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The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #139 Into the Mere of the Dead Men Part 4.

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #079: Dark Squad Investigations.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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


This is session 79, it was very short (we started late and finished early- work/real-life has a way of intruding) and... well, it meandered towards the end, a bit.

However, I wrote at the end of the last session-

They figure they've got it beat now, but we'll get to the conclusion in the next one.

The 'they' in question, of course, being the players/Dark Squad, well- I wrote that deliberately, an act of provocation. Although, I was provoking myself.

So, the Dark Squad- a secret assignation in the wee small hours in a parking lot (or equivalent) in Burle, a trap! A vampire (actually a vampire spawn) with a pack of ghouls, and a roof-running rogue with a clutch of tough kobolds to support her.

The undead come courtesy of... well, the Dark Squad are uncertain as to who exactly has unleashed this flavour of fury upon them.

The vampire spawn, Argus Skeel, made mention of the fact that 'they' (his mob) have 'your bard', which would be Tarbin Tul, ex-member of the Dark Squad (although Tarbin hated adventuring).

Also, something about 'the Dreadnought is coming'.

The rogue on the roof, well- she said something about her master Ashardalon, the great dragon. So, the Dark Squad know what colours she's wearing.

See later for further discussion with regard to this fracas.

But now, back to the fight.

So, the kobold toughs are tough (who would have thought it), the ghouls are all dead (much less tough) and the vampire spawn- Argus Skeel has gone away (to regen) while the rogue on the roof, well... she's had enough missing with her crossbow, and now she's part of the action.

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The rogue suddenly dashes into the fracas and stabs Newt up a bit, the warlock tabaxi is bloodied in an instant. For the rest of the Dark Squad the struggle continues, although Ram- to the south, is still looking for the 'vampire bastard', Skeel.

Ram spots Skeel, up on a nearby roof, and as Vinnie and the rogue note- Skeel's token has far fewer blood drops on it- basically the vampire is recovering/regenerating nicely.

Note Newt has used all of his warlock powers, the kobold toughs with their incessant attacking have spoiled every concentration based spell that he has cast, his last big gun- Radiant Sickness, lasted less than a turn.

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Then Skeel runs down the side of a building and into the action, it's only a shame his dice are broken- miss after miss follows.

Note Ubmo (the supreme being, remember) is still helping out here and there, but the wonky modron seems to delight most in trying to stab the Dark Squad's enemies to death (for 1d4+1 damage on a hit).

But the Dark Squad continue to prevail, and now Skeel is taking a beating, and with only four of the tough kobolds left in the fight the decision is made- kill the wampire.

The Dark Squad concentrate their attacks.

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Note, seconds after this picture is taken Newt takes to dirt-napping, the rogue rushes in again- cuts the tabaxi down, and then rushes off again.

The Dark Squad note that the enemy rogue is a lot like their rogue in this regard, she hits hard and covers a lot of ground. Also, now that I have remembered to turn the lights on (actually off) on this map then the enemy rogue almost always ends her turn out of sight of the Squad.

Which proves annoying, apparently.

There's a little bit of consternation in the ranks, but then Skeel has seen enough, the vampire has taken too many hits and so scarpers back up the side of a building and onto the roof, only Argus didn't account for Daktari and his Slippers of Spider Climbing.

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And seconds after this picture is taken the frenzied, raging and reckless barbarian cuts Skeel down, and with two crits in a turn.

Note, in the above image Newt is prone (the little arrow down button on his token) but conscious again- this after Ram gets to the warlock with a potion of greater healing.

Here's a funny thing, in the stat counter-thing we have attached to Fantasy Grounds Unity one of the things it records is healing given, Vinnie obviously tops this chart (300+ HP healing)- he has the Cure Wounds on tap. But second in the queue is Ram (150+ HP healing), and in third spots is any of the other members of the Dark Squad with 30+ HP healing given each.

Here's my point, it's remarkable how many times Ram arrives just in the nick of time with a healing potion in hand to revive a foundering colleague.

But back to the fight...

There's not much of it left, the remaining tough kobolds take a beating, the rogue skips in every now and then, attempts to stab someone up, and then darts away again before the Squad can target her.

But not for long.

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The tough kobolds are dead, and every member of the Dark Squad in this picture has a readied action, just waiting for the Ashardalon supporting rogue assassin to show up again.

She doesn't, she's gone.

But what's that 'C' token on the map? Over on the right.

That's a commoner, a member of the Burle community- remember Newt's Radiant Sickness spell, well it encompassed the corner of a nearby building, and now several of the inhabitants of said premises are staggering out into the street, effected by the warlock's spell.

Vinnie has to rush over to save the dying citizens, although that too doesn't go entirely to plan. The druid, you will note, is in Moonboar form- a seven foot tall, French and gruff sounding (and with a speech impediment- the tusks get in the way) monstrosity.

“I yam EAR [SNORT SNORT] tew 'elp yew!”

The terrified citizens attempt to scramble/crawl away from the monster that is trying to heal them.

Then, a whistle sounds, the watch are on the way- this coincides with the folk in the nearby buildings starting to awake and make themselves known.

Note, the entire fracas took a good long while to play out (thinking time) but only lasted ten turns (60 seconds) in game.

Vinnie quickly casts another Pass Without Trace on his companions and then... they skedaddle, well- all but Ram.

The rogue positions himself out of sight (Stealth check '38') and watches, while the rest of the gang head down the darkest alleys trying to find their way out of Burle, which is actually very easy to do because they're right on the edge of the town.

So, Ram stays hidden and observes the arrival of the watch, and then the furore of the newly awakened citizens of Burle. Ram is waiting to see if the enemy rogue is going to show up again, but... nothing, just thirty minutes of panicked town guardsmen directing traffic.

However, back to the rest of the Dark Squad- on their retreat from Burle to the Falcon's Nest, Vinnie spots a shadow creeping across nearby roofs. The Ashardalon tagged rogue is, it seems, is still keeping track of the Dark Squad. But the adventurers have seen enough, and outside of Burle there's no-place for their rogue shadow to hide (or else fewer places to hide).

The Dark Squad scarper back to the Falcon's Nest, Ram shows up there nearly an hour later.

Then... rest.

So, rise and shine again at the Falcon's Nest, and first item on the agenda over breakfast- what was that all about?

The results of the following discussion are-

a) Ashardalon is about, somewhere, and very likely Ashardalon is an ancient red dragon come to burn things to the ground. Also, it's clear- Ashardalon has followers, and an agenda.

b) Who was Skeel working for? Well, the PCs know that Nightshade, the missing Uthgardt ancestor is laired in the deeps of the Dreadwood, and they've been told that she favours the undead, and so- logic dictates.

Which means of course- Ashardalon and Nightshade both want the Dark Squad dead, the attack was just that, an attempt to kill them, neither enemy was delivering a message, their intent was clear.

The Dark Squad are being hunted, it seems.

So, what's next- well, Vinnie is incredibly keen to get to the Moon Pool, and to have a chat with Wildroot (the treant) and join the Pact of the Flame.

But, the other PCs have concerns, and they talk the druid around.

Therefore, back to Burle, note the Dark Squad are attempting (and succeeding) to keep a low profile.

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Tracks of the ghouls are discovered, the undead crept along the river here- heading into town having come from the east.

The Dark Squad follow the undead trail all the way back to the Burle cemetary, there- after conversing with a pair of perplexed grave-diggers, they discover that seven graves have been recently interred, the odd thing being that the inhabitants seem to have interred themselves.

Note, there were seven ghouls in the fight. Funny that.

Then, after a '20' survival check from Vinnie the Dark Squad discover the tracks of Argus Skeel heading away from the graveyard. They follow them- all the way out of Burle and to the very edge of the Dreadwood, at which point however the trail disappears, or else gets much harder to follow.

But here's the thing, Argus Skeel came from the Dreadwood, Nightshade is in the Dreadwood, and so... the Dark Squad figure they're on to something.

The Dark Squad are going to head into the Dreadwood again, but not yet.

They really do want to get to the Moon Pool, and so- back to Burle, only when they're halfway back to the town they hear, and see, a commotion near the Dreadwood, not the place where Skeel went in, but close to it.

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Note a square is three miles (I think).

And so, after yet more chatter, the Dark Squad turn around again and go and investigate the aforementioned commotion, which has concluded by the time the adventurers have made their decision.

The commotion, as far as they can tell- Inverna with her Eyes of the Eagle being the best placed to see the event, involved a lot of screaming- some folk rushing out from the Dreadwood and then being hunted down and (possibly) slaughtered by some other folk that exited the woods soon after the first group. The second group were mounted, and obviously able to move much faster than the first.

However, it takes another hour or so to get to the scene of the crime, and...

The Dark Squad discover the dead bodies of half-a-dozen degenerate goblins, Vinnie identifies the creatures- they're goggle-eyed deep goblins, sometimes known as dark goblins, as a rule they live underground- deep/dark goblins never visit the surface.

Which increases the odd count.

But here's the thing, the folk that slaughtered the deep/dark goblins here were goblins too, and they were riding wolves or else worgs.

So, the goblins- or at least some of them, are in conflict (perhaps) in the Dreadwood.

But again, the Dark Squad do not want to just dive into the Dreadwood, the Moon Pool- it's time, although they've spent the day on their investigations, and so the adventurers walk to the Wayside Inn. They figure they'll spend the night there and then head off on the next part of their quest in the morning/next session.

Note, the last time the Dark Squad was at the Wayside Inn it was being attacked by undead (zombies and a wraith), Vinnie (or Newt) tried to burn the building down, and... they first met Tarbin Tul, the bard.

Also, see the to-do list below for the ritual/route needed to locate the Moon Pool.

But that's all we had time for.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
  1. Go to the Moon Pool, need to climb to the top of Silverhill and be inside the stone circle there before midnight, and then stay within it until dawn's first light. Then journey down the hill and into the centre of the Silverstand (forest). Meet Wildroot there, and enter the Moon Pool, and then the Treant will set the Dark Squad to their task, that's what Belphegor said.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade in the Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #080: Dancing to the Moon Pool.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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


This is session 80, and another cracker, although to begin with...

The last time the Dark Squad was at the Wayside Inn it was being attacked by undead (zombies and a wraith), Vinnie (or Newt) tried to burn the building down, and... they first met Tarbin Tul, the bard.

This time the Dark Squad are on their way to the Moon Pool, this then is just a stop-over.

So, here they are again, and you'd have thought- a quiet night at the Inn, but oh no...

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The Wayside Inn (again).

And so Newt decides to entertain the various merchants and customers (and staff) of the Wayside Inn, with a little number which goes a like this- “The Inn, the Inn, the Inn is on fire”, the wonderful Bear (playing Newt) even sings along for a while.

The words of his latest tune go on to make clear that Vinnie set the Inn on fire during the Dark Squad's last stay here, and well... it doesn't go down too well, particularly with Matisha the owner of the fine establishment.

We get to arguing, or else Vinnie is mad at Newt, Matisha is mad (again) at Vinnie (and Newt), and Newt is just mad. The result of the contretemps is that Vinnie and Newt are informed that alas there is no room in the Wayside Inn for them.

The rest of the Dark Squad- Daktari, Ram & Inverna snigger into their hands as they enjoy a fine repast, a few drinks, a warm bed in a comfortable room, and then a hearty breakfast in the morning.

Newt puts up his Leomund's Tiny Hut and spends the night there- just ten yards across the road from the Inn. Although its a frugal repast this evening as the tabaxi discovers that he doesn't have any rations/food in his backpack. Vinnie meantime camps out, but he's a druid and it's a warm summer's night, he also has plenty of rations, so... no bother.

The night passes.

And so, after breakfast (for some- although Ram buys food for Newt and delivers it later on to the tabaxi) the Dark Squad chat a while and then decide to march up to the top of Silverhill to see what's up there.

This after Ram (eventually) learns from Matisha that- “there are a bunch of standing stones up there”, and also- a warning, “don't go in the Silverstand woods, it's full of elves- they're very protective of the place. Nobody goes in there...”

Which is a shame because the Dark Squad are planning to head into the Silverstand woods in search of the Moon Pool, ah well... nothing worth doing is ever easy.

And if it is then the Dark Squad find a way to make it more difficult.

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It takes the Dark Squad just over three hours to tramp to the summit of Silverhill, here it is... what a sight! There's cartography in my blood, and now you know it too.

And sure enough, at the top...

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Atop the verdant hill is a circle of massive and ancient standing stones, and with a great tree within the compass.

Vinnie is persuaded to enter the area, this after nobody enters the sacred place, repeatedly, and for a while. Eventually, when nothing much happens to the druid, his colleagues join in the investigation.

The Dark Squad collectively discern that this place is some ancient ritual site, elven- most likely, or else fey- but little else can be discovered, well... discounting the voice that talks to Ram.

The rogue in a moment of levity looks at the tree and asks “Are you alive?”

The reply, a whispered- perhaps coquettish (female) 'yes' (telepathically delivered), comes as a surprise to the rogue, who nevertheless shares his concerns with his friends.

The tree however is reluctant to engage in protracted conversation- it has a few more whispered questions for the adventurers, for example- “Who are you?”, and, “What business do you have here?”, that kind of thing. But once the Dark Squad have made their answers/explanation the voice stops talking.

A short while later, about 20-30 minutes, Daktari is turned into a cow (by the tree?).

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The coquettish female voice breaks silence, its susurrus laughter is delightful.

The Dark Squad unbeknownst to them (maybe) have been the subject of many spells, and the players can see various dice rolling in the chat window on FGU, but alas not what these rolls are for, or even the results.

But Vinnie is on to it, so while Newt rages and threatens the druid let's his comrades know-

“Zis is zer fay, zer Fuur-ee. Zay ar play-ing wiz uz, mez amis.”

Which only makes Newt's blood boil all the more, until...

“Zut alors! We muz entertain zem!”

At which point the apoplectic Newt settles instantly, grabs out his axe (lute) and starts up with one of his terrible tunes, more remarkably his performance check is very high. Over the course of their time within the circle here, the Dark Squad suffer a few more japes and plays, but they get it now and so when required they entertain the fey some more.

Note, the Dark Squad have to be within the circle here from before midnight to dawn's first light- so, time passes, but slowly- they snooze a bit, entertain the fey a bit, and generally wait to see what happens next.

Further note, Daktari, an hour or so after his bovine transformation, suddenly finds himself on all fours chewing a clump of succulent grass, and back to being Daktari-shaped..

“I am sad now. Cow is good life. I relaxing good. I like fighting but also like good cow-time. It was good... I miss it.”

Remember cod-Russian and with the delivery pattern of a moron, that's Daktari!

The less said about Ram's attempts to milk Daktari (while he was in cow form, phew) the better.

But then...

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Dawn's first light hits the circle.

The flowers bloom- instantly, and the air is suddenly alive with the buzz and whir or insects, and the call of birds. The land is transformed, resplendent, and more importantly (perhaps) there's a corridor of effervescent light extending from between two of the standing stones- aiming directly for the heart of the Silverstand wood.

The Dark Squad know where the Moon Pool is, they had worried earlier that finding the place may be the issue, but nature provides.

Note as the adventurers progress the sun slowly rises and the corridor of light seems to move with the Dark Squad, as if they were in a train on a track- with the Dark Squad moving in sink with it. If you'll forgive the intrusion of the present.

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Into Silverstand, and it's a beautiful forest.

But here's a thing, soon after we have a moment- Vinnie has prepared some emollient for this journey, the Dark Squad have been warned that they must not slay or harm any creature of the forest on their journey to the Moon Pool. The druid has therefore prepared a pungent poultice to keep creatures away (he calls the substance beast bane).

Ram objects, clever lad- he has this to say- “I believe in you Vinnie. The question is, why don't you?”

And so the beast bane is forgotten and the forest folds its arms around the Dark Squad, it sings to them, sends scents to entice and... watches over them.

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By a stream and in an idyll, a fifteen foot tall (to the shoulder) elk stands, its wrack of antlers easily twenty-five feet wide. With a tongue longer than Vinnie's arm it licks a Goodberry from the druid's palm.

All is well with the world, but that doesn't mean that Newt's not poised to deliver fiery death to the giant, as he calls it, “anterloop”.

At which one of the trees starts speaking to the Dark Squad, seconds later the adventurers discern that there's a young elf sitting in the tree, and it's he that is doing the talking.

“I am Happenstance Lightfoot, the Lord of the Dance, or so some call me. Pray tell ye gentle fiends, friends and/or folk- what business do you have under the silver sway and in the eyes of the people?”

And so we go Q&A again for a while, but we're quickly through it because the Dark Squad, as pretty much always, tell no lies.

Let me just take a moment, when it gets down to it, when some being(s) on the side of either good or bad (it don't matter which) asks the Dark Squad a question, they very rarely lie, or even dissemble- they trot out the truth, as they understand it. It's quite refreshing, obviously Newt sometimes bigs up his own part in proceedings, but... what can you really expect from a seven foot tall megalomaniac cat that spends half his day talking to his demonic masters (or similar).

So, Happenstance is polite and happy to point the way- although the strange effervescent light is still tracking the Dark Squad, but... do the Dark Squad perhaps have time for a Dance Off, the elf politely enquires?

The rules are explained, the players will be given ten minutes to hunt down the ultimo dance video which his PC then will recreate/demonstrate.

And there are prizes for anyone that can best Happenstance.

So, then we hunted the internet for a while, and then watched a variety of 'dance' videos while the player/PC doing the dancing added a few asides, for instance (from Jim/Daktari)-

“I am dancing part of lead priestess. But nuddy. If you skip to one minute twenty eight seconds you can plainly see that I am full wood from this point on... It iz good? I am art?”

Here's the dance card-

Ramshambow starts up with his evolution of dance routine-


Daktari strips nude and delivers his homage to the Sky Pony, if I was the Sky Pony I'd be underwhelmed-


Vinnie does Disney-


Newt goes all primal rage with fire, natch-


And Happenstance, he rocks the Dark Squad's world-


Then, after laughter, there's the voting- and you can't vote for yourself but a 1-2-3-4 for everyone else, one being best.

Here's the thing, the Dark Squad vote Happenstance into first place by a mile, he scores 1-1-2-1, and now the elf is a little embarrassed, particularly as the PCs also managed to trash each others scores.

Happenstance wins the Dance Off by a country mile, and so he distributes his prizes anyway.

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A bag of tricks for the druid, a helm of underwater action for Newt (because the tabaxi so loves water), a nice necklace for Daktari (you'll see) and bracers of archery for Ram.

Some of these items require attunement, Daktari has only got two magic items, and so he attunes the beautiful (hair/head-enhancing) magical necklace. Ram and Newt however have already got three attuned magic items each, and so they have a decision to make.

The gifts, Happenstance advises, if not attuned or else used within twenty four hours will disappear. So, use/attune it or lose it.

But back to Daktari, he has this to say soon after.

“I have become suddenly aware of the flora and fauna of this region, I find it to be both decorous and mellifluous. The sensual nature of the vista has calmed the troubled beast that dwells at the heart of my being. I feel congruent, I resonate with well-being, I feel... trepidatious, as new horizons dawn, and yet at the same time calm, full of reason and knowing. I have been, in a moment's passing, enlightened. It is good.”

There follows a series of WTFs, I may not have got the above speech entirely right, but you get me, and Daktari.

The barbarian has just attuned a headband of intellect. The barbarian is a genius.

Newt is the most affected by this transformation, enquiring (repeatedly, and with added swear words) about Daktari's well-being and mental state, he's such a caring individual.

Actually, what he said was something like-

“What the EXPLETIVE heck are you prattling on about Daktari, you EXPLETIVE loony. Have you lost you EXPLETIVE mind? Vinnie- do something about this, the EXPLETIVE barbarian is broken.”

“Are yew well, Daktari?” the druid asks.

“Indubitably.” The barbarian responds, while whistling a happy tune and still marvelling at the wonders of this brave new world.

Eventually the Dark Squad say goodbye to Happenstance and head on- deeper into Silverstand, all the way in fact to the Moon Pool.

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At which point, of course, the trees start asking the Dark Squad questions.

But again, the Dark Squad tell no lies, and so we make our way quickly to a bit of backstory, the trees whisper about times long past, about the coming of the people (the elves), their mutual regard for dragonkind, and the inevitable sundering of this accord.

A history of the people's war against the dragons, and in particular the great red fire breathing dragons that curtailed the lives of many of their kind.

The Pact of the Wild Flame is born in millennia past, a way to fight against the dragon fire.

The Pact's function, beyond the continued fight against the evil wyrms, is to prepare for the coming of a great dragon- Ashardalon, and the time of Ash.

Although, the whispering woods make clear, there was one born during the time when the two races saw Faerun as one mind- the creation of the/a dragonkin, also named by the woods as – Ashardalon.

Just to make clear, because the whispering trees do not, there is either a great dragon and a dragonkin (a mixture of elf and dragon) both called Ashardalon, or else (and this is Newt's version). The two creatures are one and the same.

Who can say?

Note, the above information only becomes known after the Dark Squad have answered lots of questions (they had to supply written answers in game, the communication employed here is telepathic). They had to prove who they were and what they had done, and what they know about the story (plot) so far.

Also so the DM could harvest some of their written answers for later use, did you get that- Newt?

So...

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Then Wildroot shows up, and the history lesson is over.

Wildroot is the last of the Pact, although not a true member, more a guardian of the way.

Remember Wildroot has been in Vinnie's bag for a year, and prior to that captured within the Sunless Citadel- that's where the Dark Squad found him.

But we move on...

Wildroot needs the Moon Pool fixing, over the centuries and in his absence the magical site has ceased to function, he therefore sets the PCs to their task (as prophesied by Belphegor all the way back in session 19).

The Dark Squad need to visit a place called the Old Wood (it's not far from here) and find a shrine there dedicated to Savras, the place must be cleansed of any foul taint. Wildroot further advises that there is a bell at the shrine, if it is rung (and it must be rung- just once) then it will protect/aid those that serve its need (during the cleansing).

Then, when the Moon Pool is up and running again, well... Wildroot would be happy to allow the Dark Squad to use it to glimpse a little into their future.

Also, if they complete the three follow up tasks then Wildroot would be happy to for the Dark Squad (some or all) to become the first non-elves to join the Pact of the Wild Flame. The three tasks are-

1) Find the hidden weapons set aside in ancient time by the Pact to aid in the fight against the coming of Ashardalon, and the time of Ash.

2) To prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.

3) To track down the last member of the Pact of the Wild Flame, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and recover her maze button.

Ain't it funny how a lot of the stuff above seems to chime in with other stuff that the Dark Squad have going on. Just, odd.

They're looking for the Witch's Tor, it was in a prophecy-

Ancestor #3-
I am Kolven, and I am forever.
Seek the witch’s tor,
In the lair of the drowned ones,
But beware the demon’s spore.
Find the time.
Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.”


Also, well the Dark Squad are already in search of Giggles (member of the Eyes in the Night) and her maze button/symbol of Ub.

Note, Wildroot will give a little more direction with the above tasks, as and when the Dark Squad get the Moon Pool functioning again.

But that's all we had time for this week.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
  1. Clear and/or reconsecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood, then return to the Moon Pool to glimpse the future.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade in the Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  8. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons to fight Ashardalon.
  9. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.
  10. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. SEE ABOVE.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #081: Gnoll's House Party.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan & George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. Clear and/or reconsecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood, then return to the Moon Pool to glimpse the future.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  8. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons left to fight Ashardalon.
  9. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.
  10. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 81, and another good 'un, although the first news is that the To-Do List has now moved to up above. It's getting busy and the Dark Squad are stacking jobs.

But then, the session... and we start at the Moon Pool for one final chat with Wildroot the Treant, mostly because there was no game last week and so we all need to be reminded of where we are at.

The task in hand, number one on the list above- reconsecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood and by doing so get the Moon Pool up and working again. The Old Wood is less than a day away, and so...

On we go, the first step of the journey is for the Dark Squad to make their way through the rest of the Silverstand woods.

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And at it's centre this place is a sylvan delight, although in truth all of the members of the Dark Squad make a variety of crap skill checks and manage to learn very little about this magical place.

What does become obvious, at least to one of them- Vinnie, is that the forest is helping them on their way- hurrying them to their destiny. When the Dark Squad emerge from Silverstand the druid calculates that they have just traversed at least ten miles distance in less than an hour. It doesn't seem possible, at least not without a little faerie magic.

The Dark Squad press on...

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And hurry across the grassed plains and to the nearest road, then to the Old Wood.

There's one encounter on the way, a coach (with livery) and four horses comes rushing down the country lane- headed at speed for Burle, or perhaps further on. The carriage doesn't stop, and the Dark Squad don't seek to impede it, they do however wave at the inhabitant of the transport, the well-dressed smiling young man ensconced within cheerily waves back.

Both sides of the encounter feel that they have seen each other before, and a few moments later the Dark Squad finally fathom it, the young man in the coach was Anders Solmor, who they met (briefly) in Saltmarsh. Solmor is one of the town councillors there, as is- of course, young Vincenzo of the Dark Squad.

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The Dark Squad remember liking Anders, he looks a lot like a young Jack Black, and that's very much in his favour. He's also, Vinnie remembers from his one Council meeting, the voice of optimism, and a progressive.

The Dark Squad eventually make their way to the Old Wood, and soon after find an out of the way spot to make camp. However... the Old Wood is beyond old, before bedtime the adventurers take a scout around- but not too far from Newt's newly erected Leomund's Tiny Hut.

Vinnie is certain that the wood here is dying, the trees are rotten black in places, there's fouled standing water shaded from the summer's sun, and the stench of something more than rot and decay.

What's more Gerald, Newt's bat companion, is sent for a flutter around- the winged scout manages to spot a way into the woods, a turgid muddy path, less than twenty minutes walk away from the Dark Squad's present camp.

But still... rest is needed, it has been a very long day- remember the Dark Squad were up and about at dawn this morning.

Remarkably the night passes more-or-less in silence, further evidence Vinnie suggests that nature no-longer dwells within the Old Wood. The PC chatter here is of undead, possibly. The Dark Squad therefore, after brekkie, make for the muddy road- and with Ram creeping well-ahead, they follow the route. Although, they are being very cautious.

8102.jpg

It's not an area of outstanding natural beauty the Old Wood.

The road goes on, and here's the thing- the (cart) tracks here are fairly fresh- lots of stuff came this way, and recently. Note the carts went in- and then out again, so- a delivery? Perhaps, but delivering what? And to whom?

Then after a slow thirty minutes of mooching and creeping Ram spots a gang of loping gnolls coming down the track.

8103.jpg

The rogue hides up and then uses his Sending Stone to communicate the situation to Vinnie (the possessor of the second Sending Stone). Ram, remember, is creeping a hundred or so yards ahead of the rest of the Squad.

I've said this before, and no doubt I'll say it again- he's the brave one.

The rest... well, the rest is a massacre, the six tough gnolls are taken down in a matter of seconds- between being caught in Vinnie's Spike Growth, and the rest of the onslaught they don't stand a chance. Although, one of the sextet almost manages to flee the scene. Inverna puts the foul fellow down, at the very last moment- just as the screaming gnoll is about to exit the map (and thereby, hopefully, get away).

The Dark Squad take to crowing, not the PCs but the players, clearly six gnolls is just not enough of a challenge. The DM let's the players into a secret, the encounter wasn't supposed to be difficult, only... if one gnoll had gotten away...

Enlightenment.

The Dark Squad therefore take a moment to search their fallen foes, and ascertain that all of the gnolls have the same tribal markings, and that they are all warriors- they also each have a little coin.

A brief chat and then the adventurers are on their way again, the same precautions taken, Ram sneaking ahead to check the route- although now the Sending Stones have been used he's much closer to his companions- not so far ahead. Thus the Dark Squad creep all the way to the Shrine of Savras.

8104.jpg

Which is a ruin of course, but noisy- even at this time in the morning- note the Dark Squad started into the woods just after dawn this morning. Gnolls and hyenas bark and snarl within the compound. There are a lot of creatures here...

Lots of them.

I feel the need to say that again...

Lots of them.

And then, of course, there's the glint of metal from up above in the bell tower, this is the bell that the Dark Squad need to sound, but just once. Doing so will help them with their cause here, Wildroot made that clear back at the Moon Pool.

Ring the bell to receive the blessing of Savras.

The adventurers stay back in the woods that surround the ruins, and plan for a while. Then, after a Pass Without Trace from Vinnie, and a sprinkle of Ram's pouch of Dust of Disappearance they get to work.

Part one- Ram sneaks into the compound, and indeed there are gnolls and hyenas everywhere, and so the rogue doesn't hang around. He quickly climbs up the nearest wall of the ruined church and onto the roof, and from there makes his way into the belfry. Although, this requires the spending of an inspiration point, the dextrous rogue is much less athletic.

What are Potions of Climbing for? Ornamentation perhaps, you do know that they're very cheap, and fairly widely available. Every one of the PCs has at least one, and for two of guys (Vinnie & Daktari)- Slippers of Spider Climbing.

Still, he's at the bell, and can also see all around him- there are a lot of gnolls here.

Lots of them.

I mean... lots and lots.

There are also gnolls below, in the shrine itself, the rogue can hear them.

But let's get on...

Part two- while Ram is getting in position Gerald the bat, also invisible, goes for a flip-flap around the locale, and all the while Newt is watching/listening via the creature's senses. He describes the lay of the land, particularly the area to the north and out of sight, to his companions.

There are lots more gnolls here.

Lots of them.

Lots and lots of them.

8105.jpg

The outline of the compound after Gerald's recon.

Lots of gnolls.

Part three- the Dark Squad get in position and 1...2...3... Ram rings the bell, this after first dragging up the bell rope from below so that the instrument cannot be sounded again.

When the bell rings- but once, a breeze of fresh-fresh air, a cooling waft which arrests the senses, momentarily, and clears the mind surges through the locale. The Dark Squad suddenly feel invigorated, and are each of them blessed with a variety of bonuses, not the least of which is every attack they make is at advantage here.

Note, I have found a way to drop macros on tokens that cannot be seen by the players either on their PCs or in the Combat Tracker. I wuv u Fantasy Grounds Unity.

Back to the action...

Lots of gnolls and hyenas take a break from what they are doing to either stand and stare, or else shade their eyes (obviously just the gnolls) and try to see what's going on up in the belfry.

At which point however all hell breaks loose.

8106.jpg

That's Newt's Sickening Radiance on the left (Spoiler- all of the creature's within its compass are dead within seconds) and that's the range of Vinnie's Call Lightning on the right, the first blast of which delivers 4d10 lightning damage = 1,2,3,1 = 7 damage, save for half. Not as impressive.

Note Inverna and Daktari have clambered into the ruined shell of the tower on the left, and taken the gnolls snoozing there by surprise.

Further note that while Ram and Vinnie's tokens are on this map that's just for the ease of targeting enemies on Fantasy Grounds, they're both actually up in the belfry. Vinnie having made his way there invisibly (and silently) using his Slippers of Spider Climbing.

Remember at the start the Dark Squad are also invisible and subject to Vinnie's Pass Without Trace spell- silent and deadly.

Ram, while the chaos below is unfolding, is taking pot shots from up above- he doesn't miss.

The gnolls panic... think about it, a dim circle of sickening diaphanous mist suddenly appears which causes, in just six seconds, the eight hyenas and two gnolls within its compass to drop dead. This followed by a blast of lightning and then the roar of thunder as a micro-storm equally suddenly appears. Then Ram starts shooting...

As I say, the gnolls panic for a short while, or else run about a bit after scrambling from their tents and dwellings, initially they're trying to figure out who's attacking them, and from where?

8107.jpg

That is until the first one of these guys shows up and starts organising the fight back, and generally yelling the odds- keep in mind that none of the PCs understand the gnoll tongue so they don't know what is being said.

Soon after there are more gnolls heading from their positions in the north, and several more of the ferocious creatures attempt to clamber onto the roof of the shrine, some less successfully than others.

8108.jpg

Still it's getting kinda busy up on the roof, note Vinnie should also appear on this map, the druid is stood on top of the belfry (but again he's on the other map just to make the targeting of enemies easier atm).

One of the gnoll leader types, an energetic platemail wearing bastard armed with a triple-headed flail confronts a precariously balanced Ram, but the rogue is much more nimble than the gnoll and moments later the big bastard slips, slides and tumbles off the roof.

Miraculously it survives the ordeal, although it's fury now knows no bounds.

But there are more gnolls on the roof now taking pot shots at the rogue, and so...

Vincen-WHO!

8109.jpg

The druid wildshapes into a giant owl, grabs Ram mid-glide, and then swoops down to alight upon the tower that the Dark Squad are using as their defensive position.

Note, while all of this going on Ubmo is flying around all the while attempting to deliver lightning or javelin based death, and saying “Yay!” a lot, in binary of course. Which only Vinnie understands.

The gnolls/hyenas- well quite a lot of them are dead, I say quite a lot, and yet... well, less than half, and most of those killed were just hyenas.

There are at least three of the armoured gnolls (the guys with the platemail and triple-headed flails), and they're screaming at the rank and file and directing traffic to get closer to the action.

So, we're only just into this- maybe five or so turns into the action, but we're slow-playing some of it, and Newt is already out of spells- he dropped a Fireball earlier but I'll be honest- a Fireball ain't that impressive any more.

And there was no short rest between the gnoll encounter on the road and here.

The gnolls from the north are filtering the PCs way, and while a majority of them are avoiding the area of Sickening Radiance several of the warriors have scampered through the miasma (without harm) to join the Dark Squad in their tower.

At least two others however were much less successful (RIP) in their transit through the killing ground.

There's also another gaggle of the flesh-eating bastards making their away around the tower in which the Dark Squad are ensconced, they will be arriving very soon from the west.

There are still gnolls on the roof of the shrine armed with bows, but the Dark Squad are mostly very hard to hit atm.

You'll further note that Daktari is a raging maniac, out in the open and taking on all comers- but there are lots of gnolls en route to him, all of them extremely eager to tear the barbarian a new one.

My point is this- one of the players said something like, 'this could be a grind', well... I'm in no rush- my Tuesday nights are open. You'd better have a better plan than this because otherwise we're still going to be at this at the end of the next session.

If you survive that long.

I have gnolls coming out of my wazoo still on the map.

And in a couple of turns I'm going to rouse the leader types within the Shrine.

So, we'll start next session with a chat, the subject of which will be... gnolls, because here's the thing- you've met these guys before, the triple-headed flail wielding bastards- you've fought them once already. They were tough and mean back then, and they didn't back down from the fight last time.

And I know that I've said this before but... you could get in trouble here, and it's only a grind if you make it so, and you have made it so. There was another, easier, way of doing this... but you just dived into it, again.

Or else...

Can you guess which highly defensible place on the map contains far fewer enemies? Admittedly, the enemies within are pretty tough but... well, chop off the head and...

Remember the invisibility, the Pass Without Trace, could you have gone further with this... you had the idea but didn't (perhaps) reach far enough.

You also get that I (the DM) know what spells and powers your PCs have available, subject to selection, and what magic items your PCs possess. I know that you can be very quiet when you want to, and in extremis- invisible. So, I design encounters (sometimes) that you can defeat much easier if you have a bit of a think about things first.

Why just ring the bell?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming you- I set it up this way on purpose, to tempt you, well... you're for it now, maybe.

Just to make clear- I think that you are going to (probably) win this fight, but it's going to go to the wire. I further think that if you had thought about it a little longer, or even had a look inside the Shrine before going in (and you had the time and the resources to do this) then you could have definitely thought of an easier way of doing this.

Encounters, my friends, at least some of them- have got harder. I think you need to recalibrate, or maybe just talk about things more before, just an observation. Oh, and when George's new PC gets into action, well... I'm going to recalibrating for definite, it's going to get much nastier when you get your cleric.

Looking forward to this immensely.

But that's all we had time for this week.

Get your special grinding trousers on for next week, or else... a better plan.

However let me just take a moment to welcome George to the fold. George was playing Inverna for the second half of this session, and he'll be joining us full time (unless he's been put off already) starting from next week. We'll get to meet his PC just as soon as the Dark Squad get back to the Moon Pool.

If they make it back to the Moon Pool.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 



Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Another fun post.

And I have to give special props for the post's title. Although it also left me a bit disappointed that there was no pink and yellow blob monster and nary a mention of anyone's crinkly bottom! :D
The title of the session was George's first significant contribution.

George, in real life, is a six foot-four/five/six, shaven-headed, spade-bearded, hard rock metalhead. So, there's some shared genes with the Blob-meister. George however is remarkably well-spoken.

For the crinkly bottom- we'll all be experiencing this after next session's grind, unless there's an alternative plan.

Toodles.

goonalan and the Dark Squad.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #082: St. Newt and the Gnoll-GRIND.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-


  1. Clear and/or re-consecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood, then return to the Moon Pool to glimpse the future.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  8. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons left to fight Ashardalon.
  9. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.
  10. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 82, and another cracker, although- exactly as I predicted at the end of the last session.

Grrrrind.

So, the Shrine of Savras in the Old Woods and the gnolls have been awoken from their slumber, we start the session with a variety of chatter- the players are making plans, and lots of options are mooted but the overriding feeling is the Dark Squad are going to have to tough it out. Their plans only really kick in if the Dark Squad get ousted from the crumbling tower that they are at present defending.

Just to let you know- there are/were fifty-five gnolls & hyenas sprawled and mostly snoozing, and camped around the ruined shrine building. Within the shrine itself are the gnoll leaders (just two of them) and less than half-a-dozen guards. The PCs by the end are kicking themselves for not checking this place out earlier.

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The Dark Squad in their tower bottom left, and already there are a few gnolls in there with them.

This then is all fighting, a four hour session of D&D that in game time equates to forty-eight seconds of action, that's it. Four hours = eight turns.

One more thing to make clear, and I didn't spot this until the end, the PCs initiative rolls really helped them here, Ram = 26, Vinnie 23, Inverna 21, Newt 21 & Daktari 18.

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The Dark Squad, actually very mostly Ram, clear out all of the gnolls that had made it into the tower. Note, I am deleting the bodies of the fallen every turn just to speed up FGU and to keep the map clear.

Newt keeps concentrating on his sickening radiance- effectively blocking one entrance to the tower, and in the meantime keeps on blasting which also has the advantage of pushing the enemies back.

Vinnie keeps peppering the gnolls with bolts from his Call Lightning spell, this while hovering way above the action- he's wild-shaped into Vincen-Whoo (a giant owl) atm.

Ram keeps everyone safe within the tower, pretty much taking down any and all gnolls and hyenas that get into the ruin.

Inverna holds the line, while Daktari in a frenzied rage is out and about, and mixing it up with anyone that will fight him. Although this doesn't last-

“Excuse me! I am sorry, I will be back to kill you later...”

Do it in cod-Russian (I hesitate to write the word, and then tremble a little as a wave of anger washes over me).

Soon after Daktari has to cut his way back to his friends in the tower, even the crazy barbarian figures out that he wont last long stuck out in the open. At one point Dak is being attacked by six gnolls (three of them with four attacks each) and also being shot at by four more gnoll archers.

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Oh, and strange looking hyenas keep on rocking up (I think there were three of them in the encounter, from memory) and they're pretty tough- leucrotta's.

A little later Inverna tells her comrades, in passing (and after a successful monster knowledge check), how leucrotta's are born- the offspring of gnolls & hyenas... Daktari is particularly repulsed.

“They are very dirty ponys!” Or something similar.

Then, much grinding follows, if you'll pardon the expression.

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That is until the Supreme Being, Ubmo, saves the day- Lightning Bolt.

Just to note Ubmo, like Vinnie, has been flying high and keeping out of trouble, each turn however the happy modron does one of the following (roll 1d6) 1-2 throws a javelin, 3-4 fires a Witchbolt, 5-6 hits the Lightning Bolt button.

Lots of gnolls et al fail their saves and Ubmo rolls high for damage.

There's a ragged cheer as a bunch of enemies succumb to the blast, but this ain't over by a long chalk.

You'll note on the picture above, there's a gnoll climbing up the ruined tower, they're trying to get in from above now.

8205.jpg

Vincen-Whoo convinces the DM to allow him to shift his Call Lightning storm, spending both of his inspiration points to do so. Why not- I want them to win (the PCs). Besides the lightning bolts produced are only just chipping away at the enemies.

But there are no end of gnolls, seemingly...

Then, a miracle- and not just one, a little later the miraculous act described below gets repeated.

Newt slithers over to Daktari, and while whispering in his ear-

“Hold still you raging hunk of love with great hair.”

The tabaxi warlock begins massaging Keoghtom's Ointment into the Sky Pony barbarian.

“A little lower if you please Newt- that's the spot!” Dak replies while squirming.

As I say a short while later he repeats the trick-

“Hold still my dear, you wont feel a thing, or else perhaps a little tingling and then a spreading warmth inside you...”

The tabaxi repeats the Keoghtom's treatment on Inverna, don't worry Ram has HR on speed-dial, trying to stay ahead of any future sexual harassment cases.

Two things.

One, Newt healing someone is... well, and let's be clear- I mean healing someone that isn't Newt. Well, that's just. Unheard of.

Two, we have a stat counter thing on the FGU, Ram takes a peak- one of the columns on it counts healing distributed to others. Newt just tripled his total score, although no-one (not even Newt) can remember him healing anyone previously.

The players conclude, correctly, that the tabaxi is smart enough to see that the only thing keeping him safe right now (he's still out of spells) are the meat shields plugging the gap.

Note, it's about now that the gnoll bosses and their meagre gnoll guards begin to exit the shrine, heading for the action.

But these are gnolls- the hunger is upon them, and while there are a few gnoll warriors (marked 'Tough Bastard Gnoll') on the map who are directing traffic. The rest of them just want to slaughter and eat the PCs. Their tactic is- get 'em!

8206.jpg

But the enemies keep on getting in to the tower, note the two leucrottas in action here, soon after Inverna gets hoofed and clawed repeatedly.

And here's the leader-types on their way, spotted from above by Vinnie, who hoots furiously to let his colleagues know. Know what? He's not Lassie.

8207.jpg

But hang on... Vinnie ('20' Insight) recognises the crazy gnoll with the staff, it's the gnoll shaman that escaped from the De La Crane Manse back in session #52. The gnoll spellcaster (and the rest of the gnolls) were seemingly working for the Talos worshippers there (maybe).

Note, when I write maybe I mean that's what the PCs think- I'm not confirming or denying.

Back to the here and now...

The other leader type moves at full speed directly for the Dark Squad, and all around her the gnolls come alive, or else are gathered up in a frenzied bloodlust.

All of the gnolls now do extra damage on their hits.

You'll note in the picture above that the tower is getting overrun.

But not for long.

8208.jpg

The Dark Squad, once again, clear the tower of enemies- mostly Ram and Newt- both of them never missing.

Note there are now three gnolls up above on the crumbling tower, either firing arrows, flinging bolas, or else throwing spears.

Still busy.

More grind.

But now Vinnie has seen enough, the giant owl is gone, and straddling the tower the druid launches an Ice Storm into the thickest knot of gnolls, and then rolls something like 30-damage, there are many casualties- including four of the archers.

8209.jpg

Before...

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After.

Note the gnoll archers don't do a lot of damage but they keep on hitting because they have a Precise Aim bonus action, giving them a +1d8 to hit if they don't move on their turn.

But the gnolls are still not giving up, mainly because the gnoll clanmother (marked 'Ferocious Gnoll' on the map) is amongst them, driving them into a bloodlust frenzy.

I got the gnolls from a splatbook, and then added a few extras powers (to some) for good measure.

The gnolls break into the tower, again.

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This time there are dire consequences- Newt falls after being savaged by a tough bastard gnoll.

But Vinnie, now the Moon Boar enters the fray- spider-climbing down the inside wall of the tower, and gets a potion of greater healing into the warlock.

Inverna and Daktari are also running out of hit points fast, and at this point Inverna has already sunk a potion of greater healing of her own.

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It's all kicking off.

Newt's back on his feet, but alas Inverna's has just been smashed down by the gnoll clanmother, and an even-weirder looking (big) hyena has just been summoned into the middle of the tower by the crazy gnoll shaman. A little later the Dark Squad divine that this beast is a crocotta (a tougher version of a leucrotta).

The crocotta has a big bag of hit points.

As did the gnoll clanmother, but she's only got one hit point left atm.

Remarkably she survives until the end.

But the gnoll assault is almost spent- the clanmother is not giving up but several gnoll archers, all of them already reduced to very low hit points, flee the battle. The gnolls shaman is also just about to ship out, he's a born survivor that one.

Note, the shaman did other things- twice Daktari has successfully saved against the crazy gnoll's Hold Person spell, and Dak is not bless with wisdom. Spell save DC 14, and he rolls- '14' exactly, both times.

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The last picture of the evening, although we went on a little beyond this.

Note, Inverna's back on her feet- thanks to a potion delivery from Ram, I think. But, well... that doesn't last long, seconds later and the gnoll clanmother in full fury mode cuts the elven sidekick fighter down again. Then, for good measure, reduces to Daktari to less than ten hit points.

The crocotta also squeezes back into the tower and gets back to chomping and clawing on the Squad.

But that's where we end it.

Grind, but fun with it- some cool moves, some daft stuff- note Ubmo was also destroyed twice during the fight, each time (on the next turn) blinking back into existence at Vinnie's side.

And yelling “Yay!” a lot, in binary (sounds like a Spectrum uploading a game from a tape) which only Vinnie understands.

So, we're not out of it, but... they're through it. Only four badly wounded enemies left- the shaman has legged it.

Last bit, I made a lot of attack rolls this evening- the PCs/players will attest to this. I rolled seventeen fumbles by the end, my bloody electronic Fantasy Grounds dice!

Oh, but a word about blood drops on the enemies/PCs on the map, we discussed it in the session, here's how it works-

One blood drop = taken at least one hit point of damage. Lightly Wounded.
Two blood drops = taken more than 25% of total hit points damage. Wounded.
Three blood drops = taken more than 50% of total hit points damage, bloodied. Heavily Wounded.
Four blood drops = taken more than 75% of total hit points damage. Critically Wounded.

Less of this kind of thing next time, fingers-crossed. Lolz.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #083: Ashardalon.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-


  1. Clear and/or reconsecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood, then return to the Moon Pool to glimpse the future.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  8. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons left to fight Ashardalon.
  9. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.
  10. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 83, and another good 'un.

So, here we go again, although just to say ahead of time there was an awful lot of chatter in this one, including Jim (playing Vinnie & Daktari) talking to himself for quite a while.

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The end of the gnolls.

And the end comes very quickly, the bad guys in the image above don't get to make a single attack- Ram puts the summoned crocotta down, the Moon Boar ends a formerly feisty gnoll warrior, and Daktari kills the gnoll clanmother, the big bad boss-type.

That's that done, and just to say that was in the region of 12K XP-wise of gnolls and hyenas (and the like) that the Dark Squad just ploughed through. I did say it was going to be a GRIND.

Then, well... rest, and chatter.

The Dark Squad are going absolutely no-where very soon, they're staying in their broken tower, raising Newt's Tiny Hut and taking a well earned rest, with an active watch, of course. Note, all this after Inverna is given a Cure Wounds to bring her round.

But that's the last of the gnolls, there were less than half-a-dozen badly wounded foes (and the uninjured shaman) that fled the scene, but they're not coming back to this hell-hole.

So, chatter- and there's a lot of it.

We begin, again (we've been here before), with yet another interrogation of Newt, why you ask. Well, because Newt has a habit, in battle, or else while travelling, or maybe in shops, or bars, or taverns- just about anywhere, of just saying the craziest of things.

Its not anything specific that he says, its all just... crazy, and its mostly just the warlock expressing his world view. His world view being entirely bathed in paranoia, murder, conflagration, and the undeniable fact that he is a servant of some unutterable being (Belphegor) that will inevitably come to rule all of creation (or else burn it down).

Newt could (and does) make going to the shops very interesting, this kind of thing happens a lot-

“Damn you foul wizened hag (Mrs Shopkeeper) the Lord Belphegor demands I purchase bananas, I will not pay more than one platinum for this hand of said fruit, take my money crawling worm less I incinerate this grocer-of-green convenience, and all of these tallow fat humans that sojourn within.”

“Good day to you.”

Newt leaves, having paid one platinum piece for five bananas.

So, once more, a variety of the Dark Squad have questions, like- what happened to him? Was he dropped on the head as a child? Did he not get enough love? Or, as Ram often contends, is he just a slave to a hellish master (or else a 'mentalist', Ram's back-up opinion).

We ramble through the dilemma for a while.

Newt tries to explain his predicament some more, but... while he's buying his story (again and again) and delighting in it, the rest of the Squad are reluctant to see the world from Newt's POV. Later, while Newt is humming a happy tune, as he eviscerates the stacked dead gnolls- the warlock is directing Daktari who is actually doing the hard work. Newt (Daktari) is making a pyre, a burnt offering (just shy of twenty feet high) of soon to be noisome charred flesh, Inverna, who is played by George these days, watches on.

She has this to offer-

“So, that's it is it?”, Inverna enquires of her comrades in arms, “as long as the evil one is kept busy”, Inverna nods towards Newt at this point, the aforementioned 'evil one', and then continues. “So, as long as he stays busy, well, you just decide to ignore all of the other stuff that he says and does. All the 'fiery this', and, 'fiery that', followed by random terror and cremation. That just gets swept under the carpet?”

Several members of the Dark Squad nod, and then sigh- there's always a lot of sighing went Newt gets discussed.

But even Newt is intrigued, his favourite subject is, of course... Newt.

“My dear Inverna”, note Newt is really beginning to sound like some sort English cad, with his husky whisper. “What you don't understand my dear, is that while this bleak and bloody confrontation with the gnolls may seem to you extraordinary, it is- I am over-joyed to say, but one of many, what shall we call them- genocides perhaps, that the Dark Squad has committed.”

“I rather enjoyed this one!”

Newt adds, just to break the gathering silence.

“That's why I like hanging around with these wonderful folk- you see we've all been there and done it, bought the light weight cotton training vest- as they say. We've all done some very, very terrible things!”

The warlock concludes, grinning like, well... a big walking cat with a fat cheesy grin.

The rest of the Dark Squad shuffle their feet, shrug and bemoan their fate, which soon after turns into a conversation.

It's at this point that Vinnie & Daktari suddenly remember that while they have both had deep and meaningful conversations with all of the other members of the Dark Squad, the pair have never really taken the time to get to know each other.

They've always been too busy, or else in conversation with a different member of the Dark Squad.

This, of course, is because Vinnie and Daktari are both played by Jim, it would be ridiculous for one player to just take both sides in a conversation, and then to proceed to talk to himself for ten to fifteen minutes.

Ridiculous.

Jim manages twenty minutes, in truth it was very amusing, but we learn little from the experience.

See, I said there was a lot of chatter.

Next up, after rest, and then the robbing of the dead gnolls et al that are strewn about (results- lots of coin, mostly coppers & silvers, a few +1 arrows, and a +1 javelin) the Dark Squad, at last, enter the Shrine of Savras.

They need to re-consecrate this place to get the Moon Pool up and running, which in turn will enable them to take a dip there and discover their individual futures, or else to catch a glimpse of it.

Ram is sent ahead, into the shrine proper, to check things out- its what he's for.

8301.jpg

Not a great picture, I think I had the shared vision on Fantasy Grounds Unity turned off, my bad.

So, there's more treasure inside, most of it situated around the altar of the shrine, which is in bad shape- covered with viscera and half-consumed stinking corpses, this place was the gnoll clanmother's lair.

The treasure is collected, marvelled at- briefly, and counted.

Note both of the Dark Squad's extra-dimensional treasure holding spaces (a bag, and a chest, of holding) are getting close to their limits. You are going to need a clear out some time soon.

The only significant items of interest however are not the valuables, they are the various barrels of food stuffs and potables that have brought here, and remember the PCs found cart tracks on their way into the Old Woods. Further investigation reveals that the barrels were either from, or else passed through, Saltmarsh.

Someone has been delivering supplies to the gnolls, who- it seems- have been here for a while, weeks certainly, a month- maybe longer.

Then- searching done, back to work, and the gnoll funeral pyre is, soon after, completed- this is mostly Newt's doing, actually the 'doing' is entirely Daktari, Newt just issues orders.

A little later, while the rest of the Dark Squad are going on a spiritual journey (you'll see- read on) inside the Shrine of Savras, Newt sets the pyre on fire. Then, employing a variety of his fire spells, he climbs into the burning pyre to commune with his dark master.

And while everyone else is having a vision (see later) Newt has one of his own.

Mostly because he got left out- keep reading.

In the fire he sees a sky filled with flame, he peers out of a cavern to see a set of stepping stones leading across a bubbling river of lava. He crosses, and hurries on through furnace hot cavern passages to emerge before a great wall of iron, crenellated like battlements. The warlock climbs the stairs onto the iron wall, which on the far side dams another sea of molten lava, the iron here is scalding hot. He races quickly along the wall and into a small sentry tower at its conclusion. He descends and emerges into a sulphurous ravine which wends its way to a bone and liana style bridge that somehow endures, as it traverses yet another river of magma.

Over the far side of the bridge is a much more imposing hexagonal-shaped tower, and on the upper floor of which, situated and disposed like a damsel in distress*, is Lord Belphegor waving furiously for the tabaxi to rush to him...

It's a beautiful dream.

*When I write 'damsel in distress' please keep in mind that Lord Belphegor is (Newt thinks, maybe) a twelve foot tall pit fiend, often depicted- as now, swathed in coruscating flame.

Note, almost all of the above came about because, well... Newt had nothing to do with the next bit.

So, while Newt is playing with fire, the rest of the Dark Squad have cleaned the interior of the Shrine of Savras, and the altar in particular, and are now in the process of offering up prayers to Savras. Vinnie is mostly leading the chorus, but they're all getting into it.

Note, Newt was invited to attend this shindig but he was reluctant, I think he said-

“Really Vinnie, religion? It's just a lot of mumbo-jumbo. I don't think it's for me, I know that the one true light is the purging flame of destruction. But thanks for asking, I'll do a few marshmallows on the fire for when you get done.”

So, back inside the shrine, the collective prayers of the four other members of the Dark Squad are successful, the quartet share a vision.

This is what Newt was missing out on.

8302.jpg

Vinnie is the first to arrive, note the PCs have exactly 10 turns = one minute in this place, although I didn't tell them this- only had them appear and move in initiative order until they figured there must be a reason for it- they're up against the clock.

The place is dark and spooky looking because this is a vision, and keep in mind Savras' theatre of operations is divination, so- this fits.

The place within the vision, several of the PCs discover, is an ancient and ruined fortress set high on a hillside- surrounded by a very bleak and foreboding looking woodland.

A little later the Dark Squad, after a few rolls, figure this place is in the Dreadwood, to be more precise, within the Deeps of the Dreadwood, which is a place- they know, full of the restless dead (and undead). Also, supposedly the home of Nightshade, the missing Bad Dead Ancestor.

But anyway, we get on...

8303.jpg

It seems there's more of the fortress beneath the surface, and this is mostly a dwarven place, or at least there are a lot of broken bones here, the smashed skeletons of long dead dwarves.

There are also great gouge marks in the floor of the central cavern passage, something nasty came this way...

Note Vinnie thinks these marks may have been made by a very big dragon.

He makes a survival check.

He rolls a '1'.

He's too busy to hang around to try again.

As are the other members of the Dark Squad who are rushing through various ancient uninhabited rooms- sorry, no-one much took pictures.

Back to the '1'.

Vinnie is certain it wasn't a dragon that made these marks in the stone, his new best guess- a very heavily laden cart, or similar.

We go on...

Inverna discovers a corridor containing a number of statues, the statues seem to depict elven-bodied dragon-headed warriors. Moments later Daktari spots another of these, and then Vinnie. naughty word! Vinnie (and Ram) has seen these guys before, all the way back in the Sunless Citadel.

But there's else nothing here to find...

That is until Ram finds his way down again into a partially destroyed dwarven great hall, which has latterly been put to good use as a treasure room. There is a swathe, a pool, a pond, a great wave of gold, silver and... all the other sparkly things.

Ram however is still exploring, he moves on- beyond the knee deep field of treasure, he finds yet another way down, there's more below.

But then...

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Note, Inverna had just decided to try to race back up to the surface to get a better fix on where exactly this fortress is, when...

The elven sidekick is torn limb from limb, the great red dragon Ashardalon comes barrelling around the corner, even now making new gouges in the stone floor as its massive bulk breaks stone and crushes ornament.

The dragon's bite severs the fighters right arm and burns her almost beyond consciousness, the two follow up claw attacks- as the dragon rears and scrabbles at the fallen elf, leave Inverna, well... torn limb from limb- as I said at the start, and, well... dead.

Vinnie and Daktari hear Inverna's last scream of terror.

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Moments later Ashardalon bursts forth into the ancient dwarven great hall, latterly treasure chamber. Note, that's coin and jewellery in a heaped swathe in the picture.

Remarkably both Vinnie and Daktari make their saves against the ancient wyrm's Frightful Presence, alas that helps neither of them as the great red fills the chamber with an atomised syrup of flame.

Both adventurers die screaming.

What about Ram you ask, the rogue is in the next chamber on when the above is happening, well... Ram has other issues. In the picture above Ram is situated at the top of another flight of stairs leading down, and streaming up these- coming racing towards him, are a horde of ferocious kobolds.

Ululating up a storm.

Ferocious may be stretching it but, there are a lot of them.

Further note, the kobolds don't get to Ram, who (in for a penny, in for a pound) elected on his turn to move towards them, because... the one minute within the vision is up, and...

BLINK!

The four adventurers reappear (or else they never left) within the Shrine of Savras.

Inverna, Vinnie & Daktari are on one hit point, the trio collapse.

What came to pass? That was psychic damage.

Ram's still in fine shape.

The Dark Squad, after a brief powwow, most of it laced with expletives, although Ashardalon also got mentioned quite a few times, usually either just before or else after, the expletives. The Dark Squad then head off to tell Newt about what just happened.

We will, perhaps next session, re-hash what went on here, I think it's time that the to-do list got revisited.

But the PCs are done-in (again), and so the rest of the day is spent resting and recuperating at the Shrine of Savras. Note, a lot of the PCs spent all of the healing HD after the gnoll fight, and now they're on really low ('1') hit points again. So, a few spells and potions before bedtime, just in case.

Another night in the hut.

Then, rise and shine- out of the Old Woods and to the nearest trail that takes them back to the Silverstand forest, the Dark Squad make good time, particularly on their journey through the enchanted forest to the Moon Pool.

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Heading back to the Moon Pool.

Again, the forest seems to be helping them on their way, all the way to the Moon Pool.

8307.jpg

Wildroot listens patiently to the Dark Squad's story of the Shrine of Savras (they love a bit of validation) and then confirms that the Moon Pool is back up and running.

The Dark Squad dive in, and experience twisted and misted visions of their past/present/future selves. It's all very difficult to discern.

8308.jpg

To simulate this 'lostness' the Dark Squad are in a maze (again, they're not really in a maze, I'm simulating). On FGU the shared vision is turned off, the PCs are going to move in Initiative order (with various tests they can take to improve their Speed each turn, note failing a test cuts off this resource). They simply have to find their way out of the maze, and the quicker they are at this then the more time they get to spend in their future vision.

To reiterate/dumb down- the quicker you get through the maze, the more time your PC gets to spend in the prophetic vision that I have lined up, one for each of you.

Exciting isn't it.

You betcha.

But then my Mrs came home and I'd been four days without seeing her, and... well, a mumbled apology and I was off.

That's all I had time for.

The Mrs or D&D? The Mrs wins every time.

Another great night, and with only maybe six attack rolls all evening, a pleasure for this GM.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 


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