fails to bring the beast under control, point of fact the dwarf is sent flying from his seat and left sprawled in the road. The miner however manages to pick himself up and scuttle into cover, there to hide for the rest of the fight.

The rampaging terrified horse and wagon meantime also quickly sheds Daktari, the barbarian is thrown from the cart but manages to land on his feet. Note, Newt got out of the wagon earlier- but was using the vehicle as cover for his firing position. That obviously doesn’t last.

The horse and wagon plunge off the road and into the undergrowth, and then rush along the edge of a twenty foot deep stone-filled depression (a small quarry). All the while, on the back of the cart, Ramshambow is going solo with the second bandit leader, the rogue eventually takes his enemy down, although with help from his friends- Buggles & Newt with artillery support. The swashbuckling rogue then grabs the reins and brings the horse and wagon back under control, which is no mean feat. Close call.

3603.jpg

This image is supposed to show Ram dramatically fighting a bandit leader as the wagon they are on rushes forward out of control. Alas the bloody bandit's bloody token (and many others) keep getting sucked underneath the cart tokens. Note, there are more bad guys on the screen here (at least four shooters), but not all of the PCs can see all of the enemies, and so they don't appear in the screenshots that they take.

Newt, after the wagon departs at speed has to swiftly conjure his Mirror Images, as the tabaxi gets quickly closed down by a pair of bandits, he eventually blasts his way out of the melee. Although only after losing all of his conjured images, and whilst screaming “I SEND THIS SOUL TO SIR HUMPHERY FARFANARR!” in his demonic tongue, every time he picks off another enemy. Then, screaming and ranting done, he finds cover and continues his fiery assault.

Daktari spends a good while swatting and missing at a variety of bandits, and then- after the PCs/players have been praising Halibert’s efforts to the heavens, the barbarian’s dice come alive, he crits three turns in a row- and slaughters a bunch more bandits.

But the fight, while furious in places, is never really in the balance- the PCs take a bunch of hits but the bandits can’t do enough damage quickly. The day is won- the Dark Squad’s legend lives on. Note, that said a clutch of bandits skedaddle early (mainly the shooters Buggles spotted right at the start) and flee to fight another day.

[Bandits on the Lowden Road 1300 XP]

Victory, but the Dark Squad are keen to take a moment, Vinnie returns to his shifter form- looking particularly well fed, and then the dead bandits- and in particular the leaders-types, are searched. There’s a bit of money/treasure, but alas no incriminating evidence is found- nothing to indicate who these foul fellows are, or rather- were. However, further investigation reveals that a majority of these folk are probably not locals, certainly the two leader-types were mercenaries (or similar), which could be a concern.

Buggles and Vinnie go for a ten minute wander around the ambush site, to see if there are any obvious tracks in the area. The question is where did these bad fellows come from? The answer being, very clearly after the druid and fighter/rogue’s circuit- Witch Wood. Then, after plenty of chatter with Grumpy & Porthole, it seems the last time a mine wagon was ambushed was several years ago, and not like this- this attack looked like a very professional affair. If the Dark Squad weren’t here… they would have lost the loads, the dwarves fear, and possibly their lives.

The Slaggs are very grateful, and so it is swiftly decided- Halibert Shambles and the Slaggs will take the wagons home, the mine is only two hours at most up the road. The Dark Squad however are going on, into Witch Woods.

Note all of the above chatter et al is accomplished during a short rest, along with more than a little healing.

[Lots of chatter and investigation about the bandits 250 XP]

It’s late afternoon, early evening- there are two to three hours of light left, the Dark Squad plunge into Witch Wood- and it’s a pleasant enough woodland- all dappled light and the smells of growth and decay. Although dense and wild for the most part- but Vinnie and Buggles have no problems following the bandit’s trail.

That is until they wander into a small clearing, and seconds later are beset by a herd of wild boars, including a giant boar, which rush out of the wilds and charge into the adventurers. To make matters worse a bunch of the PCs are completely surprised by the attack- Ram and Vinnie are both tusked and hurt in the opening moments.

The Dark Squad scramble into action, and there’s a fair amount of trepidation initially, but then a number of the smaller boars are killed very quickly.

However a second wave of boars, including another of the giant beasts charges down the track and plunges into the party.

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The Giant Boars are fairly tough!

The fighting is fast and furious, but again the only significant threats are the two giant boars. Buggles makes the most of the terrain, the wood elf scrambles up a ten foot stony ledge and from his perch causes havoc with his bow, and he never misses.

Oddly, Buggles observes, there’s yet another of the smaller boars standing quietly behind a tree and away from the action- the beast seems to be content to watch its snarling snuffling kin in action. Alas Buggles’ nature check is so low (‘3’) that he’s not at all suspicious of this behaviour.

Note a little later Vinnie also spies the presence of this calm creature, alas he too is unconcerned by the odd porcine behaviour (yet another low roll).

The fight rumbles on, until almost all of the small boars have been slaughtered, and both of the giant boars are bloodied and almost broken, at which point the boar with a watching brief rushes out into the open and transforms en route into a brutally ugly orc (actually a half-orc, see later). The newly revealed humanoid then shoots a Lightning Bolt into the thick of the melee.

Note Vinnie was also trying and failing to make a nature check to discern that all of this was odd behaviour for wild boars, alas another very low roll followed- the druid therefore concludes that the Dark Squad have somehow threatened the boars territory (or similar).

Back to the action…

The Lightning Bolt zaps and fries the last small boar, and then zips on to leave Daktari bloodied while reducing Vinnie to a frazzled fury (on 4 HP).

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Ignore the Vinnie token bottom right, Vince T(oothed) Tiger is in action, and he's Grrrrrrreat! Note the path of the Lightning Bolt, and the fact that Buggles has just launched himself down at the spellcasting Half-Orc.

Buggles however up on his stony ledge watches all of this happen, the wood elf races and then skids down the scree and tumbled rock at speed and slams his scimitars into the newly revealed enemy spellcaster, a half-orc. The ugly humanoid wears strange bladed gauntlets (see the image).

The wood elf hits the creature repeatedly, and with an extra action surge- nearly bloodying the enemy in an instant. Seconds later a now wild-shaped Vincen (T)oothed Tiger rushes over and gets his revenge in, the half-orc is left critically wounded and prone by the savage druid.

Moments later Newt compounds the attacker’s misery- paralyzing the half-orc with a Hold Person spell. Buggles however is not for keeping the fellow alive- the rogue/fighter stabs his scimitar through its throat, this after the half-orc enemy manages to quickly throw off the paralyzing spell’s effect.

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Note tokens show dead Boars, Giant or otherwise. Also, nice look for the Half-Orc Talos adherent.

The last giant boar being laid to rest moments earlier by Daktari.

[Boar attack! 1900 XP]

Vinnie wild-shapes quickly back to shifter form, and then makes use of a scroll of Healing Spirit (for himself), and then still needs more healing when it’s done.

The odd nature of the boar attack, and the newly revealed boar/half-orc, is discussed at length. The surrounding area and everything in it is then investigated carefully, particularly the half-orc, here’s what comes to light-

1) The bandits passed this way earlier this morning- on their way to the ambush site, Buggles is certain- the implication being (perhaps) that the boars and the half-orc were members of the same company, or else in collusion with the bandits.

2) The boars were obviously being controlled by the half-orc.

3) Last bit, the half-orc has no possessions apart from the clothes he wears, however the body (strip searched by Buggles) bears a host of ritual scars and wounds. Vinnie determines that the fellow is an adherent of Talos, the Storm Lord, the Destroyer- a dark god. The half-orc is also likely some sort of northern barbarian, again- certainly not a local.

Which of course just leads to more questions, a brief discussion follows, although the adventurers are keen to get on, the bandit’s trail continues- deeper into Witch Wood.

[Further discussion/investigation 250 XP]

And so, onwards- another thirty minutes following the trail, and uphill, deeper into the woods, until eventually the Dark Squad arrive at their destination. In the side of a low hill is a stone door with surrounding stone stepped and flagged porch/portico area, the ruins of stone walls and a selection of empty-looking crates and barrels in the area. The door is sturdy looking, and closed.

Ram and Buggles go forward to check out the area- it seems to be safe, and the portal itself- which, Ram declares is trapped, but- he’s certain he can disarm it… alas this doesn’t come to pass (he rolls spectacularly low with advantage- ‘3’ & ‘4’). The area before the portal is engulfed in flame as the lower half of the door explodes outwards, the pair suffer- although only slightly with both somehow managing to avoid most of the blast.

[Fiery trap 200 XP]

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The Bandit's Lair? Red square is the blast zone.

The bottom half of the door is entirely consumed in the explosion, and the portal swings open to reveal a now smoky crypt, there’s a narrow opening- a cavern passage, in the wall opposite, and lights are seen beyond, and seconds later shouting.

But that’s all we have time for this evening, as I said at the start- lots of fighting.

Until then stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

And thanks to Morrus who let me back in when I forgot my password (actually I cleared the cache and then discovered that I had no idea, as it turns out, what my password to ENWorld was).
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Thanks for another entertaining write-up. I look forward to detailed explanations of the behaviour of Vinnie's digestive tract over the next few sessions. :)
Tbh, it didn't even get mentioned last night- I know, I'm as disappointed as you are.

I'll start the write up tomorrow of last night's adventures.

But here's the bone...

It was all going so smoothly (well, as smoothly as anything goes for the Dark Squad) until Newt flung open a century-long-sealed and trapped door to a crypt, unleashing a terrifying trap- which every PC saved versus (the bastards) and then scurried into the newly revealed crypt and got savaged by a pair of wights.

A little later, when Newt was bleeding out and dying on the floor he said that he 'may have' acted rashly.

It's the 'may have' that still makes me chortle.

Just to say the PCs were in a different fight when Newt did his door opening trick.

Also, it wasn't the wights that did for the tabaxi, he was shot in the back repeatedly and then stabbed (again, repeatedly) after the wights had been dealt with (by his friends).

It was another good session- they like to get to the tipping point quickly at times.

Toodles, I'm supposed to be working.

Cheers goonalan
 

Buggles

Explorer
Newt is hilarious, but like I've said before, I don't mind if he gets himself killed just don't drag the rest of us down with you! We don't all have 9 lives, although he must be down to about 3 by now.
 

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