I had missed the last Adventure Co recap, so we have a double-decker sandwich of shenanigans this week.
No Room At The Inn
The party had been on the road with their caravan for several uneventful days. Keeping a watchful eye on the cult members ahead of them proved to be no great hardship: the cultists obviously don’t want to blow their cover, and tended to keep a low profile while traveling, always segregating themselves from the rest of the travelers at night, and not making any unusual moves such as trying to convince the rest of the travelers to accepting Tiamat as their personal lord and destroyer.
It was a dark and stormy night. Literally. The weather was horrific, with driving rains, whipping wind, and lightning thrown in because it’s a fantasy setting and there’s always lighting to signal the ominous. The first major non-dirt resting place the party came across was the Black Stag Inn, an unimaginative yet entirely rolled-upon-from-the-DM-guide named roadhouse that catered to medieval truckers heading up and down the Sword Coast. The party’s employer demanded they hustle buns in before the rest of the crowd and secure good rooms while she fawned over her horses.
The inn was quite spacious… and quite empty, save for a party of four well dressed men occupying a table on the far side of the common room. The party attempted to gain lodging, but the barkeep informed them that all the rooms had been booked, including the common room. This brought forth a round of giggles from the men in the corner, which only escalated to murmured digs at the players as they attempted to bribe and threaten the innkeeper into renting them some rooms.
Having enough of the dandy’s bullshit, the players pulled up a table (a whole table) next to them, and the two groups began a battle of wits. Having left his wits in his other scabbard, the ranger sought to intimidate the quartet with a well-placed throwing knife to the wall behind one man’s head. Eventually everyone ran out of snark and sarcasm, weapons were drawn, and at the end only one of the smartass men was left standing (kneeling, actually, as he was pretty wounded). He offered the contents of his coin purse in exchange for his life.
Dark Side of the Shroom
When the dust had cleared the players noticed that the rest of the caravan had filtered into the inn, but had kept their distance from the fracas. The merchants were ill equipped to participate, and their retainers weren’t getting paid to start fights in the places where they’d hope to lay their heads.
Two guards from another cart approached the players, however, curious about what was going on: one a cleric, the other a warlock. The cleric freely plied her trade and patched up the wounded party while the warlock joined the party in standing over the wounded enemy like a state road crew around a pothole.
Upon examination of the previously-alive bodies on the ground, the warlock noticed a familiar tattoo on the necks of the dead men: a small, single dagger which he was able to identify as being the mark of assassins in the employ of a minor crime syndicate in Waterdeep, the Northrain family.
The injured man’s pleas went unanswered, and insult was added to injury as the ranger threw him onto a table, while the warlock questioned him about his involvement with the Northrains. All they could get out of him was an admission that he and his party were returning to Waterdeep after having completed a job in Baldur’s Gate. With nothing else to offer, the warlock attempted to end the man using Chill Touch, but only managed to send him into shock.
While the party questioned the dying man, the caravan members rushed to reserve their rooms, leaving nothing for the party except an exasperated innkeeper who was wishing he only had to deal with the four douchebags who at least paid enough to rent the entire inn.
The next morning, the party was awoken by the caravan travelers coming downstairs for breakfast, and the sounds of concern and amazement at those who were getting ready to leave the inn. Outside, for as far as the eye could see, was a blanket of tiny, cork-sized purple mushrooms. Fearing the sudden appearance of the fungi as “not a good thing”, and helped out by the cleric who was suddenly a devotee of a previously unknown mycotic sect that relied heavily on offering tithing suggestions, none of the caravan members wanted to leave the inn.
Adding insult to the innkeeper’s injury, the party opted to trash some furniture to throw out into the mushroom patch. The result was a large puff of black spores. Mr Nature the Ranger identified this particular species as being highly poisonous, causing the caravan members to go into lock-down quarantine mode. The cleric, flexing her medicinal muscle, refuted his assessment, telling people that she has absolutely no knowledge of any poisonous mushroom like this. Just to be safe, the caravan members got away from the doors and windows.
Like any good gamer who’s played his or her fair share of zombie infection games, the party opted to wrap their faces in wet cloth in order to venture to the stable to check on the horses. They were in an absolute panic (the horses, not the party), having stomped all of the mushrooms in their pens to a pile of unrecognizable paste. The spores clung to their manes, and the warlock was only able to calm two nearby animals enough to attempt to lead them out of the stable and into the security of the inn.
One problem. Well, two. First, the innkeeper refused to let horses into the inn. He’s weird like that. Second, the horses were covered with the spores. A small contingent of caravan members who were near the doors and windows when the party tried to shove the horses into the common room started freaking out. Then panicking. Then screaming, and covering their ears, and bashing their heads against the wall. They claimed to have heard screaming from outside. They said that the mushrooms were screaming.
One of the caravan members had an idea: with masks on, what if they just smashed a path through the inn parking lot until they were clear of the infestation. It was so crazy, it might just work! At least, that’s what some of the other caravan members thought, and several of them took up brooms, sticks, scythes, and other implements to sweep the fungi out of the way. Sometimes, the simple answers really are the best.
The caravan members who were trippin’ were loaded into other carts, the horses were hitched, and the group beat cheeks to the road, where eventually the mushrooms stopped being a thing to be concerned about
Except for the innkeeper, who was left with a bunch of broken furniture, a drained keg, and a front yard full of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Needless to say, the party won’t be welcome back there any time soon.
* * *
This was one of several road-side events that are included as “optional” in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen module, offered to break up the monotony of what’s supposed to be a two month trip up the coast. The inn and the mushroom infestation were two different events, but the circumstances — the rain driving the party to the inn, and the mushrooms appearing due to the deluge — were a natural fit.
We welcomed two new members to the Adventure Co Brand Adventure Company last night, @Sarindre (the cleric) and @Elfueygo (the warlock). For dropping into the story with only a cursory overview, they did an excellent job in dealing with the mushrooms, and with the party’s shenanigans!
We also made the switch from Roll20.net to Fantasy Grounds. We had used FG in the past for our very first Adventure Co Brand Adventure (“Keep on the Borderlands”), but it had some quality control issues that sent us to Roll20. Now Roll20 has been acting up, and we had gotten word that it was acting up worse when the participant size reached seven people (which we planned on having, but our dwarf’s home was invaded by family and she couldn’t make it). I think that FG’s 5E support has caused them to pay particular attention to getting things right, and the app seems much more solid this time around. Everyone showed up early to create their characters using the PHB module, but there wasn’t a lot of need to use the mechanics that FG provides. Next time the party encounters combat, however, will be the real test.
There’s still several more optional road-side events we can try, and some necessary story elements that need to be thrown in there in order to advance the plot. I don’t think we’ll be dragging this aspect out longer than necessary though. As fun as these diverse opportunities are for everyone to showcase different playstyles and stretch the imagination, there’s a plot here, and we’ll need to get back on track at some point. Due to our real lives turning this weekly event into a bi-monthly event, we’re way behind, but we are half-way through HotDQ module, so it’s all down hill from here (maybe literally). Hopefully with an expanded party, we’ll be able to return our original, weekly schedule more reliably going forward.