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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 Sunless Citadel

Session #010 Ashardalon.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3

Left back with the Kobolds
Erky Timbers Male Gnome Priest of Tymora


So, session #10 of the Sunless Citadel, the Outcast et al is dead, the evil druid’s former supplicants- Kerowyn Hucrele and Sir Braford have been rescued, and thanks to the magic apple from the Gulthias Tree- returned to some semblance of humanity. All is well with the world, although…

The PCs after a short video presentation (maybe, see last session) have got their hands on the dragon key, and soon after have opened the dragon door to spy what lies beyond. This after their pursuit of a nine foot tall robed, and spectral, elf/dragon guy led them to this spot.

Now, inside…

But just a reminder, Gwen- is the name, of course, of Buggles’ new friend, a skeleton summoned via night caller, a strange black crystal whistle the wood elf found in the previous session. Just a reminder before we go on.

Oh, and strap in- this is a lengthy instalment, quite a lot 'came up', as it were, in this session.

The chamber beyond the dragon door, as described in the last session is large, with three alcoves to the north- each holding a pedestal with a fist-sized dull rock atop (in all three alcoves). There’s another alcove to the south- the same set up except the rock atop the pedestal here is glowing- with a soft blue-white light. It’s also emitting a very hard to make out noise- it could be music, most odd.

Other than this strange set up there’s a door opposite, and clear indication from the thick layer of dust on everything that this chamber has been sealed for many (many) years.

The PCs are cautious, well- except for Newt, because as you know curiosity never did any harm to a feline of any ilk. The tabaxi rushes over to investigate the glowing orb- it’s very pretty, meow.

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"Me-Wow! This looks purrrfect for my collection!"

Alas, as soon as he gets close the tinny sound that was issuing from the orb suddenly gets much much louder, I send the PCs the following link-


This is the noise coming out of the glowing orb, and the effect of it is… well, to force all of the PCs to make a DC 15 wisdom save, I’ll be honest- I thought half of them would fail this, but no- not a bloody one of 'em.

So, the PCs stand statue staring at the orb, and shrugging or tapping along to the tune, while the clutch of kobolds that followed the adventurers here, and were hanging around the door, suddenly race off yapping furiously, clearly affected by the audio.

More shrugs from the PCs, particularly the two rogues in the party who are using thieves’ cant to chat and signal their umbrage-
“Is puss-in-boots going to turn it off, or what?” Buggles enquires testily.

However the tabaxi decides on a different plan, and instead grabs the orb up into his hands- this act causes the music to suddenly increase again in volume- it’s ear-splitting. The effect however lasts but a moment more as Newt, in ire, drops the sphere hard onto the stone-flagged floor.

It cracks, the light goes off… and the music comes to a very sudden halt.

[Turn the music off 60 XP]

Then, after much checking and rechecking of the door, the only exit- they head on, or at least open the portal to spy into a short passage, just ten feet wide and about twenty long which ends in yet another door, again- the place is thick with undisturbed dust.

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"It's just a dusty corridor", Buggles decrees as he and Gwen head out for their constitutional. A beautiful sight- a young wood elf and his rictus grinning undead skeleton paramour. Lovely.

It’s Buggles’ turn to rush on in, this after only a cursory check ahead, the rogue/fighter and his skeleton companion- Gwen, stride forward- seconds later, after the trap is triggered, Buggles is gut shot (a Crit) by a crossbow bolt (for 13 damage) and bloodied in an instant.

That went well.

The badly wounded wood elf holds position, it becomes apparent that there are series of pressure plates in the corridor, this conclusion reached after Gwen is ordered to stride about a bit to try and find the triggers. The skeleton gets shot at three times, all misses, while Buggles continues to groan and gripe clutching at his wound.

Don’t worry, a short while later he’ll get his second wind and will be back to mischief soon after.

Newt attempts to manipulate a mage hand to poke an arrow into a small hole above the far door, through which the crossbow bolts are being fired- this works, but only once, the next time the mechanism fires it clears the unbraced obstruction.

Eventually, after a bit more very cautious checking and testing, and by using the stone pedestals from the previous chamber to weigh down all of the pressure plates on one side of the passage, the adventurers safely make it to the door opposite.

There are a lot of verbal high fives from the players for just making it down a twenty foot passage (fairly) safely.

If you think that's bad...

[Get through the trapped corridor 125 XP]

Then after another comprehensive series of checks for noise, traps et al Ram opens the door into the next chamber, scratch that- the last chamber, there are no other exits from here.

Here being a high ceilinged space, again thick with dust, and with a fifteen foot tall statue of a rearing dragon constructed from red-veined marble, to the north.

The dragon statue’s mouth is agape, as if to release it’s (wintery/fiery?) breath. This last fact ensures that the PCs remain on edge for a little while longer. That is until Ram gets close to the dragon statue which swiftly animates and turns to stare at the rogue, and then delivers it’s speech/riddle-

“We come at night without being fetched; we disappear by day without being stolen. What are we?”

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The end of the road- a big dragon statue, nice- but not entirely what the dark Squad were expecting/wanting to find.

Which foxes the PCs for just less than three seconds, Vincenzo mutters- “Stars?”, and the animated dragon turns to stare at the shifter, and then nods solemnly. Then a grinding noise as a previously secret door on the west side of the chamber pivots open.

There’s more…

We break briefly for a chunk of back slapping for Vincenzo and his big brain.

[Solve the dragon’s riddle 100 XP]

And so we go on again, into another large chamber with three alcoves either side (north and south) each home to a life-size statue of an armoured (and armed) eleven(-like) guard. These folk look a lot like the guards seen in the PCs vision earlier (last session), when they recovered the dragon key. This is all fitting together, somehow.

The chamber has a ten foot wide pit to the west, the bottom of the depression is filled with a carpet of very sharp looking spikes, and across the pit- just a ten foot jump away, is an archway into yet another chamber. There’s a greenish light visible through the archway, and when the adventurers get close they can see a massive sarcophagi within the newly revealed room.

The PCs cautiously nose around, Newt’s mage hand confirming that there’s nothing (seemingly) from preventing them leaping across the pit- nothing unseen/illusion blocking the way ahead.

All clear.

[Preliminary investigations 75 XP]

That done, release the danger man- Ramshambow leaps across (just, thanks to Vinnie’s guidance cantrip) the spiked pit and into the green-lit chamber beyond, which contains a ten foot long massive stone, dragon-head, and dragon-engraved, sarcophagi. The massive lump of ancient stone has six metal hasps keeping the thing sealed shut.

That’s a clue- right there.

At which point however, Jot swoops in and claws at Ram’s neck, and scores a hit- as usual the rogue is back to being bloodied.

10.4.jpg

Release the ever-bloodied danger man- Ramshambow!

Jot is glimpsed but briefly, Ram thinks it’s a stirge… although the creature is making strange noises- actually speaking in abyssal, which alas none of the PCs understand.

There’s a scramble into action- Buggles, seconds later, leaps and lands in the sarcophagi chamber next to Ram, and spots the tiny flying thing and shoots it with his bow, a hit.

Note the wood elf confirms that they are fighting but a single stirge.

Also note, the pair’s monster ID check rolls (as a free action) are… well, an adjusted ‘3’ is the highest.

Jot, the quasit, yelps in the common tongue- “You broke my binding- you fools... the end is nigh”, and then with a theatrical poof of smoke disappears from sight.

Buggles and Ram recalibrate their opinion, they’re now certain that it definitely wasn’t a stirge.

A moment later Newt leaps across to join the rogues, Garumn (over 350lbs with equipment) and Vincenzo (not built for leaping) continue to try and assess the situation from a distance.

The trio in the sarcophagi chamber start their search, keeping an eye out for what they now believe to be a tiny demon/devil, which is very probably still sat somewhere close by (invisible) and watching them.

Correctamundo, as Fonzie used to say.

It becomes very obvious to the PCs that they have a choice- do they open the sarcophagi or not? There’s nothing on the outside of the container beyond the myriad dragon engravings to indicate what lies within.

The answer to the question- are we going to open the thing, however, is best summed up by Ram- “I didn’t come all this way not to open it… that’d be stupid.” Although, in truth, there were no dissenters, all of the adventurers want to see who or what lies within.

Real world- the players are obviously fearful that some large, maybe nine foot tall (see last session) dragon/elf combo creature, may be at rest within.

See Fonzie, as above.

Let’s see how stupid opening it turns out to be shall we, sit tight.

Oh, and if you hadn’t figure it out yet, this- my friends, is the finale.

It quickly also becomes apparent however that strength is needed to actually get the hasps off the sarcophagi, and so Garumn is instructed to leap across the pit- alas even with a bit of Vinnie magic (more guidance) that doesn’t work out well for the hefty dwarf (although he has the highest athletics bonus in the group, I think).

A minute or so later and a very heavily wounded Garumn clambers out of the spiked pit, with a lot of help from his friends. The paladin has to use up a potential divine smite to access a cure wounds spell, he’s no longer bloodied- we go on.

Although next up- after a fair amount of jeering from the adventurers in the sarcophagi chamber, Vincenzo is also cowed into crossing the pit.

It doesn’t help the druid’s concentration any with Ram clapping and chanting “Vinnie! Vinnie!”, the rogue it seems is no longer the strong silent type.

Vinnie runs up to the pit’s edge and then… wildshapes into Vincen G. Spider, the arachnid druid scurries up the wall and across- to boos from some quarters.

Sorry about that James.

[All across the pit 50 XP, mostly given because I just feel sorry for them, you figure once one of them gets across there’d be a rope in play somewhere, but no- dare devil’s to the last]

So, the Dark Squad get to work on opening the dragon sarcophagi, although at least three of the adventurers are very quickly distracted from the operation.

Also only Garumn is having any success getting the hasps off (DC 12 strength check required x6).

Ram hears again the flapping wings of the invisible devil/demon that is quite definitely still in the chamber watching them at work, the rogue tries to surreptitiously tempt the creature to reveal itself with a saucer of healing potion.

It doesn’t work.

Meantime, Newt has also found something that requires further enquiry- he decides to investigate the walls of the chamber thoroughly, and what’s this- a hollow space, a secret compartment- perhaps. The spot is low on the wall to the south- a three foot by three foot tunnel is revealed, which continues south and then turns east- back towards the other side of the pit.

The tabaxi snoops briefly, the passageway heads east for some considerable distance, what’s down there?

While this is going on Vincen G. Spider begins to spin a thick web across the spiked pit. Yes, the web is sticky- but at least no-one’s going to be falling in the pit again any time soon.

[Continued investigations, and great RP 75 XP]

After a lot of strength checks (like, a lot- a lot) four of the great metal hasps have been released- and Garumn has accounted for three of them, he’s the only tough guy in this mob.

Then suddenly, nothing… or else everything stops (and after a series of mostly low insight checks) Ram and Garumn conclude- the ground just moved, just a shiver but very definite- something just happened.

There follows a short debate, started by Garumn, regarding the danger of mixing earth tremors with underground chambers. Everyone looks at the ceiling for a while, and then… well, they all start to fret, or else to doubt themselves.

At some point during the debate Vincen G. Spider, who cannot communicate except in mime while wildshaped as he is, decides he really does need to have his say. Vincenzo is back to shifter form, and that’s all his wildshaping done for a while.

Shame, he could have done with a bit of wildshaping later.

Vincenzo is the first, I think, to verbalise the so far unspoken thought- “Should we really be doing zis? Opening zer sarchophagiz?” There follows a lot more chatter on the subject, and the consensus is, well… there is no consensus, as there are now doubters in their midst, and again it’s Vince that states the obvious.

“Mes amis, I don’t sink we should open eet.”

To which there comes a very forceful reply- “Open it now!”

The reply however comes courtesy of Yusdrayl, the kobold queen. She, and a few of her friends- say, about a dozen other kobolds, are now positioned in the chamber on the other side of the pit.

Yusdrayl takes the time to explain further, and in the common tongue- “We have waited generations for the Dragon Lord to be released, you will do so- now!” More snarling weapon-wielding kobolds back up her statement.

The Dark Squad are not at all happy, and for a variety of reasons.

The mood isn’t helped when the invisible (still) Jot (the quasit) also starts laughing and generally pointing out the obvious.

“Moradin’s big fat arse, you guyz are so [Very Naughty Word] right now- earth tremors, uppity kobolds tellin’ ya what-ta-do, do we open the box- don’t we open the box. I’m havin’ a hoot fellers, just watchin’ ya work.” Jot giggles on for a good long while.

As I say, the mood of the adventurers is improved dramatically.

There’s an almost silent vote as the PCs continue to mutter to each other, the summary belongs however, once again, to Ram.

The rogue grabs out his bow and fires an arrow at the nearest kobold- it’s a miss, but the situation has quite definitely evolved. To confirm matters Ram makes it clear- “I’m opening that thing!” He points at the sarcophagi, “but I ain’t being told to do it by a bunch of stinkin’ kobolds.”

And Ram was Yusdrayl’s favourite, so sad.

10.5.jpg

And the kobolds were so nice...

There’s a scramble to action, Buggles shoots a kobold dead with his bow, an instant later and two kobolds (easily) leap across the pit.

“Here’s company.” Jot calls out, and continues giggling.

Gwen, Buggles’ skeleton 'special friend' cuts another kobold down.

Then a third kobold leaps across the spiked pit and into the room- three out of three, it’s easy.

Alas the first of the new kobold arrivals is skewered through the throat by Ram, it’s dead Jim.

Then Garumn gets hit by a sling stone.

Then a fourth kobold leaps into the sarcophagi chamber.

Note the kobolds mostly have to use double moves to get a run up and leap the pit, so their out of actions by the time they arrive on the PCs side of the fracas.

They also miss quite a lot with their attacks, so there's that.

Gwen gets hit with a sling stone- bludgeoning damage counts double, so- she loses an arm, Buggles is not at all happy about this.

I think we even had a “Gwennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!” moment.

Newt, the curious cat/tabaxi, ignores the present contretemps and tries to get another one of the hasps on the sarcophagi off, he fails.

Newt’s colleagues take a short moment to remind the tabaxi of the present situation vis-a-vis the kobolds trying desperately to kill them, I think he gets it.

Vincenzo settles a swathe of faerie fire over the mess of kobolds. The shifter also shifts to his snarling bestial form.

Then several bad things happen at once-

Gwen’s skull is shattered into a thousand pieces by another kobold sling stone. The skeleton is destroyed.

Garumn gets hit by a fiery orb flung by Yusdrayl (chromatic orb, for 14 fire damage), the paladin is on 2 HP.

Garumn runs, and attracts AoO’s from the kobold invaders, and seconds later is stabbed into unconsciousness.

Things, it seems, have taken a turn for the worse.

[The mess they’re in 125 XP]

Jot also takes a moment to remind the PCs of his presence.

“Should I put your bodies in the pit or the sarcophagus when they’re done with you? Any preferences? Guys? Guys? Come on!”

Buggles backs up a way and then shoots one of the kobolds on this side of the pit, it doesn’t die, it’s only wounded.

Two kobolds take it in turns to stab Ram, and the rogue is down to 3 HP.

Ram kills both of his attackers dead.

Vincenzo takes a moment to applaud the rogue- “he iz zer killing machine, n’est pas?”

Sling stones fly- and miss.

A kobold fails to jump the pit and lands in the sticky webs, there it remains mostly ignored- unable to get out until… well, until it gets very nasty indeed- you’ll see.

Newt misses Yusdrayl with a hex enhanced eldritch blast, Vincenzo goes one better- he misses Yusdrayl with his ice knife spell, and then after an inspiration point- he misses again. Although the subsequent explosion of the ice knife does cause a little hurt to the kobold queen, and also kills a nearby kobold.

Garumn makes his first death save, see- things are picking up.

Then, inevitably, it gets worse- the entire chamber suddenly lurches hard left, and then as swiftly back again- Buggles and Newt are knocked to the floor, as are several of the kobolds.

What the… the PCs, what with all the other good stuff going on, had momentarily forgotten about the earth tremor thing.

There’s suddenly a lot of shouting going on from the PCs, and a lot of questions with no answers from the players- “are we staying here?”, and/or, “are we really opening this thing?”

Ram kills another kobold dead, there are no more of the creatures on this side of the pit, the PCs duck into cover- no longer visible through the archway.

Jot makes another smart arse comment, he repeats this attack every time the initiative counter comes around to him. The quasit (and the DM) seem to be in excellent moods, clearly enjoying their work.

Another kobold leaps across the pit and through the archway, and then scurries into cover behind the sarcophagi, which is where Newt is hiding.

The tabaxi tries to get away, he gets stabbed, but then reduces the offending creature to atoms with a hex enhanced eldritch blast.

Vincenzo rushes to Garumn’s side, alas the druid has no healing left, or indeed any spell slots at all- he therefore tries to drag the dwarf into cover. At present Garumn is kinda just lying in the archway- he’s the only target visible to the kobolds on the other side of the pit. Explanation over.

Vinnie can’t shift the dwarf- see above, he weighs over 350lbs in his armour- DC 10 strength check, fail big time.

It gets worse, streams of dirt begin to cascade down from between the stone flags in the ceiling and on the walls.

If Garumn wasn’t dying I’m certain he’d have something to say about the Dark Squad’s present situation.

Another tremor strikes and Buggles (again) is sent sprawling.

Ram, meantime grabs out his last healing potion and glugs it down (2d4+2 = 5 HP back, at least they weren’t both ‘1’s).

Seconds later Newt gets to Garumn with a healing potion, the tabaxi’s last, and the dwarf blinks opens his eyes.

Note, the latter came about when the PCs suddenly realised that Garumn is the only other source of healing they possess. In truth the paladin has one first level spell slot remaining, that’s it- and he’s used all of his lay on hands already.

The players were alas not aware of this before they woke him.

Which probably saved the paladin's life, at least for a while.

The rest of the Dark Squad hoped he had more healing, much more…

While all of the above is going on, and with the constant rumble and growl of stone, Vincenzo gets back to the sarcophagi and starts reapplying the hasps- he rolls a ‘20’, and so the generous DM allows him to re-seal one side of the sarcophagi completely- three hasps. There’s only one of the hasps left unsealed.

The druid is certain (well, about 50% certain- and I know that certain can’t be 50%, that’s the humour) that somehow sealing the sarcophagi will make it all stop.

Just to note the kobolds have not been attacking much here because they are either prone and clutching onto the floor, or else cowering behind the elven statues in the alcoves, or… they’ve already run away.

Garumn gets back to his feet, staggers over to Ram and spends his last spell slot on a cure wounds for the still badly wounded rogue (1d8+2 = 3 HP recovered, I swear to you this happens every time with Ram).

There are groans, and a fair amount of laughter- sorry about that fellers.

As Buggles stated at the time- “goodly healing does not work on Ram, I wonder why?”

The tremors continue apace, and are getting more severe, the flagstones on the floor begin to pop and dance.

There’s a screamed debate, of sorts, basically- “what the F for Freddie should we do?”

The best answer again comes courtesy of the wood elf, Buggles- “the safest place is inside the sarcophagus.”

But that’s enough, one by one the PCs succumb and dash across the chamber and into the three foot square passage that Newt discovered earlier, they don’t know where it goes, but anywhere is better than here.

At which point, when the last of the guys has dived into the crawlspace, there’s a stone rending sound followed by several more substantial THUNKs- the noise above and beyond the terror of the tremors.

Newt, wouldn’t you guess it, is curious. The tabaxi wriggles past one of his companions (he really is lithe) in the crawlspace and then scurries back to see what’s going on within the sarcophagi chamber.

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Dark Squad Sunless Citadel secret meeting- location a three foot crawlspace wracked with earth tremors, Vincenzo struggles to get the minutes of the last meeting read.

The answer being the lid of the sarcophagi has been flung up and off its base, the hasps have likewise sprung from their settings- leaving a trail a smashed metal and stone fragments that ricochet about a bit for a while. Worst of all sitting up in the sarcophagi is a (tatty) robed wearing emaciated creature whose face and upper body (all that can be seen) best resemble some combination of dragon and elf.

The creature gets to its feet.

It’s about nine feet tall.

Funny that, who woulda guessed it.

Then, as Newt reports back what he’s seeing to his colleagues, who are now having a mother’s meeting crammed together in a shuddering three foot crawlspace, while reality explodes around them, anyway- Newt reports back, the creature speaks.

The words are hard to make out, and seemingly of no language at all- that is until Ram puts his brain in gear, the creature is speaking a mess of elven mixed in with draconic.

I say the creature is speaking, at this point it is screaming the words- allowing everyone to hear what it has to say.

Which is, and in this order-

“I am.”

“I AM!”

“I AM ASHARDALON!”

Which has the desired effect, the PCs en masse hot-scurry-it down the crawlspace and away from Ashardalon as fast as they can go, not even stopping when the tunnel ends in solid stone. Buggles kicks open the secret stone panel, and exits into another small (empty) chamber.

Note, for those not keeping up- the name Ashardalon appears earlier in the Dark Squad’s adventure into the Sunless Citadel, they have collectively worked out that Ashardalon was an ancient (perhaps, now) dragon (possibly red) that was somehow worshipped here by the dragon cultists that inhabited/built (maybe) the Sunless Citadel.

The Dark Squad are not keen to meet Ashardalon, even if only a small fragment of the above is true.

There are no exits, and squiggly writing on one of the walls, of the newly discovered chamber. Buggles doesn’t understand it- it’s written in draconic, seconds later however and Ram is at his side.

“It says- never let it out.” Ram helpfully states, while polishing up his nervous giggle.

There are more groans from the chorus back in the crawlspace.

The rogue however has bigger fish to fry, he searches and finds a secret door to the north, the tremors are now so bad that the PCs and the kobolds have to make a DC 10 Dex check or else all movement is halved (as per difficult terrain) for their turn.

The rest of the Dark Squad scramble through the crawlspace and into the room, did I say all of them, actually one of them doesn’t quite make it.

You know I said that none of the PCs wanted to meet Ashardalon, well…

Newt exits the crawlspace back into the sarcophagi chamber, and there he crouches- stays on his feet, as best he can- and watches

The nine foot tall dragon/elf abomination leaps across the webbed spiked pit with ease, and then grabs the nearest prone kobold up and bites its head off.

Yusdrayl falls prone at the terrifying creature’s feet and jabbers praise (probably) in draconic, the creature ignores her and strides on- towards the exit, which is too small, it begins tearing at the former secret door- enlarging the opening, or else trying to squeeze through the gap.

Newt with a little extra feline agility follows the abomination over the pit, the few kobolds left in the chamber there mostly ignore the tabaxi- there’s plenty else going on to hold their attention.

DM aside, oddly, if Newt had looked in the sarcophagi he would have seen, but no… that would be too cruel, let’s just say there were a lot of very nice shiny things in there, and magic. There, that wasn’t cruel at all.

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Follow that abomination!

Back in the secret room the other four members of the Dark Squad huddle up, Buggles swigs down a potion of healing- that’s the last healing that any of them possess- spell, scroll, power, or… anything.

Good luck with what follows guys.

There follows a noise like the end of the world, and then the ceiling of the sarcophagi chamber collapses, the crawlspace very swiftly follows suit- a cloud of grit and dust engulfs the Dark Squad huddle.

Back in the chamber with Newt, the Abomination, Yusdrayl and several other screaming kobolds- the pit and a little way beyond, well… the floor, walls, and ceiling suddenly become as one.

There is screaming- courtesy of more or less everyone except for the superbly sanguine dragon/elf abomination.

Oh, and…

“It’s okay guys, whew- that was a close one…” Jot’s still alive, everyone is really glad of that.

Ram kicks open the secret door and reveals a screaming kobold clutching at the legs of a swaying elf statue, they have emerged in one of the southern alcoves in the room. The rogue cuts the poor kobold’s throat and then strides into the swaying chamber, almost bumping into a grinning Newt.

At which point the abomination finally ducks and squeezes through the former secret door and heads on.

Seconds later the adventurers hear the crossbow trap in action, but no other sound- save the continuing titanic end of world collapse.

DM aside, on the map in Fantasy Grounds is a red line- everything to the left of it is gone- crushed by tons of rock, to the right- well, we'll see about that. Newt is about five feet ahead of the red line, he flirts with danger beautifully at times.

Also note the DC to move unimpeded by the tremorous doom is increasing every turn, basically it’s getting harder to go anywhere fast, or indeed safely.

Buggles follows Ram out into the chamber, there amidst the fury he spies a still prostrate Yusdrayl and attempts to hack the sprawled kobold’s head off- he cuts hard, but not hard enough, and so Ram dashes over and makes certain.

[The end of the line for the kobolds 500 XP]

At which point all five members of the Dark Squad are reunited, and there’s a consensus.

“Flee fer yer lives!” And that’s coming from Garumn, you know things are bad when the dwarven paladin is screeching like a nine year old.

Then… well, there’s a lot more of the same, or not a lot more- maybe two or three more turns, but it’s not worth repeating here, great at the time. However, all you need to know (dear reader) is the DM keeps the collapse going, and even starts rolling 1d4 damage for every creature at the start of their turn as the stones continue to rain down.

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"RUN! Run ferr yer lives!" The dwarven paladin is a beacon of calm within the rocky storm.

The dragon/elf abomination keeps steadfastly heading for the exit, and the Dark Squad fail some checks, struggle, fall over a bit, and… follow after.

Although there is one slightly funny bit in all of this mess- obviously Jot keeps up his commentary track, generally offering (I think) very constructive advice, or else just trying to encourage the PCs at their task.

“Yer gonna die here if ya don’t speed up fatty.” That kinda thing.

As I say, helpful.

Anyway, the guys start talking back to the quasit as they stagger forward while avoiding further ceiling collapses, and that’s what I’ve been wanting for them to do all along. After a bit of banter Jot even offers to reveal himself, which comes to pass, obviously the moment he does so Newt forgoes a fleeing action to shoot the quasit with an eldritch blast.

Jot is less happy at this, but he turns invisible- offers much less helpful comments, and he survives.

And so…

The collapse is still tailing the Dark Squad as they burst into and then through the now violently swaying tower, and then back out onto the battlements- back to where they started their adventure in the Sunless Citadel.

What a sight it is to see here.

Although there are no more pictures, I think (I hope) it got a little tense and none of the players had the time or the inclination to take any more screen shots, so the rest requires the use of your imaginarium.

Just for info, first on the scene are Buggles and Ram with their triple move rogue action, although Newt isn’t too far behind.

On the battlements to the right of the yawning pit trap there are Kerowyn Hucrele and Sir Braford- both still stumbling automatons being herded and protected by Erky Timbers, the gnome priest of Tymora (Lady Luck).

Over the far side of the pit is the elf/dragon abomination.

The really odd thing is this… the entire citadel is rising, from the basement level of the ravine it is racing up the cavern walls to the top floor- to the surface.

The Sunless Citadel gets to see the sun, one last time.

The abomination, still sprightly, steps off the ruined citadel shaped elevator and then rushes off in a north easterly direction, possibly late for an appointment elsewhere.

It doesn't look back or even acknowledge the presence of the Dark Squad and the other survivors- at any point.

[Survive the Sunless Citadel (and other stuff) 700 XP]

The PCs and the three other survivors (actually four)- Sharwyn, Sir Braford and Erky, likewise breach and then race to get clear as the ravine heaves and clashes, and then closes shut, as if it never were.

[Rescue Sharwyn, Sir Braford & Erky 300 XP]

Except, of course, for the thousands of tons of roiling broken rubble that piles up, totters, and continues to collapse for a good while after. The remains of the Sunless Citadel.

Note, in the chat window on FG the following appears as I am describing the action-

Buggles: [SKILL] Musical Instrument Flute [MOD:DEX] [PROF] [EFFECTS 1d4-2] [1d20+1p4+3 = 22]

Basically the wood elf trills along as tumult rages and spews rocky chaos.

And with a ‘22’ on the check, that’s a poignant melody right there.

Nice touch Buggles/Stu, there’s the extra inspiration point for next time.

The adventure, save the recounting of the tale, is done.

Just to note, when the Dark Squad eventually got up/out/free Vincenzo and Newt were just about bloodied, while Ram, Buggles and Garumn had maybe ten hit points shared between the three of 'em.

That was close.

Phew.

“See ya later, ass hats!”

The only other survivor, Jot, flaps off.

Back to Thundertree next session, see you there.

That was a stone cold cracker, I got to play a sweary and terrified (in places) Scottish/dwarven paladin, and a wise-ass, wise-guy quasit. Loved it.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
DM2PCs

This isn’t homework, only in the next session there’s plenty of chatting to be done, and it’s not a secret what’s going to go on, so here’s the lowdown, just so you can at least have a think about it-

Just to note, this isn’t set in stone- you can obviously mess with the order and/or the contents, this is however a suggested order for stuff- I have my reasons, but see previous- mess with it to your heart's content.

Part 1- in the next session.

1) Return to Thundertree.

2) Rest & recuperation.

3) Meet with various patrons for side quests-

a) Garumn with Rurik the dwarf smith who wanted to see Sir Braford’s sword.

b) Vincenzo with Reidoth the Brown, you have a story to tell.

c) Ram with Felosial, the guard captain- she wants to know about Karakas.

4) Meet with Kerowyn Hucrele for your reward.

5) Meet with Sharwyn Hucrele, she has something to say.

6) Meet with Sir Braford, he has something to say.

7) Anything else in Thundertree?

Part 2- to think about.

Other things to consider.

1) Ashardalon- the elf/dragon abomination you just released on the world.

2) Same, but Jot.

3) Anything else?

Part 3- after Thundertree, next session.

Then, when we’re through this there’s the following-

1) Buggles might need to report back to his friends in the Neverwinter Woods.

2) Return to Neverwinter (the city), remember Gundren Rockseeker is expecting you to report back.

3) Sell all the treasure you’ve found, I doubt you are going to find buyers for all of your swag in Thundertree, and there are far better prices to be had in the city.

4) Downtime activity, I propose a minimum of fifty days- I’ll e-mail you the handout.

The Downtime and between adventures activity is an exercise in collective rp/story-telling, if you have a criminal contact then I’ll ask you for a name/description. If you’re selling some of your treasure to a dodgy fence you know, then same- what’s their name, where are they at. I’ll do the writing down, you/we are going to construct the story, and the world it's set in- or at least some of the detail.

You want to find work in a tavern, then what’s the tavern called? Where’s it at- there’ll be a map, just a few details, that’s all- people and places you know and (possibly) revisit, if and when they’re needed again.

Obviously, I’ll help out- as can your colleagues with suggestions.

Part 4- just a question.

A question for all of your PCs, I want a little bit more info from you all, although just this to begin with-

Where in Faerun were you born, and as importantly where have you been on your wanderings thus far? I’ll e-mail you a map of the continent. Not wanting much- just be prepared for the chat, or at least, just stare at the map I send you for five minutes in wonder…

Toodles

Goonalan
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Playa Playa


The Release of Evil



Ysdryl and her nasty tribe of Kobold

Released a being of evil untold

Nine feet of ancient draconic fae

The brave adventurers stood in its way

But Ashardalon’s might swept them aside

And from the ruin of the citadel he did stride

Ysdryl & her tribe executed, as is just

As the citadel that rose fell to dust


And...


Ashardalon



There once was a dragon named Ashardalon

Whose schemes the gods did look upon

But too fat was his belly

And his breathe was too smelly

So they didn’t want him in their pantheon



From the pen of Ramshambo


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Sunless Citadel

Session #011 Dark Squad Glad-Handing Tour.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3
Erky Timbers Male Gnome Priest of Tymora


This is going to be a minnow in comparison to some of the previous updates, we had a list of things to get done- the return to Thundertree for story time and to collect their rewards, and then off to Neverwinter for a chunk of downtime activity. It all sounded so very doable, and then the roleplay and chat started up and… well, we got some of it done.

Oh, and this is session 11, if you’re interested.

So, we begin the navel gazing retrospective as the various members of Dark Squad, accompanied by the rescued Erky Timbers, and the revived Sharwyn Hucrele and Sir Bradford; wander away from the pile of rubble that is the (no-longer) Sunless Citadel. There’s a lot of chat on the way back to Thundertree- like over thirty minutes of… if we did this, but no… if we had done this, but no again.

The deal is a nine foot tall menacing (undead?) elf/dragon feller escaped the sarcophagi the Dark Squad were after looting, and then with the Sunless Citadel’s return to the surface, the big bad guy lit off for the woods. The woods in question being Neverwinter, what’s more the nine foot tall monstrosity seemed to think it/he was “Ashardalon”, which the PCs know as being the name of some ancient (red) dragon that scorched the earth barren around the Sunless Citadel an aeon past.

So, in a nutshell- that sucks, possibly. The thing is who do they tell, if anyone.

The Dark Squad are collectively fretting a little, or else those that possess a conscience are, that’s- well, Vincenzo (defo), and maybe (a bit) Newt. The rogues- Ram and Buggles (and Newt) are regretting some of what came to pass but, not much. Their talk is mostly about the one that got away- what treasures were in Ashardalon’s coffin that they missed out on?

Still the players and the PCs get their story straight, or at least how much of their story they are going to tell- and to whom. Particularly the fact that they have unleashed (inadvertently) the aforementioned Ashardalon on an unsuspecting world, oh- and the quasit- Jot.

I’m happy to report that none of the PCs have anything nice to say about Jot, Buggles has really taken agin the little demon scamp, too bad- I thought he was a hoot.

Last bit, and in conclusion- at the end of the Sunless Citadel retrospective stroll the following idea is mooted (by Buggles) perhaps in future we should talk about what we are going to do before we actually do it. The discussion here, again, is about the opening of Ashardalon’s sarcophagi, at one point in the action Newt was trying to open the thing while Vinnie was the opposite side trying to close it… there may have been another/better way.

Although, as pointed out by Newt (and others) there was a lot of other stuff going on at the time, so- some things got missed, in conclusion (part deux)- we’ll do better next time.

[Ashardalon chatter et al 200 XP]

11.1.jpg

Thundertree in all its glory.

So, to Thundertree at last, back to the start- it occurred to me to look back at the calendar on Fantasy Grounds at this moment, the Dark Squad were only in the Sunless Citadel for fifty hours and a few minutes. That’s level one to three, and a world of experience, in just two days- I like that, nice and old skool.

It’s early evening, and so after dropping off Sharwyn and Sir Braford at the Hucrele mansion- a teary reunion, the Dark Squad are requested to return in the morning when the family has had a little time. Likewise Erky Timbers, gnome priest of Tymora is waved off at the shrine of Tymora in the village, with exhortations for the PCs also to return on the morrow.

Then the glad-handing tour begins in earnest, first stop Rurik- the dwarven smith Garumn promised he’d investigate the sword wielded by Sir Braford. Well, a partial success- the paladin of Moradin got a good look at the blade, this when the (former?) paladin of Tyr was beaten into unconsciousness, back in the Twilight Grove. So, Garumn tells the smith what he knows- that it’s a fine blade and seems to have been forged by Durgeddin the Black*, and so worth a mint.

*Durgeddin the Black was an odd/famous dwarf bladesmith from centuries (perhaps millennia) past, Durgeddin was odd because he forged blades, and in particular swords- that was his thing. However, swords are not really a dwarf thing, all very usable and that but… well, an axe- an axe is your friend. Or so most dwarves believe. Durgeddin was also a master smith- his work is sought by a great many (dwarven, and other) collectors, and very rarely found for sale anywhere.

Hence the excitement about the fact the Dark Squad have found several clues to the long-lost and much sought Khundrakar, the location of Durgeddin’s last stand- the holdfast in which the dwarf reportedly met his end, there may be more swords to be had there… and the location of the master smith's forges.

11.2.jpg

Reidoth the Brown, the voice of reason.

Back to the here and now- next stop on the tour, Reidoth the Brown, the blind eighty plus year old druid who challenged Vincenzo to find out about the relationship between the goblins and the magical fruit (etc.) in the Sunless Citadel.

The Dark Squad tell their story some more, and remarkably its mostly the whole truth, there’s a little economy of language- “when the citadel rose from the ground the sarcophagi holding Ashardalon broke open and the abomination issued forth”, that kind of thing. No mention of the PCs role (if indeed they played one) in any of this. The discussion is frank and fruitful, Reidoth’s wise head and great soup are a pick-me up, he also has some healing potions to distribute, and thanks aplenty for the adventuring folk. This after first sending a little bird to whisper in the ear of Mother Willow, a fey spirit (dryad) of the Neverwinter Wood. Reidoth wants word of Ashardalon to get out, so that folk are a little more prepared should the abomination show itself.

[Tell the truth to Reidoth et al 150 XP]

11.3.jpg

Felosial, she's not happy.

Then on again, to see Felosial- the mistress commander of the Thundertree guard, alas Ram has some bad news to deliver- Karakas, the ranger that lead the Hucrele kids into the Sunless Citadel, alas died there, trying to save his companion's lives. Felosial, as Ram suspected, was intimately acquainted with the fallen ranger, she is heart-broken, and angry. Remarkably Ram, who is not known for his softly-softly approach- save when he is creeping up on you in order to thrust his rapier through your throat, Ram is a delight- and sensitive, and caring.

This DM is sore amazed, I honestly didn’t think the wretch had it in him.

Things go sour however when the Dark Squad collectively confess to unleashing (sorta) the nine foot tall dragon/elf Ashardalon on the locale, oh… and the little demon thingy- Jot.

Oh, and the Sunless Citadel is now up on the surface, and mostly just a teetering pile of rubble, so there’s that as well…

Felosial is withering… adventurers- just gah! Although she remembers her manners and thanks Ram for returning Karakas’ signet ring, and then despatches guards to the Citadel to see what manner of catastrophe has been wrought there.

[Bad news for Felosial 200 XP]

11.4.jpg

Kerowyn Hucrele & Bert from the Ol' Boar Inn, both much impressed with the Dark Squad.

That’s enough for the evening, the next stop is the Ol’ Boar Inn, and the barman Bert who is glad to see the guys, and gladder still when the locals start filing in to hear the Dark Squad’s tales of daring-do. Point of fact, Newt scurries up to his room and with the help of the flute playing wood elf, Buggles, the pair compose a thirty minute sung saga. "The Dark Squad in the (formerly) Sunless Citadel", and then bugger me at the first rendition he rolls a ‘20’ for his performance check. There’s not a dry eye/glass in the house- he’s a palpable hit. Thickset farming lads want to stand beside the tabaxi, while several of the local ladies are wont to make him purr.

A good night is had by all.

[Newt’s song etc. 75 XP]

The next day? More of the same.

First stop the Hucrele mansion, and an interview with the formidable Kerowyn Hucrele, the matriarch of this branch of the monied family. The old woman is distraught at the loss of Talgen (killed by Durn the hobgoblin) but is overjoyed to see Sharwyn back. There’s a lot of serious chatter for a while- mostly the terrors of adventuring and the things Sharwyn has seen/suffered etc. The continued dialogue is made more difficult however when Buggles grabs out the now rotting head of the Outcast to show the old lady. There is screaming… you’ve gotta love Buggles the wood elf, he mostly has no idea how to behave in polite company (a little more of why this should be later). Eventually, after a massive chunk of roleplay- Vincenzo is just warming up here, the Dark Squad- after collecting their 2,500gp reward (divided five ways) move on to a meeting with Sharwyn, at which point things get a little darker. The young Hucrele is in fear of a world in which unspeakable acts can happen, she’s talking about her enslavement by Belak/the Tree here.

[Meeting with Kerowyn 100 XP]

11.5.jpg

The beautiful Sharwyn Hucrele opens her heart to the Dark Squad, remarkably none of them make any smart arse comments.

Once again, remarkably, Ram is the voice of reason and concern, he also gets some of his own story told- he knows about being a slave, he grew up in captivity… and so a bond is formed, and then there’s plenty more from Vincenzo- all great, he has a line for the slightly melodramatic world-spun wisdom.

It ends with thanks, and promises of future help for the PCs- should they need it, just get in touch, the Hucrele’s are a big name particularly in Waterdeep.

[There’s hope- chatter with Sharwyn 120 XP]

Then some more, this time a visit with Sir Braford who has left the Hucrele household and is now spending time at the shrine of Tymora. But before we get to the paladin another chat, and warm thanks, from Corkie the gnome priestess of the chapel, and her firm friend- the rescued Erky Timbers- more healing potions are distributed. Corkie however makes it clear, the Dark Squad bears some responsibility for the release of Ashardalon. As Spike Lee would say- do the right thing, the implication being find out more and fix it.

11.6.jpg

Corkie (and the DM) take a moment to remind the PCs that they have unleashed (however inadvertently) a monster on the world (possibly).

[Corkie tells the Dark Squad to do the right thing 50 XP]

Then to the paladin, and we’re back to the sombre and the downbeat, Sir Braford is a broken man- with a sad story to tell- failure, in a word. The paladin of Tyr (possibly ex-paladin) is the last living member of his line, and so wont to stay alive- his adventuring days are however over, and his sword- which he introduces as Shatterspike (made by Durgeddin the Black- see previous) is the PCs reward. He wants nothing more to do with the blade, there follows twenty minutes of back and forth as the garrulous Vincenzo tries to draw the broken knight out of the shade and back into the light- a partial success. Although a full success for Buggles who taking Sir Braford for his word grabs Shatterspike, and then also manages to relieve the paladin of his mostly dinged to hell half plate armour.

11.7.jpg

Sharwyn Hucrele, Belak the Outcast & the broken paladin- Sir Braford, depicted before the Gulthias Tree, fond memories.

[The down in the dumps paladin chat 125 XP]

After another bout of chatter the rest of the Dark Squad catch up with Buggles, the wood elf has taken Shatterspike to be inspected by Rurik the Thundertree smith, as he requested. The dwarf has a story to tell, he knows a fair bit about Durgeddin, and the famous blade, he even recommends the PCs contact a dwarf he knows in Neverwinter- a certain Gundren Rockseeker (the PCs benefactor, and my favourite PC patron).

Eventually it is decided that Garumn should wield Shatterspike, the dwarf paladin is honoured to do so.

Then… well, it’s actually the summer solstice, and although slightly subdued the villagers of Thundertree are keen to mark the passing, with drinks and the making of merry, there’s even a great bonfire that burns late into the night. The Dark Squad join in, a little, with the celebrations, it gets slightly weird later on when Newt uses his magic to wander (unharmed) into the centre of the pyre, fortunately there are only a few locals around to see the tabaxi’s feat, and most of those have been drinking all day and night.

One of those drinking heavily is Vincenzo, there follows a rambling speech which in precis is- “I love you guys…”, although it takes considerably longer to get said.

[Last night in Thundertree and final speeches 100 XP]

And so the next day the Dark Squad depart, on the two day journey to Neverwinter, being taken all the way by a local farmer in his cart- small recompense for the adventurers' troubles.

En route to the big city there are two distinct subjects for discussion, the first takes the guise of a getting-to-know-you moment, the DM has asked the players to firm up a bit more of their backstory, specifically where they were born, and where since then have they ventured in faerun?

I want to know so that I can plot what comes after…

And so we learn, in brief here, but much extended at the VTT, that-

Ramshambow was born a slave in Calimsham, eventually bought out of misery at the age of fourteen, he became a smuggler and pirate on the high seas- visiting many of the major ports, and some of the minor ones, on the Sword Coast.

Buggles was born in Conyberry, his parents were killed in a troll attack, he eventually made his way into the care of Mother Willow, a dryad of the Neverwinter Woods- he also spent many years with his less than pleasant Auntie Ingrid, a green hag of the same address. He hasn’t ventured far from the woods in all of his years, although he remembers a journey to Luskan. As it turns out however time spent with treacherous fey and ‘mischevious’ sprites isn’t all shits and giggles.

Garumn tells of his time in the cold north- Mirabar and Adbar, his years as a smith and then as a jeweller, eventually his time in the temple of Moradin, training to be a paladin of the all father. A wanderlust brought him south, mostly along the coast, but he barely stopped to see the sights, until he arrived in Neverwinter.

Vincenzo, a foundling child discovered in the Evermoors, not an ideal start to life, raised in Nesme he quickly graduated to a life spent travelling, ostensibly as a merchant- but more so for the wonder of seeing new things. The shifter has spent the best part of a decade in the Dessarin Valley, and thereabouts- particularly the Golden Fields to Triboar route, although also visiting at various times the great cities on the coast- Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep and Neverwinter.

Newt has ventured the furthest, or else his clan have- all the way from their slave past in Port Nyanzaru, Chult. The tabaxi is also blessed/cursed with the wanderlust- and (seemingly) a song in his heart. The cat man was born and therefore spent considerable time in Waterdeep, honing his talent, but has also seen his fair share of the local flora and fauna all the way up the Sword Coast, even as far as the City of Sails- Luskan.

Remarkably the above, while sounding strained here on the page, was actually a delight (as a DM) to kick back and listen to. Thanks guys- top work.

Last bit, discussion point number two for the players/PCs while on the journey to Neverwinter, quite simply- what do we do with Garumn? At present I’m playing him as N/PC, but that can’t go on- I have other stuff to be about, although I love having the dwarf along, and I’d really miss doing the accent.

Garumn is broad Scottish, with a bit of the vernacular.

The decision proves easy- unanimous, Garumn’s staying on as an NPC, he retains his PC status on Fantasy Grounds but he’s going to be a somewhat stripped down version of a paladin- although he’ll level up, he’ll not have all the skills and spells. Just the minimum needed.

Joy in my heart, I get to keep the hefty chatty (sometimes) dwarf.

And that’s about it, don’t get conned- the above represents three hours of roleplay and chatter, it was marvellous- I did next to bugger all except blether all evening.

[Adventure complete 250 XP]

So, Neverwinter for downtime next session, and then we’re back on it- more adventuring in the Forge of Fury, hold onto your hat… I’m going to gie it laldy.

Just for info I have DMed the Forge of Fury maybe three times in total- back in the day, when it first came out- of the three adventuring parties (I remember) that went in there, well... two didn't make it out at all- both TPKs. While the third group didn't get to the end, they gave it up as a bad job (for a variety of reasons- mostly, as usual, internal strife) but at least they all emerged alive.

It's a toughie, no doubt.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Playa Playa

A Buggles interlude, the wood elf briefly returns to the Neverwinter Forest to tell his friends- the Outcast is dead.


‘Well that’s that’ said Buggles as he hoisted the sack containing the Outcast’s head over his shoulder, turned his back on Thundertree, and headed for Neverwinter Wood. He turned back to regard his new companions and said with a wave, ‘Cheers, see you in Neverwinter’.

Buggles moved quickly off into Neverwinter Wood, it would take him a day or so to get back to the Grove. He walked the familiar trails and made good ground, camping for the night with only a few miles left to go.

Settling down for a meal, Buggles spotted a familiar sight approaching his small camp – fairy lights, pink and green, flying through the trees in his direction. It was the sprites, Flit and Wit, no doubt Mother Willow had sent them out to check up on him. Buggles waited for the pair to finally finish twittering around the treetops and come down to see him.

With a burst of multicoloured lights, Flit and then Wit, took on their regular form – that of a tiny humanoid around a foot tall, with little wings and mischievous grins.

‘You’re not dead! Hee hee! What’s in the sack?’ asked Flit, reaching for it.

‘Tell Mother the Outcast is dead, I bring his head’ replied Buggles, swiping at Flit as he started pulling open the bloodied burlap sack containing the druid's head. Wit managed to grab some food from Buggle’s plate in the commotion, ‘I’ll deliver it tomorrow’ said Buggles with an air of finality.

Flit and Wit rose up off the ground, chattering all the while, and with a ‘See you later’ transformed into their light balls and whizzed off through the dark forest.

Buggles retired for the night soon after, and awoke the next morning early to get back to the Grove with his prize. By mid-morning, he could make out the Grove through the trees - Greyam the Gruff’s log cabin, the small pond where he learned to swim and fish, and the mighty Willow tree, home of Mother Willow. Everyone was waiting for him as he rolled up, with Flit and Wit twittering around his head, and even his Aunt Ingrid had turned up to see if he'd survived. Buggles had been sent to stay with Aunt Ingrid, a most disgusting and vile Hag who dwelled in a dark part of Neverwinter Wood, a few years earlier, and it wasn't an experience he ever wanted to repeat.

‘Welcome back, lad’ said Grayam, the huge goat headed Gruff, his axe resting on one shoulder. Mother Willow just waited expectantly.

‘The Outcast is dead’ proclaimed Buggles. Hefting the sack he rolled the contents out towards Mother Willow. His smile faded as a turnip bounced across the mossy ground, coming to rest at Mother Willow’s feet.

‘What’s this?’ she asked. Flit and Wit were almost beside themselves with glee.

‘What the…?’ Buggles struggled for words, ‘I had the Outcast’s head in there… you two!’ he rounded on Flit and Wit, who buzzed away a safe distance.

Mother Willow laughed, ‘They brought the head in last night, I’m not sure why you felt the need to cut off his head at all to be honest, I could feel it the moment he and that awful tree were gone from this world. Did you have any help?’

‘Not really’ said Buggles.

‘Oh?’ asked Mother Willow, ‘Flit and Wit said that a band of adventurers entered the citadel before you did, didn’t you see them in there?’

‘Yeah I saw them. The dwarf slept through the whole battle, and the rest weren’t much use, except for their Shifter who is pretty handy’.

‘Ah yes I sensed him’ Mother Willow said, ‘So what will you do now?’

‘I hadn’t thought about it’ said Buggles, ‘Probably just chill here with you guys’

‘No I don’t think that’s your road, you should go to Neverwinter and find out more about this evil you have released'

'I never mentioned that part...'

'I know' Mother Willow said, 'Do you think a 9-foot tall dragon elf fleeing from a citadel magically risen from the gorund went completely unnoticed?'

‘Yeah ok. But technically, I only undid one of the clasps.' Buggles protested, as Mother Willow put her hands on her hips, 'What, now?’ he asked rather taken aback.

‘Tomorrow I think, Grayum needs some help with the cabin, its leaking again.

‘Great’ Buggles started to leave.

'Mind if I keep that head?' asked Ingrid with a toothy grin, 'It will go well in my collection' she added, hissing out the final word, as was her way. Buggles shrugged and sloped off to ditch his travelling gear and fetch the roofing tools.

The following day, Buggles sets off for the city of Neverwinter. His plan? To find out more about Gwen (the Skeleton summoned by Night Caller, the magic whistle- the DM reminds the reader), can she be put to rest, or even redeemed? In the meantime, he needed to find out the limits of her magic. Then there was the matter of this Durgeddin the Black, and he needed a skilled leatherworker to craft a rather special item. Neverwinter seems like a good place to find the answers he seeks.


~ The Tales of Buggles ~

Nice work Stu, just waiting on Newt's/Bear's Citadel saga, can't wait to hear/see it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in Downtime in Neverwinter

Session #012a Downtime in Neverwinter

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 12a, if you’re interested, and we’re finishing off the Sunless Citadel, and then on to downtime activities, and so this is going to be another short one, although it was full session around the VTT- with lots of chatter.

First off, after a two day cart ride from Thundertree to Neverwinter the Dark Squad meet with their ultimo uber-patron, Gundren Rockseeker, this to report back- to tell the dwarf merchant all that they have done.

022 Neverwinter.jpg

"Neverwinter!", "Neverwinter!", "NEVERWINTER!", "It's only a map...", "Shh…"

And so the story is, as mostly explained by Vincenzo- they rescued one of the two missing Hucrele’s (Sharwyn) but the other was dead even before they got to the Sunless Citadel (Talgen). More chatter follows- Vinnie is trying not to make too much of the fact that the Squad also released an elf/dragon style abomination into the world, oh and brought the Sunless Citadel itself crashing to the surface. The shifter therefore skirts the issue, that is until Newt just spills the beans… as it turns out Gundren couldn’t give a stuff, something else has got his attention- Garumn’s new sword, Shatterspike- which was mentioned earlier in the telling of the adventurer’s story.

021 Dog Arms Inn.jpg

Meeting in the Dog Arm Inn, Neverwinter- Gundren Rockseeker gets another round in.

Gundren is very interested, and so more chatter starts up- the blade, Shatterspike, was made (as you well know if you’ve been keeping up) by Durgeddin the Black, a famous dwarven smith who oddly (for a dwarf) just made blades. Yet more discussion follows, this after a visit to Rarik (brother of Rurik- see Thundertree) Lutgehr’s specialist dwarven smithy. That said details are sketchy, Shatterspike however is checked out- it’s genuine, and reportedly formerly owned by the Braford family, of Waterdeep. The PCs were gifted the sword by Sir Braford after rescuing the paladin from life as a supplicant of the Gulthias tree, so again- this is the real deal. Rarik offers the party 3,000gp for the magical sword- but there are no takers.

023 Rarik.jpg

Rarik, brother of Rurik- hang on... that looks a lot like the token the GM used for Gundren Rockseeker, the lazy bugger...

Actually, what the players said was something similar to- "scratch that, this is a quest item..."

Just to note the players are coming up with the names of the various NPCs et al they meet in Neverwinter (also using details available on the internet- i.e. looking stuff up and reading (aloud) what they’ve found, we’re gathering data together- rather than me (the hapless DM) having to do it all). Anyway, Buggles (Stu) when asked for the name of the dwarven smith went on a long mental journey and came up with Rarik, Rurik was the name of the smith in Thundertree, and so… meet his brother.

The Dark Squad also inform Gundren that they have directions (of a sort) to Khundrukhar, the last known holdfast of Durgeddin the Black, colour the dwarven merchant excited- he’ll help out where he can. However, the PCs are not sure of the specific location of the place- it’s somewhere near Mount Hotenow, although that’s a large area to cover- and basically they’re looking for a hole in the ground, so- y’know, not all plain sailing. The PCs believe they are looking for the ‘Stone Tooth’, and they’re going to be investigating this later, during their downtime.

Just for clarity, here’s the translation again of the ancient dwarven scroll the Dark Squad found in the dragon’s lair in the Sunless Citadel-



"Khundrukhar

That which is sort first is found last

Seek the stone tooth
Climb to the mountain door
Descend the grand stair
Pass the tombs of the ancients

To the glory of the glitterhame
Wary of the sinkhole
There you find the door
Within… the foundry of Durgeddin the Black

By the sword by the flame
By the hammer by the forge
By the axe by the fire

Dumathoin content sits by the fire
Feet almost in the flames
Hotter now

Arundil
High Wizard"


Then the PCs go shopping- this after first locating suitable merchants to buy all the stuff they hauled out of the Sunless Citadel, there’s always more/new things to buy…

Then, at last, we get around to downtime activities, each PC has ten units of downtime (each a tenday long), they’ve been given half-price rooms in the Dog Arms Inn (5gp/tenday) courtesy of the barkeep Ogbert, who is great friends with Gundren.

Each tenday they can make two rolls (to get two things done) or else one roll with advantage (to get one thing done), the success of their endeavours is based upon the outcome of these rolls. Simple as, except there’s also a chunk more roleplay here, so- I’ll go through who does what, PC by PC.

And so…

Buggles & Gwen- Mister and Misses, love one another…

The wood elf doesn’t like cities and so he’s keen to get things done quickly, first he buys armour and weapons (and a full face helm) for his new summonable skeleton friend- Gwen. Gwen is summoned courtesy of Night Caller, a black quartz whistle the Dark Squad found in the Sunless Citadel. So, Buggles plays dress up with Gwen, and now no one can see that Gwen is actually a skeleton- that’s nice, although when Gwen disappears at the end of her summoning time her armour and weapons are left strewn upon floor- she doesn’t take them with her. Buggles is going to have to carry this stuff about, and then get his undead servant dressed every time he summons her.

Note, along the way the wood elf also discovers that Gwen was in life, a duergar.

That done Buggles heads out of Neverwinter, taking five days and accompanied by Gwen, to head back into the Neverwinter woods, note during this time he also trains Gwen to obey a series of simple instructions- attack, guard etc.

Once back in the Neverwinter Woods he takes a tenday to pick up the trail of the elf/dragon abomination the Dark Squad unleashed from the Sunless Citadel, once he has the trail he follows the beast for the best part of a month (this after several great checks), but eventually loses all trace when the abomination crosses (or else goes into) a fast running branch of the Neverwinter River.

Then after a swift visit home, to Mother Willow and friends- remember Buggles lives in the southern portion of the Neverwinter Woods, he heads back to Neverwinter to meet up with his comrades once more.

That’s that- downtime complete for the wood elf.

Ramshambow Blademaster.

Ram has a list of jobs to do, first off after hanging around the Beached Leviathon (Carousing) he finds a few people he knows back from his pirate/smuggling years, in particular Rory One-Leg. Rory gets Ram an appointment with ‘the Treasurer’. The Treasurer is the guy, there’s one in every port/town/city, who guarantees to get money deposited with him to named others (for a price). In this instance Ram deposits 400gp which will make its way into the coffers of his old dwarven pirate boss- Captain Stonebeard, the half-elf is still paying Stonebeard off for rescuing him from slavery.

Next up Rory introduces Ram to some of the local ne’er-do-wells, in this instance members of the local Thieves’ Guild, the Shoremen. Through contacts there (after a sizeable bribe) he is put in touch with ‘the Foil’, a female half-elven weapon master. The rogue spends the next month or so learning new techniques he can employ with his blades- a flourish (for show), how to fight better with his off-hand, and also a minor defensive stance- the lessons however are expensive.

After the above is done, Ram spends some time reading a book of dragon lore he recovered from the Sunless Citadel, and then heads off to help his friends who are now ensconced in the Temple of Oghma in Neverwinter, researching various things (see later).

Saint Vincenzo.

After some specialist shopping- the shifter acquires a suit of snakeskin armour (after a ‘20’), Vinnie gets on with his saintly activities, volunteering to work for two months unpaid at one of the orphanages in Neverwinter. Once employed he locates, and then spends a lot of time talking with, a bunch of parentless dwarven children, specifically to learn their language- this ability a feature of his anthropologist background. He becomes fairly adept in the davek script, and passable with the tongue (ahem).

That done the shifter then heads to the library, the Temple of Oghma- where he meets up with Newt who has already hit the books. After paying access fees the druid gets down to some serious research, two subjects- 1) Ashardalon, the elf/dragon abomination they released from the Sunless Citadel, and 2) the life and times of Durgeddin the Black. The results of this come later, and that’s all the druid got up to- which is plenty.

New Tricks gets New Magic.

New Tricks, the fashion conscious tabaxi, spends several tendays (and plenty of gold) tracking down a Cloak of Protection, the beautiful item is for sale in a high-end fashion emporium in the Protector’s District, a fancy place called Elarial’s. He spends almost all of his remaining money to purchase the item, this after bargaining the price down a little.

Note, I’m not that keen on PCs buying magic items- except perhaps consumable stuff, but Newt’s rolls were good, the activity is on the downtime menu, and besides the PCs have not got a lot of magic stuff- a few low level scrolls and potions, Buggles’ skeleton summoning whistle- Night Caller, two +1 arrows (with Ram) and a Wand of Entangle (Vinnie)… oh, and Shatterspike, wielded by the NPC- Garumn.

Newt is delighted.

Next up the tabaxi hits the inns and taverns, he’s a lute playing entertainer- and after a slow start he gets (much) better, and eventually earns enough money to offset his living costs entirely, and even make a bit extra on the side.

He also makes a new contact, Brother Grey, a member of the Church of Oghma, the tabaxi also gets a free pass into the temple’s libraries, and after paying a little extra- help from a research assistant.

024 Library Time for Newt.jpg

"Mouse fighting for beginners, Wool for fun and frolics, To scratching post or not to scratching post- hang on, is this the right section?"

He is the first member of the Dark Squad to hit the books and start the research- see below for the results, but again- that’s all the tabaxi wrote, downtime done.

RESEARCH RESULTS.

Note each number on the list represents info garnered from at least one source, the higher the number the later (DR) the source, moving towards the present day.

Subject: Ashardalon etc.

Note the citadel on the plains of ash referred to below is, the PCs believe, the Sunless Citadel.

1) First mentioned during the Time of the Elves (over 2,000 years ago) Ashardalon, or ‘Ashbringer’ is/was an ancient red dragon.

2) The Cult of the Dragon are making dracoliches- speculation that Ashardalon went that way.

3) Mention of a Cult of the Dragon citadel on the plains of ash?

4) Mention of elven participation in the Cult of the Dragon- lots of them.

5) Talk of a grand falling out between the elves (in general) and dragons- they begin to fight, a lot.

6) Speculation regarding a secret Cult of the Dragon breeding program (or similar), elves and dragons (in humanoid form).

7) If not a breeding program then some other combining of the two races to create a dragon/elf hybrid, known as a Dragonkith.

8) Rumour that the citadel on the plains of ash was built to house something terrible that was either found, or else created there.

9) Speculation that a faction of the Cult of the Dragon had somehow acquired the soul of an ancient dragon, for what purpose- unknown.

10) The citadel on the plains of ash is attacked by a great dragon, and collapses and sinks beneath the earth- the surrounding area is fired and razed.

That's plenty for them to be getting on with, I don't want to give away too much, too soon.

Next…

Subject: Durgeddin the Black etc.

Note Durgeddin is referred to as being male in 90% of the sources, and as being female in 10%, for this reason (alone) Durgeddin is referred to as ‘he’ below.

1) Durgeddin comes to notice in Mirabar and Adbar, perhaps half-a-millennia ago.

2) Only manufactured blades, more specifically- swords, most odd.

3) Six different descriptions of Durgeddin (garnered from six different sources) are all, well… different- he is described as a young male dwarf of massive build, an aged spectacled male dwarf of serious countenance, a matronly and sour aged female dwarf, etc. Very odd.

4) He didn’t get on with people in authority, very anti-establishment.

5) Other dwarven smiths flocked to Durgeddin, strange- his followers are described in some texts as being adherents- most odd, particularly for dwarves.

6) Durgeddin not religious, at all- seemingly.

7) Built own holdfast in the Spine of the World Mountains, taking his followers/adherents with him- all of whom are good (or better) smiths.

8) Mirabar/Adbar very unhappy- they just lost a lot of very good smiths.

9) Durgeddin blades start to find their way to market- each is unique, magical and of the finest possible manufacture, they’re glorious to behold and to wield.

10) Three hundred years ago, Durgeddin’s holdfast reportedly attacked and sacked by orcs of the Many Arrows tribes.

11) Durgeddin and his remaining followers located (in the Underdark) and contacted by both Adbar and Mirabar, and offered various enticements to come and work with/for them. He refuses all offers.

12) Durgeddin leaves the north, this after further harsh words in reply to continued Adbar and Mirabar offers and counter-offers, and when that doesn't work- direct offers to his followers/adherents.

13) Note- more (and different) descriptions of Durgeddin, he’s never the same dwarf twice (seemingly).

14) Durgeddin and adherents head south, patrols sent by Mirabar and Adbar to attempt to track them, no trace found.

15) MIrabar & Adbar bicker for a while, each blaming the other for the loss of Durgeddin and their/his ‘master smith’ followers.

16) Oddly both dwarven enclaves claim Durgeddin to be the stubborn son of their rival.

17) Dwarf historians latter claims that Durgeddin was actually from neither place. In short- where he came from nobody knows.

18) Note to say Durgeddin’s chief follower was a dwarven wizard from Adbar called Arundil.

19) Durgeddin and adherents never seen or heard from again.

20) Blades however continue to come to market in various places on the Sword Coast for the next century or more, then… nothing.

21) No sign of Durgeddin or any new blades for nearly two centuries, i.e. to the present day.

22) Durgeddin blades still greatly sought.

23) Present day dwarven commentators speculate a variety of things regarding Durgeddin, like he- a) used magic to disguise his or her true form, b) didn’t exist- and was in fact a construct/story created by another unknown individual/s, or else c) he didn’t do meetings, and so sent others in his stead to speak for him.

The researching PCs also attempt to find some thing or place called the ‘Stone Tooth’ in the Spine of the World Mountains, or else thereabouts, no information found.

Shame, it does exist- just not in the Spine of the World Mountains, but see later (session 12b) we get there in the end.

That’s the lot, and the end of the downtime activities.

[Downtime activities 500 XP]

Downtime explanation.

Just a brief insight- why downtime? Simples-

1) Move the timeline forward.

2) Space to sell up treasure, acquire new stuff- including new friends and contacts, and info about the bigger picture, and the next adventure.

3) Get the PCs to do a bit more roleplaying, and adventure building (for me). It’s amazing what ideas you can come up with when you allow them (the players) to speculate and babble on.

4) Except for the parsimonious Buggles, then all of the PCs are now just about broke- which makes it an ideal time to go adventuring again.

That’s that for now, part 12b to follow- the start of the next adventure proper.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #012b Bad to the Gnome.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 12b, and the start of the next adventure proper, although- it starts in Neverwinter. One cold day, just as the PCs are wrapping up their 100 days of downtime activities Gundren Rockseeker comes calling, he has news- odd news.

So, Gundren has been doing a little research of his own regarding Durgeddin the Black (no new info) but the dwarven merchant has been making enquiries, and so he was surprised to hear that another Durgeddin the Black blade was up for sale. The odd thing being of course that no-one has particularly seen a Durgeddin blade for the best part of two centuries, then Shatterspike gets given to Garumn, and now… well, another.

However the party who wish to sell the second blade are rather less than reputable, therefore Gundren would like the Dark Squad to accompany him to the meeting he has arranged to view the weapon. The disreputable organisation turn out to be the Shoreman, and in particular a local boss of the thieves' guild called ‘Big Al’.

Although only Ram knows this, he has friends in the organisation (see Downtime above)- remember.

‘Big Al’ is a very large slice of half-orc with a halfling jester to amuse him, this after the PCs- mostly lead by Ram, go through a variety of security checks to get to the showdown.

Note, as suspected by every reader following this- ‘Big Al’, of course, turns out to be the halfling in the motley, although this revelation only comes to pass when… well, it turns out the Durgeddin the Black weapon Big Al is selling is a hand axe- it’s signed, and of great quality (but not magical) and obvious to the well informed PCs- made by someone else. Garumn (he’s a smith, remember) is certain, as are all of the other adventurers that have been involved in the Durgeddin research.

So, the Dark Squad let Big Al know- this is a fake, of some sort- high quality, but not the real deal.

‘Big Al’ has been conned, they suspect- who could have done such a dastardly thing?

At which point the furious halfling in the jester's motley reveals himself to be "Big Al" and negotiations take a turn for the worse.

As it turns out- Erky Timbers, the gnome priest of Tymora sold the axe to ‘Big Al’ in good faith- although later the halfling crime boss admits he only paid 250gp for the weapon. Note, he was trying to sell it Gundren for 3,000gp.

The conversation circles a while, eventually ‘Big Al’ tasks Ram to pay a visit on Erky and to get his money back, and also to make his mark on the lying gnome priest. He actually asks Ram to bring him back an "ear, or a hand- you choose”, some constant reminder to Erky of his treachery.

More chatter follows, this away from the Shoremen’s clubhouse, the PCs like Erky- he used all of his healing spells repeatedly on them back in the Sunless Citadel, and he was very nice besides. Several members of the Dark Squad therefore impress upon Ram that the rogue will have to go through them if he wants to hurt Erky. Ram assures his companions that he is disinclined to do so, even without their threats.

Also, although this hardly gets mentioned- except in passing by Vinnie, how the hell did Erky get his hands on a (fake) Durgeddin the Black weapon, and why did he sell it to Big Al- a mystery, inside a riddle etc.

So, we're moving very quickly now because we want to get to the next bit, and there's not much time left (we play to 11 PM) in the session. Onwards then to Castell Gwythyr, a small fort in the Neverwinter Woods, and the Dark Squad's new base of operations for their search for Khundrukhar (this as arranged by Gundren), the place is also the abode of… that’s right- Erky Timbers, two birds- one stone.

Oh, but before we go (leave Neverwinter) just to say it’s winter now- with snow on the ground, but mostly a light sprinkling of the white stuff. However, cold weather and mountaineering gear is purchased before the PCs depart.

Buggles wears a bobble hat throughout the rest of this session- it's what he does, he's the awkward one.

Then five days following the Neverwinter River and eventually into the Forest, and on to Castell Gwythyr.

12.1.jpg

Welcome to Castell Gwythyr.

The place is well-maintained, sturdy and home to Lord Boskin and about two dozen others, a military outpost (of sorts) in the wilds- it does a great deal of trade with trappers and the like.

The Dark Squad introduce themselves and discover that the local Lord has a problem of his own- a bunch of orcs have moved into the region, they’ve been attacking trappers and prospectors alike- and all through the summer months. Lord Boskin is willing to pay a bounty of 5gp per orc right hand returned to the fort.

More chatter follows, until the local scout is called for and a map found- the name of the small mountain near which the orcs reportedly lair is…

Can you guess?

Stone Tooth.

12.2.jpg

Stone Tooth- found it, that was easy.

It's all starting to fit into place.

The Dark Squad are keen to get going, although...

First a chat with the aberrant Erky, the gnome priest of Tymora however has a different story to tell- it seems he did indeed sell the (fake) Durgeddin the Black hand axe to ‘Big Al’, but in circumstances rather different to those described by the Shoreman halfling boss.

Erky’s version of events starts with him being robbed while visiting Neverwinter, and then on discovery of the Durgeddin axe on his person, being dragged back to the Shoremen’s clubhouse for further interrogation/investigation. The gnome mainly bluffed his way out of the place, using priestly and gnomish cantrips to make ‘Big Al’ think he had some power of his own. Yes, he got paid 250gp but that money has gone back to the church- actually he gambled most of it away, remember- he's a priest of Tymora, and a risk taker.

Lots of questions follow? I’ll try for a list, with answers.

1) Why did you sell the 'Durgeddin' axe to Big Al for only 250gp, answer- Erky had no idea how much a Durgeddin the Black weapon is worth, he therefore just thought of a number. Point of fact the gnome explains, he only came to know about Durgeddin weapons courtesy of the Dark Squad back in the Sunless Citadel.

2) The axe isn’t a Durgeddin the Black, it’s a fake- or else, well… something else, why did you say it was the real deal? Erky genuinely thought it was the real deal. That’s what his brother told him.

3) Brother? Erky tells the PCs about his brother- Spandwick (see below), who lives with his wife Bel in a hut out in the forest, just a day away from the Stone Tooth mountain, the Dark Squad are keen to meet Spandwick- where did he get the axe from?

4) What is Erky going to do? Big Al wants his money back, and Ram is here to cut your ear/hand off. Note Ram intervenes at this point, he makes it clear that he’s not going to do either of these things, but- Big Al will send someone here to do his dirty work. Erky is however of the opinion that Big Al can shove his head up his arse, he’s not giving him the money (or his ear/hand). Stalemate.

Ram repeats his warning, several times, Erky continues to appear unconcerned- the conversation spreads its wings for a while, and the other members of the Dark Squad get involved (as previously) all taking Erky’s side. Eventually, we leave it there.

Although last bit, Erky’s brother Spandwick is an odd fish- the name is recognized by both Newt and Vinnie, Spandwick the Magic Gnome was a great performer back in his day- a household name in Waterdeep maybe a decade or so ago. Spandwick is/was a stage mesmerist- able to read the minds of the various members of his audience. Later, after the tragedy (see below), it emerged that the vast part of his magic was used to change the appearance of his wife- Bel, from a young and beautiful gnome to the volunteer human/half-orc/dwarf i.e. the subject from the audience. Spandwick’s entire show was a con, the truth revealed during his greatest performance, and mid 'mind-meld' with a young prince from foreign shores- played by Bel, of course. Anyway, mid 'mind-meld' Bel went crazy and started raving- screaming out her name, and in that instant Spandwick’s magic failed- and revealed her true form. He was booed off the stage, shamed before all of Waterdeep, and effectively thrown out of the (stage show) magic circle.

The show during which the above tragedy struck was to the largest audience the gnome had ever played- the lords and ladies of the City of Splendours. He was a laughing stock, and worse still for a while (several years) Bel was incarcerated in an asylum at Helm’s Hold.

Their life in tatters Spandwick and Bel, moved to the back of beyond and disappeared from view.

So, back to the here and now...

Erky therefore has a request, if the Dark Squad are heading into the Neverwinter Woods and to the Stone Tooth, can they please check in on his shamed brother, and his (crazed) wife- sure thing, anything for you Erky is the consensus.

That however is at last the end of the session.

[Meetings at Castell Gwythyr 200 XP]

Next session we're ready for it, winter gear on- ahead a journey into the cold Neverwinter Woods, to the Stone Tooth- find the Orcs (and kill 'em), then find Khundrukhar and the lost forges of Durgeddin the Black. Easy, they'll probably get it all done by the end of the next session.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Playa Playa
It seems we have a second rogue/poet in our midst-


People said it was a myth
But I met a dragonkith
Down a hole where the sun don’t shine
Now risen up and everyone’s fine

Old Ashardalon he never said thanks
But ran into the woods to continue his pranks
I tracked him to the river but lost the trail
I assume my reward is in the mail

(from the Lost Tales of Buggles, vol 1)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the DM.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #013a Into the Wild.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 13, unlucky for some- but certainly not for us- this one was a cracker.

Here goes, last time we left the Dark Squad they were at Castell Gwythyr in the Neverwinter Woods, and about to head out to a mountain called the Stone Tooth in search of the entrance to Khundrukhar, the location of the lost forges of Durgeddin the Black. Durgeddin was a master dwarven smith back in the day, slightly odd because he manufactured (magical) swords, rather than the more traditional dwarven fair. The Dark Squad found an ancient scroll back in the Sunless Citadel which, after much downtime research, has lead them here.

So, into the wilds, although… first up a twenty minute (lively- at times) discussion about how they’re going to travel- do we follow the well-worn track- on which orc patrols have been spotted? When do we travel- during the night or the day? Where are we heading for? The conversation rumbles on for a while until the answers finally reveal themselves.

Oh, and just a reminder the Dark Squad are also out to kill orcs, apparently there are a bunch of them in the forest hereby, and they’re getting uppity. Lord Boskin at Castell Gwythyr has offered a 5gp/orc bounty.

The Dark Squad, it is finally decided, will be travelling at night- they’re all blessed with darkvision, and the orcs are active at night. They’ll be avoiding the trail- going off road as it were, and moving slowly and stealthily- where and when possible, with the rogues scouting a little way ahead. Keep in mind that Buggles lives in the Neverwinter Woods so, he’s at home here.

Last call- the Dark Squad are going to initially make their way to the cabin in the wild woods of Spandwick the Magic Gnome (and his wife Bel), ex-mesmerist and Erky’s brother. After checking in with the gnome they’re going to cast around looking for the orcs, and Khundrukhar- of course, while heading towards the Stone Tooth.

That’s the plan, y’know- subject to reality.

[Travel discussion 100 XP]

So…

Night 1: into the woods and all is well with the world, easy job this- it’s cold, there are a few flurries of snow but… that’s it really. The Dark Squad even make good time with Buggles leading the way, and get plenty of rest during the following day.

Fret not, nothing that follows is simple and/or easy- time to mess with them.

Night 2: on the second night of travel the snow really comes down, and the Dark Squad switch to trudge mode- no encounters but, at the end of the hike Ram and Vincenzo are exhausted and needing warmth, food and rest. The Squad are forced to get a fire going for Ram, Vinnie on the other hand spends a good time wildshaped into a mouse and safely ensconced in Garumn’s very warm pocket.

The pair recover, and are good to go for the next night’s travels.

[Staying safe and well on the trail 50 XP]

3.17 Stone Tooth Map.jpg

Look at that FG screen, all neat and tidy- the DM approves, have a house point and an extra bit of tuck from matron.

Night 3:
and the Dark Squad have to cross the orc trail, and whatdya know- there are orcs on the track, a little on the nose- but why not.

That said the terrible twosome- Ramshambow and Buggles, communicating in thieves’ cant sign-language, and as silent as the grave (apposite) are at the orcs in an instant. There are five of the brutes moving down the trail, a pair of them hefting a recent kill- an already dressed deer.

3.18 Orcs on the Trail.jpg

Note two of the orcs are behind a tree and out of sight, my attempt to draw the PCs in to the fight... worked too well.

The sneaky pair open up with their bows and leave the two nearest orcs critically wounded- an arrow in the back will do that. The rogues then both scurry away and into deep cover, while signalling their comrades forward and into action, figuring they’ll take the hits when the orcs come running.

Which of course they do.

Seconds later Vincenzo uses his wand to entangle several of the hefty thugs, however one of the brutes gets to Gwen (Buggles’ skeleton companion) and almost smashes her down.

Note Gwen, Buggles’ skeleton friend, is now armoured and helmed and so she appears to the casual observer to be a heavily armoured (but slim) dwarf, odd however that she is wielding a rapier. The latter Buggles’ choice because of the skeleton’s high dex bonus, she also has a shortbow and ammo.

Back to the action…

Buggles cuts one of the orcs down with his scimitar, springing out of hiding to do so, while Garumn- wielding Shatterspike, his Durgeddin blade, ends another. Newt eldritch blasts yet another- but not quite dead, and then Ram emerges form the foliage to end a third orc.

It’s going very badly for my guys here- Gwen even manages to scurry out of the way and shoot one of the brutes. So, embarrassing.

I rolled a fair few attacks here, and just kept on missing.

Vinne leaves one of the two wounded orcs still swinging heartily (and missing) burnt and in agony with his produce flame spell, the pair of disconsolate enemies make to flee the scene but Buggles and Garumn step up to finish them off.

Five dead orcs, and soon after- apres a bunch of checks the Dark Squad are certain that the gang had just completed a successful hunt and were heading for home, somewhere further along the main trail- very probably.

[Orc patrol 500 XP]

There follows another semi-terse debate in which the various members of the Dark Squad compete in an attempt to come up with the most ridiculous posed battle scene/massacre site ever. Favourite to take the award for a good long while is to pose the dead orcs in a manner so as to appear to the observer that the field-dressed (very dead) deer killed them.

The competition for most ridiculous is pretty determined, I’ll not pretend there was a clear cut winner, although sense eventually prevails and the orc frieze finally selected attempts to show that one of the orcs (body well hidden) slaughtered his four companions.

Just to note that Buggles has already cut off the right hands of all five orcs, this so that the Dark Squad can collect the bounty from Lord Boskin when they return to Castell Gwythyr. It is therefore very obvious to anyone investigating the scene that whoever killed the orcs was doing so in order to collect some form of reward.

That was twenty minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

[Pose dead orcs, I’ll give XP for anything, see- 50 XP]

The adventurers continue their trek, arriving- eventually, at the hut marked on their sketched map of Erky’s brother and his wife- Spandwick and Bel… the place is a mess, something bad has happened here.

After ten minutes of rogue-only sneaking about the other members of the Dark Squad are allowed out to play- there are no enemies present. The investigation of the crime scene goes on for a good long while.

3.19 Spandwick & Bel's hut.jpg

I didn't have a map of a ransacked hut in the wintery wilds, so let your imagination take you there...

The Dark Squad discern that Spandwick and Bel were captured alive by a group of at least five orcs accompanied by a very large wolf of some kind, this all happened maybe three or four days ago. It’s also likely that one of the gnomes took a beating, so that’s not good.

The adventurers are angry now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- they like Erky, anyone that messes with his brother, well… they’re messing with the Dark Squad now.

After a bunch more fine words about ‘revenge’, and ‘they’ll pay’ etc. Ram settles down in the hut and starts cooking the deer. Newt, stomping around on the outside of the hut (and in a tizzy), is all for chasing after the orc bastards right now, but… he’s talked down, The orcs have a three day, or so, head start- chillax, here have a haunch of venison.

The Dark Squad spend a lovely day resting and lounging in Spandwick and Bel’s ransacked hut- very nice, as it happens.

Note Newt borrows/takes/steals (you decide which) Spandwick’s diary and a bill poster from the fateful show in which the stage mesmerist somehow managed to steal his wife’s mind, for good.

Further note Spandwick’s diary is written in gnomish, which none of the adventurers understand, this however doesn’t inhibit the tabaxi- see a little later.

[Spandwick & Bel’s hut investigations 150 XP]

Night 4: and the snow comes down again, which doesn’t help when the Dark Squad are trying to stay on the trail of the orcs that stole away Spandwick and Bel.

Note I’m rolling a D20 for the weather- low bad, high good, simple as.

It’s a hard trudge again through the freezing sleet, although the weather finally clears up a little later, point of fact as the sun begins to rise the adventurers manage to at last find the orc’s trail again, note they’re staying close to the well-travelled path.

The tracks lead to the ruined remains of an ancient fortification, although- it’s not much to look at, one sturdy wall and half a tower. Again the rogues initially take charge of the situation, it is however when the back-up team arrives that things really start to make sense.

The place is deserted, however the orcs camped here, the large wolf still with them- and also, hopefully, Spandwick and Bel. Vinnie is very relieved to discover that the charred bones in and around the remains of a fire are those of conies, and not gnomes.

However, it also appears that the orcs lit out from here in a rush, something spooked them… odd, this after Vinnie’s adjusted (obviously) ‘26’ survival check.

That’s when the first “Hooooot!” is heard, followed swiftly by the sound of something large crashing through the undergrowth close by.

Then nothing for a while, as the PCs manoeuvre, by which I mean Ram and Newt hide behind a high wall, Buggles within the foliage, and Vinnie about a quarter-of-a-mile further back (just kidding). Which of course just leaves a swearing (in Scottish) dwarf, that’s Garumn, front and centre.

The owlbear crashes into the clearing, and I’ll be honest here- gets massacred.

And I mean massacred.

3.2 Owlbear.jpg

Owlbear, just prior to being turned into mince and gravy.

Buggles sinks an arrow into the beast as it emerges from the woods, however the big brute is straight at Garumn, tearing into the dwarf and bloodying him in an instant, at which point all of the PCs go hog heaven.

Vinnie douses the owlbear in faerie fire- that’s advantage on all attacks- Ram slices and stabs it, Newt hexes and then blasts it, Garumn divine smites it (for 20-something damage) with Shatterspike, Gwen (even the skeleton is getting in on it) skewers it (Buggles bought her a rapier)- at which point my big beautiful beast is already critically wounded.

Buggles, snicker-snack, with his twin scimitars finishes it off… take down, 70 HP or so in one turn. Of course, the faerie fire helped considerably, as did the hexed eldritch blast, multiple sneak attacks, and the hefty smite.

[Very brief attack of the owlbear 700 XP]

There follows a short free-for-all to claim some sort of memento, or token (beak, claws etc.) from the beast. This while Vincenzo speechifies about what a noble creature it was… Soon after Buggles attempts to dress the meat, and rolls a ‘1’, so basically the mad elf goes at it with his twin scimitars until he has before him a puddle/mound of bloody mince/hairy mush.

Appetising.

The adventurers however are still in a rush, they head on- following the orc trail again, and now looking for somewhere away from the trail to make their camp, which they eventually discover.

There they settle in for another day in the cold- and so light a fire to cook/smoke the little meat they managed to rescue from the mangled corpse of the owlbear. Although, first watch- Newt is supposed to be on guard, but he’s really not. Instead the tabaxi uses the time to look through Spandwick’s diary, he eventually manages to make out a few of the numbers, and from the date of the last entry works out that Spandwick and Bel were captured five days previous.

Alas, while he’s doing this a giant spider positioned high in the branches of a nearby tree decides to do a little fishing, it’s only when the sleeping and now webbed Ram is hoisted five feet into the air that the tabaxi comes alive to what’s happening. The camp is awake at a rush, although too late for Ram (a little).

3.21 Spider-Ram.jpg

Spider-Ram!

The rogue, now very much awake, decides however to play dead, waiting for the spider- he can see the beast, to haul him all the way up- which is what happens next, at which point the rogue comes alive and stabs the arachnid in its eye cluster (and for 20+ damage, the bastard). The giant spider has the last laugh- it bites, poisons and paralyzes the restrained Ram.

At which point the second giant spider makes itself known (it’s in the tree opposite the first spider) by shooting its web bundle at Newt, the tabaxi dodges and rolls and then is up and to the rescue. The cat-man is quickly up and into the first tree, and positioned beneath the wounded giant arachnid which is even now grabbing up Ram. Newt crisps, a little, the creature with his burning hands.

Buggles (after an inspiration point) sinks an arrow into the eight-legged terror now escaping with Ram, it’s critically wounded.

Meantime the second giant spider web-descends into the camp site clearing and attempts to bite and poison Garum, the hefty dwarf however keeps it at bay.

The tabaxi in the meantime completes his Ram rescue operation, climbing up into the canopy of the tree to get a clear shot, he eldritch blasts the enemy dead- fortunately Ram’s body- once released by the dead spider, only falls five feet into the tangle of branches below. Newt immediately heads over to rip the web’s free and pour a potion of healing into the rogue.

This while the remaining members of the Dark Squad go toe to toe with the second arachnid, in Vinnie’s case its spider-o e spider-o, the wildshaping druid becomes Vincen G. Spider.

3.22 spider-o e spider-o.jpg

Spider-o e Spider-o, the top arachnid heavy weight wuuuuuuuurl champeeeeen-ship! Wrastle!

Buggles plugs the second spider with his bow, and then while all the other members of the combat snarl, hiss and miss (or similar} the wood elf grabs out his twin scimitars and wades in, leaving the final enemy critically wounded with a hit-crit combo.

Vincen G. Spider is top spider, the wildshaped druid finishes off his evil (maybe) kin.

Ram gets lowered out of the tree, and then revived- and rested, and healed; while Newt gets a telling off (just a little) for reading when he was supposed to be guarding.

[Two dead giant spiders 400 XP]

Buggles meantime tries to recover the poison sack from one of the arachnids, it doesn’t go well- not terrible but, y’know- not a success.

Note Buggles, quite often, pretends to know what he’s doing- and then makes a nature check (he’s +0) and has not yet managed (much) to break ‘5’. He’s also actually pretty great at survival (+5, including situational bonus for being on home turf) but his dice (seemingly just for these checks) are broken. With advantage in the past he has rolled a ‘1’ and a ‘2’, and then about ten minutes later- a ‘2’ and a ‘3’. Back in the fight with the owlbear the wood elf- when the enemy raced into sight, screamed out to warn his companions- “Wood Bear Owl!”, this after something like an adjusted ‘7’ nature monster knowledge check- and that’s a high roll for Buggles.

The Dark Squad, once again, settle in for a long rest- uninterrupted this time.

Night 5: and much more snow, the going is tough and yet the Dark Squad continue on- to the end of the orc trail marked on their map, and from there after a successful scout-all-about mission they discover a secondary (and much harder to find) track ascending into the lower reaches of the Stone Tooth mountain.

The orcs quite definitely went up there- good.

Then they retreat, back into the cover of the forest, and another long rest is taken- remarkably all of the PCs are on their mettle, no reading diaries or other distractions- no encounters, and another day spent in the cold wilds.

Night 6: and up the mountain, four hours of footsore and eventually to an exposed windswept ledge path- much used, although also a little on the dangerous side. The sneaking-peaking (and stealthy) rogues scout a little way ahead and spot a pair of orc sentries.

3.23 Rogue Two.jpg

Rogue One... and Rogue Two- this is bad.

But that however is for the second part of this write-up, when we head into the Forge of Fury proper, so- we’ll leave it there for now.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan (& the Dark Squad).
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Forge of Fury

Session #013b To the Mountain Door.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Buggles (played by Stu) Male Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 1/Rogue Lvl 2
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 3
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 3
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 3

NPCs
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 3


This is session 13, unlucky for some- but certainly not us- this one was a cracker.

And we’re up high on the Stone Tooth mountain, with the sneaky rogues scouting ahead, the pair have spotted two orc sentries seemingly bitching and grousing when they oughta be watching and guarding. Note neither of the rogues understands the orc tongue- only Garumn knows the language, and he’s a bit further back.

This is the Forge of Fury proper then, here we go.

3.23 Rogue Two.jpg

Dead, but they don't know it yet.

Whoosh – Thud (x2).

Maybe an “Erk!” but that’s about it.

The two concealed rogues open up with their bows and… both orc sentries are dead in an instant.

The bastards- a pair of rogues, it’s just not fair, whatsa DM to do?

[Dead orc sentries 200 XP]

Ram scurries around the corner- there’s a shallow stepped high-ceilinged passage leading into the mountain, and seemingly into a much larger chamber ahead, there are also well concealed arrow slits up on the inner wall- not that well concealed however, this after the very observant rogue’s ‘26’ perception check.

The rogues therefore usher their colleagues forward to them, explain what they’ve seen and done and then, combat style- using the inner wall as cover, make their way forward- Newt follows. Although the consensus is they’re gathering and waiting to see if anything emerges from the tunnel ahead.

It doesn’t, even when the orcs up above at the arrow slits spot the dead bodies of their comrades, and then start shouting and screaming to broadcast the alarm.

There’s a short moment when the Dark Squad stay hidden and hold station- still waiting for enemies to emerge from the chamber spotted ahead. Vinnie meantime fires a faerie fire up above, allowing the spell to burst outside the arrow slits- and thereby engulfing two of the orcs looking down into the passage. The orc pair are suddenly glowing like fey motes, and screaming in their foul tongue- “something about closing the door…” Garumn translates.

Eventually the penny drops- “Forward!” Newt shouts and then hot foots it up the rising stepped passage using his feline agility to move at incredible speed. At which point the two rogues- still scouting and sneaking ahead, also make their way to the top of the stairs and into the much larger chamber ahead.

A high ceiling entrance hall, again with arrow slits either side- they’re looking for them now, a sturdy open door over the far side, and above it a great stone frieze depicting toiling dwarves at the metal.

The Dark Squad race, or sneak (very quickly), forward.

Note Garumn is not for sneaking, he’s for swearing, huffing and charging- the dwarf however is like an arrow magnet (and the orcs have a host of readied actions because the rest of the Dark Squad are staying out of sight). Although, only one hit- it seems the angry brutes are not that great with bows (and Garumn’s AC 18).

Garumn emerges into the great entrance chamber and translates the dwarven runes etched in font size one thousand above the portal- “the Mountain Door… Heh-he! Come on fellers…” The dwarf grins and giggles as he continues his charge, more arrows shattering on his shield and armour as he ploughs forward.

3.24 To the Mountain Door.jpg

Nearly there, just a few more steps to go grandad, Garumn puffs his way to the top of the stairs.

The rogues and Newt meantime race ahead- through the portal, and… at a rush skid to a halt, there’s a treacherous looking rope bridge spanning a wide and deep chasm before them, this side of the ravine just a narrow stone ledge with two burning braziers.

Bugger!

That however is pretty much all she wrote, we were already half an hour or more over time, just to make clear- Vinnie, Garumn and Gwen are at present racing through the large entrance chamber and to the Mountain Door, being fired on by the orcs up above at the arrow slits.

[Into the Mountain Door, because it was well thought out and great action 250 XP]

More of this kind of thing next session.

Till then, stay safe and well.

From goonalan and the Dark Squad.

It’s getting good, and its going to get very bloody- I imagine.
 
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