Journey to Saltmarsh
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Hudson Millblood (Barbarian/Druid)
Mikas Blakfag (Ranger) & Dimebagheera (the panther)
and Aria (Spellcaster)
Returning Guest Star - The Absent Minded Game Master
It has been a while since I have written a report of what my group for D&D have been up to. This will mean that it will in all likelihood be a rambling affair which may not make much sense except to those who’ve played in the adventure – however for those how haven’t I hope you enjoy the read nevertheless.
There has been a gap since the last recorded entry. The band of adventurers of whom the primary cast is Grak the half-orc Druid, Mikas Blakflag the human ranger, and Hudson Millblood (not to be confused with Millhouse from some alternate reality) the human barbarian had just finished battling their way through a pernicious multilevel dungeon seeking a wayward disciple of Grak’s druidic order who has gone rogue. The group was accompanied by an off and on again warlock who found all the traps that everyone else knew were traps and left alone.
GMs NOTE: This is one of those problems when you have a player who is unable to attend sessions. What do you do with the character? In this case I simply had the character become a non-entity for the duration of the time they were absent. I find this easier than role playing their character, making decisions that may cause conflict later when or if they reappear. By this I mean, they wink out of existence and reappear when they return to the group. This is for say dungeons, for outdoors I could have a band of farmers look after the person as they fall mysteriously ill, say applies in urban adventures.
Getting back on track the group had a number of delightful encounters deep in the underground environment. It also made me re-examine the way I design my environments based on the spell choices players were taking. Either that of the choice of adversaries they will meet in these environments. For example Thunderwave used with underground cliff edges that lead to seemingly endless depths would end many a poor adversaries’ day should they fail their required test.
I think that the mix of tests and adversaries for this underground adventure proved balanced. Certainly it was sufficient for the players to advance their character to the coveted 5th level with one character electing to multiclass to druid. Deciding to join the noble class of his fellow adventurer Grak, what could go wrong!
Grak in the depths of the dungeon found his peer, but certainly not his equal and retrieved the two central sacred henge stones of the druid circles he had desecrated. Mind you it was not much of a fight Ibys was petrified at the sight of Grak, literally – he had been turned to stone, whether by the Medusa or the Basilisks none could determine as the Medusa was gone – presumed dead and the Basilisks were dead and thus certainly unable to communicate. For good measure Grak pushed the petrified remains of Ibys into a deep pit, waited for an inordinate amount of time for a satisfying shattering crash that signalled the final end... or is it? No Grak did what any good protagonist did, he made sure that his nemesis was truly dead, no more coming back to plague him as a returning villain – well one hope not in the least.
The return to Choldis Grove (yes I gave it a name now, not very original) was greeted with pleasure that the old druid did not have to send someone else to do the job. He was entertaining two new visitors to his squalid little Grove, I’d call it a village but that would be giving villages more value than hovels. Choldis praises the work of his primary adept Grak who he wacks enthusiastically with his staff as he extols his many virtues – namely his clumsiness. Though he clearly belittles the young half-orc it is obvious that he has great love and pride in his achievements – after all a fatal beating never hurt anyone. Choldis is even more pleased when he is advised that Hudson not Millhouse is wanting to follow in the grand tradition of the druids, though he’s a tad bit worried about his fetish for bears. All the signs are pointing for the peaceful transition to the swan, of well what was he to stand in the way of prophecy. So Choldis decided that Grak would be a fine teacher, after all he survived his teaching regime. After taking Hudson to the henge and pledging him to the rites the newly consecrated druid stepped out of the grove bearing a number of wonderful black and blue markings across his body. Grak was rather pleased he was not the one who was black and blue this time.
Of that’s right there were two new members to the party, yes I do wander and as always I get caught up in my story telling. Not all of it true, but sometimes it is, you just don’t know what is?
Another half-orc has joined the party his name is Glug! Choldis spent a bit of time looking at Glug and wondering just how far afield his seeds had been sown. He looked at Grak, looked at Glug and wondered? No, could it be? Oh dear, just where was he that day back in... what year was it? Yet this lad was handsome, must have taken after his mother... hahahahaha. Yes this Glug chap will fit into the party quite well, look he even bought a bucket!
The other person Choldis couldn’t make out – spoke some new age lingo, almost like speaking in foreign tongues. Aria the wild magic Spellcaster, he thought wild is the right moniker for this one. The gleam of conflagration and tempestuousness seems to lie just under the surface waiting to be set free. Aria will fit just nicely into fire support for this lot or – well time will tell.
GMs NOTE: It’s always fun when you have new players join an established group. I’m hoping that the two players both settled into the group and felt welcome. First time is always strange, and as a GM I try to keep an eye the mood of players and keep them involved. I’m hoping that both will return for the next session and continue with Saltmarsh.
11th May Game Day
The actual adventure for the day was to test the new druid Hudson Millblood. He was to go into the surrounding hills and seek Tarmond Blackburn who has been enchanted into the form of a bear. He will be easily spotted by the heavy silver chain that is bound around his neck. All that Hudson has to do is remove the collar and bring Hudson back to the Grove. Simple yes?
The journey was uneventful. I taunted Mikas Blakflag about his skill as a ranger (sorry it’s a long standing joke – a very poor one at that) that he relies on his animal companion. Glug needs some new dice I think, that d20 was rolling dangerously roll for encounters, to the point that he was almost at Mikas’ level of ability! Well Mikas’ kitty (the panther – named Dimebagheera) smelt bear, lots of bear during the night and as they finally found the destination.
Choldis has slipped Grak a final note before leaving. Do not kill any of the bears. Yes he knew there would be more than one bear. The situation revealed itself to be more than a simple take the collar of a possibly irate bear.
Cautious, what party is not. They examined the scene. There were 10 bears in the cave, five adults, three juveniles and two cubs. Hudson decided to try out his talk with animals ability and discovered that he was unable to communicate with the animals. At the same time, he was accompanied by Grak who noted that something was not right. Aria caught a glimpse of the silver collar on one bear, a juvenile which was tussling with another, revealing it too had one. Ultimately it came to light that all the bears had collars, but which bear was Tarmond?
Hudson and Grak’s attempt to “talk” to the bears had provoked a territorial act of aggression from the juveniles which then triggered the rest of the group. Note that this is an abnormal association for bears as they are solitary and asocial creatures. It is only due to Tarmonds influence that they are able to cohabitate with open bloodshed and death. At the time of the party’s arrival the males are sparing which allows aggression levels to dissipate. The juveniles rush forward as do the adult males, the female protect the cubs which remain still and curious with their mothers.
The silver collars proved difficult to cut and hit, were enchanted and with the bears proving to be a less than agreeable opponent the simple task was not so simple. Entangle, Thunderwave, and Fire Bolt spells were off in all directions, well mostly at bear. Glug proved to be especially gifted at using the nonlethal end of his axe and subdued one of the adult bears to point of running away. I’m afraid I can’t remember who subdued it in the end, it may even have been Glug.
The party deduced (only through not having lots of identical models) which was Tarmond, and picked on this poor individual. Aria hit the poor sod with the flat of a shovel, apart from making it angry this did nothing (oh for some cartoon style humour of a bear faced feature in the shovel). Weapons did apparently no damage to Tarmond, though whether this was the affect of the collar of Keogan or Tarmond none know to this date. Eventually the apprentice druid Hudson grabbed the bull on in the case bear by the horns or er... collar and yanked it off. Hooray! Mission succeeded.
Tarmond though did not want to return to the Grove. He was quite happy living here with the bears, Choldis he said was quite welcome to his wife. Tarmond was a good looking well built man in his 40’s. After some persuasion that came just short of intimidation Tarmond agreed to return to the Grove to prove Hudson had completed his task, and then run away very quickly.
Upon returning to the Grove the people were excited to see Tarmond, especially his wife who had been beautiful 20 years but now in her 60’s having a handsome and virile husband was most welcome. Tarmond looked at his aged wife and took to the hills with his wife in hot pursuits, the sound of the villagers laughter filling the heavens. Choldis looked especially pleased at the outcome, he took back the collar and indicated he’d keep it for the next time he had to chastise Tormand. Not bad for a man over 100 years old he said, makes me look spry at 200 doesn’t it he chortled, as his bones cracked as he took his seat to impart further instructions.
The next journey for Grak was to deliver warning messages to the three Groves in Dreadwood, each of the masters is to be given a message stick. These sticks look much like branches from a tree about the length of a person’s arm. To a druid or a person attuned to magic the branch will resonate power and glow with druidic glyphs of warding that will only allow the recipient to read the message. The messages are to Agrom Sutton, Thoin Belet and Agar Bigham with a final warning to be delivered to Saltmarsh.
Choldis imparts that he is worried that the machinations of the entity Vecna are in motion as is evidenced by the mask which the party uncovered in an earlier adventure. While Choldis thinks that his chosen apprentice could achieve much in the wilds he believes that more pressing matters are unfolding in the wider world than those that are afflicting this small portion of his world. Choldis believes that Saltmarsh would be a good staging area to source information and discover what “evils” may be at the heart of the unsettling disturbance in the delicate balance in the cycle of life.
With this dramatic information the Band of Five (dramatic indeed) head off to the first Grove. No sooner do the leave the safety of the Choldis Grove than they discover thanks to the pernicious luck of Glug a band of giants frolicking in the wild. No amount of enticement would elicit the party to investigate the frolicking humanoids, so the chance of a bit of mayhem and loot was passed up. (Problems with giants not being quite on the subtle side at present...)
The Grove of Agrom Sutton was a breath of fresh air – it really was, compared to the dark age living environment of Choldis Grove. The fact that Agrom was once Choldis’ apprentice makes this difference markedly more remarkable. The beauty and structural significance clearly shows than Agrom went on to learn more from another teacher. Agrom is a human in his late 60’s (by appearance) and he remembers Grak when he was a lad. When he sees Hudson he remarks off hand about getting that bit seen to, and applies a salve as he winks at Grak. A few remarks are made about Choldis’ preferred method of reinforced teaching methods and then matters turn to why the visit. Agrom asks if anything was amiss while they travelled and is concerned about the giants, but now that he is warned will take precautions. He makes a message of his own and adds it to the message sticks. The party take their leave and head on to the next Grove.
The Grove of Thoin Belet was destroyed by fire at least two to three days prior to their arrival. As the party came closer to the Grove they could smell the burnt vegetation and eventually the devastation itself. Little remained standing. No bodies could be found, or remains of them. The Groves henge had been pushed outwards and toppled as if by some great force. In an attempt to locate the sacred stone, it was found that it had been taken. Was this the repeat of what was happening with the rogue apprentice Ibys? Grak used his ability to detect magic to see if some source to this calamity might me found. At the point where the sacred stone was placed the magic source was located. Aria supplied a shovel and Hudson (GM: I believe it was) discovered that the soil was extremely loose, as if already been dug. Hudson dug down and hit pay dirt, or in the case the object which emitted a violent hiss and scream of steam. Hudson quickly vacated the area, as did the party as they saw the device shoot into the air and detonate and engulf the henge area in an orgy of fire.
What is it that mattered the most from this encounter! The shovel tip was broken as it struck the object, but wait folks that’s not all. The object was eventually unearthed and found that when in the light heated up, this lead to another precipitous dash for safety. The object fell into the hole and the shade, but did not detonate. Aria “donated” their cloak to wrap the object where it was discovered that it still generated warmth, let’s call it energy shall we! So a mad dash for the creek and an immersion in water seemed to quell the issue, though it did ruin Aria’s cloak. Aria is now keeping a tab on what the party owe for damaged goods (1 x shovel, 1 x cloak, “x” amount of ...). The object had now been reduced to numerous shards of crystal which still collected energy and could be dangerous, though the party did not decide to waste time on playing with this concept, they wanted to get on to the next Grove. Luckily Glug had a bucket (sorry I’m off on a tangent now and thinking of the marvelous British TV series called Keeping Up Appearances and Hyacinth Bucket or as she liked to be called Bouquet, right back on topic) and not a bouquet and so the deadly cargo of shards was safely transported for the moment.
GM NOTE: It is with interest I should point out that each Grove was 3 days apart.
The final Grove to visit in Dreadwood (perhaps an apt name at this point) was that of Agar Bigham. As the party approached the Grove it was evident that something was amiss. As the breeze changed in the direction towards their approach the smell of rot and decay was overpowering. At first the signs were small insects, birds but at the approach to the Grove was in sight the loss in life of animals and people was clearly evident. Everything appeared to have dropped dead where they stood or had been going about their daily activity. No evidence of violence could be discerned upon the bodies from a casual examination, the bodies had been in the open two to three days and had swelled accordingly.
Grak went in search of the sacred henge stone and found that it had been taken. Fearing that something similar to the last Grove had been perpetrated Grak tested for foul magic, but was relieved to find that none was evident this time. Aria and Mikas decided to loot the Grove buildings of anything of value and came away with substantial loot for their trouble. Glug stood guard while this was happening and upon his cry that he saw the bodies twitching and appearing to move (there being a whole village of people) the party fled the vicinity. Plague was bandied about, but no one seemed to honestly think they had it. (Silent rolling from behind the GMs screen, bahahahahaha.)
After two uneventful days of travel Saltmarsh appears and the city gates loom before them. The city guard are the same everywhere, demand the usual tax, in this case 5cp per person. However on seeing the dangerous and unusual panther there is the need of the party to assure the guard that the animal can be allowed in the town without being a threat to those within. Aria spent some time showing the guards that Dimebagheera was truly a harmless overgrown kitten. Aria almost got the “kitten” in at peasant entry but for an unfortunate poke which elicited Dimebagheera to screem her howl of protest, scaring the guards. Still the panther was allowed entry, though Mikas grumbled about the 1gp entry tax as a rip off.
Then it was off to Oak Island where the party met Lira Tolivar a halfing druid who was master of the Grove. There they imparted all that they had discovered along the way.
GMs NOTE: This more or less ends the adventure at this point, there was a little shopping and item identification. I’m waiting for Ghosts of Saltmarsh to arrive (21 May), our next session is slotted for June so I’m sure to be all prepared for lots of skulduggery by then. Thanks to my regulars as usual, but they know that. To the new blood thank you very much for coming along, I hope to see you for the next adventure session.