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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
What's the gnoll say?
Possibly ""Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!"

I... I don't understand- I love it, but I had to go and look Ylvis up to make some sense of it, they're taking the piss, right? Right?

As to my gnolls... well, my dice were absolutely broken, there was an enquiry after the session because the encounter I built here at the farm was well over 15,000 XP on the D&D 5e Encounter Calculator. It was a horde of bad guys, and many of them with max (or close to max) HP, and the PCs took it apart- and in only 10 turns.

I bloodied one of them, they wiped out everything I had.

It was shameful.

All I can say is- "Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!"

And I mean it man.

"Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!"

Cheers goonalan
 

I think you mean- all my gnolls, surely.

Just about to get into it.

goonalan
Looking forward to hearing how it goes. (The campaign I'm running is similarly poised for violence - my players, already running somewhat low on resources, are about to be assaulted by a couple of dozen lizardmen and a black dragon :devilish:)
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Looking forward to hearing how it goes. (The campaign I'm running is similarly poised for violence - my players, already running somewhat low on resources, are about to be assaulted by a couple of dozen lizardmen and a black dragon :devilish:)

It went badly from my POV, I felt nothing but hot shame- they tossed me aside like last night's chutney, see below.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #048 Total Dark Squad.

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

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


This is session 48, and I’m calling it Total Dark Squad, because, well...

The Dark Squad murderised my bad guys, it was a massacre.

But just to remind you, the Dark Squad plan is/was-

1) Take Don Jon to Goxhill.

2) Head to Umber Hill, meet with Adabra (witch/priestess of Chauntea) for a chat.

3) Check out Butterskull Ranch, home of the ‘missing’ Big Al Kalhoon.

4) To Ravendale, a dragon attack?

5) To Burle, meet with the Falcon.

6) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

7) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.

Well, points 1) and 2) are done, and 3) is in action- the Butterskull Ranch is full of gnolls (and hyenas) but the Dark Squad are about to get busy with it.

Just to say ahead of time, I was fretting a little about this fight- I built this encounter back when Buggles was on board, I’d revisited it and thinned the enemies a little, but I still believed it was going to be a very tough outing for the Dark Squad.

I warned the players about this before we started the session, and told them I was prepared to let them get away with a few things- using an inspiration point to call up a healing surge, that kind of thing. But only if it became obvious to all concerned that I had made the encounter too nasty. I further explained that I’m still calibrating encounters now that the Dark Squad are without the terrifying damage dealing wood elf, Buggles.

On the online 5e D&D Encounter Calculator (which I often use) this encounter weighed in at an adjusted 15,500 XP, a horde- a CR 13 level encounter (from memory).

You see I have bought myself a splatbook, or else a new Monster Manual- Nord Games, Revenge of the Horde. So, I have specialist gnolls coming out of my wazoo. Nice!

So, distributed around the various buildings in Big Al’s farm are the following enemies- six spotted hyenas, one giant hyena, three gnoll hunters, two gnoll flesh gnawers, six gnoll plains runners, one gnoll plains archer, two gnoll plains spearmen, a gnoll fang of Yeenoghu, and a gnoll packlord (in charge).

Oh, and three maw demons.

The gnoll plains spearmen are pretty tough- four attacks a turn, a majority of the others gnolls have two or three attacks/turn- and again, even for the low level mooks I’ve made sure their HPs are high, all set at a minimum of 75% of max HP.

4801.jpg

The start of it all, I remember it like it was yesterday (actually, it was Tuesday last gone)- I was so hopeful, a young DM- well, maybe not young physically, but... you know, young at heart- idealistic. Full of dreams and ideas- I really thought I was going to mess up the Dark Squad big time. But it's the hope that kills you, that and the Dark Squad, of course.

So, the fight kicks off with a surprise attack by the Dark Squad on the giant hyena that is at present gorging on a human arm. Also in the courtyard with the beast are two other gnolls- one talking to others within one of the buildings, and the second (a tough spearman) eating Big Al’s fish from his ornamental pond.

The giant hyena is slaughtered quickly- in the surprise round, but keep in mind that Vinnie opens up with his Call Lightning- so it also gets very loud very quickly- a bolt stabs down and frazzles the beast.

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As Bear (playing Newt) said at the time- "[Sweet whistling sound] Nice, area of effect!" Vinnie's Call Lightning is open for business, just waiting more customers. Note, this is right at the beginning.

The gnolls however get into their stride slowly- mainly because they are spread about, but by the third turn of the combat they are rushing to the scene in mobs. Oh, and I’ve maxed the HP of the leader types (the fang of Yeenhoghu & packlord), and also the maw demons.

By the sixth turn of the combat all of the bad guys have been unleashed and are in action, the trio of maw demons are the finale- let out by the packlord on his way out of the farm.

The PCs (actually just Newt) have two or three frights during what follows but, they just hardly ever miss, whereas I…

Ram is on the roof of one of the farm buildings, mostly staying hidden behind a chimney stack- the rogue scuttles forward every turn to shoot his bow- kill an enemy, and then scuttle back to hide. Ten turns, twelve attacks in total (he switched to rapier and dagger briefly)- eleven hits, and all but one of them with plenty of extra sneak attack.

Vinnie Calls Lightning, and every turn he takes a look at the enemies present in the courtyard ahead- calls down the storm at the densest bunch of foes- blasts a few, and then retires back around the corner and out of sight of the gnolls. Obviously (half damage on a successful save) he’s devastating.

Newt does something very similar, except mostly with his Hex and Belphegor Fiery Blast combo- the warlock tabaxi dodges out of cover, fires two fiery missiles- rants a little (‘Belphegor this… Belphegor that…), and then ducks back into cover. He makes exactly twenty attack rolls in the fight- he misses only three times.

But Daktari, Daktari is the bastard.

He’s being played by Jim (Vinnie) tonight.

The barbarian stands out in the courtyard and screams various things at the gnolls as they arrive to the fracas, and keep in mind for much of the fight he’s the only PC visible.

Try screaming a few of these out in cod-Russian for full affect-

“I am your worst not-friend!”

“Come hairy-man-dog-face, I make I make for your end!”

By around the sixth turn of the action Daktari has eleven dead gnolls and/or hyenas sprawled around him. He didn’t kill them all, but they were all in the process of trying to kill him.

“I am making cover for myself! Yes/No? Do I have bonus for hidey-hide?”

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The gnolls wonder what the DM was thinking. Is that all there is to the plan? Run at the daft sounding barbarian (with the great hair). Is that really it?

Note the barbarian is positioned so that the gnolls have to get through him (and take an AoO) in order to get to the out of sight Newt & Vinnie. Ram, on the roof, is making (bonus action) hide checks all the while- the gnolls can see the roof that the arrows are coming from- and Ram, every now and then- but only briefly. However, because of the angle, and the fact that the rogue is good to great at hiding, the gnolls just can’t target him.

Eventually a gnoll flesh gnawer climbs up on to the roof, spots the rogue and charges at Ram screaming its fury- seconds later, and… a ‘20’, and the gnoll (with approx. 35-40 HP when it went up there) is dead. Moments later Ram grabs his bow out again, and does the same again (i.e. another ‘20’) and destroys another nasty gnoll with just one shot.

This kind of thing seemed to happen quite often.

But back to Daktari, who gets into his frenzy (extra attack = 3/turn) in the fifth turn of the fight- and he’s been raging from the very start. Daktari makes twenty-nine attacks in total (including a bunch of AoOs) and misses only four times.

Don’t get me wrong- I was trying, I got maybe three gnolls past Daktari in total, I stabbed Newt up several times, but every time I got one of my bad guys past the barbarian either Ram would shoot the newly advanced enemy dead, or else Newt would step away (suffer an AoO) and then blast it down.

As you can tell, I’ve been reading through the Chat file from Fantasy Grounds- trying to understand where and when I went so wrong, so here’s a few more stats-

In the entire fight I made exactly zero attacks on Vinnie- the druid barely entered the compound.

I made six attacks against Ram, all of them when the gnoll got on the roof- two of them were hits.

I made thirteen attacks against Newt- five of them hits, but he just kept blasting gnolls/hyenas dead and thereby topping up his temporary hit points.

I made, wait for it… seventy three attacks against Daktari (he’s AC 18, or maybe 19- the gnolls are +3 to +5 to hit, average +4). I hit the barbarian just ten times, and for six of these I rolled minimum damage- ‘1’, and keep in mind the raging bastard has resist for all of the damage that the gnolls/hyenas/maw demons are putting out.

In one turn alone I made nineteen attacks against Daktari, a quarter of these with advantage- I hit four times- two of ‘em for minimum damage, it was my best turn (for hits).

Daktari ended the encounter bloodied, just.

Newt and Ram were injured, the former almost bloodied, Vinnie- obviously, had not a scratch on him.

He’d only used the one spell.

It wasn’t that my tactics were particularly bad- the gnolls with bows and bolas kept back a bit and did their missile thing, the hyena and the melee gnolls tried to swamp the barbarian (initially), surround him and then get around him. But the PCs just kept on hitting and therefore thinning the crowd, for several turns I had ten+ enemies at the PCs (Daktari), or else in the courtyard and making missile attacks. Then, after the PCs attacks I’d be down to just five enemies left, but with another five bad guys arriving- but all of them still too far away to get past Daktari without having to double move and forfeit their attacks.

The few times I got passed the barbarian, and to Newt, were mostly with the plains gnolls, these guys get a bonus action to run on half their speed, it was the only way I could make it work. The PCs just kept killing my guys as soon as they got close.

And it all seemed to happen so quickly.

I’d be scheming in my DM chair- ‘just get these guys closer to the action, get the artillery sorted- more attacks on the barbarian, sheesh- he’s the only PC the gnolls can actually see! Again!’

Then, ten seconds (in game) later, and twenty minutes later (in real life), and all the gnolls I had got positioned for their touchdown runs- to get to Newt and/or Vinnie, well- they’re dead Jim, think again Mr DM sir, what’s your next big/clever idea?

So, I concentrated my efforts and tried to take down Daktari- every gnoll, every hyena- attack Daktari, but that really didn’t work.

They bloody massacred me.

4804.jpg

The gnoll packlord (boss) orders his minions to the slaughter before heading off to unleash the maw demons, and then... runs away. Best tactical move I made all night... it didn't work.

Apologies for all of the stats, but I’m still looking back at the Chat file from Fantasy Grounds, even now- trying to figure out where I went wrong with this one. Here’s another- at one point I went eighteen consecutive to hit rolls without managing to break a ‘10’, and with five ‘1’s in there. Another? Try this- the two gnoll plains spearmen got into Daktari and managed to stay in the fight for six turns (not each, in total), that’s twenty four attacks on Daktari between the pair- they landed just two hits I total, for ‘1’ and ‘2’ damage (plus strength bonuses).

The only time I did any real damage to Daktari was with a hyena with a ‘20’, and then with the maw demons- and that was in the final few seconds of the fight.

4805.jpg

Some different gnolls than the ones in the picture above. Where are the previous gnolls depicted? They're dead, okay- can we move on?

So, there will be consequence.

4806.jpg

The maw demons arriving, a flesh gnawer gnoll climbs up on the roof to get to Ram. But, don't worry folks, all of the bad guys will be dead pretty much by the end of this turn. Gah!

I wouldn’t have minded as much if this was a run-of-the-mill encounter, it was supposed to be a toughie- Newt was the only PC to use an inspiration point, and even then that was out of frustration rather than anything threatening the warlock.

Butterskull Ranch is clear of enemies, the operation to do so took exactly sixty seconds.

Gah!

4807.jpg

Look at them! Their faces haunt my dreams! So full of life- of joy, of hope... All they wanted to do was to mess up (big-style) the Dark Squad, is that too much to ask! Is it! Is it! Oh Gnigel! Oh Gnorma! Oh Gneil! OH Gno!

Although… the gnoll packlord, after releasing the maw demons into action, has fled the ranch- the DM could see where this encounter was heading pretty early, truth be told.

By about the sixth turn I had figured that this one was going to end very badly for the gnolls- they just kept on dying.

Ram’s not keen to let the packlord get away, but the gnoll has had five rounds to get some distance, therefore the rogue needs to either spot the beast or find its trail- and roll very high indeed. So, one ‘20’ later and the Dark Squad are on the packlord’s trail.

Actually Vinnie and Daktari are on the trail of Ram, because the rogue’s not stopping to let his comrades catch up- only shouting back at them to let them know what’s going on. But what about Newt I hear you ask.

Newt combs Gerald from his hair- you read that right, the tiny bat hides in the tabaxi’s hair/fur. He orders Gerald to ‘get big’ and then climbs aboard. Newt and Gerald take to the skies, actually he doesn’t go much above the treeline, but you get my drift.

The flying scouts soon catch up with Ram, and even spots the gnoll packlord- the creature is heading for a copse of trees through a wheat field, the tabaxi even manages to communicate this to Ram. But, that’s the last good roll that Newt makes for a while- over the next fifteen or so minutes Newt’s perception checks… well, the best one is a three- but that was with advantage. A little later he spends an inspiration point to re-roll a ‘1’, and he does- perfecto, he rolls a second ‘1’, soon after Newt and Gerald, lost and confused, give up the chase. They only just manage to find their way back to Butterskull Ranch.

But Ram’s still in pursuit, but only just- to make clear- the gnoll is fast, but Ram with his triple move is faster, then again the gnoll is already over 500ft ahead of the rogue, and so there’s still only a very slim chance that Ram can spot the foe. Remember, it’s a fine spring day- the chase is over farmers fields, a few hedge rows, stone walls and the like.

So, Ram rolls okay- and he’s still chasing, then a not so good perception check and the DM cautions him, you need a really high roll to keep on the trail, and so- ‘20’. Off we go again, and this happened three times- ‘20’, ‘19’, ‘20’.

The chase is about to end… but oh no its not- off we go again.

Repeat x 3.

He’s not giving up, and he keeps on rolling high.

But where’s Vinnie and Daktari in all of this, so- while the barbarian is fast he cannot keep up with Vinnie, particularly as the druid wildshapes into Vince D(ire) Wolf, and the beast has the gnoll’s scent. Soon after Daktari drops out of the race, or else wanders around shouting “Vinnie?” for a while.

And the pursuit has been going on for nearly a mile now- across a farmer’s field, through a copse of trees, over a hill and then along an overgrown track, and all the way into a series of ruined farm buildings. However, at this point the two remaining chasers, Ram and Vincen D, are still over 200 feet behind the gnoll packlord.

But they keep on rolling high and spotting where their last enemy is at.

However, that’s when the hobgoblin patrol shows itself, and by shows itself I mean throws a clutch of javelins into the much distracted gnoll packlord. The fight in the farm buildings is over in seconds, specifically when a tough-looking SOB hobgoblin steps up to slaughter the escaping gnoll, although the packlord manages to take down two other hobgoblin mooks before its end.

4808.jpg

That's right, I wasted an entire encounter just to kill my own gnoll packlord- I wasn't going to give them (the selfish Dark Squad) the satisfaction. Petulent, you betcha.

Vincen D Wolf and Ram hold position, and watch the hobgoblin’s martial display, they also spot at least half-a-dozen more heavily armoured hobgoblins in the ruined farm buildings. Ram stays in hiding, he’s seen enough. However, Vincen D Wolf presses forward, but is quickly spotted- and the call goes out, more hobgoblins emerge and make clear that they’re about to head in the dire wolf’s direction.

Vincen D has therefore also seen enough, the two adventurers flee the scene- all the way back to Butterskull Ranch, and as Ram tells it-

“As long as the bastard’s dead, I don’t care who or what killed him.”

Keep in mind this was the same gnoll packlord that attacked the guys back at the ruined Temple of Abbathor, he’s not on the Dark Squad’s Christmas card list.

Then- rest, the PCs barricade themselves inside one of the buildings (a well-appointed smithy) in Big Al Kalhoon’s compound and get a rest, this after first securing the gates. Then the search begins, and very obviously the first thing (actually person) they’re looking for is Big Al Kalhoon- but there’s no-one left here.

4809.jpg

Big Al's big farm.

So, the next thirty or so minutes (real time) are spent searching and checking, and in an around-about-way trying to figure out exactly what went on here, and when. Here’s what the Dark Squad discover-

1) A well-hidden suit of mariner’s studded leather armour- Ram takes this.

2) Some, but not a lot, of coin on the dead gnolls.

3) A very well-hidden chest full of money (maybe 150gp in total) and Big Al’s accounts- but nothing incriminating/untoward.

4) The remains, mostly bones, gnawed digits and viscera, of at least two humans- likely the rest eaten by the gnolls/hyenas/demons. Note there are clear signs that there were three people inhabiting the ranch (including Big Al) when it was attacked.

And… not much else- except for blood trails, signs here and there of violent confrontation, and the fact that the place has been pulled apart, the gnolls had very obviously been searching- for something specific? Or else just for treasure? The Dark Squad don’t know the answer to this question.

Ram and Vinnie however are certain that the gnolls have been here for a while, and that many more gnolls (some of them riding on giant hyena’s- at least four of them) have also visited this place recently. It has been used as a base, perhaps…

Note, that was another ‘20’ from Ram there.

Just a reminder, Elainder Fireborn, the present Saltmarsh Watch Captain, informed the Dark Squad earlier that his predecessor- Big Al Kalhoon, was rumoured to be a man with his fingers in many pies. The Dark Squad were expecting to find some evidence of this, maybe… but nothing.

The thing is however, and it’s Vinnie that brings this to his comrades attention, this ‘farm house’ is a fortress- and new (approx. only 2-3 years old) and it would have been very expensive.

But the gnolls are dead, and the mystery of Big Al Kalhoon’s disappearance is very probably solved, the gnolls ate him.

Owly, Vinnie’s owl familiar (that makes sense) is given a note and instructions- he is to fly to Adabra in Umber Hill, the note explains all that has befallen here, and further asks Adabra to contact the authorities (Eliander) in Saltmarsh.

Newt, while this is going on, persuades Daktari to help him make a pile of the dead gnolls and hyenas, and then he sets it alight- a funeral pyre, he explains as he dances around the conflagration. The bonfire, with help from a few Control Flames spells, produces a huge black roiling cloud of smoke that signals to all that can see it (for miles and miles) that something is amiss at Butterskull Ranch.

Vinnie, of course, isn’t happy about the tabaxi’s work- but only briefly, it’s time to move on. The ranch is secured, the Dark Squad’s horses (and Big Al’s three mounts) are reclaimed, and then ridden hard to Fallowstone.

Fallowstone, if you remember, is home to Fallowstone Holy- a temple/library dedicated to the worship of Deneir (God of Writing) and Oghma (God of Knowledge), however its late by the time the PCs get to the village. Also the Dark Squad, or else the players, are a little excited-it’s level up time, and a long time coming. Therefore the PCs find an inn for the night- the Red Fox, it’s rather expensive but the food and choice of ales, and private rooms, are great- and besides, they deserve it.

4810.jpg

Fallowstone! It's holier than you think.

Afterall, they just kicked the DMs arse.

The rest of the session is spent levelling up the PCs, and just to say we started late- so this was a shortish one, my bro has got himself a new PC and it took a good long while to load all of the Fantasy Grounds data, so we chatted for a good while at the start.

The new list of Dark Squad to-do list reads a little like this-

1) Visit Fallowstone Holy, search for an old map showing the Witch’s Tor, and anything else we can think of that needs investigating.

2) To Ravendale, a dragon attack?

3) To Burle, meet with the Falcon.

4) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

5) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.

Some/all/any of this next time, possibly.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 
Last edited:

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #049a I Know That Name! [The PCs Chorus]

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

NPCs
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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


This is session 49a, and it made us laugh, particularly towards the end when one of the Dark Squad found themselves accused of attempting to burn down the Wayside Inn, and everyone in it.

Who would attempt to do such a despicable thing?

Just diabolical!

Bad Vinnie, very bad Vinnie.

Actually, the above bit of the story is going to get told in the second part of this session/write up.

But there’s also a surprise to be found at the end of this instalment, so read on- we had a week off last week and so we’re all up for fun and larks tonight.

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

1) Visit Fallowstone Holy, search for an old map showing the Witch’s Tor, and anything else we can think of that needs investigating.

2) To Ravendale, investigate the dragon attack?

3) To Burle, meet with the Falcon.

4) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

5) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.

Well, the first two things got done in this instalment, and plenty more beside, but there was lots of chatter in this one.

4901.jpg

Fallowstone, the Dark Squad on tour.

We therefore start the session in Fallowstone, the Dark Squad spent the night at the Red Fox Inn, a very pleasant establishment, although a little expensive. But they figure they deserve a little luxury after their close encounter (read: massacre) of my gnolls at Butterskull Ranch.

The first job today then is first off to report in to the authorities, Fallowstone has a Militia Hall, the only permanent paid resident of which is Lulu Lensk, a capable young swordswoman who runs the village’s defence force. The adventurers let Lulu know about events at the Butterskull Ranch, and the fact that Big Al Kalhoon, owner of Butterskull, is missing presumed eaten by the gnolls. The chat with Lulu continues for some time- gnolls it seems are something new in the Saltmarsh region. Lulu has worked in Fallowstone for five or so years, there’s never been a gnoll problem before. The Dark Squad explain that they are continuing their journey on to Burle, to see the Falcon. Received wisdom is the Falcon needs to know about this attack.

The adventurers also inform Lulu about the hobgoblin patrol they encountered, the militiawoman however has much more experience in dealing with goblinoids- it seems spring is the season for goblin raids, she’ll be on the look-out for them.

[Informing the authorities 300 XP]

Then, several hours are spent at the Fallowstone Holy, a temple dedicated to the preservation of writing (Deneir) and knowledge (Oghma). After a little chatter the gang are ushered into the presence of Brother Barnabus (Deneir) and Sister Annabolezia (Oghma), there follows a lot more chatter, mainly the PCs trying to figure out exactly what information they need.

4902.jpg

Fallowstone Holy, smells of 'OLD' apparently.

Note the priests are convinced to find out a number of old maps of the Saltmarsh region for the adventurers to view, alas none of these seem to show the place that the Dark Squad are looking for.

Note, Daktari (played by Jim/Vinnie, again) is not present for a majority of this debate, as the barbarian states a little into the chatter-

“I am go now. This place smells of OLD!”

Yet more chatter follows, and the two burning questions the Dark Squad have are-

1) Where is the Witch’s Tor? This place features in one of the prophecies of the Bad Dead Ancestors, &

2) Who, or what, is/are the Pact of the Flame?

After still more chatter, followed by swift payment, Barnabus and Anna get to work- however the answers (or else any new info) is going to take days to locate in the sprawling library here.

Just for info it costs 10gp/day to research one question, or else (flash sale prices)- 15gp/day for two questions to be investigated.

The chance of finding the answer to question 1) the location of the Witch’s Tor, is 1 in 20/day of investigation- so, day two = 2 in 20, day three = 3 in 20, and so on.

Alas the chance of finding info regarding question 2) the Pact of the Flame, is 1 in 100/day of investigation (as above).

The Dark Squad hand over the cash, now they just need to roll low, and remarkably they do so- the answer to question 1) will be available to them in just five days’ time, and the answer to question 2) in just eleven days from now. They’ll even get some money back from the priest’s here when they return.

Job done!

[Enquiries at the Fallowstone Holy 400 XP]

Then, late afternoon and it’s already time to move on- to Ravendale, remember this is the place that suffered a dragon attack, or else a bunch of livestock did out in a field somewhere nearby. The Dark Squad learnt this during their first Saltmarsh Town Council meeting.

Well, as it turns out… that’s not quite right.

So, Ravendale is a much smaller place, a working village- and the folk here mostly keep to themselves. A little later one of the Dark Squad gets into conversation with a local, the adventurers are directed to Reginald and Ronald Burke, brothers and owners of the Silly Goose (Tavern) and Burke’s Place (General Store) respectively.

4903.jpg

Ravendale, its not much to look at.

It seems the Burke’s are as close as Ravendale comes to authority figures.

It should be mentioned that the member of the Dark Squad doing a lot of the talking here is Newt- and so the conversation is alternatively creepy, and then rewarding. By this I mean Newt casually mentions a number of creatures that he has enjoyed incinerating recently, and then just as the poor peasant has passed beyond wary and into terrified territory, the tabaxi gives the fellow a shiny new gold coin (a tenday’s wages- at least) for directing the gang two hundred yards to the Silly Goose.

Note, Newt is frightening to experience, and to listen to, but ultimately financially rewarding- he pays well.

A little while later and half-a-dozen more locals have turned up to watch/eavesdrop on the action within the tavern, the Dark Squad are a big draw wherever they go.

Also note the peasant only approached the Dark Squad in the first place in an attempt to discover exactly what Newt is.

“A cat… man! Riding an ‘orse! Chauntea save me!”

[Newt is making friends/terrifying folk, as usual 200 XP]

So, a meal and drinks at the Silly Goose tavern, and with Reginald Burke (proprietor) answering questions- although not many questions, and even then Reg is keen first to find out exactly who, or what, the Dark Squad are. Also, who they are working for?

The Dark Squad are working for Eliander Fireborn, Saltmarsh Watch Commander (slightly inflating his title), Newt makes this fact very clear- although it’s not actually true, of course.

So, Reginald tells the adventurers- no livestock were made to suffer here, and there was no dragon attack, only… well, you’d better see for yourselves.

[The Dark Squad convince Reg 200 XP]

Ten minutes later and the adventurers are taken to Hecse Field by one of the day-time drinkers from the Silly Goose. Hecse field is a fallow meadow, however its newest addition is an arcane symbol of some sort (perhaps) burnt into the dirt and scrub, and more disturbingly in the centre of the symbol the burnt skeletal remains of a… victim? A sacrifice?

4904.jpg

Checking for signs of Newt, I mean whoever did this despicable thing. Newt?

The immolated individual having also been staked to the ground- that’s not nice.

Newt is interested/excited/tumescent, take your pick.

Investigations continue apace, because this is not what the Dark Squad were expecting to find here. They keep expecting to find a dragon- funny that. The following discoveries are made, note the lowest (adjusted) check from the PCs is a ‘23’, and there was a natural ‘20’ in there as well. So, here’s everything-

1) The immolation/sacrifice took place about 8-10 days ago.

2) The area within the burnt symbol is pristine, it seems no creatures/predators have seen fit to enter the demarked zone.

3) The symbol is not familiar/recognizable.

4) There are tracks here, Vinnie is certain- it was kobolds that did this (about a dozen of them), although there are also the tracks of one larger/heavier creature, but with very similar claw prints.

5) The kobolds (and friend) headed off towards the Dreadwood, although the tracks can only be followed for a very short distance.

6) The victim was a male human, and while he was most likely burned to death the body/skeleton also shows signs of recent abuse- broken ribs, a broken wrist and a fractured skull.

[Investigations in Hecse Field 400 XP]

Then, back to the Silly Goose for another chat with Reginald, although on the Dark Squad’s return Ronald has also shut up his shop and joined his brother for the following discussion. The PCs, of course, are keen to find out who the victim was, they learn that-

1) The victim only arrived in Ravendale two or three days before his body was found in Hecse Field, which was seven days past.

2) Nobody heard or saw the burning take place, Hecse Field is in an out of the way place- you have to go there to get there.

3) The victim was a male human in his late 30’s, early 40’s- although very few people got close enough to see the fellow, he wore a heavy cloak even in spring.

4) The victim was staying in an old hut on the outskirts of the village, the place had been left empty and abandoned (for some time).

5) The victim arrived in Ravendale on a farmer’s cart- he hitched a ride, it is later discovered.

6) The victim most likely came from Saltmarsh, or somewhere in that direction.

7) The victim was badly injured when he arrived in Ravendale, he seemed to be in pain- although, see above/below, none of the villagers got to talk with him.

8) The victim however visited the Temple of Chauntea twice.

9) Other than the above, the victim never left his hut- not to go to the store, or to visit the tavern. He spoke to no-one, save perhaps the Priestess of Chauntea.

10) The victim’s name, and anything else about him, is therefore unknown. Ronald and Reginald confess that they were going to pay the fellow a visit in his hut, but… events moved on quickly… and then he was dead.

Again, much more chatter follows.

[More investigations 400 XP]

Reginald and Ronald are of the opinion- “whoever he was he was on the run, or else lying low.”

The pair (Reggie & Ronnie), the adventurers discern, may have a little experience in this area. Note, the inhabitants of Ravendale are for the most part simple peasant folk- the Burke’s are outsiders, and they both look to have spent considerable time at sea (tattoos, speech and mannerisms et al).

Next stop, of course, the Shrine of Chauntea- and Sister Marlyn, the Priestess (actually Acolyte) there.

Sister Marlyn, after a little more chatter and a donation to her cause, confirms that the victim visited here twice, both times for healing- his wounds it seems came well before the fire, or at least some of them.

He was badly wounded, Marlyn confirms- he had been beaten within an inch of his life, his face and body black and blue, and lacerated, and cut… perhaps he had been tortured.

But did he tell Sister Marlyn his name?

He did, in an off-guard moment- wracked with pain, he said his name was Blevins.

At which point there is silence around the VTT.

And I’ve been deliberately egging the PCs on by having them find things out about the unfortunate fellow, but not his name… the victim’s name, at this point, has become a thing… the Dark Squad really want to know.

Who was this guy?

Blevins!

Twenty seconds of silence.

Then all three players state-

“I know that name!”

Or some variant.

And, more or less, simultaneously, and another minute or two later- after a scramble through notes (or else a look back to here) and the connection is made.

Blevins was the arsehole the Dark Squad encountered on their first day in Saltmarsh, at the warehouse they were visiting with the Slagg’s. Blevins was the racist, he was the guy that Porthole Slagg attempted to beat into sometime early next week. Blevins was the guy that Ram spent time following, during one of his lunch breaks. Blevins was the guy that Newt decided to pay a visit to, later that seem week, in an attempt to clear the air- the two ended up screaming, swearing and making threats…

Which leads Newt to ask?

“We didn’t kill him? Did we? Surely, I’d remember that?”

“We didn’t even beat the naughty word out of him!” Ram adds, sounding somewhat unhappy about the fact.

But here’s the thing- Blevins was the boss of the warehouse, the Dark Squad’s first visit was on the 2nd or 3rd of Tarsakh, that’s a month ago. Blevins had been badly beaten, had fled for his life- probably, and then been immolated (by kobolds et al), all within two tendays of meeting the Dark Squad.

“Are you sure we didn’t do it?” Newt asks again.

Later on the Dark Squad find the hut that Blevins had been using, and break in- the place stinks of blood, sweat and worse; and there’s little here except bloody rags and bloody clothes, a little food, and after a very thorough search a buried pouch with half-a-dozen platinum pieces in it.

Blevins was, they are certain, on the run- someone was after him.

Someone found him, maybe.

Which is odd because the only people the Dark Squad know that really hated Blevins (apart from them) were… well, certainly the Slaggs (Porthole & Grumpy), and maybe some of the other dwarves from Farhill. But, who knows?

Who killed Blevins? And why?

[Blevins 400 XP]

The adventurers don’t quite now what to say or do about this new piece of information for a while, however… they do know that they want to get on, and there’s a very good Inn that they have been recommended (the Wayside Inn) just a few miles short of Burle, and if they ride hard- they can get there tonight.

That’ll put them closer to their next task for tomorrow- to meet with the Falcon.

And so it comes to pass, only when the Dark Squad arrive at the Wayside Inn, and in the last light of the day, and with a miserly rain falling. They discover that the place is full of terrified folk, and that trying to smash their way through the windows and doors of the fine establishment are a dozen or so of the shambling undead- zombies.

4905.jpg

The Wayside Inn- delightful food, a full selection of cask ales, fine imported wines and generous guest rooms, oh- and hot and cold running zombies.

The Dark Squad dismount and then kick into action.

But we’ll get to that in the second part of this session, in which the druid learns the hard way that you can’t start a fire without a spark (as Bruce Springsteen was so keen to make clear).

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #049b Thirty-Bloody-Six.

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

NPCs
Daktari Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 7
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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


This is session 49b, the second bit, the action- we’re at the Wayside Inn, an hour or so shy of the town of Burle. The Dark Squad have been told previously that this is a good place to stay, although at the moment the establishment is under siege from a dozen or so shambling zombies. That’s going to count against the place when the Dark Squad leave their review, no doubt.

The PCs therefore quickly dismount and get into action- the three zombies that are attempting to break into the main door of the Inn are despatched quickly, however two more zombies shove their way into the Inn’s yard- Daktari is ordered to take care of this pair. The barbarian charges to his task, shouting the odds as he goes-

“I dead you deader!”

That kind of thing, meantime there’s the sound of shattering glass- the Dark Squad are too far away to prevent two more zombies smashing their way through the side windows of the establishment, and then scrambling their way into the main room of the Inn. Screams come from within.

And then even more screams from the kitchen at the rear of the building, as unseen by the Dark Squad another three zombies also smash their way through the windows there and into the kitchen.

4905.jpg

The Zombies are getting in!

But here’s the thing… these are zombies, and I’m making a bit of a drama about this but…

This is hardly a fair fight, but I’m waiting for my moment- and it’s about to come, but we’ll get to it.

Also the Dark Squad have some mischief of their own to enact.

So, the Dark Squad are much too tough for zombies, and so they’re show-boating- Ram dives into the Inn through the same window the zombie he’s after went through. The rogue forward rolls across a bar table and comes up behind his undead target- skewers it through the head with Deadend, his undead bane rapier. Then on he goes- leaping from table to table, and then eventually onto the bar.

Newt goes a similar route- throughout what follows the tabaxi and the rogue barely touch the ground, with the former using his feline agility to get right to the action.

The difference between the two acrobatics being Ram takes the silent approach, only every now and then shouting at one of the inhabitants of the bar (NPCs) to clear his path, other than that- he brings only death and mystery.

But Newt…

“We are the Dark Squad, you are saved! Move quickly to stand behind me while Newt the Magnificent (and his assorted companions) despatch these paltry shambling enemies. Meowwww!”

That sort of thing, only more of it.

Note there are half-a-dozen people in the Inn, in the main room are Matisha- female human owner of the Wayside, Backes- male human barman, Cooragh- female halfling cook. Also present are two guests for the night, Tarbin Tul- a male human bard, and Cilla- another female halfling.

A majority of the NPCs stay out of the action- save to help out where and when they can, although the last NPC- Teega, a hulking female half-orc smith soon gets into the fight against the zombies in the Inn’s yard.

But again, it’s just zombies- so, there’s not much threat here- at least not until Vinnie messes up with his Produce Flame spell and manages to ignite Matisha’s accounts books- now soaked in high quality rum.

4906.jpg

Oh Vinnie! The Firestarter is about his dastardly work.

However, at this point I have also unleashed my surprise guest for this encounter- suddenly a wraith appears out of the dark of the night and claws at Daktari the barbarian. The big man takes a wedge of damage (although he manages to make his Con save to avoid yet more hurt).

“There is big bad ghosty DEAD! I am need HELP NOW!”

Daktari calls to his friends.

4907.jpg

Daktari is the filling in an Undead sandwich.

And so the Dark Squad make short work of the undead within the bar before rushing to help their barbarian friend.

Ram really doesn’t hang around- he smashes his way (with a backflip) through another window and into the yard of the Inn, and then with an inspiration point he’s at Daktari’s side in a moment.

Soon after finishing off the last zombie here Vinnie also departs the bar, the druid makes for the door- he’s much less keen to get in on the acrobatics checks needed to dive through the windows here.

Which just leaves Newt, and a few NPCs, all alone in the main room of the Inn- the undead are all back to being inanimate corpses, there’s nothing else here except… well, the flickering, mesmerising, fire.

Vinnie’s misfired Produce Flame spell (actually he rolled a ‘1’).

And so here it comes…

Newt surreptitiously casts a Control Flames spell to make the conflagration increase its fury, note Newt’s check to hide his spell casting (Sleight of Hands) is an adjusted ‘8’, but there’s suddenly lots going on in the bar, and so the DM doubles the roll to a ‘16’. There are five NPCs in the bar- Matisha, Backes, Cooragh, Tarbin & Cilla.

The DM therefore makes the NPCs perception checks, and- of course, tells the players what he’s doing and why. Three of the folks- Matisha, Cilla & Tarbin succeed at the check, the latter with a ‘20’. Therefore all three of these guys are pretty much certain that Newt just set the bar on fire.

And boy- the fire is really taking hold.

4908.jpg

Newt exits stage right, after leaving his calling card- of course.

Newt exits the bar through a window and into the Inn’s yard, and then over the next few turns the wraith and the remaining zombies out there are easily destroyed.

But at this point a large selection of the bar is on fire.

The situation however is quickly brought under control when Vinnie Creates Water in order to douse the flames- and alas by doing so waterlog, momentarily, a large section of the room.

4909.jpg

Vinnie gets back just in time to put the fire out- bad Vinnie, he started the fire remember.

[Undead at the Wayside Inn 2300 XP]

At which point, of course, it all kicks off.

Matisha orders Teega to drag the tabaxi (that’s Newt) back into the bar.

“Yes, we’re grateful for the help with the undead, but… you tried to set fire to my bar!”

Matisha isn’t happy, and Tarbin is also making accusations- the bard who rolled a ‘20’ for his perception check, remember.

It gets, well… for want of a better word- heated.

But Newt, as Bear (playing Newt) states at the time- is all smiles, the tabaxi politely explains that the spell he employed- Control Flames should have put the fire out, he made some stupid mistake in the casting, for which he is truly sorry.

Now comes his Deception check.

Newt spends an inspiration point (his last) to get advantage on the roll, and then employs his Dark One’s Own Luck (for an extra 1d10 on the roll).

Newt rolls a ‘20’, for an adjusted ‘36’.

Which you’ve got to admit is a pretty high roll.

The tabaxi’s last words on the matter are to apologise for the actions of his clumsy druid colleague- Vinnie, who started the fire in the bar in the first place.

Remember.

“Oh, yeah!” is the consensus, and now Vinnie has to bear the blame for a short while, until he too offers up a reasonable explanation of events, and also reminds Matisha that he was also the guy that put the fire out.

Vinnie’s checks however are not in Newt’s league.

The druid therefore remains under suspicion of being a wanton firestarter.

[Did you try to burn down my bar? 500 XP]

The Dark Squad therefore muck in and do what they can to clear up the mess, and to secure the bar- boarding up the windows et al, just in case the undead come again.

A degree of normality eventually settles on proceedings, although that doesn’t last long.

Vinnie is asking questions, as is Tarbin Tul- who is a wandering bard just arrived in the region, the pair want to know- why would a wraith and a gang of zombies attack the Wayside Inn?

Vinnie casts a Detect Magic spell and then goes hunting for something hidden that perhaps drew the undead to this spot, alas Tarbin takes against the druid a little- remember, the druid started the fire, brave Newt tried to put it out, at least that’s how Tarbin sees it.

There’s an argument of sorts, Vinnie it needs to be said is also getting suspicious of the bard, as is Ram- they question the fellow thoroughly, and at length- and make a bunch more rolls (including a ‘20’ Insight check from Vinnie). It’s worse than they thought- the bard reveals himself to be a thoroughly honourable fellow with a strict code of ethics- he’s (L)awful Good, and keen to let other people know the right way to act and behave.

Nothing is revealed by Vinnie’s Detect Magic spell however.

Newt, as always, comes to the Dark Squad’s rescue- as the night/bickering goes on the tabaxi decides to challenge Tarbin to a lute duel, and then goes on to win the contest (with a performance ‘20’) and with added prestidigitation. Tarbin is amazed, he’s desperate to learn the tabaxi’s technique.

Newt really is a very fine fellow.

[Newt saves the day 400 XP]

Much later on Tarbin even reveals his purpose in the region, he’s been hearing stories about a terrible Hag that lives in the Dreadwood- the fiend calls herself Nightshade. He arrived in Saltmarsh just five or so days ago, having travelled by ship from Waterdeep, and he’s keen to learn more about the terror that is Nightshade. Tarbin, as it happens, is also on his way to Burle, and from there to see the Falcon.

Well, hang on- isn’t Nighshade the name of the missing Bad Dead Ancestor that the Dark Squad are searching for?

Yep.

The Dark Squad therefore make a new friend, and after much more chatter they agree to accompany the bard on the morrow.

Obviously, Tarbin is still a little suspicious of the pyromaniac druid.

[Tarbin’s tale 300 XP]

But that’s all we have time for this evening, and the adventurers are getting places.

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

1) To Burle & the Falcon’s Nest- with Tarbin, meet with the Falcon, get info and work.

2) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

3) Nightshade in the Dreadwood.

4) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair

5) Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #050a The Falcon’s Quest.

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

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

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


This is session 50a, and this is the first bit of this bit (sheesh, another two-parter)- the Dark Squad are at the Wayside Inn, an hour shy of the town of Burle- they’re heading that way in the morning. However the PCs, as usual, have already made a big impression on the inhabitants of this place. The inn was being attacked by a clutch of zombies when they first arrived, and then a wraith turned up- the adventurers however soon put paid to the pesky undead. But that wasn’t the highlight of their stay at the Wayside Inn- somehow, see last session, Vinnie and/or Newt set fire to the place, but that moment has passed.

After Newt’s mega-lie.

5001.jpg

The Dark Squad at the Wayside Inn.

So, it’s late night drinks and chatter, and invited along to the meeting is Tarbin Tul, or as he is now known to the players- Tarbin O’Tool. Tarbin is a bard (and Lawful Good with it), and he wants a story to tell, or else a song to sing. He also wants to find out about a terrible hag that haunts the Dreadwood called Nightshade.

The Dark Squad are also out to find Nightshade, they need to drag her back to the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors, and get their Garumn back.

So, the adventurers tell their story to Tarbin- or at least a censored version of it, and then chat through lots more of what (they think/hope) comes next- their plans for the future. The last action of the meeting is to welcome Tarbin aboard, he will be adventuring with the Squad- at least for a short while (maybe).

[A chat with Tarbin O’Tool 200 XP]

Then we’re off again, or at least the next day we are- an hour or so down the road and the Dark Squad arrive at the Falcon’s Nest. Note the Falcon’s Nest (home of the Falcon) lies just outside the town of Burle. It is also a well-made, and equally well-equipped fortified manor with a palisade wall and further defences.

The place is also well guarded, and at present also home to a dozen or more locals being trained for the militia. There are other folk here- wanderers, woodsmen, rangers and also a few sellswords. Most of them looking to take advantage of the bounties offered by the Falcon for keeping the region clear of evil humanoids.

Note, number one on the list of local vermin that need exterminating are the goblins of the Dreadwood, they are a perennial problem, or so it seems.

Anyway, after a very brief chat with the Falcon- she’s busy training the militia new recruits atm, the Dark Squad do enough to impress and earn a sit down meeting with her later, although Newt is suitably weird some more, of course.

5002.jpg

The Falcon and her Nest.

At the meeting, which goes on for a good while- the PCs it seems have much to discuss- not least what they have been seeing and experiencing during their time in the Saltmarsh region so far. News that Big Al Kalhoon’s fortress/farm has been overrun by gnolls is most disturbing.

Initially the Falcon questions the Dark Squad to ascertain their abilities- and then points them towards the variety of bounties that are available for those that wish to fight the local humanoid tribes that (mostly) sally forth from the Dreadwood. Then however the Dark Squad tell the Falcon about their encounter with an adherent of Talos, a half-orc that could change into a boar. It seems packs of wild boars are running riot in the outer reaches of the Dreadwood hereby- the Falcon is concerned. The boar, in season- or to protect their young, can sometimes charge- but the rules of engagement of late have gone out of the window. Packs of boars have been sighted charging through the Dreadwood- and attacking on sight any woodsmen (or similar) that get in their way. Most un-boar-like activity.

The Falcon continues to ponder and question the Dark Squad about their encounter with the shape-changing half-orc adherent of Talos. The Dark Squad are certain that this fellow was somehow controlling the pack of boars that ambushed them, this all the way back in the Witch Wood.

[Chat with the Falcon 250 XP]

So, the talk goes on for a good while longer- and even ranges as far as the proclivities of Nightshade, the hag- and missing Bad Dead Ancestor. The Falcon informs the Dark Squad- Nightshade is purported to lair in a place known as the Deeps, or the Deep Dark. The Deeps/Deep Dark being the blackest, nastiest and most hard to get to rotten heart of the Dreadwood- where undead and worse roam freely.

That’s not good.

Note the location of Nightshade’s lair, beyond the info above, is also unknown.

And yet more chatter follows as the PCs decide to question the Falcon further, she seems to be very knowledgeable about the region, and remember the PCs are looking for a place called the Witch’s Tor, and someone called Wild Root, and anything anyone can tell them about the Pact of the Flame, oh and any info about the location of the Goblin Stair (they know that it is near Blackedge). Well, they’d be very grateful…

Over the course of the next twenty or so minutes the Dark Squad, and the Falcon, cut a deal. Here’s the gist of it.

The Dark Squad will head to Westor’s Logging Camp in the outer reaches of the Dreadwood, establish themselves there and use the place as a base of operations. They should then find/bump into one of the wandering packs of boars and somehow follow the porcine tyrants to wherever the beasts are going to. Or are laired, or… well, discover whatever it is that they’re doing. The suspicion is, after the Dark Squad’s earlier revelation, that the boar are being controlled by the half-orc worshippers of Talos (the Storm Lord). Or some version of this- but, what for? And where’s their base of operations?

Note, the above deal is also good for gnolls, who- like the boars, it seems have also been on the rampage in the region.

So, in summary, boars or gnolls- follow them and find out what’s going on, who’s in charge, and… if possible, put an end to this enemy.

Then report back to the Falcon and tell their tale.

For which the Dark Squad will receive the following, as negotiated, in payment- any bounties that they earn (and can prove), a small stipend to pay for the PCs time and resources, and… answers to their questions.

So, it goes a little like this.

The PCs want to know about the Witch’s Tor- what it is, and it’s location? Well, as it happens, the Falcon knows someone who, she is certain, will know where this place is- providing it is in the Saltmarsh region, and even if it is in the Mere of the Dead Men.

Note the Dark Squad have already paid the priests at the Fallowstone Holy to find this information but… a back up plan would be good, they figure you can never have too much info.

However…

“But yew will not tell uz oo zis person iz until we ‘av solved ze boar or ze gnoll problem, n’est pas?” Vinnie understands how this deal works.

But he’s wrong- the Falcon is more than happy to tell Vinnie the name of the person that can help them find the Witch’s Tor.

His name is Wild Root.

There were groans around the VTT at this point- the fools thought they were going to get a straight answer.

Note, as it also happens, Wild Root- the Falcon is further convinced, may also know something about the Pact of the Flame.

So, two birds- one stone.

Which leads us, of course, to the Dark Squad’s next request/question- who or what is Wild Root, and can we meet him?

The Falcon’s answer- Wild Root is a very experienced woodsman, and of course she’d be happy to direct the Dark Squad to his location, just as soon as the boar and/or gnoll problem has been taken care of.

“Zee, I told yew it iz ow zis works!” Vinnie chides.

Lastly, the Dark Squad want to know where the Goblin’s Stair is, they know it’s near Blackedge, and once again the Falcon states, with a smile, she knows the only person alive (most likely) who can guide the adventurers to the front door of the Goblin’s Stair.

Note the PCs have been working on the presumption that the Goblin’s Stair is a goblin lair- the Falcon confirms this, and also attempts to dissuade the adventurers from venturing to this place.

“It is just full of terrible goblins- why would you even want to go there? Are you mad?”

Furthermore, she believes the Goblin Stair is home to a/the goblin King- a tyrant known as Garblegut, and his lair- Garblegut’s Palace.

The Falcon’s source of information regarding all of this and more… well, he was a prisoner of Garblegut for perhaps a year, and she’d be happy to pass on this fellow’s name and present location, but first…

The boar/gnoll problem needs to be taken care of.

So, the Falcon has all the answers- or at least she’s the next step on the road…

Note, the Goblin’s Stair was another quest/prophecy directed at Buggles (remember him) back in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors, but we’re keen to get to the end of this strand of the plot too.

So, basically- go to Dreadwood, find boars & gnolls- fix the problem!

5003.jpg

I had to send bits of the big map via Discord in the end, it just wouldn't work on Fantasy Grounds, this is pretty much everything the PCs can normally see. Next up to Westor's Logging.

[Doing a deal with the Falcon 500 XP]

Easy.

That was a short one, although there’s more to follow, but keep in mind we lost a good forty-five minutes play this evening due to Fantasy Grounds, it was playing up- just little daft things not seeming to work right, off and on for most of the evening.

But that’s all for now, and the adventurers are really going places now, and there’s no time like the present, onwards- Dreadwood!

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

1) Westor’s Logging Camp- dump the horses.

2) Find Boars (Half-Orc Talos worshippers) &/or Gnolls.

3) Follow them to their lair?

4) DESTROY!

5) Back to the Falcon?

6) Goblins in the Dreadwood.

7) Nightshade in the Dreadwood.

8) To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair

9) Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #050b Found ‘em.

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

NPCs
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.

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


This is session 50b and the Dark Squad have the bit between their teeth, so they’re on the road again- next stop is Westor’s Logging Camp in the Dreadwood, that’s a four- or five-hour journey, on horse.

And so it goes, with the Dark Squad making good time by spurring their mounts on for the last hour of the journey…

But what’s this, on the logging road ahead a boar rushes out of the vegetation to cross the thoroughfare, and then another boar- only the second boar stops- turns, and then stands in the middle of the track and glares at the oncoming Dark Squad.

That is until Ram, leading the posse, pulls his horse and then the rest of the gang up short- the rogue calls Vinnie forward, the druid dismounts and heads to the rogue’s side.

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Left to right, top to bottom- the big map with the Dark Squad token closing in on the Logging Camp, a Half-Orc Talos worshipper (less than friendly), picture of the logging road heading into the Dreadwood, and finally- the encounter (map) is about to begin with a blast.

“You can talk to it?” Ram enquires and nods at the staring boar still stood in the middle of the track, perhaps sixty or so feet ahead. Vinnie nods, and then makes ready to try, but his endeavour is interrupted. The boar suddenly shapes into a robed half-orc, scarred and adorned with talismans, tattoos and symbols. Clearly this fellow is another adherent of Talos, this fact confirmed less than a second later when the horror blasts a Lightning Bolt into Vinnie, Ram & Carruthers (that’s Ram’s horse).

Remarkably Carruthers survives the ordeal, although the stallion is reduced to 1 HP, the stoic animal then makes the DM imposed saving throw to flee/shuck Ram, as I say- stoic beast is Carruthers. These are the moments that RPG games are made of- Carruthers surviving a Lightning Bolt has just made him a hose with character.

Anyway, Vinnie gets well and truly blasted- he’s bloodied in an instant, Ram fares a little better.

So, the Dark Squad have found what they are looking for- that didn’t take long!

It therefore kicks off, although… it gets messy.

Ram, with a readied action and then first in initiative fires two arrows into the half-orc enemy, the nasty snarling fellow seems unconcerned. The rogue slouches off his horse (Carruthers) and rushes towards the foe.

Alas it’s not as easy as all that- a boar rushes out of the undergrowth and slams into Ram’s side, and now the rogue is just about bloodied too. Obviously, the impact also stops Ram in his tracks, almost knocks him off his feet.

A second later a charging Daktari, also dismounted, is held up the same way- except this time the barbarian gets stopped in his tracks by a giant boar rushing out of the wilds.

Leaving the Talos-adherent half-orc still cackling and watching on. Note, the fellow is also a good fifty to sixty feet away from the adventurers.

Newt moves up, the tabaxi is on horseback still- his all black mount is called, wait for it…

It’s worth the wait.

His horse is called…

Black Death!

Classy.

Anyway, Newt nudges Black Death forward and then begins hexing and blasting the newly arrived giant boar.

The way ahead is blocked by this foe.

Meantime yet another boar charges out of the wilds and slams into Ram from the other side, the rogue sprawls in the dirt- now bloodied and prone.

5005.jpg

The Half-Orc Talos adherent is another fifty of so feet up the map, laughing his cock off at the car crash Dark Squad.

That got nasty quickly for some of the guys.

Vinnie quickly transforms into Vincen G Squeezy, a huge constrictor if you remember- seconds later and the giant boar is grabbed up and being crushed by the massive serpent- threat mostly ended.

Meantime the lightning throwing half-orc swiftly shape-changes back into boar form, snorts once and then dashes off into the forest.

However, at this point the screams start- lots of screams and shouts, the sound of terror, and fear, and very definitely people suffering. The screams are coming from further up the track.

Ram scrambles to his feet and cuts down one of the two boars that are attempting to gore him. Daktari however is making for the end zone- he rushes by the rogue, and off this map and onto the next…

A logging camp- with a ring of tents and a series of lumber piles, by a slow-moving river. Half-a-dozen or so hefty male humans, armed with axes (what else?) are circled around a huge terrifying insect-like creature, which seems to have burrowed into the middle of the camp.

The creature is an ankheg, a large specimen.

But back on the muddy track-

Tarbin Tul gets to Carruthers and heals the horse- Ram is very grateful.

Newt Fiery Blasts the giant boar, still being held secure by Vincen G Squeezy- the creature at last ceases it struggles, dead. The great snake drops its prey and attempts to snatch up the last boar in the fight, the one menacing Ram- but alas to no avail.

Ram, moments later takes the second boar down, this while Newt still mounted on Black Death charges forward along the road and into the logging camp, the rest of the Dark Squad make their way forward as quickly as they can.

Note Tarbin Tul also gets to Ram with a Healing Word, and then with another a little later- the bard also gathers the mounts and secures them.

[Boars and a Half-Orc Talos adherent (briefly) 550 XP]

5006.jpg

"Come on, Squeezy!" Vincen slithers forward a little further. Meantime two ankhegs get into it with Daktari and the loggers, with a running Ram and a Black Death (that's not his real token- see later) riding Newt on the way.

Back at the logging camp Daktari rages and rushes to attack the nearest ankheg- that’s right, nearest ankheg- there are now two of the big buggers, a second having just burst from a heaving hole in the turf.

The loggers are up for the fight, their axes swing but they also suffer- one of the ankheg’s grabs up a logger in its mandibles- chews and bites the screaming woodsman clean in two, and in a spray of gore.

Newt arrives on Black Death and starts blasting- ankheg carapace shatters and flies.

Ram, at last arrives on the scene, having changed back to his bow- he shoots the nearest ankheg and leaves it critically wounded (with a big bag of sneak attack).

Daktari’s is still raging and still hacking- the big barbarian decapitates an ankheg as it bends down to grab him- dead, and then goes rushing to menace the remaining ankheg. Bloodying the beast with Shatterspike, his magical longsword.

5007.jpg

Squeezy (Wheezy) is on his way- but the cavalry have arrived- note Daktari has just finished off the first ankheg and is about to try to make a running jump down the ridge to get to the second. He's always so very eager to get to the fight.

At which point however the third ankheg arrives on the scene- surging up through the turf directly before Newt and Black Death, the giant insect beast savages (and kills in an instant) Newt’s mount.

Just to note, seven seconds prior to the above event Bear (playing Newt) stops play to inform the DM that he has just put a new token for Black Death in Discord.

5008.jpg

Black Death, the token arrived in my Discord & in-box around seven seconds before the beast got savaged to acid-flavoured death by an ankheg, there's a lesson there.

The thing about fate, I have noticed, is that if you tempt it, well… a metaphorical knee to the groin soon follows- and so it proves.

Newt is apoplectic.

He does however manage to safely roll off and away from his dying mount.

At which point the fourth, and largest, ankheg breaches- this beast is not only bigger (and tougher) but also sports a triple lightning bolt etched into its crown.

The creature roars (or whatever it is that ankhegs do, only much louder than usual), lurches forward mouth and jaws open and spews a lightning bolt into Newt and Ram, the former is (partially- saved) blasted while the rogue evades all hurt.

The bastard.

Tarbin Tul gets another Healing Word into Ram.

Newt has seen enough- he drops a Fireball, but the effect while very briefly terrifying is fairly underwhelming, both ankhegs within the spell’s compass are burnt but unconcerned.

5009.jpg

Apres the Fireball, the ankhegs are not even that bothered, like- whatevs!

Meantime Daktari and the loggers manage to take down the second badly wounded ankheg, there’s just two left- the pair that have just arrived to the fight.

Vincen G Squeezy at last manages to slither into the logging camp- he’s a surprisingly slow-moving massive reptile. The huge constrictor grabs, squeezes and grapples the lightning firing ankheg alpha.

We’re going all Ray Harryhausen again.

5010.jpg

Squeezy's here! And he's pissed off!

Vincen G Squeezy is thirty feet long and quite a girth, while the lightning spewing ankheg alpha stands a dozen or more feet tall.

Daktari and his axe-wielding new buddies also come rushing to the fight.

The other (normal) ankheg is also now heavily wounded.

Ram gets his blades out and starts stabbing at the ankheg alpha being restrained by Squeezy and soon after the creature is critically wounded.

Daktari adds to the beat’s troubles by flinging two javelins into the brute.

The (normal) ankheg spews acid and Daktari and one of the loggers are left screaming, the ankheg alpha meanwhile tears at Vincen G Squeezy- bloodying and blasting with crackling lightning the shapeshifting druid.

Tarbin Tul however quickly has another Healing Word for Squeezy.

Newt gets some distance from the fight and then fires another Fiery Blast into the ankheg alpha- the beast shatters and explodes, spraying the area with gore and ichor.

The warlock’s second Fiery Blast repeats the trick with the last remaining ankheg.

The fight is won.

Bugger, there was some screaming and shouting for a little while with this one.

[Ankheg attack on the logging camp 2225 XP]

The loggers are exhausted, and slightly panicked, and concerned about the loss of their fallen comrade, there’s nothing however to be done for the fellow- he was bitten clean in two.

The adventurers do what they can to remedy the situation, although Newt spends quite a lot of the time making sure people never forget his contribution to the victory-

Newt: NEWT SMASHES TWO ANKHEGS IN A SINGLE ROUND!

The tabaxi, it seems, has forgotten about Black Death already.

Over the course of the next few hours the Dark Squad tidy up the logging camp, get a rest and do a little healing (accompanied by Tarbon Tul’s Song of Rest). While doing so they take the time to ask a few questions of the loggers. Then, off the back of the logger’s answers, they search the camp and fine some very odd devices.

Hidden in one of the log piles are four dark and twisted corn dolls, or something very similar, the odd objects seem to pulse. Later it is discovered that within each corn doll (or voodoo style-device) is a still beating heart.

The discovery causes a little consternation, and therefore necessitates a score more questions and skill checks.

The final theory is the corn dolls were placed in the camp sometime during the day- the loggers leave the place unattended while they go to work. The devices were placed in the camp by the half-orc Talos adherent spotted earlier on the track, and then activated in some way to draw the ankhegs to the spot.

The Dark Squad are not happy about this, they’re going to find these bastards and make them pay, and now they have a trail to follow- the one left by the half-orc that battled them on the track here earlier..

Funny how that worked out.

But that’s all we have time for this evening, and the Dark Squad are in the hunt.

Just to say, and as I said to the guys at the end of the session- a lot of what came before this was me settling the PCs in to the region (and me building it in the background). So, now I’m ready for them- and it’s time for some of the plot (et al) to get going.

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

1) Westor’s Logging Camp.

2) Track the half-orc/boar to its lair?

3) DESTROY!

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.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #051 An(other) Evil Tree?

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

NPCs
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.

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


This is session 51, and we begin at Westor’s Logging Camp in the Dreadwood. The loggers here, save for one unfortunate fellow, have been saved from a sudden attack of ankhegs by the Dark Squad. The attack included one huge insect brute with lightning bolt markings upon its carapace, a sure sign that the Talos worshiping half-orcs were responsible. A little later, after the fight, the Dark Squad also locate a clutch of odd looking corn dolls- humanoid shaped figures made from blackened dirty straw- inside each of these (voodoo-like) figurines is the still beating heart of a sacrificed beast. All part of some ritual, Vinnie believes, to draw the ankhegs to this spot.

So, the Dark Squad want to get on, they’re keen to get after the half-orc adherent of Talos who fled the last encounter. The suspicion is this foul fellow caused the attack on the logging camp, and of course the PCs have been hired by the Falcon to get to the bottom of this particular problem.

First up however comes a chat with the loggers, the Dark Squad explain their cause, ask a few questions of the folk here and then… well, Newt makes a strange speech to let the loggers know that he’s happy for them to eat his dead horse- Black Death.

It’s an odd world, particularly when Newt opens his mouth.

“Thanks.” A logger replies, with a shrug.

The Dark Squad organise for their remaining mounts to be cared for at the camp and then, after searching out the trail of the fast departing half-orc worshipper of Talos- who has indeed assumed boar form, they depart.

[The logging camp and the boar trail 250 XP]

The boar’s tracks are however difficult to follow, and keep in mind it’s a single boar the Dark Squad are attempting to track here, therefore the next two or three hours are spent wandering through the outskirts of the Dreadwood making repeated checks to stay on the beast’s course, but it’s not easy.

That is until…

The tracks get easier to follow a little while on as it becomes apparent that another two or three boars have joined the pack.

5101.jpg

The big map is working again on Fantasy Grounds. The Dark Squad token pushes further into the Dreadwood.

However, the DMs random encounter dice are on fire, also I’ve bought a few new Mods for Fantasy Grounds, and so I was keen to try them out- the players had been forewarned about this.

The boar trail leads down into a shallow stream, the trackers in the party (Daktari & Vinnie) know this is typically a tactic used to prevent tracking, and so once again the track becomes a lot more difficult to detect, and follow.

5102.jpg

Vinnie and Daktari, searching for the trail.

But that’s not all- a quartet of mangy wolves suddenly spring from hiding and rush to attack the two trackers that are leading the Dark Squad’s pursuit, the pair are a little ahead of their companions. The wolves (actually worg pups) are however easily dealt with- although several of the PCs get bitten, particularly as another four of the savage beast’s rush to join the attack.

5104.jpg

Daktari's taking care of business, while the Worg Pups don't last very long although Newt's Fireball played a significant part in that fact. Note the Worg Pups have about 6-8 HP each, so... they're screwed.

More effective however are the three bugbear archers, this trio are much more accurate- Ram takes an arrow to the chest, as does Vinnie, and Newt, but… it’s not enough to slow down the Dark Squad. The juvenile worgs are quickly slaughtered, while one of the three bugbears are swiftly flushed out of hiding and killed, another gets up close with Newt’s Fireball. The last of the bugbear snipers however attempts to flee the scene, but that doesn’t happen. Ram and then Newt are soon after in hot pursuit, and the pair move fast- and Ram is making active perception checks to keep an eye on the fleeing goblinoid. The third bugbear archer is eventually chased down and killed.

5103.jpg

The last, very bloodied & just recently Fireballed, Bugbear Archer attempts to flee the scene- not a chance.

Note, throughout the above encounter Tarbin Tul, the bard- and our newest NPC, was providing Healing Words for a variety of PCs, he’s already explained to his new compatriots the Dark Squad that he’s not very good at fighting.

[Bugbears and mangy wolves 500 XP]

Again, this was a very easy encounter- and it only took us a about 2-3 turns to play through (plus a little longer for Ram and Newt to hunt down the last enemy), but it also served as a great demo for a bunch of new stuff (Mods) I’ve bought to enhance our Fantasy Grounds experience. So, it took us a while to talk through the changes/enhancements afterwards- one of which is when the PCs make a variety of rolls in Fantasy Grounds- attack, damage, save etc. it automatically triggers a chat entry. Basically, the PCs can now talk (in the chat window)- the Mod allows a table of possible responses, battle-cries, statements, or similar to be inputted, press the appropriate button and a random line of chat appears. Obviously, I had populated these tables prior to the session- so an additional ten minutes were spent by the players trying to trigger all of their PCs possible chat responses.

It made us laugh for a good while- and the players have been given instructions to come up with their own random chat lines for the coming sessions.

That however is the end of the Dark Squad’s day, it’s getting dark in the Dreadwood- time to set up camp, also the boar trail will be much easier to find in the cold light of day.

Newt gets his Leomund’s Tiny Hut up and working- Tarbin Tul, the bard- remember him, is sore amazed.

Then… lots more chatter, it seems that the PCs are keen to talk, and I’m using Tarbin Tul to keep the PCs on track with the plot (and for a few other things). The bard therefore has questions- the Dark Squad have lots of answers, and so where we are with the plot therefore gets reiterated and firmed up a little.

Newt, and then Ram, are also keen to tell Tarbin all about themselves- the tabaxi particularly so, and keep in mind Tarbin is a very moral guy- he has plenty of questions for Newt particularly with regard to his fiendish overseer.

We even get into a short discussion here, as Vinnie said at the time- “Newt, zis is the most ‘onest yew ‘ave bin wiz uz since we began journeying two-gezzer!”

So, lots of nice roleplay before bedtime.

Note, during the night Vinnie’s hears, on his watch (in dawn’s first light), what sounds like a large ursine suddenly roaring in anger- although the noise recedes as the beast, he surmises, moves further away from the camp. The druid however is concerned, and so investigates, eventually discovering a mass of swarming bees- their hive has been attacked, and it seems they fought back- successfully.

Note, I have also purchased myself a few more dungeon/wilderness dressing style books to use on Fantasy Grounds. Fifty sessions in and I’m trying a few new things/resources.

[Chatter with Tarbin Tul and a night in the wilds 500 XP]

Rise and shine early and the Dark Squad, very quickly (after some great rolls from Vinnie) are back on the boar’s trail- we play out another two or three hours of the trackers in action, with plenty more rolls- most of them good.

[Tracking good 200 XP]

Then… there’s a clearing- in the centre of which is a two-story ivy-covered ancient manse (a large house) the house is derelict and yet… it shows signs of habitation. Surrounding the building are a myriad briar and pumpkin patches- and snorting and snuffling their way through this are nearly a dozen boars.

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The woodland manse- Talos HQ? Maybe. Left image ground floor, right image- first floor, both before Owly's recon.

The Dark Squad swiftly move way back into the cover of the Dreadwood, and soon after Owly (Vinnie’s owl familiar) is sent aloft. Vinnie, throughout Owly’s aerial reconnaissance, is sharing the bird’s vision (and other senses) and relaying information to his colleagues.

The Dark Squad come to learn that-

1) There are boars surrounding the manse, on all sides- there’s no way in that can avoid alerting the beasts.

2) The main entrance to the manse is on the western side, there’s a balcony above/over the closed front doors (a portico). There’s another pair of (closed) doors into the manse up on the balcony.

3) There’s a third entrance to the manse to the north, it’s open- the door lies in the grass and debris before the doorway here.

4) There are many windows- all of them smashed and wide-open, although they’re also choked in places by the all-pervasive ivy.

5) There are holes in the roof of the manse in places.

6) There’s an open courtyard in the middle of the building- in the courtyard is a well, and growing from it an ancient gnarled tree, also…

7) There are yapping, barking and snarling sounds coming from one of the rooms on the second floor- gnolls?

So, there are plenty of ways into the manse, but none of them unobserved.

The Dark Squad conduct an extended chat, eventually interrupted by the DM.

Owly is about to return to his master’s side when… Vinnie relays the following- the front door of the manse opens and a robed half-orc strides out. The figure snaps off a few sharp commands and three of the boars’ rush around the building and straight to the fellow. All three of them transforming en route into robed half-orcs. That’s four lightning-bolt flinging Talos worshippers.

Newt is all for launching the attack now, until he is reminded by Vinnie that the PCs are at present sixty feet away in the woods and watching the above scene through Owly’s eyes/senses.

So, the following plays out- the four half-orcs talk a while, or else three of them pay attention and listen to their boss- the half-orc that exited the manse. Then the three subordinate half-orcs transform back into boars, and after a few snorts, head off- west into the Dreadwood. Half-a-dozen more boars scurry out of the pumpkin patches and follow after, at speed.

That done the robed half-orc boss heads back into the manse, and all of a sudden, the place looks a lot easier to sneak into, there are only three or four boars remaining in the pumpkin patches.

But where have the other three half-orc Talos worshippers and the rest of the boar pack gone?

The above line for the players.

[Owly’s recon 500 XP]

Ram leads the adventurers around to the north of the manse, to the broken back door- and then in a dash across the open ground, and… in.

Note, Vinnie and his companions have a little help from the druid’s Pass Without Trace spell. The Dark Squad enter a broken kitchen, and following after the sneaky rogue investigate the interior of the manse, they discover-

1) A smashed and broken kitchen and pantry, the latter missing sections of its roof (note this area of the manse is only single story).

2) A wrecked dining room with a dirty hallway leading from it to the front door of the manse, there are also stairs here to the second floor of the structure.

3) A central courtyard area complete with a well, with an ancient gnarled tree protruding from it.

4) A multi-occupant bedroom/chamber- its contents broken and ruined, there’s a hole in the ceiling in the far corner, the opening must lead up into the lair of the gnolls. Ram can hear the fiends talking.

[Ram leads the exploration 250 XP]

Note throughout all of the above the PCs are rolling high with their (much aided) stealth checks, and they’re taking their time- allowing Ram to investigate and then declare safe the way ahead. Good work, they go room by room.

Ram is also certain that one of the other chambers off the central courtyard is home to the half-orc Talos worshipper the gang saw earlier. There’s chanting coming from within, in what sounds like orcish.

So, Ram- first up, sneaks into the chamber with a hole in the ceiling, and with the sound of gnolls bickering up above, the rogue distributes several packets of marbles, as quietly as he can, on the floor beneath the hole.

Then the rogue sneaks back to his companions- it’s time the Dark Squad had a chat about the next part of the plan.

Note, Vinnie has also made another discovery- the ancient gnarled tree in the courtyard resembles very closely the tree they fought all the way back in the Sunless Citadel, their first adventure. The Gulthias Tree, and so the druid decides to try to find out what’s going on here. He casts Speak with Plants and then begins his address.

Keep in mind that Vinnie is very good at this kind of thing.

It’s also worth noting that Vinnie is the third (and last) PC that I have asked to make an insight check to figure out the above fact, Ram & Newt has already failed their checks.

And so-

“Great and ancient being, I cum before yew seeking wiz-dum. Will yew speak wiz me, I yam but a lowly drew-id?”

And the tree definitely has something to say (although, I’ll be honest- this move caught me by surprise a little) and so the ‘drew-id’ and the tree chat a while.

Vinnie has to pay obeisance to the ancient sentient plant- to abase himself before the creature, and also to continue with his flattery, in order to get his answers. It seems the tree is boss here; it tells Vinnie in its gargling deep voice. Furthermore, it seems the tree is working towards the coming of the time of shadow, when the darkness will descend and its enemies will be made to suffer.

Further conversation elicits a few more details- the tree’s enemies are for the most part mankind and the like, the bad folk that defile the Dreadwood.

Vinnie has heard enough, but only after a little more chatter and accompanying flattery is he allowed to retreat from the great tree’s presence.

[Vinnie chats with the mad bad tree 750 XP]

So, the Dark Squad chat- as quietly as they can, and all the way back in the kitchen- there’s an evil tree, a bunch of gnolls, a Talos worshipping half-orc boss, and… within the branches of the ancient tree are a clutch of twig blights. Vinnie spotted these guys during his chat.

The plan is…

Well, let’s see what’s upstairs first.

Keep in mind the PCs have made more than a dozen stealth checks and at least two dozen other checks here so far- it took nearly thirty minutes to get through this bit.

However, the investigate upstairs plan goes badly, for the only time in the session Ram forgets to make a perception check before heading up the stairs, and so fails to spot the trap. The first ten steps of the stairs collapse, but the rogue leaps back and out of the way. The area revealed beneath the stairs is littered with glass and nails, and knives- all set to impale a victim.

But the noise of the collapse…

The Dark Squad hold their breath, and then make more very difficult stealth checks, and after spending an inspiration point or two… well, nothing happens.

The above party stealth check eventually all came down to Tarbin Tul, the NPC bard, having to roll ‘20’ or above, which he rolled- exactly.

But there’s no way up now, at least not for the majority of the PCs- the stairs are gone.

[Stair collapse 200 XP]

More Dark Squad whispered chat follows, and at last someone is listening to Newt- he’s the voice of reason in the room…

“Let’s burn the bastards- flush ‘em all out!” The tabaxi hisses, and… well, there’s really not a better idea, and besides- the bugbear and worg aperitif has only got the PCs wanting more.

Seconds later the grinning tabaxi steps out into the courtyard of the manse- the twig blights situated in the branches of the ancient tree instantly take notice and move quickly towards the warlock, but… too slow, the well (and ancient tree) is suddenly encircled by a twenty foot high Wall of Fire.

[Newt lights it up 300 XP]

Everything plant-like burns.

5106.jpg

It's all kicking off! Note Newt's Wall of Fire is incinerating the Evil Tree- the Twig Blights are already spent. Vinnie on the other hand has just dropped his Spike Growth into the room opposite. Those two bluish (I'm colour-blind, help me out here) circles down in the south west- they're where Ram dumped several bags of marbles- the Gnolls (in the room above) are going to have fun. The rogue is just about to get Thunderwaved by Grannoc, the Talos worshipping Half-Orc boss.

Suddenly from the door opposite comes the robed half-orc Talos worshipper, the fellow evokes and sends a Thunderwave into Ram who has also moved forward into the courtyard. Then- twig blights spill out of the same room, while the half-orc retreats- still chanting strange words.

Note the Wall of Fire burns on the inside- and so the outside of the circle is safe ground- it’s the ancient evil tree that is suffering.

Yet more twig blights spill out into the courtyard, and ten seconds later and Ram & Daktari are surrounded, but hardly in danger- they’re only twig blights after all.

More of the plant-like fiends emerge for the well and are incinerated by Newt’s Wall of Fire in an instant.

More still rush down the chimney in the ruined dining chamber, surprising Vinnie who is at moment concentrating on his Spike Growth spell- cast into the chamber the gnolls are about to descend into (the druid thinks).

Vinnie frets- but only a little, as Tarbin Tul is coming to help, while Newt is near enough to come to the rescue should the need arise.

Upstairs the gnolls are making noise and are most likely just about to descend to get into action, or else to die in the Spike Growth area.

5107.jpg

Can't wait for the next session- I may have a few surprises in store for the Dark Squad, or else... it's going to (fingers-crossed) get nasty.

But that’s all we had time for this evening, the fight had only just got going when we ran out of time, or else the DM decided that this was a good spot to call things as it’s about to get very busy for the PCs.

We’ll see what happens next time.

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

1) Investigate the woodland manse- kill the half-orc Talos worshipper, gnolls and evil tree etc.

2) Track the half-orcs/boars to their lair?

3) DESTROY!

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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