We finished a short rest just inside the crypt. There were stairs down into a large room. On the two sides were 3 coffins each plus a larger one dead ahead. However, the most noteworthy feature was piles and piles of coins, gems and rare items. None of us believed it, of course. So, after a couple of rolls, looking for traps and illusions that revealed nothing, Ambrus stepped in. Using his Mage Hand, he touched a gold piece and the spirit we were chasing appeared in the doorway behind him. She said something about disturbing the whateverakov family crypt and prepared to attack. Initiative. Since Ambrus was forcing the action, he got an automatic 20 and went first. He did his sneak attack. Unfortunately, he could not log on and DG was rolling for him. He used the regular dagger instead of the new +3 dagger. Wade was unsympathetic. So, some of that damage bounced. Others attacked as they thought best. When she went, she let loose a howl. Anyone who missed the save, went directly to 0 hit points and started to make death saves. It was a CON save which is not a common save proficiency but a common stat at least. Thanks for coming, Kaladin, Ezra, Ambrus and Petrina. Those that made it, took 3d6? of physic damage. It then attacked with a fearful gaze. All that failed that were frightened, taking disadvantage on every roll plus could move no closer to it. As usual, after round one, we figured we were dead.
Several Skeletons also appeared as well as an actual ghost. The first was technically a Banshee. Both had loads of resistances like most everything we face these days. The program didn’t work right and Ezra didn’t get the advantage he should have on that first save so retroactively he was still in the game, wreaking havoc on the undead as usual. The ghost tried to possess Lord Q but he saved. Noble breeding wins out again. Next it tried to get Ezra but that didn’t work. It did age Ireena 20 years though. DG started pondering the life expectancy of a raccoon. Lady Patrina took out most of the skeletons with a radiant Fireball although it did put Ambrus one death save from death. People were revived and attacked. But the saving grace was that the Banshee seemed to be only able to do that first scream once. Once per round and we’d be dead. So, we kept swinging. Kaladin was revived but was still afraid so he couldn’t move into melee range. After a few rounds, it was all over. When she “died”, we felt a pulse of energy shoot through us.
At this point, we returned the body to its final resting spot to stop the curse of the time warp. Except that no one had brought the body. Doh! And there was no coffin with her name on it. What? So, we were confused and started to panic. Was this all for nothing? Do we have to get the body and do it again? Trying to track these plots over 3 months of real time is tough. Lady Patrina made a good religion roll and told us that she thought we had “done it”. That pulse of energy was her spirt moving on. Hopefully. We all agreed that the treasure was an illusion or trapped or cursed, i.e. too good to be true. Except Lord Q and Lady Petrina who insisted on messing with it. The book was Identified as a Manual of Iron Golems. The trident was +3 but anyone who took something was cursed. Disadvantage on all rolls. Lady Patrina’s Remove Curse spell did no good. Eventually, we were able to move on. I think we took a short rest during all that.
We emerged from the crypt and somehow it was morning. We could see a servant working in the garden. And the manor house looked to be in good repair i.e. as we first saw it and not run down like it was 20 years after the curse. We started to panic again. Do we have to get the body and do it again? All agreed to get out of the maze ASAP before the dog returned. Except Lord Q who was concerned that we might need the crests again to regain entry. As he and Ambrus debated it, they heard the howl again. Luckily, they both saved and eventually we all got out. The servant questioned us and headed to inform the mistress. We decided to go to the front door and ask for food like we had the day before. This time, she looked around 20 years older. There was no party being prepared. We showed her the note and again she recognized her handwriting but didn’t remember writing it. Then she recognized the cloak Lord Q got from the chest in her office. At this point, Ezra decided to “come clean” and told her the whole story. Skipping over the parts about us breaking into her office. She was confused but intrigued. We stayed for lunch. Our paladin rogue offered to return the +3 dagger but she still had the one in the chest. It was all very Back to the Future. I mean if all these people lived another 20 years, did they impact the timeline?
So, she remembered breaking off her engagement but that was 20 years ago. She seemed unaware of any problems in the village but was willing to provide some food. We stayed the night. In the morning, we headed out with a wagon of food. We didn’t get far before we ran into another old peddler lady wandering the road alone. This one was selling tools and such. Ambrus bought some spikes and door stops and overpaid. She gave him a doll that parents give children to protect them from night spirits. He gave it to Ireena. At the gate, Lord Q was welcomed. He triumphantly presented the food and asked who was in charge so that they can distribute it. We were informed that the mayor took his own life last night and that the town had elected Lord Q as the new mayor. He is a Lord after all. After consulting with the town guard, he assigned the lead farmer to be his steward and put him in charge of the food. We started talking about what we were going to say to the Abbot when the NPC noted that the doll was pointing out of town.
So, we voted to follow the doll, figuring it was Wade’s way of guiding us to an adventure. (The fools.) It led us out of town and back to the road. After two nights with no end in sight, we voted to return to Kyresk. Personally, I think it was Strahdanya again, forcing us back to her dinner party invitation. On the way back, we came across a body nailed to a post at a cross roads that wasn’t there the day before. A tracking roll told us they came from the other road. A history roll told us that down that road was the Keep of the Order of the Silver Dragon. A goodly knightly order that was founded by a silver dragon. He was killed and the order wiped out around the time Strahdanya took over. It tied into Kaladin’s back story and destiny but we just could not start another thread so we kept on our original path back. We buried the body and Loki could sense someone watching us. When we pulled back into Kyresk, we ended for the night, still gazing at the monastery at the top of the hill. The same goal as over 6 months and 13 games ago.
Another undefeatable monster
We started at the entrance to the hedge maze. We were armed with the two family crests, seeking two fountains to unlock the crypt. We moved on initiative order which slowed things down. Just inside, we could see the crypt but there was a gate with no lock. We surmised pretty quickly that it was just there to mock us. But we spent some time trying to figure out how to circumvent the maze and go directly in. We could not. We headed into the maze, coming upon twin fountains fairly quickly. Again, we figured that was too easy but spent time investigating them. When Ambrus finally put them in, nothing happened. Meanwhile, every round everybody heard a spirit rattling howl. It was a modest Will save or take a die of physic damage. And those that missed that had another save or be stunned for a round. Loki missed the first one and others missed throughout the night. Those that happened to end up near the Paladin with the round-based movement, got bonuses. We could sense a huge beast flowing through the maze. After a few rounds of bumbling around, it was upon us. By the way, the closer it got, the harder the saves. It went from DC10 to DC15 to DC20. It wasn’t much but it added up.
So, the huge 3 headed dog appeared. Patrina tried to cast Slow on it but was told not to bother to roll as it was immune to that. Loki fired away with his (relatively) new pistols, hitting 3 times and doing a point or two. The Monk hit it several times with various energy types and almost all of it bounced. He did manage to stun it with a couple of Ki points(Dan: it took five points to stun it twice). Then Ezra hit and smitted it with a 2nd level spell and did almost nothing. It broke down like this. It took 10 points off the top for any attack. It was resistant to all damage types tried including magic, all elements, physic, etc. It was immune to necrotic, radiant and crits. So, if you hit for 15, you did 2. It also had advantage on all saves. We quickly concluded we could not defeat it via hit point attrition. Now what? Stand, fight and keep trying things. Flee and try again with a new plan? The trick with that was getting everybody out alive. Right before the fight, Ezra found a statue of the family matriarch. It advised seeking guidance from statutes near fountains in the NW and SE corners. So, we decided to split up. The fastest Ambrus headed NW. Loki and the soon to overtake him Kaladin went SE. The rest, led by slow moving Ezra would try to keep it distracted. And we’d met at the crypt?
So, Ambrus blazed ahead, with NPC Ireena following. The beast ignored Ezra et al and caught up to Loki and Kaladin. It could move through the maze, ignoring walls and opportunity attacks. Kaladin attempt to lead it out of the maze but it didn’t follow. Between the stuns and movement, it final got a chance to attack, criting Loki for 20+ and missing Ezra twice in his new full plate. (3 heads) A round or two later Ambus found the statue and a fountain without water. He attempted to examine it but we were taking damage every round. People were throwing out ideas that Ambrus couldn’t hear. Eventually he just put it in the empty fountain at DG’s suggestion, figuring an empty fountain was still a fountain. The water started and the statue smiled approvingly. The next round Loki did the same in the SE and the crypt opened. So now it was a race back. Ireena got rocked and almost killed as she ran into the beast coming back. Patrina hit it with a Tashia’s and with the last inspiration in the party (Loki’s) made it save again(Dan: I don't remember this, I remember trying to stun it with my last ki point, failing and someone else used an inspiration to make it miss its save. Did Patrina hit it before or after this?). With it incapacitated for a round, she and the rest managed to get into the crypt. By the way, it would not cross the threshold into the inner court yard. The crypt had stairs going down and we stopped there. They either took a short rest or we’ll start with that next time.
Poof! The Racoon faded out and the berserker gypsy suddenly existed. Exploring the house we found a room full of mirrors. Inside one of the mirrors, Ambrus saw the placard hanging on the wall. He sent his mage hand into the mirror world, grabbed the placard, and pulled it out of the mirror. Meanwhile, his mirror image stepped through and attacked him. Kharn ran in to attack the image and then an image of him stepped out to fight us. Patrina cast darkness and Kharn vanished but her own was still there since she can see in her darkness... oops. Patrina’s image dispelled the darkness and mirror Kharn reappeared. Then Lord Q cast fog cloud. During this, the monk stayed out of the room and did a fog horn imitation allowing the people inside the fog to navigate without activating the mirrors. Someone got the idea to cover the mirrors and Kharn then covered the mirror with a billowing cloak. In the next few turns, the party scavenged moldy tablecloths, blankets, and curtains to block all the mirrors in order to negate the mirror images. Once most were covered the fog was disbursed and the remaining mirror had a second crest. Ambros cast invisibility and went in the mirror and grabbed it while everyone else stayed outside the room. So we seem to have two crests.
While exploring the rest of the house Lord Q came across a phantasm figure wearing armor. Meanwhile, Ambross and Kharn had a short rest to heal up from beating themselves up in the mirror room. Since Lord Q had no backup he closed the door. When everyone was ready we all went in but Ezera effectively soloed the phantasm with one 20 HP hit and another critical smite 82 HP. The ghost just wanted to end his life in glorious combat instead of by poison. Hopefully being one-shotted by the paladin counts. Although the monk wanted the armor as a wall trophy, it was finally decided it go to the paladin.
Continuing our exploration we found a magical haversack that finally went to the monk. Later explored the bedroom we originally stayed in during the groundhog cycle and found it full of zombies. One with a big glowing fist. We won after a short combat, partially due to the undead being limited to having to attack through a doorway. The zombie with the glowing fist had a bracer that gave +1 damage and hit to natural weapons and unarmed attacks. The monk got this. It was late but it was hinted that there was only one more room on this floor so we continued. The next room over we found the second half of the bracer set that gave an additional +1 hit and damage (total +2). Yay! At this point, it was after 1:00 AM so we called it a night.
We had this letter we found on the now dead sheep herder with an offer for him and his father to come shelter at a nearby estate and ride out the winter. With the devastated sheep stores, starvation for the town of Krusk was a real possibility so we took upon ourselves to look into it. We had some discussions on how to do that. Is there any authority figure left we could bring? Not really. We decided to have Lord Q do the talking, bringing the bad news about the deaths and go from there. With Lady Patrina making the announcement, the butler was impressed enough, at least with those two, to let us in and give us an audience. But we had to give up our weapons at the front door. All complied except for Ezra who chose to guard the front door rather than give up his Holy Avenger. Loki left his pistols with him.
She was hosting a big party for nobles across the land. We talked to her in her study but she had no idea what we were talking about. When shown the letter, she agreed that it was in her hand with her seal but had no recollection of writing it or sending it. She and her party seemed to be out of step with the current world conditions. Loki asked her what year she thought it was. What an odd question? Why do you ask? You seem out of touch. That did not go over well. Brian had Dave make a persuasion roll to see if he could have possibly said that without sounding insulting. With an 8 charisma, no proficiency and a roll of a two, it did not go well. Loki stopped talking. (Dan: This happens over and over. Not proficient with a charisma skill? Just shut up and let the charisma character talk, roleplaying isn't going to do it.) Despite this, we were given a tour of the house, given a couple rooms to freshen up and invited to join the party. A couple of words on the tour. We saw no weapons on the guests or all the walls. Being players, we were planning on trouble. Ambrus noted that the locks throughout were of the highest quality. Maybe 30+ guests?
We mingled. Everybody rolled terrible so anyone that tried something, failed and those that just wandered about, heard some random things. This family is known for their tech and architecture and had designed Ravenloft castle. Ambrus tried to break into a room but only rolled well enough to determine it was going to take a 35 roll to do it. Attempts to get some background on the guests and servant were dead ends. There was mention of a hedge maze out back that was known to be unsolvable. But the key items came from the host or about her. She had recently broken off her engagement with Dimitri, the leader in Krusk. However, the man we had met a wife and grown kids. She also thought the guy in charge was his long dead father. We again concluded that this place was outside of time somehow. Lord Q did manage to talk her into letting the Paladin of the Morning Lord come in with his sword and join dinner.
She excused herself from dinner and the next thing heard was a scream from the butler. She’s been poisoned! The players were ready to jump into action but held at bay while Brian described the grisly scene. Basically, all the guests died a horrible, bloody death but none of the players had any trouble. Once all dead, the mansion transformed into a run-down older version of itself and all the bodies were gone. Again, players were trying act but Brian skipped all that and just put us together in the main room with our weapons. We went to her salon and found her body. Before we could act, a vortex of time bending energy swirled. A spirit emerged from her body and said something about being betrayed and they should all rot in hell or some such. It then flew through the wall.
Ambrus watch it through a window and it went to the hedge maze. To no one’s surprised. Lady Patrina found two keys on her now decayed body. There was some discussion about what to do but Ambrus was so eager to reinvestigate the lock that had thwarted him, he must have mentioned it 5 times in 2 minutes. But it was as good a plan as any. The first room was some sort of study. It had high quality artwork including what we assumed was a portrait of the most famous family member. It was obvious something important had been removed from the wall. Beyond was a passageway leading down into the basement, crypt, ??? We deferred that. The next room was a private office with various books and ledgers. Among those was a journal which Lady Patrina was about to shove into her pack but Loki asked about the date of the last entry. It was 25 years ago, as we had expected. In addition, it told of her intention to break off her engagement prior to her upcoming party. She figured that would avoid a scene and allow her to start finding someone new. So, we concluded he, Dimitri whom we had just tried to save the night before, had poisoned them all. She did not want to give up her life and lands and titles. She also said something about him never finding her family vault as it was not in the basement but in the hedge maze and only someone with both family crests could possibly penetrate it. So, we need to find those, I guess. One has already been taken.
Also in that room was a locked chest. Ambrus could not open it by skill. Ezra could not open it by force. But Brian gave Amrus another try and that opened it. Inside was a throve of magical items.
Charlatan’s Die – rolls any number you want. I.e. cheat - Ambrus
Cloak of Billowing – dramatically billows on command - Lord Q
Portable Hole - Lady Patrina took to hold her books. At the bottom of which was …
Dagger +3 - Ambrus
Scroll of Arcane Lock – Lady Patrina
Scroll of Guards and Wands – Lady Patrina
Scroll of Knock – Lady Patrina
Wand of Conducting – makes symphony music, 3 charges – Kharn because he wasn’t there to say no.
That took up some time and it was almost 12 so we stopped. The offer of extra food seems like it’s 25 years old so we’re not going to succeed there. (Dan: As mentioned the lady didn't recognize the letter. Either its a ghost thing to not remember it or it was some wierd plot twist. If Demitri was sane I assume he would have remembered he killed everyone here and told us not to bother or it was a trap.) Loki did do a search of the grounds during the party in hopes of finding a storage building but rolled bad so maybe another search is in order. I suppose we will try to solve the hedge maze and try to put this spirit to rest. But we’ll want to search the rest of the house for those crests first. No one could recall seeing something like that at Dimitri’s house but if you poisoned 30+ people, would you keep a reminder of that around? We might look for plans of Castle Ravenloft as well in case we ever have to sneak into it.
The party woke up find the chickens gone. The house owners had made breakfast and left for the day. So in between the time we woke up and the people in the house cooked breakfast they were gone (eaten). We spent the day looking over the sheep, talking to Luca and then the villagers. No one knew anything. We even interrogated the sheep. Luca was mentally challenged due to a head injury, so was a bit frustrating to talk to. They knew nothing as well. We all knew it was Ilya, the resurrected boy with an unnatural appetite but there was no proof. Patrina even left her book/familiar with the sheep to spy on them. Then we left. After hours of getting the run around it came to a boil when all the sheep went missing at once after we left for a few hours. The familiars were gone and Luca had left the sheep alone after telling them to look after one another. During this discussion, he took out a letter stating that due to his father’s friend he could find shelter and food for himself and his companions. I must have blinked because this seemed a bit contrived. So perhaps the villagers won’t starve? (hint: yes they still will)
The villagers noticed soon after we did that the sheep were missing and formed two mobs. Kaladin tried to reason with the crowd but failed despite a decent roll (14 but no bonuses). As usual, the people without charisma skills shouldn't bother to try to roleplay. Lord Q tried afterward and failed too (with advantage he rolled two 1's. Maybe it was fated.). Just they were about to attack, Ilya ran up, looking obviously emaciated, and demanded food. We all attacked since this was the proof we had wasted two hours trying to get. However, he was a legendary creature. He swallowed random villagers (his mother specifically) to regain hit points, as an interrupt action spat poison area effects and basically two shotted most of the party. Patrina was fairly effective using darkness and chilling touch to reduce his hits and negate his healing some of the time. Naturally, we still mocked him for using an ability similar to his infamous Plant Growth fail. Luca got nailed the first attack and lay dying on the sheep field. It was difficult healing without the goodberries but we had some healing potions, a paladin, and Patrina who had some sacrificial healing abilities. Ilya seems to still have some life to him but after a final attack and health absorption, he ran his house near the sheep fields. Patrina did her sacrificial heal to Kaladin who had gone down earlier and he then flew after Ilya in his house. The heal was well-timed because he was 2 failed death saves down. We charged after him and once again kept going down. It was even worse in the confined space. (It wasn't helped that the map had the two floors stacked on top of each other and kept flashing each floor randomly. Very confusing and frustrating, especially with the wall obscurement of FG that never matched the floor you were on. I would strongly recommend that the GM spread out the maps so they aren't on top of each other even if it needs those annoying gates at the entrances) The warlock eventually claimed the final blow. Most of the others didn’t even get a hit in and were just hit point buffers.
Dimitri (Ilya’s father) was informed of the news rather brutally by Patrina (she was criticized by the rest of the party for being far too blunt, though it was amusing), then again by Ezera (who was just as blunt, he just worded it differently. It could be questioned who was nicer). His mind snapped, then he recovered and they did it again. I was actually wondering if they were trying to drive him mad. He ended up catatonic and disavowed by the village mayor. The paladin was disgusted by this attitude (nobody else was happy with it though they didn’t want to take responsibility for it either...even though it was pretty much Patrina and Ezera that drove him mad) and righteously washed his hands of the whole matter. Leaving the entire village to starve while we head off to explore the dead Luca’s inheritance and its stash of food. That’s Ravenloft. Even the paladins are evil.
We emerged in the middle of Yester Hill. Evidently, we had taken a short rest so eventually we just got going. Vasili was nowhere to be found but our wagon was still there waiting for us. The small window of sunlight was quickly left behind. During the first day, we came across a strange furry man, hanging upside down from a tree limb with a couple of other bats. He claimed to be Batman! and mostly spouted batman cliches about thwarting evil. Slightly amusing and mostly pointless. Eventually, we just left him behind and moved on. That night was uneventful and we got a long rest. The next day, scouting Kaladin spotted 3 shambling figures ahead on the road. Loki went first and hit the first one 4 times, dropping it. When they went, floating ghost-like jellyfish emerged from the bodies and attacked. They did psychic damage and one teleported to behind the wagon. A couple of us took some damage but it was over pretty quick. We got back on the road after burying the bodies. Two bodies looked like the druids we fought and one looked like he came from Kresk.
Moments after we started moving again, everyone on the wagon took significant psychic damage from screams in their head. Half on a wisdom save. Lord Q was then attacked but since he was the only one in the wagon, no one else saw it. He was almost out in one round. On his turn, he tried to jump through the window but first he had to take more screams damage and was out. The NPC went next, raised the alarm and pulled him out of the wagon. There was much confusion. Kharn and Loki managed to get to the back of the wagon and take a couple of shots at the assistant to Stradhanya we had fought before. He growled to the raging Kharn that “he was not the target” and then misty stepped away. Some healed Lord Q, fearing he’d be killed by the AOE or attacked again. Others searched for the attacker but he was never seen again. Evidently, he had made a monster Stealth roll and no one saw him get in the wagon during the first fight. (Dan: It was deduced that he had +14 to his stealth skill... and he rolled a 20. Basically even without a 20 roll we wouldn't have been able to see him). I suppose Lord Q was a target because he has access to a great power that could be a threat to Stradhanya? Certainly more than a raccoon with some pistols. There were some discussions and we rearranged the positions but ultimately, we just got going again.
Late that day, we pulled into the winery. They were busy, trying to save their crops. The druid stone was buried and a couple hours later, things were improved. By the way, that ended Lady Petrina’s personal quest and Brian received a bonus feat. Ironic since that character had just started. We stayed the night and nothing happened. We got a nice bottle of wine for the abbot in Kresk and Ezra got a new shield to replace the one he left behind in the Gone. The journey to Kresk was uneventful. Once we showed them the witches broomstick, I mean told them we had restored the winery, we were greeted as heroes. The BurgerMeister invited us into his home. And we got the run down. Life here is hard. It’s so cold, the chickens are kept in the houses so they wouldn’t freeze. The sheep had been disappearing and he asked us to look into it as they feared they wouldn’t survive the winter if it continued. Also, his only remaining son was recently brought back to life by the abbot. He had died from some disease. That was met with suspicion but the only thing noted was that he seemed to be eating a lot.
We also got some back history about the town. The town hero lead a rebellion against Stradhanya but her attack on the castle ended in death for all involved. They had sent someone to check on the wine whose description matched the body we fought the day before. The guy in charge of the sheep is simple mined but does a good job. The abbot seems to be working on a project to defeat Stradhanya or some such. (Dan: Ravenloft's typical means of fighting back is finding something even more evil than what they are fighting. I hear they cancel out that way.) Very busy but very great. At least according to these people. We slept through the night. Lady Patrina used her short sleep cycle and awaken mind to virtually patrol the area but saw nothing. We were treated to a fine breakfast and the nobles left for their day’s activities. The only thing noted was the chickens were all gone. Loki made a roll and was convinced that there were chickens here yesterday. There were no signs of attack or force entry. It seemed odd that our hosts either did not notice or did not mention anything. Andy, BTO and DG were dragging so we called it an early night.
After trying to remember what we were trying to do, we headed to the next survivor. A seamstress with a shop nearby. It was still early morning so she was not open for business. (Her home was over the shop.) The Monk opened the lock and we piled in. (No secret doors or levels found.) Soon enough, we found seamstress, dead. Her throat had been recently cut although the amount of blood was minimal. We spread out and searched. Upstairs we found a journal. About two weeks ago, she mentioned that strangers were watching her place. When she confronted them, they just left. Her kidnapping took place about a week ago. Of note, there weren’t any entries since then. It seemed like she was pretty consistent with entries and we’d like to think an experience like that would be worth mentioning. We check her business records. He last job was for a ball gown for a noble woman however it didn’t seem like she had done any work since the kidnapping. We checked her kitchen and again, there wasn’t any fresh food, signs of food prep, etc. Her body was examined more closely. She, like the last guy, was extra dense as if made of stone. She had a dragon tattoo like we’ve seen a couple of other places. So, we postulated that she had been replaced, transformed, enchanted by her experience and was posing in her old life but not living it. But why? She was no one important. And then why kill her?
Meanwhile the Druid, who is still pretending he’s not a Thief too, noticed a thief watching us from a roof top. He flashed his thieves Cant and went up to talk to him. He was told he have to pay 20% to the guild for any jobs he did while in town. Since he wasn’t planning to do any jobs, he agreed. The thief confirmed the disappearances but didn’t seem that worried about it. He did say that he saw a large blueish humanoid (ogre magi) watching us as well. But it transformed its shape and moved away. Next on the list was the warehouse where the victims had been rescued. On the way out, the Wizard looked for tracks. Looking for very heavy foot prints. He rolled great again. The tracks went through a stone wall and lead to the very same warehouse. The warehouse was big. Half broke in the front door and half snuck in through a window. It was empty. In fact, it was emptier than when the guardsmen did the rescue. In particular, the stone table that was too heavy to move, was gone. Some investigated where it had been while the Wizard made another great roll. Both concluded that it seemed to have been moved through a stone wall to the apothecary next door. To the apothecary!
The eventual Bard decided to search the well that was outside, asking the Paladin to hold her rope. And I guess the Druid supervised. They found nothing. The rest went in. The Monk started talking. The Wizard checked out the wall in question and found traces of dirt on the stone floor. The Cleric walked across the large rug in the center of the room and noticed a slight density difference right about where the Wizard was. The Monk said he had sore muscles, as if they were turning to stone. This got a reaction from the shop keeper and she ask us to leave. Initiative. She started to cast a Hold Person on the 3 players but the Monk’s fists were faster. Once again, he stunned the villain, stopping the fight short. She was tied up. The carpet was pulled back. One of the elves, coming in from the well search, found a secret door. We locked the front door and headed down. Below was a store room connected to a workshop. And a granite man, a swordsman and a swordswoman. No one managed surprised so it was initiative again.
Our Wizard cast Web on two of them. With a good strength, the swordsman would be out in turns. The granite man had an 18 strength and got out in a couple of rounds. Our eventual Bard did subdual on the swordswoman. Some attacked the webbed guy. And some came around and attacked the granite man who had a 2 AC. Things were going well enough when two more granite men came through the walls and two cultists appeared from the south. One of the cultists cast Hold Person and the guardsman and Monk missed their save. They were out for the combat. Luckily the Paladin made her save and cast Hold Person on them. And they were out for the combat. The rest was just combat with people beating on granite men or shooting at helpless cultists. I don’t recall anything remarkable. I believe we captured the subdued swordswoman to go with the captured apothecary. I’m not sure what we can do with them. I think there’s more to do down here but Andy and DG had to log off early. I do not know if they kept going without us.
Return from the Between and the Gone
We were still in the Gone. We had a brief discussion about the disposal of our beloved heritage items but no consensus was reached. We decided to press on with the search. Soon enough, we came across 4-5 Druids. They seemed to be search for the exit as well. However, players being players, they were meet with suspicion. They sort of spread out around us while we talked. Ezra did his Detect Evil thing and while they did not register as evil, his scrutiny did notice a string or cord attached to the leader. It seemed to lead into the darkness. Once pointed out to the rest of the group, all of the Druids seem to have them. Initiative. So, they cast Druid spells but also had these pods that attacked for a ton of damage. And oddly, sometimes they didn’t attack at all. Only some of us had lights and the darkness was always at the edge which complicated things. Some attacked the Druids and some attacked the cords. It seemed that the cord needed magical weapons to affect and were certainly harder to hit. But it only took about two hits to sever the cord at which point, the Druid would drop as if it was a puppet without its strings.
Eventually, Loki grabbed the held Lady Patrina’s light enchanted veil and double moved into the darkness. There he found a huge blob demon thing. Now the fight really started. It did a lot of damage with two reach attacks per round. Plus cast, on the same round, a variety of spells. Plus, the Druids were still pressing from behind. And those that were dropped, eventually reattached and got back up. It first cast a high DC Confusion spell getting several of us. It then dropped that and cast a Fear spell that got even more of us. Somewhere in there, it stopped animating the Druids to concentrate on us. It looked dire. Half of us were fleeing or out and we hadn’t done anything to it. We considered fleeing but as usual, that’s easier said than done. It would be hard for everyone to outpace it and with some out, someone would likely be left behind. Ezra charged it, doing his extra smiting damage. Loki shot it and then used his cloak to hide in plain sight. It then cast a Hypnotic Pattern, incapacitating those that missed the save. Many did. It took an action of someone not affected or some damage to give another save. I.e. no free save a the end of your round. The NPC shook a few loose and berries were given to the fallen. Ironically, no one knew where Loki was so he was never shook free. But the damage finally started to add up. With several players on a handful of hit points, it Dimension Doored away. Somehow, we survived again. Nothing of value was found. It was a bit dissatisfying to see it get away but the last demon we fought, exploded killing Zolton so perhaps it was for the best.
We were desperate for a short rest but didn’t feel we could, standing on a floor of bones surrounded by darkness that was eager to grab the unsuspecting. We headed down the stairs that Kharn found when he was affected by the Fear spell. We found a magical chamber with a statue of one of the Druid gods. And a great pit in the center of the room. The foot of the statue seemed to be worn as if having been touched by 100s of Druids over the years. Kharn went first, and saw a vision of him leaving his wolf tooth in the hand of the statue. And then leaping into the pit. We took a short rest and then the rest went. It was mostly the same. Leave your item here and jump. Ezra, who refused to use his shield, realizing before the rest of us that it was an evil tool of Stradanya so his vision was a little different. Noticing that Vasili, who we had left outside the cave entrance, looked a lot like Stradanya. He could be a brother? I’m not sure that Lady Patrina had one. And of course, Ambrus could not leave his tattoos behind. Kharn had the hardest time, fearing the tooth was allowing him to control his curse. Or was it the cause? We all left them including Ezra and took the leap and ended up in an earthen chamber with no exits. All had a feeling of renewed vigor in our mission to rid the land of evil. Loki’s was slightly different. He felt a sense of accomplishment, as this was part of his personal quest journey. He received some upgraded guns as a reward. Kharn’s curse was indeed lifted so no more teen wolf, I guess. Ambrus still has his tattoos but at least they stopped hurting him, which they had been since we came in here.
Loki started digging and could see a bright light and something blue below. We quickly realized the light was sun light, uncommonly bright and the blue was blue sky, never seen in Barovia. Our orientation flipped and we climbed up out of the ground in the Druid circle we had fought the day before. Obviously, we had done some good as the weather looked “normal” to those from a plane other than here. We could still see the gloom on the horizon though. We stopped there and made 6th level. Loki’s new guns were magical and although they didn’t get a bonus to hit, they did an extra 1d4 of necrotic damage. But it’s the magical part that will be the real boon, given the number of magical foes we face. Otherwise, they functioned like regular guns. Next will be delivering the stone back to the winery and then back to Krusk. Several have business to attend to there.
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.)
We started with just the two Daves with others trickling in as they could. Most everyone had technical issues. Brian Wade’s were so bad, he had to reinstall FGU altogether which delayed him a couple of hours. Anyway, we started on the boat. There was some debate on whether we had brought the evil guy’s head in a box or both his head and the body. Jon declared that only the head was needed, mainly to simplify things. The Cleric cast a Glyph of Warding on the box, making up a glyph that would warn him if someone was tampering with it. The youngest sell sword, who the Druid saved with a Goodberry, made a point of thanking him. He seemed nervous, we figured because we were nearing the end of journey. The Druid tried to get him to confess to being wanted in the city but he denied it. Evidently, he was new to the guard game. We did learn that this was a one-way job for them although he hoped the merchant would hire them for the return, once his business was done. One morning, the Druid requested they let him off for an hour to do a Druid thing. He and the Cleric went into the woods, seeking a tranquil pond at which he could cast a Reflecting Pool spell. Evidently, it’s a 2nd level spell that sort of functions like a crystal ball. But first, they came upon a camp. Without a Ranger along, they did their best. It was more than a dozen human types and a temporary camp that was only used for a night. Since there was no sign of them, the Druid went ahead with his spell with the Cleric guarding him. He saw the Wizard on the top of a tall tower in the middle of a keep in the middle of a city. He seemed to be in good health but seeking a way down. Some other bits and pieces were extracted but that was the meat of it. They went back to the boat.
That night, the players noticed some sneaking around below decks. The sell swords came up, the head guy with blood on his long sword. The Cleric and the Druid readied for action. At this point, KP joined and once he got his technical issues resolved, also readied for action. The Cleric threw his new hammer which returned to him. The Druid cast Heat Metal on all the bad guys, except for the young one he had talked to earlier. No save, thanks for playing. At this point, Paul joined and once he got his technical issues resolved, joined the fight. The Paladin had trouble hitting. The Paladina got hit with a 20 but saved against the leader’s poison blade. The Cleric, with nowhere to go on the middeck, swung on the ropes over to the aft. One of them was trying to break down the door to get at the ship’s crew. The Druid just tried to dodge while his spell increased its heat. After 3 rounds he said they were so incapacitated that they could not move. He was more worried about lighting the boat on fire. The rest started shoving them overboard. The young sell sword did not attack, by the way, and helped in the end. And like that, it was all over. Two row boats were seen in the river but when they saw their allies flung off, they turned away. The Druid managed to hit one boat with a Warp Wood to ruin their evening. The young guy was questioned but he didn’t really have much to say beyond the obvious. The merchant was indeed dead. The captain thanked us and asked what he should do with the merchant’s stuff. I think we advised him to contact whoever the merchant was meeting and maybe figure out a next of kin.
Meanwhile, the Wizard found a secret trap door and got off the roof. He quickly ran into a guardian gargoyle who had orders to prevent anyone from going through the next door. He was a bit confused since no one had come the roof way in the 40 years he’d been there. Some discussions were had. It knew of Hawthorne’s distant relative, Milertant Wells, by the way. The Wizard demonstrated that he could turn on the portal and then logiked that he must have permission to pass since he had permission to use the portal. A good roll and he moved on. Next, he overheard the conversation between a couple of wizard students, complaining about their professor. As he went, the traffic became heavier and at one point, he ducked into a room. In which was the head wizard of the school and the court. He knew, personally, each student so that claim didn’t work. Our wizard didn’t have any spells since his books were still on the boat but probably wouldn’t have much of a chance against this guy. So he kept talking. Stuff was said, in the middle of which he cast a Charm but our Wizard saved. Basically, the portals had once been used by nobles to get around the world but all the keys had been lost in time. He was most eager to hear how and where he had gotten one. The Wizard tried to avoid telling him everything. He promised that when his friends came into town, we’d all talk to him. He gave him a bed in the student dorm and let him leave. The Wizard, assuming he was being watched, walked around the city, casually swinging by the barracks of our contact and the docks a couple times a day. And waited.
The rest of the party got into town. No one came to meet the boat so our cover story was unneeded. The captain would allow us to store our stuff on board while he figured out his next move. We decided to get some rooms at an inn in the nice part of town. Only the best for our Paladins. Our paths intersected with the Wizard soon enough and we compared notes. Somewhere in there, BW called in and joined. Also, in there, the Druid disappeared. Evidently, he as spotted someone watching us from the roof tops. He took it upon himself to tried to out sneak the sneakers but could not. He tried to contact the Thieves Guild but could not. We debated talking to the head Wizard about the head and portals, the Paladin introducing himself to the nobility, asking around the gambling halls, etc but we decided to talk to our contact first. To try to figure out what was going on. We did see some missing persons posters about. With great difficulty, we let the night pass and met with the contact in the morning when he came off his city guard night shift. We joined him for breakfast. People were disappearing, mainly in the merchant sector. A couple were rescued. They were in the process of being sacrificed by some evil cultists. I got confused in there. Merchants were sacrificing merchants? Brain washed? In on it?
As usual, everyone wanted to head in different directions but Jon basically kept us together. Although once again, the Druid did his own thing and tried to catch the watchers (didn’t) and contact the thieves (did). It seemed like the roof watchers were invisible so maybe wizard school watchers? So, we went to one of the guys who was rescued. His business and home was locked up. The guard felt he had probably cause so we busted the door down. The guy was dead, throat slit. There were bloody foot prints that seemed to pass through a solid wall. They led to the other survivor. He was questioned. He didn’t say much (who me?) but the Ranger noted he had blood on his shoes. When he started to move towards a wall, people acted. I think the Druid tried to grab him and found that he was much more substantial than he appeared. As if made of stone? The Monk hit him and then debated whether he had monster AC or an AC type of AC10. We were perplexed as to why it mattered since he hit. However, with monster AC, he hit by more than 5 and therefore stunned him. And just like that, the combat was over. He was tied up and we stopped there. Once again, the underpowered Monk took out another big bad villain. 6k was awarded and people leveled up. Jon said it’ll be a while before he’d get back around to this game.
We started with a series of “but firsts”. We wanted to head back to the winery with the recovered gem but first we wanted to check out the grove of trees nearby. But first we wanted to take a short rest. But first we wanted to search the bodies of the fallen Druids. But first the unholy aura of this place seemed to be tapping into the feral nature of Loki and Kharn. Loki felt the urge to take a small bite out of one of his friends. Just a nibble, they won’t mind. He turned into a rat and tried to bite Ezra who looked more appetizing that Lady Katrina. Luckily, he missed because Ezra only had 1 hit point. Ezra grabbed him and he came to his senses. Kharn felt compelled to feast on the blood his fallen foes. He turned into a wolf but manage to resist the urge to actually dig in. The bodies were searched but nothing was found. Druids and barbarians are much for stuff and we didn’t really kill that many of them. Ezra did a sense evil and determined that outside the walls was less evil than inside so we decided to do a quick bandage but put off the short rest until we reached the trees. Everyone’s heritage artifact was giving off a faint evil vibe, by the way. Visili did not although Ezra, in particular, did not trust him. Luckily the surviving Druids had all fled because we were in no shape to face them.
In the trees was an old black gnarled oak with a small tunnel under its roots. There was an inscription that was in Druidic. Lady Katrina cast a ritual Comp Languages and it said something about the unworthy being smited if they dared to enter. Loki vaguely remembered the area from his time in captivity but could recall nothing useful. We took a short rest and debated our options. Visili caused some trouble, asking questions. He talked to Loki about his artifact and questioned whether it was safe to use, given the bite he tried to give Ezra. He talked to Kharn about his curse. Both probably told him too much. While talking to Kharn, Kharn sort of drifted out. When he regained his thoughts, Stradhanya was on his mind and he tasted cherries. Visili then stated that he did not intend to go into the cave and advised Ireena to do the same. More suspicions, questioning and skills rolled but nothing much came of it. He stayed but she went. Loki felt the cave was the way to go so eventually, we went.
The entrance was tight and all had to crawl to get in. With Loki leading the way, it was a series of tunnels dug out of the dirt and roots. We found the body of the Vistani girl that Stradhanya took. Loki thought it very unlikely that she would have killed her and put her down here and was going to pass it by but someone had to look for a cause of death and it turned into 4 swarms of Rot Grubs. That fight was its usual annoying with half damage but not hard. I don’t think anyone got hit. There was no actual body. We found a room full of Stirigs, seeming to be feeding from the black roots. They didn’t seem to notice us but we went another way. The body of Zolton was found and again, we could not leave well enough alone. More Rot Grubs. We fought them a little better this time, using hit and run tactics to avoid getting attacked. More Stirigs which were avoided again. Another body which we finally let lie. We also found a talisman in a wall, an adventurer’s pack with a potion in it and a tarot card.
The last room, assuming we didn’t miss anything along the way, was a large chamber with holes in the floor. It was pretty obvious something or somethings lived in here. Loki successfully snuck halfway across and readied his guns. Ambrus went next and his 20 stealth was not good enough. A huge Remoraz appeared. I was tough. High AC, immune to fire and cold and a long reach. However, it’s most devastating power was that any melee attackers took 2d6 of fire damage from the heat of its body. No to hit and no save. Since we heavy with melee characters and did 2-3 or more attacks per round, that 2d6 really added up fast. Our usual advantage of multiple attackers and attacks was working against us. Some were taking more damage than they gave. Loki, with his ranged pistols was doing well, but then the Remoraz tunneled into the ground, appeared 20 feet away and attempted to swallow him. That attack did 50+ points and Loki was knocked out in one blow. Luckily, with all the other attackers, it was too distracted to swallow him.
Ambrus managed to use his cunning action to grab him and get him out of harm’s way. A good berry later he was ready to start shooting again. Meanwhile, things were getting dicey. Kharn was also hit with that massive attack but manage to stay conscious due to his rage induced half damage. But he was restrained in its maw and wouldn’t last long. But Lord Q managed to finish it off in the nick of time. No treasure was found. We discussed fleeing at this point and facing an “I told you so” from Visili however the GM nudged us to keep going one more room. The last room had talisman hanging from the ceiling. There was a burned-out fire pit and carvings all over the walls. And another even smaller tunnel exiting. With the help of another Comp Languages, the carvings were goodly Druid stuff about the century old role of this tree in spreading life throughout the land and such. It seemed like this was a rite of passage room that predates the rise of Stradhanya and the corruption of the Druids. Over the tunnel was something about the worthy passing through the challenge ahead. But it seemed like a safe place for a long rest. With a couple torches for fuel, we started the fire. The items were identified. A Potion of Climbing, a talisman that allowed the holder to understand Druidic for an hour once a day and the finder of the tarot card (Lady Patrina) gets a free death save success on her next attempt. The talisman went to the Druidish Loki. I think Lady Patrina held onto the potion?
It was late at that point but we decided to press forward a bit more and tackle the always contentious skill challenge that awaited us at the next tunnel. So, it was to be a Dex check to squeeze through. The predetermined DC depended on the size, armor and gear of the character. Loki had it easiest, being small. Ezra had it worse with his heavy armor. Next was a bunch of debates about what would help and not help in this challenge. Removing armor, gear, oiling up, who had oil, would acrobatics help, can one help another, one at time, how about this spell or that spell, etc. Sadly, Loki who could only miss with an automatic miss 1 was the only one that had to use an inspiration die. A couple got stuck but we managed to work around it. Loki discovered that it ended at the top of a vast chamber with water 60 feet below. Kharn managed to lower him on a 50 rope, only because he was small and we stopped there. And no one’s Darkvision was working. Not Loki’s subclass enhanced or Lady Patrina’s feat driven devil sight. So, will it be more skills or more fights or both? Tune in next time.
We started, still at the Trent glade. The Druid wanted to cast a Ceremony spell to ease the passing of the dead Trents. Unfortunately, he did not have it memorized so we’d have to overnight there. However, unlike other games, we do not own that river boat. It seemed unlikely the captain or the merchant would be willing to wait another day. Time is money, after all. While the Druid desire was reasonable and Dave’s roleplaying was applauded, it just didn’t seem practical. DG pointed out that before the invention of the Unearthed Arcana book, we would have just said we do so. Why couldn’t we just do that? Jon ended the discussion by saying that the Ceremony spell could be cast like a ritual a la 5e. So that was done after which the Druid was given the bowl from last time. Once on the boat, the Cleric gave thanks to Thor for their victorious battle. We never did attempt to do an Identify on the bowl or the ring but the Paladin who had the ring didn’t show so we sort of forgot about it. Identify in 1e is problematic, evidently.
We continued down the river. The weather continued to be poor. The Cleric had a dream about being underwater, almost drowning and following a light all during a terrible lightning storm. He awoke to a terrible lightning storm. This was very similar to his near-death experience in his tragic backstory so he took it as a message from Thor. That’s what Cleric do. The captain became worried about the storm and made for the center of the river to ride it out. Suddenly grappling hooks on ropes appeared from under the water. About 4 per side. Characters with edge weapons rush to cut the lines. Those without, the Cleric and Monk, ready ranged weapons. The next round, lizard men started boarding. Attacks were made. It wasn’t too tough although the merchant ended up in the wrong place and was dropped. There was one that was different, at the back of the boat but the Cleric hit him with a Hold Person. The next round, the eventual Bard killed it automatically. Two more like it surfaced and started to cast spells. But we won initiative and our Cleric got them into a Silence spell before theirs went off. At this point, the lizard men fled but with the harsh disengage rules, I think they were all cut down. The two casters did get back under however. The Cleric was told he felt he needed to go under the water so he shed his shield and war hammer and dove in. Much to the surprise of the rest.
The eventual Bard and the Monk followed him. The players were then reminded that we had gotten a potion of Water Breathing from the last night. However, we remembered that the missing Paladin had it. Jon said that the attending Paladin had it. She took a swig, handed it to the Wizard and went in in her heavy armor. The Wizard took a pull and started to dive in as well. The Druid elected to stay behind and save the lives of the merchant and a sell sword. Meanwhile, under the water, we saw a sunken column on which the ropes that had tried to secure the boat were tied. The two casters we fleeing to a cave entrance. The fast-moving Monk closed but when they turned and started doing claw claw tail attacks, he quickly started to fall back. The eventual Bard was next but she got grabbed and was running out of air. The Cleric surfaced, took the potion from the Wizard as he dove in, and swam back to the eventual Bard. The Paladin finish off the grappler so she headed to the surface and drank the last dose of potion. It was just the two monsters so other than the lack of air, it wasn’t too tough. The Cleric lead the way into the cave but the Monk had to turn back as he (and the Druid) were the odd men out on the potion.
The cave led to a series of chambers that eventually ended in a room with air. We found a ton of copper and some gems. On the far wall was a constructed wall with a Thorish symbol on it however there was a locked gate. Unfortunately, the Open Locks characters did not come down and the Wizard did not have his Knock memorized. The 4 that did, tried to bend the bars but failed. The eventual Bard went back for the lizard bodies, since evidently, we forgot to search them. Someone else got the thieves. They had a dicey moment or two when they ran out of air but managed to get into the chamber. Before trying to open the lock, the Monk tried to bend the bars and made a 7% roll. Evidently the 18/00 Paladin had loosened them. He then opened the lock for good measure and then the Druid closed it for practice. Eventually the eventual Bard got back and one of them had the key. It also had 5 rings on one hand and 5 rings on its tail. When removed from the tail, they magically resized. Once the gate was open, the Cleric placed his hand of the symbol and a secret door was opened to the last chamber.
In there was a human body with its head crushed by a war hammer with a symbol of Thor on it. The hammer was still there, in his skull. The odd thing was that the body was in good shape, i.e. fresh but there was no blood from the wound so not fresh. On the far wall was a large circular carving. There were 12 sectors around the rim, each with what looked like a button. No one knew the language but those that knew Dwarvish, thought it might be some sort of ancient Dwarvish. Attention then turned to the body however several players continued to puzzle on the graphic Jon provided. I think Paul realized that the marks were sort of words that corresponded to places on the continent. It helped if you’ve play in this world before. I think eventually, each sector was associated with a city or keep or such. However, this particular place was in the middle of no where so if this was a portal network as was suspected, where were we? And it was noted that the Citadel of the Monk was identified by its original name which places this portal as being very old. Meanwhile, back on the body. It had nothing identifying on it. Only that it wore what would be under heavy armor. Eventually the Cleric of Thor could not resist the Hammer of Thor and picked it up. The human instantly regenerated and stood up.
“Wait wait wait. What’s going on”. What followed was a couple hours of questioning. I’ll try to summarize what we learned eventually. The year he remembered was around 300 hundred years ago. Despite his repeated denials, everyone assumed he was a vampire, however his reflection showed in the Monk’s mirror. He did admit that he was “not dead” but did not like the term “undead”. The Paladin said that he rated “off the scale” in evil. The Wizard tried to Web him but he had Spell Resistance. He said his name was Casey and worked for the Order of the Keys. Neither of which meant anything to anyone. He did seem to recognize our Paladin. Odd, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul’s back history went back 300 years. He said the order gathered information and sold it. I think he admitted the portal was a portal. He had a shadowy tattoo(?) of a key on his hand. He wanted to just leave but we could not allow such a big evil loose so eventually we attacked him. That was pretty futile however the Monk stunned him at which point everyone piled on and he was killed again. The hammer was placed on his head and stopped his regeneration. Now what?
Through experimentation, we discovered that the magic sword would also work so the Druid sacrificed his. We tried to cut off his head but it started to grow back. We simply didn’t know what to do. We decided to put his body in a crate with a sword in him and take him back to the boat. Eventually take it back to Stormgiant and hand the problem over to top men. Unfortunately, we were currently heading the opposite direction so it’ll be a while. We did discover that the “key” could be transfer from him to one of us. The Wizard volunteered to try to open the portal to the place we were heading. When he got close, the “key” became an actual key and the button was a keyhole. When a purplish glow lit up, he stepped through. And never returned. Hopefully he’ll be waiting for us there. Assuming he doesn’t go back 300 years or was disintegrated because he didn’t say the magic words. The rest went back to the boat. Through experimentation, we learned that the hammer was +2 and would return if thrown. The 10 rings would give a hand-to-hand fighter magic hands of a yet to be determined bonus. It’s pretty obvious who got them. 3000 experience was granted.
We arrived a Yester Hill. We were short firepower with the absence of Kaladin, Ambrus and Lady Petrina although Brian showed up before any real action. (Note from Dan: Jon's game was canceled and they sent the last minute invite to the wrong e-mail address.) We debated briefly possible avenues of approach however the cliffs were too tall and numerous to realistically climb so it pretty much had to be up the main road. Since there was little cover, sneaking seemed unlikely but Brian said he’d do that with a couple of group stealth checks. So, we did that. People rolled well enough to get to near the top. When there, we heard a voice. Basically, a warrior from the past was looking for a worthy champion to take possession of his magic spear. And evidently, Lord Q fit the bill. So, we found a cave in which were the bones of a warrior and a magic spear. Lord Q said a few words of reverence and we moved on before the patrol came around again. We didn’t have time to Identify it, and Lady Petrina was late arriving anyway, but I think Brian let Dave attune to it while we snuck so that he could use it as his pact weapon in the upcoming fight. If it does anything more amazing that be magical, we did not discover it.
When we got to the highest tier, we saw and heard a bunch of stuff. There was a high stone wall around the whole area with occasional lightning strikes from the brewing storm touching down on the tops of it. We could also see the top of a huge statue made out of wood, sticks, leaves and mud in the shape of a female with fangs. We could see something glowing in its chest. So, we figured that this was what these Druids wanted from the winery. The magic gem from the old Druid gods to power their new idol of Stradhanya. We could also hear chanting and although no one could understand it, its intent seemed pretty clear. The clock was ticking. We circled around to the back door. Lady Petrina sent her flying invisible Sprite over the wall and it was instantly vaporized by a lightning bolt. Evidently Brian missed the lightning threat part of the description. Basically, it was a ring of chanting Druids around the idol and then a ring of berserking barbarians around them, guarding. And a lot of both. We started to discuss a plan of action however when Brian had us roll initiative, it was pretty much every man for himself.
Ireena went first and peaked around the corner. Brian had turned on the POV so the map was troublesome. Loki went next and turned into a squirrel. He figured an innocent squirrel running along the rocks that formed the wall in the middle of the forest would not be noticed. He was instantly noticed and a couple barbarians started his way. Evidently, they had orders to keep anything and everything away from the idol. Even squirrels. Lady Petrina went next and used Disguise Self to turn into the Druid we killed at the winery. She ordered the barbarians to leave her animal servant alone. All the barbarians instantly saw through that deception (no rolls needed) and started to charge her. It was all downhill from there. The barbarians pretty much bottled up the party at the entrance through the walls. Off the path, it was difficult terrain (i.e. half movement). The squirrel got hit but for some reason Brian said that it had Loki hit points all be it squirrel AC. When DG realized that his Goblin feat transferred, namely the bonus action disengage, he decided to double down on his foolish plan and keep heading to the idol.
The barbarians were formidable and Ezra and Kharn were losing hit points fast. Lord Q was helping and Ireena and Visilli were helping a bit but they were having trouble getting past. Lady Patrina tried to help Loki from a far and successfully Held one barbarian but another couple took his place. Loki was doing pretty well, moving and dodging and disengaging and actually managed to get onto the statue. Some of the Druids stopped chanting to fire spells at him. When the head Druid cast the dreaded Plant Growth spell and everyone’s movement went to ¼, we all wept. We kept hoping something would disrupt the chanting. Lady Patrina hit them with a Slow but that didn’t do it. She hit them with a Fireball and that didn’t do it. Plus, all of Loki’s distractions. Finally, Brian had enough of us asking and said that as long as one Druid kept going, nothing would stop. I.e. you’ll have to kill them all. Crap. The squirrel was finally hit with a Thorn Whip and pulled off the statue, with the gem almost within reach. The head Druid then put up a Wall of Fire, trapping him and a couple of Druid between it and stone wall. Meanwhile, the rest were still pretty much bottled up (not that they could cover any distance regardless) and hadn’t really made any progress against the barbarians. It was looking bleak.
One of the trapped Druids, went over the wall, saved for half on the lightning and was never seen again. Loki, thinking out the box, changed into a Loki, then changed into a badger and then tunneled under the Fire Wall. Lord Q put up a damaging darkness field near the idol and then one of the Druids put up a Fog Cloud over on the players. It was a mess and hard to keep track of. Kharn sort of broke free and added a bit of movement by leaping over the overgrown plants. The badger was hit with an Erupting Earth and knocked into a Loki. Evidently that form worked like a Druid. It was a big confusion but he had most of his hit points. However, he really hadn’t done anything other than distract some bad guys so it was about a wash. Loki managed to climb into the idol, weaving through the lattice work with a barbarian right behind him. On his next turn, he could grab the gem. But 8 rounds were up and the statue turned into a huge evil Trent thing. He and the barbarian were expelled and were left hanging on the outside. By this point, Brian was sick of having to deal with all these zones and declared that the burst of magic that animated the monster, cleared out all of them. He then stated that the Druids and Barbarians, having completed their mission and released their rampaging beast, started to flee the area. There were some parting attacks of opportunity but soon enough it was just the Trent and the players. All total, I think we took out maybe 3 barbarians and 1 Druid using most of Lord Qs and Lady Petrina’s spells and most of Ezera’s and Kharn’s hit points.
So, the Trent got two reach attacks and two grapple attacks per round. If you started your turn grappled by its roots, you took automatic damage and it took your whole round to try to get free with another save. At least you could still fight while grappled. Its AC was low but it’s hit points were huge as is typical with a big boss. The two NPCs contributed pretty well. Ireena proving adept at getting people un-grappled and Visilli doing some actual damage. Of course, they weren’t being targeted. But quickly Ezera and Kharn were out. Kharn, in particular, was in big trouble because he was still in the grapple and was taking damage (and a death save failure) each round. The NPC got them both a Goodberry to keep them alive. Then Loki and Lord Q were on the ropes. At the end, those two were grappled and one round from going out. But Loki managed to take its last handful of hit points and kill it. We stopped there, being 2 AM, but we did recover the gem from its body. Brian says there’s some clean up to do here. There are still barbarians and Druids fleeing but our 4 fighter types probably have maybe 10 hit point between them. So, a short rest is on the top of our list. Still 5th but maybe we’ll be 6th next time, depending on what we do.
Brian thankfully skipped the long search through the mansion and just declared nothing was found. So, the wine wizard family returned and we were treated to a celebration. During that, a couple of things were revealed. The head guy confided that they were anti Stradhanya and while not fighters, have been using their travels to gather information. Information they were willing to share. Loki asked about the immediate problem about the Druids but he said he had given everything he knew already. (Which would turn out to be untrue.) He also gave us a (i.e. 1) limited edition wine goblet that when presented at an establishment that serve their wine, would entitle the bearer to unlimited wine. We thought that ought to go to the native Barbarian. However, he also revealed that it’s magical and would not cause impairment, no matter how much was consumed. We then thought it should go to someone with a low CON, but the lowest CON in the group, and the most popular, was 14. I’m not sure where it ended up. It was also noticed that the folks seemed to be wary of Lord Q. When we tried to inquire about that, we were told it was a night of celebration and not questions. So, we went to bed. And had more dreams.
Brian put a lot of work into the words of these dreams which I cannot possibly recall. I’ll do my best to recall the gist, as best I can and the meaning, as best we could figure. Ezra dreamed about saving a noble woman from Stradhanya, using the power of the Morning Lord. There were a lot of details that the rest of us didn’t get but Andy said it was very illuminating to him. Kaladin dreamed of his dragon father who urged him to prove his worthiness for greater power by killing one of his companions. And soon or else he’ll take away the powers he already has. He didn’t talk much about that dream. Ambrus dreamed again of avenging the female dark elves by killing Stradhanya with this magic dagger. There were also some ties to a human woman who, once reminded, was the operator of the magic store outside of the city of Valockia. Lord Q had a dream of his patron, the Raven Queen, trying to tell him something however Stradhanya was blocking most of the transmission. The next morning, he sent his messenger mephit to ask the Raven Queen to resend the message. The response back was something like “Nice try, S”. What implications this may have to his patron driven powers, remains to be seen. Loki had a nightmare about the bones again. His sentient animal friends asking him why he’s eating them. In his dream, he wretched them all up. He woke, sick, on the floor but with a bag full of bones. Lovely. Lastly was a 2-line clue that was meant for Lady Petrina but since Brian didn’t attend, it came to the NPC instead. Ironically, I think we spent more time debating this one than the rest. The first line was about chopping the branch but the trunk remains. The Daves took it metaphorically, assuming it meant we’d accomplished something but there was more to do. Andy and Jon instead started thinking about actual trees. The tree on Hester Hill or the tree in his character history, respectively. We shall see. The second line was even more cryptic. Taking action quickly?
The next morning, Brian split us into 3 groups around the winery and imparted more information of us. As we had surmised, it is difficult to grow things in this land and they are using magic to do so. What they revealed was that the 3 Druid gods gave their ancestors 3 gems which were place around the area. One was taken generations ago. One was taken fairly recently by Baba Someoneorother and taken to a ruined village nearby. That is the village we were supposed to go to next to rescue the sister of the magic shop lady. The last was taken after they got taken over by these Druids. They assume they took it back to Hester Hill. They said that if they didn’t get at least 1 gem back within a day or two, all the vines would die. And this valley would become that much darker. So that’s the plan. Hester Hill. We also dug into their aversion to Lord Q. They felt that his bird cage was slightly evil. They asked if he was evil or been known to kill birds, ravens in particular. We said no. Remember that there were a lot of ravens in the area and that they came to our aid. He then asked Ezra directly if he had detected evil or him or his cage. He didn’t recall doing that specifically but certainly hadn’t noticed. Ezra did reveal that he was convinced that all of these heritage items were cursed. (That seems more and more likely as we’ve gone along.) He does not use the powers of his Morning Lord shield and in fact covers it in prayers to keep its curse at bay. He had already warned Kharn that his item isn’t doing what he thinks it is. We were reminded by one of these Vistani seers that she thought these items are what have brought us to this place and marked us for ridding the land of her.
About then, Stradhanya’s black carriage arrived. She and her grumpy elf chamberlain got out. She wanted to know why we hadn’t made good on her dinner invitation. Loki said we’ve been busy, trying to ease the suffering of all her subjects. She decided to take the Vistani girl we had rescued from the Balrog as a means to ensure our prompt attendance. Ezra interposed. Loki tried in vain to defuse the confrontation. When the elf grabbed her, Ezra attacked. He did a bunch of damage with a smite. Kaladin attacked him as well. Loki tried in vain to break her free. Ambrus joined the fray but Lord Q continued to drink his morning tea upstairs. Using a legendary action, she grabbed Ezra and tossed him 30 feet. The elf had an evil whispers AOE that did 4-5d10, save for half. A round later, after we were all bloodied, she put up a wall of ice, the elf drug the girl in and the drove away. (So, a waste of time but within character, especially for Ezra. And I suppose if we’re supposed to kill her someday, knowing some of the things she can do is worth something.) As she rode away, we heard the girl say, “She’s got …” whatever than means. And she tossed that accountant that gave us that book on vampires out the door. So, an NPC trade. He said she invited him into the carriage this morning in Valaki and you really couldn’t say no. He was surprised to find himself all the way here in such a short time but we know about travel time. Ezra greeted him with great suspicion but I guess he’s with us now.
So, we bandaged and headed out to Hester Hill. Ezra tried to get any information out of these guys about what we were walking into but got not much of anything in return. Something about berserkers? The next day, we were attacked by some zombie’s that all looked surprisingly like Kharn. They weren’t much of a threat however they were annoying. Whenever they were killed, they got a save based on their negative value and if they made it, they had 1 hit point. The point being, we had to kill them multiple times. It was a grind but we hardly took any damage. We burned the bodies. By the way, the doll that looked like Kharn that Ambrus took from the Druid at the winery, talked. It said “Get up, get up” every morning, “to Barovia and beyond” from time to time and other stuff. The perfect item for a guy who sneaks around for a living. He left it in the wagon but when it annoyed Lord Q, he tossed it into the fire. If we had a wizard, maybe he could have Identified it. Evidently it could have been programed to say things at certain trigger points. However, it’s only real use was to annoy the players and amuse the GM. We ended, pulling up to the hill. It is immense and tall with no cover. It looks like it’ll be up the main road but we can debate that next time. Still 5th. Jon’s AD&D next time.
We took a step back to Castle Stormgiant. First of all, Jon allowed us to “train in advance” so that we could level up “in the field”. With the rapid advancement and everyone on different charts, we just could not work with the standard advancement rules. Next, we were re-assigned our mission by the Gardener. The city in the northwest corner of the map was having troubles. He wanted us to look into it and help if we can however since they were not part of our kingdom, we had to do it clandestinely. Or at least unofficially. He had booked us passage on a boat going down river and given us a name of a former operative of his that now lived there. We asked some questions. There is active trade between the two cities, mostly fish and coastal products in exchange for farm goods such as grains, fruits, etc. When we realized the river was called the Alerun, we decided to pose as beer merchants. In order to avoid having to carry a barge worth of beer, we’d be advance salesmen, looking to establish a market for a new brand. The Gardener gave us a couple of pony kegs and any reasonable equipment we needed. With that, we set out.
The road to the river was well traveled so we had no problems there. We had a wait a bit for the boat. The Waterlog. An actual merchant and his guards showed up with passage on the same. He traded in fine furs. The captain had a couple of mates. We took off. There was some card playing but it turned out our Monk was just as skilled as their top man. There were some conversations but nothing too important. The weather was poor with off and on rain. The captain was cautious, especially for attacks from shore. We anchored each night in the river. A couple days out, we saw smoke from the shore. We could see something very large (8-10 feet tall) on fire and running through the forest. (Trent) And other big things (Ogres), chasing it with oil and torches to keep it from the river. The captain and the merchant wanted to avoid getting involved but most of the players voted for taking action. Unfortunately, there was too much cover for bow fire so we’d have to disembark to get involved more directly. The captain agreed to let us off and then get back to the center while we did what we could. So, we charged into the forest.
There it was relatively straight forward except that we still struggled to remember/figure out the AD&D rules. Basic stuff like is it half move and attack or full move and attack? So, all those “discussions” really bogged down the action. First it was two Ogres which we engaged as we could. It was rough going for our Rogue and heroic Paladin as they couldn’t seem to hit. When 2 more showed up, the Druid hit them with an Entangle (after 30 minutes of arguing on how the spell could be targeted). They both failed to save and were stuck for rounds. The other two were finished off as the Trent made it to the river. The Entangled two were finished off with bow fire although gunning down a helpless, all be it evil, opponent did not sit well with the Paladin and the Monk. They went back to the river to check on the Trent and were hit with a Sleep spell from a flying invisible Ogre (Magi). Both were affected but the Paladin’s goodly aura fought his off. However, it promptly went invisible again. The Trent was anguishing about his family. When asked, he said his glade was just past the next clearing.
So, we charged off into the forest again. There were another 4 Ogres plus a spell casting one. That one attempted a charm on our eventually Bard but it’s hard to charm a half elf. He didn’t last long, drawing a lot of the fire as spell casters often do. The flying one showed up as well but they were all defeated. The last one ran into the forest. The Trent family was all dead. Chopped to pieces. He was understandably distraught but when asked for a reason for the attack, he had none. The Cleric did notice that the Ogres had a black dragon tattoo which will probably mean something later. The Ogres had some gold and the leader had some potions and a ring. The Paladin grabbed the ring and put it on. That prompted a discussion about treasure distribution. The Wizard asked if we were going to be a “everyone grab whatever they want” group. All agreed, including the Paladin, that we were not. He’ll do an Identify the next morning but the Paladin is wearing it for now. The potions were labeled and Jon allowed the Wizard’s magically training as justification for looking up their functions in the DMG. Invulnerability went to the Wizard, Heroism went to the Cleric, Super Heroism went to the eventual Bard. Those all could only be used by Fighter types. There was a Water Breathing with 4 uses which went to the boat anchor Paladin and the 2 potions of Treasure Finding that went to the Thief. But those are more like party items. I think that was it. The Trent formed a wooden bowl from his limbs and presented it to the Druid to thank us for our efforts. He said something cryptic like “drink from it in times of need”. We made it back to the boat and healed up the next morning. 4k experience was awarded. The eventual Bard, the Cleric and the Druid/Thief leveled up, I think.