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So, after a brief discussion about whether we should even go down this hole, we started piecing together a plan. Not only would our Darkvision not work but none of our heritage artifacts would either. The last time that happened was in the church so we postulated that maybe this was holy ground. Druid holy ground? Ezra sent more rope up. Kharn hauled up Loki, gave him a lit torch and lowered him back down. It turns out, the pool wasn’t that big nor was the chamber. With an athletics roll, he managed to swing Loki to the dry land. He tied the rope to some roots and Loki did the same onto some rocks. Eventually everyone came down and reequipped. The dim light seen in the distance turned out to be a Driftglobe which Loki took. (Eventually it ended up with Kharn.) At this point, characters started disappearing. Along with our rope. What followed was a series of induvial encounters as we wandered the maze of The Between. One background oriented and one combat oriented. Some worthwhile information was gained but I’ll probably forget some of it. In no particular order.
We started with Loki. He encountered his mother raccoon. She advised him to get rid of his evil bag of bones. When his turn came around again for his second encounter, he fought Wintersplinter. He only lasted two rounds before dying. Kharn fought and died at the hands of the legendary Yeti. His other encounter was a ghostly Vastini girl. I don’t recall what she said.
Lord Q got a visit from the Raven Queen. She said that this place was outside of Stradhanya’s control and any auguries he had done came from Stradhanya. Dave was a bit perplexed since his Warlock powers come from the Raven Queen. Or do they? She told him to get rid of the bird cage as it was controlled and powered by the Kraken/Drowned God/rival evil power in this land. I believe she hinted that the means to destroy it was down here. When Lord Q requested proof she was the Raven Queen and not Stradhanya again, she gave him a Light cantrip and recharged his spells. I’m not sure that was proof but no one else got so much as a lousy t-shirt. For his combat, his fateful servants came out and demanded that he sign a new contract, pledging to the Drown God. They had been secretly working for him all along. Dave did his usual arguing and they eventually attacked. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any real powers so it didn’t really go anywhere. I think the Kraken then arose from a pool and swallowed him whole.
Kaladin fought Granny Momo. She pumped Magic Missiles into him and he tried to entangle her in her own dress. That got a little weird, with Brian playing the part of an old woman. I think he was killed eventually. On his next spotlight, he encountered his grandfather, a silver dragon. He demanded to know why he hadn’t returned to his castle in Barovia. Kaladin asked where it was. I can’t remember the name. He said it was a castle that hosted the silver knights which protected this realm before Stradhanya came. Grandad suggested he restart those knights. Pointing out that he was a Monk and not a knight was dismissed with a wave. Kaladin asked about the dream telling him to kill his friends. He was told that the evil gold coin was messing with his head. He advised he should destroy it. He asked how. In this land between realms, it was possible to do so. Evidently it has been enhancing his dragon powers.
Ambrus saw that human lady that was once his friend, Esmerelda. She was concerned that he was dead, in the land of The Between. It was clear, they were once very close. She was glad to see that he had rid himself of that “awful dagger”. The dagger other visions had indicated had the ability to kill the vampire. With Ambrus’s memory loss, he was at a loss. She told him his lock and key tattoos had the power to break the connection assumed that’s how he did it. So maybe he could do the same for the rest of us. He already did so for Zolton? She awaits him in Kresh, evidently. Now that the wine has returned, maybe we can get in there. She, and several others, advised us that the only way out was down. His combat was against the demon we encountered in the sewers; I think. Again, he had no chance although Brian seemed to enjoy beating on everyone regardless. Ambrus was one of the few that actually got away.
Lastly was Ezra. He encountered the vampire Father Lucious. With his smites and save bonuses, he managed to get some significant damage onto him. But then Wade started using his legendary actions and Ezra was killed. His back history encounter was with that lady from his past. She encouraged him to continue the fight. I’m not sure what else. She did ask him to visit her final resting place. When he asked where that was, it turns out she was that spirit that raised us from the dead so that we could defeat that child stealing demon. That is where we got the Holy Avenger sword. I’m not sure if anyone but Wade had pieced that together.
Eventually we all ended up in the last room with a pit going down. Some were prepared to just jump in as a leap of faith but it was pointed out that it was climbable. It was 120 feet down. Kaladin had 100 feet of rope which would give us advantage on the first 3 climb rolls with 1 without. We took a long rest first since those that were killed earlier were at 1 hit point. We had Good Berries to eat and 3 magical lights so that wasn’t a problem. Kharn went first, forgoing the rope. The rest went in turn. Ezra fell and took 6d6. Irena fell and took 9d6 and was knocked out. Ambrus fell and took 6d6 and Lord Q fell and took 4d6. Love those skill challenges. Kaladin stowed the rope and flew down. Except that it was too tight so he had to make a roll as well. He missed and used 2 inspirations to succeed.
That got us down to another plateau with another 50 foot climb. This time we were smarter and had Kharn lower us down, one at a time. And then he climbed down. And then Kaladin was to fly down but when the light sources had all left, he was attacked by the darkness. (Dan: Yeah. That happened. If I had magic missile I would have attacks the darkness back) He then flew down. There were millions of bones, littering the floor of this vast chamber. We could hear dogs howling in the distance. We started along the cliff bottom, staying together. We passed stairs going up but we were told to go down to get out. Eventually we were attacked by dogs, charging in from the darkness. There were those 2 headed Death Dogs with 2 attacks of small damage but a poison save. There were two Death Heads that flew, did damage and restrained on a failed save. And there was one Death Hunter caster. He did a Death Bolt which did 4d8 plus a save for something. He Counter spelled Lord Q’s Fog Cloud. He finished off Ireena with a Chill Touch. So, it was a fight. We did a decent job, concentrating fire on injured ones. We could not see the caster so he was untouched for several rounds. Kaladin was paralyzed (restrained) by a Death Head and fell from the sky. But he saved the next round and avoided being turned to stone. Loki was poisoned by a dog, giving him disadvantage on attacks but the tide had turned by then so it wasn’t a big deal. Ezra cured that disease with his Lay on Hands. Ireena started low due to her long fall and was out fast. But she made several death saves until Loki could get a berry into her. After 3 rounds, it was just the caster and a dog. We pummeled him but he used a Dimension Door and got away. There was no treasure, of course.
Brian said that it was possible to finish the dungeon in another hour but no one believed him so we stopped there. Ezra did a Prayer of Healing, Ireena used her last two healing kits, Loki loaded his last shots and we took a short rest. We’ve been told that 6th level awaits us on the other side. The means to destroy these artifacts may be Ambrus and the key may be that this place, beyond her reach, is the place that it can be done. It seems pretty obvious we are to get rid of them. I, for one, will be sad to see mine go. It’s the best thing about my character. (Dan: So far the only thing I used from my heirloom was the 10 feet addition movement. Now its only 50' instead of 60'. On the other hand no one is mind controlling me or trying to turn me into an Illithid, so I guess I came out aghead.)
Jon has started a 1st edition D&D campaign after having a bout of nostalgia. Hello and welcome! Brian has had an unfortunate case of death, brought on by a virulent bout of Balorism. Goodbye!
Our trusty raccoon-shaped plucky hero went to Disneyland, so the half-dragon is narrating the night events. As is typical, when a player is missing we enter an alternate reality where they never existed. We really missed the berries and the gunpowder.
The night starts with Iribella (bratty seer kid) talking to Zoltan about the link of the amulet to the plane. He further talks about his dreams in regards to the tadpole in the amulet. Using his racial fear resistance he looks inside amulet and sees the tadpole he dreamed about. Yay, at least his dream made some sense. Shuts the lid of the amulet quickly, so the tadpole doesn't escape. Zoltan wanted to break the bond to the item but Jon's character, who started to do so previously, is not there. PMS, Player Missing Syndrome. Afterward, Paul talks about his desire to kill the humans in his dreams and the little seer clarifies how the amulet restricts it.
With the other part of the group, Bray(the child) told Ezera that the guards are looking for Zoltan and Lord Q at the Bluewater Inn. Our paladin casts Gentle Repose and wakes the party. Ernst and Riktavio come to discuss 'donations' for 'clothing' and invites him to discuss what Lady Watcher (Fiona) can do for him and the church. They dress Lord Q in a disguise and Kaladin as well. Meanwhile, Karn wanders over to the church since we never showed up. The sword from the huntress of the Ogre magi reacts as he comes into the church. Ezera realizes it was the sword of his fiancee and Karn and him swap weapons. One of Fiona’s servants goes to get (and disguise) Zoltan so he can join us with the meeting.
We discuss an alliance against the government(Revolution) because Fiona’s daughter, Stella, was driven mad. She now acts like a cat. Zoltan tried to use detect thoughts but found nothing. Karn attempted to communicate with animals and did not get anything either. The brilliant plan is to create a disturbance to “show the town how it really is”, however, the party needs to go to the Abbey before they commit. It's so stupid it just might work! Or not.
During the meeting, a servant ran in to get us. One of the servants was wounded and the Father’s body was stolen. Karne was able to start tracking the scent of the dead body. We trailed behind with a pathetic attempt not to be seen together. We tracked the body back at the church. People dressed “like us”, as in people trying to be incognito, had taken his body and run back through the church to the crypt. Lord Q, who had stayed behind with Fiona, eventually wandered lazily through town with an escort. When we finally break into the crypt Lord Q finds his way there, despite doing his best to avoid going there.
After putzing around for an hour in the crypt(this was the DM delaying things rather than the players), we finally pushed the sarcophagus aside and found a hole under it with a rope ladder leading to a large cavern. We found a stairway down and a stone table where Father Lucian’s body was. Ezera sensed evil so we determined we were too late. He had been turned into a monster in the hour or so it took to catch up to him. When we tried to put him to rest (kill him) 6 wights flew out of the ground. One jumped up and hit Kaladin. Apparently, wight guys CAN jump. After a round Ezera did a critical smite on the dormant Father and did 86 points of damage... it only did moderate damage. His eyes did open though. On his action, he leaped onto the ceiling, only to be grappled on pulled off the ceiling on Karne’s action. Despite being a Legendary creature Karne rolled a natural 20 (30 modified) and Father Lucian rolled a natural 1(modified 5). He did make up for it by biting Karne and healing a little. He then turned into a bat to escape, then summoned 8 swarms of bats.
Zoltan was irritated by this, so he dropped a fireball on EVERYONE. 22 points to everything in the room... almost. The paladin had his aura from the holy sword up which gave everyone an advantage on saves and a few had resistances (Kaladin took 5 points) so it worked out. Father died... but used a Legendary action to make his save. Then immediately died again but used ANOTHER Legendary action to turn into a mist. Kaladin did his breath weapon twice and took a few bats out as well as Zoltan. We had no healing berries, so the paladin had to heal him. Then Karn went down, and Zoltan healed him. We finally got rid of the wights.
At this point, it was 1:30. So we storyboarded Ireena using her vampire lore book to inform us that the misty vampire was using the desecrated table/altar to heal. The solution was to have the cleric and paladin consecrate the altar so he couldn’t recover. Brian gave Ireena the kill. “Well done, Ireena Kolyana that’s the deadliest thing you’ve put down in your adventuring career.” Kaladin’s deadliest enemy is a swarm of bats... ouch.
I had some minor surgery on my foot about a week ago. Nothing serious, just an outpatient procedure. I have to stay off of it for a few weeks during recovery. My job has allowed me to work from home for the duration. Fortunately, I am allowed to walk enough to go to the bathroom and the kitchen but most of the time the foot should be up. My job has allowed me to work from home for the duration. My kids have still managed to step on every part of my foot except the part that has the surgery on it. Am I paranoid or are they really out to get me?
Note: Review #5 of the Drunken Monkey Book Club.
The Drunken Monkey Book Club hasn't met in a few months. Partly due to some confusion as to what was scheduled to be reviewed and when it was scheduled to meet. Since I did read the book I thought I would publish the review anyway.
Review by Daniel Ruth
Fast forward several months. This is the second half of the previously reviewed 'Peace Talks'. We didn't have to wait too long for this, telling me what I suspected. This truly was the second half of that book. That one ended rather abruptly, feeling like it was only half of the story. Well, here it is.
This jumps straight into the war preparation. As expected there is a lot of internal sniping and arguments, showing a truly huge amount of disunity. There's a few times they are criticizing Dresden as some of his subterfuges have been exposed. For example, people seem to know that he was around when Mabd was kicked through the wall but not precisely what he was doing. However, they know they don't like it. The constant criticizing him being the Winter Knight is also kind of wearing. It's not like it's a position he can retire from so why are they whining about it? It also seems odd that they are telling the second in command of the Winter Court (wait... 3rd?) what duties he can and can't do. Early on there are hints that he will get kicked off the council for... well, a conflict of interests. Which probably made the most sense of everything though they hint it's a plot from the Black Council.
When the fighting starts it begins hard and continues through most of the book. There should be a meme about Dresden constantly getting crippling injuries yet shrugging them off and fighting normally the scene. This is pretty odd since they repeat over and over that the Winter Knight magic only dulls pain and doesn't actually heal you. After a while, you get numb to it. I don't really buy it, but I suppose it makes good storytelling... or thrilling fights... kinda. The fights are fast and furious against overwhelming odds. They do explain in-story why he doesn't run out of magic energy in the beginning and when later he has to conserve energy but considering how long the battle lasts I guess they had to explain it somehow.
People die. People who you saw mentioned many books ago and you see again just long enough to remember who they were. I have to admit it crossed my mind that it may be a good way to clear out useless characters or reduce the sheer number you have to keep track of. There are also a few that really have an impact. Big impactful names. I won't spoil things but people who matter die too. It's hinted in a way since there is a war in the making and frankly everyone is wondering if they will die. The exact way they died is an interesting twist. I definitely didn't see it coming. Weeks after I read the book I still can't decide if the twist minimizes the death or brought home how fragile life is, even if the characters themselves feel larger than life. So... it made me think and that was good. It made my heart twinge and that was good.
The end of the book shakes things up bigger than a world-sized snow globe. The government now knows about the magic side of things. There is no going back on that. That ship has sailed. Interpersonal shake-ups, political shake-ups. Changes. I really approve. Nothing says that the story is progressing like changing everything. Most of the changes you'll just nod at. Others you might shed a tear at. One surprised me so much that much like Desden I just sat speechless for a minute as I let my brain catch up. A change so terrifying and powerful, yet made so much sense afterward.
Yep. This is the book where the old gets swept away and everything afterward is a new and shiny unknown frontier. Excelsior!
Andy notified us last week that his game is on hold. We all wish him the best and hope he can restart when it's convenient for him.
DaveG and Andy couldn't attend, so I will try to record a series of very unfortunate events.
First thing in the morning we rolled against the dream cakes. Those that failed the saving through felt the need to eat the dream cakes rather than wait for breakfast. These are the cakes we flat out told the old lady selling them that they were probably made from ground bones. Yum. Zolton had bought extra and offered everyone a hit of these addictive treats. During the night Karne and Kaladin stayed up to watch for the first half of the night and we witnessed a red parade of the dead from the house's balcony. Apparently, most nights the dead killed in apprisings to Strahd rise from the dead and do a spectral march towards... maybe Strahd's castle? I wasn't sure about that.
After breakfast, we all went to the Church's graveyard to put to rest Ireena's father. Zoltan did a lovely ritual... wait. That was the alternate universe. In this one, he rolled a one and completely flubbed the ceremony. It was dreadful, but we all told him it was lovely. Immediately afterward we were attacked by swarms of rats and bats. Then a pack of wolves attacked us. Strahdanya was also at the edge of the graveyard with two dire wolf guards. She charmed Karne to come to her (ie, he can do anything he wants as long as he uses his movement to go towards her). I assume this was through the bite she has already done on him. She also called him Tatius. Possibly a previous incarnation of him.
As a side note, we have a new timer for people's actions. So far DaveS has the record at 17 minutes for a reaction and an Arms of Hadar. He has since made it his goal to delay other people's turn so he doesn't have this record anymore Zolton was able to use Hold Person to stop him from kidnapping himself but we used a ton of inspiration each turn because Karne made every saving throw. The GM was kind enough to allow us to use inspiration to allow him to re-roll for a chance to miss the save. At this point, a vampire shadow elf showed up gave Ambrus an invitation to the castle from Strahdanya. The remaining wolves backed off and we were left wondering what the point of it all was.
When we went back to Ismark's place he offered a walking stick for anyone that could wrest it from his grasp. Karne raged and rolled a 19 and it didn't budge. Zoltan cast Command and told him to drop it but it hovered in the air. Lord Quevan did a quick jerk and failed. Ambrus did the slow pull and it didn't work. Then Ireena tickled him and pushed a button to deactivate the effect. It was an immovable rod. In the morning we made another save for the dream cakes. Only Kaladin failed and ate his last dream pastry. Then we stocked the wagon and left the city to escort Ireena to Veloki.
Note: Review #4 of the Drunken Monkey Book Club
Review by Daniel Ruth
I read about Vlad Taltos for the first time about 30 years ago. He's a smart, witty, rogue with a cutting tongue and a plan for every occasion. He's also an assassin. However, he's so friendly you may just forget that he may be the deadliest thing on two legs around. Well, except for his friends. They are far deadlier.
This book may have been one of the first in the urban fantasy concept. There are extenuating circumstances, of course, in that it takes place in another world. With an alien race similar to humans but with a lifespan of thousands of years. They also have characteristics of alien animals, of which each book in the series is named after. Despite the fantastical setting, this feels like an urban fantasy. It has all the earmarks of the genre, first-person perspective, witty stream of consciousness, and politics. Frankly, with the world-building integrated so smoothly into the point of view description, it just doesn't feel alien. It like your favorite urban fantasy detective stepped into the next world over started a business while you weren't looking. He just does "work" on the side.
It's hard to imagine an assassin as a hero. Or at least now it is. When I was younger pirates and assassins could be heroes and rescue the maidens with the best of the heroic legends. Nowadays, it's a bit harder for me to reconcile the two, but Vlad is just so darn likable. Sure, he kills people but, at least the ones you know of, they were bad people. There are unpleasant hints that this wasn't always the case but the events in the books are, for the most part, heroic tales. The darker side of the story exists, but with Vlad's inner conversation whispering in your ear, he convinces you... and himself, that he has the moral high ground, or at least it was done for the greater good.
This is true throughout the entire series. The world he lives in has vibrant politics and conflicts and it's hard to find what you would consider a truly moral person. The various alien "Houses" each have their own morals, which we find out is actually firmly embedded in their genetic code. This makes some interactions extreme, yet understandable once you know the rules. It's actually interesting to see how humans interact with species that have certain behavior partly hardwired into them. Once you understand the world he lives in, you also start to understand how Vlad turned out to be that cheerfully witty killer, doing the best he can in a rather brutal world.
Although this was the first book in the series, the later books are not written in chronological order. Despite this, the book is self-contained and has everything you need to get to know who Vlad is and start to peek into the world around him. Every book is mostly like this, each one making the world's lore and politics richer and more real. You don't need to read these in chronological order to understand the world, but if you want to, the author has a handy timeline to help you out. The books have been republished from their original form into several omnibuses in the order they were published. If you choose to follow the timeline it is still easily done.
No matter how you choose to read this series, the world will delight and flood your senses with many morally ambiguous heroic actions. I am sure you'll be able to convince yourself that everything he did was absolutely necessary just as Vlad convinces himself.
Brian is starting a new campaign in the Ravenloft setting. While he is encouraging odd races from the base books (Player's Handbook, Modenkainen's, XAnathar, Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, Elemental Evil Player's Guide, and Volo's) all other sources are discouraged with the possible exception of Eberron. Starting racial feat, +2 to stats with a base distribution of 15,14,13,12,10,8. There will be Heirloom magic items that grow in power (1st, 4th, 8th, 12th). Campaign is expected to go through level 15th. An additional +1 to any stat is given if a character history is provided.