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


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #059: Dark Squad Masters of Administration.

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

Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*

Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 59, and the Dark Squad are not really Masters of Administration, but this one was a very quiet session, because it was the denouement of the present adventure and a short session because two of the players were packing to go to a festival on the morrow.

So, we were just getting stuff done here- the admin, as it were.

The date is Eighth-day, 9th Mirtul, 1493 Year of the Purple Dragons
The time is 16:21 PM

But first, last we left the Dark Squad they were still in the Dreadwood, and Vinnie was bargaining hard with a trio of forest maidens in order to get their charmed barbarian back.

“You am love!” Daktari confidently pronounces and gurns some more at the beautiful creature that dances around him.

Just for info the forest maidens are, of course, a trio of dryads.

So, here's what goes on...

Vinnie keeps on bargaining hard, he's direct but extremely polite with it. Then however, Newt finally works out what's going on here- the dryads are trying to 'possess his mind' he states/shrieks, it's always a drama with the tabaxi.

Soon after Vinnie is having to talk down a snarling Newt- who is now making threats, while still trying to convince the dryads to let Daktari go.

The barbarian is still gurning, still dancing... and still in love.

Ram, if you remember, is watching the scene unfold from deep within the foliage (and with a '20' stealth).

He doesn't get involved, unless, well... he has to get involved, and then it usually gets bloody.

Eventually, and its a windy road- eventually, a deal is done- the dryads are gifted sweets, and vials of perfume, all stolen from Granny Frogwart's lair.

The Dark Squad further agree to lend Daktari to the woods-folk, but only for a night.

Just to make clear, the dryads require the services of the barbarian in order, they very sincerely state, to put some shelves up. They need the northern hunk for his DIY skills.

Anyway, a deal is done and the Dark Squad give up their barbarian for the night, Newt conjures a Tiny Hut nearby and the gang shuffle inside for another lonesome overnight in the Dreadwood.

But the Dreadwood has been fixed, or at least this part of it is not as dangerous as it once was, now the lightning worshipping half-orc fools have been put to the spell and sword.

The night passes without incident, although, well two things-

First off, the remainder of the Dark Squad have to relocate their Leomund's Tiny Hut further away from the action.

The reason- every now and then Daktari's cod-Russain voice shatters the night's silence-

“I am hammering good, yes?”

“I have magnificent tool, yes!”

“I have wood!”

And other attempts at the double-entendre.

[Daktari does DIY for the Dryads 300 XP]

Secondly, the remainder of the Squad decide to have a chat about things, actually- or rather very specifically- Vinnie has a chat with Newt, about the summoning of demons.

The chatter goes on a while, and its entirely in character- with Vinnie making a series of speeches, some of them very emotive- and well thought out. About the ethics of the situation, mainly- the folly of bringing demons and devils into the world.

[Vinnie makes a few speeches 200 XP]

Basically, it's not a good idea.

Newt is as quiet as Vinnie with his answers, and as considered, but the tabaxi has an entirely different position.

“A demon/devil is just a tool- to be used and then discarded.”


“No-one should seek to limit my power!”

Newt's further replies are more subtle, but still strewn with half-evoked threats.

But, y'know, in a very/semi-nice way.

This goes on for a good while- nearly thirty minutes of it (real time), Ram- eventually, gets dragged into the verbal sparring.

The rogue, perhaps, is the voice of reason- or else just a pragmatist.

A precis of Ram's thoughts follows, as addressed to Newt-

“Summon whatever you like, but keep in mind that at some point you are going to mess up, and then we're going to have to deal with an extra potentially nasty enemy.”

“When this happens”, the rogue assures the tabaxi, “there will be consequences- depending on just how much running amok the demon, or devil- whatever it is, gets up to.”

“Yer, get me?”

It's one of Ram's longer speeches.

[Chatter about the summoning of Devils/Demons and the like 400 XP]

The discussion levels out after Ram's intrusion, and diverts into more chatter about the state of the plot- the Pact of the Flame, and a variety of other hints and clues the Dark Squad have recently uncovered.

[More chat about the various prophecies 200 XP]

Then, after a good night's rest, early morning- Daktari returns to the fold, alas the barbarian has been 'hammering' all night and so is still very much exhausted.

And so a slow trudge back to the logging camp follows, note Daktari regales his colleagues en route with tails of his handyman exploits-

“I put up shelves real good!”

And so it goes.

But the Dark Squad are on the move, they spend less than ten minutes at the logging camp. A little more chatter with the foreman there, then they gather up their belongings, and their mounts- then with Tarbin Tul and Granny Frogwart's five ex-prisoners head off again- out of the Dreadwood, and all the way back to the Falcon's Nest.

At least that's the plan.

It's a long journey they have ahead, another ten plus hours of travel, but they're soon out of the Dreadwood and back to spring fields and meadows, and very suddenly all is well with the world again.

The Dreadwood does oppresive.


"What's going on here?" Ram spots a bunch of ravens in a clearing in the Dreadwood.

There is however, one strange encounter en route to the Falcon's abode, skirting around the Dreadwood Ram spots a strange act being played out within a small clearing, a little way into the woods. A flock of ravens surrounds a much scruffier member of their number- the chorus squawks, the scraggly raven in the centre squawks back, and on it goes.

Ram stops his colleagues in their tracks and then encourages Vinnie to observe the strange behaviour- what's going on here?

But the druid hasn't a clue.

Low roll.

Suddenly the action goes up a notch- the mob of ravens swoop in on the scruffy individual, but Ram's not having that. The rogue darts in with rapier drawn and manages to grab and thereby rescue the picked-upon raven, but not before the bird has been pecked and gouged, with one wing broken and it's lost an eye.

Remarkably, after the remainder of the ravens have fled, Vinnie steps in and cures the bird, which Ram- a little later, lets free.

Why the above you ask? Simples, a random roll on my Raging Swan Wilderness encounters table- love these. Besides, that may not be the last time the Ram sees this raven.


[Ram saves a raven 400 XP]

Then all the way back to the Falcon's Nest, a long and slow journey that takes ten more hours, it has been a very long day.

Particularly for Daktari who was hammering away all night.

But still time there's time for the Dark Squad to meet up with the Falcon and to tell their story, including the fact that the Talos worshipping boar bastards had summoned Garthok the Thunder Boar, an avatar of the Storm Lord.


Back to the Falcon's Nest, it's reward time.

Of course, the Dark Squad put paid to Garthok and they're the heroes of the hour, this tends to be the way most Dark Squad stories go. Obviously, the adventurers also catch the Falcon up with regard to the sudden appearance of Wildroot.

They also introduce the five ex-prisoners to the Falcon, and get the quintet to tell their story again.

[Talking to the Falcon about the Talos bastards 200 XP]

Then, lots more chatter, but first the Falcon pays the Dark Squad for the foes they have slaughtered in the Dreadwood. That done the Falcon completes her part of their deal, she tells the PCs what she knows about getting to meet Wildroot, and how to find the Goblin's Stair.

But of course the Dark Squad have already met Wildroot, keep reading...

To find the Moon Pool, and Wildroot- the guardian of the place, they must climb Silverhill and be within the circle of standing stones at its peek, at midnight, under the light of the moon. The adventurers must stay within the stone circle until the first rays of dawn strike the stones, and then descend Silverhill into Silverstand (an Elven wood). They must do no harm to any of the flora and fauna there, and make their way to the very centre of the forest, where they will find the Moon Pool. At midnight, under the light of the moon, Wildroot will appear, and answer questions. The Falcon states.


Silverhill to Silverstand.

Note, the PCs have of course already met Wildroot, and he's answered many of their questions, however the Treant has promised to set the Dark Squad to their tasks, this in line with Belphegor's prophecy. That needs to happen at the Moon Pool, and so they needed the info above.

Next up the Falcon tells the PCs all about Rasshold Sharp, an avaricious, mean and miserly gnome who lives in Blackedge. Normally the Falcon would counsel folk to avoid the miserable gnome, however Rasshold wasn't always such a bad fellow. His present demeanour is due to the fact that the poor unfortunate spent a year as a prisoner of Garblegutt, the Goblin King- who rules the Goblin's Stair.


Rasshold Sharp lives here... Blackedge.

The Falcon further explains that the adventurers are going to have to convince Rasshold to tell them the way to the Goblin's Stair, otherwise- well, they could spend a lifetime and still not find the place.

This, of course, must be done in order to complete Buggles' quest, if you remember-

Ancestor #5-
I am Golcanz and I am forgotten.
The answer you seek [Golcanz looks directly at Buggles] is at the bottom of the Goblin’s stair/stare.”

Although the Dark Squad are not prioritising this venture atm.

[Info on Wildroot & the Goblin's Stair 400 XP]

Then sleep, because there's yet more chatter to come on the morrow, the Dark Squad- back when they first met the Falcon, asked her to help them to find a fifth member for the party, a hire, an NPC. Just to make clear, we're retro-fitting this bit, the deal is-

Daktari is now being played by Jim, he's not an NPC any longer.

Tarbin Tul, the bard, has retired- he's not cut out for adventuring.

Lastly, Ram is getting really bogged down in combat, he's missing Buggles, keep in mind the wood elf was a stone cold killer.

Therefore we've decided to try a Sidekick, from Tasha's.

And so, the next morning the Dark Squad get to interview four folk that are keen to get a spot in the Dark Squad, they are-

Candidate #1: Nib Addlespur.

“Hi there bigguns, I am Nib Addlespur of Redhill (a halfling village situated between Saltmarsh and the Farhill Mine). I'm a priestess of Yondalla, the matriarch goddess and protector of my people.”

“I've been working here for the Falcon, healing the sick and injured, teaching the children and generally helping out where I can. I've never been adventuring, ever, but I'm brave- and I assure you I am remarkably sturdy. And my spells will, no doubt, help when times are tough.”

“I understand the difference between the law in town, and the law in the wilds. I'm aware that things can get bloody, and nasty, when adventuring- but I think I'm up to the test. As long as the path of good and right is being followed...”

“This is my friend Lil, she's a goldfinch- she travels with me everywhere.”

Vinnie probes Nib- the druid has half-a-dozen questions, Ram and Daktari however have nothing to add.

Newt asks- “Can you see in the dark?”

Alas Nib cannot.

“Thank you for interviewing, you did very well. We'll let you know as soon as we can- we still have a few other people to see. Good luck!” Vinnie concludes.


Left to right, top to bottom- Inverna, Galandro, Donnabella & Nib.

Candidate #2: Galandro Luna.

“Hi there, I'm Galandro Luna- I'm originally from Amn, the merchant kingdom to the south. I came to Burle to find my fortune, maybe a year or so past. But the place seems as adept at stealing a man's future, it's just not as easy as I thought...”

“I have, over the last ten or so years, worked hard at my craft- I'm kinda a jack-of-all-trades. I don't have any spells to offer but I'm good with a sword, and a bow.”

“And I'm very helpful- and with a good range of skills- I'm nimble and stealthy, I can open locks and find traps. I can be very persuasive when I want to be, and love nothing more than entertaining folk with my fiddle.”

“I guess you'd call me an expert, but an expert at what- well, most things.”

Vinnie asks many more questions, Ram and Daktari say nowt, while Newt simply wants to know- “Can you see in the dark?”

Galandro cannot.

“Thank you for interviewing, you did very well. We'll let you know as soon as we can- we still have a few other people to see. Good luck!” Vinnie concludes.

Candidate #3: Donnabella Fiasco

“Hi there, I'm Donnabella Fiasco- I'm a mighty wizard, and I love unicorns. Neigh- Snoooort! They're so cute.”

“I trained in Waterdeep, my family ensured I had the best of tutors. I really do wuv unicorns- do you think we'll find one, in the woods perhaps?”

“I've not been in Burle very long, only a few months- it's a bit dirty, I prefer it here at the Falcon's Nest, it's much nicer.”

“Much more unicorny!”

“I'm an experienced adventurer, I've been in dungeons, and the Underdark, and the wilds- I can take care of myself, and my friends...”

“And any passing unicorns!”

“Yikes, I almost forget- the only thing I love, neaaarrrrlllyy as much as unicorns is...”

“...setting evil creatures on fire.”

Vinnie asks a series of semi-pertinent questions, Ram & Daktari giggle behind their hands, and Newt...

“I think we have the fire-thing covered... Can you see in the dark?”

Donnabella cannot.

“Thank you for interviewing, you did very well. We'll let you know as soon as we can- we still have a few other people to see. Good luck!” Vinnie concludes.

Candidate #4: Inverna Nightbreeze.

Is pretty much too cool for skool from the get-go.

“Howdy, I'm Inverna Nightbreeze, a wild elf of the woods- but, this isn't my home patch. I travelled to Burle from the Dessarin Valley.”

“I'm a hire sword, and great with a blade, and nearly as good with a bow. I have my own plate armour and my own weapons- as I say, I've been doing this kind of work for years. Before some of you were even born.”

“Evil humanoids- goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears and particularly orcs- they need to die, they're a disease- I'm the cure.”

“I'm fine following orders, but I wont lead a suicide charge, treat me with respect- tell me what I need to know and I'll get the job done.”

“I don't mind when things get bloody.”

“Oh, and I can see in the dark just fine.”

There are very few questions for Inverna, it would be fair to say that all of the members of the Dark Squad are in agreement.

But, Inverna's not hired yet- that decision comes later, there are more inter-party chats to be had next session.

But, she's the favourite.

[interview for a Sidekick 400 XP]

Then onwards- there's more yet to do today. To Burle, which is a wild and woolly frontier town. The Dark Squad's next next task is to return Granny Frogwart's former prisoners to their homes and/or loved-ones. Four of the five prisoners came from here.

And so, Farley Chipsticks- a fifteen year old lad is returned to his farm worker family, and the folk here are overjoyed- the Dark Squad have made friends for life. The grandfather of the family has a healing potion he insists the adventurers take, and if the PCs ever need anything else- food, a place to stay, anything...


Burle, in all its glory- looks a lot like Greenest... Shhh!

Next up Lucy Cockaleekee is returned to the Pink Pussycat in Burle, a house of relaxation (if you catch my drift). Miss Laura, the madame, gives each of the PCs a free pass for their next visit. Daktari, politely, enquires whether Miss Laura needs any shelves putting up? As it happens she has a whole host of DIY projects that need attention, the big barbarian promises the madame that he will be back, after all- “I hammer good!”

Cpl. Frank Diddles is returned to the Eerie, a fortified keep situated in the centre of Burle, a place the inhabitants can run to in times of trouble. Frank is one of the thirty or so professional soldiers that keeps the peace in the frontier town. His colleagues are very glad to have him back, and the Dark Squad get to interview with a young Captain of the Watch, after it is very clear that they have friends here, should the need arise in the future.

Last on the list is Stig Horsetosser, a big man now in his middle years, Stig spent a good part of his life at sea, but for the last few years he's been working here in Burle, as a chef. The change of occupation he tells Vinnie, has fixed his life. He's a much more mellow man now that he's flipping burgers at the Burger Lord, a fine dining establishment in Burle owned by the halfling, Larry Goldenarches. The Dark Squad are feted at the restaurant, and over the course of the next few hours consume a meal fit for a... Burger Lord!


Burger Lord!

[Rewards for the return of Granny's prisoners 600 XP]

Which brings us to the last bit of Dark Squad admin, which takes a few more hours to sort out, and concludes at Wendall's. Wendall's as it happens is run by Wendall Ubton, a youngish dwarf, the place specialises in manufacturing all manner of armour and swords. Wendall has the contract to supply lots of places in the region, and so there's a wagon heading out of this place more or less every day, and tomorrow there's one making for Saltmarsh.

The Dark Squad persuade Wendall to allow Tarbin Tul and Big Al Kalhoon to also make the journey.

Note, Tarbin Tul has got a big bag of saleable items (the PCs have emptied their bag of holding), these need to be delivered to Winston in Saltmarsh- the halfling is the adventurers favourite fence.

Further note, Big Al promises to reward the Dark Squad when they return to Saltmarsh.

[Wagon to Saltmarsh 200 XP]

That, at last, is what the Dark Squad got up to, more adventure- promise you, next time.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. To the Moon Pool.
  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.

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Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #060a: Before the Murder.

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

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*

Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 60a, and only a short one as real life was afoot, although there's two parts to the write up of this session.

Before, and after, the murder...

So, atm we're still just getting the between adventure stuff done, and... well, chatting about lots of things.

The date is first-day, 11th Mirtul, 1493 Year of the Purple Dragons
The time is 17:41 PM

The Dark Squad are in the frontier town of Burle, and after returning Granny's ex-prisoners to their loved-ones the adventurers decide to get a room, and food, and maybe do a little information gathering, just to check the lay of the land hereabouts.

Ram leads the way, initially to the Dead Goblin Tavern, but on brief investigation the place is a naughty word-hole, and the adventurers don't want that kind of thing right now.

Therefore, next up to the Red House Inn, which is much more upmarket- full of fat-ish business men and women, well-dressed all of them. The men (in the majority) mostly puffing on cigars. There are also games of chance aplenty here, and fine dining in the restaurant, and on enquiry the place even has a few empty rooms available for the night.

Ram, who is taking charge here- odd, I know, but Jim/Haggis (Vinnie & Daktari) & Bear (Newt) are both still hung-over from the festival they just got back from.

Bear attended the festival dressed as a Goblin.

Don't ask- the youth of today.

The festival was called... Bloodwitch, Bloodbath, Blood... fest?

I can't remember, but I digress.

Ram's in charge here, and he's paying- rooms for the night, food and a round of drinks- and there's only a few coppers change from ten gold pieces. But, this is a nice place, the fare is good and there's no trouble to be had in here, so well worth the money.

After the meal Vinnie leaves his colleagues for a while and heads out of town, into the woods and fields nearby. The druid is looking to top up on some essential herbs. However, in the early evening light Vinnie spots activity in the Dreadwood just a few miles away, he sends Owly to reconnoitre.

But whatever it was has gone- moved on, all that can be detected is the sound of hoofed quadrupeds (probably) half-a-dozen of them, or thereabouts- horses? Boars?

Who knows?

Vinnie finishes his herb-gathering and then heads back to town, Burle...

Back to the Red House Inn.

While the druid's gone Ram gambles a little- and makes a profit, but only just. He also asks around about any local 'issues'. His fellow card and dice players talk about raiding goblins, gangs of them either attacking farmsteads or else caravans on the roads. However, it's goblin season atm, so there's nothing out of the ordinary to report.

Newt in the meantime finds a friend, and with a little chatter- and patter, the tabaxi gets the low down from one of the working girls here- Marlene. But there's not much interesting to tell, in all truth the tabaxi is mostly looking to make a few purchases on the morrow, the warlock is looking for a very specific vendor.

Last thing for the night- when Vinnie gets back, and after another discussion it is decided to offer Inverna Nightbreeze (see interviews last session) a spot in the Dark Squad, a note is therefore sent to the Falcon's Nest to pop the question.

Then, an early night, keep in mind the adventurers have been pretty much at full speed for the last tenday or more.

[Chatter and that 250 XP]

And in the morning, at breakfast, the Dark Squad make their proper introductions to Inverna Nightbreeze, the elven warrior is welcomed to the Squad, and happy to serve.

Then... shopping.

Newt has discovered that Colliver's General Store has a back room filled with lots of fine wares, however reportedly a secret signal is needed to gain admittance to this special part of the store. As it turns out, after further discussion with Ram, the Squad have a way in- from what Newt has learned it seems that Colliver's is very probably a front for whatever passes as the Thieves' Guild in Burle (maybe).

And so a short while later and the Dark Squad are in the aforementioned special store, and doing deals with Old Man Colliver himself, Ram's Thieves Cant is the 'Open Sesame'. The adventurers spend a good chunk of their hard-earned money- Ram haggles his way into a Cloak of Elvenkind, while Vinnie manages to locate some Slippers of Spider Climbing, the rest is just a few potions here and there (all healing).

Note, the PCs don't have lots of magic items- a +1 weapon, something +1 of protection (some of them) and... a few other wondrous items and the rest consumables. So, I don't mind them purchasing a few things here and there.

Also, I like them spending their money.

Then a visit by Newt to Madame Parsley's shop, the small but well-stocked place contains all manner of arcane and/or mystical goods, 99% of it mundane- but all of it esoteric. The Warlock purchases some specialist ink (to scribe spells) but in the process is given a warning, or else a premonition, by the ancient elf (Madame Parsley)- “You will have cause to visit the Wild Woods!”

Newt makes a note of this- there's no other info available from Madame P, however the tabaxi will be back to see her again, particularly if as the ancient elf says- he has cause to visit the Wild Woods in the course of his adventures.

[Shopping and that 400 XP]

Then more shopping, however Ram and Vinnie become aware that they, the Dark Squad, are being followed- a pair of gnomes are shadowing the group, as they go about their lawful happy-consumer business. Eventually a plan is put together, the Dark Squad will continue on their rounds, while Ram will drop back and attempt to follow, and observe, the pair of gnomes tailing them.

Thus it comes to pass that Ram, after trailing the gnomes for a while, creeps up to surprise the pair, point of fact the rogue terrifies the gnomes- leaves both of them screaming (briefly).

As it turns out the gnomes are not hired assassins, or anything similar.

A little later the two parties have a chat, this in a wooded copse a mile or so outside of Burle- this is a top secret conversation, the gnomes- Cpl Fiddlesticks and Sgt Dibbledob of the Squabblepot Guard, insist. The two gnome guards are on special assignment, they have been sent to find...


They have a letter for the druid, here it is-


Oh, that's nice- a letter from Arty.

The text is as follows-


I am writing to you in the hope that you can help me, you and your companions in the Dark Squad. I am in trouble my friend, I know that we have only recently met but I hope that I can call you friend, but I digress- I really am in trouble deep.

I am at present awaiting trial in the gnome settlement of Squabblepot, the place that I have called home for the past five years.

It is burrow law that every gnome in my position be allowed someone to defend them- I chose you.

Will you help me?

I have no-one else.

Your friend,
Arty Swell.

Arty Swell, if you remember, is the gnome alchemist and potion/pox-cure seller from Farhill Mine. Vinnie has had many many chats with the gnome in the past, and also bought a lot of alchemical equipment from the fellow- the druid is keen to start making his own potions. He's even paid Arty a little money to teach him a few brewing techniques.

Arty is Vinnie's friend.

However, Sgt Dibbledob explains- Arty Swell has been accused of murder, he's in trouble deep.

Will Vinnie help Arty? Will he come to Squabblepot to investigate the situation? Will he speak for the gnome alchemist at his trial? Will he?

Of course he will, Vinnie is the good guy.

[Vinnie, and the Dark Squad, agree to try to save Arty Swell 250 XP]

The rest of this session is in the next bit.

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

  1. Save Arty Swell.
  2. To the Moon Pool.
  3. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  4. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  5. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  6. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.


There's never any chance to just calmly tick things off the old list without a new number 1 popping up - beautiful.

You noticed that, lolz.

I put together the Arty Swell Murder Mystery pretty early on when I was building scenarios for this campaign. I figure if I don't get it played now then I never will, and there's some good (plot et al) for the PCs to find in there.

Saying that I can't wait for next week's session, we're only one turn into the Wild Goat Race and already several PCs (by which I mean players) are trying their very hardest to win the thing. We've even had the first- "he moved more squares than me" complaint, and as I say... turn one. I think it'll get a bit more fretful before the end.

Apologies, the Wild Goat Race is in the next bit to be posted.

Also, there's a lot to be said for Fantasy Grounds Unity, I resisted the change from FG to FGU, and now I'm regretting that, but loving FGU all the more.

At times there's another layer to the action, because PC #1 can only see what they can see on FGU, which quite often- if you're Ram out front and on your own is... some enemies, and none of your colleagues.

The line of sight has changed things.

It leads to conversations (mostly OOC) like this-

Jim playing Vinnie: What are we going to do about the giant Thunder Boar?
Kev playing Ram: Giant what?
Bear playing Newt: Thunder what?
Jim playing Vinnie: Surely you can see it Bear?
Bear playing Newt: Nope, there's a tree and a bunch of vegetation in the way, I can't see a thing?

Jim playing Vinnie: Vinnie screams to his colleagues to get over and help him- "Garthok. It iz Garthok- he iz enor-mouse! Elp moi!"

At which point the DM informs the druid that alas the raging storm somewhat drowns out Vinnie's shouts and screams, then bends a little and allows Newt (the closest PC) to make a Perception check to see if he heard anything- '9'. Nope.

So, the question is- Vinnie, what are you going to do about Garthok the Thunder Boar.

Then, after the above plays out we go to-

Kev playing Ram: What are we going to do about the huge Shambling Mound that has me in its grasp and has already engulfed Daktari?
Bear playing Newt: Shambling what?
Jim playing Vinnie (& Daktari): "I can't even see Daktari- where's he gone?

Oh, how we laughed.

Stay safe, and thanks for taking the time- appreciated.

Cheers goonalan


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #060b: Fast Goat to Squabblepot.

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

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*

Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 60b, and only a short one as real life was afoot, although there's two parts to the write up of this session- this is the second bit, obviously.

We're adventuring again- Cpl Fiddlesticks and Sgt Dibbledob of the Squabblepot Guard have delivered a letter to Vinnie, the druid's friend and potion-making mentor- Arty Swell. has been accused of murder. The poor fellow wants Vinnie and the Dark Squad to help him, to save him, to investigate the matter.

Vinnie and the Dark Squad to the rescue, as always.

Also, and this one is for the players, there's a hefty chunk of plot to be found in here.

But here's the thing, and as explained to the Dark Squad by Sgt Dibbledob- Squabblepot is a closed burrow- this means that the gnome-warren is hidden, and strangers are not allowed to enter- usually. Arty's naming of Vinnie (& the Squad) to investigate/speak in his defence has proven to be the exception to this rule. The Dark Squad are going to be allowed in.

However, the burrow, Dibbledob further explains, can only be reached by a secret/hidden portal in the Dreadwood, and it's quite a way into the very dangerous forest, and time is of the essence.

The gnome guards however have come prepared, therefore soon after the Dark Squad get their collective gear together, and then make their way to the nearest point of the Dreadwood. There they rendezvous with their new gnome friends, who have the perfect answer to the transport problem- giant goats, slightly magical giant goats at that.

So, next up the Dark Squad get a crash course (excuse the pun) in how to ride a giant goat.

Note, these were the beasts Vinnie spotted in the Dreadwood, while out picking his herbs last evening.

The Dark Squad therefore spend an hour or more figuring out how to ride/control their new mounts, this activity however involves a trio of skill checks- during which at least two inspiration points (for re-rolls) get spent- the players are very keen. The results of these three checks generates the PCs Ride: Giant Goat skill.

As stated, all of the players/PCs do the very best they can to make sure their Ride: Giant Goat skill is high.

Just to say Vinnie and Daktari get the best results, the worst- Inverna, the new hire sidekick.

Then, as always, the naming of the giant goats-

Inverna rides Big Vern.
Ram rides Spartacus.
Vinnie rides Vin Van Goat.
Daktari rides Horny Pony, and last but by no means least-
Newt rides Belphegoat.


Get cha' motor runnin'! Head out on the highway! Looking for adventure. In whatever comes your way! Yeah, Vinnie gonna make it happen. Take yer goat in a love embrace. Fire all Newt's spells at once and, watch the tabaxi explode in to space...

Next, there are a bunch of rules that need to be explained to the players- including how Goat Control Checks work, how to use the giant goat's speed boost, and also how to turn the giant goat's magical headlights on (they're in the horns).

[Giant Goat Riding for beginners 500 XP]

Why all of the above you ask, well I'll tell you...

After three to four hours of unmolested riding fast through the Dreadwood, en route to the portal- and with the mounted Dark Squad following Cpl Fiddlesticks and Sgt Dibbledob, the company are all the way to the final rush.

Sgt Dibbledob rears his mount, and then points towards the track ahead-

“All routes lead to the portal, this is the final dash- a race to the finish?”

The Dark Squad heartily agree, Cpl Fiddlesticks sets the bet- 10gp for each rider in the pot- winner takes the lot.

Note, Newt has to borrow money from Daktari to pay his stake, I love it when 7th level characters have got no money. I'm doing my job.

Then- “Charge!”

Although, a final warning from Sgt Dibbledob- “Careful now lads, that bitch Nightshade has sent her orcs into the woods hereabouts. Last one across the bridge stinks like a goblin's armpit!”


Gentlemen! Start your goats!

And we're off...

So, the track is long- it should take approx. twenty turns to get to the finish line. There are multiple routes to the bridge, and with hazards aplenty en route. Furthermore any roll of '1', by any of the members of the Dark Squad (including Inverna), will cause the (otherwise beatific) DM to unleash a few orcs into play. Also, and keep this very much in mind- the PCs are racing each other to the end, some of them (all of them) are very competitive.

Very competitive.

But we only get one turn into the Wild Goat Race, then we're out of time for the session, I did say it was a short one.

The one turn of action however is very eventful, and more inspiration points get spent, and by the time the session ends Ram is (possibly) just ahead. The rogue has so far (in one turn, remember) managed to steer his mount, Spartacus, around/beneath a falling tree (as it falls) and then avoided another fallen log.

Vinnie is in second place (probably), he has avoided the same hazards as Ram but then taken a different route, racing Vin Van Goat into a wild leaf swarm/storm (not a monster, a hazard). The druid is struggling to see the track ahead.

Newt and Daktari have gone a completely different route altogether, the only hazard the pair have encountered is the goat chicane, the tabaxi- an angry rider (his Ride: Giant Goat skill is mostly Intimidate) manages to steer Belphegoat through the hazard. Alas Daktari overcooks the exit corner and the barbarian's giant goat, Horny Pony, spins off into a tree.


Newt hangs on around the goat chicane, and then gets shot by an Orc- don't roll a '1' kids.

But Newt rolled a '1' in there, and then spent an inspiration point to re-roll it.

But, I'm having that first '1'.

So, things are further complicated for this pair when a duo of orc archers start taking pot shots at them- Newt takes a hit, but then reacts by conjuring his Mirror Images- effectively there are now four identical tabaxi warlocks perched on the back of Belphegoat.

Daktari has to make a DC 18 Goat Control Check at the start of his next turn just to steer Horny Pony out of the tree he's lodged in, and the orcs are not going to stop shooting.

Inverna is taking the same route as Vinnie, alas the elven warrior is struggling- certainly in comparison with her new compatriots, she has not yet managed to control her charging beast- Big Vern.


The Wild Goat Race is under way, note Daktari and Horny Goat are in a tree. Note in this pic I've turned the option on so that the N/PCs can see each other, rather than just their own darkvision-enabled line of sight. Also note the two gnomes and their mounts are not on the map because... well, that'd be too much work, and besides the PCs just want to beat each other to the end (and come first).

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

[Wild Goat Race, hazards faced so far 300 XP]

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Win the Wild Goat Race.
  2. Save Arty Swell.
  3. To the Moon Pool.
  4. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  5. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  6. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  7. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #061: The Wild Goat Race (with PICTURES).

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

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 7 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*

Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

This is session 61, we started at about 7.45 PM, and finished at nearly 11.30- with a couple of short breaks and... we've still not finished the Wild Goat Race. We're seventeen turns into the event, which has been fairly hilarious throughout, maybe two or three more turns to play out next session- and then we'll be done.

I did say it would take around twenty turns to play through, in the previous write-up.

It's been great so far.

It wasn't D&D, well- not really, it used D&D 5e rules (sorta) of course, but it was just car wars- only with giant goats, and a bunch of orcs, and a handful of zombies, and a myriad of other hazards.

Grab a coffee, here we go.

But first a little recap of the rules(-ish).

Giant goats move forty feet, left to their own devices- they move and then dash (move again), that's eighty feet in a turn.

PCs can, if they wish (which they all did- every turn), make a Ride: Giant Goat check at the start of their turn. If they pass this check (DC 15) then the they can 'control' their goat (including steer the beast). Additionally PCs in control of their giant goat can use their action to cause their mount to speed boost and dash again- total move 120 feet/turn, nice.

Hang on to the horns!

There are a bunch of hazards that need to be avoided, or else... well, you'll see. These hazards are much harder to avoid (or whatever) if the PC is not in control of their mount.

Charging giant goats, and they're pretty much always charging, can make a free attack against any creature that stands in their path, if this attack hits then the target must make a DC 13 strength check or else be knocked prone. At which point the giant goat gets a free trample attack against the prone enemy. The giant goat then rushes on (continues with their move). Note the giant goat can make multiple attacks during its move, i.e. ram and trample as many folk in its path as it can get to.

Note, regardless of the outcome of the goat's ram and/or trample attacks it continues to race, and dash on- generating, of course, plenty of opportunity attacks.

All opportunity attacks however are made not against the giant goat but against it's rider, these attacks however are all at disadvantage. Keep in mind the dynamic is these giant goat's are really moving fast.

The PCs are mostly just hanging on.

I think that's it really... that's pretty much all of the rules that I've made-up/bent to fit, obviously there's a few other considerations for when the PC falls off the goat, but nothing extraordinary.

Oh, but the runners and riders are-

Inverna rides Big Vern.
Ram rides Spartacus.
Vinnie rides Vin Van Goat.
Daktari rides Horny Pony, and last but by no means least-
Newt rides Belphergoat.

Also, probably worth mentioning that the race, sorta, has four parts to it, four sections to the track- I'll explain as I go on. I figure I can best tell this story using the screenshots that got taken at the time.

Also worth reminding you that Newt has conjured his Mirror Images, atm Belphergoat looks to have three tabaxi's riding him.

Here goes...

Goat #1.jpg

The first section of the race track (starts top left), as you can see Route #3 (top) is a doddle, while Route #1 (bottom) is a bit of a bugger, although there's also plenty happening on Route #2 (middle). Don't worry, the three Players and their PCs are all on different routes- but the guy on the easy route (#3) is going to get the hard route in part three of the race, and vice-versa. You'll see.

Ram, on route #3- top track is having it easy.


Ram's giggling like a loon (top right), his fellow riders are a little less relaxed, they all really want to win this.

Vinnie & Vin Van Goat charge on!

Note, whenever the PCs come to a point on the map when there are multiple directions the goat can go they need to make another check to convince their mount to head in which ever direction they (the PC) are steering the beast. This check is much more difficult to do with an out of control giant goat.

On the map these are marked as "Goat Which Way?"


Alas Vinnie charges around the corner and spies Zombies on the track, you can see Vin Van Goat has already trampled one.

Vinnie's dice are mostly on fire, also he and Daktari (Sky Pony, remember) have got the best Ride: Giant Goat skills.

Alas Ram's dice checks are less convincing.


The Druid is moving fast, and catching up with Ram- note the Goat Which Way? pictured here, and beyond (to the north east) represent Part 2 of the race.

But keep in mind that Inverna has got the worst Ride: Giant Goat skill.

Also, Newt and Daktari- both on the lower, longest route are also being hassled by orc archers, a pair of them generated when Newt rolled a '1' last session.

Any '1' brings orcs- them's the rules.

Newt gets shot twice (once a Mirror Image, the second hit's for him), and so slows enough to blast an orc archer to smithereens- just to get the temporary hit points.

Daktari is having other troubles, he wrapped his goat (Horny Pony) around a tree trying to drift around a Goat Chicane, show off. The barbarian then fails to control the goat and/or extract it from the vegetation. A little later he takes to carrying Horny Goat along the track- rushing past a bemused looking orc archer en route.

"It iz my turn ride next time." He informs the confused orc.

[Daktari carries Horny Pony 100 XP]

The largest pool of light (top) is Ram leading Vinnie. The smallest pool of light (middle) is Inverna and Vern Goat in the process of trying to mow down zombies. The other (lower) pool of light is Newt & Daktari, they're rushing through a canyon and avoiding rolling boulders. Clearly this pair are in last place.

Here's Inverna...


Note, two of these zombies have been run over twice now- keep in mind this is comedy we're doing here.

Then Vinnie goes for the nuclear option.


What's going on here? Vinnie has summoned four more Giant Goats, and while all the Giant Goats have got their headlights on- two of the summoned four are sporting blue flashing lights. Vinnie has a police-goat-style escort.

[Vinne has a Giant Goat entourage 200 XP]

This hazard (picture above) is called- 'When the Wind Blows", basically there's a gale blowing along here (from the circle to the circle). All riders must make a check for every ten feet their Giant Goat moves forward, failure and they're blown back ten feet.

Vinnie gets bonuses because his entourage are sheltering him from the howling wind.

He's catching up on Ram still.



Newt, who has been riding angry for a while now is further unimpressed- Zombies in the road ahead. Daktari in the meantime has gone off-road, trying to cut a corner, alas he then rolls a '1' and generates some orc warriors for him to play with.

And here's what part two of the track looks like-

Goat #2.jpg

Why's the middle of the lake blacked out- well, all of the PCs got to make a perception check to spot the easter egg in there, but all of them failed roll. Note, this bit of the track is just a run around the lake, part three starts bottom right. But what's that? There's a log jam across the river exiting the lake at the very bottom of the map?

So, here's the big picture-


Newt is riding over Zombies (middle left), with Inverna just ahead of the (now mostly furious) tabaxi. In the lead are Ram (on the right) being followed by Vinnie and his Giant Goat train. But what's this... Daktari is attempting to steer Horny Goat across the log-jam, the barbarian has found a short cut.

[Daktari takes a short cut 100 XP]

Note, all of the PCs except Daktari have used up their inspiration points.

Which causes problems when Vinnie rolls a '1' and more orcs come out to play.


Look! There's Daktari, the Sky Pony barbarian has caught up with Vinnie. Keep in mind Ram is still ahead of this pair...

Ram surges back into the lead...


It's all going so well for the young pretender to the Giant Goat Riding crown.

Inverna & Newt?


Right back at the top of the lake, fighting the wind to get around- and look, there's a bunch of orcs on the track ahead of the pair.

Newt is really not happy.

And when I say Newt, I of course mean- Bear, who plays Newt.

Back at the front...


Ram's across the ford (left), Vinnie's following on but there are more Orcs on the track. Daktari looks to be on a much easier route.

And here's the big picture-


Just for info that's Inverna all the way at the back (top).

But then things get a bit webby, or else spidery, for Ram.

The rogue, who was on the easiest route previous is now on the most difficult path.

Goat #3.jpg

Route #1 (Ram) has three Giant Spider webs blocking the track, and an actual Giant Spider shooting fresh webs at the rogue and his ride- Spartacus, and then there are the water jumps. Route #2 (Vinnie & Inverna) is down the river- it's slow going but there are very few hazards here. Route #3 is the real easy route, only there are Tangle Vines that need to be burst through, or else...


It's all going off- Vinnie (with Giant Goat train) is heading down the river, but he has lost a summoned Giant Goat (killed by an orc). Ram has at last broken through the webs and is looking to jump the river again. Inverna is just above this pair- just about to join the river route. Daktari, unable to burst through the Tangle Vines is trying desperately to hack his way through them... but that's Newt behind him.

The tabaxi is catching up- he could go from last to first!


Vinnie is heading further down the river- he's banking on there being another way out of the stream, keep in mind the players/PCs can't see what's ahead of them (much) on the map. Note bottom right, Newt didn't stop for the Tangle Vines, he just launched a Fireball into the mess (but avoiding Daktari & Horny Pony), to clear the way.

[Newt fires his way through the Tangle Vines 100 XP]

Newt takes the lead, although seconds later Daktari remounts his goat and races on... but then fails to steer the creature south, the barbarian is now heading in the wrong direction.

But then lots more bad rolls (for some of the PCs) and now we're just about to enter the final part of the track.


So, part four- the last stretch of the Wild Goat Race is everything beyond the river shown here, the finish line (a bridge) is to the left (but still a few turns away). Note Vinnie's in the lead, but just behind the Druid is Newt on Belphegoat. Alas Belphegoat has just refused to jump the river. Oh, and that's Ram all the way back in last place now- bad rolls.

But then Belphegoat fails again to jump the river, even tips the tabaxi over its horns and into the wet. Newt really isn't happy, particularly as Daktari has just dashed past him, and look... there's Inverna.


Then Newt rolls another '1' and a few more orcs, with a clutch of worg runts, come out of the woods and start attacking the warlock and his ride.

Even Ram is back in sight.

And here's the last picture, and believe me it tells quite a story.


From left to right: Vinnie has shot out into the lead with his entourage/escort- the bridge/finish line is maybe 2-3 turns further on and around the corner. That's Daktari in second, following on are Ram and Inverna- side-by-side, racing for the third spot. Oh, but what's that island of misery all the way to the right?



So, here's the thing- Newt, after being thrown by Belphegoat (into the river) for the second time has finally had enough. Therefore he repeatedly Fiery Blasts Belphegoat, but not quite to death.

Belphegoat is killed a few moments later by a worg runt, but not before the giant goat rams Newt right back.

[Newt versus Belphegoat 200 XP]

Newt (& Belphegoat) were stuck at the stream for nearly three turns, he made (and failed) eight checks to get his mount to leap the water.

Just as Belphegoat dies another worg and an orc warrior exit the forest, and start attacking the tabaxi, who's Mirror Image spell has since run its course.

The tabaxi warlock is now bloodied and in trouble.

So, the question is- will he figure a way out of this situation?

Will any of his colleagues stop to help?

Although even if he shouts very loudly then there's only a chance that Ram and/or Inverna will hear.

Oh, and here's a thing Bear (playing Newt), the tabaxi spots another orc warrior that's just about to exit the woods.

It's getting busy.

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

[Wild Goat Race, hazards faced this session 2080 XP]
[Wild Goat Race, Zombies and Orcs (so far) 750 XP]

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Win the Wild Goat Race.
  2. Save Arty Swell.
  3. To the Moon Pool.
  4. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  5. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  6. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  7. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
Last edited:


One of my players just purchased a dire goat as a riding mount for her dwarven cleric PC, so I'm not only enjoying the race but making notes for possible future use in my own campaign.


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