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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 #071: Tracticus Halfpipe's Whispering Door.

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 71, and we're back into the swing of things.

The Dark Squad, fully recovered, are back to adventuring, the task- this time, to retrace their steps, back down into the deep dark beneath Squabblepot, it's time to check this place out thoroughly. Oh, and to find and have a chat with Randall the Black.

The ancient gnome warlock, best guess, and ex-member of the Eyes in the Night who was Ian with one I's boss.

The Dark Squad have a bunch of questions for Randall, will he be up for answering them? Well, we'll have to see about that.

But first up, as always, the Dark Squad have a chat about things- mainly the stuff explained above, the surprise package however in this chat is Newt.

The tabaxi warlock is very much of the opinion that they need to chat with Randall, the surprise being that's about the most sensible plan the tabaxi has come up with (ever) so far. Newt's plans usually, who am I kidding- always, involve a whole heap of death and destruction, preferably culminating in lots of folk 'going on fire'.

[Newt suggests diplomacy 200 XP]

The discussion then veers towards Vernon Hucrele, the Dark Squad's concern is not really plot-related, it's more to do with the revenants present status. In precis the question is- will big Vern be back and up and ready for action when they get back down below.

This after Newt makes clear, the warlock rolled a '20' on his monster knowledge check with regards to the revenant- Vernon ain't dead yet.

I mean, yes- Vernon looked dead, but revenants are not so easy to kill, they have a habit of getting back up again. The clue's in the name the tabaxi insists.

The final analysis is- watch out for Vernon when we head below, he's coming back.

No doubt about it.

The next heap of chat about Vern fiddles at the edge of the story- why was a paladin of Torm hunting down a bunch of innocent-ish adventurers who were (seemingly) intent on stopping the Time of Ash.

Which was Vernon's quest too, of course.

There's a little confusion, or else... no, let's stick with confusion.

How is this all happening?

Is it happening again?

And the follow up-

What is it that is happening?

It's great to see that the Dark Squad are beginning to get a handle on things.

[Vernon Hucrele is dead, but he's not forgotten 250 XP]

But, the Dark Squad are certain, some more of the story is going to reside below, with Randall the Black.

So, onwards... or rather, downwards.


Back into the basement...

Back into the basement, and from there through the dark, damp and rat-infested tunnels, all the way to a large high-ceilinged chamber that looks a lot like a chapel, the Dark Squad found this spot on their way back out of the depths. They didn't investigate the place then because Ram had just been nearly crushed to death by a trapper, and... the party, as a whole, were lost, out of spells, healing, everything; and just wanted to get out.

So, an ancient ruined chapel- maybe, skills checks are low to bad- it could be dwarven (and ancient) but possibly repurposed sometime between way back then and now.

There's a pile of stone, masonry and rubble to the north- nearly ten feet high, the ceiling it seems collapsed centuries past. But here's the thing... every now and then a few loose stones tumble down the rubble slope, and after further observation... the pile, every once in a while, shivers... and spills again.


There's something moving under there.

Ram and Daktari get together to dig through the mess, with the barbarian using Shatterspike (it cuts stone) to get to... a chest, there's something... perhaps several somethings moving about within the newly revealed container.

Ram, eventually, crowbars the box open and in the process releases half-a-dozen (beefed up) crawling claws, the undead appendages attempt to throttle our guys but, the Dark Squad take care of business.


Crawling Claws, blink and you'd miss them.

Keep in mind some of these encounters were designed to slow the Dark Squad down, they were against the clock on their previous save Arty run down here.

[Crawling claws 300 XP]

There's a little money in the chest, but not a lot.

Then on some more, and keep in mind throughout all of this Ram is off ahead on his own, stealth and perception checks aplenty.

The rogue finds, and is mid-explore, a large storage chamber when he's set upon by a swarm of rats, and then another, and... another.



His friends rush to help, and take a few bites here and there, but... the Dark Squad do-the-do, and soon after the rats are gone, again.


Rats! Don't worry, we're building the threat... promise.

Note, the Dark Squad- if they look back in this narrative, also encountered a swarm of rats in this area on their way down, I think they just forget that they had already explored this chamber.

[Swarms of rats 400 XP]

Then, down some more, this time back through the sulphurous caverns, which involves several tough descents, climbing around a pool or two of boiling/bubbling sulphuric acid (very low concentration- 1d4 acid & 1d4 fire/turn spent in the solution).


The first sulphuric acid pool climb around- Newt whines, more or less, throughout this bit. Here he is trying to get one his colleagues to lift/carry/fly/whatever him across. To be fair he only fell in very briefly for this one.


And here's the big descent, from where Newt stands to the rest of his companions is a series of stepped ten foot drops, and the bits that look flat in-between these are all canted at a 45 degree angle- heading down.

There are plenty of other environmental effects, including bubbling mud, a geyser, and... but the Dark Squad have been here before. Vinnie has his slippers of spider climbing, Inverna and Newt (eventually) gulp down potions of climbing, and Ram & Daktari are pretty good at the physical stuff anyway.


Climbing around a sulphuric acid lake, also equipped with a geyser and two bubbling mud pools.

There are no other threats here, which also helps, other than the environmental hazards.

[Spelunking 500 XP]

The Dark Squad, after a brief rest to recover, head on- down again into a series of narrow muddy tunnels. Home still to a great many rats, although no more cranium rat swarms. Vinnie convinces his comrades to use torches and fire to keep the vermin away- and it works.

The last time the adventurers were here they escaped the rat's lair to the west, emerging from the foul mud and stink into an ancient dwarven forge of some sort.


Muddy rat tunnels, the Dark Squad go right here, they went left the last time they were down here.

This time... the Dark Squad follow the rat tunnels north, and they're winding- and so it takes a while, and involves lots more cautious exploring. But, again the tunnels emerge into the same dwarven forge area, only these are chambers that the Dark Squad have not explored previously.


Back into the dwarven forge.

Last time they fought a bunch of undead dwarves here, and a bodak- the latter proving to be a very tough foe, and when they were done, they ran on- remember they were chasing Ian with one I first time around (and up against the clock).

So, what's to be found, well... two things.

Scratched into one of the walls here are a variety of threats, written in Abyssal Newt discovers after a short ritual (Comprehend Languages). Whoever it was that wrote these words in ancient times believed themselves to be the 'harbinger of the great dread serpent, the bringer of the dark.'

There's a lot of this kind of thing about, it seems. The Dark Squad take a moment to discuss this fact, particularly in light of the information presented below.

Also hidden away down here is a stash of coin, found by the side of the skeletal remains of a half-elf (Medicine '20' Ram) wearing a suit of black studded leather armour that is very clearly magical. While all of the skeleton's other gear has rotted to nothing, the armour looks (save for the dust and dirt) to be in fine fettle.

Furthermore, each individual stud on the armour is shaped like the rearing head of an enraged dragon, an incredible amount of skill has gone into the manufacture of this item.


The Abyssal script is on the wall to the south of Ram, while the Dragon Cultist's skeleton lies in the broken chamber to the east of Inverna.

The fight for who gets to take this is postponed until the next extended rest, note Newt and Ram both wear studded leather armour.

Half-a-dozen more skill checks later, a variety of subjects, and the Dark Squad are fairly convinced, the dead half-elf found here was very likely someone high up or important in the Cult of the Dragon.

But again, these ruins and the things found here... they're ancient.

[Abyssal warnings and the Dragon Cultists armour 300 XP]

Just to note, and I hope one of the PCs reads this- it is extremely unlikely that a Cult of the Dragon worshipper would write his or her threats in the Abyssal tongue, the Cult of the Dragon's script of choice would be... draconic, of course.

But... eventually, after another ten minutes of chatter and pondering the PCs head on, but just to say- still located in this area are the four sheets of incredibly expensive adamantine that the Dark Squad found first time through here. These, you'll remember, are too big to fit into the rat tunnels, or else- and I hope one of the PCs is reading this also, they can't go up- but they can go down.

So, down again, and there's a broken spiral stair here- exiting into the ceiling of a large natural cavern, the last thirty or so feet is just open space with a big pile of rubble below. The Dark Squad roped down from here last time, well, their rope is still here, and so down again they go.

Next, yet more of the nasty environment, this time a series of pools of bubbling mud, dotted here and there islands of solid stone.

There's a little bit of jumping (or similar) needed to get around this place, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Also present down here is a dwarven made opening, on one of the stone ledges, that leads down into an active magma chamber. The Dark Squad attempt to figure out what this is... and Vinnie dishes up a '20' for his history check. It's a vent. It is, of course, dwarven made- lava can be used in all manner of forge work, however it needs to be controlled, kept in check and at temperature, or else if it needs to vent then it needs to do it that somewhere safe. Like here.


Mud jumps and the vent.

The Dark Squad are beginning to realise, the dwarves have been very busy at something down here.

[Dwarven lava vent, and more exploration 500 XP]

But back to the jumping from island to island in order to avoid the bubbling mud, it requires two checks to safely cross the cavern- one is a DC 10, the other a DC 6.

Newt has failed the DC 6 check both times so far.

On the way down, and on the way back up again.


So, make that three.

Here's the thing, there was no-one around that VTT last night that didn't think the tabaxi was going to fall in.

Here's the slo-mo.

Newt, last one to attempt the jump (again), this after he fails to convince any of his colleagues for like the sixth time this session to help him across whatever environmental obstacle that lies in his path at present.

And... He leaps, and rolls an adjusted '3'.

Inspiration point to roll again.


The tabaxi lands in the hot mud and sinks up to his midriff in the bubbling gunk in less than three seconds flat.

Daktari drags him out.

Note, Newt only managed the first DC 10 jump after Daktari agreed to catch him, giving him a +2 on the check, because I 'm kind.

Further note, this tender Newt & Daktari moment leads to a very emotional scene.

Newt declares, in his special hissed whisper (which makes everything he says sound like a threat)-

“You are my right-hand man Daktari. When I take over the running of this organisation I will allow you to...”

At this point Newt (Bear) either pauses to add a little drama, or else pauses to think about what he could possibly say next that will sound... positive/up-beat/appealing.

“... to live.”

The tabaxi declares, imagining for a moment that he has delivered the Christmas message.

Which draws Ram into the chat, the rogue takes a moment or two to remind the tabaxi that Newt starts every encounter usually thirty feet or more behind the action and watching things play out while hiding behind whatever large object is closest to hand.

The half-elf gets on a roll and further reminds Newt of a variety of things he has fallen off or into etc.

The tabaxi, with a climb speed, really does fall down/into a lot of stuff.

I think the rogue's point is this- Newt, a/the leader?

Then Daktari joins in, the Sky Pony barbarian agrees, he states “I don't want to be no part of Newt's organ-a-my-zation, because you are cruel. You only talk me when you want things- you not say anything about how nice my hair. Ever!”

Daktari has a thing about his hair.

A little further on the adventurers arrive (again) at the graves of a trio of ancient dwarves, a crypt- Newt broke into one of these places previously, much to Vinnie's chagrin. Now it's Ramshambo's turn to try to cajole the druid into a little more tomb-robbing, ostensibly to see if there's anything plot-related in the graves. But the druid is still not allowing it, more remarkably Vinnie gets his way.

Newt is a little cowed at this point- or else confused, his honeyed words for the barbarian having been rejected, for the life of him he can't think why Daktari wasn't keen to get on board, he had just promised to allow him to live!

Do the rest of the Dark Squad not see Newt as leader material? Are they not all in awe of him?

The warlock is genuinely confused by this turn of events.

[More exploring and then a Newt and Daktari moment 300 XP]

Then on, and down another eighty feet of spiral stone stairs, and through a formerly concealed door behind an altar (to Dumathoin) into the chapel in which a pair of Spinagons were battled. But there's nothing more to find here, and the treasure chamber that previously held a bunch of traps and a pair of mimics- is ignored.


Storeroom to Ram's right.

Onwards, into another massive storeroom- the chamber is only twenty by twenty-five feet but its tall, over sixty feet to the dripping stone ceiling. There's a rusted pile of metal here, and... odd, the metal (save for the fact that its nasty rusted iron) is very similar in shape and dimension to the adamantine sheets the Dark Squad found earlier.

After another '20', Ram again- I think, the gang are convinced that the metal here was going to be used to build a scale model of... well, whatever. There's no clue as to what shape the finished object would take because- it's just a pile of ancient rusted metal now.

The Dark Squad are about to head on when Newt, conducting his own investigation, and clambering about the metal pile, slips- with another '1'. The following crashing, smashing, banging crescendo-chorus that echoes in the great hollow space for a short age is one of the loudest noises the PCs have ever heard. The metal pile collapses, Newt suffers minor cuts and bruises.

Remarkably the tabaxi doesn't have anything smart to say about the event.

Then another similar chamber, only without the high-ceiling, the only thing of interest here is the door.


The Door.

The first thing to note, stone blocks and boulders have been piled before the door- the barricade is only half finished. Just to make that clear- the stone has been brought here for the express purpose of sealing the door, there are no collapses here, this was deliberate.

The second thing about the door... it has a name plate on it, written in dwarven, it reads-

'Chief Engineer Tracticus Halfpipe.'

The chamber beyond the door is most likely Tracticus' office.

The third thing to note about the door, someone has taken the time to seal the door with lead, that's quite an effort.

And already the question has come up.

“My frendz! Shud we opun zis door?”

Vinnie asks, and then goes on to refer to all of the really bad stuff that they have opened that they probably shouldn't have, primarily, of course, the tomb of Ashardalon.

The fourth thing to note about the door, the Dark Squad decide to go on silent running and take it in turns to listen at the portal.

Two of the buggers roll '20'.

Daktari can hear a whispered voice coming from the chamber beyond the door, alas the barbarian doesn't understand the language being spoken.

Vinnie hears a whispered voice on his turn too.

The voice says.

“Must find the hands!”

Only in dwarven.

Which is odd for a couple of reasons.

The first being that Daktari speaks the dwarven tongue, the voice he heard beyond the door however was definitely not speaking dwarven.

How many people/things are beyond the door, and why are they whispering things in different languages?

And the second odd thing?

Two of the Dark Squad's prophecies mention the hands.

SESSION 19- Belphegor’s words to Newt in the sinkhole of the Forge of Fury.

Tell Wildroot that you wish to join the pact of flame, resist the urge to burn the woodsman to the ground- he will set you to your task.”

“Discover the last ancestor, she that lives under the cover of darkness- the hag will have the answers.”

“When the hands move the end will have begun.”


“For the pale dwarf without a face to beg you- only then should you take the ghost home.”


Ancestor #6 (after taking a monstrous beating, with two Crits from Buggles)-

I am Latgun, I am terror- vell, I fort I waz.
The hands are within one thousand teeth.”

So, there's all that to consider.

[The whispering door 200 XP]

But then we were out of time.

The PCs all have enough XP for level eight now, so that's really nice, they just need an extended rest.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Go down again- back into the deep dark depths, and then through the door, Randall the Black is down there.
  2. To the Moon Pool.
  3. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  4. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  5. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  6. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
But we'll revisit this list sometime in the future, no doubt.


And this isn't the door referred to in number one on the list above, that door was in the chamber in which the Dark Squad fought Ian with one I, the bone naga, Vernon and the kraken.

This is a different door.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

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Nice and creepy.

But of course there is no question ... "I'd like to look behind the door number marked 'certain death' please, Bob."

You know they're going to open it... they have to.

Mainly because I didn't write it for them to walk away.

There'll be a debate, at the start of the next session- I'd bet cash-money on the outcome.

I have a couple of great doors down here for the Dark Squad to prevaricate over, and the marvellous thing when you're DMing this stuff is, as you well know, you know what's coming.

They nearly didn't make it to this door, we were out of time for the session when Newt was playing silly buggers on the big pile of rusty metal.

But I had to keep going, even when Bear said- "What time are we going to tonight, Paul?", which is usually the precursor to the credits rolling.

The Dark Squad got parked before the door, read it, examined it, and... come on, come on- do it, you know you want to.

Listened at it.


Made my night.

Vinnie was for not opening the door from about thirty seconds in, Ram- he dares anything, and Newt just loves it when it gets dark.

Thanks for the replies, appreciated, but as above- there are a few more doors that the Dark Squad need to dare to get to the finale of this one.

I hope I can get in a few more moments.

Stay safe and well, you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #072: Sir Humphrey's Glorious Business.

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 72, lots of chatter in this one, a bit of a fracas, and then, but, well- you’ll see...

So, we’re parked outside of the door of one Tracticus Halfpipe, Chief Engineer- a dwarf, no doubt, from back in the days when this place was up and running. This place being some sort of forge producing sheets of adamantine, a long long time ago... possibly, probably.

A whispered voice (speaking in dwarven) from behind the door ahead made mention of the ‘hands’, you remember that? However, a/the whispering voice also spoke to Daktari, but not in a language the barbarian can understand (and he too understands the dwarven tongue), so- two whispering voices? What gives?


This look familiar?

As predicted the start of this session is mostly a phat chunk of chatter, the subject- the door of course, in precis-

Vinnie- “We shud leaf it all-own, it iz not fer uz!”

Ram- “Are you mad? Or just yeller? We’re here to investigate this kind of thing, not opening the door is not an option.”

Newt- “YES! Brave Ram! That's the spirit!”

But the more Vinnie keeps on talking, and cajoling and persuading, then… well, eventually a bit of ground is given; the option taken is, as Ram puts it (with a sigh)- “okay, let’s investigate the rest of this level, see what we can find, then we’ll talk again about the door again, no doubt.”

[Initial door chatter 100 XP]

Note the Dark Squad are also aware that level below this one is the great dwarven temple to Moradin that was recently home to a bunch of undead (including a bone naga), Ian with one I, Vernon Hucrele and the Kraken. So, they’re not in mad rush to head down their either (some of them) just in case some of the above are still about.

However, and we’re already 20-30 minutes in to the session here, Newt also has something to say, or rather to discuss with his best friends/compatriots.

Note, Newt is very complimentary to his colleagues throughout this instalment, it’s his new tactic, I think.

The warlock states-

“I’ve signed us all up for an expedition to Avernus, character building and all that- my Master Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar has insisted we ALL go, so… I just thought I’d keep you in the loop.”

The debate/argument (call it what you will) that follows rumbles on for quite a while, and grows edges at times, although I am happy to report that Newt handles the situation remarkably well.

Just to note Humphrey spoke to Newt about the Avernus jaunt all the way back in the big fight with the Kraken et al.

Back to the chatter.

Ram is not happy at all- “No-one is effing telling me what to do”, etc. etc. and he’s a little confrontational, of course.

Vinnie is even more vociferous in his reply, there’s a lot of- “I will not be part-e to zis ter-ree-bul vent-chure”, and something like- “I will not consort wiz ze de-mon and dev-ils yew call frends.”

But again, it’s a little more heated than that, the pair seem to be very pissed off with the tabaxi warlock, but as I say, Newt remains remarkably calm and capable throughout.

“Yes, I hear you Vincenzo- there really is no need to shout. I understand what you are saying but I fear you are just shooting the messenger. I have no doubt we will be going to Avernus, by hook or by crook, as I say- I just thought it would be polite to let you know in advance.”

Eventually Ram agrees to debate this subject at a future time and place, his main concern (latterly) is- “What’s in it for me?”

He's a pragmatist at heart is Ram.

But the what's in it for me line was something I (your friendly DM) could work with.

Vinnie however isn’t going to work for demons/devils, his last words on the subject, “Count me out!”

Daktari just shrugs along, and Inverna is getting paid for this- so, she’s a mercenary at heart.

[The Dark Squad are (maybe) going to Avernus 250 XP]

Then the Dark Squad, still in a bit of a huff, head out to explore the rest of this level of the dungeon, as it were. The rest of this level however turns out to be one partially collapsed corridor off of which there are three broken cells, and… a trio of shuffling skeleton dwarfs.

The undead are destroyed in seconds.


Say goodbye.

[Some skeletons 150 XP]

There’s nothing else to be found in the area.

Further exploration therefore takes in the region of ten minutes, after which time the Dark Squad are back before Tracticus Halfpipe’s whispering door.

And… yet more chatter follows.

But it is curtailed quickly when Newt persuades Daktari to pile a bunch of wood and other combustible materials before the door.

Note the tabaxi (during his persuading- see above) is very complimentary about the barbarian’s hair, big muscles and can-do attitude. The warlock (as stated previously) is trying a new approach with his colleagues.

New Newt however is causing even more consternation for Daktari, as the barbarian states to Ram- “Newt is even more frightening when he is being nice! I do not like it. Although it is true what he saying about my hair.”

[Newt charms Daktari 150 XP]

So, an attempt is made to burn the lead that is sealing the door shut, this however doesn’t work as well as Newt expected- it’s very slow going. Therefore, after twenty minutes of fiddling with the process, and not improving it any, the warlock clears away his companions and ignites his Wall of Fire. Thirty seconds later and the lead seal is gone, and… SPUNG.

The scalding hot door expands, warps and springs open.

[Wall of Fire- door open 200 XP]

Ram observes the chamber beyond for a while, but no-one is actually getting too close to the doorway at this point, the PCs are all hanging back and waiting for something terrible to emerge from the room.

It doesn’t, of course.

The rogue can see shelves within, and a cabinet, and… a large metal cage, the cage looks to be intact- but empty. That's never a good sign.

This last fact doesn't go down well with many of the PCs.

The Dark Squad therefore wait a while for things to cool down, and then… Ram first, as always, they head on in- actually it’s just Ram and Vincenzo that get into the chamber, and the pair are sufficiently at the ready to spot the bad thing as and when it happens.



Something falls from the ceiling and lands with a splat between the pair, the thing is an undulating ooze like creature that is constantly changing shape and form, or else birthing from its bubbling body badly formed heads and faces, each with a gaping toothed maw that stretches and snaps at the two adventurer observers.

Then, lots of things happen at once, and mainly because the (much-improved) gibbering mouther rolls very high for its initiative.

A fist-sized blob of sputum is expectorated from a maw, it sails through the air narrowly missing Vinnie in the doorway, and explodes just outside of the chamber, instantly blinding in a phosphorescent flash Newt, Daktari and Vinnie.

The mouther then bites (with several maws) the druid and attempts to haul him to his knees.

Moments later and Ram and Vinnie are in further trouble, the ground beneath their feet becomes soft and clay-like- the rogue sinks a good six inches into the… stone.

He’s stuck, can’t move.

Then a head/face/maw combo emerges from the glutinous terror, it’s the head/face of a dwarf- Tracticus Halfpipe, as it happens, the dwarf whispers its secrets at the pair (although in random languages). The aberrant's other maws however start up their all-encompassing cacophonous babble.

Ram is suddenly very content to listen, although he appears to his friends (at least the ones that can still see) to be just standing beside the beast, smiling and… a drooling idiot at present.

DM interlude- there was a lot of consternation in the ranks at this point, and keep in mind the mouther (although the PCs don’t know this) has the best part of 200 HP.

Things go from bad to worse.

Seconds later and the mouther recharges its spittle attack and does it again- and now just about everyone is blinded, Newt is also content to gurn moronically and listen to the babble.


Tracticus Halfpipe has let himself go.

But here’s the thing- the only damaging attack the mouther has is its bite, it keeps on hitting but…

The Dark Squad, eventually, get their act together.

Vincenzo turns into the Moon Boar, and then (still blind) runs away- into a wall, but outside of the area of effect of the aberrant. Inverna, once she is no longer blinded, also retreats; same for Newt, these three start taking pot shots at the mouther.

And even at -5 to hit and with disadvantage (the mouther is through the doorway, on the floor, and with a blind barbarian stood before it bellowing wildly and swinging recklessly- see below) they still hit it more often than not.


The Dark Squad are going through the gears.

Meantime a blind Daktari has been guided into the chamber by his companions, although that isn’t as easy as it sounds- the barbarian had to make a DC 10 Perception check (with disadvantage) for every five feet of his movement, to try to feel his way around the wall- or else discern what his colleagues are shouting, and then follow their instructions.

Initially Daktari wanders around in a small circle for a while, but eventually he makes his way into the doorway, and to the beast.

He failed his first six or seven checks and then never failed another one, bugger.

Ram, meantime, has started to make his saves, and to nip in and out of the combat stabbing furiously at the beast, but all the time retreating away from the beast. This while blind Daktari with rage, frenzy & reckless all running, keeps on slicing.

Moments later Newt helps out by Deafening himself and Ram, he also cast the spell on Daktari but the (raging) barbarian will not submit to the warlock’s dark magic, and so attempts and makes his saving throw, and thereafter spends every second or third turn drooling and standing statue.

But eventually…

The gibbering mouther is done for, ending its existence with a verbal tidal wave, a cacophonous blast of gibberish.

Basically the DM had lots of things for the beast to say, but the PCs barely got close enough to hear the it’s whispered clues to the plot (or else they were deafened), so I had to improvise and get them said somehow.

[Gibbering mouther 2300 XP]

So, what did the mouther say, well, lots of things- some of them silly, but also things like-


The Time of Ash!

The Swallower of the Light!

I know your secret Durgeddin the Black!

Through the Fire to the Light!

It's full of Stars!

Waiting for the Moon Man!



The Man & the Crocodile! It's there...

Y'know, that kind of thing, and of course a lot of this stuff gets the PCs to thinking, and a majority of the above comes courtesy of Vinnie, the druid has an anthropologist background, and so he's picked up a number of languages on the way.

[Last words and whisperings of the Mouther 250 XP]

So, there's that lot to contend with.

But there's more.

Tracticus' chamber gets searched, and the most obvious thing to be found here is... well, see the picture below.



The big writing (bottom right) says “TAO”, the stuff bottom left says- “The Supreme Being”, the Dark Squad, after a lot more chatter and a few rolls, are of the opinion that this is a crude map, corridors and rooms shown only. Possibly its a burial mound, hence the circular bit, or else...

Well, they're not sure really.

The diagram is scratched into the far wall of the chamber.

[Tao 250 XP]

The Dark Squad figure that it's important, as was the stuff that the Gibbering Tracticus Halfpipe Mouther was saying.

But, there's more.



Lots of it, plenty of coin (by which I mean a couple of hundred gold) a few gems and the odd piece of jewellery (all dwarven design) and a trio of magic items- a pair of slippers of spider-climbing, a luckstone and a pair of eyes of the eagle (all require attunement, of course).

Note, none of the magic stuff above is obvious, I'm not that sort of DM, but Newt puts Leo's Hut up, then Vinnie gets going with the Detect Magic ritual, followed by an Identify or two from the warlock. The Dark Squad have time on their hands, and they have a system- and this DM loves a system.

[Discovering the magic stuff 150 XP]

A few of the items get diced for and distributed, then... we go on, after a little light healing.

Down into the former home of... well, lots of bad stuff the last time the Dark Squad was here, and so- as always, Ram is sent out to have a nosey-around.

The place is much as it was, the remains of the naga and the skeletons are strewn about, but of the Kraken- not a sign, except for the new-ish rubble and destruction, also no sign of Vernon Hucrele- the holy warrior's body is gone.

Ram comes back to tell his friends, and then gingerly, oh so gingerly, the rest of the adventurers head on back in...


The slow creep back in.

At some point during this my Fantasy Ground Unity started to lock up, mainly due to the fact that the PCs on the map are all moving one square at a time, all of them, and all at the same time. It was very cautious, but eventually...

Before we get to the second door there's the balcony.

Over the far side of the ancient dwarven temple to Moradin is a second balcony, and on it the treasures of the naga, so... more loot, including an unidentified potion and a handful of magical arrows.

Then there's the door.

After checking the altar, and the statue of Moradin, and all around the area, the Dark Squad get to the door, just to the north of the statue. It's obvious that there's an entrance/exit here, and yet the key hole, cleverly hidden within the carvings on the wall, has to be located by the rogue.

The door however still remains a huge slab of stone, and the likelihood is it doesn't swing open, best guess it sinks into the ground. So, this is a mechanism.

The rogue, after a few more wise-words from his friends, and a little Guidance from Vinnie, tries and then fails to open the portal with his lockpicks. The consequences of which are a sudden wash of... well, something, three of the five PCs make their saves, the other two immediately spend inspiration points to try again- they both succeed.

So, something just happened, but they're not sure what.

The door, of course, remains shut.

Just to make clear, the Dark Squad know that beyond this portal is Randall the Black, so- they're keen to get it open, but at the same time not that keen to get it open.

Ram takes another moment to assure himself that the lock here is of masterwork manufacture, and therefore incredibly complex.

But that's not the issue.

“Magic users, you're up!” Ram hails Vinnie and Newt, and then steps away from the hefty stone portal, he's convinced that magic will play its part in the opening of the door, or else something needs to be doen about the magical trap on it.

Seconds later Newt rolls a '20' on his Arcana check, and so after a further ten minutes perusing the door the warlock has this to say-


Newt gets to work.

“It's secured with a lock, of course, but also an Arcane Lock- which will need to be removed. Also, there looks to be some sort of permanent magical trap present, I don't know what it does but I think it's most likely unpleasant. Perhaps the magical trap could be dispelled too, perhaps...”

Note, the Dark Squad have searched their various belongings, and racked their brains (with a little help from the kindly DM) but they do not possess the key to this door, nor have they ever seen it, the DM assures them. So, the situation is pretty much as described.

And again, the Dark Squad are not in a rush- it's also been a long day so far, it's evening time back up top where the sun shines.

Time, therefore, for a long rest- the motive for this is not just that Vinnie needs some new spells, but also- the PCs will be level eight when they awake.

So, Leo's Hut, everyone snuggle in, only... thirty seconds later and the cravat and smoking jacket wearing Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar presents himself for inspection.


“Toodles catkins, just thought I'd pop by...”

There follows some very fine role-play, mostly from me (LOLz), Humphrey is becoming a favourite, he's urbane, witty, well-spoken, posh and... nothing like me then.

“So, I can of course open the door for you, right now- if you are of a mind, collective or otherwise.”

There follows lots of sneering and polite condescension from the spiteful druid, kidding- Vinnie is very polite and very middle-class about the whole thing. Wanting to call Humphrey out for being scum, aka a devil or a demon, but at the same not wanting to rock the boat, so spending much of his time apologising for the things he's not saying. Also, great RP.

It gets to this-

“I have an deal for you fine and adventuresome folk. I'll open the door for you if you promise to come to Avernus with me to do a little 'job', and when I say little, I mean that you will be 'in action' for less than two minutes in total. You're job will be to keep a bunch of clowns off my back while I recover a long lost family heirloom. That's it- you hold the door, I fetch the doohickey, and then we ching-ching skedaddle. Oh, and to sweeten the deal I will give each of you whatever you ask of me, providing it is within my power, and providing you ask now, and we agree the deal.”

There follows a little more churlishness from the druid, his hackles are still up- and Vinnie (Jim) is doing his chatting in Moon Boar form and so his voice is French meets snorting tough guy (but not all that clever sounding).

Note, by this point in the encounter Newt has started to refer to his master as Sir Humphrey, and he's such a suck-up.

Try this with whispered menace-

“That's right, Sir Humphrey, you tell them.”

Then, Ram breaks ranks and does a deal- he wants to know the name of his father, and Humphrey can work with that, as can the DM.

Then, because Humphrey is focussing on the PCs one by one, Daktari cracks- the barbarian fetches out a pack of nuddy lady playing cards, he found them in a bandit's lair- ages past.

“I will do it if I spend night with all of these ladies, putting up shelves- I hammer good!”*

*Note, before this one gets misinterpreted, Daktari spent a night with three dryads back in session #59, he did lots of DIY for them, reinforcing one sexist stereotype but... not another. Daktari is mad keen on DIY, obviously.

Humphrey, after a little more chat with Daktari secures the barbarian's pledge.

Inverna is on board providing she's gets paid, so that's easily done, pledge secured.

Newt, well at this point the seven foot tall tabaxi is lying before his master having his tummy (possibly) tickled.

Note, it's Newt that eventually delivers the title of this session, this after Vinnie Moon Boar has finally consented to the Avernus outing.

Vinnie, eventually, gruffly states-

“I want nothing from you, I am no part SNUFFLE of this deal. I will go to Avernus with my friends to see that they stay safe. Nothing more SNORT nothing less.”

So, Newt's last line, and apologies if I miss-remember any of it, but it made all of us laugh a lot at the time.

“I will follow you to hell Sir Humphrey, and give my life to protect you while you do your glorious business.”

[Sir Humphrey's Glorious Business 250 XP]

At some point Ram, and the DM, have to look away.

The deal is done, although the kicker is, of course, the Dark Squad don't want the door opening until the morning, when they rise and shine eighth level.

So, Humphrey will be back then.


Look, they're all inside the tent (hut). Ain't that nice.

[Doing a deal with Sir Humphrey 500 XP]

But that's when the session ended, and we're on a week off again next week, Christmas and family stuff intrudes.

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

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

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

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #073: Randall the Magnificent.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 8
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (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 73, and a short one.

And a bad one, we haven't had one of those for a while, but now it's done- the next one will be much better.

A short one because we had a few PC problems, one of the guys had to reload all of the files for FGU, also... it was level up time, and that required (for some) quite a lot of discussion. We started the session at just after 7.30 PM and the level up debate and activity (making new macros et al) was still in full swing over an hour later. Then, for some strange reason the rest of the session on FGU was incredibly laggy, so... a bit of a bugger this one, which may account for some of what follows.

So, the Dark Squad are back down in the depths, beneath Squabblepot and back to the lowest level of the ancient dwarven ruins here. There's another door down here, in the ruined temple of Moradin, and this door is trapped and very hard to open. Although, Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar has promised to open the door for the Dark Squad in exchange for the guys signing up for a future trip to Avernus with him. The Dark Squad have agreed to Humphrey's terms (in the last session) although the Moon Boar (Vinnie) somewhat reluctantly. Then... an extended rest, level eight for the PCs and their sidekick Inverna, and at last- we're at the here and now.

Rise and shine and Humphrey is back to see the guys- the devil/demon/fiend patiently explains- the Dark Squad already have the key to this door, and a second clue- the key in question was manufactured by the fellow that made this place- the ancient dwarven adamantium factory.

“Shatterspike!” Daktari calls out from the back of the assembled adventurers, and he's right- the door is made of stone, Shatterspike cuts stone, this place was once the home of Durgeddin the Black, who also manufactured Shatterspike- Humphrey patiently explains.

“But ze trap...” Vinnie asks, the adventurers know that there's a permanent magical trap on the portal, but... as Humphrey points out- the promise he made to the Dark Squad was to show them a way to open the door, there was no mention of the trap.

The Dark Squad have been screwed, or else they need to remember that the words they use when dealing with demons/devils/fiends need to much better measured, the contract needs to be precise.

However, Humphrey is feeling magnanimous, he therefore wishes the Dark Squad good luck, opens the door thereby triggering the trap, and then duly disappears, still laughing.

An invisible wave of mental anguish washes through the chamber as the great stone door lurches upwards, and open, into a concealed cavity. The terror wave (alas) affects only Newt and the Sky Pony barbarian (the others passed their wisdom saves).

The pair, while squealing and hooting in fear, suffer a vision, it's this-

A bunch of nasty looking sea creatures (identified by Daktari as 'Soggys' = Sahuagin) arise from the waves and clamber up and onto the docks of a pleasant-looking sleepy sea-side village. Seconds later, as the gibbering Dark Squad pair watch on, and the people of this unknown place begin to suffer- to pay with their lives. The soggys set about about their terrible slaughter under the watchful eye of some larger leader type, although neither Newt nor Daktari can make out who or what this creature/person is (they both failed their checks).



Then, Daktari remembers that he has seen this place before, it's Ashby, the fishing village the Dark Squad were dropped off in at the very beginning of their adventures in the Saltmarsh region. The Dark Squad really liked Ashby, and the people there. Newt, if you remember, destabilised the economy in the village- handing out gold and buying rounds of drinks in the bar for the whole village.

The vision then was Ashby being invaded by sahuagin, and Daktari and Newt are both aware- this has yet to some to pass.

However, the Sky Pony barbarian, when the bloody vision is over, has another issue- his lustrous hair is now flecked with grey. For a while Daktari is distraught, the magical trap on the door has aged him fourteen years, he was thirty-five years old, and now he's very suddenly forty-nine.

For the rest of the session Daktari (played by Jim/Haggis) plays up his new found decrepitude-

“Slow down, what is rush? My hip hurts.”

“I am craving for boiled sweet.”

All delivered in cod-Russian tough guy moronic, as always.

Then, after more discussion of the trap and accompanying vision- the Dark Squad are keen to get to Ashby to save their friends, but also keener still to get to the bottom of their present mystery, and so... onwards. Or rather, downwards- to Randall the Black.

[The door, the trap and the vision 500 XP]

Into a shattered ruined crypt, with another thirty foot high statue of an armoured Moradin, there has been a battle here- or else a war, the floor of the great chamber is three feet deep with the rusted and broken arms and armour of the fallen. Hundreds died here...

The chamber is massive, and at its centre- Ram determines, he's scouting ahead, is a raised dais on which a very large and elaborate sarcophagi stands.

Although that's when the spinagons show up (that's spine devils to you) and start firing their flaming tail spikes- a pair of them. Several PCs take hits- there's a bit of a scramble into action, although a number of the Dark Squad (Vinnie and Newt) both call out to the empty chamber- they're looking for Randall the Black.


Spinagons, unpleasant.

Eventually a spine devil is blasted to death by Newt, and...

“CEASE!” Although the order comes in the infernal tongue, and is therefore only understood by Newt (and the spine devils). The fight is suspended, and the spinagons are soon in retreat, fluttering back up into the darkness above- the chamber really is massive.

The DM leaves the PCs alone for a little while, just to see what they're going to do, in truth it's not much- Ram or Newt (I forget which) has a look at the great sarcophagi at the centre of the chamber, sculpted on its surface is the image of... Durgeddin the Black. The master smith is depicted here with all of the magical weapons that the Dark Squad (& Buggles) have laid claim to, but also another- a great two-handed sword on the dwarven smith's back.


There's the dead spinagon, and just ahead of Newt (to the west) is the raised and pillared dais atop which sits the sarcophagi (another) of Durgeddin the Black. But there was nothing I could do (including doing nothing) to get the PCs to explore further. Or, at all.

So, there's another Durgeddin weapon somewhere.

Hang on, didn't Durgeddin the Black have another empty sarcophagi back in the Glitterhame?

What's going on here?

But the rest of the Dark Squad, they've not moved a muscle, even though the kindly DM has tried (repeatedly, because there's something here he'd like them to see) to encourage them to take a look around the great chamber.

But, nope- so that's that option gone.

Vinnie and Newt are however taking it in turns to try to get Randall the Black to answer them, they figure it was the gnome that shouted 'CEASE!” in the infernal tongue earlier, and they'd be right, and... eventually Randall chats.


“I know who you are, but at the same time- who are you?”

The Dark Squad take a moment to introduce themselves, but just to make clear- Randall cannot be seen, only heard, there's no indication where the gnome is in the chamber, although- and again, the PCs didn't attempt to look for him.

Or look anywhere other than where they are stood.

Randall chats for a short while- his voice at times wavering between calm and patient (as if talking to children) to a maniac's whispered growl (oddly, a lot like Newt).

Randall explains that he was a member of the Eyes in the Night, an adventuring party- but that was all a very long time ago- nearly two hundred years. He, and his fellow adventurers, were tasked with saving the world from the coming of the Time of Ash... and, hang on- the Dark Squad have heard this story before, it's their story.

The Eyes in the Night, according to Randall were/are the good guys.

Oh, and the Eyes in the Night adventuring party had five members, they are/were-

1) Ub, the dwarf, that's his tomb over there (the tomb of Durgeddin the Black) and he was the bastard that started all of this, and although that's his tomb Ub didn't die- he's alive still, somewhere, Randall is convinced.

2) Randall the Black/Magnificent, gnome superior warlock, crippled by being enthralled to two fiendish master's (sound familiar). Later it is discovered that Randall's fiendish patrons are/were an unnamed Old One (an ancient entity of the planar depths) and a very charismatic (but fiendish) gnome called Humpty Far-Far-Away.

Note Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar appeared as Humpty Far-Far-Away earlier in this adventure, so... Newt has more than a little in common with Randall.

3) Antonio De La Crane, a human druid who went mad, Randall tells the Unexpected that when it all went to hell Antonio spent his family's fortune to build himself a hidey-hole and go back to playing with his chemistry set, and there he ended his days. Does that sound like anyone, a druid who is into alchemy?

Note the tomb that the Dark Squad investigated in Saltmarsh cemetery that lead to the ancient Pact of Flame chambers was in the De La Crane crypt.

Further note the mansion in the woods in which the adventurers fought the Talos adherents (lightning and giant boars) was the De La Crane manse.

4) Shambles, also known as the Mapmaker, is/was a silver-tongued nasty little piece of work- a pragmatist at heart, always out for himself, always smiling- but with an awful lot of blood on his hands. Shambles, when things went bad, ran home too. Although Randall presumes him to be long dead.

5) Last up, the wild wood elf- Giggles, a flighty female full of fun, and a terror with bow and sword, what happened to her Randall doesn't know, although he informs the Dark Squad that Giggles was more concerned with fighting a dragon, what with her being the last member of some sort of ancient elven pact.

So, there's lots to chew on- and keep in mind that this stuff doesn't just get said, this is a conversation we're having (although in point of fact a great chunk of it does just get said, the players are not really with it atm), and so it takes forty or so minutes to establish the fact that Randall and The Eyes in the Night are on the same quest/task/path as the Dark Squad. Also, that the various members of the Eyes in the Night obviously bare a striking similarity to the members of the Dark Squad.

But here's the thing- it's not all plain sailing, Randall the Magnificent has, at times, during the relaying of the above demonstrated a tenuous grip on reality. There are fraught moments in which the PCs, again entirely Vinnie and Newt, have to scramble to say the right thing to the screeching maniac.

Randall is incredibly unhappy (apoplectic) to learn that he is the first member of the Eyes in the Night that the Dark Squad have found.

Randall is further mortified to learn that the Dark Squad have unleashed Ashardalon.

And, well... Randall is unhinged, and at some point he has made it clear, the only way he can come back- get back to his old 'existence' is by killing his present incarnation- that's Newt, of course.

I made that real clear over the course of the extended chat, all delivered in a manner akin to the terrifying tabaxi.

So, at some point the fighting starts up again, and over the course of the next hour or so (and about ten turns of action) the Dark Squad are forced to retreat, all the way back to their starting positions in the chamber.

The bad guys consist of half-a-dozen spined devils, which zoot and scoot about up above, firing tail spike after tail spike- 50% of these attacks are aimed at Newt.


The PCs are enjoying this bit.

Meanwhile from the knee-deep debris of ancient battle come four chain constructs, each of them a triple-headed flail-like device (each with a fifteen foot reach) that whirls and snakes and spins. These strange constructs cartwheel places and then lash out at the PCs.

And... so far around a dozen or more lemures- these slow moving very low rent devils are weak and have fairly ineffective attacks, and yet they keep obviously spawning from minor crypts off the main chamber, and then slithering slowly, like a wall of melted flesh, to the fray.

But just to make this absolutely clear, the enemies don't turn up all at once- at the start there were just two spined devils, and then there were four- and then two of the chain constructs made themselves known, and then two more, and then a bunch of lemures slither out of their tombs, and then another pair of spined devils show up, and then a bunch more lemures...

Do you get what's going on here?

I don't think the Dark Squad have figured it out, which is a real shame.

And Randall?

Randall doesn't show up until the session is almost at an end.

But when he does...


State of play just before Randall turns up. Newt's hit points are real low.

Randall is a small ancient flying undead (emaciated and dead looking) gnome, his body wrapped and sprouting snaking chains. Randall looks like a lich...

But here's the thing Randall hasn't attacked anything yet, maybe he's been busy doing other stuff...

The PCs, except for Newt, are mostly doing fine (hit points wise) but they're in retreat- or else looking for somewhere to make a stand.

But let me be honest, and forthright, this was a bit of a mess.

So, let's make a couple of things clear, so that there can be no recriminations with what follows next session-
  1. Randall gets what he wants if he kills Newt, the warlock right now is on five hit points and Randall hasn't made one attack yet- and believe me he's tougher than everything else in the encounter combined. I only put him on the map at the end because I felt sorry for you guys.
  2. Since this last fight has started none of the PCs have said anything to Randall, we've already established right at the start of this encounter that the way to stop the fighting is to engage Randall in conversation. Nobody has attempted this for the last ten turns, if at any point you had, well... we wouldn't be fighting right now, probably- depending on what you say to Randall, and keep in mind- Randall is a lot like... Newt. You've been practising talking to Randall every time you've had to chat with the crazy warlock tabaxi. Do you see what I have done here? Isn't it clever? What do you think the other members of the Eyes in the Night are going to be like? Eh! Clever?
  3. Randall is a member of the Eyes in the Night, an adventuring party who's members/goals et al mirror those of the Dark Squad, and yet the only questions you have asked so far are about things that you either already know, or else you could have guessed. I have written a list of possible answers for questions you may have, about the plot- about what happened to the Eyes in the Night etc. So far you have not asked any of these questions. That was really odd.
  4. I wish you had explored the chamber, I deliberately said on at least three separate occasions that the PCs should feel free to have a look around, except for a brief scurry to the central sarcophagi by one PC, nobody else moved a muscle. It's not that the answer to all of your problems is over the other side of the chamber, it's not- what is there is however an option.
Last bit...

Inverna (the DM) has stopped the fight, or at least called over twice so far to say- “Are we doing this right?”, or else some equivalent.

So, Newt's on five hit points- Randall has only just shown up (and he's 90% of the XP in the encounter) and all he has to do is kill the warlock. All of the other PCs are good to okay, HP & Powers/Spells-wise. It therefore may be time for the Dark Squad to have a chat amongst themselves, y'know OoC, and to formulate some sort of plan.

But that's when the session ended, it was funny in part but latterly a very large helping of meh, I tried (repeatedly) to try and get the players to think about what was happening here, but...

It was just odd, it felt like I had failed.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Go down again- back into the deep dark depths, and then through the door, Randall the Black is down there.
  2. To the Moon Pool.
  3. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  4. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  5. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  6. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
But we'll revisit this list sometime in the future, no doubt.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #074: Through the Fire to the Light.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 8
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (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 74, and another short one, because the first hour and a bit of this one was spent with the Dark Squad (players) talking (OOC) about how to get out of the situation they're in.

To make clear, the PCs are in retreat- from waves of slow moving lemure, while spinagons flutter in to fire their tail spikes (mostly at Newt). Also in the mix is a swirling flail-like chain construct, there were four of these things but Daktari armed with Shatterspike has been on the rampage.

Oh, and also present- he's just appeared, is a flying (formerly invisible) Randall the Black. Randall looks like a lich... that's not good.

I only had Randall show up at the end of the last session to give the PCs a chance- they had forgotten all about him (maybe).

The Dark Squad however know, because Randall told them this repeatedly last session, that the only way the crazy gnome can get out of this place (and his old life back, Randall thinks) is by killing Newt, who occupies the same spot in the Dark Squad/Eyes in the Night as he did. Which is the important role of- maniac demon/devil summoning whispering threatening terror, a vital part of any successful adventuring party.

The PCs are doing okay for spells, powers and hit points- except for Newt, the tabaxi warlock is down to five hit points and pretty much out of everything else- spells, inspiration points, etc.

You see the enemies have been arriving in waves, Randall has been summoning them- a few at a time, and the build up has been slow- it took ten turns to get to where we are, which for Newt is very close to death.

The PCs/players, in the last session, were seemingly content to let things play out, although Newt seemed to be panicking a bit- nobody had come to his aid, also... there wasn't really a plan.

The Dark Squad managed to stop an earlier fight by talking to Randall, over the last ten turns (in the last session) they have not tried this tactic again- shame.

So, an hour-and-a-half spent plotting for the players, and here we go, with...


Vinnie and Newt start talking ten to the dozen, they both have a lot to say very quickly- and its mostly a combination of cold logic tinted with kindness (from Vinnie) and silver-tongued begging with added lickspittle fawning (from Newt).


“Randall, yew ar bettur zan zis, zease zis fighting an tom-foolery, we muzt talk- we share ze same quest, to stop zer Time of zer Shad-ow!”


“Lord Randall the Magnificent, in who's power I bask, I beg of thee great dark master to cease your attacks! I am but a lowly apprentice before your magnificent horror! I abase myself before thee terrible master. Command me!”

And that's a lot better, the DM is delighted- and then doubly so when the usually reticent Ramshambow even deigns to add a line-

“Look, pack it in for a bit will you Randall, so that we can chat? If it turns out to be a choice between you and Newt, then of course- we chose you, I'll kill Newt myself, and with a smile.”

So, the persuasion check is at advantage and with +2 (for Ram's last line), and Newt rolls... '29', although that's with +7 from his Dark One's Own Luck.

Just to make clear, '22' wouldn't have been enough to stop the attacks, but '29'.


The fighting stops of course.

There follows a lot more chatter- between the Dark Squad and Randall, and while this is going on several PCs get to Newt with healing potions (note the Dark Squad don't have many of these).

Randall is keen to chat- he always was, and the topics and subjects are varied, here's a semi-list-

1) The times and history of Randall the Black, from Waterdeep where he worked in the entertainment business (he was a juggler, musician, mesmerist and escapologist) during his show-time days. Then the voice of Humpty Far-Far-Away intrudes (his patron) and tells Randall that he has a date with destiny. Soon after Randall marries Liesl (the PCs met her during their investigations) and moves to the closed community of Squabblepot. Then, one day down in Randall's secret basement (latterly Arty Swell's labs) Ub turns up (seemingly from below), and Randall's life is changed forever.

2) Ub is/was an albino dwarf, and seemingly a master smith (Durgeddin the Black?). He is/was also a wild-eyed dwarven adventurer, and a crazy prophet, telling Randall about all sorts of wild stuff. Most of it to do with the coming of the Time of Shadow, which must be prevented at all costs.

3) Ub, it seems, had not just been whispering in Randall's ear. Soon after the dwarf persuades the gnome to meet with his soon-to-be new adventuring pals- Giggles, a crazy wood elf from the region; Antonio De La Crane, the rebel (druid) son of a rich merchant from Saltmarsh, and Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit, another local- a quiet and unassuming halfling ex-pirate/sailor who is deadly with a blade, and in extremis- a little cruel. Together the five, after much more Ub inspired chatter, form the Eyes in the Night, an adventuring band. Their self appointed task, to prevent the coming of the Time of Ash/Shadow.

4) The Eyes in the Night, in their time, fought kobolds and goblins, dark druids and their plant-like servitors- in the Dreadwood and hereabouts. They were successful, and gained a degree of fame (and fortune). They also managed to locate four maze-like buttons (one each for Antonio, Giggles, Randall & Shambles), which Ub insisted were key to stopping the coming of the Time of Shadow. The Eyes in the Night were in search of the fifth (and last) of the maze buttons beneath Farhill when they were attacked by the grey dwarves. Note, at this point the Eyes in the Night were also being pursued by a crazy paladin of Torm (Vernon Hucrele, now a revenant) and his men.

5) Randall was captured by the duergar and taken back to their Underdark fortress called Deepbridge, he was tortured (chains were involved) and his maze-button was taken. Note the PCs have been to Deepbridge, or else they had a look around the place while in a Dreamstate, this after help from Hgraam the stone giant. This event all the way back at the start of their time in the region- when the Dark Squad were working at Farhill Mine.

6) Ub, Giggles, Antonio & Shambles all escaped, or else Randall isn't sure what happened to them when the duergar came, although these events occurred nearly 200 year ago, and so Antonio (human) and Shambles (halfling) must both be dead. Randall however knows that Ub is still alive, because the albino dwarf visited him twenty years ago (and brought him to this place) and here persuaded Randall to summon a witch from hell- an entity called Nightshade. Nightshade is, of course, the spirit missing from the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

7) Nearly the last bit, Randall suspects that Ub is behind all of this- manipulating things, to what end he does not know. Randall cannot escape the chambers he is in, he cannot pass out of this place (and he has tried). Ub told him (twenty years ago) that the only way to break this curse, for Randall to go free, was for him to kill one of a group of adventurers who would visit this place in years to come. The adventuring party in question would be very similar in composition to the Eyes in the Night, and Randall's target- very similar in powers to himself. In short, the crazy tabaxi warlock- Newt. Remember Randall was also a dual-patroned warlock.

8) The last bit- there's a door to the west, on the far side of this chamber- don't go through it. Randall and his companions in the Eyes of the Night went through it, and it changed their lives forever. Don't go through the door...

I appreciate that's a lot of chatter, and keep in mind, a lot of it the PCs already know- because a lot of it sounds like their story, sorta.

Note, the first thing the PCs suggest after hearing all of this is that Garumn, their PC dwarf, is actually another incarnation of Ub/Durgeddin the Black.

They do the work for you sometimes players.

So, lots of chatter, and of course it is two way- and so the Dark Squad are keen to tell Randall about their own study of Durgeddin the Black. Later Randall lets slip that he believes that Ub/Durgeddin is much much older, and that all of the dwarven chambers here, including the adamantine forge et al were all built by him and part of his plan. He's been at it for centuries, millennia perhaps.

At some point during the above the PCs, and Randall, decide to move over to the Ub/Durgeddin the Black sarcophagi- and to investigate it. The top of the stone bier is removed, inside- well, nothing, although... there's something scratched into the stone, and its crudely drawn.

Here it is...


It's a man with a crocodile on his back.

Note, Newt goes crazy when he finds this- he really doesn't understand the story (which was first told to the PCs by Arundil the dwarven ghost), what's it about- why would a man carry a crocodile. While the tabaxi is ranting Randall joins in- he too is incredibly angry with this stupid riddle, apparently Ub also had a thing about this story. The pair, for a short while, are joined in their hatred for the 'stupid' dwarf.

Basically, I- the glorious DM, got to mimic everything the crazy Newt was saying, only in Randall's voice, which is/was very similar to the tabaxi's. Funny that.

In truth there's not a lot of love for Ub/Durgeddin, the PCs- particularly Vinnie, are urging Randall to break free of the crazy albino dwarf's control- although how to do this exactly remains to be discovered.

Also, don't think for a second that the above is all plain sailing- to get through all of the chatter above, Randall (like Newt, keep reminding yourself) is off his rocker, and so on at least three or four occasions the chatty PCs have to talk the crazy gnome devil down.

And at least twice it gets back to fighting, all be it only briefly on both occasions.


Note, Newt finally determines that Randall is some sort of kyton warlock, a chain devil with spells.

Further note, during these brief skirmishes none of the PCs target Randall, and Randall is likewise happy for his minions to do all of the attacking- for now. After all, he'll just summon a few more if he needs to.

The PCs have at last worked it out- Randall is 90% of the XP in the room.

Note, at some point during all of the above Randall really starts to suffer, his head grows weird looking clumpy tentacles, and... well, he's barely hanging on to life, sanity and/or reality.

So, about ninety minutes of chatter, fighting, lunacy and terror. Now, that was what I was aiming for.

[Chatting and fighting with Randall and his friends 1500 XP]

So, towards the end of the above, the PCs, of course, want to know what's with the door that they shouldn't go through- there seems to have been a series of these.

Therefore, we get to this- Newt spies through a gap between the two great dwarven crafted double doors over the far side of the chamber, there's another room beyond these great portals. There's another door in here, but what else?

The tabaxi summons Gerald, his bat familiar, into the chamber and then examines the place using Gerald's senses.


Note, Randall has to be talked down again at this point, initially he ain't happy for the Dark Squad to keep poking around.

But the PCs just keep on talking, and keep on making a variety of social (and other) skill checks, and collaborating and/or using an inspiration point (here and there) to improve their chances.

So, the chamber beyond the double doors is seemingly empty, except for a less imposing single door, and two statues of armoured dwarves. The great double doors into here are not even locked.

Then, Randall tells the Dark Squad that the smaller door is the door that they really shouldn't go through, it's the door to Tao.

Red rag to a bull.

The devil gnome goes quiet a little after this, he stays out of the way- out of sight, keep in mind this is a very high-ceilinged chamber.

Needless to say mere moments later and the two great doors are open, and seconds later a crossbow trap starts firing at folk in the newly-revealed chamber, or else those that are detected through the now open doorway.


Then the iron dwarves get into action.

Inverna, Ram and the Moonboar (Vinnie) take hits, but the gang are giving out more than they get, that is until...


The Moonboar spots that the thirty foot tall statue of an armoured dwarf, previously seen over the other side of this chamber (the one marked Iron Golem here), is flying silently towards the action.

Panic ensues, but only for a short while.

“I ordure yew to stand down, in zer name of Durgeddin zer Black-a, who iz alzo known az Ub!”

The Moonboar holds forth his maze-coin, and screams the above.

Miraculously, it works.

The thirty foot tall armoured dwarf lands in a convenient spot, there...


A little threatening.

Eventually, after the other members of the Dark Squad beat down the two lesser dwarven golems (actually just animated armour with a few extras) Vinnie convinces/orders, still waving around his maze-button, the massive dwarven golem to depart. The crossbow traps also stop firing at this point.

[Dwarven golems destroyed or controlled 1400 XP]

Then... the door, it's a plain stone portal, although- as it turns out only Vinnie (with his maze-button) can open it, and beyond... is only blackness.

An absence.

Beyond the stone door is nothing.

There follows ten minutes of should we/shouldn't we? Then Vinnie steps into the black, and his friends follow- although the druid, in his head, hears a voice- asking him to confirm that each of his friends can follow. He gets a choice, and for a while the druid can't decide whether Newt should be allowed to enter.

The Moonboar thinks that Tao is a place of the gods, and he's not sure how Newt would go down with the gods.

The DM helps the druid to make his decision, pointing out that leaving Newt with Randall the Black and all of his devil friends may not be the safest option either (particularly for Newt).

Note, we're still stuck on the fact that Randall believes that his only way out of his present prison is by killing Newt. The Dark Squad have been presenting alternative options but none of them so far have struck a chord with the crazy devil-gnome.

And the last words the PCs hear as they step into the nothing are delivered by Randall the Black...

“Through the Fire to the Light!”

They've heard these words before, Tracticus Halfpipe the gibbering mouther said them.


The Dark Squad are stretched through time and space (a portal) and are deposited in a rumbling, and very hot natural cavern.

See that stuff that looks like liquid, in the depression, and the river to the south west- that's lava, viewed in Darkvision, the temperature here is in excess of forty degrees.

The bones here, and there are lots of them, seem to be the remains of creatures that were either horned devils or demons (of some unknown kind) or else... well, they're very similar in size and shape to Ashardalon (a nine foot tall elf/dragon combination humanoid).


The Dark Squad explore, trying to move quickly but cautiously- the DM has let them know, falling in lava will not end well, also the temperature is so extreme in here they will have to start making constitution checks at some point, failure resulting in their old favourite- levels of exhaustion.

A little way in and a pleasant (male) dwarf voice declares, not out loud- but in each of the PCs head's/mind's, the following-

“If you have come to this place seeking treasure, or your fortune, then first heed this warning less it be your last...

Turn around, flee this place- find fortune and contentment elsewhere- this is not the path you must walk, and the Gods watch the way.

For the Gods will not suffer those that seek to take what is only theirs to give.

You have been warned.”

There is no negotiating with the voice, no reply- whatever the PCs say.

The Dark Squad continue to explore, until...


A little further on, on the other side of the lava, is a pair of dwarven constructed doors, and two statues, easily identified- even at a distance.

To the north is another statue of the All Father- Moradin.

To the south yet another statue of Dumathoin, the Secret Beneath the Mountain.

Vinnie becomes Vin-G-Owl and takes it in turns to fly his comrades over to the doors, but that... that's all we had time for.

[Through the Fire to the Light, so far 1000 XP]

It's getting good again.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
  1. Investigate the Fire and the Light- Tao, and possibly more chatter with Randall the Black, or more fighting.
  2. To the Moon Pool.
  3. Goblins in the Dreadwood.
  4. Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
  5. To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
  6. Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
But we'll revisit this list sometime in the future, no doubt.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

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