Session two of the D&D campaign almost did not happen – almost. Jason earlier in the week had caught some dreaded lurgy from Leslie the previous weekend and on Friday had to cancel due to poor health and not wishing to contaminate everyone.
I was lucky to have recruited a new played to the group and with the remaining players of Pat and Mic salvaged a game of three players. Sufficient to allow a game to succeed – I hoped. On the fly I came up with a mini-adventure for the three, which I modified to some degree as the party advanced through the dungeon.
What was the premise of the day’s adventure? The new adventurer to join the group is a Warlock who has chosen the Otherworldly Patron of the Archfey. This worked very nicely into the “outdoors” feel to the group, a Druid, a Ranger, a Barbarian, the Bard (the traveling con man) and now the contracted consultant with the Fey. Oh the possibilities I had with the campaign now was eternal!
How did I deal with the missing two party members? A otherworldly mist rises from the ground as they journeyed to their destination. This meshed nicely to the introduction with their Warlock player character. The mist interfered with the senses, and despite the best intentions of all concerned the players were all separated and lost. Time became immaterial, they could have been lost for days, or mere seconds – after all time works at such a different time in the world of the Fey. Mic and Pat found themselves on opposite sides of a clearing and so the adventure started.
Introducing the new adventurer was easy. I had originally planned a riddle encounter for the group as they journeyed to their next encounter. I modified this, making poor Celina (Simon’s Warlock) the trapped soul in the riddle. She had been boorish at one of the Fey courts festivals and imprisoned in a cage of thorns for sixty years as punishment for her behavior. I had sourced a riddle from Cloud Kingdom Games “Riddle Rooms 2, Wilderness Puzzles & Perils” (p4) and used it, Ashes to Ashes Encounter #1. When the old man was freed, it was the Warlock who was revealed instead and the story of her misdemeanor was told to one and all. As part of her final absolution she was to “rescue” Lord Oberon’s Pixie that was in the clutches of an unpleasant orc tyrant lurking in an unsavory dungeon nearby.
The Phoenix gifted the Barbarian and the Ranger a feather from its plumage for having solved its riddle and rescuing it from the odious role of prison guard for the Warlock. While sixty years may seem a short time for some, it is still a tedious time frame for others. The Phoenix tells the group that the burrow of the creatures is nearby but is vague as to where exactly. It also tells the Barbarian that part of his heritage can be found within as well as a reward for the Warlock for freeing the Pixie – apparently nothing for the Ranger.
What happened to the Druid and Bard? Well they are trapped in the magical mists of the Fey and will be reunited with the rest of the party at the next group meeting. Nice and simple!
The Ranger spent some horrible rolls searching around attempting to find the entrance to the “dungeon” continuing to earn his nickname of “urban” Ranger with the Game Master (that’s me if you have worked it out). Eventually tiring of not locating the entrance, even with the inexpert help of his friends, he decided to acrobatically climb the tallest tree (think of Bilbo in Mirkwood) to find himself looking out at a sea of trees, some occasional clearings, mountains in the distance (their destination), but no location screaming here lies an underground dwelling! Right after that he made he made his successful search and found the location that had spent and unknown amount of time searching for.
Spooky mist is a great aid for game masters. It hides the floors and surfaces and adds atmosphere to locations. In this case the mist gently rolled downed the stairs hiding the fact the stone was slippery from moisture. The fact the Barbarian rolled a 1 (I think) did not help in the matter and help slipped and did nothing but hurt his pride and dignity as he slid to the bottom of the stairs. The others, now aware of this condition, did not follow his fate.
At the bottom of the stairs they found themselves confronted by a metal portcullis with no visible means to activate its opening or closing. The Barbarian with his strength of 18 had a good go at it however he needed the Ranger to add his strength to raise the gate. Using a staff and little knowledge they wedged the gate open. The staff bowed a little, creaked, but held.
The room. The party had to sort out a light source issue. The party is for the most part human, with the exception of the half-orc in the original founding. The Warlock is a half-elf which now adds another non-human into the group, so the light issue underground is the first time they have had to encounter this problem. After a debate over who carries the torch they survey the room before them.
In this room there was an overturned urn emitting a green vapour. A circle with spinning spines was etched into the stone square tiled floor. As the Barbarian investigated he stepped onto the etched section and heard a distinctive click – he had activated something! Ah the paranoia of adventurers. This created some debate over getting to the corridor leaving the room. Running around the room. Not touching the etched floor panels. Running back out (the Warlock). Mind you the Warlock then played with the urn that had the vapors coming out of it! She (well he, the player but I’ll refer to the character as she from now on) righted the urn, only to see it topple over. Closer inspection showed that it did not have a flat base. The Warlock then turned it upside down, where upon something fell out and clinked onto the groun, but the vapor obscured it. She then placed the urn over the top of the object. It then started to rattle link a kettle with steam building up. I think this may have been the catalyst to spur the party on to leave the room for the corridor.
The avoided the etched sections of flooring, with the exception of the Barbarian, who could of leapt? At least I don’t remember him telling me he leapt. Mind you I am writing this 24 hours after the event so my memory recall may be a trifle dodgy. Talking about dodgy – my reading maps and putting them out on the table. Was I bad or what. Thankfully it was not to a point that it did any real damage to the adventure. I had placed a corridor section out with an intersection leading to a door. I had failed to remember the sodding huge burial crypt off to the side EVEN though it was pictured bold and clear on my map. Yes even the obvious can be missed in the heat and excitement of an adventure and storytelling.
There was this nicely lit room. This worried the party. They didn’t light nicely lit underground rooms. They were suspicious. When the Barbarian stood on the first flagstone tile and heard the ominous “click” he feared the worse. This time he took the time to prize the stone up, examine the mechanism (remember that the party has no thief) and worked out to deactivate the plates from working – that is stop the “click”. With the “click” deactivated, and the Warlock frothing at the mouth to get inside the sarcophagus to “loot” the suspected goodies. Saner heads prevailed and a closer inspection was made of the tomb. It had scorch marks – the Warlock lost all interest then, especially when she found she could not move the lid on her own. How the group decided to still open the “obvious” trap still makes me wonder, but they did and damage was dealt out accordingly! Yes it was a trap. The tiles were like those barbeque starter mechanisms, in this case with each “click” you primed the explosion one step (so to speak). Simple. With no treasure (no one searched in the oil) they left.
The crossroad section they found a skeleton lying there – pointing at the closed doors! Was the something to worry about? The stone doors had a riddle and collection of stone letters lying in a number of trays on either side of the corridor. Each door half had two slots that would take a letter and there was a riddle which required a one word answer. The answer was supplied by the Ranger and the doors opened, whereupon the tiles returned to the trays.
The room was perplexing in its size. It was large. The eight columns of darkness were also unsettling. Here is where as a game master the use of premade tiles is of limited use. When I created the dungeon I just could not fashion the room (with the limited tiles I had) to my liking. Hence one of the darkness columns ended up right in front of the open door way. I also had a gaff in my monster placements which thankfully no one picked up on when the door swung open. That is, why didn’t the goblin hiding in the column immediately get hit or become visible as it dodged out of the way. Opps! Yes, I make mistakes, but in the end as long as everyone is having fun, did it really matter? It’s only as I’m writing up my after game report I’m finding where I stuffed up.
So indeed there were goblins hidden in the eight column of darkness. I had hoped that I could have ambushed the party and done some damage here. However, the goblins now are proving poor sport and went down like a dose of castor oil. It was while they searched the corpses that the real “villain” of the room appeared? I had a “water elemental” trapped in the well. It appeared up out of the well. The poor thing could not even attempt to communicate its intent, but was immediately attacked by the Warlock. A few rounds of combat was played before the party moved out of range, the elemental was restricted to a short range of the well. Once it could not harm the vile attackers, it withdrew into the well. Had they killed the creature? The party had no idea? The Warlock went to have a look? The Warlock went too close with the torch, lent over the lip (forgetting the slippery surface) and fell into the well. (Party should have lost a torch? Well at least recorded one as soaked, needs time to dry out.) There she was at the mercy of the “vile” elemental. A tense atmosphere developed? What was going to happen? It asked “why did you attack me”? The rest was history as the Warlock did some dodgy thinking as a way of explaining her and the party’s actions. She found out that the way to release the elemental from its entrapment in the well was to bring it the elemental stone located in the enchanted circle they had already discovered. The elemental deposited the Warlock back on the lip of the well in a wash of water, almost sending the Ranger and her back into the well (nice try by me). The Warlock then took off at speed, almost forgetting to even tell the other two members what she was doing.
It’s always easy to forget that while role playing and sitting at a table you are privy to all that occurs. So while your character can rush off to do something thinking they have the understanding of the other characters, in “reality” they have not. Right then, the Warlock used Mage Hand to grasp the elemental stone, but to her horror the moment she took it outside the circle and progressed down the hallway to where the water elemental was, the green vapors started to exponentially increase in volume with each step. The stone was returned to the circle and a debate started as to how to get the stone to the elemental with as little chance of anyone breathing any of the vapor in? The curse of no Cleric in the party! No one wanted to run the risk of testing the vapor. In the end the Ranger and Barbarian hid outside the dungeon while the warlock used Mage Hand to hurl the stone down the corridor into the well. It worked. There was a flash of green light, the green vapor faded. The Warlock screamed out to the waiting party members that it was safe to come back! (So much for any secrecy – but I think the monster denizens knew they were coming anyway!)
Healing! Yes the party was a little battered from the battle with the goblins and the water elemental. They needed to rest. The Barbarian came up with the brilliant idea of testing the riddle door room. It worked until he decided to take a letter (one needed to open the door) into the room with him. Rather than test this hypothesis with someone still on the outside, he effectively locked everyone inside with no hope of escape. Feeling doomed, the group decided to sleep on the problem, hoping that the morning would provide a better solution. Well they dove into the well and searched for a way out. Nope, but did find the treasure chest that was there. Searched for secret doors – none. The word tile would not fit under the door. In the end the Barbarian decided that shattering the tile might free them. This did, allowing them to open the door and to further explore the dungeon for the captured pixie.
While in this room they found the treasure in the well. The trapped chest had fizzled thanks to water damage and the years at the bottom of the well. (See treasure at the end for what was there.)
Back to the intersection they went. The other direction had a portcullis like the entrance. Similar story, no activating can be found (or did they at this stage?). They did need the combined strength to open the portcullis. The corridor beyond did have the appearance of a unstable and cracked stone tiled surface. Closed inspection found that while the areas they had travelled had proven travelled through, this broken area did not show evidence of traffic at certain points which would have been obvious. With a supply of dead goblin bodies (I need to introduce an overnight or immediate corpse removal system in my dungeons) the party tossed a dead goblin down the corridor to see what happened. To this (not disbelief) the body fell into the crevasse, though it did appear as though it was a natural affect. Not at all happy with this initial test, they selected another dead goblin and dropped another corpse closed to their feet. Similar result. Warlock asked for a rope to be tied around her, she then had to clarify her waste, not neck (yes there is a lot of humour in this group). She found the floor was an illusion, there was a 50’ drop to an unpleasant spiky demise to the floor below. A narrow ledge did run around the walls, on either side that allowed passage to the other side.
Another crossroad passageway was found. The Barbarian found that the magic glow lights also worked as the activation lever for the portcullis. Finally a lever was found, the group was happy to know there were some working parts in this dungeon! Looking down the longer corridor they saw it lead to a room, where the other shorter corridor led to a huge and impressive set of stone doors. They chose to explore down the corridor towards the open room (therefore not needing to open the door).
As soon as they started down the corridor the “click” traps started. Again the Barbarian set to jamming them. That allowed him to work out that the area at the opening of the room probably had an illusion and most likely a trap, it also warned him of the ambushing occupants. Needless to say the poor Hobgoblins, while harder to hit and longer to kill, did die eventually. The illusioned “trap” was a delaying obstacle, which didn’t work as well as I had hoped. This left the last room…
The last room had the nightmare waiting for them. Well armed and waiting. The room was very large. It was well lit thanks to the large oil lit braziers. The leader of the group was an Orc War Chief, his Gnoll Pack Lord underling and its two henchmen, the rest were cannon fodder, some eight kobolds – which included a champion and a cultist/cleric. At the entrance was a massive collection of bones and in there lurked a swarm of insects. The fight was brutal and the Barbarian “died” a few times but thanks to the help of the Ranger staved off the inevitable long enough to live to see the light of day. Truly having the advantage and placing the Orc War Chief constantly at disadvantage was the only thing that saved the party in the end, that and my bad die rolls.
The pixie was trapped in a cage which she was released from. She was giving lip the whole time the battle was raging, hurling insults (particularly at the Warlock) and maligning the adventurers as poor substitutes for “heroes”. I think nobody really wanted to free her in the end, but feared the consequences if they did not. Once freed her attitude changed and she granted to the Warlock the services of the Sprite “Jynxto”, which she can summon once a day for fifteen minutes. She also identifies the items the party has found in the dungeon and teleports them to the clearing the found the Warlock where they find the other members of their party.
12gp from dead goblins (yes these were very rich ones)
"x"sp from dead hobgoblins (stingy with these guys and I forget to write it down
Art Objects (worth 25gp each)
Dented golden crown with its gemstones pried out.
Ivory cameo on a pearl necklace.
Glass eye with an azurite iris and obsidian pupil.
Toy horse carved from bone.
Dark soapstone sculpture of a large crouching cat.
Stone of Good Luck (Barbarian) - in a velvet bag which when dried out can be seen to have the scenes of swans sewn into it.
Bracers of Archery (Ranger) – artistically embossed with scenes of the hunt, all involving the bow.
Sword of Vengence (Warlock) Cursed to the Warlock at present…
Pipes of the Sewers (?) – constructed of rat bones (or so the urban ranger tells you?)
Bracers of Defence (Barbarian) - artistically embossed with swans into the leatherwork.
Party members attained 1066xp each (such an auspicious number, I remember meeting the Bastard...)
The Warlock’s research is able to tell the Barbarian that the Swan motif is associated with Aengus Óg.
So ends another session. I hope that I continue to entertain everyone, I certainly enjoyed the session.
I must thank Pat very much for his generosity of the Wilderness dungeon tiles that he gifted me. These will be put to good use with the group and I am deeply touched by the kindness that he and others show me. Particularly at this time of year, which is always a critical period for me health wise. Thank you everyone.
Till next time.
The Honourable John.