The Vanguard of Eastening: Sacrifice & Redemption


Initially the plan was to run Blades in the Dark, but I bottled it and scurried back into my comfort zone for yet another D&D campaign! Over the course of the next seven weeks, the game transformed into a solid campaign that I was happy with and the players enjoyed. :D

Season One / Session One

The Old Red Flagon in Knightsbridge seeks heroes! An eclectic band of sellswords and vagrants answer the call;
> Tabax, the amnesiac Tabaxi druid (played by Matt)
Poddlebrim, the wandering Tortle monk (played by Tom)
Miasma Cunningbitch, cold hearted Half-Elf rogue (played by Jim)
Enden Took, earnest Halfling paladin (played by Paul)
Sir Henry, disdainful Human fighter (played by Scott)

Goblins are encroaching on farmland near Weem's Hollow! Farmer Abe Goodsoil suspects they are after the enormous pumpkin he has grown, which he intends to present at the annual harvest festival three days hence!

The heroes travel to Goodsoil Farm and meet Abe, his daughter Rose and the envious farmhand Cory Cowhammer. Farmer Goodsoil unveils his prize vegetable, it is HUGE! A half-dozen goblins encroach shortly before sunset. While the heroes are busy with that group, giant moles undermine the farm and a second group of goblins make off with the pumpkin!

Note: Enden puts the moves on Rose Goodsoil. Cory does not appreciate competition for the young woman's affection.

The heroes follow the tunnel to the goblin lair. It transpires the goblins are colluding with Farmer Soggy Browntrousers, a rival landowner who seeks to end Abe's winning streak by pilfering his prize pumpkin on the eve of the festival! Farmer Browntrousers and his eldest son Lothar are killed in the fighting, leaving the younger son Hamfast in the party's custody. The goblin chief is slain and the tribe routed.


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Season One / Session Two

It is the morn of the harvest festival! Farmer Goodsoil retains the party to escort him and his pumpkin into town. On the road, they encounter a pair of lost travellers;
> Darvin Buckwild, traumatised Human wizard (played by Andy)
Ezeke Strongtusk, unwashed Half-Orc cleric (played by Doug)
Sir Henry recognises Darvin from his time serving in the King's army, they once fought alongside one another, on the day of that terrible battle....

Note: On the road, Tabax meets a Tabaxi merchant who claims to be his cousin. Tabax leaves the party to rejoin his kin.

The two veterans catch up over a bottle of brandy, while everyone else enjoys the festival. Pretty village girls drape vegetable garlands around their necks. Miasma and Poddlebrim get their faces painted. Ezeke wins a commemorative horseshoe in the anvil toss. After dancing with Rose Goodsoil, Enden is confronted by Cory Cowhamner and his gang of burly youths. Enden knocks his rival prone and steps on his face. A crowd gathers to watch the brawl and someone recognises Enden as the Hero of Little Hamm!

Note: Enden witnessed a human hero save the village of Little Hamm from a rampaging ettin and inadvertently took the credit for slaying the brute.

A lone rider trots into town, slumped in the saddle, wrapped in a bloodstained cloak. Sir Henry identifies the stanger as a member of the King's cavalry. The rider topples from the saddle, a long black arrow jutting from between his shoulder blades. Ezeke heals the soldier, who regains consciousness just long enough to warn everyone that a large orc warband is marching on Knightsbridge, razing every village in their path. The soldier claims they are lead by a towering, two-headed champion called Orock/Knurl. Enden pales when he hears that name, for that is the ettin warlord he saw slain.

While the terrified villagers abandon their homes, Sir Henry and his cohort erect a barricade to slow the orc advance and buy the civilians some time. Farmer Goodsoil's enormous pumpkin - and several other overgrown vegetables - are comandeered for the war effort. As the orcs approach, the giant greens are set on fire and rolled down the hill! Several orcs are crushed, but the majority reach the barricade and are repulsed.

A woman's scream draws the party back into the village. Rose Goodsoil covers her eyes as two brawny orcs kick the naughty word out of Cory. A one-armed orc warlord astride a pale worg looks on. Enden takes a moment to enjoy Cory's comeuppance, before realising the orcs will kill the boy if nobody intervenes.

The party engage the warlord and his entourage. Miasma slits open the worg's belly as it charges passed, spilling its rider (and its entrails) across the muddy ground. Sir Henry advanes to engage, but the orc commander raises his axe and commands the warrior to KNEEL. To his surprise, Sir Henry drops to his knees before the warlord, who grins savagely and swings the axe at Sir Henry's head! Enden knocks the warlord aside with a smiting blow. The warlord and his cronies are defeated and Enden claims the +1 Battleaxe of Command.

Rose thanks Enden for saving Cory and gives the halfling hero a big kiss. Enden is keen to exploit her gratitude further, but Sir Henry insists there is no time for that and the party must depart for Knightsbridge immediately!



Character background written by Paul;

The truth of Endon Took is that he’s a simple cabbage grower on his allotment in the sleepy village of Little Hamm. One day Endon heard the sounds of violence and creeping behind a hedge to spy on proceedings witnessed a human slaying a pack of wolves. The human then staggered away wounded. Endon came out from hiding and picked up the anonymous human’s fallen sword and looked at it in wonder.

“Endon has saved us!” he heard someone let cry. He turned to see a happy band of fellow Halflings running towards him, shouting with joy. They lifted him high and exalted him. Endon tried to protest his innocence – but before he could speak another loud cry went up, “By the Goddess! He’s slain a giant too! “

thought Endon. How did he not see that lying there? A great two-headed giant was prostrate in the meadow.

“Endon Ettin Slayer!! Endon Ettin Slayer!!” went the sing-song celebration as Endon was paraded shoulder high around the village. “But, but, but”…. stammered Endon. It was no good. Nobody was listening. Feasts were held in his name. The prettiest girls threw themselves at him. It was getting harder and harder to tell the excitable folk of Little Hamm that there’d been a mistake.

Within days, the celebrated folk hero was kitted out in the only chain mail the village possessed and he was ceremoniously handed the bloodied human sword he’d been found with in the meadow and then unceremoniously expelled from the village. He was to go abroad, as their champion, win fame and fortune, and in a year and a day return with that fortune to share with the villagers.

It was an anxious and befuddled Endon that trod the path beyond the village boundary – the furthest he’d ever travelled in his life. He looked to the horizon and thought to himself ‘who is going to water my cabbages while I’m away?

If Endon thought things would improve at the next village – he was wrong. After a party of veterans destroyed an orc warband and saved the village, Endon was keen to see somebody else get the glory this time. But somebody recognised him, somebody shouted his name “ Endon the Ettin Slayer has saved us all”. History began to repeat itself. He was lofted high upon shoulders in great celebration. The village elder blessed Endon and tasked him with defeating the larger warband now ravaging the country. “Blesséd Endon will avenge those who have lost their lives or homes at the hands of the marauders”.

Apparently, Endon Ettin Slayer was now sworn to a sacred Oath of Vengeance. How in Fearûn did that happen?


Season One / Session Three

The heroes return to the city of Knightsbridge to find it has fallen to orcs – or, at least, the southern half of the city has fallen. A contingent of armed soldiers have barricaded the titular bridge to the wealthier districts across the river. Paupers Gate is guarded by the shambling figure of a large zombified ettin! Endon pales and hides under a bush, he cannot be witnessed slaying another ettin (or technically, the same ettin a second time) lest his undeserved reputation for heroism grow exponentially. Overturned wagons lie scattered across the ground outside the city walls. Hunkered down behind one of the wagons is a rock gnome barbarian called Nemin the Perturbed (played by Steve), who had been serving as a caravan guard when the green menace descended and drove off his employers.

Note: Paul was absent this week and Steve took his place at the table.

Sir Henry marches forth and commands the ettin to move! The two-headed zombie groans and attacks! The clash of steel draws orcish archers to the city walls and arrows are soon raining down across the battlefield. With white foam frothing from his mouth, Nemin scales the walls and kills the archers. Meanwhile, Ezeke, lops off one of the ettin’s legs to bring the giant crashing down, then finishes it off with his greataxe.

The poor district is in chaos, orcs loot and pillage unchecked while the citizens cower in abject terror. It appears the soldiers have pulled back to hold the bridge, leaving the slums to burn. After collaring a lone orc, the heroes learn that the attack is only a distraction, while the half orc necromancer Mazoga infiltrates the Knightsbridge museum and steals the skull of the last Orking, Urim Rex. Ezeke is shocked! His half-sister is called Mazoga, though he hasn’t seen her for years. Could it be the same person…?

The museum is across the river, in the wealthier part of the city. Soldiers bar the crossing, commanded by Sir Basil Fondlewood, resplendent astride his trusty warhorse. Sir Henry grinds his teeth, he and Sir Basil have a long running animosity for one another. The two knights bicker for a while before Darvin steps in to smooth their ruffled feathers. Grudgingly, Sir Basil permits the party to cross the bridge.

The museum is an old stone building with thick doors and barred windows. Miasma picks the lock(s) on the front entrance. The exhibition hall is a cavernous space overshadowed by the painstakingly reassembled skeleton of a young black dragon suspended from the high, domed ceiling. Two hooded figures malinger near the glass display case containing the skull of the Orking. The taller figure turns and throws back her cowl, revealing the face of a young, half-orc woman with tiny bird skulls braided into her hair. Ezeke is stunned, it is indeed his half-sister Mazoga Strongtusk! The smaller figure turns out to be a zombified goblin.

Mazoga warns Ezeke to stay out of her way. She will use the skull of the Orking as a conduit for his warlike spirit, so that he may lead the orcs to victory against their enemies! Ezeke stands his ground and tries to sway his sister from her reckless course. His allies stand with him (except Miasma, who is even know creeping up behind the necromancer). Mazoga curses her brother’s stubbornness and uses her magic to animate the skeletal dragon! The dragon tears free of the cables suspending it from the roof and drops to the floor of the exhibition hall to attack the party!

The zombified goblin starts ringing a small silver bell (Toll the Dead) that stuns those who heed its dolorous peal. Darvin fires acid arrows at the dragon, melting through the old bones. The dragon snaps Nemin up in its jaws and swallows the gnome whole, but lacking a stomach, Nemin just tumbles back out between the exposed ribs. Mazoga turns back to the display case and breaks the glass. She reaches in and extracts the skull, laughing maniacally as it blooms with black fire. Suddenly, the skull is knocked from her grip by a magic missile! It clatters across the floor and ends up at Miasma’s feet, glaring up at her with empty eye sockets alight with malice. Miasma pops the skull into her bag and makes a dash for the exit. Mazoga loses her naughty word and drops a Cloudkill spell in the middle of the room. Ezeke and Poddlebrim breathe deeply of the poisonous yellow fog and fall prone, writhing on the ground as the life leaves their bodies. Nemin seems resistant to the noxious fumes - if anything, it just makes him even angrier than he already was. Sir Henry drags Ezeke into the foyer, away from the spreading cloud. Nemin calms down long enough to haul Poddlebrim to safety. The zombie goblin is still ringing that f***ing bell!

Miasma runs for the exit with the skeletal dragon in pursuit! Fortunately, it is too big to fit in the foyer and gets wedged in the doorframe, snapping at her heels. Mazoga casts Dimension Door and lunges for Miasma through the rift. Darvin tackles the necromancer to the ground. While they are tussling, Miasma gets the front door open and escapes with the skull. Realising that she has lost this battle, Mazoga teleports into the sewers and makes good her escape. With its Mistress fled, the zombie goblin looks forlorn. Poddlebrim twats it with his staff and takes the silver bell.

Note: When I planned this adventure, I intended that Mazoga escape with the skull – from the moment the party knocked it out of her hands and ran off with it, I was forced to frantically fabricate plot twists and story hooks on the fly.

Somehow, the orcs rampaging through the poor district are made aware of the failed heist and retreat to their foetid territories deep in the Gnarlroot Marsh. The heroes regroup in the Old Red Flagon and examine the skull. It is clearly animated by some manner of loathsome sorcery. Nemin tries to smash the skull with his hammer, but a burst of necrotic energy blasts him across the bar. Sir Henry recalls the Battle of Knightsbridge, where 12 brave knights held back the combined forces of the Orking long enough for the King to amass his own army and destroy the horde. One of those knights was his own grandfather; Sir Aelfred the Great, whose statue stands proudly on the bridge in the centre of the city. Legend has it that with his dying breath, the defeated Orking cursed those 12 valiant knights, swearing he would one day return to bring ruin to the realm of men.

Sir Basil seeks out the heroes and informs them they are summoned to the residence of Governor Hobart, lord of Knightsbridge and some distant relation to the King. Nemin decides to sit this one out and orders another drink. The rest of the party make themselves respectable and present themselves to Lord Hobart. The Governor thanks them for saving the city and rewards them with their choice of either a +1 weapon or a Cloak of Resistance. Lord Hobart agrees that the skull of the Orking is too dangerous to display in a museum and asks the party to undertake a quest to destroy it permanently, by delivering it to the workshop of the gold dragon Tyrsientom on Seasend Isle.



Season One / Session Four

The Heroes have accepted a perilous quest to destroy the sentient skull of a savage warlord, to prevent a zealous necromancer from returning the Orking to life. To do so, they must deliver the accursed relic to the gold dragon Tyrsientom on Seasend Isle, beyond the wave-tossed waters of the Stormwrack Gulf. Betwixt Isteaning and the ocean lies the cursed kingdom of Keria.

Darvin is troubled. He would sooner walk into fire than cross the borders of that haunted land, but what other choice is there? The dwarves have dammed the river north of Knightsbridge and turn away travellers seeking to cross their mountain. To the south, the Brine Lords continue their ceaseless bickering over the pirate islands and sink any ship flying an unfamiliar flag. The fellowship must travel with haste, to outrun Ezeke’s misguided sister and whatever horrors she has dredged from the grave. No, the only way forward is to cross the cursed lands as quickly as possible and pray their trespass goes unnoticed.

Sir Basil Fondlewood and a small retinue of his best men will accompany the Heroes on their quest to destroy the skull. Strength in numbers and all that. Sir Henry grinds his teeth as his rival starts issuing orders. The two knights argue over who is in command of the expedition, as neither man is prepared to take instruction from the other.

The party leaves Knightsbridge and travels north-west toward Keria. Steeling their resolve, they cross into the blighted landscape beyond the border. Dark clouds roil across the bruised sky and a constant, stinging rain saturates the barren earth. Almost immediately, Darvin begins to hear ghostly voices on the wind. Endon extends his Divine Sense and determines that - in addition to the cursed skull rattling around inside his cookpot - there are definitely ghosts about. Darvin grows increasingly agitated as the voices torment him, crying out in response to accusations only he can hear. Sir Basil’s men exchange worried glances; the situation is bad enough already without their wizard going mental.

Darkness falls over Keria like a funerary shroud and the party make camp. Ezeke casts Protection from Evil to give Darvin some respite from the horrors that assail him. The wizard slips into a feverish slumber and dreams about the Siege of Kerr, when he and his squad slipped into the city to assassinate the foul hag with whom King Kazemar had forged a desperate, last-ditch alliance. The outcome of the King’s pact was the transformation of every last citizen of Kerr into gibbering mouthers! Of his entire squad, only Darvin made it out of the city alive and his survival has been as a festering splinter of guilt, slowly poisoning his mind ever since.

Darvin bolts upright, his garments sodden with cold sweat. The camp is surrounded by spectral figures, garbed in the uniform of the Isteanese military. Darvin recognises the faces of his old squad. The ghosts curse Darvin for abandoning them and demand that he releases their souls from the hag’s black heartstone in Kerr Castle.

Darvin releases a long sigh and accepts his fate, even if it means his own death. He will leave the fellowship and seek absolution in the cursed city. The ghostly figures salute their former comrade and fade away. To Darvin’s surprise, Sir Henry and the other Heroes all stand with him. They will not let him go alone. Sir Basil is outraged and demands Endon hand over the relic, so that he can complete the quest. Ezeke squares off against the foppish knight and Sir Basil stands down. He and his men will ride ahead to Whalewater Landing and secure a vessel to carry the party across the Stormwrack Gulf.

The Heroes approach the necropolis of Kerr. The main gate gapes open invitingly, but the drawbridge has collapsed into the stinking, sewage-clogged moat. Sir Henry attempts to leap the gap, but a barbed tentacle snatches him out of the air! A ravenous otyugh rises from the crusty muck beneath the drawbridge! The heroes defeat the monster and enter the cursed city.

The Heroes pass along empty streets. The only sign of life is the constant babble of incoherent voices. A manic laugh sounds from an adjacent street, answered by a baby’s gurgling cry. Darvin shudders. He knows these unsettling sounds are formed by no human mouth. The Heroes enter an open courtyard cluttered by the tattered remnants of abandoned market stalls. A bronze statue of the Kerian lion gazes down at them imperiously from atop its stony plinth. Suddenly, the sound of senseless jabbering grows louder and a dozen gibbering mouthers surround the party, emerging from drains and abandoned buildings around the square. There are already too many to fight and more arrive every moment! Resisting the maddening wails, the Heroes break through and seek refuge in Kerr Castle.

The throne room is dimly illuminated by braziers that flicker with sinister purple flames. King Kazemar sits upon his throne, attended by a beautiful elven maid. Darvin is not fooled for a moment and demands the hag abandon her false face. Neia Blackblood, the Hag Queen of Keria assumes her true form and attacks!

King Kazemar rises from his throne, leaving a sticky residue clinging to the armrests. Sir Henry notices a slimy tether connecting the King to a large, quivering blob lurking in the darkness behind the throne. Kazemar raises his hand against the Isteanese knight and his arm transforms into a slimy tentacle that Sir Henry bats away in disgust. Meanwhile, Endon and Poddlebrim close in on the hag queen. She defends herself with a cursed dagger that steals away the life of those whose blood it tastes. Darvin hurls a firebolt at the ooze behind the throne. The ooze spawns several baby slimes to defend it from further harm. Neia Blackblood brandishes her cursed blade and cuts open a tear in the space-time continuum! Poddlebrim is incapacitated by the frigid chill emanating from the starry rift! Endon slashes his blade across the hag’s shins and pushes her through the tear! With a howl of frustration, Neia Blackblood is swallowed by the rift! With the hag gone, her connection to the ooze-king is severed and the gelatinous monarch collapses in on itself “like a bag of naughty word".

In the centre of the slimy puddle left by the former King of Keria lies the hag’s heartstone. Darvin crushes the black crystal underfoot, releasing the souls trapped within. The ghosts of his squad reappear and thank him for setting them free. The spirits coalesce into a small, ephemeral pearl that floats down into Darvin’s palm. For the first time in two years, Darvin Buckwild feels at peace with himself.

(Note: Darvin receives a Pearl of Power, allowing him to regain the use of a 2nd level spell slot. The party could also have claimed the hag’s dagger, which was a Nine Lives Stealer, but they opted instead to toss the evil weapon through the rift after its previous owner.)


(Note: Everyone advances to level 4!)


Season One / Session Five

Having slain the Hag Queen and released the trapped souls from her black heartstone, the Heroes leave the ruins of Kerr to catch up with Sir Basil. They hook up with Miasma and Nimin the Perturbed on the road to Whalewater Landing, a squalid little town huddled on the coast of the Stormwrack Gulf. The bleached, barnacle-encrusted bones of some great sea monster have washed up on the grey shingle beach. One large ship is moored at the docks, tossed around by the choppy waters. The church is dark and boarded up, but the tavern is open and alight. The Heroes partake of a round of Blackflap and a salty seafood platter. The locals are unfriendly (to the point of being hostile) and claim not to have seen Sir Basil or his retinue. The Heroes do not believe a word of it.

The Heroes investigate the ship. It is called the Ambuscade. Two burly (but dimwitted) lads guard the gangplank, but the Heroes soon scare them off. The deck is stained with bloodstains that someone has made a half-hearted attempt to clean up. Endon breaks into the Captain's cabin and reads the logbook. Captain Tuktho was on route to Seasend Isle, to deliver a load of clockwork components to his 'Uncle Tyr', but planned to stop at Whalewater Landing to sample their famous seafood platter.

The Heroes investigate the lighthouse overlooking the town and persuade/intimidate the elderly keeper into spilling his guts. A halfling fisherman called Benten Bunkle started a weird fish cult that is all about human sacrifice. The townsfolk deliver any visitors to the cult to avoid being taken themselves. The cult operates out of the sea caves beneath the lighthouse, which are accssible via the beach at low tide.

Speaking of the cult, a dozen hooded figures are advancing on the lighthouse! The steep cliffside path is easily defensible and the Heroes roll barrels down to Donkey Kong the murderous villagers. A magical stormcloud forms overhead and bolts of lightning strike the ground. The Heroes hole up in the lighthouse until dawn, then head for the caves to confront the cult.

Sir Henry takes the lead. The floor of the cave is scattered with bones, both human and equine. Suddenly, an enormous grick lunges for Sir Henry, grappling the brave knight with its awful face tentacles! The Heroes kill the guardian beast and forge ahead. They reach a room full of horrid fishmen. After butchering the vast majority, the Heroes realise that these were once the people taken by the cult - not sacrificed at all, but transformed into new, fishy forms. They apologise to the one surviving fishperson and akwardly back out of the room.

Soon thereafter, the Heroes follow the sound of chanting to a large cavern overlooking the sea, where Benten Bunkle preaches to his wicked congregation. The halfling is pale, completely hairless and coated in some manner of clear slime. His sodden robes hangs open, revealing a pallid paunch that writhes and wriggles like a wet carrier bag full of snakes.

"Ah, new converts," the halfling sighs contentedly, "Join us and succumb to the loving embrace of Araluuz."



Some Lore I done gone wrote!

The Kingdom of Eastening
Ruler: King Odalric
Capital City: Brelburgh
Noteworthy Towns: Knightsbridge
Less Noteworthy Towns: Weem’s Hollow, South Bean, Farrowmere, Prosperity

50 years ago, Orking Urim Rex lead a huge horde of orcs from the southern swamplands to attack the Kingdom of Eastening. 13 knights (including Sir Henry’s grandfather) defended the only bridge across the River Eastel until reinforcements arrived from the capital. 12 knights fought bravely, but the 13th (Sir Basil’s grandfather) fled in disgrace. The town of Knightsbridge was founded upon the battlefield and the courage and sacrifice of those 12 knights was immortalised by a row of statues along the bridge crossing the river. The surviving orcs were driven back to their swamp, but their numbers have been gradually increasing over the last few decades.

More recently, the half-orc necromancer Mazoga Strongtusk lead an assault on Knightsbridge, hoping to secure the skull of the Orking (which was displayed in the town’s museum) and bind the warchief’s restless soul to his old bones. A group of brave Heroes foiled her plan and embarked on a dangerous quest to destroy the cursed skull.

The neighbouring Kingdom of Keria
Ruler: King Kazemar (deceased)
Capital City: Kerr
Noteworthy Towns: -
Less Noteworthy Towns: Whalewater Landing

Until recently, Keria was a cursed land under the sway of the hag Neia Blackblood. A band of roving Heroes cast the foul hag into a pocket dimension, ending the curse. Now, the survivors and refugees can begin to rebuild their home.

Seasend Isle
Ruler: Tyrsientom

A remote island beyond the Stormwrack Gulf. The ancient gold dragon Tyrsientom has established a workshop on the island.

The Ariqulan Archipelago (also known as The Pirate Islands)

A collection of small islands that constantly change hands between the numerous pirate captains (the self-styled Brine Lords) that rule these inhospitable waters.

The Dwarven Kingdom of Gamgulir

The dwarves have sealed their borders and do not welcome visitors to their mountainous realm. Outsiders who are caught trespassing in their lands are prosecuted as spies and never seen again.

The Elven Nation of Drura
Ruler: King Tarsus & Queen Phinara
Capital: Jaanalume

Beyond the mountains, the elves rule their isolated and icy kingdom. Rumour has it that a magical gemstone possessed by the royal family is all that maintains the glacial barrier between their lands and the monster-infested wastes to the Far North.


Some lore that Scott cobtributed;

Seen as we are world building, here is my contribution

The Halfling Lands
Ruler: Hidebald Mugwort
City: GullyShade
Noteworthy Towns: - Little Hamm

A growing area in the central lowlands, known to some as Staracre, is home to the ever prosperous (and hungry) halflings. Well known for their love of food and music, these likable creatures have established several territories in these temperate lands and is fast becoming a kingdom in its own right. One such domain, GullyShade, is now regarded by many as a city.

Halflings tend to venerate the forces or spirits that have a direct connection to their professions or environment. Latterly however many halflings are revering a hero that has risen from the ploughs furrow, a brave and fearless halfling by the name of Enden Took, Ettin Slayer!


Season One / Session Six (Part 1)

We begin with a flashback. A swarthy halfling fisherman hauls his nets up from the briny depths of the sea, the wet rope rasping between his calloused palms. The net bulges with struggling fish. It is a good haul, but there is something strange.... A large, pallid sea slug glares up at the fisherman with three oval eyes, glowing red with malice. The fisherman is hypnotized by the strange creature and begins clumsily cutting apart the net with his gutting knife. Dying fish flop onto the pitching deck. His eyes blank, the fisherman plucks up the malevolent mollusc and holds it closer to his face. He barely reacts as the creature crawls into his mouth and forces its way down his gullet....

We cut forward to the sea caves near Whalewater Landing. A pair of hooded villagers drag a bloodied priest of Talos before the cult's profane altar. The halfling fisherman (now completely hairless and covered with a patina of milky slime) bares his pallid chest to the prisoner, revealing a ragged incision splitting his torso. Long, translucent tentacles quest from within the wound, reaching for the priest. The tentacles caress the prisoner's face, leaving trails of pale ichor along his cheek. The priest recoils in disgust, but is held fast by his captors. A moment later, he cries out in pain as his entire body is wracked with violent spasms. Within minutes, the human priest is transformed into a horrid fishman, gills flapping frantically as he gasps for breath. The halfling waves dismissively and the cultists drag the screaming fishman away.....

Back in the present, the Heroes have assaulted the cult's lair below the lighthouse and confronted the halfling boss. Two large, lobster-like monstrosities emerge from the sea to defend their master. The halfling boss brandishes his Staff of Talos and projects a bolt of lightning across the cave, striking Miasma and knocking her down! The chuul scuttle forward and grapple Poddlebrim and Nimin in their vice-like claws. Stinging tentacles paralyze the tortle monk, but Nimin resists the effect and flies into a murderous rage! Sir Henry charges the halfling boss, cutting his opponent down in a single blow! As its host dies, the parasitic critter nestled in the halfling's stomach is ejected from the wound. Sir Henry cries out in horror as pale tentacles lash out. The mutative slime splashes Sir Henry's exposed flesh and he falls to the ground as his body is wracked with violent spasms....

Nimin and Poddlebrim are still grappled by the chuul. Poddlebrim's shell begins to crack under the pressure! Endon and Ezeke rush to aid their friends and the chuul are slain. Darvin sees Sir Henry fall and casts Magic Missile, splashing the juvenile aboleth across the altar... but he is too late, Sir Henry has been transformed into a horrid fishperson!!
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Season One / Session Six (Part Two)

Poddlebrim claims the powerful Staff of Talos and gains the ability to cast Lightning Bolt (recharge 6). Ezeke considers his spell list and concludes he cannot reverse Sir Henry's fishy transformation. The Heroes take a long rest before exploring any more of the cave. Miasma slips into a trance and receives a vision from her parents, the King and Queen of Drura! King Tarsus implores his daughter to return the Algorstone to Jaanalume, lest terrible destruction bring the elven nation to ruin. Miasma is kinda "meh, not my problem."

Well rested, the Heroes forge on. They find crates of clockwork components stolen from the hold of the Ambuscade. They also find the Captain of the ship, a gold dragonborn called Tukvo locked up alongside Sir Basil Fondlewood. Captain Tuk agrees to ferry the Heroes to Seasend Isle, which is no great inconvenience as he was heading there anyway. Darvin berates Sir Basil for abandoning Miasma in Keria and losing his men. Sir Basil's moustache droops with shame and he asks that the Heroes give him the opportunity to regain his honour. Sir Henry grudgingly agrees. While Sir Basil may be an arrogant fool, he is still a sworn knight of Eastening and deserving of a second chance.

The Heroes board the Ambuscade and prepare to cast off! Darvin delays long enough to set most of Whalewater Landing on fire. The ship slips from its mooring and sails due west, into the glowering black clouds that plague the Stormwrack Gulf.

Keeper Wick emerges from his clifftop cottage to watch the town burn. A sudden gust of wind blows the hat from his bald head. He looks up to see a large, undead wyvern perched atop the lighthouse! Sitting astride the wyvern's back is the half-orc necromancer Mazoga Strongtusk! With a choked cry, the old man retreats inside his cottage and bolts the door. Mazoga doesn't notice, her attention is fixed on the Ambuscade as it sails into the heart of the storm. She gives the order to pursue and several dozen skeletons charge into the burning village and comandeer a small fleet of fishing vessels. Mazoga's gaze falls upon the skeletal leviathon washed up on the beach and her tusks curl in a wicked grin....


Season One / Session Six (Part Three)

Huge, grey waves toss the Ambuscade around like a toy boat in a bathtub. A cry from the crow's nest - the lookout has spotted a dark shape in the water! Something large crashes into the hull, below the waterline!! The deck pitches violently and Miasma is swept overboard!!! The other Heroes look for her, but she has disappeared beneath the churning water. They do spot a 30ft long skeletal shark circling around to ram the ship a second time! Captain Tukvo pulls a lever beside the wheel and an auto-loading ballista rises from a hatch in the foredeck. Darvin straps himself into the gunner's seat and opens fire!

Meanwhile, several small fishing boats are approaching from the rear. Each vessel is crewed by a half-dozen seafaring skeletons! Poddlebrim brandishes the Staff of Talos and calls down lightning to destroy the necromancer's fleet!

Endon moves to the starboard rail, wondering how he can help out. Suddenly, a zombie wyvern swoops out of the sky and attempts to snatch him from the deck! Endon rolls away and the wyvern becomes tangled up in the ship's rigging. From her position astride the wyvern's back, Mazoga demands that Endon give her the skull. Endon unbuckles his pack (which contains his cookpot, which contains the cursed skull of Urim Rex) and throws it into the hold. Mazoga dismounts to go after it. Endon and Ezeke give chase, while Sir Henry, Poddlebrim and Nimin engage the skeletons who managed to get aboard. Darvin sees the wyvern tangled in the rigging and shoots it with the ballista, impaling the monster to the ship's mast!

Below decks, Captain Tuk's crew frantically repair the damage done to the hull. The hold is partially flooded with seawater. Mazoga splashes forward, reaching for Endon's pack and the prize within. Endon swings his sword and cuts off her outstretched arm at the elbow! She retalliates by casting Blight. Ezeke tries to talk his sister down, but she cannot forgive how the people of Eastening abuse and mistreat half-orc hybrids. Endon rudely interrupts their conversation by disembowling Mazoga! She staggers backwards and falls through the ragged hole her skeletal shark had chewed through the hull, dragged down into dark water.

With the necromancer on her way to the bottom of the sea, the skeletal shark breaks off. The Heroes finish off the last few boarders then gang up on the wyvern.

The Ambuscade sails on and soon reaches Seasend Isle, a tropical paradise hidden away in the eye of the storm. Dense, jungle surrounds a smoldering volcano in the centre of the island. The Ambuscade docks at Last Harbour and Captain Tuk supervises the unloading of his cargo, while the Heroes explore the town. They soon learn that Last Harbour is populated exclusively by clockwork men and women, constructed by Tyrsientom in his workshop.

At this time, there has been no sign of Miasma. She is presumed drowned. The Heroes take a moment to remember their fallen comrade, then head out into the jungle to find an ancient gold dragon.


(Oops, I forgot to mention that during downtime, Nimin reinforced Poddlebrim's cracked shell with metal plates, increasing his AC by 1.)


Season One / Session Seven - Season Finale!

Miasma opens her eyes and finds she has washed up on the sandy beach of a remote, tropical island. Beside her lies the lifeless sleleton of a giant shark, run aground in the shallows. Footsteps in the sand lead away from the skeleton, into the jungle. Miasma follows the tracks, but is stopped by a clockwork girl called Pinion, who warns her that the jungle is dangerous. Glorious Leader Tyrsientom has not maintained his guardian beasts and several have malfunctioned, attacking without provocation. Pinion offers to lead Miasma to Last Harbour, where she is reunited with the other Heroes.

The Heroes offer to escort Captain Tukvo's convoy to Tytsientom's workshop. The Ambuscade's cargo is loaded onto wagons harnessed to mechanical mules. Ezeke is dismayed when he realises there is no living game to hunt on the entire island, only clockwork critters constructed in Tyr's workshop.

The convoy sets off! Soon, the trail is blocked by a mechanical triceratops. It appears to be docile, but it is still in their way. Sir Henry edges forward warily, trying to shoo it off. Suddenly, the head of a huge, clockwork tyrannosaurus lunges from the jungle and bites the mechanical triceratops in half, showering Sir Henry with fragments of twisted metal! The tyrannosaurus turns its predatory gaze upon the convoy. Nimin the Perturbed mounts one of the mechanical mules and rides into the jungle. The clockwork tyrannosaurus gives chase, leaving a swathe of destruction in its wake. The Heroes thank Nimin for his sacrifice and continue on!

The convoy reaches Tyr's workshop. A bronze golem guards the entrance, but it recognises Tukvo and steps aside. Tyrsientom welcomes the Heroes in human form (resembling Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future). He gives the Heroes a tour of his tower, showing off the unfinished clockwork dragon he is working on. The chest cavity is unhinged, revealing a glowing red orb riding within. Darvin accurately guesses that the red orb is a Sphere of Dragonkind. Tyrsientom is impressed by the mage's knowledge.

But the Heroes didn't come all this way to admire fancy balls! They've got a cursed skull to destroy! Tyrsientom knows of a ritual to destroy the skull, but it requires the blood of a warrior who has bested the Orking in life. Sir Henry's grandfather (Sir Aelfred) was one of the twelve knights who felled Urim Rex fifty years previously. Tyrsientom acknowledges that his blood might do the trick. The ritual will summon shades of those twelve knights, whom the Heroes must overcome to prove themselves worthy of the power to destroy the skull.

Tyrsientom performs the ritual on the roof of the tower, using Sir Henry's blood to paint arcane sigils on the skull. The spirit of Sir Aelfred appears, accompanied by eleven other knights of Old Eastening. They fight!! Each time the Heroes defeat a knight, their spirit takes the shape of a sword hovering above the cursed skull. Sir Aelfred is the last to fall, smiling proudly at his grandson as he too takes the form of a glowing blade. The twelve swords blur and merge together into a single blade. Sir Henry grasps the hilt and swings the sword at the skull of the Orking...!

Suddenly, a portal opens behind Sir Henry, as Mazoga teleports onto the roof! She lunges for Sir Henry's unprotected back! Darvin throws himself between his old friend and the necromancer's blade! Mazoga's knife sinks into Darvin's chest! Sir Henry destroys the skull!

Darvin falls, Mazoga's knife embedded in his chest. The necromancer drops to her knees beside him, gathering up the shattered fragments of the Orking's skull. She is numb; after all her hard work, her plan has come to nothing, foiled by her idealistic brother and his selfless allies. Ezeke stands over his misguided sister and encourages her to repent. Between ragged breaths, Darvin tells Mazoga that he forgives her for stabbing him. Mazoga agrees to accompany her brother on his journey and seek atonement for her sins. Sir Henry is far from happy with this turn of events and warns Mazoga that he will end her life if she betrays the group.

While Darvin may have forgiven Mazoga, he is still dying. The blade she stabbed him with carried a powerful drow enchantment and his wounds cannot be healed with curative magic. Tyrsientom believes that water from the elfsprings in Drura could save the wizard. The Heroes decide to sail for the icy elven nation at once! Miasma also needs to return the Algorstone to her family in Jaanalume, so the Heroes can kill two dragons with one black arrow. Perhaps they can also find the means of returning Sir Henry to human form?

Mazoga animates the skeletal shark to tow the Ambuscade. The Heroes decide to leave without telling Sir Basil, stranding the shamed knight on Seasend Isle. Miasma later discovers Pinion has stowed away on the ship. The fate of Nimin the Perturbed is unclear, though rumours abound of a crazed gnome barbarian riding a clockwork dinosaur....



Thus ends Season One of The Vanguard of Eastening: Sacrifice & Redemption. We played the first session of Season Two last night, which I will write up eventually, but the game is now on hiatus until November (as someone else is going to run Curse of Strahd and I'm having a break from being the GM).


Season Two / Session One

Having obliterated the skull of the Orking and reformed the necromancer bent on his resurrection, the Heroes board the Ambuscade and sail north, to the icy elven nation of Drura. The temperature plummets as they traverse the Great Northern Sea, sudden flurries of snow make the deck treacherous with ice. The Ambuscade passes floating icebergs occupied by colonies of vicious dire penguins. Eventually, after the better part of a month on the open water, the Heroes reach the harbour town of Neverthaw.

Miasma immediately notices that the climate is much colder than normal. The Rimefloe River leading north into mainland Drura is completely frozen over. The Algorstone begins to pulse with power as it draws closer to the elven heartland (Miasma gains the ability to cast the Freezing Ray cantrip (2d8) as an action).

The docks in Neverthaw are in chaos. A line of elven guards are trying to hold back a horde of shouting commoners. The frozen river forces Captain Tuk to anchor the Ambuscade some ways out and the Heroes must gingerly cross the ice to reach the town. Suddenly, the mob surges and breaks through! Dozens of people start charging across the ice, towards the ship. Sir Henry implores the crowd to turn back, but is trampled underfoot for his trouble. Poddlebrim and Miasma combine their magical talents to create the illusion that the ice is breaking apart under the weight of so many people. The terrified commoners panic and retreat to dry land.

The Heroes question some of the scared townsfolk and learn that a terrible ice giant called Feldryd Frostmane has lead an attack on Jaanalume and slain King Tarsus! Miasma lets slip that King Tarsus was her dad and she is a princess of Drura! Captain Elanil Eilsalor of the Elven Guard overhears and recognises Miasma at once! The good captain spouts some more exposition and explains how she lead the refugees from Jaanalume south and is overseeing their evacuation by sea. Two problems;

1: she doesn’t have enough boats to evacuate everyone safely, and

2: there is a horde of yeti on route, led by an abominable yeti called General Vatash.

The Heroes volunteer the Ambuscade to help evacuate the civilians and agree to help Captain Elanil defend the walls, buying Tukvo the time he’ll need to clear the harbour. While Miasma inspires the troops, Sir Henry raids a warehouse for barrels of flammable oil. Darvin and Ezeke move the deck-mounted ballista from the Ambuscade to the back of a wagon, that they can move to where it is needed most. Poddlebrim meditates and Endon Ettin-Slayer (preceded by his celebrity status) basks in the adoration of his adoring fans. Mazoga Strongtusk (guest player Sant) visits the infirmary and ‘recruits’ a half-dozen dead elves to the defence of the town.

A fierce blizzard rolls in, reducing visibility. Large, lumbering shapes approach under cover of the snowstorm! The yeti attack! The zombies under Mazoga’s control shamble forward and elven archers detonate the barrels of oil strapped to their backs. BOOM! The enemies’ frontline is decimated – but the battle is far from over! The yeti’s prove to be amazing jumpers and leap right up onto the walls! Darvin, Endon and Pobblebrim hold the eastern wall, but the yeti overcome the elves along the western wall and swarm into the streets below. Ezeke and Mazoga teleport (Dimension Door) to the cart-mounted ballista and hunt down the rampaging beasts!

General Vatash assaults the gatehouse. Captain Elanil intercepts an attack meant for Miasma and loses her life. Sir Henry clambers up onto the battlements to challenge this abominable foe! Vatash exhales his icy breath over the walls and both Sir Henry and Miasma are frozen solid! The abominable yeti begins tearing down the gatehouse, stone by stone! Pobblebrim darts across the collapsing roof and clouts Vatash with his Stunning Fist! The General is stunned (or doomed, as is often the case after Poddlebrim stuns something). Darvin finishes the stunned General off with a barrage of Magical Missiles!

Darvin uses his magic to thaw Sir Henry and Miasma from their icy prisons. They both require urgent medical aid. The elven refugees escape aboard the Ambuscade, leaving the Heroes stranded in Drura, until Captain Tukvo can return to pick them up. With Captain Elanil dead, the surviving elven warriors turn to Princess Miasma for orders. Miasma hand-picks a squad of five warriors to serve as her honour guard while she traipses across the frozen countryside, leaving the rest to garrison Port Neverthaw.

The Heroes learn that a powerful wizard has erected a magical barrier to protect the town of Windstall from wandering monsters. Perhaps this wizard can reverse Sir Henry’s fishy transformation – or direct them to the fabled elfspring where Darvin’s curse can be lifted? The Heroes harness a pack of huskies to sleds that will carry them across the tundra and set off – FOR ADVENTURE!

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We picked this campaign back up for a six week run, starting 11/11/2020.

Recap of Season 1
After defending the village of Weem's Hollow from various low-level threats, the heroes return to their base in Knightsbridge to turn the tide of an orc raid. The heroes learn the orcs were lead by Ezeke's long lost sister Mazoga, in an attempt to steal the skull of infamous warlord Urim Rex from the town's museum. The heroes embark on a quest to destroy the dangerous artifact for good, by delivering it to the gold dragon Tyrsientom on Seasend Isle.

The heroes cross the haunted kingdom of Keria. Darvin is assailed by the ghosts of his past and the party detour to the ruins of Kerr to defeat the treacherous hag queen Neia Blackblood. The heroes reach the coast and seek passage across the sea. In the fishing village of Whalewater Landing, they uncover and disperse an insidious cult, but not before Sir Henry is transformed into a fishman. The heroes befriend gold dragonkin Captain Tuk and board his boat, the Ambuscade. During the crossing to Seasend Isle, the ship is attacked by Mazoga and her undead minions. Mazoga is seemingly slain during the fierce battle.

The heroes reach Last Harbour and gain entry to Tyrsientom's workshop. Tyrsientom is building a huge clockwork dragon, powered by an orb of red dragonkind. To destroy the skull of the Orking, the heroes must perform a dangerous ritual and defeat the ghostly guardians of Olde Eastening, including Sir Henry's storied grandfather. The skull is obliterated! In rage, Mazoga re-appears to cut down Sir Henry, but Darvin intercepts the attack and is bought low by nefarious drow poison coating the blade. Ezeke urges his sister to repent her sins and the troubled siblings are tearfully reunited.

To find a cure for Darvin's condition, the heroes must travel north, to the icy realm of Drura. Miasma reveals she is daughter of the elven king. When the Ambuscade docks in Port Neverthaw, the heroes learn that King Tarsus is slain, at the hand of ice giant Feldryd Frostmane, and the harbour is besieged by monstrous yeti! The heroes defeat the yeti commander and break the siege. The heroes learn of a powerful wizard living in the town of Windstall and set out across the snowy landscape.


Vanguard, Season Two/Episode Two

Swift sleds drawn by packs of tireless husky carry the Heroes of Eastening across the snowy plains of Drura. They are joined by an entourage of five elven guardsman, loyal to the late Captain Elanil, now pledged to protect Princess Miazma. To the north, they see the ruins of Jaanalume, fallen capital of the elven homeland, but this is not their destination. Instead, the party make for Windstall, a fortified trade post on the western border of the country, where they have hope to find a wizard powerful enough to break Sir Henry's curse.


The Heroes;

Sir Henry (Sarge), human knight of Eastening, transformed into a kuo-toa by the slimy caress of an abominable aboleth.

Endon Ettin-Slayer (Garuda), halfling paladin of... I'm not sure. Is there a God of Cabbages in this setting? Also, one randy mofo, by all accounts!

New Setting Lore: All halflings are horny, like, all the time.

Miazma Cunningbitch/Drura'duin (Jim), half-elf rogue, recently revealed to be the runaway princess of Drura. She carries the Algorstone, treasured family heirloom and, as it turns out, key to saving the country from catastrophe.

Poddlebrim (Tom), tortle monk, travelling the wide world in search of new techniques and, hopefully, a protege to whom he can one day pass on his accumulated skills and wisdom.

Darvin Buckwild (AndyB), human warmage, recovering from PTSD. After being struck down by a cursed drow weapon, he is afflicted with a terrible wasting illness that prevents him from recovering HP.

Ezeke Strongtusk (Val), uncouth half-orc cleric. He carries a dead badger (called Bernard) in his trousers, and occasionally talks to it.


The weather gradually worsens, and soon the sleds are travelling through a fierce blizzard. Flurries of snow make it difficult to see, but Miazma's keen eyes pick out shaggy shapes closing in on the convoy. A pack of five Winter Wolves attack! One of the elven guardsman is dragged off the sleigh, his throat torn out by wolfy jaws. Unfortunately, he was driving - and the directionless sled careens out of control! Ezeke leaps across from the adjacent sled to take the reins. Another elven guard is frozen solid by the wolves cold breath. Poddlebrim leans out to discharge the Staff of Talos at the pursuing beasts, only to be snatched off the side of the sled!

Realising they can't outrun the pack, the party halt the sleds and form up on the snowy ground. The hungry wolves surround their position. Darvin summons a giant hand made of snow, which grabs and crushes the body of a helpless wolf. The rest of the pack attack! Suddenly, a winged shadow swoops down and snatches up the foremost wolf in its claws, carrying it high into the air before flinging it against a rock. The remaining beasts scatter as the flying menace circles round for another pass.

The creature lands nearby. It is an armoured wyvern, ridden by an elven guardsman in a tight-fitting leather flight suit. He introduces himself as Watcher-Captain Eldar Eilsalor and offers them escort to Windstall. Miazma relays the sad news of his sister's death in defence of Port Neverthaw. Watcher-Captain Eldar takes the news as well as can be expected, given the circumstances. Darvin and Ezeke recover the bodies of the two dead elves, so the appropriate funerary rites can be observed.

The Heroes reach Windstall, a town built into the sheer face of an icy ravine that exits in the Mammoth Tundra, a wild land populated by nomadic tribes of gnome barbarians. An elevated platform, powered by run-off from the mountain lakes above, carries the party high above the frozen ground. Ezeke urinates from the edge of the platform, blessing the common folk below with a golden shower of warm piss. Watcher-Captain Eldar leads the group to the tower of Windstall's resident magician. Miazma immediately recognises Archmage Abras Cadabras, her father's chief magical advisor, and one of her many tutors growing up in the palace.

Archmage Cadabras has a lot of info to dump, but before he can really get going, the Heroes insist he reverse Sir Henry's fishy transformation. The archmage thinks there is a scroll of Remove Fish Curse in his basement/storage area and gives Miazma the key to go look for it. Meanwhile, he and his gazer familiar Xip will research sites of elven springs, where Darvin's illness might be cured.

Miazma, Endon and Ezeke head downstairs to find the scroll, while Sir Henry goes for a last swim in an icy mountain lake. The wizard's basement is full of magical junk; Endon finds a Potion of Growth, Ezeke picks up a Potion of Fire Breath and Miazma collects a toy pipe that produces multi-coloured bubbles. Miazma spots the Scroll of Remove Fish Curse on a cluttered desk, beneath a human skull paperweight. A large bell jar full of floating eyeballs watch her curiously. As Miazma reaches for the scroll, the skull burst into flame and casts Fireball. Things quickly deteriorate from this point forward.

Poddlebrim hears the explosion, but thinks nothing of it. He also manages to ignore the smoke rising from the beneath the cellar door. Sir Henry towels himself dry and rushes to investigate. Meanwhile, back in the basement, the jar of eyeballs shatters and the contents form a large oculo swarm. Ezeke is confused by the maddening gaze of a hundred different eyeballs. Endon and Miazma feel a dreadful pressure building in their skulls, as some unseen force attempts to pluck the eyeballs right out of their heads. Endon staggers away, temorarily blinded, but Miazma stands her ground, fails her second save and is permanently blinded as her eyes pop out and join the swarm. The cellar door bursts open and Sir Henry joins the fray. He strikes down the flameskull. Ezeke recovers his wits and destroys the oculo swarm.

Miazma claws at her empty eye sockets. Endon scoops up a handful of intact eyeballs off the floor and tries popping them into her head, with horrifying results. Fortunately, Archmage Abras can craft a new pair of magical eyeballs and sets to work on that immediately, apologising profusely for not warning the party about the dangers they might face in his basement of horrors.

(Slight ret-con there, but I'll e-mail Jim about this shortly)

The wizard uses the scroll of Remove Fish Curse to remove the fish curse on Sir Henry. He is a man again, huzzah! Abras has also located the site of an ancient elf spring, in the mountains to the north, but before the party head out, he still has all that sweet info to dump;

When the Algorstone was stolen, the defences of the kingdom were greatly diminished. An army, lead by frost giant warlord Feldryd Frostmane marched south. He left a not-insignificant number of hobgoblins to besiege Fort Icewatch and marched the rest of his army on towards Jaanalume. He was met mid-way by King Tarsus, who fell in combat against the giant. His body - and the Elfblade of Druraduin - still lie upon the field of battle. Feldryd is accompanied by a pair of young white dragons. He seeks the Algorstone, because it is a shard of a greater artifact called an Orb of Dragonkind.

Miazma confesses that she stole the Algorstone. Archmage Abras is dumbstruck by her foolishness, but relieved she has now returned the stone to Drura. Hopefully, she and her companions can remedy some of the harm her actions have wrought. Darvin is incensed that Miazma's selfishness has brought such ruin on her kingdom and storms out of the tower. Will the Heroes forge ahead without their warmage, or can Miazma find the words to reconcile with her troubled friend?

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