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The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #138 Into the Mere of the Dead Men Part 3.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #037 Curiosity (nearly) killed the Cat.

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

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

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

Buggles’ new non-undead servitor
Halibert Shambles Male Human Ex-Warehouseman (Level 3), newly armed and armoured.
Halibert has been sent back to Farhill Mine with the Slagg Brothers, he’s not on this mission.

This is session 37, and a rolling maul, at least for the first hour or two- and yet another cracker.

Last session the Dark Squad, glorified caravan guards on the Slagg’s Farhill bound wagon’s were ambushed by a dozen or more bandits. They, very obviously, saw the attackers off- and then followed the bandit’s trail back into Witch Woods, they’re keen to have a look around this place as one of the prophecies they were given in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors mentioned the Witch’s Tor.

Are the two places connected? The Dark Squad are keen to find out.

En route to the bandit’s lair the gang were semi-savaged last session by a bunch of boars (including two of the giant variety), the attackers led by a shape-changing half-orc, this bastard also frazzled Vinnie with a Lightning Bolt. Then, after another victory, onwards to a door in a tor (hill) and beyond a crypt style lair (possibly). Alas, the door in question turned out to be trapped- and Ram and Buggles felt the heat.

The chamber espied beyond is indeed an ancient crypt, although with a few empty crates and barrels dotting the area, there’s another sturdy door exiting the place to the west. A hefty sarcophagus to the north, and with a rent- an opening, in the back wall, possibly the route graverobbers took in the past. This narrow passage is illuminated by flickering fire light, shouts- in the common tongue, echo from this direction.

“Rufus? What’s happening?”

The scene set let us therefore now begin the slaughter…

Ram ducks into the dark chamber and stealthily creeps forward, towards the sarcophagi and the opening in the far wall, and… gets shot by a bandit who bobs up from behind the aforementioned sarcophagi and fires a crossbow bolt into the half-elf’s thigh.

The rogue isn’t happy (his stealth roll was a ‘2’) and so changes direction and surges forward tumbling around the sarcophagi and stabbing the bandit through his cold dead heart.

A second bandit appears in the passage, just as Newt scurries into the crypt- two Belphegor’s Fiery Blasts later and the bandit is sent spiralling and flailing backwards, back out of the passage, screaming (briefly) and soon after burned to charred black.

He doesn’t survive.

Vinnie grabs out his wand, and spying an illuminated open area further along the passage, he conjures a swathe of entangling plants to fill the space, but the bandits- the PCs can hear them moving, are already in retreat.


The start of the fight and the end of the action, for a while- the shambling dead back in the Land of Bad Dead Ancestors fell for Vinnie's entangle spell (repeatedly) but not the bandits. The fight goes on hold...

It all goes quiet for a while, with the Dark Squad repositioning, readying and holding station, until suddenly a bandit’s head peers around the far-end of the passage, Newt’s reaction Fiery Blast causes the enemy to quickly duck back out of sight.

But now Ram is in motion- sneaking quickly forward to the end of the narrow passage, into a well lit guardroom with tables and chairs here, and to the east a larger cavern with dozens of bedrolls sprawled all about the lair.

There’s also another bandit knelt down loading a crossbow, the poor fool looks up just in time to watch Ram’s rapier pierce his face.

He dies, silently.

But at this point, back in the crypt, everything goes to naughty word, and remarkably quickly.

It goes a little like this.

Newt quickly tires off all the standing around. Note, the PCs held station in the crypt for two or three turns after Vinnie dropped his entangle spell- effectively preventing the bandits from coming out, or the Dark Squad from going in. That is until Vinnie is persuaded to curtail the spell, but at this point, well…

The bored tabaxi therefore rushes over to the sealed door within the crypt and yanks it open- unleashing a terrible spell- a black lipped mouth appears on the ancient portal and growls foul blasphemous curses.

But nothing happens. No effect.

All of the bastard PCs make their (DC 15 Con) saves.

Newt shrugs and continues his solo adventure, down a short set of stairs and into another much smaller crypt, there are two broken sarcophagi in here, and more importantly standing to either side of the entrance are a pair of now grinning wights.



Not what the tabaxi was expecting... although, undead- in an ancient sealed crypt with a terrifying trapped door, who would have thought it?

The undead stab and punch at Newt- bloodying (and worse) the now terrified warlock in an instant. The tabaxi has seen enough, and using his feline agility he turns and leaps back up the stairs- yowling and pointing back the way he came as he exits the smaller crypt.


Newt's Feline Agility used to be something he employed solely to safely navigate the battle, these days it seems most often to be used to escape whatever new terror he has inadvertently unleashed upon the Dark Squad.

[Curiosity killed the what now? 200 XP we laughed sooo hard]

Note, Newt also had a bag of temporary hit points- obviously they went first, and his hit point maximum is further reduced after the wight’s life draining attacks.

Daktari charges down the stairs and into the newly revealed crypt.

It may be worth pointing out at this juncture that the barbarian is being played this evening by Bear, who also plays Newt- funny that.

The cod-Russian yelling barbarian rages, and with Shatterspike, his magical longsword, starts cutting into the undead- and with a Crit and two hits, and while employing Reckless Attack & Frenzy.

The wights, of course, get into their work- and there’s no space for any other members of the Dark Squad to get into the fight, or even to see for sure what’s going on down there. That is until Vinnie begins screaming for Daktari to draw the wights out into the larger chamber, which eventually the barbarian comprehends and then complies.

The wights, obviously keen to escape their post-life prison, swiftly follow the barbarian out and into the melee.

Daktari takes hit after hit, and is very quickly bloodied, but Newt is still blasting and Vinnie is still failing to hit anything with his Produce Flame spell- just like old times. Buggles, in the corner, continues to fire his longbow- never missing. Ram meantime dives into the thick of the action- keen to get his undead bane rapier, Deadend, into play.

The fight rumbles on, and perhaps its worth reminding you about the bandits- so, what the PCs don’t know is that there’s another entrance/exit to the bandit’s lair. So, when the wights exit the crypt the bandit captain leader of this gang is positioned just outside the door through which the Dark Squad entered the crypt. The fellow is watching the action within, over the course of the next few turns the remainder of the bandits in the lair (including two thugs and a veteran) join their leader. They’re waiting for their moment.

Eventually the first wight is cut down by Ram, although it’s the cumulative effect- and the second wight doesn’t last much longer- the undead terror is blasted to pieces by Newt’s Fiery Blasts.

[The Wights are destroyed 1400 XP]

However, in doing so the tabaxi also retreats back into the doorway of the crypt, effectively presenting the bandits outside with the perfect target- Newt’s back.


Newt blasts the last Wight dead, safe at last... THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!

Crossbows fire, two bolts hit home- but that’s not enough, and so the bandit captain steps in and cuts Newt down, and soon after he’s failing death saves.

Meantime Daktari charges into the bandit captain now blocking the crypt door, he knocks the fellow back, and then with an inspiration point launches his attacks, the barbarian remember is still raging (and still employing Frenzy & Reckless Attack).


Daktari in the thick of the action. Note Newt's token is turned on its side to indicate he has fallen. Often, in game, the turning of the token procedure becomes a little ceremony, with at least one person hum-farting the last post, and always accompanied by only slightly supressed giggling.

Daktari gets in another critical hit, this one on the bandit captain, however he is also quickly surrounded, and taking hits himself- five in the next few moments.

Vinnie Calls Lightning into the clearing outside of the crypt, the first bolt electrifying three of the attackers, badly wounding two of them.

Buggles and Ram take it in turns to sink arrows into the bandit captain, and another Crit from Buggles there, and the critically wounded leader is soon after looking to escape the fight.

But that doesn’t happen, the frenzied Daktari cuts the bandit leader down, and then leaves one of the hefty thugs that was moments ago delightedly clubbing him, also critically wounded.

And soon after pretty much all of the bandits are looking to escape the fracas.

One of the thugs cuts and runs, and goes dashing off back into the Witch Woods, the bandit veteran however toughs it out and slices Daktari some more (including another Crit), the barbarian is breathing hard- down from seventy to about ten hit points.

Vinnie gets to Newt with a Cure Wounds, the tabaxi opens his eyes- “Are theyyyyy dead yet?”, he asks the Druid- who shakes his head in reply.

Moments later the rogues drop their bows, now that Daktari has moved forward and cleared the exit, and grab out their blades and leap into the melee…

It doesn’t last for much longer- Buggles decapitates a bandit, the last remaining thug tries to flee the scene but in an act of revenge is blasted in the back by a yowling and delighted Newt- the thug dies.

The veteran however is a much tougher proposition, and with good armour, a big bag of hit points and three attacks- it takes everything the Dark Squad has got with the trio of warriors (Daktari, Buggles & Ram) constantly harrying, Newt blasting and Vinnie Calling more Lightning.

Eventually the cursing brute is slain, Buggles applying the killing blow- and with yet another critical hit.

And… the fight is over.

[Bandits dead 1450 XP]

In retrospect I should have waded in with the bandits while the PCs were beset by the wights, but… I’m such a nice guy, ask Stu (playing Buggles) I bit his head off sometime during the above fracas.

Sorry (again) Stu.

Then calm… and the Dark Squad, after a cursory look around, head back into the crypt and take a breather for a short while, this after checking that the place is definitely deserted- no more enemies. A short rest is taken, and the exhausted barbarian and near-death experience Newt take a while to recover their composure, and their senses.

The area is searched, the crypt is a crypt- there’s not much else to tell- or else nothing of interest apart from a few treasures are found. It looks like the wights had been locked away for a while- centuries, perhaps. The bandit’s lair encompasses a pair of caverns full of the usual debris of a life lived in the wilds, and as thieves. Lots of stolen goods, a little gold and silver here and there and a slew of other portable, and possibly valuable, things.


The Bandit's Lair, or is it the Witch's Tor- it could be both.

However, there are few clues as to who the bandits actually are, the bodies of the fallen are examined- they look like toughs and/or thugs, hired hands- mercenaries. Which chimes in with the fact that some of the dead guy’s personal effects indicate that they had travelled to the Saltmarsh region from Luskan, and Neverwinter.

The Dark Squad are, of course, suspicious- and keen to report their findings to the proper authorities.

[Bandit investigations 250 XP]

However they are as of yet not convinced that they have found the Witch’s Tor mentioned in the prophecy. So, back outside, and then a short climb to the top of the hill (or tor), but- there’s nothing there, just a grassy/rocky plateau looking down over Witch Wood.

The Dark Squad can even see the lights of Lowden in the distance.

A lot of searching about takes place, but there’s really nothing on the hilltop to see, this (probably) isn’t the Witch’s Tor.

Although, there’s a beautiful moment when the adventurers stop to see if there are any shooting stars to be seen in the darkening sky. Just for info the Witch’s Tor prophecy mentions a ‘star fall’. Remarkably a shooting star flashes by, but that’s just because Gwen was looking to wish upon one, and she rolled a ‘20’.

[Gwen (& Buggles, it is implied) wish upon a shooting star 200 XP]

But it is getting late, early evening (nearly 8 PM), and the Dark Squad have a two or so hour trek, they reckon, back down the hill- through Witch Wood and to the nearest point of light on the map- Lowden.

And so it goes, and the journey is easy all the way, the sights and sounds of Witch Wood are normal- natural, nothing untoward happens, all the way to Lowden. The Dark Squad arrive at the large village just in time to get a drink, and after the flash of a platinum piece, a bath at a fine inn called the Tufted Duck.


From the Witch Wood to Lowden.

All is well with the world, and the PCs sleep soundly in their rather fine rooms, waited on- hand and foot, all for the price of one gold piece for the night. Vinnie warns the guys ahead of time not to flash too much money around, as he said-

“Take it easy mez amis wiz zer treasure, we ‘ave already destabilised the economy of Ashby.”

Just to remind you the PCs spent the best part of a couple of hundred GP in the village of Ashby in maybe two or three hours, and bought nothing much- save the hearts and minds of the good folk there.

The next day, suitably rested and after a full breakfast, the gang get directions from Reg Pikeshaft, proprietor of the Tufted Duck, to the local Watchhouse. Once there they eventually meet with the Lowden’s Watch Captain, Barbara Lighthouse, or as she becomes known to the Squad- “Babs”.

[Lowden and the Tufted Duck 250 XP]

Babs is a tough as nails, middle-aged, no-nonsense woman- and clearly knows her job and the region well. The Dark Squad report the events in Witch Wood, and also the bandit attack on the road. Babs is very grateful, she further warns the adventurers of sightings not just of bandits, but also of goblins on the move in the locale. Babs further promises to send a couple of ranger-types to the crypt/bandit’s lair in Witch Wood, if only to confirm the Dark Squad’s story.

Lastly, she promises to send a report of the Dark Squad’s activities, and anything else her people find out from the abandoned lair, to Elias Fireborn- the head of the watch in Saltmarsh. Elias, she states, is as keen as she is to ensure that the region stays safe. She further promises to send a copy of her report to Vinnie (who does most of the talking for the Dark Squad- as always) at Farhill Mine. The Dark Squad have made a friend, and someone with a little authority, that could be useful.

[Reporting to the authorities 300 XP]

Then… to Farhill, and so nearly four hours later, and footsore, the Dark Squad are back to the mine, and then after a little more shopping, and after also checking in with the Slaggs (and Halibert Shambles) the team are called into a ‘proper’ meeting with Manistrad Copperlocks and her factotum/shadow, Golf Kindle.

The PCs know this is a serious meeting because they are for the first time allowed past the guards and into the mine proper, it seems Manistrad has a real job for them… a paid job.


Blimey, this must be important, the Dark Squad are allowed through the door marked "Staff Only"

But we’ll get to that in the second part of this write up, keep in mind there was only forty or so minutes of the session left at this point. So, not much more to follow, but it’s a new adventure and so… well, it requires a separate update just to keep things neat and tidy.

See you in a bit.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
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As the ranger of the group, its my job to make sure we don't get lost, so I drew this map based on the directions given to us by old Dwarfy One-Arm. I think we can all head into the Underdark in confidence now. I realise I'm getting ahead of the DM here as he hasn't described our next mission yet, but its always best to be one step ahead. The only thing I can't remember is WHY we're going into the Underdark and what we're supposed to do after the Duargar Bridge, but I'm sure our friendly DM will illuminate those fine details shortly.



I'm just writing up the next part of the session, and so- at the end of your journey is a bridge guarded by Duergar, Manistrad wants to know what's beyond the bridge, why are the duergar guarding this place- there must be a reason?

And keep in mind, the Duergar can not learn about Farhill Mine, "you can't lead them back here!" was I think how she put it in the meeting.



Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #037b Manistrad’s Mission & Old Gorm’s Deal.

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

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

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

Buggles’ new non-undead servitor
Halibert Shambles Male Human Ex-Warehouseman (Level 3), newly armed and armoured.
Halibert has become an adventurer, he’s now a member of the Twilight Squad.

Good riddance, I say.

This is session 37b, and the start of something else…

Manistrad and Golf have a job for the Dark Squad, a proper job

“We may have a problem in the mine- Grey Dwarves!”

And the Dark Squad don’t much like the duergar.

So, they’re up for it- although first Manistrad delivers a short lecture on the joys of the Underdark.

The adventurers agree a price and get to meet Old Gorm, who has a story to tell, and directions to the Dark Squad’s destination.


Old Gorm, he looks like the kind of dwarf you don't want to REDACTED mess with.

“So, we went down vent shaft REDACTED and took a wander to the REDACTED cavern- that's a straight route REDACTED, and wide and REDACTED- the stone is REDACTED in places but an elf could find the way- no offence mister.”

“You'll be a REDACTED out when you hit REDACTED cavern, you'll have to watch all REDACTED and REDACTED when you're going over the REDACTED. The place is an REDACTED, it goes to lots of other places and so lots of folk pass by- keep your REDACTED open. You need to be on the REDACTED side of the REDACTED, REDACTED to the REDACTED- REDACTED- REDACTED side of nearly REDACTED, mind."

But by now you’ve got the joke- the thing is Old Gorm has advised the PCs of where they have to go, but… this happened in game, and the PCs had time to ask plenty of questions. So, I’m not repeating Old Gorm’s directions here (in this text) because that’s part of the test- the Dark Squad are going to have to find their own way.

If they get lost…

Snigger. Well, that would be terrible.

But let’s tune in to Old Gorm again for a bit-

“So, a hundred yards more outta the spider's lair and there's red heat ahead- magma, and a scree slope into it and a tatty old bridge. Real bad stone, no pride whoever built that thing- grey dwarves!”

Old Gorm spits in disgust.

“Anyway, sometimes you get a shimmer-light off the fire rivers, and we saw 'em- just in time, two duergar standing on the other side of the gap.”

“If it was just two duergar en route to someplace else it wouldn't have been a problem, but two of 'em guarding a bridge.”

Manistrad steps in here, and makes clear that they’re not looking to start a war, and very specifically what she doesn’t want is to give away the location of the mine. The grey dwarves cannot be allowed to follow the Dark Squad back to Farhill.

But Manistrad needs, real bad, to know what’s beyond the duergar guarded bridge, although she’s also a little afeared of the answer.

Old Gorm finishes his story.

“Anyway, that's when the bad stuff started to happen, we both knew we had to get back- only back in the cavern full of webs- well, the spiders were at us, and it got bad. Harfnag, was leading the way- half a dozen of the eight-legged bastards jumped on him. He never even screamed.”

“I ran, I ran and didn't look back.”

“Shot across the cavern and straight to the exit.”

“I didn't realise one of the little bastards had landed on my pack, bit me on the shoulder- I smushed it against a wall- killed it. But the wound got infected and... well, I'm a miner no longer.”

Old Gorm's right arm is amputated at the shoulder.

“Poison, remember to stay clean down there- it's a nasty place the Underdark.”

The Dark Squad, of course, have got questions- lots of questions, but eventually- the deal is done, they’re going into the Underdark on the morrow.

Three days journey to the bridge, and three days back again- should everything go well. The PCs conclude their business and then take the time to pack more food and water for the trip, they also stock up on a variety of other potentially useful items- rope, grappling hooks etc.

Only a little later the Dark Squad run into Old Gorm again, or else Old Gorm finds them out, and then ushers them into a dark corner for a discrete conflab.

“Listen fellers, what's it matter how many days you folks spend down below- as long as the job gets done right. Only, what with me losing my arm and all, and with Harfnag gone... well, we found something else down there.”

“I'd split the find with yer if you went and pulled it out, probably only a day or two out of your way?”

“What's your thinking- I'll spit and swear to share, 50/50- but you'll need to be all in or else I'll not say where the shine is?”

The Dark Squad are up for a little extra treasure, and the 50/50 split is agreed, and Old Gorm has a fresh set of directions to the shine.

“So, back in the REDACTED cavern, there's another way out- a REDACTED REDACTED passage by the REDACTED REDACTED- just follow the REDACTED and you'll find it. It's tight in REDACTED but, it's not impassable.”

And again, I’m not repeating the directions to Old Gorm’s treasure here, so good luck- you’re going to have to find your own way.

The Dark Squad have yet more questions, of course, but we’re over time already, and so the session… ends.

But just to make clear, more for the players than you dear reader-

Find the duergar bridge, find out what’s beyond it- do it stealthily if you can, whatever you do don’t allow the duergar to know that Farhill Mine exists.

[Manistrad & Old Gorm Underdark REDACTED quest 500 XP]

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.


Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #038 Too Smart For That.

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

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

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

This is session 38, and I don’t know quite how to explain it…

Almost nothing dies, by which I mean no enemies, oh but- sorry, two kobolds bought the farm (euphemism for deceased). That’s it, and I tried- I laid on a smorgasbord of unfriendly folk, and… well, read on- it was, weird.

It was like they (the players) were trying to do the thing that they had been asked to do.

Y’know, properly.

So, weird.

But let’s start with weird, picture this…

A low-ceilinged bunkhouse in a mine hut- six camp beds, a sprawl of clutter- a large wooden table, gouged and graffitied, and surrounded by mismatched chairs. A stove crackles and pops, as it warms the place, and casts light on the two hunched companions at the table.

The first an ugly elf, Buggles’ face is all odd angles- cheekbones that could cut cloth but the overall effect sometimes makes folk turn away. Opposite the clearly concentrating adventurer a short and slight creature- all bone and armour, the rictus grin of Gwen meets the rogue’s gaze.

Buggles nods down at the last card he laid on the table, and then nods again at the last card Gwen laid too.

Gwen follows her master’s gaze.

The elf continues nodding at the two (matched) cards, more vigorously this time.

“SNAP! Ohhh! Come on Gwen! It’s not difficult, I’m not going through the rules again…”

In the background, on his bed, the propped Vincenzo spies over his book at the card playing duo, mutters- as he often does, “Sacre-bleu, it iz… against nay-chure.” Then harrumphs some more until finally settling into his book- a treatise on dragon lore, most interesting.

“Remember if the cards are the same number… THE SAME NUMBER”, Buggles makes clear as he points from the ten of swords to the ten of dragons. “The same… a ten, we say…”

There is however another source of light in the otherwise shadowy room, another- smaller fire over in the far corner of the slightly fetid chamber, and sat before the small conflagration, cross-legged, and swathed in the smoke of expensive and cloyingly sweet incense is the tabaxi warlock, Newt.

Ram, propped on his bed, watches the strange creature like a hawk, very aware that Newt is up to something.

Vinnie had argued with the warlock earlier, called the tabaxi out for some of his ethical missteps- the worship of fiends, idolatry in general, consorting with devils, his ranting rages, his constant collecting of viscera and body parts, and for the fact that after the tabaxi has been in the bathroom there are always clumps of fur left on the soap.

The argument had raged a while, but Newt didn’t really understand Vinnie’s accusations, the tabaxi is soul bound to a pair of fiends, what’s he supposed to do?

But now the odd tabaxi is humming and rumbling some sort of dissonant non-tune, eyes screwed tight shut, and his hands, disconcertingly, in the flames.

With Ram watching on.

Finally the spell is completed, and at the last instant- in the tabaxi’s mind it is clear that he has a choice, is he seeking Belphagor’s favour, or else the favour of his new devilish beau, Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar.

Newt chooses Belphegor, his first love, his primo fiend.

The spell finds favour- the fire flares and…


The sound comes from above, something just landed on the roof of the hut- and now all eyes within the room are on the spot. Save for Gwen’s, the skeleton takes a moment to rearrange her cards, she’s going to have to work really hard to prolong Buggles’ winning streak.

But Shhhh! Don’t tell the elf.

“Well?” Ram asks.

“I have summoned a creature to help us with our task- to aid us during our time in the Underdark.” Newt declares with a fiendish grin, and then heads for the door of the hut.

“What av yew summoned? What man-ur of fiend av yew…” Vinnie splutters while levering himself upright.

“Just a bat.” Newt grumbles. “Just a plain old bat, nothing fiendish… nothing, strange. I’m fed up with you always… Oh!”

But at this point the conversation, and the members of the Dark Squad, have moved outside. In the last light of day, and silhouetted against the sinking sun on the roof of their hut is a bat, a nine foot tall bat- swathed in rubber-black cloak-like wings. Its furred, feral and somewhat fiendish looking visage starring down at the newly assembled crowd.

And in Newt’s mind a rumbling voice sounds- “Belphegor sends greetings to his faithful servant. I am… Gerald!”

“Oh fu…” Newt mutters, but out loud.

“Will he fit… in the Underdark, I mean?” Ram enquires, grinning.

Newt wonders the same thing, and seconds later the nine foot tall giant bat, sorry- Gerald, shrinks down to become, well... a regular bat sized (tiny), and then flutters down to nestle in the tabaxi’s fur, almost disappearing from sight.

Gerald will fit in the Underdark.

All is well with the world.

Excitement over, the Dark Squad head back inside.

[The summoning of Gerald 250 XP]

Gerald is Newt’s new familiar- I had no warning he was going to do this, it seems the tabaxi has given up on calling Jot to serve him (for now). Shame, I was keen to get the little guy back in action.

And so, early the next morning, the Dark Squad enter Farhill Mine proper, descend to Vent Shaft One- and it’s a straight path north from here, a full day’s trek- to the bridge cavern, and so on we go.

The Underdark is a dark and empty place, or so it seems at first- just to note the PCs are having to make lots of checks here, and with a little added roleplay at each juncture, a successful check moves the Dark Squad on- an hour closer to their destination. A failure or other mishap, well- there may be consequences.

But again, this first day’s travel, as Old Gorm made clear, is an easy-ish hike, north and down- don’t stray, stick to the main cavern passage and you can’t go wrong.

There’s only one mishap to report, an over excited Daktari (played by Jim (Vinnie) this session) attempts to lever a few boulders out of the path, alas at the exact moment he attempts his feat of strength the entire passage shifts and shimmies hard right. The newly loosed boulders become craggy bowling balls- the Dark Squad are briefly the pins, and several of them get skittled.

The tremor subsides, the Dark Squad (some of them) pick themselves up, dust themselves down- and after a few harsh words for the barbarian, head off again.

It takes a full ten hours for the adventurers to get to the bridge cavern, at which time we enter explore mode- and with Gerald taking the lead, Newt piggybacking the bat’s senses. But the bridge cavern appears to be empty, it is huge of course, and with the expected crevasse-cum-chasm bisecting it, bridged by, well… a sturdy looking stone bridge.


I swear to you it took over fifteen minutes to get the PCs from the edge of the map- bottom right, to their present position (approx. fifty feet away from where they started), such was the prevaricating and- I'm not going first. They were officially (TM) 'spooked', Buggles had been chatting up the dangers of the Underdark- see later.

[To the bridge cavern 250 XP]

The Dark Squad are very (very) cautious, it takes a good twenty minutes around the VTT to finally convince them that there’s nothing untoward or dangerous in the area. Gerald also locates a ledge to the northern side of the massive chamber, a safe haven- somewhere to rest, as Old Gorm told them.

Note the players are very much doing the ‘scare’ for themselves here- there’s lots of fretting going on, Buggles is doing great work for me- “we could be attacked from above, we could be attacked from the rear… This place is a terrifying death trap- remember that!” He’s a cheery bugger.

Eventually the Dark Squad get situated up on the ledge, this after spending another ten minutes creeping around to check the place out first- there are signs that other Underdark dwellers/travellers have camped here in the past.


The Dark Squad's ledge-top campsite, home for the night.

But again, the place is silent, safe… empty.

Newt conjures his Leomund’s Tiny Hut, and the Dark Squad shuffle inside for supper and discussions.

Note the first item up for discussion is- “Why is Gerald the bat wearing a cloak?” Buggles is ever-so keen to discover, but… What the hell? As it turns out Buggles has been working under the misapprehension that the giant/tiny Gerald is wearing a cloak. My initial description of Gerald mentioned that his wings were wrapped around him like a cape/cloak.

Buggles thought… but never mind, the elf is also keen to find out whether Gerald could be used for ‘rides’, and will he be allowed to pet him?

The strange wood elf has taken to Gerald, a little later in the session Buggles also orders Gwen to ‘guard’ Newt. It seems the warlock’s stock (already high) has also gone up again with the elf.

[The cloaked bat mystery 250 XP]


Hanging out in the Hut.

There however also seems to be a difference of opinion as to which of the tunnels the Dark Squad should be taking for the next part of their journey. The conversation goes back and forth for a short while, with each player taking it in turns to read their notes aloud to their colleagues.

Eventually, after a three versus one (Buggles) vote, a direction is decided.

Just to remind you Old Gorm gave the guys directions to the duergar bridge, a three day journey through the Underdark wilds, he however used various dwarven/mining idioms and colloquialisms in his speech. But the adventurers/players had all the time they needed to ask questions as things went on. It seems however that not everyone agreed on the answers and/or meaning of Old Gorm’s words.

Funny that.

It’s like the DM was trying to make it deliberately difficult, or else- obscure.


[Direction discussions 250 XP]

So, food and sleep- and already Ram is feeling the strain, one level of exhaustion after his first day in the Underdark, note he is however just about to sleep this penalty off. Let’s hope nothing happens before he’s finished his rest.

Note the PCs each have to make a DC 10 (at least- subject to activities) Con save or else gain a level of exhaustion at the end of each day’s travel, remember this is all rough (hot and dry) terrain- and with plenty of ups and downs, and also… well, it’s tense down here in the dark.

Ram failed his roll, and then failed again after using an inspiration point to re-roll it, it seems the swashbuckling ex-smuggler is less attuned to the Dark Squad’s present environ.

So, first watch- Buggles, and very soon after (maybe only twenty minutes later) the sound of yelping, yapping- and soon after all of the Dark Squad are on alert, there’s no need for the elf to wake his comrades, such is the noise.

Whoever or whatever it is coming is not trying to be quiet at all.

Just to note Gerald G. Bat is on watch up above the ledge on which the Dark Squad rest, while Gwen is sprawled in skeleton form at the foot of the scree of rocks that lead up onto the same ledge. The long-passed duergar has orders to attack any unknown creature that attempts to climb to our heroes rest.

So, Buggles is actually on watch, and there are indeed kobolds in the cavern, possibly dozens of them- from the noise (there are actually around about thirty). Seconds later and the rest of the Squad assemble to view the action.

Vinnie (and one other PC- but I’ve forgotten who else speaks draconic) can hear some of what the rabble are saying- it becomes clear that the kobolds are frightened and fleeing, something is hunting them.

The Dark Squad, and here’s the start of the remarkable, hold station. Even when a slew of kobolds skitter by- across the bridge and in prime position for a Newt flavoured Fireball, he does so love those.

The problems however start when a scattered bunch of the fleeing kobolds, this group lead by a winged variant, spy the ledge (but not the Dark Squad). The kobolds make for the newly spotted hiding place, activating Gwen’s watch.

However at this point Vinnie has already laced the ground with his spike growth, the first kobold climbing to the ledge slips and succumbs to the razor sharp stones. Ram meantime shoots the flying kobold, critically wounding it- while Newt does better still.

“Flee this place, death is here- lead your comrades across the bridge!”

The tabaxi’s suggestion (spell) is accepted as the absolute truth, and the badly injured winged kobolds leads his terrestrial comrades away from the ledge and back towards the bridge.


They let Kobolds go... Sheesh. Are you sure this is the Dark Squad?

Although one kobold miscreant remains behind- fighting the newly risen Gwen, which is enough to raise Buggles’ hackles, the rogue/fighter sneaks into position and then shoots the kobold dead.

But that’s all she wrote… the remaining kobolds are watched from afar, but are otherwise allowed to flee the scene.


Quite obviously (in retrospect) this was a set-up by me- your fiendish DM, I figured (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the Dark Squad couldn’t/wouldn’t pass up on a bunch of easy kills, but the bastards gone and proved me wrong.


Buggles: "More demons?" Newt: "No, Maw Demons- Maw! Maw!" Buggles: "I know that but how many more? You're not making sense Catkins."

They are however in prime position to watch the main event, it starts with a pack of slavering hyenas that come rushing into the bridge cavern from the same passageway through which the kobold’s entered. In the midst of the hyena pack are a quintet or more of gnoll witherlings- the skeletal versions of the ferocious beasts. Also along for the ride are at least two squat maw demons- many-legged/limbed, massive-mouthed, ugly gurgling beasts, as identified by Newt.


The Headliners of the fight (the Gnolls) are allowed to go on their way- no show tonight.

Last to traverse the great cavern, and across the bridge in rapid pursuit of the kobolds, are the gnolls themselves, a pack of a dozen or more of the terrifying howling, slavering killers.

As Jim (playing Vinnie) said at the time- “Sheeet! We would have still been still fighting this lot at the end of the next session.”

I think there were between 50 and 60 potential enemies in the two groups.

It certainly would have been fun to get a three-way going on, but alas- it was not to be, the Dark Squad are too smart for that.

Hang on.

Hang on.

I’ve checked back through every session, I’ve never written that before- “the Dark Squad are too smart for that.”

Kidding, of course, but it was weird to watch.

And, of course, a great call.

[Watch the Kobolds and Gnolls rushing by 1000 XP]

The rest of the night passes without incident, this after the Dark Squad take the time to reset their watch, and after checking that the bridge cavern is once again clear of enemies.

Day one in the Underdark is done- it’s a dangerous place, just like Old Gorm and Manistrad told them.

So, day two in the Underdark, and the nor-nor-west passage is taken, and as Old Gorm stated the tunnel mostly slopes upwards, again it’s a fairly straight route, a few branching passages here and there but otherwise, well, the chances of getting lost are slight.

That said the journey is not without incident, about an hour or two out of bridge cavern and Ram leading the group, sneaking a little way ahead of his companions, spots something marked high up on a stalactite/stalagmite conjoined pillar.

This after a ‘27’ perception check.


How good are Ram's eyes? I can't see anything written there... He should have a go at spot-the-ball.

The Dark Squad gather and guard as the rogue climbs to see what it is- marked on the stone are elvish letters, although the usage is a little bewildering at first- that is until Ram works out that this is a drow sign. The warning states, “demons ahead”, which causes a little consternation in the ranks when translated.

But, this is the Dark Squad, and so we venture on- and the passage it has become noticeable is now dotted with high cavern openings either side of the equally tall thoroughfare. Note the main passage the adventurers are following meanders between five and thirty feet wide but is easily sixty feet high, the cavern openings are high up at almost roof level.

Then a scream, or else… but none of the PCs can identify either the location, except to say it came from ahead somewhere, or else the source- best guess some unknown creature with a mouth and a voice just met its demise.

The hearty trek turns quickly into a stealthy crawl, the Dark Squad spend nearly twenty minutes carefully, cautiously, moving along the main passage- once or twice there’s a noise- a gurgling sound, a crunching sound, a slurping sound but… otherwise, nothing else to report.

It’s… well, unnerving, but after another fifteen or so minutes it is evident that the threat has passed, and so the Dark Squad once again increase their pace, and they can collectively smell the damp and green- they’re expecting a fungus cavern of titanic proportions ahead.

And so it proves.

However, before we get to that just another little aside to report, Buggles- still doing great work by repeatedly reminding his friends just how nasty the Underdark is. The wood elf enhances the mood by making the following statement-

“Remember guys, down here we’re the prey- and not the predators.”

Which, of course, maverick number two of our group- Newt, instantly takes umbrage with-

“We are the Dark Squad, we are always the predators, never the prey.”

The difference of opinion however attracts only chuckles from the duo’s boon companions, and so we progress.

[Dark Squad predator or prey 250 XP]


"What are these? Enemies?" Buggles asks, warily. "Fun-guy" Vinnie simply states. Buggles looks momentarily nonplussed, and then decides to accept the compliment- "Thanks, you're not so bad yourself- I mean, you could smile more."

Into the aforementioned titanic fungus forest. Note the cavern here is perhaps a hundred or so feet wide, at its widest point, the ceiling undulates from twenty or so feet of headspace to places in which the roof is way beyond the range of the PCs darkvision. There is a slow moving but broad stream that hugs the eastern wall of the snaking cavern, while the rest of the way is a swathe- a forest of fungi of a myriad varieties, shapes and sizes. There’s also a well-worn trail that follows close to the river’s course.

[To the great fungus cavern 250 XP]

There’s a lot of wary going on here, and lots of checks getting made.


It's a massive cavern, or else the fiendish DM has set the square size for the map really small- it's just a matter of perspective.

Note Vinnie identifies several fungi that can be used for food and water- primarily barrelstalks, but he also locates a few clusters of nightlights, there’s a fair amount of bioluminescence in the here, and the hum, whirr and click of fulsome insect life.

There’s some thought of stopping to investigate the place a little more thoroughly, and talk about gathering some extra food and water, but the consensus is- let’s get on. This cavern, according to the Dark Squad’s collective notes, is going to take several hours to traverse, which proves to be the case.

But the Dark Squad are on it, and you put them in the initiative tracker and make them work as a team, well… it’s an absolute delight to witness.

Again, just weird.

There’s a brief discussion, a little way into this section of the journey, Old Gorm’s treasure can be found by following the river in this cavern, or so the Dark Squad say. But the decision is to head for the duergar bridge first, the treasure for the return run. There’s a vote, of course, the result- as almost always, three to one (Newt).

Have you spotted the pattern?

The one in the ‘three to one’ is always either Newt or Buggles, funny that.

And the last act of this session, well that’s the part in which the Dark Squad find the narrow tunnel, half submerged in mud and slip- the next section of their journey. This place they have all remembered, was home to a giant lizard which Old Gorm and his companion Harfnag fought and killed. It is, they have been warned, an ideal place for predators to gather and wait, and it’ll take the Dark Squad at least an hour to find their way through.

[Traverse the great fungus cavern 250 XP]

The other side of these tunnels will mark the end of their second day’s travel in the Underdark, they just have to make it through.

But you get what I am doing here, the Dark Squad certainly did- lots of skill checks, lots of description of what the PCs are doing, and lots of things to provoke their danger senses. Roll low on the checks, or do the wrong thing, and… well, bad things can happen. Roll high and/or do the right things and the journey goes on, unimpeded. The potential for harm (or otherwise) is apparent in every hour of travel, the Underdark is a different world.

The longest discussion at the end of the session was not the usual one, in which player after player recounts their PCs success, “how many did I get with that fireball?” that kind of thing. The main part of the chatter at the end of this one revolved around the fact that the PCs were a) restrained and cautious, and b) they were reliant on their skills, and not their ability to inflict unlimited (seemingly) hurt.

Good one, another cracker.

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 #039 Temporary Hit Points- the clue’s in the name.

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

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

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

This is session 39, and here we go some more, we’re in the Underdark- and it’s dangerous, although the Dark Squad are staying safe, playing it cool, not getting involved in any potential contretemps situations.

Real cool…

It doesn’t last.

And I know- the Dark Squad not just opening up with all that they’ve got, what’s that all about. I reckon they’ve all been replaced by doppelgangers. Pacifist doppelgangers at that.

So, this is the last leg of their journey for day two in the dark- a series of long low and windy tunnels, half filled with mud and slip throughout, and with low ceilings at every turn. It’s a right royal pain in the backside, and is going to involve plenty of checks en route. Gerald, the bat (if you remember, Newt’s familiar) is therefore sent out for a scout around, although the wily DM is describing what Gerald is sensing- and pointedly not revealing the map.

Newt is therefore trying the best he can to draw/work-out what lies ahead, and all of the passages just seem to lead to other passages- it’s not easy to figure the right way to go.

However, the place seems to be safe- no enemies spotted, top work.

Eventually Vinnie conjures a little Pass Without Trace and Ram, the danger man, leads the Dark Squad onwards.

[Recon 100 XP]

But, every now and then, there’s a sudden drumming or else clicking sound, Buggles hears it first, and then Vinnie tunes into it to. Something is quite definitely in here with the Dark Squad, at least that’s the conclusion drawn. Newt blasts fiery… well, he blasts randomly into the darkness ahead. Yes, he’s attacking the darkness (Can I have a Mountain Dew?). Apologies, that was a very old joke.

But there’s nothing showing itself and believe me the PCs are looking everywhere- I mean everywhere, 32 perception checks later and the gang have made their way though another area of low passage and are into a slightly more open space.

This larger sodden passage runs west to east, and with a twelve foot ceiling at it’s highest point, and it’s much wider- nearly twenty feet in places.

But the ticking, or clicking, or drumming sound is still sounding from back in one of the low passage the PCs have already passed through.

Vinnie and Buggles are now certain.

There’s some consternation in the ranks however, this mainly due to the fact that no matter how many perception checks- nothing is spotted, only heard. The PCs zoom in on the sound- no problems, but they see nothing, just another low-ceilinged empty (save for the muck and the filth) passage.

Vinnie is scrolling out loud through a list of potential enemies, mainly concentrating on those that are invisibility-enabled, or else critters that are able to camouflage themselves incredibly well. Or else the enemy is smaller, and hidden within the murk and the mud.

Or else… but you get what’s going on here.

Experienced players running through their back catalogues, trying to fathom what shape their next enemy will take.

Just to make clear we’re over thirty minutes into the session already, nearer 45 minutes, the PCs are less than fifty feet into this map- actually much less, they’re probs only thirty feet in to the tunnels.

Potential attacks are spotted around every corner, it’s slow going- so slow that Buggles, at the back of the crowd- and mostly keeping out of the chatter, starts up with his flute playing. Not exactly conducive combined with stealth checks, but… you get it, we’re at a crawl.

Last week it was Buggles’ job to stir the pot, this week Vinnie (and others) are doing my work for me.


So, this could take a while- if the Dark Squad keep this pace up, particularly as Newt remembers- Old Gorm said that it would take them at least an hour to get through these tight watery caverns.

[Initial attempts to get through the watery cavern passages 250 XP]

Fear not dear reader- that doesn’t happen, I’m just getting them lined up, the enemies are about to arrive. And I chose this moment because, well… Vinnie, in his best Hicks voice (Aliens), at this point did the “they’re coming from the walls, man”, line.

Although, at the time, he didn’t know that that’s exactly what was about to happen.

Suddenly the Dark Squad are beset from both sides- and front and back, by leaping, stabbing and slicing kruthik. Just young/hatchlings mind, but it takes a while for the PCs to work out what’s going on here. The little buggers, like trapdoor spiders, launching themselves at the PCs from their myriad holes in the walls, and the ceiling. The holes, all of them, covered by thin skins of dirt- it’s an ideal ambush spot.

They’re coming from the walls, man.

There are very quickly a dozen or so kruthik young in the fight, Buggles gets critted, while Gwen takes multiple hits- note these two are last in the party marching order. Daktari manages to cut one of the alien-looking creatures down, Ram repeats the trick, but the little bastards have tough armour and are otherwise proving difficult to hit.


"They're coming out of the walls, man!" Gwen proves to be a Kruthik magnet.

Gwen takes more hits (and she’s AC 19, and my dice are on fire), Ram gets clawed and sliced, Newt Belphegor blasts another kruthik dead.

Buggles gets clawed, and… Gwen takes yet another pair of hits, she’s bloodied already- note Gwen, when summoned, has around 60 HP, she’s 30 HP down at the end of the first turn.

Buggles is being remarkably calm.

So, watching on from the DMs chair, it became obvious that there were three distinct parts to this fight. This bit, the start of it (obviously) was all ‘action’, and the PCs took a few hits (quite a few actually) but, well… the enemies are only little kruthik, and so they rolled with it and stuck to getting the job done.

Vinnie conjures his shillelagh and gets into the melee- the brave fool, the druid smashes another kruthik hatchling down dead.

But the attack is relentless, Ram gets critted again, and Gwen… she soaks up yet another pair of hits.

Buggles however is a killing machine- trying to keep the kruthik from getting to Gwen. His Durgeddin the Black manufactured magical scimitar (formerly known as Slitheringhate, presently known as Mongoose) cuts deep- and seems to be doing a lot more damage than usual to the strange monstrosities. Two more kruthik hatchlings are sent to the void by the wood elf- both attacks are crits.

Oh, and Buggles is on another crit run this session.

Ram takes another hit, and very quickly the rogue is bloodied too, however he too manages to cut another enemy down.

At which point however a much larger kruthik variant explodes through a wall and claws Newt repeatedly.


An Adult Kruthik makes it's appearance, seconds later it is on Newt like a cheap suit.

There is yelping, a precursor to screaming- terror foreplay if you will.

Note the young hatchlings have in effect attacked from the front and the rear of the PCs, causing the Dark Squad to bunch up, making them ideally situated for the larger adult kruthik(s) to get into action.

Gwen takes another hit, it’s a crit- the duergar skeleton is down below 10 HP.

Newt blasts another kruthik to shreds, Vinnie goes feral- assumes his shifter form, both the warlock and the druid need the temporary hit points.

Buggles keeps critting and keeps killing.

Daktari enters his rage, the barbarian is also close to being bloodied, he needs the resistance.

It would be fare to say that at this point we, or rather- they, have entered the second phase of the fracas. I would caption this phase as- the struggle.

A second adult kruthik tears its way through the wall opposite, and is now behind Newt, it rips into the tabaxi who is very quickly down to 10 or so hit points, the warlock’s hellish rebuke singes the beast but… still it comes on.

Just to note around the VTT the player chatter has gone from-

Buggles: “What the hell are these little buggers?”, this after seeing the kruthik image on the VTT.


Ram: “They’re tough little buggers aren’t they?”


Newt: “Don’t kill that one! Don’t kill that one! I need a few of the little buggers (hatchlings) left alive, so I can blast them to pieces and get some more temporary hit points!”

It’s tense.

Gwen gets critted again, she’s down to 3 HP.

The raging Daktari comes to Newt’s aid- note the barbarian is being played by Bear tonight, Bear also plays Newt- again (as with last session), funny that.

The first adult kruthik is cut down, with a hit- crit combo.

Yep, Buggles again.

Newt blasts another kruthik hatchling to pieces. Kerching! Ten more temporary HP from his Dark Ones Blessing.

Alas, the warlock’s buffer doesn’t last long, they’re gone in an instant as the remaining adult kruthik manages to cut and tear the tabaxi a new one all over again.

Kruthik’s man!

Vinnie has seen enough- Vincen C. Bear gets his first bit of screen time. Note this is Vincen C. Bear, a cave bear, and ferocious with it (+8 to hit with his Durgeddin the Black manufactured insignia of claws enhanced attacks).


Vincen C. Bear, hardly a roaring success...

Jim, playing Vinnie, talks up his new beast- “Watch this!”

Too much, too soon.

He misses repeatedly, and then spends an inspiration point to roll lower still.

Gwen, still standing (just) crits, but fails to kill, a kruthik hatchling.

Remarkably this effort gets a very loud cheer.

That’s a sign, they’re fretting.

Buggles goes tonto mode (two more crits) and cuts down two more hatchlings.

The PCs ragged cheers however are soon curtailed, as the kruthik hive lord smashes an eight foot circular opening in the northern wall, and then spews a steady stream of acid into the densest group of flailing adventurers.


The Dark Squad get hosed (with aceeeed!). Note Kruthik top right, they're pleasant looking buggers ain't they?

Gwen is destroyed, Gerald- Newt’s bat familiar- same as.

Vincen C. Bear is reduced from full to 8 HP, and is left standing in a steaming acid puddle, rendered almost furless by the scathing blast.

Newt is down to 2 HP, and with no temporary buffer to help him.

It goes quiet around the VTT.

Although someone, I’m not sure who it was, keeps whispering the F-word on Discord.

We have now entered phase three of the fight, for the want of a better word let’s call this phase- survival.

Daktari charges directly into the hive lord, and gets busy with it (actually the ‘it’ the barbarian is busy with is mostly missing)- note the barbarian is already beyond bloodied.

The last remaining adult kruthik stabs and slices at Vincen C. Bear, and the great grizzly beast is down to 1 HP.

Hardly a bravura showing for his debut- he landed one attack from seven, although it was a crit.

Newt blasts the last but one of the young kruthik dead- and then breathes a sigh of relief, ten more temporary hit points.

Buggles, with yet another crit, cuts down the second, and last, adult kruthik.

The hive lord meantime recharges its acid spray (first time) and does it all over again.


There it is- the sound of screaming over the VTT.

Newt is back down to 2 HP (temporary hit points buffer gone again- they don’t last long do they?), Daktari’s HP are in the mid-teens, but the barbarian is going nowhere- death or glory, he just keeps swinging and more often than not (latterly) hitting the hive lord.

Note the players can see the HP bar on the kruthik hive lord, about this point Stu (playing Buggles) had this to say-

“It’s not gone down much has it?”

Jim (playing Vinnie) replies- “I was just thinking that!”

Followed (both, in chorus) by a big conjoined sigh.

Vinnie de-wildshapes back to shifter form- the cave bear thing just wasn’t working out, the druid flings a little fire (produce flame) and then retreats. Newt does something remarkably similar- fiery blasts and then away. The pair don’t want to get anywhere near the hive lord.

Note the kruthik hive lord is using the tunnel it created to hide in, retreating after each of its attacks, a little way further back each time- drawing the adventurers in.

Buggles joins Daktari in the thick of the action, and with yet another crit (his sixth of this fight, he crits on 19+).


Daktari & Buggles go toe-to-toe with the terrible Kruthik, Ram awaits Buggles' call- the pair are swopping in and out of the fracas. Meantime Newt and Vinnie do their best to dodge into sight of the Hive Lord- fire their spells at the hard to hit big bad, and then in the next instant get the hell out of dodge. A fairly accurate summary of the Dark Squad's tactics in most every fight.

And we’re back to the hive lord again in the combat tracker, and Fantasy Grounds auto rolls for the monstrosities acid spray recharge, and what do you know- it’s a ‘6’.

The acid comes again, but alas only Buggles and Daktari are now in range- the wood elf is bloodied, at last, while Daktari alas is down below 10 HP. What’s worse the barbarian is now swinging and missing- even spending inspiration points to miss some more.

Newt also misses with a pair of Belphegor’s fiery blasts, the tabaxi then has to use his feline agility to get away from the tunnel entrance, he can’t get hit again.

But then, at last, Vinnie drops a faerie fire on the hive lord- and that makes all the difference.

Buggles hits- crits, he’s terrorising the nasty bugger, the hive lords retreats some more- and, at last, its bloodied and beyond. At which point, and for the rest of the fight, the kruthik fails to recharge it’s acid spray.

The creature is much less effective with its claws and mandibles.

Buggles and Ram take to dodging in and out of the tunnel- making room for each other (and with their sneak attacks), while Daktari just stands there and takes it.

Although he doesn’t have to take much- the kruthik hive lord only hits one more time in the next two turns.

Remarkably it’s the barbarian that eventually smashes Shatterspike, his magical longsword, through the skull and brain of the kruthik hive lord.

There is woo-hooing, and at last I can call a break and go and pee.

That went to the wire, and took ninety minutes to play out.

[Kruthik ambush 3100 XP]

The Dark Squad are semi-broken, there therefore follows a scramble for healing, and then… resignation, they really do need to take a short rest- here in the tunnels, which is not optimum.

The rogues in the meantime locate the central area of the kruthik’s lair, there’s a little treasure to be had here, but… not a lot.

The adventurers eventually find a defensible location and hole-up there for an hour or two.

Note Newt and Daktari, even after spending all of their healing surges, are still not back to full.

Then, yet another hour in the dark and the slippery tunnels- and a few more checks, but the Dark Squad eventually scramble their way through the muddy passages and, at last, back out into a much more navigable/traversable Underdark passage.

Ram silently scouts out a suitable resting place, a serviceable cave just a little way further along the passage (after a ‘20’ survival check, and they deserved a break).

Newt pumps up his Leomund’s Tiny Hut and the gang shuffle inside for the night, and remarkably there are no interruptions during their recovery period. Note the Dark Squad, of course, set watches- and all of them manage to make their exhaustion checks, which were made slightly more difficult because of the extra energy they had expended.

But tomorrow’s a new day… although, but we’ll get to that.

[A well-earned rest 200 XP]

So, day three in the dark- and they should get to the duergar bridge today, there- that’s something to look forward to.

But to begin with the Dark Squad take a moment to get their bearings, and then… they get on with their journey and a little while later get lost, although only briefly- just for an hour or so. They’re descending quite quickly here, they’re going deep, just as Old Gorm warned them.


"Down Down Deeper, and Down!" As the ancient prayer to Dumathoin goes, you know the one- "Get Down Deeper and Down!" Remember it?

Nearly five hours into todays delve the Dark Squad enter a much large cavern- a massive cavern, a single stone span, maybe five or so feet wide, bridges a chasm that seems to descend forever. Although a brief investigation elicits the fact that there’s a mist within the yawning opening, and a grinding noise- every now and then, coming from the same direction.

The DM makes it clear, I hope, down is a long long way to fall.


"Down Down Deeper, and Down!" It's a catchy tune.

[To the abyss cavern 200 XP]

The Dark Squad therefore rope up before attempting the span- and because Old Gorm advised them too, or else the DM did in the guise of Old Gorm just to see if they would. All goes well- and they’re quickly across the stone bridge, then on into a maze of caves but… Buggles, don’t ask me why, decides to lighten the mood with yet another flute solo.

This event happens soon after a voice is heard, coming from the chasm- alas none of the Dark Squad can understand the language being spoke, nor can they identify what manner of creature that is speaking.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, flute solo.

And it’s a ‘25’ on the wood elf’s Musical Instrument check, a haunting melody.

Which, moments later is repeated, and again the noise is coming from somewhere down in the chasm, although at this point Ram has made his way through the mess of caves here and discovered that the chasm is ahead, as well as behind.

There’s another narrow stone span bridging the chasm ahead too.

And soon after there’s more strange chatter coming from the depths.

Newt has a breakdown, I can’t think of another explanation for it.

The tabaxi races to the edge of the chasm, capers on the spot while hissing and screeching something about ‘vowing to bow down to the great master of the depths’, honestly- the warlock is a fiend-tart.

Not content with having sold his soul twice already…

But then whatever it is in the depths starts parroting Newt’s words back to him, and in the tabaxi’s sibilant voice.

It’s getting weird.

I said it would.

Although Vinnie is now listing creatures (potential enemies) that have mimicry in their effects package.

And then weirder still- the voice comes again, but it’s a different voice- but it has something to say, something very… interesting.

“Garblegutts Palace, at the top of the stair!” Delivered in the snarling tones of the goblin tongue, and here’s the thing- Daktari understands it, and repeats it- to Buggles.


Note the red squares indicate the guessed at (Perception checks) locations of the various voices/sounds that the Dark Squad have heard. So, there's more than one of these things...

He’s looking for ‘the goblin stair’, see the prophecies earlier.

The wood elf makes a note, but still… what’s going on here?

Just to say- this fight- it’s coming, like the last fight, it took a bit of setting up.

At this point however the Dark Squad are staying safe in the caverns, not quite sure what to do next, and so a trio of the mimics go looking for them.

The mimics are gazers.

Daktari spots the first of them when he’s hit by its frost ray.


A pair of Gazers about to be discovered.

Note a gazer is like a very small- tiny, beholder, only with just four eyestalks.

Obviously nowhere near as powerful as a beholder, CR ½.

But, and here’s why- the PCs didn’t know this, at least for a little while- the Dark Squad very briefly think they have spotted a beholder (or variant). Which caused a little consternation.

However, Ram gets into action and fires and arrow into the first gazer on the scene, which bursts like a puss filled balloon.

Two more of the tiny floating monstrosities are spotted, but the pair swiftly descend back down into the chasm and out of sight.

Vinnie therefore makes an executive decision-

“Monsieur Shambow, I suggest we ow you zay- beat feet, and right quickleee!”

The Dark Squad attempt to hot foot it across the last remaining rocky span, alas it’s at this point that the PCs remember they are all still roped together (or else they are now roped in two groups).

The crossing of the bridge goes poorly, particularly when Ram leading the way gets attacked by yet a different gazer which lurches up and out of the mist. The rogue is swiftly dazed and then telekinetically shoved (almost) off the narrow bridge, he’s left hanging on by his fingertips.


Note Ram's token is turned on its side- that's the sign, short hand in game for 'man down!', or else PC in trouble deep. Just to say that was a 20d6 damage fall right there...

That doesn’t last however, the agile ex-smuggler scrambles back onto the stone bridge.

While Newt blasts the gazer to pieces.

Note there are more gazers here, in the mist- and they take it turns to shout/mimic things they have heard- I, your wily DM, have a random language table and a random things to shout table too. Unfortunately, nothing else that gets said over the course of what follows is understandable to any of the PCs.

Back to it…

Ram gets across the bridge, grabs his bow out and shoots dead another gazer.

Vinnie quickly conjures a fog cloud, and that just about does it- the remaining gazer’s get lost turned around in the now much thicker haze.

The (rope) entangled Dark Squad members manage, at last, to drag themselves across the very narrow bridge- although as they get to the other side two things happen.

[Gazer attack 600 XP]

The first, yet another gazer appears from the cavern the PCs just exited- it screams incoherently and is just about to unleash its eye ray attacks when…

The second thing happens.

The gazer is hit by a stone boulder about the size Vinnie’s head, the odd enemy splats into the cavern wall- destroyed, such is the force of the throw.

The Dark Squad turn to see an eighteen foot tall stone giant clambering up the wall of the chasm, out of the mist, and to their location.

“I am Hgraam. Quickly, people of the dream, run on to where it is safe.”

The giant grins and gestures very friendly like towards the caverns ahead, and remarkably none of the Dark Squad demur, or even stop to question it.

As Buggles said at the time. “Oh, he’s very nice.”


Hgraam, 18 ft. tall Stone Giant- V. Nice, according to Buggles, well- that's me reassured, if Buggles says he's alright- what could possibly go wrong?

But that’s about all we got up to.

Some more of this kind of thing, no doubt, next time when we get to meet Hgraam.

Yet another cracker, but I’m already looking forward to the next one, and I’m still not certain what’s going to be in it yet.

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 #040 Dreamtime & Nothing to Report.

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

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

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

This is session 40, and here we go some more, we’re still in the Underdark, and the Dark Squad have just met a stone giant-

“I am Hgraam. Quickly, people of the dream, run on to where it is safe.”

The giant grins and gestures very friendly like towards the caverns ahead, and remarkably none of the Dark Squad demur, or even stop to question it.

As Buggles said at the time. “Oh, he’s very nice.”

And so here we go again, and get a coffee- they got a lot done, and it goes on and on...

Hgraam leads the Dark Squad on into a defensible cavern, and away from the gazers that were blasting the adventurers with their eye-rays last session, at which point- encounter over, well… proper introductions are made. Hgraam is surprisingly chatty, the PCs perhaps had other pre-conceived ideas about how a stone giant should behave (i.e. more violent, less affable).


Note Buggles more often than not gets in close, he's no respecter of personal space, and while he sounds friendly (sometimes) he often let's me- I'm ready for my attack of opportunity/readied action- if the big guy looks uppity or skedaddles fast. He's all heart.

So, Hgraam explains (and at great length) he is a follower of Skoreaus Stonebones (a stone giant deity, the PCs later discover) and that he is wandering the Underdark to experience and discover new things, to learn new stories and… well, to live life in the present.

There follows of slew of zen style cod-philosophy about the here and now.

The Dark Squad, remarkably, dig this groove.

Buggles’ opening- “he’s nice”, gets shared about.

Hgraam asks the guys to explain what manner of creatures they are, and perhaps tell him something about themselves- a story, or similar.

More remarkably all of the PCs get on board with this- Ram tells Hgraam about the surface world (the Dreamlands) and more specifically about his time upon the vast ocean. Hgraam reciprocates and tells Ram about his time on the Black Lake in the Underdark. Buggles’ story is much briefer, as is Daktari’s, and Newt’s- Vinnie however writes a book, and then demonstrates his ability to Meld Into Stone. The druid makes it clear that he shares not just Hgraam’s outlook, but also his lust for life and all of its experiences.

Note, Hgraam also demonstrates the same ability.

Picture a pencil thin eighteen foot tall, all awkward angles, Buddha- sitting cross-legged.

Then picture him grinning as he sinks into the cavern floor until just his head is free of the stone.

Still grinning.

So, it’s all going swimmingly, and we’re already forty minutes into the session here.

It helps that a little way in to the piece, after introductions and the stories, Hgraam basically takes every item that he owns out of his pockets and pouches, and then puts it all before him. He then asks the Dark Squad if they need anything, he would be happy to make a gift of whatever he can spare. This is all that he owns…

But Hgraam’s gear is nothing special, so there’s really nothing the Dark Squad want- but they like the ceremony of it all, and the fact that he’s making the offer.

Buggles likes it so much he follows the giant’s lead, laying all of his carried gear out before him, and then asking Hgraam if there’s anything he needs- right back at you, big feller!

Hgraam takes a tinderbox, this after examining a bunch of other things that Buggles owns.

The other PCs are quick to follow suit, except Newt of course- the tabaxi demurs briefly but then falls in line. Note, Newt slimmed down considerably on the crap he was carrying when he ventured into the Underdark, so there’s no hard to explain viscera or mouldy body parts mixed in with the tabaxi’s belongings.


[The Hgraam love-in 500 XP]

So, the circle jerk continues for a little while until, well… Hgraam explain- he thinks it is his fate/story to help the PCs here- if they want help? He further explains that he can perform a simple ceremony/ritual which will allow the Dark Squad to go on an out-of-body experience in which they can travel with him a way in to the Underdark.

Their bodies will remain here- in this cavern, safe within the stone, while he accompanies them during this Dreamtime. They will have to direct the dream but… they can very possibly see what lies ahead on their journey.

The Dark Squad, of course, have follow up questions- but Hgraam is very reassuring, and explains precisely how this works… and there’s really no down side to it, although see below for the mechanics.

The Dark Squad have to pay a price for this service, but… the price is very simply one item from each of the adventurer’s carried gear- Buggles’ tinderbox, a torch from Vinnie, a bone good luck charm from Daktari etc.

Each of these items has to be ‘freely given and freely received- no obligation either way’, Hgraam makes clear, and repeatedly.

Again the Dark Squad are all good with this, point of fact they approve wholeheartedly.

So, now the mechanics- the out-of-body experience Dreamtime will allow the PCs to visit the next stages (maps) of their adventure to the duergar bridge. They will get to see the map/area and can observe what goes on there. They cannot however interact with their surroundings, nor can any inhabitants of the area see or sense them, or interact with them in any way.

However, in order to direct Hgraam to the duergar bridge they are going to have input the directions they received from Old Gorm, and… make a DC 12 Survival check, or something similar as they travel further on.

The caveat being that every skill check they make while in Dreamtime will also require them to make a DC 10 Con save to avoid (mental) exhaustion.

Note exhausted PCs cannot contribute further skill checks, they can talk, and observe, but they cannot make any more checks, or aid their compatriots in any other (dice-rolling) manner.

Note the exhaustion check DC increases by one every time a check is made- DC 11, DC 12 etc.

Last bit, when all of the PCs are exhausted then the Dreamtime ends and they return to their bodies back in this cavern, at which point they emerge from the stone.

So, the Dark Squad chat about the above for about four seconds and then swiftly agree to take Hgraam up on his offer.

Dreamtime it is then.

Therefore an hour later, after the brewing and drinking of fungal/herbal tea, and with much ceremony from Hgraam throughout the proceedings, the PCs slowly, surely- sink into the stone beneath their feet.


And into the Dreamtime out-of-body geode.


Comfy? NODS. Then let us begin...

The inside is much comfier than it looks, it’s like a plush in there.

So, Buggles starts the journey with directions for Hgraam, onwards to the cavern in which Old Gorm and his companion, Harfnag, encountered a bunch of spiders. The wood elf correctly points the way, and makes the DC 12 associated Survival check. Then however he fails his first exhaustion check, and so spends an inspiration point to try again, and… he does, that’s yet another failed check (DC 10 Con save).

Buggles cannot make any more skill checks to aid the Dreamtime journey.


See the title of the map- says it all. Scary, huh?

The Dark Squad therefore enter and observe a cavern home to a myriad spiders for a short while- it’s a large and nasty looking place, and not all natural stone. There are several statues here- but they’re hard to make out, covered in webs and associated gloom. The area has been shaped in places, constructed- much less natural. Newt is very curious about all of this, and willing to tempt fate to make a check to discover what manner of statues these are?

The tabaxi correctly dreams that the statues are dedicated to the dark dwarven god Abbathor, the Lord of Greed, as in the ruined temple the Dark Squad investigated earlier with Bang & Olafsson.

So, that’s worth knowing.

Is it?

Ram is much less sure, urging his companions to save their checks for the journey ahead.

And here’s the rub, the price for the above knowledge is high- Newt duly fails his subsequent DC 10 Con save exhaustion check, and then fails yet again- after an inspiration point.

Go back to the last picture above- check out the text in the chat window, it says-
Buggles: Welcome to the naughty word bin Newt.
Nice touch.

So, now the Dark Squad have only three players left in the Dreamtime that can make checks, and here’s the thing- they don’t know the correct route from the spider’s lair to the duergar bridge. Old Gorm, back at the very start, told the guys that he and Harfnag we’re in panic and the way out of here was… well, it was either to the west, or to the north, he wasn’t sure which way they went because they were fleeing the spiders at the time.

There are three possible exits that combine west and north out of this cavern- north, north-west & west.

So, Hgraam needs directing for the Dreamtime to continue- which way is it to the duergar bridge?

Daktari volunteers, he thinks the Dark Squad should head north, but after wandering a while in this direction (and passing his DC 12 survival check) he’s convinced- he’s wrong, it’s not this way.

The barbarian then duly fails his DC 10 Con save for exhaustion, as everyone else has before him, and he’s +6 (or something similar) on this check, but he has just one inspiration point and so he cannot fail again- he doesn’t.

Daktari is still in the Dreamtime, but the Dark Squad will need to try again to find the bridge cavern.

So, back to the spider cavern, and time to pick again- and this time Vinnie is certain, the correct direction to duergar cavern is to the north west… but it really isn’t, and what do you know- Vinnie fails his exhaustion check too, but after an inspiration point- he’s back.

So the Dreamtime goes on, and there’s only the west passage left to try- forwards, the journey continues, all the way to the duergar bridge over the fire river.


There follows a twenty minute tactical chat about how to get across the bridge without alerting the duergar. Ram has the rogues climbing across under the bridge. Vinnie is searching for the Vincen G. Spider ceiling route. While Newt has figured out that his hold person spell is probably not the best call against duergar (resist paralysis). When... Buggles cuts the crap- "Screw that business! Let's face it, we're killing 'em and then chucking their scattered remains in the lava."

The duergar bridge cavern is a high ceilinged narrow chasm spanned by a rickety stone bridge, only one exit over the far side of the span, but there are two duergar here. One of the duo looks to be some sort of fanatic. The Dark Squad therefore begin making plans for when they have to get through this place in reality. There’s a lot of looking around, although all of it accomplished without the hint of anyone (Vinnie, Daktari or Ram) having to make any more skill checks.

The consensus is no more extraneous checks, the Dreamtime journey onwards is everything.

They really want to see what’s beyond.

That is, after all, what Manistrad asked them to find out.

But, as stated earlier, there’s only one direction to go from here- over the bridge, and into the cavern opening beyond- the Dreamtime continues on, alas it continues on into a veritable maze of snaking tunnels.


Winding Cavern Passages- nuff said.

So, this is it, the kindly DM tells the PCs, it will take three more DC 12 Survival checks for the Dark Squad to guide Hgraam, and the Dreamtime, through the maze of caverns. They’ll be following what few duergar tracks exist in this place. Obviously each check necessitates another exhaustion roll.

It goes a little like this-

Vinnie leads the Dreamtime on successfully, and soon after the adventurers are a third of the way to the big reveal- although this effort costs him- he fails his Con save, and then again with his last inspiration- that’s it, the druid is also mentally exhausted.

Which just leaves Daktari & Ram to guide the Dreamtime on.

Note Ram has not made a check yet, he is the weakest link stat wise- with the worst Survival check and Con save.

Daktari goes again, another DC 12 Survival check- success, and the Dark Squad are two thirds of the way there, through the snaking tunnels. However, the barbarian then fails his follow-up DC 11 Con exhaustion save (+6 on this roll), and then fails again with inspiration point re-roll, and so now it’s just Ram left.

There is wailing and cursing around the VTT.

Ram isn’t trained in Survival, and his Con save is not good either.

But remarkably it’s as easy as, Ram makes the Survival check, and the follow up Con exhaustion save and we’re in.


Oh... Are you in the map yet? OH. Oh... nearly. Oh... Oh... OH! OH! There's not much to see! And the crowd go wild- why do I bother?

The Dark Squad discover a duergar deep fort, a forward post, or else waystation… The locale is Dreamtime explored- the PCs can go most everywhere. There are lots of guards- including a pair of casters (perhaps) including a priest-leader-type (maybe), and very definitely a martial commander of the fortress.


OH! That's better. Deepbridge Fort in all of its glory.

Note all of this is accomplished without the use of a single skill check, but now Ram’s here- he’d like to try and listen in on the conversation the priest and the commander are having.

But he doesn’t understand the language, and so has to mimic the sounds and words the pair are using to Vinnie, so the druid can try to translate, and so we’re stretching it here. But there’s not a lot to tell from the duo’s chatter, except that the place is safe and secure and that all is normal here at the fortress (best guess).

Remarkably the rogue goes on to make another pair of skill checks- discovering a little more about this place and the situation. Note the skill checks come with their associated DC 12/13 Con saves to avoid the exhaustion effect.

All passes.

Ram’s final check, an attempt to understand a bunch of markings carved into the stone is Ram’s first failure, his second is the associated DC 14 Con save for exhaustion, and…

Dreamtime ends.

But no... the last image a flickering affair-


"What's that?" asks Buggles. "That's a tor", Vinnie replies, sagely. He's not wrong.

But then the Dark Squad emerge from the stone- all the way back in the cavern chamber, hale and hearty- although mentally exhausted, they do however have answers for Manistrad.

Job done.

[Dreamtime with Hgraam 1500 XP]

Note, I say ‘job done’ but at the time the players were very suspicious-
Newt: “Have we done it?”
Buggles: “We can’t have? I mean… nothing’s dead?”
Vinnie: “I sink we ‘ave our answer, or raar-zur Manistrad’s answer. We have achieved zer task wiz-out alerting zer duer-ray-gar. C’est magnifique!”
Buggles: “That can’t be right… didn’t you hear me, we haven’t killed anyone yet!”

It’s a whole new experience for the Dark Squad- success, without recourse to bloody violence.

Most odd.

Note, at the end of the session (there's still a chunk left to go...) the chatter was still about this, basically the conversation above gets repeated ad infinitum, but out of character, with Jim- playing Vinnie, taking the lead-

Jim/Vinnie: “Nope. I know Paul (that’s me = goonalan) we’re screwed, somewhere up the line we’re getting shafted. We just got played, I’ve no idea how or why, but just you wait and see.”

He’s a good friend is Jim.

But here we are, back with Hgraam- and with Manistrad’s answer, although… everyone has a touch of (mental) exhaustion, so- yet more chatter with the stone giant, who is happy to have helped.

Although after a chunk more roleplay the big feller helps out with another of the Dark Squad’s tasks before he departs, after questioning the giant doesn’t know of the ‘Goblin’s Stair’ but he does know where there are some Goblin’s laired.

Hgraam states- “There are goblins, lots of them- laired by a great black basalt rock which descends deep into the dark.” After a bunch more skill checks Vinnie finally figures that Hgraam is talking about Blackedge, a small village to the north of the Saltmarsh region, near the Dread Woods- there’s a black basalt cliff there.

At least that’s the suggestion.

[Looking for the Goblin Stair 200 XP]

Then, Hgraam departs, and the PCs pitch their Leomund’s Tiny Hut and get down to sleeping off the exhaustion effect.

Which doesn’t go entirely as planned, although skip forward four hours, to the end of Buggles’ watch (Note- the wood elf always pulls a double watch, he’s not big on resting).

So, watch hand over-
Buggles: “Nothing to report.”
Vinnie: “But zer…” Vinnie points up.


"Oh, I shouldn't worry about that, anyway- G'night!" Buggles' shift is over.

Covering perhaps a third of the Leomund’s Tiny Hut is a massive black oozing blob (a Black Pudding, identified a little after) which is squeegeeing around the hemisphere home of the Dark Squad. Every now and then it makes sharp squeaky noises, as it muscles and flows around the LTH in search of an opening. It’s desperate to get in.

Vinnie: “But…” Vinnie points again at the massive ooze.
Buggles: “Nothing to… oh, that- it’s been there for hours. Anyway, G’night.”
Vinnie: “Sacre…”

Eventually, after a thorough reading and understanding of the Leomund’s Tiny Hut rules the Black Pudding is shot repeatedly until it attempts to flee back out of the cavern, now very aware that the contents of the LTH are in fact not a pre-packaged ready-meal.

It’s Buggles in fact that goes after the beast and finishes it off, but not before Daktari has turned his great club into a smoking acid-burnt ruin.

[Black Pudding fun-time 1100 XP]

It’s about this time that Buggles chooses to entertain us further, with another brief glimpse at the world that exists within the wood elf’s head.

Buggles: “You know what amazes me?”
The Dark Squad chorus (reluctantly): “No.”, or, “What?”
Buggles: “It amazes me how catkins manages to locate one of these tiny hut’s every time we need to rest.”

Fantasy Grounds/Discord goes silent.

The Dark Squad chorus (incredulous): “What?”
Buggles: “Well, every time we’ve needed to rest recently catkins here has managed to find one of these little huts just standing idle in the Underdark. It’s amazing, incredibly lucky? That right Newt?”
Newt (exasperated): “Yes, that’s right Buggles- I find them!”
Buggles: “See. Amazing. Great work catkins.”

And you’re probably thinking to yourself, why doesn’t catkins- I mean Newt, just scream at the wood elf, and tell the idiot that he uses magic to conjure the Leomund’s Tiny Hut every night. But… it’d be like screaming and/or admonishing a child, it’s far easier just to nod along, sure- Newt doesn’t forget to deliver his line with as much sarcasm as he can muster, but Buggles doesn’t get sarcasm.

And so the balloon that is the wood elf’s strange world remains resolutely un-popped.

[Catkins finds another LTH 100 XP]

So, you’ve probably spotted it- no fighting so far, we’re about to fix that, or else I thought so.

Day four in the Underdark, and the fully rested Dark Squad retrace their steps, but they don’t have to go far before things start to go badly.

The PCs rope up for their journey back across the narrow stone spans in the cavern, and it’s on the first span that the bad thing happens, Daktari suddenly takes flight, the hefty barbarian screams in cod-Russian (he’s being played by Jim/Vinnie tonight) as he’s hauled twenty feet into the air.

The adventurers react, although the first to do so is Newt who has no clue as to what’s going on. But Ram knows- he spots (DC 18 passive Perception) a thin rope-like filament attached to Daktari’s back, the sturdy line runs to an opening up above.

Just to note there are no screenshots from this fight- I think all of the PCs were a little bit frit, and were too busy trying to work out how to get their (roped together, remember) guy off the bridge in double-quick time.

The cool rogue therefore grabs out his bow and declares he will shoot the rope.

Well, the book says the filament is AC 15 (and has 5 HP) but I’m saying this attack is with disadvantage and -5 to hit, so good luck with that.

Full disclosure, Daktari is atm being hoisted aloft by a… but I can’t tell you dear reader, because the Dark Squad never did find out. But feel free to have a guess, just don’t repeat it here.

So, disadvantage and -5 to hit, AC 15… and, bloody hell- THWONG, SNAP.

Daktari falls twenty feet, lands hard- but miraculously on his feet, the barbarian even has time for a quick thumbs up to Ram.

There is laughter and cheering o’er the VTT.

I hate it when that happens.

Then- “RUN!” and the Dark Squad are in motion, although the fact that they are tied together proves once again when combined with initiative to be particularly counter-productive.

Then more so when less than five seconds later and Newt is also suddenly hoisted into the air.

It seems there’s a second fisher for Dark Squad souls positioned somewhere above, and so… well, it’s Buggles’ turn to take the shot- AC 15, disadvantage-yadda yadda.



Newt falls, harder than Daktari and on his backside, but he manages to stay on the stony span, and then… he’s up- back on his feet, and they’re off- and they’re not looking back.

The Dark Squad flee the encounter.

[Fishing for the Dark Squad 700 XP]

Can you imagine the one that got away stories this pair of angling monsters could tell after this encounter-
Fisher 1: Yeah, well mine must have weighed over 200lbs, all muscle and furious barbarian- what a fight it was.
Fisher 2: I think mine was a barbarian too, a seven foot tall devil cat- a ranting spitting fury, what a fight it was.

Satiated, but still hungry.

But, let me get this straight- disadvantage, -5 to hit and four rolls (two times two) and they’re all hits. But DC 10 Con saves earlier for exhaustion, and if it wasn’t for their inspiration points then all of them except Ram would have failed on their first attempt, even with inspiration points (except for Ram) none of them managed to make two checks.

Random is weird.

We go on… for another nine hours, all the way back to and then through the dirty muddy and close tunnels in which the Dark Squad fought the kruthik. Then another extended yomp through the fungus forest and, at last, the adventurers are back to where they need to be for Old Gorm’s treasure run.

[Back to the fungus forest 250 XP]

Note Vinnie spends a little time both on the journey and at its end to search for some/any of the fungus that Hgraam was using in his Dreamtime ritual. Remarkably, after a (Crit) guidance-enhanced Crit check (adjusted roll ‘33’), Vinnie finds a small patch of stonespore, one of the three ingredients needed, he thinks, to recreate the Dreamtime.

However, it’s been another long day (although as it turns out no-one is exhausted, now they can roll ‘em), but guess what? Newt finds another LTH to stay in for the night.

Buggles: “Wow! You are amazing catkins!”

But the DM has one joke encounter left to run.

The Dark Squad settle down for the night in the LTH, which is positioned (sorry, was found by Newt) next to the wide but slow moving river here.

Buggles is on watch (of course), when a hefty giant crayfish (about 6-8 feet long) scuttles/charges out of the river and bumps hard, and then repeatedly, into the hemisphere of the LTH.


DM: What do you do? Buggles: I throw the feller a banana from my lunchbox, see if he'll go fetch it- with a Handle Animal check, oh '15'- that's not bad. See next image for punchline.

Buggles: “Not this again!”

The wood elf however is in a funny mood, he decides to play along with the rapscallion DM (that’s me) and so throws the creature a portion of his rations.

The giant crayfish plays fetch with the flung grub for a while, until… until… well, the repeated thumping noise wakes the rest of the members of the Dark Squad up.

The formerly sleeping adventurers come awake to discover that there are at present three of the massively clawed, eight foot long and armoured, giant crayfish surrounding them. All three of them bumping, thumping and butting their claws and carapaces into the LTH repeatedly.


Buggles: “Nothing to report. Night all!”

The wood elf turns in and gets some shut eye.

But Ramshambow quickly solves the problem by sinking an arrow into the most annoying of the three noisy giant crayfish, bloodying the beast in an instant.

The creature slinks off, back into the river- alas it doesn’t get far, its two colleagues scent an easier meal and head off to butcher and then devour their bloody former companion.

Nature is red in tooth and claw.

[The noisy giant crayfish 100 XP]

But that’s all we have time for- which is plenty, incidentally. So, Old Gorm’s treasure run next time- I guess, and then out of the Underdark?

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

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