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

carborundum

Adventurer
Awesome. Extorting the party, rubbing their nose in their assumptions, chopping them to pieces and then spoiling their rest. They must be a masochistic bunch!
 

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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #118: FIRESKULLS!

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

DEAD PCs
Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP

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

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
  2. The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
  3. Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  4. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  5. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  6. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
  7. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 117, and strap in because it’s mainly all fighting…

This is session 118, and strap in because it’s mainly all fighting…

Where have I read that before?

This was also a very short session due to new job work schedule tomfoolery, but we got there.

Oh, and one of the players said this to me before the session started-

Make the voice as childish and silly as you can muster.

“I was telling my mates about you… About what a terrible GM you are, and that we’ve had enough XP to level up (to 9th) for about five sessions now. My mate said that you must be really mean, and a bad person… and I don’t like you anymore.”

Actually, what Bear said was a much more cogent, intelligent, and well-mannered version of the above, but hey- I write this, so- I shape reality.

Bloody gamers from the video-game generation, what do they want next- Save Points?

The players have had enough XP to level up since session #109, yeah- nine sessions gone, they just have not been able to get an Extended Rest in, that’s all. That’s not my fault.

I love the sound of their carping at the start of the session, it sounds like… victory.

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“We are the SWARM! We are LEGION! Shiver me TIMBERS! You are BANJAXED!”

Make that last word- BANJAXED, sound a lot like a Dalek screaming “EXTERMINATE!” in your face and you are getting there.

That was last time.

And the start of this time…

But after the initial tirade the Dalek-voiced Rambles Swarm is just in Ram’s head, the rest of the PCs are cut out of the conversation, and Ram is happy to oblige Mr The Swarm.

The chat is this…

“Let’s do a deal, we are the same… after all?”

At least that’s the Rambles Swarm’s opening gambit.

The deal takes maybe 10 minutes in game to work out- between Ram and Rambles, none of the rogue’s comrades get to ask or enquire.

Ram will be joining the swarm.

Sorry, The Swarm!

But only after he completes his tasks within the tomb- the Rambles Swarm patiently explains that in order to summon him fully to this place Ram, and his comrades, have to destroy the four undead minotaur guardians present here within 24 hours- from first to last.

Funny that, that’s what Bonnie told, I mean- sold, the PCs.

Ram smiles as he imparts the above knowledge (about the guardians) to his colleagues.

Newt goes apoplectic.

Early in the session, even for him.

“We wasted our money on that…”

“Belphegor I plead with you GREAT LORD- rain down hellfire on Bonnie Bowspirit!”

“I told you Vinnie, I told you…”

And on it goes.

Anyway, a deal is done- the Rambles Swarm (and his other rat swarm friends) disappear back into the walls.

Ram further explains- the Rambles Swarm will not be bothering them again, at least until the end- at which point the rogue further explains, he shall be joining with Rambles Shambles Bowspirit.

Vinnie is aghast, and grumbles for a good long while about… well, lots of things and yet nothing much.

Newt is overjoyed to hear that Ram has ‘in-effect’ sold his soul to a creature of terror, the tabaxi is made-up for the rogue, he has at last graduated.

Therein lies the argument.

Vinnie and Newt, now both entirely ignoring Ram, have at each other for a short while. But we’ve been here before- many, many times before.

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Then rest.

It’s 4.46 PM and the Dark Squad have just completed their fourth short rest, that’s the last one that the DM is allowing.

The PCs have until 8.30 AM tomorrow to find and destroy the last undead skeletal Minotaur guardian.

So, plenty of time.

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Remember the trap-filled corridor, here it is again.

I got rid of all of the blue squares and circles.

I did it because I thought there would be a very good chance that the PCs would forget about a few of the traps.

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FTW, and they weren’t even looking, so… serves them right.

Ram wanders into a series of flashing spectral blades- a ceiling to floor shadowy scythe, and a pair of rotary saws that thrust back and forth from opposite walls to meet in the middle of the passage.

Less remarkably Ram somehow manages to leap, tumble and dive through the trap completely unharmed.

Point of fact it’s only Daktari that gets sliced up again by the blades, the rest of the fellows make it through (mostly thanks to Inspiration Points- three got spent here timing their runs through the blades).

There’s an empty passage ahead, and so Ram is sent to scout, the rogue notes that there’s something (an object- a lure, he thinks) further down the end of the passage, however there are also a pair of stout wooden doors heading to the north.

After a brief check over- unlocked and untrapped, he’s in…

Only, there’s a shiver in the air and, Ram is suddenly somewhere else- a teleport?

There’s a door open before Ram, he is still holding the door open, beyond the portal a set of stairs heading down into darkness, and at the base of the stairs are four more compass rose like metal devices, built into the stone of the passage floor. And within each metal compass rose is a skull, all four of them ancient and etched in runes.

All four skulls turn in their sockets to stare at Ram, the rogue is convinced one or two of them are smiling, and then -BLINK- and they’re gone.

“Oh, F… Fireskulls!”

Fireskulls because, well- Ram couldn’t remember their proper name.

Flameskulls.

Four of ‘em.

The PCs are alerted, although… not early enough.

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That’s Newt just to the rear of Ram, the tabaxi heard the call and dashed to the front of the queue, he’s getting brave atm.

Note, to the south of Ram and Newt is another pair of doors, opening one of these- or else passing through this first set of doors automatically teleports a PC to the doors (and stairs) to the north.

The rest of the PCs are still huddled together, you will note, at the end of the trapped corridor.

I ask Ben to roll me a 4-sided dice in the VTT, my advice- “don’t roll a ‘4’”.

He rolls a ‘4’.

But we’ll get to that…

Meantime Ram dashes forward to check the way ahead, no sign of the Flameskulls- yet.

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The rogue also notes that there’s a Minotaur guardian style statue in the alcove ahead, the undead terror depicted here is easily twice the size of the other guardians that the PCs have fought previously.

That’s not good.

And just to make clear atm-

Vinnie is on his last Moonboar, he’s almost out of spells and is a good way through his healing potions et al.

Daktari is broken- no rages, no healing HD left, disadvantage on his Dex saves (after falling in one too many traps), he’s nearly bloodied and is getting low on healing potions et al.

Fellowyn, like Dak, is also broken (actually, more broken)- no spells, no healing HD, no other healing at all, and beyond bloodied already- he’s down to using his crossbow the Master of Blade and Song. My arse.

Newt is doing okay, although he’s got through a lot of his healing (and healing HD). He’s on a short rest for his spells, so… hope is a tabaxi called Newt.

Ram has started in on his resources and used a healing HD or two but… save for the disadvantage on his Dex saves (see Dak above) then he’s doing okay. Obviously, the Dex thing isn’t great for him.

But, back to that ‘4’.

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A Flameskull comes whizzing down the corridor to the north of the remainder of the Squad, and…

FIREBALL!

There’s a lot of noise around the VTT.

I’m not an expert but I think I can hear screaming- Newt must have put his Tiny Hut up.

The Supreme Being- Ubmo, is destroyed- but that’s not a concern, he’ll be back in a bit.

More remarkably Fellowyn survives the blast, he’s down to 2 HP though, also Daktari is looking a little lily-livered.

Then, I get Ram to roll a three-sided dice, my advice to him- don’t roll a ‘3’.

He rolls…

‘3’.

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A second Flameskull suddenly blinks into existence at the end of the corridor ahead of the remainder of the Squad and…

Can you guess?

Comes whizzing forward, swathed in flame and screaming, and unleashes a FIREBALL!

11807.jpg

It seems everyone has a Newt’s Tiny Hut of their own.

There’s a lot of screaming/shouting/babble.

Moments later Daktari fails his first Death Save.

So, that’s nice.

Meanwhile…

11808.jpg

The third Flameskull zooms out of the dark and drops a Fireball on Ram.

The rogue, with disadvantage on his Dex Saves, makes the check and SUCCESS!

Ram Evades all damage.

Look at the picture above again- Ram Evades the fiery blast (Fireball) entirely.

How the…

Answers on a postcard please.

But that’s not enough rough justice, the rogue dashes in and with Deadend his undead killing rapier almost ends the Flameskull with one hit, and follow up Crit with off-hand.

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Which is when the final Flameskull turns up and slams another Fireball into the rogue.

The second Fireball proves much harder to Evade, particularly if you roll a '2' and '3' on your save..

Note, Newt meantime is Eldritch Blasting the Flameskull to the south of his position, back through the teleporting doorway.

The fightback has begun.

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This is an odd image; a lot has happened in a very short time to get us to this picture.

First up, the Moonboar uses an Inspiration Point to heal Fellowyn, and then launches himself at the Flameskull here (which has already been blasted twice by Newt). He Crits with his maul and destroys the fiery undead terror.

Fellowyn crawls over to Daktari, and in his words- “I feed a potion of healing to the meaty hirsute fellow…”.

But Fellowyn doesn’t have any potions of his own, and so he’s having to rifle the big barbarian’s pack to find a healing draught, however Daktari has ten potions in his pack- four of them healing, and so…

Fellowyn rolls a ten-sided dice and… it’s a potion of greater healing.

Just to say, in game- and for whatever reason- mostly momentum, there was a lot of tension in this one.

Daktari awakes, struggles to his feet and staggers away- to hide, while digging into his pack for more healing.

Note, the Flameskull to the north of Fellowyn’s position has retreated to buff, but the PCs don’t know this, and they’re also not sure whether the thing can fire multiple Fireballs.

11811.jpg

Back at the front of the pack and Ram and Newt are a deadly combination, the rogue ends the first Flameskull here, while Newt keeps blasting the second- keeping it entertained.

11812.jpg

Here’s the bigger picture. Daktari has moved from south to north through the teleporting door.

Ram meantime is getting hit, a lot, by Magic Missiles- both of the Flameskulls are now using Blur & Shield spells.

And the PCs keep on missing.

But not for long.

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Ram ends the Flameskull to the north, there’s just one left- back to the south.

Daktari skids to a halt, just in time to see Ram end the undead terror.

And just in time to hear Fellowyn screaming…

Daktari grins like a chimp at Ram and Newt, and then dashes back the way he came.

He looks knackered, but he’s not giving up.

The barbarian arrives just in time-

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The last (Blurred & Shielded) Flameskull is hemmed by a wall of steel, this after the undead terror blasts Ubmo to pieces again.

The final Flameskull doesn’t survive long.

The Dark Squad are completely shot.

They can’t go on.

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It’s time for a long rest.

When they wake up (should they survive the night- we’ll see) they will all be 9th level, Ram & Dak’s disadvantage on Dex Saves will be gone, and… they will have exactly three hours to destroy the final Minotaur skeleton guardian.

Then Ram can meet Rambles, proper- and join The Swarm.

And also acquire another Symbol of Ub.

And get some new info, and questions (possibly) answered.

That’s a good point, and this is addressed to the PCs, what questions do you have for Rambles Shambles Bowspirit, he might know some part of this mystery, according to Bonnie he’s been working on it for a while (over a century).

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #119: The Final Guardian (of this bit).

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari/Dak (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 9
Fellowyn Silverstream (played by George) Male Eladrin Wizard Bladesinger Lvl 9
New Tricks/Newt (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 9
Ramshambo/Ram (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/2
Vincenzo/Vinnie (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 9

DEAD PCs
Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP

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

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
  2. The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
  3. Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  4. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  5. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  6. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
  7. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 117, and strap in because it’s mainly all fighting…

This is session 118, and strap in because it’s mainly all fighting…

This is session 119, and strap in because it’s mainly all fighting…

Where have I read that before?

To begin with… the night in the tomb passes without incident, and the PCs rise and shine and are all Level 9 now, and so an hour or so later and we get around to some actual gaming.

For info, Ram has taken another level in Fighter, that’s his second, he’s a Rogue 7/Fighter 2 atm. The others, no cross-dressing, I mean multi-classing, for them- Newt’s a Warlock 9, Vincenzo Druid 9, Daktari Barbarian 9, and Fellowyn Wizard (Bladesinger) 9.

All of ‘em are pretty tough cookies these days, or so they tell me.

Let’s see who I can make cry/scream first.

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Oh, and when the Squad emerge for Newt’s Tiny Hut™ there’s Maurice there to meet them…

Maurice is (one of) Vinnie’s ‘special friends’ (he’s an Earth Elemental, obviously) and voiced by me- he says “Zut Alors!” (Trans: Not Okay) and “Mange Tout!” (Trans: Okay) quite a lot of the time.

And then off we go again- the last skeletal Minotaur Guardian thing is just a short way up the track, but it’s a great big statue this one, twice the size of the previous guardians the Dark Squad have fought and destroyed here.

Here’s the big guy-

11901.jpg

The PCs get set up, buff up and....

The very large statue does not animate, just to make clear all of the statues have offerings before them- for the first two statues that the Dark Squad encountered that meant heaps of gold (well, about 30-40gp each) and other coins, and maybe a few other interesting items.

This final (it is assumed) statue (and also the one previous) have had maybe two handfuls of copper pieces placed before them.

Not much in the way of treasure.

To wake the guardian up a fool just needs to steel some of this treasure and… the statue animates.

Except, not this one.

Even after all of their buffs.

The PCs carp on about the situation for a little while longer, however the kindly DM lets them know- ‘did you really think it was going to be that simple?’

We go on…

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Ram, scouting ahead- as always, finds a pair of doors that lead outside of the tomb, back into the swamp.

But nothing much else, until he finds-

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That there are another pair of double doors heading back into the tomb here too.

But it’s all just a maze of corridors and chambers, and here’s the thing- the PCs have not found any enemies, or treasure, or traps, or… well, it’s just a maze of corridors and chambers.

To remind you, the PCs have to destroy all four guardians in twenty four hours, from the first to the last.

At this point they have two hours remaining to find and destroy the final guardian.

Why aren’t they using the Maze Button/Symbol of Ub to find the way?

Some of you may be asking yourselves, the more intelligent folk- well, as Vinnie explains to his companions-

“Ze mayze butt-on can onlee be used to detect ze udder mayze butt-ons.”

Here’s the thing about this statement.

I have NEVER EVER confirmed what the maze button is doing at any point, when Vinnie concentrates upon it he feels the right direction to go… but there’s nothing to confirm that his Maze Button is specifically pointing the druid towards the next, or else nearest, other Maze Button.

Nothing at all to say that this is true.

I’d like the PCs to read this last bit.

Which is why I wrote it. Here’s hoping.

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Ram re-enters the tomb and keeps on searching, here he is having dived/tumbled past a trap (he thinks) and into another set of chambers.

Just to let you know- there was no trap here.

There are however lots of things that look like traps here, which slows the Dark Squad's progress somewhat.

Funny that.

Anyway, the rogue scrambles ahead and… there’s a Flameskull in a compass rose style housing in the floor of the chamber he dives into.

The creature is securely housed in its socket, it swivels to stare at the rogue for a second, and then… BLINK.

The grinning Flameskull disappears.

“INCOMING FLAMESKULL!”

Ram shouts out to his friends.

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What’s happening here? That’s a second Flameskull that has just appeared next to Daktari, Newt (heading in a different direction to Ram) has just spotted, and thus activated another of the undead terrors.

The first of the Flameskulls to be activated shows up and somehow fails to harm Ram (at all) with its Fireball, and so it zooms off quickly to the south.

Note, both Flameskulls here have already cast Blur spells upon themselves and are making good use of Shield too.

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Ram is still chasing the Flameskull that he set in motion.

The second Flameskull managed to catch a few of the Dark Squad in its Fireball, and has now scarpered to the south of Newt’s position in the above image.

This guy doesn’t last long however, Newt delivers the Eldritch Blast killing blow.

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However, the original Flameskull, with Ram still in pursuit has headed into an area that is, the rogue easily spots, trapped- there are obvious pressure plates all over the corridor.

The chase comes to a halt.

While all of this is going on Vinnie, who is mostly bringing up the rear with Maurice- the pair can’t keep up with the front line of the fight, discovers a door, and within…

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Hey! That’s another one of them guardians.

The Final Guardian!

Of this bit.

The above image shows the PCs all lined up, and buffed, ready to start the fracas.

The Flameskull beyond the traps (that Ram was chasing) is left to its own devices.

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Here we go again, and that blue circle- that’s the Fireball just about to be unleashed by the Flameskull to the south.

That’s a third Flameskull.

The PCs (at this point) think it’s the original Flameskull that got away from Ram.

It isn’t, it’s yet another new guy.

However, Fellowyn Counterspells the Fireball, and… the Flameskull doesn’t survive much longer, with the crazy speed of Ram (double Dash), Newt (Feline Agility), Fellowyn (Misty Step) and Daktari is no slouch (40’ Move), it’s all enough to quickly chase the undead terror down.

The minotaur skeleton guardian doesn’t last long either- keep in mind this guy started with maybe 275 hit points, and there was a lot of missing- still, all enemies are dead in maybe half-a-dozen turns.

Then… discussion, all of the Guardians have been destroyed, basically the question is- “Where do we go now?”

Vinnie consults the button, using it- he says, to concentrate on the location of The Rambles Swarm’s Maze Button.

We get to here-

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The trapped corridor discovered earlier.

And, oh look, there’s another Flameskull (the one that got away from Ram earlier).

There are lots of traps- spears firing out from the statues along the corridor shown above.

Maurice is being used as a walking shield here- the Earth Elemental takes a lot of hits; he moves slowly and triggers the traps multiple times every turn. He also fails every Dex saving throw I drop on him.

I’ve just counted back- Maurice failed eleven saving throws in the following series of events, DC 12, and he’s only -1 on his save. Maurice is a clod-hopper.

Daktari jumps leaps and dodges his way to the Flameskull.

The barbarian takes no hits at all.

The last Flameskull is about to be put down, only…

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The chamber just to the south of Newt is the chamber that Vinnie’s Maze Button is pointing the Dark Squad towards. The tabaxi however finds another route to the same location.

And within the chamber?

There’s a swarm of rats, actually The Swarm.

The Swarm is situated in a series of concentric circles on the floor of the chamber, Newt remembers seeing this sort of thing before- in an underwater chamber which a whole bunch of tough Sahuagin were trying to break into.

The Dark Squad are fairly certain that these images show either constellations, or else planetary alignments.

That’s nice.

However, also within the chamber are the housings (inhabited) for three more Flameskulls, which are duly unleashed…

BLINK… and all three disappear, or else teleport to somewhere close by.

“FLAMESKULLS!”

Newt begins screaming, does that count- is he the first to scream?

You’ll note in the image above- Vinnie (to the north) has just been hit by another Fireball (the Supreme Being is dead again), and a Flameskull has just appeared to the south of his position.

To the east?

Same deal, another new Flameskull fails to light up Ramshambo (again), the rogue therefore goes in hot pursuit.

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Vinnie, now the Moonboar, with help from Fellowyn (who is much improved for his level up) have chased down a Flameskull.

Daktari (with no help from Maurice, the Earth Elemental misses every attack he makes) has just finished off another Flameskull to the south.

Ram is facing off against another.

Newt, alas, has taken a bit of kicking, after somehow managing to get hit by one Fireball, he then flees into the circumference of (moments later) a second fiery blast.

He is neither healthy, nor happy.

There’s a lot of swearing.

I’m counting it.

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Newt, fleeing some more, also manages to find a bunch more traps- that’s a ceiling collapse just behind him, he made his save. That one could have ended him- lots of D10s.

The holes in the floor before him, that’s another trap- which he is just about to trigger, alas the trap in question is just a fear-related illusion, with screaming shades emerging from the holes- but again, Newt is not at all spooked by the show.

This screaming fear trap is ongoing, it spooks (requires a new save) from anyone that gets close to it.

It’s worth noting that the only PC that falls for this (during the rest of the encounter) is… Newt, again.

However, he makes his save again.

Keep in mind that Newt is Cursed atm, he has disadvantage on all of his saves.

Newt is severely harassed, and on the run.

And then… eventually, the remaining Flameskulls are located/chased down, and smashed down.

And that- that’s all we got up to.

A lot of fighting, interspersed with a lot of running around- which left the PCs really strung out at times.

Perhaps Newt was right when he said right at the start of this session-

“We should split up, we should all head in different directions, we can find things quicker that way- that’s my tactical advice!”

At the time the suggestion was met with derision and scorn.

It was however what the PCs mostly ended up doing- at times, although I (and my Flameskulls) may have a hand in this.

Next session is on the 15th, and it’s time for a chat with The Rambles Swarm, get your questions ready.

Also, time for Ram to join the SWARM!

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #120: The Swarm & The Void.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).

Daktari/Dak (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
Fellowyn Silverstream (played by George) Male Eladrin Wizard Bladesinger Lvl 8
New Tricks/Newt (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo/Ram (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1

Vincenzo/Vinnie (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

DEAD PCs

Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick) RETIRED
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED

Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1 (When we remember)
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
  2. The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
  3. Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  4. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  5. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  6. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
  7. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.

This is session 120, and there’s no fighting at all.

Makes a bloody change.

And just to let you know, I’m three sessions behind with this write up, the events described here took place on the 22nd of August, from memory.

So, it may not make a whole lot of sense. I’ve been busy- the students are coming back which means I’ve just had nine weeks of doing absolutely bugger-all (to do with work) followed by three weeks of utter crazy trying to do everything (for work).

Anyway, the Dark Squad have killed the last Guardian of the Tomb of Rambles Shambles Bowspirit, or as he’s known to one and all these days- the Swarm. Now it’s time for a chat with the Swarm, a tell all expose, if you like.

12000.jpg

Here we all are, are you sitting comfortably, we’ll begin.

Mr. The Swarm tells his story, all of it-

“My name is Rambles Bowspirit, I was born in Lowhill just over 250 years ago, I am a Quickfoot Halfling, or else I was…

I was drawn to the sea, and to Saltmarsh, from a very young age I would sneak down just to watch the fishermen land their catch on the docks. Even then the sea had me in its spell.

I worked the docks, ignored my family and friends, and did what I wanted to do- I was a rebellious youth.

I went to sea and I loved it, first as a cabin boy on a purse seiner and then later… well, I made some mistakes along the way. But I loved being at sea, it felt like freedom, and it was scary but also mesmerizing.

As I said I made mistakes along the way- from fishing boats out of Saltmarsh I graduated to bigger and better things, because I was good at my job, I prided myself on recognizing the mood of the ocean- when it was going to be good sailing, when there would be no sailing, and when the storm would hit.

I got a reputation for it, and I became a smuggler- working my way up from deckhand to first mate on the Empress of the Sea. We sailed the Sword Coast, from Calimport to Luskan.

It was in Luskan that I killed my first man. It was me or him, and so it had to be him.

Keep in mind I was small and slight, even for a halfling, but I packed a punch, or else… well, I made sure my blade was sharp, and always at my side. I had to prove myself often, bigger folk tend to pick on smaller folk- it’s just the way of things.

I killed a lot more men and women over the following years, and I drifted- into drink, and… danger, I became a pirate. We all became pirates- the Empress of the Sea turned rogue, we… did things. Things that later I would regret, and for the next five or so years life was very exciting- and wild, and… in retrospect, terrible. We… I, killed lots of people. Too many.

And then one day I just decided I’d had enough, I was broken inside, and so… I skipped the ship and made my way back to Lowhill. And there I hid, I had money still- and I was fearsome back then, people left me alone, they let me be.

I was a rat bastard, even then.

And so it went for maybe five more years, then the dwarf- Ub, contacted me- and some others, and after much chatter persuaded us to chase down a couple of folk that had gone missing in the Dreadwood. A pair of nobles that had got lost adventuring, there was money in it- a big reward, and… it felt like the right time to try something new.

There was a lot of killing- a gang of kobolds, and a tribe of goblins- we slaughtered them all, and it felt good- because they were evil creatures, and we were getting paid, and instead of people being frightened of me, well… we were heroes, for a while.

Oh, but a word about Ub- he was strange looking dwarf, small and slight- like me, with old eyes, and he was as pale as snow- white skinned, I think they call it an albino.

He was famous was Ub, he must have been- they named the town after him- Ubton, or else his ancestors built it, I wasn’t big on history back then, but… well, I thought he was a great guy- I wanted for him to like me. Strange that. I’d never wanted to please anyone before, but I did him.

He always seemed to know just what to say.

He was a holy warrior, a paladin of the dwarven gods, not that you would know it- he swore, spat, harrumphed and drank like a fish, but whenever things got bad he was there for me… for all of us. He led us well, until the bitter end.

We called ourselves the Eyes in the Night, it was a joke really- Ub’s joke, we could all see in the dark, that’s it- stupid really, or so I thought.

There was me and Ub and three others in the Eyes in the Night.

Giggles, a crazy Wood Elf- a stone-cold killer, I thought I was bad. She would laugh and scream as she slew- goblins and the like, but even at the time it was creepy. She seemed to enjoy the slaughter, but, well… she was on our side of the fight. And she was deadly accurate with her bow, and as good as me- perhaps better, with her blades.

Then there was Randall the Black, although I’m certain that was a made-up name- he was a very strange fellow indeed, one moment an erudite showman- all good times- music, laughter and song; the next moment he’d go ‘tonto’. He was a megalomaniac- complete with mad stares and sweeping genocidal speeches. I learned later that the gnome had sold his soul to some aberrant Old One- as he said (a lot) ‘from beyond the stars’.

The last of them was Antonio De La Crane, the posh boy from on the hill. The De La Crane’s were big news in Saltmarsh at the time. They had money coming out of their backsides. Antonio had the best education that money could afford, and all the privileges to go with it. But still he went rogue, or else… druid, he was kicked out of the family business, and later still kicked out of the family. I liked Antonio best, at first.

Well, then- we went adventuring, and it all got pretty confusing very quickly- we ended up chasing down these [Rambles shows you a Maze Button/Symbol of Ub]. There was some great end of times prophecy we were slowly uncovering- we had to each hold one of the buttons, something to do with the coming of a Great Wyrm, called Ashardalon- maybe.

Anyway, we were following in the footsteps of another party of adventurers that were in the Saltmarsh region maybe two hundred years before us- they called themselves the Knight Watch.

At the same time there was another ancient Elven faction- the Pact of the Flame, Giggles (and Ub) knew all about these folk- they were after the same thing as us- to keep the Great Wyrm from destroying everything. The Elves have been at war with the Dragons for generations, we discovered.

Anyway, it started to get difficult, and the strain began to show.

Not on me you understand, but there were always some issues with the party dynamic- Randall was getting… well, he was crazy, fruit loops- he just wanted to slaughter everything. Antonio had stopped being my friend, that was Giggles’ doing- she was working on him, if you know what I mean. Ub, he tried to keep us together, to keep us on course but…

It fell apart in the Underdark, we seemed to have made enemies along the way- there was a mad Paladin who arrived from I don’t know where and started stalking Saltmarsh looking for us. He was in the Underdark too…

Then there was the Witch of the Dreadwood, Nightshade- she told us a lot about the prophecy (and other prophecies), and made sense of what was going on, and yet she too had spies everywhere- watching us.

Then there were the Duergar, and I have no idea what we had done to upset the grey dwarves, but they had it in for us, we knew that they had a Maze Button, Nightshade had told us so, but it seemed like they knew that we did too… and so they came for us.

And that was the end of it… they trapped us in the Underdark, and we were broken.

I escaped, fled back to Lowhill.

Antonio got away too, although I don’t know how, I was certain when it all went wrong that he was the first to fall. Anyway, he went back to haunt the manse on the hill, one of his families’ big houses, he had changed completely- he was terrible to behold. There was something badly wrong with him, he was… well, no longer one of the living, I think.

Giggles and Randall were dead, we thought.

And Ub was just gone.

And that was that- until, well… this happened.

I’d always had a touch of the rat about me, the moniker ‘rat bastard’ had served me for a while, folk- as I said, were frightened of me, and then one day- about a decade after it all went wrong… I started to change.

It was… thrilling at first, the ability to turn into a creature half-rat, half-halfling; or to become a rat- at will, to sneak into all of the little hidden places. I don’t know how it came about but… it happened. Then, just as I had come to appreciate the change- and to make a few changes to my family of my own (you’ve met Bonnie and my nephews) it got worse, and suddenly I couldn’t change back.

All the time, while this was going on the maze button was in my head, in my dreams- and then, well- my mind broke, or else fragmented. I woke one day and there were two of me- two rats, it was as if part of my mind, part of my personality, had broken away. Then three rats, then four, five… I became the Swarm.

There are other things I can do, as the Swarm- I can read the minds of those that came close, I can send out my will, my personality- to dominate another, to make them do what I command.

But I hid away. Frightened, terrified of what I had become.

Then Ub came back, he hadn’t changed at all- and remember this was nearly a century after we had first adventured together, he said he had a place for me, and a task. He brought me here, and here I stayed. Waiting.

He said others would come, and that they would want my button, and that I would know when it was time to let it go.

And here you are.”

And that, thanks to agents Copy & Paste is the story of Rambles Shambles Bowspirit, aka the Swarm.

There is much more chatter and subsidiary questions from the Squad, the questioning goes on, and keep in mind we spent just short of three hours of this session just doing this- just chatter with Rambles.

The PCs were keen to make sense of events.

So, the next bit of the chat is about the prophecies, as told to the Eyes in the Night (not the Dark Squad) by Nightshade (who the Dark Squad are looking for, the Last Bad Dead Ancestor).

Rambles had this to say-

“We visited with Nightshade, in her lair, in the Dreadwood. Ub took us there, he told us that she had escaped some sort of hell, and had been sent back to Faerun in order to guide us, she told us lots of things, prophecies she said-

The Time of Ash approaches,
It begins when the day turns to night.
When the dead become the dying,
And souls know no rest.
Know then that Ashardalon is abroad.
The abomination- the terror dead dread dragon,
The Lord of Ash, the Lord of Destruction,
The Deceiver- the swallower of the Light.


This then was our quest, to save the world- or else, that’s what we thought. I’m not certain anymore.”

Obviously, the Dark Squad have heard this one before, it’s the same quest that they are on.

Rambles continues with another prophecy from Nightshade-

“Seek the witch’s tor,
In the lair of the drowned ones,
But beware the demon’s spore.
Find the time.
Return again with the star fall,
To reclaim the power.”


The halfling further explains that the Witch’s Tor is an ancient Pact of the Flame redoubt, located in the Drowned Forest, which is in the northern stretches of the Mere of Dead Men. The Tor is thousands and (lots of) thousands (properly ancient) of years old.

Rambles further explains that he has been there- or else part of him has (part of the Swarm), a long time ago- it’s a ruin he attests. But he didn’t get to spend too much time there, the swarm that was sent to explore the place was swiftly destroyed.

Just to note to make clear- Rambles aka the Swarm can send out (spawn) Rat Swarms that he can control, and navigate, although not perfectly.

But it had taken the Swarm nearly ten years and innumerable swarms to locate the Witch’s Tor, and so he wasn’t going to give up so easily. He sent swarm, after swarm, after swarm- they were all destroyed.

Rambles’ theory, in his own words-

“There’s something there, something that doesn’t like visitors, something that can detect visitors- keep in mind, I’m pretty sneaky.”

Note the location of the Witch’s Tor is marked on the PC’s map, that’s nice.

Rambles cautions the Dark Squad to remember the line-

“Find the time… we’ll bump into this again in a while”, he states.

He further expounds (from the same prophecy)-

“Star fall- have you been to Tao? Something is coming from beyond the stars, Randall said it was his master but… I’m less sure.”

Next prophecy, Rambles continues-

“The answer you seek is at the bottom of the Goblin’s stair/stare.

It’s ‘stair’, the goblins lair in the Dreadwood, they call their home the Goblin Stair- there’s a button there, I think. I don’t know how it got there, or whose it is, or was. I have sent swarms to investigate the place, and it’s packed with foul creatures, mostly hill goblins. I can’t find the button, and I dare not take my button to this place- you can use the button to detect things, if you concentrate on the thing that you seek. The buttons can be used to find… well, anything, as long as you know what you are looking for, and… I think- you have to be fairly close to the thing that you seek.

The hands are within one thousand teeth.

I don’t know what the hands are, but Antonio thought that they were hands from something called a clock, a mechanical device that measures time. We presumed that ‘one thousand teeth’ was, or else is, a monstrous creature, very likely a massive shark- they have thousands of teeth. But again, I’ve not been able to confirm this. I’m not very waterborne in my present guise you see.”

Also-

“When the hands move the end will have begun.

WAIT!

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


“This prophecy”, Rambles explains, “was the thing that convinced Antonio that the hands were from a clock, remember he was rich folk, he’d seen a clock before. Apparently, the gnomes make these strange mechanical devices.

Also, ‘find the time’, from the first prophecy.

The pale dwarf we thought might be Ub, but… without a face, not even Ub was pleased to hear this.

The ghost? At the time we didn’t know what this was about, but…

Well, Giggles is a ghost now, but ‘take her home’, again I’m not sure what this is all about, and she’s not telling.”

The Dark Squad obviously take the time to talk through their own experiences with regard to the prophecies above, and their working theories.

The chatter continues for a good long while, Rambles goes on to explain where the Dark Squad can find the ghost of Giggles, the ghostly killer elf; which is in another section of the ruined dwarven hold that is situated beneath Farhill Mine.

Note the Dark Squad explored lots of these ruins when they were chasing Ian with one ‘I’, this in an effort to save Arty Swell from a murder charge.

The location, like the Witch’s Tor, is marked on the PCs map.

The discussion ends with the last known whereabouts of the various members of the Eyes in the Night, and of course the location of their buttons.

Remember, that’s what this is all about- finding the Maze Buttons.

Rambles states-

“Randall the Black was down in the Underdark still, cooped up inside the dwarven ruins for all of these years getting crazier and crazier- the duergar captured him, tortured him and broke him, then let him go. He wandered back into the mines and the ruins, but you already know that. You went down there, and you killed him.

Good riddance, he was mad and terrible, he was always a liability.

His button was taken by the duergar, although I don’t know where they took it.

I sent swarms in their thousands into the dark and deeps, I couldn’t find it- I only know that there’s a giant down there, a crazy stone giant, he seeks the buttons too. He’s working for the duergar, I think.”

The Dark Squad met a crazy Stone Giant in the dark deeps, his name was Hgraam, he helped the PCs to explore the duergar hideout called Deepbridge.

Hgraam seemed to be a very nice fellow, although the PCs- of course, keep some of their opinions to themselves.

Next up-

“Giggles is down there too, down in the ruins- she’s a ghost now, the duergar killed her but she didn’t stay dead for long. The duergar took her button too, but again- I don’t know where.

She may know more, I have sent swarms to investigate but… she can detect my presence somehow, she slaughters anything that gets close to her, and she has servants now- undead creatures that tear and rend.

I can show you where she lairs now… you should probably go there, find out what she knows.

Take care though, Giggles was always an outsider- more concerned with the Pact of the Flame than with the quest that we were on.

She introduced us to her brother Buggles, once- he’s been down there to see her. They were both brought up by a witch, or a hag. I’m not sure whose side they are on.

I think this Buggles is looking for the buttons too, although… it’s hard to know why.”

Then onto Antonio-

“He was my friend, but he changed- like me he survived the duergar, but like me he was broken, somehow spent, and remember that Giggles had worked her charms on the druid prior to this- turned him against us all.

He retired to his manse after it all went bad.

I visited him there, back when I was still Rambles.

Then, well- I knew what the button was doing to me, and I had seen how Antonio had changed.

I knew it was the button that was changing him, so- I stole his button from him, I tricked him.

But that wasn’t the answer.

He came after me, but that was about the time that I was becoming the Swarm.

Ub helped me, he somehow trapped Antonio, I think, in the well of his manse.

But a person cannot hold two buttons- Ub warned me, I ignored him, but he was right- my mind splintered, and I became the Swarm.

I sent the button away; I had contacts still.

Antonio’s button is on the Empress of the Sea, hidden in a sea chest in the bilges of the boat.”

“And Antonio?”, Ram asks,

“He’s still down there.

Down the well.

Brooding, waiting.

Try as I might, I cannot get to him now, I don’t know what he has become.

I took his button to try to save him, to change him back- he was a good man, the best of us.

But now…

Who knows?”

And lastly-

“Ub didn’t die. I don’t know how he escaped. I don’t know where he is.

In truth, I don’t know what he is.

Antonio said that it was all Ub’s fault- and that the dwarf had deceived us.

That Ub was the deceiver, from the prophecy. Perhaps he was a devil or a demon, or else some terrible fiend. Antonio said that all that had transpired was part of his plan.

I have sent swarms all over the land. Ub is nowhere to be found, but I am certain that he is still alive.”

We get finally to a summary of the buttons, and again the speaker is Rambles-

“You have one button.

I have one button.

There is one button in the bilges of the Empress of the Sea.

The duergar have two buttons- and yet, it is said, there is a button at the bottom of the Goblin Stair, perhaps one of their buttons somehow found its way there.”

And the rest is yet more chatter and more questions.

Then, after Ram again agrees to be bitten by the Swarm- and then agrees to fail his saving throw, it’s just a nip, then… Rambles hands his Maze Button over to Ram.

There’s very little ceremony.

And then this happens.

12001.jpg

Everyone gets targeted by Ubmo.

The Supreme Being duly explodes, and lots of folk get hurt as lightning bolts fly, and when the smoke clears, and folk have picked themselves up, standing in the place of Ubmo is…

12002.jpg

Ubdug.

Who quickly moves to Ram’s side, and speaks- that’s right, Ubdug can speak.

However, its voice is grating-

“I am the Supreme Being, I am Ubdug- I have been sent here to protect you Ram-Sham… Bow!”

The consensus is quickly this, as captioned by Vinnie-

“I do not like zis new sing, I mis Ubmo all-red-ee!”

No-one is impressed with the new Supreme Being, a few of them- lead by Newt, are even a little bit suspicious about Ubmo/Ubdug.

“I mean what do we actually know about this piece of junk?” The tabaxi asks while circling Ubdug, the modron’s head and arms swivel 360 to match Newt’s circuits.

Note Ubdug is a Duodrone,

But, there’s more from Rambles-

“Oh, Ub left something for you- a big sea chest, it’s in the central chamber- which you should be able to access now that the Guardians have gone. I don’t know what’s in the chest- I asked Ub about it but all he said was- ‘tell them to get to the bottom of it’.

I’ve seen the chest before, of course, it used to belong to Randall the Black, so… well, be careful with it.” Rambles cautions.

So, there’s a chest in the chamber in the center of the maze, and keep in mind when the PCs were making their way through the maze of chambers and corridors in the tomb there was a section through which they teleported.

Basically, I- your glorious DM, wanted to keep the central section of the map clear for this bit, and so I couldn’t let them in on it early.

The Dark Squad chatter a while more with Rambles and then after a fair few adieus, they head off- after the chest. Newt thinks it’ll be another pay day for the Dark Squad, because the treasures in the tomb so far- well, they’ve been rubbish.

Note, the treasure distribution (a good chunk of it used to lure the PCs into a variety of traps) in the Rambles Shambles Tomb was one of the fave things I did here. The PCs first few scores were good- coin, a chunk of gold, a bit of sparkle and maybe even a potion or scroll- nice work. The treasure piles got smaller and smaller very quickly, by the end we’re talking handfuls of silvers and coppers.

Some of the PCs (Newt) got very annoyed, at times, risking life and limb for… coppers.

Amused the heck out of me.

12003.jpg

And so here we are, in the central chamber of the maze-tomb, and there’s the chest.

The only reason the chest isn’t open yet is… it’s locked, Newt rushed in a tried to wrench it open.

Ram inspects the chest, it’s not trapped- the lock is rubbish, child’s play really; however, the thing is very obviously bolted (or else connected in some other way) to the stone floor here.

Which is suspicious.

Chatter follows.

The debate being- ‘should we open the chest/door/sarcophagi/whatever?’

And keep in mind that when this thing comes around (again, and it often does) then the example always stated is the release of Ashardalon, they should have left the bugger in its sarcophagi.

In the end Ram and Newt are both keen to get the chest open, and so… the other members of the Dark Squad, sensibly, decide to vacate the room before the inevitable trap goes off.

Only…

12004.jpg

The chamber they are in is now, seemingly, floating amongst the stars.

Ram opens the chest.

It contains a variety of clothes, all sized for a gnome- Randall the Black to be exact.

“Check the bottom!” Newt snaps, but Ram is already on it.

There’s a hollow space beneath the chest, the rogue is certain- and this time it’s his turn to retreat, Daktari steps up, armed with Shatterspike, remember his magical longsword cuts through wood, and even stone.

It’s done.

And beneath the chest is blackness.

Like a hole in the world.

A void.

Maybe, the void.

Sorry, the Void.

12005.jpg

That is until the twenty-foot-long tentacle shoots up and out of the inky black- grabs a hold of Newt, and…

Pulls the tabaxi, screaming all the way, into the void- and is gone.

“I know how this works!” Ram states, and then he leaps into the chest.

And is gone.

Followed by Daktari, and then Vinnie, and then eventually- after much spluttering and sputtering, Fellowyn also leaps into the void.

Sorry again- Void.

We’ll catch up with the Dark Squad, and the Void, in the next instalment, sorry- lot of chat in this one.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

carborundum

Adventurer
Awesome! Wheels within wheels - the Eyes were following the path of the Night Watch a few hundred years before them... I wonder if they were the first, or if it's Button Seekers all the way down.
Good luck getting back into the work rhythm, Goonalan!
 

Well, I'm glad everything is crystal clear now ....

Seriously, I agree with Carborundum - a very enjoyable backstory with the same patterns being played out every few hundred years, since .... when?
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #121: Race to the Bottom & Who is Gwen?

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).

Daktari/Dak (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
Fellowyn Silverstream (played by George) Male Eladrin Wizard Bladesinger Lvl 8
New Tricks/Newt (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo/Ram (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1

Vincenzo/Vinnie (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

DEAD PCs

Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP

NPCs
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick) RETIRED
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1 DESTROYED REPLACED BY-

Ubdug (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 2
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Servants/Familiars

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
  2. The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
  3. Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  4. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  5. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  6. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
  7. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 121, and once again there’s no fighting at all, although it wasn’t without tension- Newt was dying from the very start of this one.

The last time we were with the Dark Squad they had just jumped into the Void, except for Newt who was grabbed by a twenty-foot-long tentacle and dragged into the Void. The rest of the PCs went voluntarily into the inky black.

So, what does the Void have in store for the Dark Squad?

Here we go...

Oh, but just to say it’s mainly all pictures this session, let’s start with this one-

12100.jpg

I bet you are thinking- what the hell is going on here?

So, the void leads the PCs-in the order they jumped in- to… a great water (saliva) filled toothed maw, alas the giant mouth is clamped tight shut, and the owner of the mouth? Well, whoever he or she is they are in the process of swallowing.

To be clear- swallowing the PCs.

To begin with the PCs are drowning (in saliva), although that doesn’t last long for some of them, in fact all of the PCs have some way to render themselves able to breath underwater except for… that’s right, Newt.

Newt hates water.

He’s a cat.

Newt therefore is drowning, and not very happy about this. He has Constitution turns (12, I seem to remember) to find someplace that has air, or else things will start to go very badly for him.

So, in the first turn each PC can make an Athletics or Agility test (DC 10)- for every 10 feet of movement that they wish to expend. The result of these tests- anything above the DC 10 is doubled, and that’s how many squares a PC can move safely as they’re swallowed by the titanic beast.

So, for example, a PC with a 30-foot move, wishing to expend the lot, makes three DC 10 checks (Athletics or Agility) and doubles anything more than 10 on their three checks. So, if they (whoever they are) roll adjusted checks of- ‘12’, ‘16’ & ‘9’- that means that they can move their PC sixteen squares in just one move.

If they double move they go again, three more rolls in the example above, so- they can get a good way in.

This turn.

Keep in mind that the (owner of the) mouth is in the process of swallowing down the PCs. There’s no way back out of the mouth- the PCs must find their way too…

That’s right- the bottom.

The Players figured this out in seconds, after all Ub said (via Rambles)- “tell them to get to the bottom of it.”

Oh, and in this first rush into the body the PCs are in effect tumbling through the watery/rubbery landscape and trying to steer themselves as they slip and slide further inside.

Nice.

The floom ride.

So, back to that first picture (see up above). From top down- that’s Fellowyn in the creature’s mouth (top left) he hasn’t had his turn yet; Vinnie as Vincen G Octopod is next down the image; Daktari is next swimming through some unknown organ. Finally at the bottom- swimming down veins and/or tubules, that’s Ram, and the furthest into the body- Newt. Right at the very bottom.

Note, Newt is, of course, still drowning.

So, that’s nice.

Here’s another picture, and thankfully I’m an expert when it comes to physiognomy and animal biology et al, so sit back and relax as we (or else the Dark Squad) take a journey through the body.

Whose body, or else the body of what, is not known.

12101.jpg

Vincen G Octopod takes in all the sights as he swims through the Parsnip Underpass.

Here’s the shape-changed druid again-

12102.jpg

Making his way through the Soft Play Area.

While Daktari-

12103.jpg

Takes a minute or two to recharge his batteries in the Meat Solarium.

12104.jpg

Newt is following the He-Oughta Vein through the Bloody Horror Chalet (Upper).

Oh, and at this point the creature that has ingested the Dark Squad has ceased swallowing, and movement is more difficult now.

And every now and then George takes a screenshot showing where everyone is at.

Like this one-

12105.jpg

Ram is in the lead (bottom of the screen), and at present trying to squeeze himself through a sphincter.

Which is a lovely thought.

Note this is a sphincter muscle, and not ‘the’ sphincter.

Also be aware there isn’t just one way through the body here, it is in fact a maze of veins and tubes heading in a variety of directions.

Newt is very keen I should add to get out.

The other four PCs, at this point, are beginning to enjoy the sights, but are very (very) keen to be the first to the bottom, as it were.

12106.jpg

Daktari swims leisurely (he’s got a Potion of Water Breathing going on) through the Museum of Gulp.

12107.jpg

Fellowyn locates the Pee Bucket.

12108.jpg

Newt passes through the Pink Lumbago.

12109.jpg

And then on into the Grisly Blood Bag.

12110.jpg

Ram (with Water Breathing & Mariner’s Armour) makes his way (slithers) through a sphincter muscle.

12111.jpg

Here’s Fellowyn again, swimming from the Left into the Right Flophouse.

12112.jpg

And then on into the Dirty Harry.

12113.jpg

Newt meantime, he’s an unlucky lad, is just about to discover that the glowing worms that serve to illuminate the Gutter Sack here are just about to reveal… a dead end.

He's also still drowning of course.

12114.jpg

And here we all are again.

The observant may note that on the left of the image above we can see Newt and Daktari in close proximity.

Newt cannot talk- he’s holding his breath remember; however, he does manage to mime drowning well enough to cause Daktari to fish out a potion of Water Breathing for the tabaxi, which Newt hastily consumes.

Note, that was Daktari’s last Water Breathing Potion. He’s a very nice fellow.

Which is odd really because Newt, even after consuming the Water Breathing Potion and nodding his thanks to Daktari, fails to let the barbarian know that he is swimming towards a dead end.

Dak swims on, his good deed for the day done.

And yes, if you scroll right into the above image- Ram has found his way to the Arsenal.

12115.jpg

Here he is, Ram in the Arsenal, his plan is to use one of the cannons deposited here to wedge the sphincter/exit open.

12116.jpg

And at this point all of the PCs have figured the route out.

12117.jpg

Daktari makes his way through the Pork Butterfly.

12118.jpg

And, into the Piss Sock.

And then…

Well, there’s no pictures of the next bit- the escape that is, Ram- with help from Vincen G Octopod and Fellowyn, manage to wedge a cannon into the Sphincter Finale, and… they’re out.

Newt and Daktari escape two or so turns later.

POOOF!

The Dark Squad are shat/farted out into the Universe.

12119.jpg

Here they all are, and as it turns out it's an awfully big universe.

It’s full of stars!

And here’s the thing.

Water Breathing Potions/abilities ain’t going to help them now.

The Dark Squad are in space.

So, now all of the PCs are asphyxiating.

But again, the PCs are holding their breath.

But this time because of the sudden intrusion of the vacuum et al, the PCs start taking damage after Constitution Bonus turns.

Asphyxiating is 1d4 damage turn one, 2d4 turn two, 3d4, 4d4, etc.

12120.jpg

Then a voice in the PC’s heads.

“Say what you see.”

And suddenly a star blinks and continues to shimmer and flash.

12121.jpg

And then more stars join the party.

And the PCs use a variety of skills to figure out what they have to do here, although they get what the challenge is very quickly. The correct answer however takes a while.

The puzzle is the flashing stars need to be joined up to form a constellation, which the Dark Squad- of course- have to identify.

“Say what you see.”

But now the lack of oxygen is beginning to hurt- Newt gets to 5d4 damage in a turn, and then…

Suddenly, after flailing and failing for a good while, they put it together.

I think it was Ram who got it.

12122.jpg

The Man & The Crocodile.

Ain’t it always the way.

The PCs can breathe.

They celebrate by doing so.

Light- blinding light.

Music.

Which none of the Players recognise.

And then a voice like the end of the world, only much much happier, and soo very smooth.

12123.jpg

“Welcome to Universally Challenged, and here’s your host- Cortex.”

And the quiz starts straight away, and the questions are all about the Dark Squad…

And the PCs have no idea what’s going on but, they’re flattered of course, and they get it’s a quiz, and… well, it’s Tuesday night and in a certain light (deep dusk) this could be D&D.

They’re still laughing.

To be clear the DM is very obviously working his way through the write up here, asking questions as he goes along- some little thing from every session.

But here’s the clever thing about some of these questions.

Some of them the PCs don’t know the answers to.

So, the first question is something like-

“Early in their adventures the Dark Squad rescued a member of royalty, what was he or she called?”

The answer is, of course, Princess Lucky- a cow the Dark Squad saved from the “ol’ scratchy bastard”. Who turned out to be a Twig Blight, actually three Twig Blights.

Garumn, remember him, killed them all.

But the PCs get that one right, it’s just the remembering- or else being quick to find the answer.

But there are some questions here that the PCs don’t know the answer to.

For example-

“What was the full name and title of the creature summoned by the Nightcaller whistle?”

So, the answer the PCs give- eventually, after a lot of chatter amongst themselves is- “Gwen”.

Nightcaller is a black stone Duergar made whistle found in a much-protected room within the ruins of the Sunless Citadel, which when blown summoned a short and stout skeleton to Buggles’ side. Buggles later discovered that the skeleton was in fact the remains of a female duergar, he christened her ‘Gwen’, and before skipping the Dark Squad he developed a very odd relationship with her.

So, the Dark Squad answer- “Gwen”.

But that turns out to be incorrect.

And the PCs don’t like to be wrong, or else they are keen to show me the place in this narrative in which Buggles christened Gwen, er… “Gwen”.

The DM however is equally happy to inform the PCs that the duergar skeleton had a name even before Buggles and the Dark Squad came along.

The implication being the name of the summoned skeleton may be important in some way.

Is it?

The PCs have just learned/had confirmed that the Duergar have got at least one, maybe two, of the maze buttons.

Perhaps the answer is important.

And so, the DM is happy for Cortex to mention the answer to this question in his slick gameshow host-style reply.

Only it will cost one PC a set amount of experience points- to be deducted from their specific total.

How many XP?

Well, the first time they want to know the answer it will cost 1 XP, the second time 2 XP, the third 4 XP, the fourth 8 XP, then 16 XP, then 32 XP, 64 XP, 128 XP, 256 XP, 512 XP and then finally 1024 XP each any further answers.

But the Dark Squad want to know.

Who is Gwen?

It only costs 1 XP to find out...

Cortex therefore lets slip-

“And the answer is, of course, Gwendawr Blackheart, Scourge of the Black Sea, the Duergar Pirate Queen.”

Which leads to much more Dark Squad chatter.

But the PCs are enjoying themselves, and some of the questions are silly- but obviously important to the PCs in that moment, or else the answers are. For instance, they really do want to know who survived the longest in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors when the planar pocket (or whatever it was) finally collapsed with them all in it.

It gets to be a point of pride.

Who did best?

It was Ram, of course, in this instance.

These sort of questions seem to pop-up every now and then... who did best at...

And very suddenly the next answer they want to find out will cost one of them 64 XP, and it’s at this point that the PCs figure out that they shouldn’t have got to this point so quickly.

It’s going to get expensive from here to find out further answers.

So, there’s a lot more of this kind of thing next time.

And the beginning of a twist.

The PCs are learning/remembering all sorts of things from their story, and beginning to interpret, or else re-interpret, bits of it.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 



Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #122: Universally Challenged.

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

DEAD PCs
Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8 RIP

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

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

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. An extraordinary meeting of the Saltmarsh Town Council, the Dark Squad are going to get hired to end the smuggling menace (see below), scheduled for 10th Flamerule.
  2. The smuggler's ship will be turning up sometime between the 14th and 17th of Flamerule, the Dark Squad (and particularly Ram) are keen to meet the vessel, particularly Ram- why, because as the rogue said- “I'm getting a boat.”
  3. Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  4. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  5. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  6. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
  7. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
This is session 122, and still there’s no fighting, and this one had very little in the way of tension, maybe the odd moment- but there was plenty of quizzing.

So, what to write here?

12123.jpg

We were here, remember.

That’s Cortex, and he seems to be a Mind Flayer, and the host of… something called Universally Challenged.

And the strange, and exuberant, aberrant keeps firing questions at the Dark Squad.

And the noise of the (unseen) crowd when the Squad gets a question right.

That’s right, there’s a crowd applauding every now and then, and when the PCs concentrate really hard, they can detect a chorus of voices. To make clear- when Cortex speaks it sounds like more than one voice, all speaking at the same time, and in part- the questions being asked sound different, or else…

What is going on here?

But the questions keep on coming.

Keep in mind that Cortex (or else the DM) is doing his best impression of Jeremy Paxperson.

"Tentapods on buzzers, this is your starter for ten- no conferring."
"I'm going to have to hurry you, the answer is?"

But you know the kind of thing, probs- if you are UK based.

There's even another voice that indicates who buzzed first- the PCs have to send the GM a whisper on Fantasy Grounds, fastest gets the first attempt at an answer.

"Dark Squad, Delvino."

And the Dark Squad’s egos are being tickled, or else it's Tuesday night- this is D&D, sorta.

So, what to write here?

That's the question-

The Dark Squad started their adventures by rescuing a member of royalty, name him or her?

Princess Lucky.

Correct.

The village of Thundertree, located close to the Sunless Citadel, was formerly controlled by whom, before being re-conquered by Reidoth the Brown and his adventuring companions?

And the Squad eventually get to the answer…

A green dragon and its Cult of the Dragon followers.

The area surrounding the Sunless Citadel became known as, this due to draconic depredations in the region?

The Ashen Plain.

Correct.

The Dark Squad rescued a gnome priest from the Sunless Citadel, what was his full name?

Erky Timbers.

Correct.

What was the name of the ancient Duergar artefact that the Dark Squad located (and then blew) in the Sunless Citadel?

Nightcaller.

Correct, although Cortex adds… “the whistle, the blowing of which let the Duergar know that game was afoot (again)”.

But hang on… what do you mean the Duergar were alerted?

But there’s no time to relax- the questions keep on coming.

What was the full name and title of the creature summoned by Nightcaller?

Gwen.

Incorrect.

GWEN!

Incorrect!

The Dark Squad argue the toss, see earlier, and then spend an XP to find out the answer-

Gwendawr Blackheart, Scourge of the Black, the Duergar Pirate Queen.

Pirate… what now!

And by now the Dark Squad are figuring how this works- there’s new info to be had here.

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

Stars.

Correct.

The Dark Squad acquired a scroll in the Sunless Citadel the last line of which led them to the long-abandoned forge of Durgeddin the Black. What was the clue given?

Unknown.

And the correct answer is- Hotter Now, which directed the Dark Squad, of course, to Mount Hotenow.

What event took place fifty years prior in the same region, leading to the destruction of Thundertree and much of the City of Neverwinter?

Unknown, but the PCs want to know-

The eruption of Mount Hotenow, after the attempted release of a Maegera, a Primordial being.

Interesting, the Dark Squad (or at least some of them) think that Ub is a Primordial being too.

Erky Timbers asked the adventurers to check in of his brother, who lived in the region close to Mount Hotenow, what was his name?

Spandwick the Magic Gnome (and his wife Bel).

Correct.

What type of creatures had occupied the forges of Durgeddin the Black?

Duergar.

Correct.

Durgeddin the Black had a heart made of what, according to Arundil, the ghostly dwarven wizard?

Unknown, but the PCs really want to know, and so-

Stone.

Oh, that’s not as interesting as… well, maybe.

In Nightscale's (the Black Dragon's) hoard there was a Periapt of Wound Closure, actually a holy symbol, but dedicated to which god, or goddess?

Umberlee, the Sea Bitch.

Correct, Ram still has it.

What did Ashardalon take from the same hoard?

Unknown, but the PCs really want to know-

And keep in mind sometimes when 'Unknown' gets written here that's because the PCs can't remember the answer, or else Jim (playing Vinnie) can't find the answer in this narrative, or Bear (playing Newt) can't find the answer in his note books- he has at least two now.

Other times, like this time, 'Unknown' means the PCs really don't know the answer to this one, they've never known.

The answer, of course-

A maze button.

We stop for swearing.

Who was Daktari expecting to meet when he first encountered the Dark Squad?

The Eyes in the Night.

Correct.

What was the name of the Uthgardt Sky Pony 'bad witch'/wise woman that eventually sends the Dark Squad to the land of the Bad Dead Ancestors?

Old Mare.

Correct.

Jim (playing Vinnie) is now getting really quick at looking the answers up, although… not all of the time.

How did Newt offend Timor, the Uthgardt chief?

By employing a Mage Hand spell followed by a Control Flames spell, almost setting the chief’s tent on fire- magic is bad.

Correct.

Which member of the Dark Squad first suggested that they should hire Daktari?

Unknown, followed by a guess- Vinnie.

Incorrect.

But they want to know, and foolishly spend the XP to discover-

Newt.

Well, that answer wasn’t important at all.

What do the Sky Pony Uthgardt drink?

Schlapp.

Correct.

Who, in the land of the bad dead ancestors, cut and styled Daktari's hair so spectacularly the barbarian stated- “I look like a god!”?

Ram? Incorrect.

But the DM is feeling kind, the correct answer is-

Newt.

Which creature, as described by Buggles, broke into the tomb chamber in which the Dark Squad were cowering while attempting to fight off their dead enemies in the land of the Bad Dead Ancestors?

Various guesses follow, all incorrect.

The DM is feeling kind again, so-

An undead Bear-Owl (Owlbear).

What was written (and is still being written) in the book the Dark Squad found in the tomb of the seventh Bad Dead Ancestor?

The Dark Squad's story- this narrative.

Correct.

Who attempts (unsuccessfully) to take the place of the seventh Bad Dead Ancestor?

Garumn.

Correct.

Which member of the Dark Squad was the last to 'die' when the walls of the Land of Bad Dead Ancestors finally closed in?

Vinnie?

Incorrect, but the PCs really want to know, more XP gets spent-

Ram

What did Sheldon do to Vinnie before he departed?

Various guesses, all incorrect.

The generous DM says-

Sheldon licked Vinnie like a popsicle. Sheldon, if you remember, is/was a gigantic turtle.

Nice.

Newt, Ram & Buggles' first sight in 'hell' were of maze coins lying on a very plush looking rug, how many coins were there in total?

4?

Incorrect.

5?

Incorrect.

The DM lets them know-

Six.

The six coin-shaped maze symbols were previously being used to cover the eyes of the three hell-bound members of the Dark Squad.

Who saves Newt, Ram & Buggles from the fiery pits of 'hell'?

No answer given.

The generous DM-

Jot, the Imp, who met the PCs previously in the Sunless Citadel.

How long were the Dark Squad in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors?

Lots of guesses, all incorrect.

The answer…

24 days.

The Dark Squad were arrested in Neverwinter by a Dragonborn detective, what was his name?

Superintendent Clawed.

Correct.

Why was everything coming up Erky, as Newt remarked?

Erky Timbers avoided/survived the dragon attack on Castel Gwthyr, he was the only survivor.

Correct.

What was the name of the Mage that Newt hired in Neverwinter to help with his dark practices, the Mage was later taken to hell as a prisoner of Humphrey Far-Fer-Nar?

Newt is distraught to learn that he hired a mage, he doesn’t remember having to have help with his magic.

He’s further distraught that this episode is up for discussion.

No answer given.

The DM lets the Squad know-

Lira Vanderbilt.

What was the name of the Sea Elf that Ram worked with during his time with Captain Stonebeard?

What now?

Ram can’t remember.

The DM is happy to let Ram know-

Oceanus.

Which two individuals greeted the arrival of the Dark Squad with the following lines- “Who the hell are you muppets?”, and, “Talk fast sunshine or else I'll put my cludgie in yer speck-hole!”

The Dark Squad have no idea.

Bang & Olafson, the missing Dwarven engineers.

That’s the kind of thing that’s going on here, only…

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As it turns out that chorus of voices the PCs can hear coming out of Cortex’s mouth, well… it seems this quiz is not just about them.

This is a competition.

The Dark Squad have 105 points so far.

The Eyes in the Night, have 110 points so far.

Things just got interesting.

And so, the PCs start really trying…

The Dark Squad were assigned two dwarven brothers to help with various tasks by Manistrad Copperlocks, what was the name of the two brothers?

Grumpy & Porthole Slagg.

Correct.

The Slagg brothers insist that the various members of the Dark Squad demonstrate their ability to drive a horse and cart, which member of the Squad fails repeatedly to do so- he’s so drunk?

Lots of bickering follows.

Ram?

Incorrect.

Newt?

Incorrect.

But now the PCs really want to know and someone spends some XP to find out-

The answer- Vincenzo.

The object with these sort of questions is, of course, to hook the PCs in and get them to spend more XP.

I'll be honest, it worked quite a lot- more than I expected.

There are two words etched into the stonework beneath the central span of Sharkfin Bridge, both words written in ancient Elvish characters, what are the words- in the common tongue?

After a lot of shouting and arguing-

Fire & Ashardalon.

Correct.

The Dark Squad were ambushed by bandits near Witch Wood, who were co-ordinating the bandits’ attacks?

A guess from the team Captain-

Talos worshipping half-orcs that could change into boars.

That’s correct.

Who’s the Dark Squad team captain, you ask?

I’ll tell you.

It’s Newt.

Or as he’s called upon by Cortex in this quiz-

“Dark Squad, Tricks.”

Newt is loving being Captain.

Loving.

It.

What card game did Buggles fail to teach Gwen?

A guess from the team Captain-

Snap.

Correct.

Why did Hgraam the Stone Giant ask for and receive a personal item from each member of the Dark Squad?

Lots of muttering but no clear answer, but they really want to know and so more XP gets spent and-

In order to scry upon and track the Dark Squad’s continued progress.

Several members of the Dark Squad are agog, they really liked Hgraam the Stone Giant, he was very cool.

Why did Buggles say "I've never been so glad to see a bunch of grubby dwarves”?

He had, with the rest of the Dark Squad, escaped the Underdark.

Correct.

What was the name of the book found in the chest of holding in the Underdark?

Frantic searching and…

VH Campaign diary.

Correct.

Before taking to the skies Newt tries to learn to fly Gerald, his familiar Giant Bat, where?

Lots of guesses- all incorrect.

The DM is feeling generous, and so-

In the basement of Dark Squad house.

Who, in VHs Campaign Diary, is described as- a tall and sallow creature of bestial countenance, cursed by a monstrous fury, it consorts with devils and demons alike?

Newt.

Newt confidently states.

He’s right.

What was the name of the band that played at the Dark Squad House Party?

Lots of guesses- all wrong.

Clam ’69.

Who sang Kum-Ba-Yah-Poseidon at the Dark Squad party?

The Dark Squad remember the event, just not who was doing the singing.

The Byrd Family, the Dark Squad’s very religious neighbors.

Who is Flaming Kevin?

None of the PCs have a clue.

But the DM is keen that they know-

A Myrmidon of Fire and servant of Belphegor, who delivered a message to Newt on behalf of his master.

What is the name of the Dark Squad’s housekeeper?

Mrs Badcrumble.

Correct.

How does Daktari ‘break’ the wild horse that Ram buys for him?

He stares at it and yells ‘you are my horse’ for 40 minutes.

Correct.

Where did it say ‘a-maze-in’, meaning on someone with a Maze button could activate the portal within?

In the catacombs beneath Saltmarsh cemetery, in an ancient grave site dedicated to the Elves, which lead to the portal to the Pact of Flame area.

Correct.

Who two citizens of the town take to fighting who steps in to save the day- the voice of reason at the first Saltmarsh Town Council meeting the Dark Squad attend?

Newt.

Newt insists it was him- the rest of the Squad are very doubtful.

He’s right.

The Squad are on a roll.

12201.jpg

They're well ahead of the Eyes in the Night now.

Note if the PCs get a question wrong then the Eyes in the Night get it right.

What was the name of the ranch the Dark Squad cleared of gnolls?

Lots of searching the narrative, but… no answer.

Butterskull.

Who were Gnige, Gnorma & Gneil; clue- they were all massacred by the Dark Squad?

Gnolls, all massacred at the Butterskull Ranch.

Correct.

Who said “I am go now. This place smells of OLD!”, and then left? And which location did they leave? Two answers.

Daktari at Fallowstone Holy.

Eventually, correct.

Why was Blevins killed?

The Dark Squad quickly work out that they really don’t know the answer to this one, and so spend some XP to discover-

He had fallen out with his Death Cultist masters.

What Death Cult?

Hang on…

Hang on…

Blevins was an angry fellow who didn't like the dwarves at Farhill mine, the Squad originally thought- maybe he didn't like them. Later the Squad discovered Blevins had been killed (actually ritually sacrificed) in a place called Hecse Field. Later still the Squad discovered Blevins family home- the dead fellow's wife and daughters had been slaughtered there.

Blevins didn't have a lot of luck, it seems.

Screw him, he was a Death Cultist, is mostly the Squad's opinion.

Where did the Dark Squad meet Tarbin Tul, the Bard?

The Wayside Inn.

Correct.

Where is Tarbin Tul now?

On the Dreadnought, an undead-filled undead boat.

Correct.

Although Cortex adds- “prisoner of the Death Cultists.”

Who attempted to burn down the Wayside Inn?

Newt states that the answer is- Vincenzo.

All of the other members of the Dark Squad plump for-

Newt.

It’s a shame that Newt is Captain.

Incorrect, the answer was indeed, Newt.

Who instigated the attack on the Wayside Inn?

Death Cultists.

The PCs work this answer out, or else take an educated guess.

Correct.

What is, and where is, Garblegut's Palace?

Palace of the Goblin King in the Goblin Stair.

Correct.

At Westor's Logging Camp who smashed two Ankhegs in just six seconds?

Lots of guesses follow.

Remarkably none of them are right.

The DM lets the PCs know-

Newt.

Who was Grannoc?

Talos worshipping Half-Orc Cult boss.

Correct.

Who did the Dark Squad find a portrait of in the Manse in the Dreadwood, home to Grannoc, Talos worshipper, and his gnoll troops?

Antonio De La Crane?

Incorrect.

It was his father-

Maximo De La Crane.

The well in the De La Crane Manse, which the Dark Squad initially believed, was the Ancient Alchemist's Well, as referred to in the prophecy, it wasn't though- whose well was it?

Granny Ethel Frogwart.

Correct.

Who is/was Herbert Petite-Pantalon?

But no-one knows the answer to this one.

He was (deceased) a Boggle employed by Granny Frogwart that the Dark Squad captured and questioned.

Claim five points for each for the names of any of Granny Frogwarts lieutenants (they were all named enemies)?

More remarkably the Dark Squad remember these-

The Rug Doctor (Bugbear), Mrs Fastpants (Quickling), Big Evil Alan (Redcap) & Mr Bad Chutney (Flesh Golem).

What's the name of Nightshade's lair in the Deep Dark Dreadwood, as told to the Dark Squad by Granny Ethel Frogwart?

The Fortress of Dread.

Correct.

In the lair of Granny Frogwart what did Ram get stuck in, for a very long time?

Boggle oil.

But none of the Dark Squad remember this, Ram spent nearly an entire session stuck in the stuff.

Why did Daktari say the following- "Hellooooo! Helloooooooooooo! I sink der bulb has gone! Anybody?"

None of the PCs can remember, the answer-

Daktari was engulfed by a Huge Shambling Mound at the time.

When Daktari finally escaped from the gut of the giant Shambling Mound what was the first thing he asked Ram about?

His hair.

Correct.

Obvious really.

Who spent 11 months in Vinnie's backpack?

Wildroot, the Treant guardian of the Moon Pool, and Pact of the Flame member.

Correct.

What, according to Daktari, is not mightier than the sword- the sword in question being his sword- Shatterspike?

A pen.

Correct.

What type of creature did Ram save in the Dreadwood, the creature was being attacked by more of its kind when the rogue intervened?

A raven, being attacked by a murder of ravens.

Correct.

Newt said, “... remember- if at any time there are two people in a room, one will most surely wish to murder the other. It is just a fact of life...” Who was Newt trying to reassure?

Arty Swell, who had just been accused of murder.

Correct.

Who said- “I could have persuaded you to murder all of your fiddling companions here in Squiggleport, and then have you dance on their bloody remains... if I had wanted to.” And to whom did they say it.

Newt to Arty Swell.

Correct

“Now buck up Missy and let's get on!” Newt has a way with folk, an easy natural charm. To whom was he speaking?

Inverna.

Correct.

The Dark Squad are on a roll.

Well, that’s the kind of thing that went on, oh- but this happened somewhere towards the end, when the Players came back from a break the image on the VTT had changed, again-

12202.jpg

The Knight Squad, if you remember, were the adventurers that the Eyes in the Night were investigating.

Why is the DM showing the Dark Squad these guys?

There must be something to it, maybe…

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

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