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.
We started in the cold basement. We searched the Druid but he had nothing of note. Lady Petrina started a Detect Magic ritual and eventually found nothing. We assumed the ramp on the far side went back up to the vat room however there was a door down here. It was examined but it was not the source of the cold. Ambrus did manage to find the source, a crack in the wall between to two rooms. An investigation discovered a secret door. When opened, it was a short hallway that ended in some sort of room. It was very cold in there and there was brown mold on the walls. The last mold we encountered was vulnerable to fire so Lady Petrina fired a Fire Bolt down there. The mold grew. We debated and concluded that cold would be the best bet. Kaladin was talked into using his cold breath weapon and that killed off some. Unfortunately, he took cold damage when he moved into the room. More debate. Lady Petrina had a Dragon’s Breath spell that could last for 10 rounds. More debate and eventually cold resistant Kaladin volunteered to go back in and clear out the mold. He took damage once more but saved this time for minimal. (Dan: After using an inspiration) Unfortunately, the hall was a dead end and had nothing of worth. It was simply a means to keep the wine cold down here. So all and all, a waste of time but we didn’t know that going in. (Dan: Our epic fight against the fridge monster.) About this time, we started to hear load noises from somewhere in the building.
We opened the door which had stairs going up into a glass bottle workshop. There were a couple of windows to the outside and another door. Ezera opened it and saw a Druid and an army of the small Twig Blights. Rather than charge them all, he closed the door. Unfortunately, she spotted him. We barred the door and went back down. There was much debate and indecision at this point. Eventually, we headed up the ramp but ran into a Twig. Ezera managed to kill it and close the door. There was a hallway beyond it that seemed to go outside. Ambrus was eager to flee but was reminded that the outside was full of the big Needle Blights. Our plan was to find who was controlling them in here. We started up the ramp, hoping to avoid the army, and get to the controlling Druid without having to fight them. That lead to a hallway which ended in a room where wine barrels were loaded into a wagon below through a hole in the floor. In there was the head Druid, Needle and Twig Blights as well as some new Vine Blights.
The Druid recognized Loki and demanded the return of his heritage Bag of Bones. Evidently, these Druids had lost their connection with the animal kingdom and could no longer turn into animals. They had been harvesting the bones of animals to allow them to do so however for some reason, they had to be sentient animals. So, this guy claims the only reason Loki and the rest had been given the gift of intelligence is to fill the bag he stole. That bag, which had finally allowed him to escape successfully, represents years of their evil efforts. And they wanted it back. (That’s not quite the backstory DG wrote but compelling. Assuming this guy isn’t lying like these Druids have been doing to Loki since day one.) So, after some clever banter between them, it was back to kill or be killed.
We had all kinds of technical difficulties at this point. The Twig army was not visible to the players on the combat tracker. The more advanced head Druid Brian had created seemed to have been lost. Eventually we rebooted. Brian declared that the door Ezera was holding, in fact had a bar on it, which would hold them at bay long enough such that he did not reload that room and lessen the burden on Fantasy Grounds and his PC. Loki was attack by a Vine Blight that had reach, grab, squeeze and could move people towards them. It held him over the hole. Lady Patrina could get them all in a Fireball, including Loki unfortunately. He had a +8 save but could not and took 24 ish however it did a ton of total damage to the 7 villains in the room. That really softened them up but Loki then fell through the hole. As usual, the spell caster was the real threat, even if he was a Druid, although those Vine Blights were a pain. Despite several others being dropped into the hole and much damage dished include a heat metal on Ezera, we took them out. Towards the end, the Druid from the other room showed up, damaged, but quickly fled. Evidently the friendly Ravens had taken out the Twigs. When she was run down, it was over.
We haven’t searched the rest of the house but it was quiet. The Druid indeed have that magic staff. Lady Petrina did an Identify on it. It could do a Vampiric Strike and Summon these various Blights. Perhaps it could control them with more research. However, it looked and felt evil. It attuned itself to her by growing tendrils into her flesh, for example. When the Paladin said it was indeed emitting a big evil aura, we agreed to destroy it. People started to log off but Brian cut some debate short and said we threw it in to the glass blower’s furnace and after a brief show, turned to ash. And all the Blights disappeared. He revealed that the longer we waited, the more dire the consequences for those that handled it. Not that we needed more convincing. He also gave us a short rest and an Identify on the cloak. It granted, to a Druid or Ranger, the ability to do a Hide action as a bonus action while in light cover. Unfortunately, Loki already got this from his Goblin race although this allowed him to do so while being observed so maybe it’ll be of use. Until we get a Druid, he’ll take it. We stopped there. We’ll need to do a quick search of the house and then bring the wine makers back in. So far, we haven’t seen a link to Loki’s “save the Druids 3 times” destiny but we think we’ve moved Ezera’s and Patrina’s a bit. Next week will be Jon’s first edition AD&D and then back to this in two weeks.
We started, still in the encampment of the former residents of the winery. The head guy provided a sketch of the outside of the one building, surrounded by grape vineyards. There were several entrances but only one road. We attempted to get more information out of him (secret underground tunnels? (Plants have dark vision?, other roads?, numbers?, etc) but got nothing of any value beyond the map. We also grilled him for potential motivations for these Druids. Evidently, they had been harassing them for months but a week ago, they just attacked and took over. Questions about whether there were any druid ruins under this place or near the area again came to naught. Motivation was a reasonable line of questioning given that the Druid we fought last time seemed to return to his normal self before he died. So, we were thinking maybe if we could figure out why they were corrupted, maybe we could fix that and therefore save them. We also revisited Loki’s back story during that. He remembered that Stradhanya had somehow captured/corrupted/banished the 3 gods of the Druids so now they must worship her. (Not quite the backstory DG wrote but whatever.) Loki’s destiny was to free the 3 gods or some such. But ultimately, we ended up back at the “attack the winery” adventure as it was our only lead. At the very least, we needed information.
In the middle of all this, Lady Petrina did a tarot reading on Loki to try to get more information out of him. Again, we got nothing new. But while that was happening, the NPC started asking questions about this Petrina behind her back. I mean we didn’t really know anything about her other than she was a player character. But that’s true of all of us really. Anyone of us could be a spy. That launched a big discussion about her backstory and the backstory of the Dusk elves. Some of this was rehash for Andy who missed last time. She didn’t seem to eat or sleep. Someone with that name was stoned 200 years ago. How do we know she wasn’t a vampire? (She a Reborn.) She did have a reflection in a mirror. Ambrus tried to unlock her memories with his tattoo. But ultimately, we ended up back where we started.
We finally got back to assault plans. Loki offered to do some recon as a squirrel but Petrina revealed her undead sprite familiar. It could fly invisible so Mr. Grey was sent, looking for the best approach path. It seemed an impossible task but then Wade announced it was to be a skill challenge so all these discussions were mostly for naught. The first challenge was an Investigation roll to find the optimal path so he gave that to us based on Mr. Grey. Next was an Animal Handling to understand what the ravens flying above were up to. Kharn thought they were sort of leading the way along the best path. (More fuel for the “not all the druids are evil” notion.) Near the end of the fields was a Stealth check to stay ahead of the closing Thorn Blights. Ambrus rolled that, assisted by Ezra who he had turned invisible in hopes of helping him sneak. Then an Acrobatic dash into a store room which dog Loki lead. Then an Athletics roll to lock the door behind us which Ezra did. I think Ambrus took a couple points from thorn fire but all and all, it was a success.
The storeroom was more of a closet but the next room was 2-3 stories high to hold big vats of wine. There were stairs up to a catwalk above and lots of doors. Kharn went first and spotted a fur clad Druid pouring some thick liquid into a vat. He raged, wolfed and charged up to her. There were also around 6 of the small Twig Blights. Combat ensued. Neither were much of a threat. The Druid did manage one Thunder Wave but hopefully it was dismissed as part of the rain storm outside. Loki used a short sword to stay quiet. Ambrus got knocked into a wine vat. About the only complication was that after most had finally hacked their way through the minions and got up to where the Druid was, Lord Q pulled her down with a cantrip. And she tried to make a getaway. There were some contentious discussions amongst the rule lawyers about how that movement all worked. She did manage to get through a door. Patrina was not able to best her strength to open it but Kharn had no trouble. She was finally cut down. Nothing was learned or earned and no short rest needed. Lord Q questions the ravens in the rafters but they had nothing very useful to say.
After some discussion about what to do next, we went through the door she was trying to go through. It led to stairs going down to a cool basement. We all headed down, in initiative order. It was a wine storage room. The first half, the racks were empty but the second half had wine bottles. Wade pulled us out of initiative order but the next action, Kharn and Loki found another Druid and 4-5 big Thorn Blights in the second area. The Druid cast Entangle but only Loki failed his save. These Blights were much tougher and had range attacks that did like 3d6. Kharn recklessly pursued the Druid, taking several opportunity attacks and got beat up pretty good. The Druid wasn’t too effective but had a lot of hit points. The Blights were tough. When the Druid was dropped at 1AM, the chronicler went to bed. I assume the remaining Blights were finished off and they stopped there. Assuming another encounter doesn’t come down here, we were much louder this time, it’ll be the short rest or press on discussion next time. It appears to be another one of those “fight in every room” type maps.
We started with the aftermath of the Balrog battle. Brian seemed to be playing the young girl who was being sacrificed that we rescued. She was in fact a teen and claimed to be now teeming with sorcerous energy. She wanted her parents buried and we did so, away from this unholy ground. But the most pressing issue was the burning urn. One was damaged, causing its fire elemental to return to its plane and its urn to stop burning but the other still burning. If we messed with it, would a fire elemental come out and kill us all? Or another Balrog? We couldn’t just leave it here for the next passersby to stumble upon. After much debate, we decided to take a short rest and then strike the urn, figuring we could take a fire elemental at that point. But it did not happen. We tossed the remaining golden slag into sacks and got back on the road. With the teen in tow. An hour later, it was sunset and we made camp. We survived and got a long rest.
The next day about the only thing that happened was that Kharn and Loki spotted a big black dog-like thing in the woods. It rattled their souls. We pressed on however some skill rolls were made and it was revealed that these things put some sort of curse onto those who met its gaze. So, it was said. But we figured we wouldn’t be able to find it again anyway so kept going. What’s one more curse. That night, they had bad dreams. The next day we made it to the town. The abbey was on a steep hill, within the city walls. Once again, the city guards were jerks. They would not let us in, despite our name dropping. We lamented that Ezra had PMS but I don’t think it would have helped. After some pointless roleplaying, the local leader told us we had to do them a small task to prove our worthiness before gaining entrance. What is this, Oz? Ironically, it was to go to the wizard winery and figure out why they had stopped shipping wine here as well. He also requested/insisted that we take the monster/bride along with us. Out came Brian’s true new character.
She was a dusk elf although a bit pale. She seemed to be wearing a wedding gown that looked shabby for a second but then looked normal-ish. It was pointed out that all the female dusk elves were supposedly killed by Stradhanya. Evidently, she had been serving as the abbot’s scholar and bookkeeper although her memory was a bit fuzzy past a couple of years. She and Ambrus had a lot in common. They continued to talk. (Dan: Mostly mentioning how little they remembered) The name Lady Petrina sounded vaguely familiar to him. He leafed through his history book and discovered that Lady Petrina was the one that the dusk elves refused to hand over to Stradhanya, choosing to stone her to death instead. This caused the vampire to kill all the female elves in the land. But that’s just a coincidence in names, I’m sure. We debated breaking into the town but Lady Petrina advised against that. She said that the abbot was very busy and had been very distracted of late. Even if we could get to him, he wouldn’t be much help. However, if we brought him some wine, it might go better. They refused to take the teen off our hands. Besides she wanted to be reunited with someone from her family or at least some Vistani. On the road, Lady Patrina overheard the conversations about the Death Dog. According to something she had read, they did indeed curse people. However, she cast a Remove Curse the next morning. The first removed the curse on Loki and the second on Kharn although she felt there was a deeper curse still in play. Unfortunately, this used up her two third-level spells for the day. Brian revealed that the curse would have resulted in fatigue the next day and unconsciousness the next. The moral of that story is to avoid making perception rolls.
Eventually, the road became more of a path which was difficult terrain. Loki, who was walking point as usual, spotted some strange twig like creatures running through the forest. In their midst, was a crazed Druid fey feral thing that vaguely looked like a Druid Loki once knew. Combat was started. Loki and then others tried to talk to the Druid but he was not hearing it. The twigs were weak but there were a lot of them. So much so that it bogged down Brian’s computer so badly that he had to reboot, mid fight. Kaladin’s breath weapon had recently improved and he was doing pretty good with 2 AOEs a round. It didn’t do a ton of damage but enough to be killing 3-4 a round. Others followed suit as best they could. The Druid cast a couple of Thunder Waves and an Entangle but it was over pretty quick. Kharn had grappled the Druid, hoping we could figure out how to help him but Ambrus ran him through with a critical backstab. As he died, his eyes cleared briefly, and said:
Loki...<hack>...<cough>...Is that you?
Our way has become...<cough>...corrupt...
We cannot reach...<cough>...<hack>... the Ladies through Stradhanya.
Find...<wheeze>...the 3 Ladies: The Weaver, The Seeker, The Huntress
Restore their Fanes and return their stolen power!
Find Jenny Grrr...<cough>...<hack>...<death rattle>...
So, then Loki revealed some of his tragic backstory to explain that. (Although it’s really Brian shoehorning his backstory into the module plotlines.) Basically, he and his family had been captured by some Druids. They were attempting to build an army by uplifting animals into soldiers/servants/slaves in order to marshal forces to defeat some “great evil in the land”. He was one of the few to survive the process, most ending in death or twisted abominations. As a survivor, he was subjected to further experimentations, both physically and mentally. He attempted to escape multiple times, finally succeeding with the help of his artifact item. He didn’t see much beyond the Druid encampment but has come to realize that the great evil was likely Stradhanya and the land was likely this accursed place. It’s not hard to imagine that these twig blights are an extension of those uplift experiments. Although he didn’t say this out loud, his greatest fear is falling into the hands of his tormentors once again. And now he is tasked to somehow save them? Or maybe not. The 3 ladies are the gods they worship and a Fane we think is a temple of some sort. No idea who Jenny Grrr… is. Maybe she can be found at Castle Argg…
Jon logged off at this point but we pressed on a bit. Before we got to the winery, we were signaled by a guy in the woods. He and his family were the displaced residents of the winery, distance descendants of the wizard founder. The patriarch told us that the place had been overrun by Druids and their minions. Those minions sounded a lot like bigger versions of the twigs we just fought. He recommended we sneak past the minions and get to the Druids in the house as a frontal assault through the blight creatures would surely fail. We asked him to draw us a map of the compound so we could plan our attack however Brian could not get the draw function to work in FGU. Rather than watch him fart around with it, we called it a night. We’ll debate our plan for hours next time.
We took a late morning in the barn. Ramadan, the female human Paladin showed up as our reinforcements. We debated what to do and concluded that we would heal up faster here than the time it would take to get back to the castle. The Cleric and Druid used their spells to heal people up getting them up to around half. The Paladin kicked 6 more. We figured we wouldn’t be able to survive the same battle, but maybe we could survive half a battle. Although once we saw what Ramadan could do, maybe the wasn’t true. There was some debate about our charmed goblin but we’d given our word to let him go. The Paladin agreed with honoring one’s word. The Druid, the Monk and the eventual Bard followed the tracks of the goblins back into the hills. However, that was a day’s journey so they had to turn back to get back to the farm by nightfall. The Wizard stayed at the farm and helped clean up. The Cleric and Paladin searched around the neighboring farms. Nobody found anything of interest however having a Paladin “on the case” seemed to raise the morale of the farmers. We posted guards that night but thankfully no attack came. The next morning, another batch of healing got us close to full. (Jon also allowed a hit point for the rest although as per the rules it would require 24 hours of complete rest.)
We decided to head into the hills, getting an early start in hopes of maximizing our daylight. Once into the hills, we could sense someone watching us. The Druid and Monk hung back in the shadows while the rest moved forward. They sported some well-equipped orcs in hills. Were they here looking for goblins or us? Regardless, they were watching us now. The rest of the party came to a goblin camp but it was abandoned. The sneakers caught up and we discussed. Since it was almost evening, we decided to camp here. It was defensible and there were some lean-tos. We also found a sapling of the plant creatures. It appeared that there was once a whole patch of them here but this one was left behind. It was crying. The eventual Bard transplanted it into a bucket and soothed it with song. We decided to parley with the orcs, figuring they already knew we were here. Maybe we could live and let live and trade information on the goblins. Some had reservations on this plan but as it was debated, the orcs attacked.
So, there were like 5 orcs with spears and 5 tough orcs with swords, one of which was slightly bigger. The Paladin charged that one. Unfortunately, on his warhorse, he moved 24” while the rest of us moved 12” or 9”. He killed that guy in a round but was then quickly surrounded. Some advanced on the rest of the party who moved up as they could. Remember that its half move and attack so we were really moving 6” and 4”. They were engaged. The Cleric did a Hold Person on two of the regular orcs but the tough one saved. Held meant automatic hit, max damage, and double attacks. Brutal. They didn’t last long but the tough one did. The Druid tried to shoot his bow into the Paladin’s melee but he hit the Paladin as well. Speaking of the Paladin, she was awesome. But then she missed a couple of times and they hit a couple of times. Despite the contribution of her horse, she was knocked out. But evidently, Cavaliers can still function at negative hit points, but not attack. The disengage rules are suicidal so after she did lay on hands to keep from bleeding out, all she could do was stay on her horse and wait for the killing blow.
The eventual Bard managed to get down there and engage one of the 4 remaining. The Monk and the Wizard had the last of the others engaged so the Cleric was able to disengage, move to within 6” and cast another Hold Person, getting two of them. The Wizard disengaged and enjoyed the free-to-hit and max damage on a held one. The Druid took his place on the one. The eventual Bard’s dropped the one she was on and the one that had been beating on the Paladin asked for a parley. Too late! The Cleric finished him off and the last one was finally disarmed by the Monk. After that, he was beaten to death. The Cleric did some bandaging and use his last cure to get the Paladin above 0. The leader had a scroll of Ice Storm in a case. (Welcome to random treasure in 1e.) They also had 4 elven swords that turned out to be +1 and would shed light in their name was said in elvish. And some coins and armor. It started to rain, ruining any chances of following the tracks of the orcs or the goblins.
We camped overnight and went back to the castle to report, by way of the farm. The Gardner said the swords were standard issue for elvin infantry 100+ years ago and the orcs likely found them in a cache. The Odorous Oak was consulted about the plant. He didn’t know anything but suggested it be raised. Perhaps for goodness and niceness. The Druid took that on. We then leveled up although Jon didn’t give us anything for the fight, figuring the night was not over. The Gardener gave us another mission. Travel to a city to the northwest that seemed to be having trouble. They were not part of this kingdom so we had to be subtle (I’m looking at you Paladin.) but he didn’t want trouble on our boarders. We traveled without a random encounter. We got as far as walking into town but BTO had to sign off. Andy also had to go so it was an early night. 4000 exp was awarded and those that leveled up, were allowed to do so despite not being in the castle. That whole process is still being worked out. Jon will go back to Blades next time so it’ll be at least a month before we play this again.
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!