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


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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #136: Into the Mere of the Dead Men.

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 EXPLODED
Ubdug (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 2 (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
Archimedes (very scruffy & old, Owl) Fellowyn’s familiar.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
  1. 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 Cemetery).
  2. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  3. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  4. 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.
  5. 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 136, and yet another full session spent entirely within the bounds of the Dark Squad.

Here we go… 2, 3, 4.

Last session the Dark Squad were midway through their mea cupla, a series of (anti) social events in the lizardfolk’s lair. It’s penance time, the walk of shame- so far, the Squad have been berated by the lizardfolk tribe (en masse) and then forced to make public apologies, Daktari has had to fight Chokko- a very large slice of lizardfolk render, and now… Sunda!

Basically, the lizardfolk shaman want to send the Dark Squad out into the swamp, for nine days- if they survive the ordeal then… well, Semuanya (the lizardfolk deity) must have let them live for a very good reason.

The lizardfolk shaman are sorely pissed at the Dark Squad.

So, Sunda it is- although the Dark Squad also have an alternative motive for taking the challenge, there’s a place in the swamp… I keep writing ‘swamp’, it’s the Mere of the Dead Men out there- not any old ‘swamp’. Anyway, the Dark Squad need to visit a place called the Witch’s Tor, it’s on their to do list- or else it was mentioned in one of the prophecies. So, the Witch’s Tor just happens to be approx. five days away from the lizardfolk’s lair- and the PCs must journey as far as they can into the Mere for five days, before making the return journey to the lair in only four days. That’s part of the challenge- Sunda!

So, the plan is- five days of stomping through the ick, do whatever needs to be done at the Witch’s Tor, then back to the lizardfolk’s lair for tea and crumpets. Job done.

The PCs depart the lair first light tomorrow.

But first, Othokent- before the shaman rudely interrupted her with their pleas for Sunda, was keen to get the Dark Squad to undertake another little task for her, the Dark Squad owe her (and the rest of the tribe) after all.

Othokent explains that at present there are representatives from two other undersea races visiting the lizardfolk lair, who need to be persuaded to take part in an attack upon the sea devils- they are potential allies. The Dark Squad are very quickly onboard with the idea, they like a bit of chatter.

And so…

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Wendoline of the Merfolk, is easily persuaded to join the cause- even Newt puts on his best show and more remarkably makes many salient points- although some of them are near to the knuckle. The tabaxi paints apocalyptic pictures, the merfolk- according to him really have no choice… it’s fight or die.

Truth be told all of the Dark Squad pile in with the chatter here, even Ram has started to find his voice- it’s terse but emotive, and again- uncompromising. Vinnie, of course, makes a speech or two, and it’s pretty much all successes across the board.

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Cyril of the Locathah is a tougher nut to crack, although the situation isn’t helped by Newt starting the encounter by making fish-based threats.

Vinnie, and others, are forced to steer the conversation quickly away from Newt’s rantings, and then pretty much repeat- although in different words (mostly) the arguments made to get the merfolk to join the gang.

It works, but only just- and eventually, we spend a good thirty minutes with Cyril and his friends, and it’s Daktari’s touch of the common man speech-

Dak “We are all same, Cyril. All the same”
Cyril- “I was raised in a puddle!”
Dak- “So was I, my friend, so was I- a very snowy puddle.”
Cyril- “!”
Dak “We are all same- on inside, in heart-piece, Cyril. This what I mean, we all yearn for big black-flying horsey and much much DIY. Yes!”

Eventually Cyril makes sense of the semi-intellectual barbarian’s ramblings, and then much more so when Dak rolls a ‘20’.

The Locathah are up for it.

Mission accomplished, although Othokent goes on to explain that there was a third group here for the talks, an emissary from a nearby koalinth (aquatic hobgoblins) tribe, but this group left the lair in a rush at pretty much the same time that the Dark Squad turned up.

Funny that.

It seems Oceanus and the Sea Elves did their job, or at least provided a modicum of a distraction.

Still, that’s one less ally for the fight against the sahuagin.

The Dark Squad are summarily thanked and then given a (guarded) room for the night… this after being allowed to send a message back to their ship (the Sea Ghost) delivered by Archimedes Fellowyn’s Owl familiar. I should add him to the list above.

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In which much more chatter occurs, basically the guys (by which I mean the players) decide at this point to entertain themselves for a while, twenty minutes or more, and all in character. Every now and then it’s bloody marvellous. Questions for Newt mostly, a little back and forth, a few sharp words but all in character and in context, and with laughter (and jibes). Then, on to another precis of ‘where the f… are we at with the plot?’

They (the Dark Squad- in character) are having the above conversation more and more often these days- mainly because they’re starting to see (a little bit more) where they are going with this, or else work out a little more of what’s going on here.

I think.

During the chatter there are questions for Sauriv, remember him- he’s the elder lizardfolk, the wise man of the tribe, as it were.

The Dark Squad want to know what to expect from the Mere of the Dead Men- Sauriv catalogues the usual manner of terrors (and more) but insists that the worst that the Mere has to offer is poison, infection, and rot.

A single member of the Dark Squad voices his unequivocal disdain for Sauriv’s advice.

Long and loud- and insulting, of course.

By which I mean Newt.

Of course.

Sauriv answers a few more questions, but it’s late- Newt’s Tiny Hut is up and the Squad are safe, and excited at the prospect of another outing on the morrow.

To sleep, perchance…

Dak, a little later, takes a moment to chat with Sauriv on his own.

Remember cod Russian.

“You remember you say to me about Man and Crocodile, I interest peeky- I want to know this, what you mean? This man and crocodile important to me.”

Sauriv has had odd dreams- perhaps even visions, of late, he explains. Although, the elder confesses that he is not a devout worshipper of Semuanya, and yet… he has seen Daktari in his dreams, or else someone who looks exactly like him, and in the same dreams he hears a message, repeatedly- “the man and the crocodile”.

Daktari is of course a little flattered but still not sure what Sauriv is saying to him, or even talking about.

The lizardfolk elder explains that he believes that the vision is telling him that Daktari is…

“The man to carry the great crocodile across the river.”

Which sends a lot of the (earwigging) players scurrying back to the prophecies, and a story there about a man, a crocodile and a river. Daktari is still confused, but he knows he’s making progress here.

Sauriv explains further- to carry something (or someone) across the river is a euphemism (in the lizardfolk language), it means to kill a thing- to send it across the great river, across which all lizardfolk (and other creatures with souls) are sent to Semuanya at the end of their mortal journey.

“I euthanise euphemism. Yes!”

Daktari gets it.

He has to kill a crocodile.

Only, why exactly.

Sauriv enlightens- the lair the tribe inhabit now is actually their old lair- the sea devils kicked them out of their new lair (see previous session). The reason the tribe left this lair is that they had a severe crocodile problem hereabouts. A huge specimen had staked its territory close to the lair, and because crocodiles are sacred to the lizardfolk, well… they are forbidden to harm/kill the creatures.

And so the great crocodile feasted upon the tribe.

And now that they are back here… the great crocodile dines again.

Sauriv believes that Daktari (and his friends) have been sent to put an end to this problem, to kill the great beast and by doing so to save many more members of the tribe.

Dak’s up for it- he likes a challenge.

So, he’s the man in the story… the man who must carry the crocodile across the river.

That’s what it was all about.

Maybe.

Then Sauriv goes on to tell the barbarian that the tribe call the beast One Thousand Teeth, and… the prophecy detector begins squawking furiously-

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


The Dark Squad need to find the hands- they have no idea what for but, they’re fairly certain that they are the hands of a mechanical clock, possibly manufactured by the gnomes, possibly a long time ago- and maybe at the behest of Ub.

Maybe.

Hang on.

A clock in a crocodile.

That rings a bell.

The Dark Squad are all grins when they head out into the swamp the next morning, finally- we’re getting somewhere.

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First light and the Mere of the Dead men, not an ideal holiday destination, but… before we get to that.

On departure the PCs assemble before a good chunk of the lizardfolk tribe, there are lots of folk that want to see the Dark Squad off- and for a variety of reasons.

About eighty or so lizardfolk bystanders assemble for a gawp.

A large contingent of shaman (about a dozen of them) are here to dance around the Dark Squad, spit their prayers (and curses) to the heavens and then wish the PCs the pleasantest of journeys and bon voyage.

They do their bit.

And then the Dark Squad are given their moment.

They get another opportunity for a speech.

It’s Vinnie this time, speaking in draconic, and building on some of the themes first enunciated by Daktari (funny that) in his earlier speech to the Locathah.

By the time that he and Daktari are done nearly half the tribe are waving the Dark Squad off, however- the farewell (for the members of the lizardfolk tribe) turns into a swift retreat when…

Newt, with Fellowyn sitting behind him, rises into the air on the warlock’s flying broom, although not too far into the air- the broom is heavily laden with the two of them on board (we checked the weights/rules), and then putters off.

Ram activates his ring of water walking and sets off as if for a stroll.

While Vinnie does the actual terrifying of the tribe by transforming into a huge constrictor snake.

Note Daktari and Ubdug are alternatively attempt to travel using the following methods- balancing on the slithering back of Vincent G Squeezy Snake (yes, he’s back)- which now that I write it sounds even more improbable (I said so at the time). Or else the pair are being carried along on repeated (ritual) conjuring’s- Tenser’s Flying Disc, Spectral Mount etc. All from Fellowyn’s repertoire, he’s getting more Wizardy every week.

The Dark Squad departs (mostly) in style.

A series of skill checks follow, with a bit of description here and there, the main check needed is Survival of course, they need to keep heading in the right direction, and quickly.

Vinnie, Newt and Fellowyn all have flying familiars to help them with this activity, but the Mere is almost entirely, and almost always, obscured by a thick impenetrable (by the eye) mist/fog/miasma.

So, navigation is very important, and difficult.

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The journey graphically brought to life.


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Towards the end of the first day’s travel the Dark Squad get to here. They can of course just carry on, but… that’s not likely to happen is it.

It is a very active place of sacrifice; I say very active because a little while later blood is spotted in the pool to the northeast of the altar/sacrifice stone.

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But then the dinner plate-sized mosquitos that also inhabit the pool hereabouts get into action.

They swarm.

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Moments later and Ram and Fellowyn both have a swarm of the stinging biting insects upon them.

Newt has three swarms on him trying to eat him up.

It gets very fighty for a while… but here’s the thing- they’re just swarms.

The Dark Squad are victorious, only a few of them with bites and scrapes. Newt is the worst off, but it’s hardly debilitating.

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There’s blood in the water here, and after Ram has had a look- well, there’s an arm sticking up in the weed below.

The arm is attached, but only just, to the rest of the corpse- a middle-aged human, from what remains, with a pouch full of cheap gems and… more importantly, the triple lightning bolt strike tattooed/burnt into his chest, this was another Talos worshipper.

Curiouser and curiouser.

The hoods of the stone figures turn out to be hiding the scaled, snake-tongued visages of yuan-ti, the Dark Squad- after Vinnie explains all he knows about the yuan-ti (and he knows a lot his check was ‘28’) are a little more concerned about being out here in the Mere.

The yuan-ti, several players state, are very level appropriate villains, or else could be… could easily be.

More chatter, then another hour walking through the Mere, then a night spent on slightly higher ground and within Newt’s Tiny Hut.

All is fairly well with the world.

That is until the saving throws.

At which point it suddenly becomes apparent that Fellowyn is not quite with the world, he’s as white as a ghost, as cold as ice, and seemingly not always present in the here and now.

But the druid has nothing to help the wizard (who in-game is disadvantage everything- and more), and so Fellowyn has to suck it up for the night. The cure in the morning, and so it comes to pass- although Fellowyn is much worse (mostly unconscious) in the morning. The cure however is administered (Cure Disease, or else… something like it, I forget) and after a brief hiatus the Dark Squad are on again. Or else- off again.

Just to remind you Sauriv did say that the worst things about the Mere were… poison, infection, and rot.

Sauriv clearly knows what he is talking about.

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The Squad make it to here, about an hour or two later- and they’re already behind on their daily schedule- because of having to wait for Fellowyn to get back to being compos mentis.

There’s a troll in the way.

What Troll?

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The happy fellow is humming a tune (possibly ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk) and every now and then wading into the pool of water it is otherwise sitting by to smash furiously at the wet until… it emerges with the broken stringy remains of a battered and broken crab.

Which it then eats.

Geography is in the way on the Dark Squad- the quick way is through, going round will take even more time out of their day.

Choices.

But that was the end of the session.

Much fun was had by all, as usual.

But no session for the Dark Squad next week, and so if I can get something built in time (and I can) then we’ll be playing the alt game which I invented for just such occasions, when one of the players has to be elsewhere.

I’ll probs write some of the alt game up when I get time on my summer break.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 

Geography is in the way on the Dark Squad-
Being at bit dense this morning (as most mornings) it took me a couple of seconds to realise what you (very obviously really) meant by this. For a second I thought you'd decided to name the troll "Geography" ... which I now think you should.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #137: Into the Mere of the Dead Men Part 2.

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 EXPLODED
Ubdug (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 2 (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
Archimedes (very scruffy & old, Owl) Fellowyn’s familiar.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
  1. 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 Cemetery).
  2. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  3. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  4. 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.
  5. 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 137, the Dark Squad are in the Mere… of the Dead Men, they’re taking part in a ritual called “Sunda” in order to show their worth to the lizardfolk clan they recently tried to slaughter. The lizardfolk, as it turns out, are potential allies- the true enemies are a bunch of Talos worshippers backed by a horde of sahuagin. At least that’s the present thinking.

“Sunda” requires the individual to survive in the Mere of the Dead Men, to travel as far as they can away from the lizardfolk lair- walking for five days straight through the swamp, and then at the stroke of midnight on the fifth day turning tail and immediately heading back to the lair, the return journey must be completed in nine days, exactly. So, that’s five days out and then back in four, any later and the ritual has been a failure.

The Dark Squad however have an ulterior motive (funny that, it’s like some cosmic hand has set their course) for heading off into the Mere, there’s a place they need to get to- called the Witch’s Tor, as it turns out the site is about five days hard marching from the lizardfolk lair.

As I say, funny that.

So, the Dark Squad are en route- oh, and the Witch’s Tor is something to do with one of the prophecies the Squad have received (see Session #29b).

Anyway, enough of that.

It’s the morning of the Dark Squad’s second day in the Mere.

There’s a troll, fishing for crabs sat beside a murky pond.

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Here he is… Note, the Dark Squad are at present debating (in whispers) the pros and cons of setting the troll on fire. Newt, warlock to a fiery master (amongst others), is very much in favour.

In fact he started the debate.

And yet…

Nobody else is in favour of the conflagration approach.

More remarkably, and seemingly for the first time for a very long time- four (or three- depending on whether you are counting players or PCs) beats one.

The Dark Squad decide to take a wide arc and sneak around the troll.

Yep, you heard that right.

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Alas some of the sneak rolls for the Dark Squad are extremely sub-par, and as it turns out there are a few troll fisherman in the area, although some of the regenerative fellows prefer snuffling around entirely submerged in the dank pools.

Both trolls depicted in the image above were about their legitimate business- hunting for food.

Fellowyn decides, I’m still not sure why, to attempt to talk his way past the trolls, his inability to speak any tongue the trolls understand, and his subsequent persuasion check, a ‘1’, have a deleterious effect upon the situation.

The nearest troll sees a meal- Vincent G Squeezy Snake.

Snakes are troll spaghetti.

It gets to this…

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Note, Fellowyn has summoned a female friend…

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This is Sydalg.

Gladys, backwards. I fear we may be seeing a lot more of her, the wizard has a new spell.

Anyway, there is fighting.

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Newt and Fellowyn are puttering around the battle site, although not getting too much in the way of altitude, on the warlock’s Broom of Flying.

Note, about ten minutes from now Fellowyn morphs into a member of the Royal Flying Corps, shouting all (and many many more) of the following-

“Tally-ho Newt, strafe the buggers!”

“Bandits at four o’clock, my fine feline fellow!”

“A hit! A bally hit!”

“Chocks away, Ginger Tom!”

More remarkably Newt gets into it a little too, who knew he had a whimsical side.

The first troll falls. Still burning- it’s not coming back.

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A third troll emerges from another nearby murky pool, surprising and soon after tearing Squeezy, and then Vinnie, a new one.

Even Ram has a blood drop on him- the troll he’s fighting claw-critted him.

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However, Vinnie very quickly becomes the Moonboar, and soon after the last troll is off and running.

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It gets to just about here. At which point the Supreme Being finishes it off with a Shatter spell.

The last troll standing is blown apart.

The fight is over and we move immediately to the semi-bickering stage of the session, the Dark Squad according to Newt, should be blasting everything in sight, and all of the time. Newt has a quota he’s working to.

In point of fact that’s the truth. Newt has souls to collect.

While the bickering continues, the formerly shattered troll reassembles and then attempts to run away (some more) the Dark Squad artillery (fiery) blast it dead.

Harmony reigns.

Although Newt is still complaining about the fact that the Dark Squad came up short with the lizardfolk lair genocide plan.

“All I’m saying Vincenzo is, if we had done the job properly with regard to the finny-rabble then we wouldn’t be having to slog through this stinking filth. Now, is that so unreasonable?”

As I say, harmony reigns.

The Dark Squad press on- note, each day they have to make a series of checks- survival, stealth, perception, and anything else the PCs can convince me of, in order to track their progress (distance travelled and possible encounters) through the Mere.

But then the mist really thickens, and to help with that I get the players to turn down their Darkvision to just thirty feet on Fantasy Grounds.

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Ram, with as much stealth as he can muster- although not moving slowly, leads them forward.

Just to remind you, Newt & Fellowyn are on the warlock’s Flying Broom, the Moonboar and Daktari are on imaginary horses (one each) by which I mean repeatedly (ritually) Summoned Mounts (or whatever the spell is called). Ram has a ring of water walking.

And so, after stumbling around in the heavy mist a while longer the Dark Squad somehow manage to walk into, or at least Ram does, a lizardfolk patrol.

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There is shouting- when the above fact becomes apparent, Newt is very angry.

Answers on a postcard with regard as to why he’s angry, or else what he’s angry about.

Regardless, Newt starts shouting the odds- basically the tabaxi thinks that every lizardfolk he sees is a member of the same group- they all have full knowledge of each other’s activities, and so… he’s still pissed that the genocide in the lair was curtailed. Have I already mentioned this? At present the above failure is the fault of the several bemused lizardfolk that have just wandered out of the mists and into the midst of the Dark Squad.

Sucks to be them.

If you are wondering how Newt came to know about the presence of these particular lizardfolk the answer is that another spell that is ritually and repeatedly cast here is Rary’s Telepathic Bond. Ram spotted these guys and then telepathically reported back to his fellows.

The rogue is in hiding atm.

He rolled 30+ on his stealth, so…

Fellowyn attempts to soften Newt’s approach.

I think he rolled a ‘3’ with whatever social skill he was employing.

The lizardfolk make threats and then attack.

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Although…

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Very briefly.

Newt’s Synaptic Static- a burst of psychic fury which blanks the minds, and fry’s the brains of at least three of the lizardfolk. And gives Daktari (he was in the area of effect) a severe headache.

The remaining lizardfolk run away- with Fellowyn imploring them to run fast and far.

“He’s liable to fry you again- run away little lizard-things. Run away!”

In the images above you’ll note Ram lurking in a bush, the rogue briefly sneaks out- guts a lizardfolk, and then slinks back into the mist and shadow, undetected.

The lizardfolk flee screaming into the Mere, only Newt deigns to blast them as they scatter, the rest of the Dark Squad are quickly back to the journey.

Several hours later and it’s time for another night in the Mere. Newt puts his hut up (in a suitably non-swampy spot), and… a pleasant night’s sleep is had by all, except for Fellowyn.

On his watch the ancient eladrin hears… well, a sound, a sibilant sound- as if someone far away were whispering something.

But, and after a series of checks, the wizard cannot say for certain the source of the sound- it seems to be coming from various places and/or directions, and there’s nothing to be seen.

Save for the all-encompassing mist.

Which brings us, eventually, to the third day of travel in the Mere.

Soon after and the mist is still very thick, the way even more watery.

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The Dark Squad are wading (actually their mounts are) between islands (those not flying/hovering) in a bayou like Mere.

It doesn’t get light, at all.

Although…

Now and then there are lights in the Mere.

To be specific- there are lights, here and there, in the water.

These wink out when the Squad approach, they also- seemingly, have no discernible source.

Fellowyn (after a great History check) tells a tale about all the souls that have perished in the Mere, the lights- he thinks, are the remains, or else the memory of those that fell here.

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Then, an hour or so later, comes a shout from not so far away from the Squad.

But none of the Squad recognise the language that is being spoken, that is until Fellowyn (again) rolls a ‘20’. The gruff voice is speaking the giant tongue.

Knowing this doesn’t help a lot, none of the Squad can speak or understand the language.

Note, at this point the PCs are struggling to see even twenty feet before them such is the mist.

The Dark Squad spend the next few minutes either hunkered down and hiding, or else creeping forward- Ram, again, leading the way, although they’re all making checks.

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An Ogre, completely oblivious to the members of the Dark Squad (they’re hidden) strides by.

And then another, and another, and another, and…

You get my drift.

The Squad spend the next very tense ten minutes trying to remain hidden and silent while a group of at least (at least) two dozen Ogres, a small tribe perhaps, wanders around, by, and through the gang.

You’ll note, throughout the above Newt doesn’t say a thing.

The danger, and the Ogres, eventually passes.

The Dark Squad breathe a collective sigh of relief and head on, deeper into the Mere.

Late in the afternoon and the mist begins to clear.

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There’s a tower.

The tower isn’t in the direction the Dark Squad need to travel, they’re certain, and yet…

A flying Newt, with Fellowyn riding shotgun, head over to see what they can see.

“Tally-Ho! Pip-pip!”

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The place is a ruin, and Fellowyn knows all about it- he’s read a book, or two- he thinks, about this place. This is an ancient elven tower, originally some ten or so stories high, although all that is left of it are weathered stone pillars and the intervening floors/ceilings. The entire structure is a foot thick in creeping vines and smothering vegetation.

There’s nothing here- not even markings on the stone, time has blanked the page.

That is until Newt sends his eye (he can do this now- pluck out one of his eyes and send it flying off to recon) down into the flooded levels of the tower. In the deepest/lowest level of the tower is an altar that still bares emblems of its use. The stone is etched with a myriad Moon symbols, this was a shrine to Sehanine Moonbow, the Lady of Dreams. Who Vinnie met back in Session #85.

Odd that.

Then, through the clearing mist Fellowyn, high up on the tower, spots a way between the trees- an ancient path or road, but…

The Dark Squad are very conscious that they have wandered off the beaten track, or else off their route. The five day hike to the Witch’s Tor is going to be a close run thing- remember the checks that the PCs are having to make, the results of these also determine how far the Squad travel each day, and the Squad’s reactions to the various encounters en route, too slow or else spend too much time doing something other and they will not get to the Witch’s Tor in time.

The avenue through the trees is right off the Dark Squad’s route.

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Therefore the spot is marked on the map, for investigation at another time.

Although there’s actually nothing more in the way of action for the rest of the day, only endless miles of swamp.

The Dark Squad eventually locate a piece of solid-ish ground, Newt puts up his hut and… they spend a third night in the Mere.

Only…

At watch change, just as Fellowyn (1st watch) is waking Newt for his stand… the whispered voice, it comes again, and this time both PCs hear it. Not the words, if there are indeed words, but the sibilant hushed sound.

The wizard and warlock leap to action, Archimedes (Fellowyn’s Owl) is sent aloft, as is Gerald- Newt’s Bat, the warlock even pops an eye out and sends it aloft.

The sound is triangulated and tracked and… there’s nothing there.

To make clear, the voice seems to emerge from random points in the mist, that when investigated are… empty.

The wizard and warlock suspect they are searching for an invisible enemy, but then… Fellowyn suddenly starts making sense of things.

He rolled another ‘20’.

The voice is elven.

It is using an ancient (and therefore hard to follow) version of the elven tongue- the language, and it’s use, indicate this.

Fellowyn hears and understands the following-

“Argentriver!”

“Go to the Castle.”

“Pass the Birds- they will come for you!”

“Much danger!”

“Save me!”

“Pleeeeease Save me!”

And that’s your cracker.

Fellowyn thinks he is “Argentriver!”, his surname is Silverstream, after all.

As to what the rest means…

The eladrin however pledges himself to the cause, he will save the speaker… he rather thinks.

A little later he explains all of the above to Newt, and then to the rest of the Dark Squad in the morning.

Next time (but not next week- Jim’s away) it’ll be their fourth day in the Mere.

Hoopla!

But that was the end of the session.

Much fun was had by all, as usual. I actually liked this one a lot- I like it when they do exploring, fighting, and thinking- a bit of all of these and it’s just about the ideal session.

It helps that the Dark Squad also have a marvellous capacity to talk to each other- in character. Earlier in the piece Daktari spent a good ten minutes (in character) explaining to Newt why he was a very bad tabaxi, all very calm- and in cod Russian throughout you understand. This after the tabaxi had given Dak a Synaptic Static headache.

In cod Russian-

“You real bad kitty-katty, you have no empathy, Newt! You are stone, Newt. You must learn to be sponge, Newt. You must let people in, you must trust- you must grow and learn to appreciate little thing- good horsey, warm Schlapp (a Sky Pony barbarian alcoholic brew), and plenty DIY! These good. Let life in Newt! Before it too late and no pony want play with you.”

That kinda thing.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #138: Into the Mere of the Dead Men Part 3.

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 EXPLODED
Ubdug (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 2 (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
Archimedes (very scruffy & old, Owl) Fellowyn’s familiar.

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
  1. 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 Cemetery).
  2. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood- except she's not there anymore, but a big red dragon is?
  3. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Remember us? We’ve been gaming all the while- we’ve not missed a week, only we’ve been playing the Alt Game, not this one, the simple reason being for the last however many weeks then there’s always been one of the gang that can’t make it. Its Festival Season don’t you know. On the weeks that we are one player light then the agreement is we play the Alt Game- and so it has come to pass. I’ll write up the Alt Game sometime soon, I reckon, just as soon as I get caught up with all the other stuff I need to get done.

Here's a thing though, the next time I have to be in work is… August the 20th, or it might be the week after, the 27th, so- a little time off.

I think I’m going to call the thread for the Alt Game here- Catch the Pidgin.

This is session 138, the Dark Squad are in the Mere… of Dead Men, still- this is there third day, or else it’s now the evening of their third day in the Mere for the Dark Squad.

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Here we are. The tower and the clearing have been investigated, in the last session- there’s an avenue leading away from this area, an ancient road- perhaps. But the Dark Squad are not for diversions (they say) and so… onwards.

Just to say the Squad are still making many Skill Checks during their travels, to keep them on course for the Witch’s Tor, and to keep them moving quickly, and as quietly (as possible) and making sure that they spot any dangers before the dangers spot them.

And then another night in the Mere, in Newt’s little hut- and again a whispering voice, the language an ancient version of the elven tongue. The voice is asking for help- repeatedly and imploring the Squad to come to the “castle beyond the birds”.

Although it’s actually only Ram and Newt that hear the whispers, and only the Half-Elf (Ram) that makes sense of it.

What this is all about- no-one is very sure, but Fellowyn thinks he has something to do with things, in a previous whispered message the “Argent River” was mentioned, well… Fellowyn’s surname is Silverstream.

So, more whispering- more of the same, and then rise and shine to day four in the Mere.

Oddly the weather has improved somewhat, or else the mist has lifted a little and there’s much more to see. The much more however is just endless miles of swamp dotted with hummocks of (relatively) drier land, and here and there stands of (mangrove-like) twisted trees.

And the Dark Squad have not been going long when…

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There’s an ancient wooden road, or else semi-floating walkway, and it’s heading in the same direction as the Dark Squad.

Odd that.

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And in the brackish swamp- further along, in a much deeper pool of standing water is… a semi-submerged carriage, drawn at some point by at least four horses- the skeletons of which are poking out of the Mere, they’ve been picked clean, or else...

The carriage looks like a very upmarket affair, a vehicle employed by a well-to-do family, or… well, it is of course lathered with mud and the debris of the swamp, and broken- here and there. But Newt flies over on his broom- kicking Fellowyn (riding side-saddle) off before heading over.

While the remainder of the Squad either look about for danger, wary-like, or else try to find a way to get over to the island on which Newt now stands and ponders.

The Warlock shifts from enquiry to concern, his investigations have revealed the following- inside the submerged cab of the vehicle are a bunch of hefty looking sacks, the tabaxi spies’ treasure- or else shiny looking things.

Newt likes treasure a lot. Mainly because he spends every gold he gets on the viscera and gewgaws of his grisly life.

Still, a warlock has to have a hobby.

However, Newt is of the opinion that the carriage has been here, well, not very long at all- days, perhaps (he rolled a ‘20’). There are great scratch marks in the roof of the cab. That’s not good. But again, how the hell did it get here?

Several more members of the Squad make it over to join the inspection team.

However,…

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It’s at this point that a bunch of Giant Frogs show up, leaping out of their hiding places in the Mere.

But… Giant Frogs, really- these are 9th level PCs.

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Here’s a remarkable thing, the Giant Frogs are +3 To Hit, but they tend to get advantage with their initial (from hidden) surprise attacks, and… I almost never miss. My dice are on fire.

It’s only six Giant Frogs though… what could possibly go wrong?

So, in the image above Vinnie and Ubdug fight a pair of Giant Frogs on the bank. Daktari leaps across to the island to join Newt, but then a second later is struck by a leaping Giant Frog and dumped back into the water. The same for Fellowyn, only he quickly manages to stab and kill his attacker. These two however are swimming.

It’s at this point George, who plays Fellowyn, thanks the DM for this encounter- a chance he explains to his fellow players to blast some low-level critters and feel good about themselves.

Giant Frogs are 50 XP each.

Thanks George, but- too soon. You can tell he’s the Noob of the gang.

The other players are much more taciturn.

Jim (Vinnie and Dak) mutters his usual, “I have a bad feeling about this…”, but he’s a milksop.

We go on…

The same for Ram, a Giant Frog slams into the rogue- grabs and partially swallows the half-elf’s right leg, he’s wearing the beast like a boot, and attempts to pull Ram under. Ram however is water walking so, the amphibian struggles in vain.

The same for Newt, but worse. The tabaxi, in the image above, has just been hit in the back by a leaping Giant Frog- Grabbed around the waist, and then dragged down to the depths. He has also failed to take a breath and so is now restrained and drowning on the bottom of the pool here. The Giant Frog that delivered this delight is not shown on the map because it’s way beneath the surface of the water- dragging Newt down, it therefore cannot be targeted.

In point of fact none of the other members of the Dark Squad can see Newt at all.

They saw him go in, but that was ten or so seconds ago.

Also, they have their own concerns.

13805.jpg

Here we all are again. This image taken later the same turn. Newt is still beneath the murk- drowning.

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Giant Frogs are being slaughtered; more are hopping out the watery murk to join the attack.

And then…

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Newt drowns. Reduced to 0 HP. What a shame.

Vinnie has become the Moonboar- it’s getting serious.

Note the rest of the Squad have marked where Newt went down but right now, they really do have problems of their own. I promise you; I think I missed only once with my Giant Frog surprise attacks.

The Giant Frogs don’t do a lot of damage, keep in mind, but what they do is Grapple/Restrain and then, after making contested Strength checks, they hop off (and underwater, when they can) with their captured Squad member.

The Giant Frogs are kicking the Dark Squad’s backsides. I mean… they’re not taking much in the way of damage (save for Newt, of course) but all is chaos.

Oh, and another six more Giant Frogs are in the process of joining the attack.

13808.jpg

Fellowyn to the rescue, the athletic (he does a lot of yoga) wizard Misty Steps to the spot Newt went in, and then dives down and slaps Newt (literally) with another Misty Step (an Eladrin power, not a spell) which allows him to teleport Newt out of the water and onto the bank.

Well, that’s fantastic, but- two things.

First, Newt- while being grappled and drowning also activated a power of his own- Belphegor’s Fiery Hide (basically a Fire Shield, once per day- I think he got this after sending 100 souls to his Flaming Master). So, Fellowyn activates the Fire Shield (when he slaps Newt with his spell) and gets burnt for his troubles. Note the Giant Frog grappling Newt went the same way- killed by the Fire Shield, but Newt was sparko (unconscious) at that point.

I figure the spell isn’t concentration and so the effect goes on.

Then, what Fellowyn actually says is something like- ‘I teleport Newt with my Misty Step to ten feet above the bank’, and so that’s what happens- Newt falls ten feet, lands hard- but he’s unconscious, so not a sound he makes.

He does however automatically fail a Death Save.

Go get a lawyer.

The rest of the Dark Squad are having fun with Giant Frogs- I am still 90% plus on my To Hit rolls.

Daktari, in the image above, has three Giant Frogs attached to him, none of the amphibians can get the barbarian to fall over (opposed Strength checks) so that they can drag him off.

Oh, and Ram- well, he helped with the Newt rescue (after taking his Water Walking ring off), only while he was underwater, he was attacked by two more Giant Frogs, bitten repeatedly and grabbed/dragged off into the depths. The rogue however took a breath before he went down looking for Newt, so- he’s doing okay atm, it helps that he’s also wearing Mariner’s Armour.

But it really isn’t going to plan for the Dark Squad.

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It’s remarkable, several of the players have observed thus far, how difficult an encounter is when there’s no Newt flying around and blasting stuff. Newt does a lot of the Dark Squad killing, it seems.

Fellowyn and Vinnie are now committed to get to Newt, to get the warlock back up and in the fight.

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Vinnie gets to the tabaxi first, but now he’s out of actions. Fellowyn, meantime is helping out with a Thunderwave, or a Shatter- I forget which. Either way Daktari takes a bit more hurt, and a few more Giant Frogs die.

Fellowyn’s damage rolls are usually low.

13811.jpg

Ubmo, the Supreme Being, unleashes his Storm Sphere, and again Daktari is in the middle of it.

Respect for the big man, it seems to me- just a humble DM, is at an all-time low atm.

You’ll further note in the above image that Ram- still submerged and holding his breath is still fighting for his life and struggling- he’s bloodied. Answers on a postcard as to the last time anyone saw Ram bloodied.

13812.jpg

The Supreme Being’s Storm Sphere lasts maybe four seconds, a Giant Frog smashes into Ubmo and destroys him.

Note, when Ubmo is reduced to 0 HP he explodes (for effect- no damage) raining down nuts and bolts (and bits) in a twenty or so foot radius.

That’s style.

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More of the same really, only… it’s getting worse. This was my third wave of Giant Frogs, for big fans of counting I had eighteen of the hopping maniacs in this encounter, three waves of six. That makes for just 900 XP, not much of a reward for all the Squad’s efforts.

You’ll note that Daktari is back to being surrounded again.

You’ll also note that Giant Frogs have leapt out of the water and onto both Vinnie and Fellowyn, the pair are both being grappled/dragged back into the Mere.

Remarkably none of the players seem to be having any fun with this- although there’s a fair amount of laughing at each other, I’m having a ball.

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Newt fails a Death Save, that’s his second- one left.

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But Vinnie heals him a moment later, and in the process- the Druid/Moonboar stated- ‘I kick Newt awake’, (after healing him). ‘Kick’, sounds like an attack to me- Vinnie is briefly engulfed in flame. Newt’s Fire Shield is still working.

Also, spot who’s in the water, that’s Were-Ram, the lycanthrope just failed a save to keep his cool and… he’s back to his hybrid ratty best.

Note, Ram has not learnt how to control his change, and has no way of changing back until he gets back to his senses (he makes Wis saves every turn).

Further note, Ram needs to learn to be able to control his change before he can take advantage of other Wererat powers.

So, things are going swimmingly, although- Newt’s back!

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Love is… Vinnie heals Newt. Newt burns Vinnie.

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Normal service is resumed- Newt commences blasting, note he is apoplectic atm, he’s shouting so loud that Bear’s microphone is pretty much cut-out all of the time.

I have no idea what he is saying- but dice are rolling, and Giant Frogs are exploding.

More remarkably the over-sized amphibians flee this onslaught, the fight- more or less as soon as Newt takes to blasting, turns into a mass exodus. The Giant Frogs are out of there.

Newt is delighting in his power to turn the tide.

Too soon.

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Hello? The encounter just got spicey.

So, quite a lot happens very quickly, and there are not many pictures here because… well, some folk got a bit panicky.

A tentacle slithers up and around the carriage, and then around the waist of Daktari, and then… Bloop!

The barbarian is gone, he does however manage to take a breath before he’s dragged under.

Under the water, and on the bottom, Daktari can just make out the huge frog-like tentacled beast which has dug a hole beneath the carriage. The carriage is in effect resting on the great beast, if the Dark Squad had gone in earlier and started moving the treasure sacks (that Newt spied) they would have quickly discovered this fact.

The treasure, let’s call it a lure, is on/around/covering the frog beast’s head and gaping maw.

Ubdug and two more slow-moving Giant Frogs suffer similar fates- they’re grabbed by coiling tentacles, only- well, these three are crushed to death by the creepy feelers.

Ubdug had only just rematerialized, as it turns out in the water with Were-Ram, he barely has chance to acknowledge Were-Ram and take in his new surroundings when… the tentacle hits and zoops him away and into the black.

“The Zerooooooooooooeeeee…sssss!

Were-Ram is less fortunate, moments later a three-foot thick, tough as hide, tongue- like a giant constrictor, snakes out and grabs him. A moment later- a rush through the watery black- and he’s gulped down.

Were-Ram has been swallowed by the beast.

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Here we all are, or at least some of us. Were-Ram has been swallowed and is now being eaten alive by the creature’s stomach acid, while Dak is just grabbed and holding his breath. He’s also being crushed of course.

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There is panic. Vinnie spews out a Cone of Cold, or something similar, but the creature- now identified, it’s a Froghemoth; is submerged and protected somewhat by having a carriage on top of it.

It gets iced however, after failing its save (with a ‘1’), note Daktari is also left shivering.

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So, lots more has happened.

Ubdug rematerializes next to Ram, it’s what he does every time he’s destroyed. Ram is in the stomach of the Froghemoth, and therefore so is Ubdug. Still, it’s nice to have company.

Ubdug’s last words are- “The Zeroes Ram, THE ZEROES!”

Moments later the Froghemoth’s stomach acid destroys the Supreme Being, again.

Now, what else- back to the image above.

Three tentacles have been freed up, and swiftly redeployed- the Moonboar, and Fellowyn, and Newt have all been grabbed and dragged under to join their friends at the bottom of the Mere.

They have all managed to catch their breath however, and so none of them are drowning, yet.

Newt has summoned a friend you’ll note (in the image above), Colin’s back, or to give him his full name- “Colin Um Accounts”, he’s a Tanarruk- an extremely violent Orc-type demon.

Colin alas fails to take a breath- and he too is underwater, so he will drown in a couple of turns. Newt seems to be okay with this- Colin, less so.

Newt does a lot of shouting at this point, I don’t know what he says, his mike is very helpful in that respect.

Daktari has been crushed, smashed and… still he fights on.

The Dark Squad are unleashing everything they’ve got.

Newt is down to not many hit points, less than ten.

The Froghemoth however has only a few more than the tabaxi.

It therefore attempts to flee.

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And that’s the end of the great swamp beast.

Note, the acid wracked Were-Ram is down to less than five hit points when he emerges from the mouth of the beast.

The Dark Squad eventually make it back to the surface of the Mere.

The encounter is over.

That was the best part of three hours, minus tea and toilet breaks, there was much in the way of hilarity afterwards, I think the players were all a little light-headed. They survived- all of them, for a good long while that didn’t seem to be an option, and that was before the Froghemoth even showed up.

No game next week (11th) because everyone is away somewhere, more Dark Squad on the 18th, and then the Alt Game on the 25th, George is away- I think.

That was a cracker.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.
 


carborundum

Adventurer
Beautiful, I love the froghemoth! Haven't seen one in the wild since Age of Worms, so now I'll definitely have to slip one into my Kingmaker campaign. My players thank you ;-)
 

Alamaias

Villager
I'm assuming George may have reconsidered his thanks to you for an easy encounter?
Heh, nah, it was fun as always, and I got to do some cool teleporty shenanigans, "accidentally" dropping newt aside. (Fellowyn's aim must be off after being unceremoniously dumped off the broom, that'll be why I caught him in a shatter too)

Tons of weenies is always fun to see as a spellcaster, even if they do damn near eat the party :)
 

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