Picture this: You’re floating about a mile or so from the ground on a gigantic ice castle. You’ve just pissed off a white dragon that was guarding the most massive hoard of treasure you’ve ever seen. You’ve just barely escaped from the dragon and have emerged into the castle courtyard just as a ground-shaking roar from the castle caverns causes everyone around you to start freaking out. What do you do?
If you’re Adventure Co Brand Adventure Company, you seek out more trouble.
Not content to exploit the massive amount of damage they were instigating, the party instead took advantage of the general confusion to slip away from the door to the inner caverns. The plan was to approach the first tower they had tried to gain access to by assuming that the fury of the white dragon must surely draw someone out of the tower, allowing them to slip in. But the plan was changed as they eyeballed another tower, this one crumbling and cracked.
There were two doors. One was at ground level, and one opened onto a balcony about 75 feet above them. The door at ground level was mysteriously iced over as if it had never been opened. A quick attempt at Prestidigitation by the bard proved that the ice of the castle was not impervious to flame, but also that melting the ice around the door could take a few hours. Instead, the party channeled their inner Stallones and opted to climb the cracked ice tower to the balcony. Well, they tried to climb the cracked ice tower. Being forest, city, or underground dwellers, most of the party had a hard time figuring out how to use the crumbling ice wall, but they workshopped it through a series of teambuilding exercises, and managed to finally make their way to the overhang above.
Unlike the ground-floor door, this one was perfectly sound, though when the party pushed their way through, they were greeted with an unnaturally dark room. No windows. No lights. Even the party’s universal darkvision was having trouble punching through the gloom, although the most they could discern was the table-like structure in the center of the room. The ranger took point and crept in, keeping his back to the wall. He squinted his elven eyes to try and see something– anything — else, and found it: two gaunt creatures clinging to the ceiling, hissing and clicking their long nails on the icy roof.
One of these creatures pounced, rocketing from the ceiling to swipe at the ranger, while the other creature took up a protective position over the structure in the center of the room. The party piled into the darkened chamber, taking turns slashing at the feral beast that had grappled the ranger and was in the process of gnawing through to his clavicle. The combined effort of the party managed to render the creature to dust upon it’s death, and then turned their attention to the other guardian who had attached itself to the fighter. Now experts in the sport of vampire hunting, the party was able to dispatch this creature fairly quickly.
Confident that there were no more ceiling vampires, the party turned their attention to the stone artifact in the center, a sarcophagus. A relief was carved on top of the structure, featuring an ancient, leafless tree whose rotted roots extended well below ground and entwined a series of decrepit bodies that were attempting to claw their way above-ground. This was not something you’d find at Pier One (Pier One is a pier in Waterdeep that’s farthest from any warehouse. Many merchants opt to sell directly from the pier to avoid having to cart their wares to storage, and as a result, bargain hunters are usually swarming that area. It’s also really crowded, and has an overabundance of wicker furnishings, pillows, and candles.)
The stout dwarf was elected to open the sarcophagus, and with a heave and a ho and a regular push, the lid slid from the coffin to reveal another vampire, although this one better dressed and far less active. As it began to stir, the dwarf cleaved it’s head from it’s shoulders, and an impromptu soccer game broke out. Just kidding: the vampire turned to dust.
+ + +
We had a late start last night, and the party wasn’t entirely sure where to turn after having angered the dragon and narrowly escaped with their lives. Rather than stick around and be identified as outsiders, they opted to circle around the giant ice structure in the center of the courtyard and check out one of the other towers.
There was a bit of debate over the purpose of their mission. The monk wanted to crash the castle, believing that doing so would solve all of their requirements in one fell swoop. I think the rest of the party generally agreed, although it was the requirements part they were getting straight. Originally they were tasked with following the treasure to find out why the cult needed it, and where it was going. Along the way, they learned the purpose, and I think they agreed that if they could stop the cult’s plans, it would be in everyone’s best interest. They were also asked to make Talis the White’s rival Rezmir look bad in the eyes of the Cult by disrupting Rezmir’s task — which was to get the treasure hoard to its destination. All in all, crashing the castle would handle all of that.
But what was causing the castle to fly? How could they disrupt the process and cause the castle to crash? They put their heads together and recalled that during ancient wars between giants and dragons, the giants traveled in flying fortresses to do battle with their draconian enemies. There was a vague recollection regarding something about deceased giants being pressed into service, but no one in the party could remember anything more specific than that, or how a dead giant could be put to work (that’s not the exact line I gave in explanation, but I was tired and unfocused, so this is the line I should have given).
The vampire encounter was a tad bit difficult, mainly because there were two of them, both had high HP, and their Bite attack was incredibly potent. Each vampire spawn healed for 10 points at the start of their turn (handled automatically by Fantasy Grounds!), and each vampire spawn would heal for the amount of necrotic damage they’d do with their Bite attack. We were running behind schedule by a bit, so the vampires didn’t bite as much as they certainly could have, since the 10 HP heal was more than enough to slow their demise. Of course, the encounter took place during midday, which meant the party could have simply…exited the tower and the vampires wouldn’t have been able to follow (yet…). Forcibly dragging the vampire out to the balcony would have negated their regeneration powers as well, possibly making the fight quicker, but they felt that moving the party to the veranda would have caused a scene that they didn’t want to cause.
This was kind of a session that would have really benefitted from a more robust narrative. The party wanted to think about what might make a giant’s giant flying castle fly, but no one’s skills could meet the DC to recall anything specific. Also, no one had any idea about what might be good to fight a vampire (which was well played by purposefully avoiding metagaming). I think everyone — even me — is finding it far easier to bully their way through this adventure than to RP/skill/ability through it. I know that I need to work on some of the minutiae that comes out of left field. The sarcophagus, for example, was adorned with a carving, but after describing it and then reading about the vampire within, I realize it probably would have been better to make the carving of a dracolich or something, since the vampire’s description in the module was that of a faithful cult servant who used to kill dragons expressly to create dracoliches. My lack of attention to detail bothers me because a better description and better minutiae would only serve to make the experience better, and could act as a vehicle for player epiphanies.