Five gamers met with DM Don and his dangerous helper Jenn at the Reaper Game Store to see if we could push further beyond the black portal:
Matt, returning with Deegan, the human monk
Robert, playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter with some spellcasting ability
James, playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue arcane trickster
Jonathan, playing Thorin, a dwarf cleric
And your chronicler, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric
[Due to a number of unfortunate absences we were missing some of the other major characters; they were assumed to be suffering from the ill effects of something they ate….]
The group had previously withdrawn from the abandoned dwarf keep beyond the black curtain after taking a great deal of damage, but also inflicting a great deal in return. They thought at this point it might be possible to ascertain what damage had been done, and perhaps see if there was a path to the tower beyond which lay the exit.
After some brief discussion, and bringing the new cleric up to speed, along with the monk, who had unfortunately had to miss several sessions, the determination was made that the group should first reconnoiter the keep. The absence of the wizard was felt keenly at this point, since normally reconnaissance has been performed by his familiar. Therefore, the stealthier members of the group went past the portal, with Thandiina and Varanus (neither of whom is particularly stealthy) standing just outside.
Deegan went first and managed to sneak into the keep successfully. He observed a large number of various bones on the ground, the skeletal archers remaining on the (now very unstable) stone bridge above the portal, and that the two towers which had been set aflame in the last expedition were completely gutted. In order to get a better look he proceeded to climb the wall between the two gutted towers.
Aevay followed, and stealthily followed the same path, reaching the top of the wall without triggering any alarms. Unfortunately, when she revealed her presence to Deegan he was completely surprised and fell to the ground, becoming severely injured and awakening the current inhabitants of the keep. Aevay stayed on the wall, and entered the gutted portion of the tower, seeing a number of armed skeletons on the wall beyond.
However, before Deegan could climb to his feet he was attacked by a number of disembodied hands, sufficient to incapacitate him. While this was taking place Aevay used a Silent Image to create the illusion of a closed door (and a Tardis, but never mind that….) onto the gutted tower; this was a very effective use of the spell, as it prevented a large number of the skeletons from detecting what was going on.
Fortunately for Deegan, he was able to recover from incapacitation and furtively down a Potion of Healing. [Note: per the RAW since he rolled a natural 20 on a death save he recovered with 1 hit point. He then succeeded on a stealth attempt to drink the potion and then kept playing possum.] However, since Thandiina and Varanus had heard some of what was happening they charged in to rescue their friends after shouting for the others to follow. Varanus charged directly to Deegan in order to cast a Cure Wounds on him, and he and Thandiina were being peppered with arrows from the skeletons on the bridge above the portal. In the interim Aevay fired bolts at the skeletal archers, as Anima and Thorin raced from the dwarf temple to the portal.
Aevay attempted to use a Fire Bolt to bring down the bridge, but only managed to chip off a small bit of masonry. This gave Thandiina an idea, so she located a large stone and hurled it with all her might at one end of the bridge. [All her might is a lot, considering her Strength is 18. And for pretty much the only time this day she rolled her dice well.] The bridge came down, trapping the remaining 7 skeletal archers in the rubble, Aevay having dispatched one with her arrow fire.
With the disembodied hands attacking them constantly, Varanus and Deegan made their way back to the rubble. Varanus attempted to Turn Undead in order to drive the hands away, but only succeeded in making the trapped skeletons try to move away, as they were slowly being slain by Thorin and Aevay. Thandiina stayed at the rubble, battling skeletal hands, and Anima was using her Mage Hand to cut the archers’ bowstrings, which was making them much less threatening.
Then the enemy reinforcements became visible. A large number of zombies, led by a creature which appeared to be a large orc in metal armor, came shambling around from the northwest. Varanus, who had put a Flaming Sphere onto the disembodied hands (killing a good number of them) moved it to attack zombies, but was not having a great deal of success. Deegan charged from the rubble and dispatched one of them, while Aevay and Anima focused their fire on the orc-like creature which appeared to be their leader. Aevay also moved over to the rubble in anticipation of a retreat, as several of the combatants were wounded and Varanus was low on spells from healing them. Thorin continued to kill the skeletons, though he was wounded by one of the zombies in the process. At this point Thandiina called for a retreat, and the heroes began to retreat through the portal…..
At which time an IRL storm moving through the area caused a power failure, and the game had to be called! Don let us know that everyone had retreated successfully, and the group will pick up exactly where it was left off (no recovery unless a rest is called for) next time, when hopefully some of the other characters will have resolved their disagreements with their food.
[Recon became recon in force which became a retreat. However, the group managed to remove some enemies and bring down the bridge, so it wasn’t a total waste. I am convinced that the large orc creature couldn’t be affected by normal weapons, especially since he was smiling evilly with 5 arrows stuck in him. If we can have a few more characters next time we can hopefully push through to the tower.]