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“Take him,” the priestess said. “But we hold his soul in exchange for our freedom. He will be made whole once you leave our caverns.”
The dwarf was quite banged up, and a quick healing word from the ranger stabilized him, but he was in no state to extract himself from the caves. Guided by serpents under orders from the yuan-ti and observed by yuan-ti soldiers from the shadows, the party was lead to the crypt of Didarius, where the secret door was closed and the sounds of a violent dismantling of the door’s mechanisms could be heard from the other side of the wall.
The only other obstacle that the party had to face was the group of bearded devils that were left sitting in the commissary. Unsure of how they’d react seeing their master mostly dead and being carried by the party, they allowed the warlock to cast Dimensional Door to a further room in order to take the dwarf ahead while the rest of the party sauntered past the devils like nothing had changed.
With the tomb behind them, the party used the summoning seal that Amonfel gave them for use once they found Varrum, and they rested while they waited for extraction. During this time, the dwarf admitted that he was the White Wyrmspeaker Varrum, and that he had lost the dragon mask that he’d been entrusted with. His trip to the tomb was an effort to retrieve the mask, but he and his party were ambushed by the yuan-ti only to see in the tomb’s scrying pool that the mask he was chasing was already back in the possession of the Dragon Cult. He knew that he could never return to the Well of Dragons, as Severin would torture him and use him in the ritual to summon Tiamat. Instead, he offered his knowledge of the cult to the council in exchange for asylum.
Amonfel and the Boarskier paladins arrived several hours later and escorted the party to the the paladin’s stronghold where they and Varrum were portaled back to Waterdeep.
+ + +
There’s not a whole lot to say about this week, I guess. We had left off in the middle of combat last session, and we hit the ground running this week. The battle itself was straightforward, thanks to our notes, although the…highlight…of the evening was the use of a rabbit as an improvised weapon. Sorry, a polymorphed yuan-ti in rabbit form as an improvised weapon. Unfortunately this action came almost right after the ranger opted to call for surrender, so I’m sure that the barbarian’s insistence on wielding a rabbit was the least expected action that could have occurred, but in hindsight I suppose that since he was in the Frenzy state and not making sound decisions at the time, there’s some kind of rational explanation in there. Maybe.
Still, I think the party needs to shore up its game plan. Had the barbarian’s assault with a deadly rabbit actually done some damage, then the possibility for surrender would have been shut down and the yuan-ti’s slaughtered. That might have lead to a more difficult time getting out of the tomb, and with Varrum in such a sorry state, he might not have made it out alive. All in all, things worked out as well as they could have, but party cohesion is something that the group has had trouble with in the past, and is compounded by a rotating lineup of players. Hopefully we won’t need to go through the hiring process again, and things can start to come together over time.
Varrum’s capture is most certainly a boon for the Council. On one hand he’s a Greek Chorus of “what’s going on with the cult”, but on the other hand it might make sense: Varrum is a morally bankrupt, self-serving dwarf, which is partly what lead him to the cult in the first place. But he’s not stupid: he knows that there’s absolutely no way he can return to Sevrin and be welcome, nevermind return to his position as White Wyrmspeaker. He’s got no other option but to spill what he knows and hope for some degree of leniency from the Council.
Next week is going to focus on the results of Varrum’s interrogation and what the Council has learned both from the dwarf and from the interleaving period between sessions. It’s also time for an accounting of the Council’s attitude towards the party per the RoT score sheet. The end of this chapter granted the players a new level, and thinkfully it seems to be a rather boring level that won’t require too much downtime for decision-making and character sheet-updating.
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The ranger cast silence to get away from the barbarian’s running commentary.
After having freed the unusually buff wizard Dimsdale Buttertub from his cell, the party returned to the yuan-ti sleeping quarters, defeated the curious lizard folk, and reclaimed the halfling’s possessions. Being the completionists that they are, the group opted to backtrack a bit and head through a set of doors that they hadn’t yet investigated.
The found themselves in a room which appeared to be dedicated to yuan-ti meditation, as it was filled with reed mats and reeked of some kind of incense. In the corners were two large statues of yuan-ti deities which had rubies for eyes, but at the feet of one of the statues was a rusty suit of armor, and at the feet of the other was an unconscious tiefling in cultist robes.
Suspecting something amiss, the ranger nudged the cultist with his foot while drawing back on his bow. While still under watch, the party assisted the tiefling warlock by healing his wounds and helping him back to consciousness just as snakes began to pour into the room like soccer hooligans from the local pub. Although the party prepared to fight several hundred individual serpents — somehow — they were surprised to find that the snakes coordinated their actions and slithered into the suit of armor, effectively creating some really creepy Helmed Horror that was ready to take on the party. Now at full strength, however, the group proved to be more than a match for the animated suit, scoring several critical hits to the armor which sent the snakes slithering back into the walls *shudder*.
Still, the party decided they could use a rest, so they retired to the prison block, which was deemed the most defensible area they’d encountered thus far. After a short rest, they used the keys previous used to release Dimbulb Butterball to open the heavy metal door at the far end of the room and found themselves outside what appeared to be a yuan-ti temple.
Several large stone serpent statues lined the walls and lead to a dais upon which was an altar. Several yuan-ti were engaged in some kind of ritual there, but the party’s attention was drawn to the priestess who seemed to be in the readying some kind of ritual sacrifice of a bound and bloodied dwarf who matched the description of Varrum the White.
Although the yuan-ti had heard the party’s approach and were waiting patiently for the group, the party wasted no time opening fire in the crowded temple. Shrewdly, the warlock cast Polymorph on the ritual priestess, turning her into a rabbit that bounced ineffectively around the room. A yuan-ti abomination, a massive serpent with a wicked scimitar, slithered forth to engage the party at their chosen choke-point in the doorway to the room.
Actual Polymorph representation
+ + +
I think this is the shortest recap I’ve written so far.
We gained our fifth and final player this week, a tiefling warlock, whose introduction was rather abrupt but after having spent two weeks trying to get our previous player into the mix, I wanted to make sure everyone was involved this week. His basic story is that he was trailing the cult for reasons as yet unwritten, infiltrated their party as a cultist himself, was discovered, assaulted, and left for dead as Varrum’s group found they were on the end of a losing battle with the yuan-ti.
I realized from the few encounters this week that the period of pulling punches is kind of over; the original text required two Helmed Horrors, but unsure of how effective the party would be, I cut it down to one. I should have left them both in there. The temple yuan-ti are at full count, but not full strength: I had originally had FG set enemies HP to “Maximum”, but dialed it back to “Standard” which I thought would be more manageable. Not only should it be a challenge, but because we’ve only got two hours, I want to make sure things flow well and that we can get to gameplay other than just a single fight per night. Still, I think I might set the HP to “Random”, which will assign HP to enemies between their potential minimum and potential maximum hit dice values.
Now with five players, the advancement is slowing considerably. We’ve got more role-playing going on, which is always nice, but can take up a lot of time if it’s RP for RP’s sake. The barbarian has a schtick where he thinks he’s a wizard with a tendency to call out his spells that are really just melee attacks, and now the warlock seems to be very interested in engaging the barbarian IC, turning this into the weirdest episode of The Odd Couple that has never been filmed. We spent a good amount of time during the short rest watching these two getting to know one another, which was fun, but we certainly want to make sure that everyone is paying attention to the game as well, and not just using this time for improv theater. In fact, something happened that I think totally went over everyone’s head because there were so many voices going on that I don’t think anyone heard me mention it multiple times. I’m not going to mention it here and let them backtrack, though. We’ll just call this a Learning Moment.
We also had an issue with Discord about 3/4 of the way through the night, where voices were becoming garbled for some. Eventually it seemed to come back online, but it was disconcerting to say the least. For a few minutes we tried playing via the chat window, and while it would certainly cut down on the amount of superfluous method-acting, it was a terrible and painfully slow way to get info across.
And a shout out to our bard Tinda for her liveblog of the session. If you want more details on the session, want to see how D&D 5E plays out, or just want to wonder how we get anything done, check it out!
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The party was in a bind. Several lizardfolk had been dispatched, but one escaped. One was barely conscious, and somewhere in the maze of cavernous hallways, a person was screaming. Not screaming in pain, but screaming like how someone probably screamed when they learned that Firefly isn’t being resurrected.
The only way forward was down a set of increasingly damp and mossy stairs that opened into a cavern with a 120′ drop into darkness. The only way across this chasm was over a narrow stone bridge that was covered in slick lichen…and was manned by three lizardfolk and one of their buff half-human, half lizard soldiers. It was apparent that the lizardfolk wanted the battle on their terms, opting to lure the party onto the bridge, but the party wasn’t having it — at least, not initially.
The bard cast Thunderwave, which succeeded in letting the lizards know that the party was approaching, but which did not have the desired effect of clearing the bridge. The ranger opted to not get too close, and managed to remove at least one lizard with a volley of arrows. That left the monk — the melee, in-your-face, flurry-of-blows carrying monk — to make his move.
Almost as soon as he set foot onto the bridge, the monk knew he was in trouble. The moss was too slick to maintain proper footing, and the gnome toppled over the side. Seeing as how his monastic training prepared him for all kinds of Jackie Chan-level shit, he managed to grab ahold of the bridge ledge before plunging to his Doom. A nearby lizardfolk found this particularly intriguing, and started to bash at the monk’s fingers with his club, but the monk endured.
Not wanting to be out-action-heroed, the bard bolted down the stairs and upon reaching the bottom, used the slick bridge to her advantage, sliding over the slick surface like a Bo and Luke Duke’s stumpy, more inbred cousin (who you know had to exist in Hazzard Country, people). She slipped past the lizardfolk that was looming over the monk, and before heading over the edge herself, grappled the monk’s arm and successfully used Dimensional Door to teleport the two of them back to the top of the stairs.
Misunderstanding the point of a “learning experience”, the monk once again set foot onto the bridge…and once again slipped over the edge. This time, his training betrayed him, sending him plunging the full 120′ feet into the pit below. If anyone had to fall, however, it was best that it was the monk. He managed to summon his powers of…I dunno…falling like a boss, I guess? Anyway, he didn’t die; he didn’t even get scratched, really. But he was quickly joined by the corpse of the last lizardfolk that fell due to his own stupidity. But wait! There’s more! Snakes began to issue from a hole in the wall, dropping into the ankle-deep cesspool.
At this point everyone probably decided that being a monk wasn’t so bad, because the gnome started to claw his way back up the craggy walls of the pit he was in. He was able to reach most of the way before he failed to find further purchase, and was left hanging about 60′ short of the lip of the bridge.
The ranger and monk took care of the last yuan ti, and then carefully made their way out onto the bridge with a rope tied around the ranger’s waist. The monk had to jump for the rope (a 50′ rope was just a tad bit too short), but managed to ninja that bitch and secured a ride topside once again. This time, the party connected themselves using the rope like rock-climbers do, and since no good deed (or idea) goes unpunished, the monk fell over the edge again.
Once on the other side, the party followed the sounds of screaming. As they moved throughout the caverns, the random shouting began to sound more like shouts for assistance. After identifying and skirting a dart trap, the party found a rather boisterous halfling imprisoned in an ancient cell. It seemed that this “wizard” had been captured and was being held as a sacrifice for the “dark pool”, which the party had taken to mean the strange pool they’d encountered on their way into the Didarious’ crypt. Never to look a gift party member in the mouth, the party helped secure the halfling in time to find that their exit was now being camped by a party of curious and on-edge yuan ti.
As the party filed into the room to begin the battle, the “wizard” was the first one into the fray. Unarmed and unarmored — and suspiciously sans magic despite his penchant for shouting out sketchy spell names like he was a character in some 1980’s Japanimation series — this “wizard” proceeded to punch, kick, and headbutt every yuan ti he could reach. Aside from barely leaving bruise that would raise little more than a question in about a day or so, he was remarkably on-target. His constant annoyance allowed the party to land several blows on their yuan ti aggressors, including a Hail Mary shot from the bard’s dusty crossbow.
+ + +
Adventure Co’s party has been in flux lately, but we’re slowly re-filling the ranks. This was the second week we had a session with our newest member Paz, but the narrative put us into a place where we couldn’t organically work him into the story. Thankfully, the caverns had a prison, and that prison is mentioned in the module as being specifically for pre-sacrifices to be held. We didn’t cover how Paz got into that situation, but I can leave that to him to decide, if he likes.
Since the party was understaffed at the top of the hour, I had to cut back on the encounters. There were supposed to be a lot more enemies on the bridge than the party engaged with, and culling their number turned out to be a good idea: the bridge itself was an enemy, especially for the harried monk. When I say that it was a good thing that it was the monk, I’m not kidding: his Acrobatics was his best ability, and what allowed him to hold on after the first fall. His falling damage mitigation literally saved him from death when he did fall. And his Acrobatics helped him climb back up to the bridge when the ordeal was all over. Overall, this section would have lasted a whole lot longer if we’d used the number of enemies that the module wanted us to use, and since we really wanted to get the “wizard” into the party sooner than later, I felt that we struck the right balance of gameplay and expedition.
This session saw more criticals than any other session we’ve ever played, I think. We had at least two critical successes, but there was a disturbing string of natural ones being rolled on both sides. One roll caused a yuan ti’s bowstring to snap, and another caused a yuan ti to lose his balance on a swing of his club, sending him over the edge and into the pit below. Critical fumbles are one of the most difficult things to deal with for me. A CF means that the action screwed up really bad, and should have some detrimental consequence. One of the attackers embedded her sword in a statue on a CF and lost her Multiattack ability, for example. Some consequences come naturally, but a lot of the time it’s a fine line between something stupid like “your [Whatever you’re relying on] inexplicably crumbles into dust”, and something creative that seems entirely natural happening as a result of plain old dumb luck. I admit to conveniently ignoring consequences most of the time, but the amount of failures that were dropping in seemed to be just too much to gloss over, seeing as how critical success is baked into Fantasy Ground’s automation.
We’ve also managed to pick up a fifth player who is currently in the midst of character creation, but who has a stub of a magic user defined. He wasn’t able to join us this week due to a prior engagement, but I will now have to look ahead to see if there’s a way I can fit his appearance into the current situation. I have one idea, and with any other party it might seem horribly contrived, but with the turnover we’ve had, and with the temperament of the group in general, I think that the added firepower and the act of returning the party to full strength will allow everyone to overlook the deus ex machina of the idea.
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Sometime between last session and this session, the composition of AdvCo…changed. Gone were the waladin and the druid, called off by some unheard yet apparently powerful klaxon that demanded their attention. In their place saw the return of the dwarven fighter who had been with the party since the beginning, but who ran off with her long lost love only to show up again because apparently dwarven marriages are modeled after a Talyor Swift relationship.
After the party destroyed the mosaic chimera, they decided to check out the sloping hallway. A careful Perception noted a strange, recessed panel about half way down the hallway which the party took for some kind of trap; the ranger carefully yet quickly stepped past it with no adverse effect, so the party opted to continue on. Unfortunately, there was a trap situated in the floor of the tunnel which released a 7-foot diameter sphere of undead bones from the top of the incline. The ranger, fighter, and dwarf hauled ass as the sphere gathered momentum and rolled after them just like you’re picturing from Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the bard was unfazed. She quickly deployed Thunderwave to knock the Ball ‘o Bones back up the chute with enough force to send it flying into the mosaic room, where it broke apart on impact.
The room they entered at the end of the tunnel was unoccupied, although they had another episode of invasive thoughts, this time invoking Mystril, the goddess of magic. The bard didn’t know much about the deity herself, but she did manage to recall something about the rites performed by her priests involving a penitent stance…the same kind of stance that was depicted on a set of double doors on the opposite side of the room. Performing this ritual allowed the doors to open, and the party quickly moved on.
Here was a throne room. The dais was fashioned as if it were a cloud, shot through with periodic bolts of lightning and behind the throne itself was large copper sun. Sitting on the seat of honor was a massive alabaster figure, all He-Man’d out in a toga, and sporting a flowing white beard. At its feet was an eclectic pile of “treasure”: there were some valuables, but there was also a lot of seemingly worthless objects d’art such as toys, wooden cups, and scraps of decaying paper. The figure on the throne suggested that donations were greatly appreciated, so everyone in the party threw in a few coins based on what they could afford. This action left them feeling appreciated, and they all took to Facetome to humblebrag about their generosity #blessed.
Another room to the south turned out to be a library. An empty library. As the party looked around and stirred up dust, the motes coalesced around an otherwise invisible figure. When proded, the figure manifested as a rather angry, intimidating spirit that demanded to know why the party was there. Were they seeking to pillage Didarious’ considerable stash of knowledge? No, the party replied. They were simply seeking wisdom from Didarious himself. At this, the spirit chilled a bit and reverted to its former, lifetime visage: a slight, despondent young woman who admitted that Didarious hasn’t been seen for some time, but he’d surely be happy about the job she’d been doing in maintaining his library. No one in the party had the heart to tell her that there were no more books to maintain, so they closed the door and moved on.
To the north, a plain door opened onto a downward staircase at the bottom of which could be heard low, unintelligible yet somehow refined voices. Five infernal figures were seated around a table in this dining room, and when the party entered, barely offered them a lingering glance. The bard used Tongues to translate, and learned that these bearded devils were employed by Varrum, who had gone on ahead but who ordered them to wait in this room. The party didn’t ask why, although the ranger was itching to put not one but two arrows into the back of one of the devils. A quick investigation of what the devils called a “treasure room” on the far side of the dining room revealed a door marked “DANGER!” in chalk, so the party bypassed the infernals and followed the path of Varrum unmolested.
The connecting room was a long gallery flanked by worn pillars, and at the far end, illuminated by impossible shafts of sunlight, was an enormous copper bowl resting on a plinth of marble. The base was carved with unfamiliar images, much like the frescos outside the tomb itself. The bowl was empty, but the room showed signs of battle: broken arrows littered the floor, blood-stains were everywhere, and oh! there was a cultist corpse at the foot of the bowl’s platform. Although the ranger was still concerned about the devils in the other room, he opted to gather some of the rather elaborate arrows that were still in one piece, and the party followed the direction of a blood smear that lead to another set of double doors.
The tomb of Didarious. Richly but sparsely appointed, the focal point of the room was the crypt of the dead wizard flanked by eternally flickering braziers. Following the blood trail through the room, a voice emanated from the crypt itself: ” I know you’re looking for Varrum, so let me help you out,” it said in paraphrase, and a hidden panel on the opposite wall swung open to reveal a contingent of six yuan-ti who were put on high alert as soon as the door started to swing open.
The party managed to dispatch the lizards save two: one who fled, and one who was kept alive for questioning.
+ + +
This session rendered almost 1000 words, and could have generated more if A) I wanted to be more explicit, and B) could remember everything that happened. Suffice to say, it was quite eventful, a lot got done while also very little got done, and the party progressed quite well through a dungon which I had thought might end up being the end of the team.
This session turned out to be a great case of careful application of situational awareness and quick thinking, from blasting the bone-sphere back up the hallway with Thunderwave to the application of historical knowledge and relatively light puzzle-solving. It was good to see the party thinking in-character, choosing and using their skills, and bringing a little of the game system to the table. I’ve always maintained that TRPGs are free-form structures that allow you to use or discard as much or as little of the rules as you like, but at the end of the day the mechanics exist to model Nature, Chance, and prevent automatic successes on every effort, so while we pick and choose, using the mechanics certainly can lead to some otherwise unforeseen situations and cement success.
On the other hand, the party didn’t spend a lot of time in one place for very long. Granted, this tomb seems well picked-over and there’s not a lot going on. They group didn’t spend time with the library spirit, and although they joked about it, no one made any move to take anything from the treasure pile in the throne room. I think part of the reason is because we picked up a new player since last week, and the party might have been (consciously or subconsciously) trying to get to the point in the story where he appears. I’ve got him placed within this map, but he might show up next week if the party reaches that spot. Gina the dwarven fighter was taken over by another player who unfortunately has an erratic schedule that prevents him from being a regular player, but was welcomed in this week all the same. WA joke was made about how characters have been swapped for new characters so often that no one bothers to address the discrepancy, kind of like the switching between Dick York and Dick Sargent on Bewitched.
And now the post title makes sense!
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The airquote town of Boarskyer Bridge airquote was nothing more than a collection of tents and carts, reminiscent of that crappy carnival that the the local Lions Club insists on bringing to your town once a year…the one with the questionable rides run by people of questionable origin? You know the one. But this airquote town airquote was the last known location of a dwarf fitting the description of Varram the White, a confidant of the leader of the Dragon Cult and owner of the White Dragon Mask.
Bolo’s Tentside Inn was where he had been seen, so the party ducked into this airquote unique airquote establishment to talk to the halfling proprietor, Bolo. She was interested in the arrival of an obviously wealthy party, but was more than happy to talk about the heroic dwarf who stabbed a airquote snake person airquote to death right in her very tavern! Turns out the yuan-ti of the Serpent Hills (natch) were engaged in a cold war with Boarskyer Bridge, occasionally sending down poorly concealed spies to gather intel on what they believed to be a pending invasion of their lands (pending for the past 20 years no less). When the dwarf had inquired about a guide into the hills, this spy turned unspylike and confronted the dwarf, demanding to know his business, at which point the dwarf gutted the snake on the spot. Then he and his sizable entourage beat cheeks for the hills unguided.
The ranger was able to track a party north towards the Serpent Hills along a relatively unused hunting trail which lead the party to an elaborate cliffside tomb. There were signs of occupancy — live occupancy, although also dead occupancy as the party found seven recent, hastily dug graves outside the tomb. The bard insisted on using Prestidigitation to dig through the graves to ensure that none of the corpses were dwarven, and satisfied that they were not, covered them over again as the party moved towards the tomb.
Before they could close the distance, two ginormous but worse-for-wear statues flanking the path grinded into motion, turning towards the party and capturing their attention. “Didarious grants knowledge, and Didarious grants wisdom. What do you seek?” they asked in unison.
“Wisdom,” the waladin replied almost instantly, and the statues seemed content with this, returning to their original positions.
The tomb was apparently a magnificent sight, carved into the cliff-side and made up of a series of interconnected caverns. The first room that the party found was well lit and flanked on both sides by statues of wizards, their faces heavily obscured by deep cowls. In each of their minds the party felt someone speaking to them: “Don’t look into the darkness”…so they didn’t and plowed right through the room.
The next room was quite the contrast. It was a square room topped by a high dome, lit by shafts of sunlight streaming through slits in the ceiling. The floor was a beautiful tile mosaic of a knight wielding a flaming sword, locked in mortal combat with a chimera. To the north was a single door, and written in chalk on that door was the word “Safe”. To the east were two tarnished copper doors emblazoned with an image of a wizard ritual around a dark pool. Those doors bulged outward in an unnatural fashion. To the south, an open archway lead to a declining hallway.
As the party investigated the room, the tile chimera burst from the floor to attack. This construct was the length and height of a chimera, but had the thickness of a single tile, making it difficult to hit for the ranger who attacked with both swords. The monk opted to pummel the mosaic with his bare hands, while the waladin took several whacks at it with his quarterstaff.
The bard opted to employ Shatter, thinking that such a spell was a natural fit for battling a ceramic beast. She aimed the spell as far from the party as possible, to the corner on the opposite side of the two-dimensional creature. But the shockwave of the spell, buffeted by the backstop of the room’s walls, caused the chimera to buckle outward, spraying it’s tile-blood towards the party members who were arrayed around it.
The party quickly mended what they could, and finished beating the tile-chimera into a pile of small squares. Upon investigation, the titles seemed to be alive with a jittery force, clicking and clacking on the stone floor. The druid considered casting Mend, but thought better of it; best not reconstitute a foe, in case the results were less than desirable.
The room to the north turned out to be a circular room whose only features were a well with a copper bucket, and a strange basin attached to the eastern wall. Beside the basin was a lever. Once again, the word “Safe” was written on the wall here, but the party was wary of such insistence, and decide to skip the layover but not before noticing the small, slimy mushrooms that grew around the well. The waladin collected a few after recognizing them as nutritious if not particularly tasty.
+ + +
When reading about Didarious’ Tomb, I realized that this was Old School D&D: a dungeon with inventive traps and a lot of opportunity for a heads-down party to get into trouble. Sometimes this party has a habit of hacking first and asking questions later, so I was concerned that brash behavior would be naturally punished. I made a comment on Twitter denying responsibility for a TPK (total party kill), which the group took to heart: they spent the better part of the trip into the Serpent Hills discussing a strategy for taking or killing the dwarf they were seeking as if they expected him to be dug in with an army at the head of the trail.
Reading ahead, I like this segment because of it’s throwback qualities. A lot of Hoard and the initial parts of Rise have focused heavily on story and roleplaying, which is to be expected when you’re talking about a campaign that stretches over two modules. There’s not been a lot of areas designed — sorry, engineered — in the traditional “dungeon” fashion that older D&D players remember as the hallmark of almost every D&D game. This tomb isn’t just a hole in the wall; it has purpose, whatever that purpose may be, and it’s designed to showcase that. It’s a challenge to run, though, because to do such a design justice requires a good description, and I hope I’m able to do a good job of it.
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When we last saw our Heroes, they were huddled in the waladin’s room, examining the books taken from the room of Maccath the Crimson, while Maccath herself stood in the doorway where a few seconds before a door had stood.
The consensus among the party members seemed to be that these books were too powerful, that Maccath seemed a bit too eager to have them, and that the Arcane Brotherhood were a bunch of mystical ne’r do wells who couldn’t be trusted with such immense power. Maccath’s argument was that the books were once in the possession of the Brotherhood before they were stolen by dragons over a 100 years prior, and that it was her responsibility (and let’s face it, her honor) to return them to their rightful owners.
The party went into full spin-mode, with both the bard and the waladin attempting to Persuade Maccath to the contrary, but she was one half-key turn from going full Day After Tomorrow to listen. Thankfully Lerustah, the Council-sponsored liaison and captain of the Frostskimmr, was more than moved by the party’s explanation and stepped in before the inn became a smoking crater. After getting both sides to the story. Lerustah strongly suggested that the books be held in the secure hold of the Frostskimmr until they reached Waterdeep, at which time his crew would turn the whole lot over to the Council to let them make a decision on the fate of the tomes. The party was satisfied, as this was what they claimed their plan to have been all along, but naturally Maccath was still extremely pissed.
While the ride home was tense, it was also uneventful. The party was met at the Waterdeep docks by an honor-guard from the Council who took possession of the magical books and scrolls for their trip back to the Council House. There, Lady Silverhand, Lord Neverember, Onthar Frume, Sir Isteval, and “Thunderspells” Hornblade were the only council members in attendance, and they listened to both the party and Maccath.
It was Lady Silverhand who rendered the judgement, thanking the party for recovering the lost lore. It was too powerful to be left out in the wild. However, it was the rightful property of the Brotherhood, having been stolen from their considerable archives a long time ago. She declared that this was a fortuitous but awkward situation, since the Brotherhood had been adamant about remaining outside of the brewing conflict, despite the Council’s repeated overtures towards and alliance. Silverhand saw the return of their lost property as the first step in a quid pro quo that would bring the Brotherhood into their struggle against the Dragon Cult. Needless to say, Frume — a paladin of the Order of the Gauntlet — was severely displeased by this, and left the room after Silverhand’s decision. Maccath, on the other hand, insisted that she be the one to hand over the materials, since as far as she was concerned they stopped being “lost” the moment she gained possession of them back on Oyaviaggaton. The Council members agreed and she and the materials left the room.
On the subject of the actual mission, the party informed the Council that the draakhorn had been taken away a few weeks prior by three, purple-robed individuals, with no information on where it was taken. The Council had suspected as much, since the horn was apparently being used, but had hoped that Maccath would have been able to provide some insight to help the Council discern the location of the Cult’s HQ.
Being only one night of rest of the wicked, the party was quickly informed that the Council had gained some intel about a member of the Cult’s inner circle. Varram the White, one of Severin’s core lackeys, was seen around the area of the High Moor just a few days ago. There was no report on why he was there, but the fact that one of the Cult’s key conspirators was abroad concerned and piqued the interest of the Council. Neverember asked the party to travel to Boareskyr Bridge to see if they couldn’t pick up the trail of Varram, find out what he’s up to, and capture him if at all possible. If not, dead worked just as well.
After a quick shopping spree in the Arcane District of Waterdeep (their motto: “You open a portal to another plane of existence, you bought it”), the party was teleported by Leosin to a landing zone not far from Daggerford. There, they were met by the Harper that the original party had rescued from having been buried up to his neck in the middle of the road. He was happy to see the party (and their newest additions) and announced that he would be the party’s liaison to the Council while they were working out of Boareskyr Bridge.
The eponymous bridge turned out to be a monstrosity of engineering. Built of black granite and wide enough to allow two lanes of cart traffic, it boasted two enormous arches, one on either end, upon each of which sat a statue. On one, the statue of a warrior ready to strike. On the other, an infernal creature ready to pounce. The bard employed her considerable knack for history (take that, “when are we ever going to use this in real life!”) and identified the two as Cyric and Bhaal, and the bridge as the supposed site where Cyric, a mere mortal, slew Bhaal and ascended to godhood.
Unfortunately the encampment of the same name wasn’t anywhere near as impressive, being a haphazard mess of tents and carts and easily collapsable centers of opportunity that were the only sign of commerce within a few hundred miles. The party ended up at what passed for an inn, and took a few moments to rest.
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It’s been about two weeks since we’ve played, due to Various Reasons. It was a heck of a place to have left the action, though: Maccath had just burned down the inn room door to confront the party over her stolen property, with the party having been caught red handed.
As this was an off-the-books aside, I was a bit concerned. The party seemed rather smug in their decision to try and keep these books from Maccath, and appeared ready to fight her for them. Maccath-as-written was not a formidable adversary, and would have been an easy target for the party. However, there were a few considerations. First, I figured that after spending a few years soaking in the arcane knowledge of those tomes, there’s no way Maccath would be such a push-over. I contemplating jacking her up significantly, almost epicly, because she had to have gained some significant power from those books. But that was the Option of Last Resort, because Lerustah was present and while he wasn’t hired to be the group’s nursemaid, the Council had retained him to assist the party, so blowing up the town of Ironmaster — which is part of his livelihood, by the way — wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest. Lastly, the party really just wanted to let the Council decide what to do with the books, so even if they’d killed Maccath, the Council would have seen fit to return them to the Brotherhood anyway. The net result was that everyone would have gotten what they wanted in the end, except that the party would have gotten in a heap of trouble for striking down a student of the Brotherhood and potentially jeopardizing the alliance between the mages and the Council. Frume would have been pleased, but the rest of the Council would have had second thoughts on the fitness of the party to not go all Lethal Weapon on the situation.
We had a bit of an interlude where we worked with FG and the Party Inventory. The group had a whole lot of gems from Oyaviggaton, and they liquidated that for a heap of gold. A few folks went shopping for some minor upgrades, but overall everyone opted to save their pennies for retirement (I’m guessing).
As I was writing this post, I had to look up some info on the scenario and learned that the place where I dropped the players on the way to Boareskyr Bridge wasn’t the correct location. I’m not sure that it matters, really, except that my geography sucks, because the party will be moving on soon anyway to a place where there’s no ambiguity of location.
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