The Young, the Old, and the Diggers

Out of the Tower
IRL Date 9-17-16

A somewhat truncated group met with DM Don at the Reaper Game Store on 9-17 to continue exploring the abandoned dwarf keep; regular stalwarts Derek (Ginsu the Rogue), Matt (Deegan the Monk), and Shawn (Maculate the Warlock) were all absent. Present were

James, playing Aevay (Dragonborn Rogue)
Robert, playing Anima (Dragonborn Fighter)
Martin, playing Varris (Sun Elf Wizard)
Jon, playing Thorin (Dwarf Cleric)

And your chronicler, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina (Human Fighter)
Varanus (Lizard Man Cleric)

Having recently upgraded everyone’s equipment with the haul from the tower’s treasure room, most of those present (the others having succumbed to more food-borne illness) wanted to try out their new toys. There remained one entire level of the keep to explore, and in addition there remained the second floor, in which were located the ballistae which had presented such…interesting…challenges previously.

Using Varris’ familiar, the party quickly discovered that there was neither opposition nor loot on the third floor of the keep, just abandoned rooms filled with garbage and broken pieces of furniture. Down to the second floor then. On the second floor the group learned the hard way that two of the ballistae had been repaired and were being “manned” by the surviving skeletons; the two shots they got off did minimal damage this time, and they were dispatched with alacrity by the heavily armed party. Varanus decided to smash the ballistae into little bitty pieces, and Aevay was more than happy to assist with that project after her previous experience with them. The group continued down the stairs, knowing that the stairs continued down below the first floor.

Continuing to find little of interest, the group followed the stairs down into a storeroom containing nothing of interest even to rats, and then discovered a short passageway leading to several prison cells. The logbook in the desk indicated that it had been used by the garrison, containing as it did lists of dwarf names and minor infractions. From the prison the group discovered a horizontal passage leading into a larger, nearly empty room which appeared to be a dead end, until Thorin descried the outline of a door on one wall. However, the door would not open until a great deal of additional searching found the opening mechanism. After opening the door the group entered a passage angling farther down, deeper into the Underdark, and ending in another door.

At this point, in part because of the number of missing characters and in part because of the DM not feeling well IRL, it was determined to pause the expedition. What lies beyond the door?

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Let There Be Loot. Oh, and Experience.
IRL Date 9-03-16

Eight gamers met with DM Don to continue the group’s adventures near the dwarf keep that has proven to be far too full of undead creatures:

Jon, playing Thorin, a dwarf cleric
Matt, playing Deegan, a human monk
Shawn, playing Maculate, a warlock of indeterminate elven race (except we all really know he’s a Drow.)
Martin, playing Varris, a sun elf wizard
James, playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue
Derek, playing Ginsu, a human rogue
Robert, playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter
And your trusty reporter, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human meat shield fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric

Having been seriously battered and barely surviving — with the help of a raise from the dead in the case of Maculate — and escaped back to the dwarf village, our heroes were determined to rest. Thandiina’s comment summed it up: “I have bruises on my bruises.”

Having rested, the bold adventurers were finally able to accrue experience points for the previous several sessions, and each character gained at least one level. Deegan actually gained two levels. [Due to the progression rules in 5e, since he was at the top of 2nd level to begin with, he traversed 3rd level completely.] Some time was taken up as the group proceeded to determine what new skills, powers, and abilities they had each gained as a result of their recent exertions.

Following the rest, Aevay was determined to replace her armor, which had been destroyed by a direct hit from a ballista. Thorin and Varris assisted, while a number of other characters explored the areas which had already been cleared out. Inside the dwarven temple the group discovered that the dwarf in amber was no longer there, only a set of armor. The group — probably wisely — decided to leave the armor alone out of respect for their former ally. Then the explorers proceeded to the site of the last battle in which the undead had been dispatched. Where the golem had been was a pile or stones. Some of the stones were glowing; Maculate and Thandiina each took one. (Maculate later Identified these stones as adding protection as well as light, but only when held in the hand.) Varanus rummaged through the pile of stones until he discovered a small stone that looked somewhat like an unpolished gem with a rune carved on it; he kept that for future examination.

Other experimentation with the stones seemed to be unfruitful, so by the time Aevay’s armor was finished the group was now ready to determine its next step. The remainder of the group came to the area before the tower at the center of the keep, and a discussion took place regarding how to approach the tower. After some discussion, and an abortive movement to enter the tower and explore up the stairs the rogues chose to climb the tower on the outside. No one saw anything through any of the arrow slits in the sides of the tower, and there was no opposition on the roof, so the rest of the party followed. The stairs reached the roof, and so the intrepid adventurers proceeded down the stairs, preceded by Varris’ familiar, this time in the form of a cat.

On the next floor down the group discovered a room which appeared to be a former office, a room with an altar which appeared to be a temple of some sort, and one other room. This was a room filled with coins of all denominations scattered about the floor, and additional nice things. The trouble was, the group wasn’t alone.

Another ethereal undead creature came through the walls and attacked Varris and Varanus. This time the group was better able to fight it; spreading out around the two adjacent rooms most of the characters waited for it to appear and then attacked. It did some harm, but after some time of using these tactics it was dispatched.

By now it was time to examine the treasure room more closely. There was a significant amount of cash, but also a reasonably large selection of magic items. Some discussion followed regarding the most equitable way to divide them; ultimately the group chose to take turns selecting, and the items were apportioned out. Each character ended up with at least two magic items, not including potions, so this was a lucrative day for a group which had seen few enough of those.

By now it was time for a quite happy, higher level, and better equipped group to break up, prior to exploring the next level below and the stairs leading below the “ground” level.

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Bringing out the Heavy Artillery
IRL Date 8-20-2016

Seven gamers met with DM Don at the Reaper Game Store on 8-20 to see if we could — finally — figure out what was in the tower at the center of the keep:

Shawn — Playing Maculate, a warlock of uncertain elven-appearing origin (he’s actually a renegade Drow.)
Robert — Playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter
James — Playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue (of the Arcane Trickster variety)
Matt — Playing Deegan, a human monk
Jon — Playing Thorin, a dwarf cleric
Derek — Playing Ginsu, a human rogue

And your trusty reporter, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric

The group had after a great deal of effort and trouble managed to arrive at and clear one room at the bottom of the tower that formed the center of the undead-infested keep. Time to rest up and lick our wounds from the previous spate of encounters…..

Or, rather, not. Each character separately begin having visions of blood and destruction, auditory hallucinations of screaming and pain, and a general malaise. Although the group attempted to rest, it proved impossible. Therefore, banged up and battered, the group determined to press on — perhaps if they could clear out the upper levels of the tower it would lead to a place where rest could be had.

[In conversation later we learned that this was an unexpected decision; we could have attempted to retreat back to the basement where we came in and attempt to rest there.]

With the stealthiest characters (Aevay and Deegan) leading the way the group began cautiously ascending the spiral staircase (having found nothing particularly useful on the ground floor). Unfortunately, due to most of the characters being unable to see in utter darkness, the party had lights as they ascended. As the group arrived at the second floor Aevay failed an opportunity to dodge a bolt from a ballista that pinned her to the wall, taking her out. Deegan was able to dodge the bolt that came for him.

It turned out there were four ballistae in the chamber being operated by skeletons; as a consequence there were still two that hadn’t been fired yet. Having seen the tactical situation the group wanted to disable the remaining ballistae before they could fire; Anima attempting to use a Mage Hand to cut the cables on one of the ballistae while Varanus attempted to use a Sacred Flame to stop the skeleton preparing to fire the other. Meanwhile the skeletons that had already fired advanced to engage Thandiina, Deegan, and Ginsu. Thorin was meanwhile attempting to restore Aevay to the fight.

Unfortunately, the attempts to disable the unfired ballistae failed utterly, and both fired immediately, inflicting some damage on several characters, though nothing like what had happened to Aevay previously. In the meantime, Ginsu made an acrobatic maneuver past the skeletons and ballistae and began attacking the enemy from the rear. The skeletons were succumbing gradually to the party despite its wounds.

Although it looked as though this fight would end up in the group’s favor, it was not to be, because the skeletons got additional undead reinforcements flying up the stairwell, attacking the rear guard (Maculate and Aevay primarily) and inflicting large amounts of necrotic damage before escaping either back down the stairwell or into the wall. The rear guard was having a lot of difficulty hitting these creatures, so having managed to start the ballistae aflame the party determined they should retreat.

Down the stairs with Thandiina and Varanus holding the rear fled our bold heroes, but Maculate was hit so many times with necrotic damage that couldn’t be healed that he was slain outright. However, the surviving members of the party made sure to keep his body with them. Varanus hypothesized that perhaps the creatures were bound to the stairwell, so the group ran out of the keep entirely.

As it turned out, Varanus was completely wrong, but the group’s actions had a serendipitously good result. Although the etherial undead beings were pursuing the party outside the tower entirely, from the other direction there appeared……the dwarf golem. It was somewhat battered, and appeared to have been in a fight with a large number of skeletons, but it was still effective. The spirits came after the golem, whereupon the party members who were still effective hit them in the flanks. (In the interim Anima was barely persuaded from looting Maculate’s body.) With the help of the golem (who was seriously battered) the three spirits were finally dispatched, whereupon the golem, channeled the power of Morden via Thorin into Maculate, and he was raised.

By now the battered group was able to flee back to the dwarf village where they hope to get a badly needed rest.

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Slip Around the Back, Jack
IRL Date 8-06-2016

Six intrepid gamers met with DM Don at the Reaper Game Store on Saturday, August 6 to continue their efforts to get past the keep full of undead orcs:

Martin, returning with Varris, a sun elf wizard.
Jon, playing Thorin, a dwarf cleric
Matt, with Deegan, a human monk
Shawn, running Maculate, a warlock of uncertain but elven origin (okay, we pretty much know out of character that he’s a renegade Drow, but in character nobody knows that)
James, returning with Aevay, a dragonborn rogue
Robert, playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter,

and your chronicler, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric

Previously the group had explored the basement of one of the ruined buildings at the dwarf village outside the keep and obtained a number of masterwork weapons (+1 to hit but not to damage, and not magical in nature for purposes of hitting things that can only be hit by magical weapons) as well as a number of silver pieces. They had also explored some tunnels at a lower level until they seemed unstable and had splashed a stone into water just out of view. Today the group took stock of their situation and decided that a situation this dire demands the classic move: the party split.

While Aevay and Anima assisted Thorin in turning some of the silver previously obtained into heads for arrows and crossbow bolts, Deegan, Thandiina, Varanus, and Varris took a load of wood from the ruined buildings intending to shore up the fragile tunnel leading to the water, while Maculate stayed above guarding the rope and prepared to pull it up if need be.

As it turned out the wood was unnecessary. The tunnel remained fragile but did not appear in imminent danger of collapse. The water was found to be a “puddle” which appeared to be about twenty feet across, covering the floor of the tunnel from wall to wall. Water dripped continuously from the ceiling, but the puddle did not appear to be growing. Being a lizard man (and thus a powerful swimmer), Varanus entered the puddle, finding it to be quite deep, perhaps another twenty feet, with a current drawing water into a fissure at the bottom; this is what was causing the puddle’s size to be stable. He assisted the rest of the truncated group across the puddle. Beyond the puddle the tunnel trended back upward until it ended in a ladder leading upward. Atop the ladder was a trap door. While Deegan cracked it open Varris sent his familiar through to explore.

Above the trap door the familiar discovered a basement similar to the one below the ruined dwarf inn, with foodstuffs gone bad and wine gone worse. There was also a sound coming from the outside, a sound which seemed to be evil chanting. Apart from the rotten supplies the basement was empty, so Varris, Thandiina, Varanus, and Deegan entered it, while Varris sent the familiar outside to discover the source of the evil chanting. Above this basement the familiar discovered a ruined building, also similar to the ruined inn at the old dwarf village. Past the ruins of the building was what appeared to be a large statue from which the chanting was emanating, along with a number of undead milling about. The group determined that this situation called for the rest of the group, and so Varanus volunteered to fetch them, as the puddle would present no hazard to him, and he might be able to assist the others across. In the meantime, Thandiina, Varris, and Deegan would attempt to rest, although the chanting was so horrific that only Varris was able to do so.

Varanus arrived back at the village after the craftsmen had completed about half of their planned work, and persuaded them to abandon it and come immediately. As they were departing, Anima observed the dwarf statue/stone golem move to take a position near the portal. Aevay ran inside the temple to ask the amber-encased dwarf about this, and was told that he had seen there was a possibility that he could get through the portal after all these centuries and do something about the undead in the keep. The group took that statement under advisement.

As the reinforcements were crossing the puddle Thorin (dwarves not being known for their swimming abilities) ran into trouble and was being sucked toward the fissure at the bottom. Varanus dived to save him but became tangled up with his spear’s lanyard and struggled to get the cleric’s head back above the water, but was eventually successful, and Thorin made it through with no more than a scare.

Once the group was back together they carefully exited the building and attempted to sneak as close to the statue as they could. A more extensive look at the statue indicated that it appeared to have been a dwarf but was being transformed into a statue of an orc, and it also appeared to be glowing from flames inside. The group couldn’t tell what would happen when the chanting stopped, or when the transformation was complete, but it couldn’t be good. It was time to attack.

The group’s tactics have improved over time and previous mistakes. Thandiina (a trained professional meat shield) drew the silver dagger and charged the statue, while Varris and Varanus both launched Flaming Spheres to attack the undead. Aevay shot at the skeletons from cover, while Deegan charged an armored undead orc which was coming up to assist the golem. Thorin and Varanus took position to assist in healing.

The battle raged for quite some time. Eventually Maculate pointed out that several characters were focusing on the golem, and the group should attack the skeletons (which were peppering the party with arrows) and take them out more quickly. Deegan, Anima, Maculate, and Aevay proceeded to do so, while Varris and Varanus continued to use their Flaming Spheres against the armored undead orc (which fell soon after) and Thandiina kept the golem engaged. Once most of the skeletons had been destroyed, Maculate charged past the golem into the tower behind it, slamming the door shut behind him.

The golem, badly wounded by this time, turned to pursue and knocked down one of the doors — right before a bolt from Thorin’s crossbow finished it off. Maculate, in the meantime, had seemingly leaped from the frying pan into the fire, as he was assaulted by some eight skeletons. The remainder of the party raced to help, with Aevay casting a Silent Image to block the view of the skeletons remaining above.

Those inside the tower were mopped up relatively quickly once the remainder of the party arrived, although the skeletons were reinforced by additional ones entering via a stairwell. At this point the party locked the doors as best they could and paused to take stock of the situation. Somewhere in here lies an exit. Finding it may be challenging.

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Slipping Through the Cracks: Maybe We Can Go Under?
IRL Date 7-23-16

Apologies for the late posting…..Real Life; I can’t seem to do anything with it.

Seven gamers met with DM Don at the Reaper Game Store on 7-23 to continue trying to dig our way through, or out of, the Underdark:

Martin, returning with Varris, a sun elf wizard.
Johnny, returning with Thorin, a dwarf cleric.
Shawn C., with Maculate, a warlock of uncertain race.
Derek, with Ginsu, a human rogue.
James, with Aevay, a dragonborn rogue.
Robert, with Anima, a dragonborn fighter.

And your chronicler, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter.
Varanus, a lizard man cleric.

The slightly smaller group from the previous exciting episode had just withdrawn successfully from the hordes of undead orcs beyond the black portal; fortunately, several of their friends (Varris, Maculate, and Ginsu) had recovered from their temporary malady which had kept them from the reconnaissance-in-force-turned-into-retreat previously. After the withdrawal, several of the characters experienced an epiphany. (Thanks, Don!)

They realized that there were several ruined buildings in the dwarf town outside the stronghold that had not yet been explored. Several then determined to begin doing so. Close to the portal was the largest of the unexplored buildings, which appeared to be an old inn or tavern, so Thandiina, Ginsu, and Anima gingerly entered it. Unfortunately for Anima, she took a wrong step and began to fall through the floor! Thandiina was able to catch her and pull her out before she could suffer any injury, however. This incident led to the discovery that the inn apparently had a large basement. The trio lowered a rope to the basement (with Maculate waiting at the top ready to pull the rope back up if the three died horribly) and explored the basement. Aevay joined them.

In the basement the small group discovered a number of barrels of vinegar which was probably good wine at some point in the past, and also a door. Once Ginsu had the door open, however, poison gas came flooding into the room. Thandiina and Anima swarmed back up the rope, while Ginsu and Aevay decided to tough it out. The gas dissipated quickly, and with Thandiina and Anima returning, they discovered a small room with another door at the far end; inside the room was some loot! (This was pretty much the first loot the group has discovered.) In addition to some coins, there was a set of “masterwork” weapons (which each grant a +1 on attack rolls, though not on damage.) The coinage was safely tucked away and the weapons distributed to the appropriate characters, at which point the group opened the door and followed a passage.

The passage led to what appeared to be a small barracks room, with bunk beds, a table, some chairs, and two more doors. At one of the doors Thorin detected the definite presence of evil; this door was barred with several bars of iron. A brief discussion took place whether the group should open that door; when it was pointed out that it would be a bad decision to open it, the reply of “Bad decisions are what this party is all about” seemed to carry the day. So the door was opened, and undead came swarming out to attack the party!

For once, however, the party had luck (and dice) on its side, and the three undead creatures (later determined to be weakened spectres) were dispatched quickly. The passage from which they had come led into a tunnel in which the rock was appearing more and more fragile, and narrowing as well. Farther down the group heard the sound of running water, as though there was another underground river, but while someone threw a rock and heard it splash, the group didn’t trust the tunnel well enough to proceed further.

They therefore tried the other door. This door led to a tunnel which ended in a ladder going up; trying the ladder, the group discovered themselves in one of the fields of mushrooms outside the dwarf village. They finally made contact with the moving mushrooms (myconids) and discovered that those beings were simply continuing to cultivate the fields as they had been instructed to do long ago, although there was no one but themselves to eat their crops. They treated the party to a pleasant vegetarian meal, in which Varanus became too exposed to the mushrooms’ effects and began having interesting hallucinations without moving, while the rest of the group trudged back to the dwarf village to try to put together what all they had learned. Eventually they discovered their lizard man was missing, and returned to try to find him, but he had recovered in the interim and met the group outside the village.

The next steps would seem to be to attempt to find where the underground river runs. The group has discovered enough wood to likely shore up the end of the tunnel and perhaps build a raft; possibly the river will take them to the citadel. The other alternative would seem to be fighting through the hordes of undead. And where are the living orcs?

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Step Forward and Step Back: Could Be a Dance of Death
IRL Date 7/09/2016

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.]

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Alarums, Illusions, and Flames: Beyond the Black Portal
IRL Date 6/25/16

A somewhat smaller group met with DM Don and me at the Reaper Game Store to proceed with the party’s further adventures in the underground caverns:

James, playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue and arcane trickster.
Robert, playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter with some spell casting ability.
Martin, playing Varris, a sun elf wizard.
Jeff, playing Tor Black, a dwarf cleric of the war domain.
And your chronicler, Andy, with two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter (battle master)
Varanus, a lizard man cleric of the light domain.

In addition, Don had brought his wife, Jen, to assist in running the opposition. This was our first signal that this would be tough. It was not to be our last.

When we had left our heroes, they were near an ancient dwarf temple in a vast underground cavern, surrounded by fields in which were growing a number of fungi, which had obviously been cultivated. Inside the temple was a dwarf seemingly frozen in amber, to whom those who could enter the temple (apparently only characters of good but non-lawful alignment, based on who had been able to enter) could communicate by touching the amber, with a normally reposing stone golem on guard outside. The band had availed itself of the opportunity to take a long rest and fully recharge all abilities. Following this there was an extended discussion on plans. According to the dwarf, most of the exits from this area that led to the surface had been blocked off when their citadel was attacked and the rest of the village destroyed by the evil forces that lay beyond the black portal which lay between two large columns opposite the temple. The dwarf also informed the group that there was a way out through a large tower in the center of a citadel that lay past the portal, and in fact, he drew a map of the citadel.

Varris sent his familiar in the form of a raven through the portal to scout, and saw what appeared to be a large group (a very large group) of something skeleton-like, armed with bows, on all of the various towers and internal walls of the citadel, plus apparent skeletons and zombies on the ground. There were at least eight such towers, all connected to a very high central tower by internal walls. Anyone just walking through the portal was likely to be pincushioned almost immediately. On the other hand, the group could try to determine whether any of the other exits was still usable, facing unknown dangers. Or, the party could attempt to go back the way they came, assuming they could get past the gate and the kobolds who guarded it. So, a vote was taken. Varanus received a sense from Bahamut that it would be really good to pass through the portal and destroy the evil that was there, and that the unknown alternatives were probably even more dangerous. He therefore voted to proceed through the portal, and was followed by the majority. After some additional scouting by the familiar, the group crafted a plan.

Both Varris and Aevay had access to the spell silent image; in addition Aevay had the ability to use a mage hand, planning to use that to fire a flaming arrow from his hand crossbow as a distraction. The silent image would be used above the party so that hopefully the skeletons on the towers and walls wouldn’t see them. The idea was that if someone could climb to the top of one of the walls without being noticed the party could get up there and have cover and a positional advantage over the enemies on the ground, and could perhaps gain cover against some of the enemies on the walls as well.

The plan having been decided, it was implemented. The group entered and did not seem to be detected. Aevay then cast her mage hand and fired a flaming crossbow bolt from as great a distance as she could. This seemed to distract the bulk of the enemies. Thandiina then proceeded to climb the wall. Unfortunately, not all the foes were distracted: A loud horn sounded, and Thandiina was made. Arrows came flying at her, wounding her. At this point, now the the party could see how many of their foes were arranged, and noted that there were approximately 10 skeletons on the top of each of the towers on either side of the portal, and a line of them along the wall. So Varanus put a flaming sphere in the center of one of the towers, starting to burn some skeletons and also setting the wooden parts of the tower aflame. In the confusion, Tor cast a sacred flame on one of the foes on the wall, one which was not a skeleton and which appeared different, and Varris attempted to use a chill touch against it.

With the top of the tower and the wall getting very hot, Thandiina decided to drop to the ground and attempt to use the javelins she had picked up previously to attack the fleshy undead, while Varanus concentrated on the flaming sphere and Tor continued to use the sacred flame against the fleshy foe. Suddenly a rope dropped from the wall above Thandiina and the enemy swarmed down it to engage her in melee. Aevay moved to fire her own bow at it, and Varris added his own flaming sphere to Varanus’ at the top, and the two spheres began cleariing the wall of skeletal foemen. By now the enemies had seen through the silent image and began targeting the entire party. Thandiina [note that this was prompted by one of those questions a DM sometimes must ask] drew the silver dagger she had obtained previously and began stabbing at her opponent in melee, but his counterattack took her down entirely. Aevay and Anima riddled him with arrows as Tor continued hitting him with the sacred flame, and the spheres on the wall continued to advance, having set the initial tower completely ablaze. Fortunately for Thandiina, Aevay was able to use her mage hand to force a potion of healing down her throat, so she was able to reengage in the fray.

Unfortunately, while the skeletons on the wall were being forced to retreat from the flaming spheres, the skeletons from the tower on the other side of the portal ran onto a bridge to the other tower and continued to pepper the band with arrows. Aevay and Tor were both seriously wounded at this point, while Varanus was using his own healing abilities to keep Thandiina upright and facing the most powerful of the undead. Tor’s attempt to turn him failed, although a couple of the skeletons fled.

Suddenly, from across the field, appeared a group of at least twenty more skeletons led by a second creature of the type that was fighting Thandiina. Aevay then used her own silent image to make it appear as though her mother had arrived. This doesn’t sound so impressive until we remember that her mother is a blue dragon. The newcomers spread out to surround and attack this new foe, as Thandiina dealt her foe a mighty blow just before being dropped once again. While Anima ran to get Aevay’s silver longsword to engage it, Tor was able to finish it with one more sacred flame just before being taken down by arrows fire.

The entire party was in bad shape at this point; Varanus was able to heal Tor enough for him to prepare a retreat, and then picked up the unconscious Thandiina and carried her toward the portal prior to healing her. The new foes, having determined that they were fighting an illusion, proceeded to form an effective firing line and the arrows were truly raining down now. With all but Aevay beside the portal, it was determined that Varris would use a thunder strike to drop the bridge completely (a previous effort having almost done so) but with all the arrow fire targeting her, Aevay went down. Thandiina, never willing to leave anyone behind, ran out, picked up the unconscious dragonborn, and then forced a potion of healing down her throat, at which point Varanus tried to grab her, Thandiina, and Tor and drag them all back through the portal. Although his grip on Tor slipped the dwarf followed immediately. The foes could not follow through the portal.

The group is planning to assault the portal again after healing and recovering, as this still appears to be the way they need to go to get out of the caverns. But to do so will require not only fighting through all the foes that they know about, but no one knows what may reside inside the tower, only that through some openings they saw so much light that it was painful. And now the enemy will be expecting an attack. Only time will tell if the party can craft a plan sufficient to get through.

[In retrospect, having Thandiina try climbing the wall was probably a mistake, as Aevay could have attempted to use stealth, and the flaming spheres were what did the most harm to the greatest number of enemies. On the other hand, the group’s teamwork was much more effective than before — particularly during the retreat phase, and it is an old military maxim that retreating in good order is very difficult indeed. In addition, it’s possible that had the other characters been present that might have given the group sufficient numbers to actually win the fight outside the tower — but what may lie within the tower remains a topic of grave concern.]

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Supplemental Adventure Log: Maculate's Perspective
(IRL Date 6-11-2016)

From the forum, here is Maculate’s own personal perspective on what happened. As a side note, it didn’t hit me that we hadn’t gotten his name until after the session was finished; at the time we got distracted trying to catch up to our friends in combat.

6/11/2016

That crawler has been following me for days! Run run run run run…all I do since leaving them behind all thanks to this damned crawler. To make matters worse, I had to jump in the water to get away! The Old One must be looking out for me since I survived somehow, only to be rescued by a trio of lightsiders.

How odd that no one asked me my name. Oh well, I didn’t introduce myself because they didn’t ask.

We don’t trust them anyway.

Three of their friends are orc food. Fools want to save them. I wonder what they have done to justify the effort.

Through the march we came to a palisade guarding the orcs. Somehow they saw us as we came over the wall and combat ensued! The healers dropped very quickly for some reason (Perhaps because they forgot they were not infantry and charged head first into the teeth of a skirmish line. Did I say fools? Yes, I see that I did. We state it again. Fools.). At this point, for some reason, the damned animals came after me!

Two of the animals hit me and the first died screaming to my Hellish Rebuke. At this point my magic reserves were spent and The Old One left me with only my cantrips and wits.

The large, remaining orc stepped back when I asked him if he wanted to burn too; and promptly charged me.

When I came to…

The carrion worm that had been pursuing me these last days had sprung into camp to assault the party. Thankfully the orcs seem to be gone.

The dragonborn ran to my side to heal me. Perhaps this one is trustworthy, but probably not.

Somehow while I was returning to my senses, this group of strange lightsiders managed to kill the worm.

We setup in the orc village and took an extended rest.

The bard is insane! He lost a leg to the orc stew pot and now seems obsessed with a prosthetic which was eventually crafted from the orc javelins. (We think that they put the points in the wrong place…)

To add to the oddity of this group of misfits, they voted on whether or not to cross the river. VOTED! Democracy is no basis for running an adventuring company. I should have voted to see if I have a vote. Too late now. We’ll vote next time and find out.

On the far side we found ourselves at a very well tended crop field of mushrooms and wheat. We found a road as well that lead by ruins and a pair of towers and all was illuminated by orbs on pillars giving the light of the surface at dusk. So bright! We travelled to the village/ruins.

Three of the group could enter the temple: both dragonborn and the bard. In the temple they all touched a dwarf in amber and began talking to no one. Well, we think that the dwarf-block didn’t like the way the bard was touching it (or perhaps WHERE he touched it) as somehow Stumpy Bard angered something and the statue in front of the temple came to life and pounded the bard.

Upon the sea of dwarf (Can we call them squats? Probably best not to since there are squats..err…dwarves…in this group. We’ll wait until they die to call them squats.) Upon the sea of dwarf bodies within the temple we found a small cache of silver weapons. The bard attempted to keep the short swords for himself which lead to a conflict between the bard and the non-healing dragonborn. From somewhere, a flaming sphere fell upon the bard and incinerated the greedy flying hopping peg-legged narcissist, and incinerated him. It was really rather saddening if only because it also damaged much of what he was carrying.

Such a pity.

A pity we didn’t do it sooner….Muhahahahahah! Err…Well, back to it I suppose!

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Orcs: Terrifying or Terrified?
IRL Date 6/11/2016

[Note: I had to miss the session scheduled for 5/28, along with Jeff (who plays Tor, the dwarf cleric), leaving the group with no clerics at that time. Our characters were assumed to have been distracted trying to figure out a way to build a boat from giant mushrooms.]

Playing in this session were:

Don, the DM
Martin, playing Varris, a sun elf wizard
Shawn C., playing Maculate, a warlock of uncertain race (joining us for the first time)
Shawn, playing Errs, a bard of uncertain race somehow connected to elves
James, playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue
Jeff, playing Tor Black, dwarf cleric of the Domain of War
Vincent, playing Ellar, dwarf paladin
And Andy, your chronicler, playing two characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric of the Light Domain

As Thandiina, Varanus, and Tor were beginning to realize that their attempts to build a boat appeared to be doomed to failure, they heard a splash and saw a humanoid form crawling from the river. It appeared to be an individual wearing a large cloak and cowl. When Varanus offered to help him up he refused, and he did not appear to be wounded. The individual was quite reticent about his origin and reasons for being here. (This was Maculate, the warlock who was joining the party.) However, the quartet heard sounds of fighting coming from a trail which led inland, and with Maculate joining them, immediately ran to investigate.

(They also realized that their erstwhile companions seemed to be gone; this could be ominous.)

By the time they arrived at the scene of the battle it was over. Ellar and Varris reported that orcs had taken Aevay, Errs, and Anima (played by Robert, who was absent this session) prisoner by orcs who had appeared out of nowhere and taken them away. Concerned with what might happen to their companions, the group set out in pursuit.

After a short pursuit the group came within site of a palisade which formed a semicircle against the river. They searched for doors or gates, but there were none. Tor discovered signs that the orcs had entered and exited by means of climbing ropes from the top of the palisade. Varris had his familiar (a raven) perform a brief aerial reconnaissance and discovered that there were no ramparts at the top of the palisade, and that the center of the compound was dominated by a gigantic kettle over a large fire. The three prisoners were tied to stakes facing the kettles, having had all their equipment and even their clothing removed. A number of orcs milled about the compound, which had barracks-like huts arranged along the wall.

While the party debated the best approach to take, the raven observed one of the orcs tie a tourniquet around one of Errs’ legs and cut it off completely, throwing it into the kettle! When she learned of it, Thandiina reached the limit of her patience. She had Maculate cast spider climb on her, took a rope, and ran up the side of the palisade. Fastening the rope securely to the top of the palisade she then proceeded to run down. The rest of the party followed.

What followed was an example of no plan surviving contact with the enemy. Thandiina’s plan had been for her to emerge from behind the hut (having come down between the palisade and one of the huts) and attract the orcs’ attention as much as possible and get them coming after her, giving the other characters an opportunity to flank the orcs and possibly race across to free the prisoners, who were only barely conscious. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. One of Thandiina’s problems was that she had no missile weapons, so after shouting insults at the orcs and watching them form into a rough skirmish line, she had little alternative (particularly with them throwing poisoned javelins at her) than to charge them and try to engage their leader. And as Varanus moved around the other side of the hut he was attacked by a disembodied spear. As Ellar began firing arrows at the orcs Varris attempted to hit one with a chill touch and unfortunately failed. Tor cast a spiritual weapon and unfortunately missed as well, as did Thandiina. There was also a distant rumbling sound.

(Almost the entire party was rolling dice abominably at this point, and the orcs were not.)

The next round both Thandiina and Tor fell to multiple attacks. Varanus, trying to reach them, managed to trap two of the orcs beside a flaming sphere but was taken down shortly thereafter. Maculate ended up engaged against a pair or orcs, took one down when it hit him with a warlock power (hellish rebuke). He then intimidated the leader (who happened to be an orog as we found out later) into backing away and scratching a “line of death” in the dirt in front of him. Unfortunately, in the next round the orog charged him and took him down as well. In the meantime, the raven had begun furiously pecking at the ropes binding Errs to the pole. And the rumbling sound grew closer.

Varris and Ellar concluded that it was time for the better part of valor and withdrew to the wall, scaling it rapidly. Four orcs followed them. Varris knocked three off the wall as soon as they got to the top with a well timed thunder strike. At this point the rumbling had become very loud, and Varris saw the source: a gigantic cylindrical creature with tentacles at the head end, and it was coming directly toward the fort! When the surviving orcs saw it they immediately turned to flee.

Ellar then proceeded to leap down and rush toward Errs, whose bonds had just been released by the raven, finally. He used lay on hands to heal Errs, who was then able to use his own healing ability to heal Tor, who healed Thandiina and Varanus, who healed Maculate. Errs then pulled Aevay from her stake and began running toward one of the huts.

By now the carrion crawler (because that’s what it was) crashed through the palisade, apparently moving toward the kettle. Ellar had tried to get a Parthian shot on the orog but wasn’t able to kill it right away, and it leaped — plate armor and all — into the torrential river. The other surviving orc warrior managed to get over the palisade, and the caster, who had been in front of one of the other huts, disappeared back inside; the party later found out that she had apparently exited via an escape tunnel.

In the meantime, the group had a gigantic foe to deal with. Thandiina, Varanus, and Maculate tried to move to a greater distance away from it (even Thandiina wasn’t crazy enough to charge this thing. Some comments to the effect of “about bloody time” may have been made.) Errs threw the still unconscious Aevay against the wall of one of the huts and started attempting to prepare spells. Varris, who had not come down from the top of the palisade, remained there, prepared to jump either way; yes, he was literally sitting on the fence. And that’s when Tor had a truly clever idea.

The group had observed that this particular carrion crawler was missing an eye. Tor proceeded to cast a create water spell inside its other eye. [Note: There was some discussion and debate regarding whether this was even possible, but ultimately Don ruled that it was, this time at least, but not necessarily to expect it to be possible again.] The spell caused the creature’s remaining eye to explode in all directions, severely wounding it, not to mention blinding it, at which point Ellar was able to finish it off. Yes, the two dwarves slew the carrion crawler unassisted.

By now the group was quite battered, so a long rest was in order. A search of the dead orcs’ bodies and their huts yielded loot on the paltry side: a few coins, some javelins (Thandiina picked up 10 of those just to have some missile weapons) and some odd unguents and chemicals from the orc shaman’s hut. Errs and Tor spent a good deal of time working on a prosthesis for the missing leg. (As a side note, Errs had been able to move around earlier because he was flying.) Nothing came upon the group while they were resting. Varris sent his familiar to do some more scouting, and the raven reported that the opposite side of the river had apparently well cultivated fields with several roads going through them. The group determined, after discussing and even voting on whether to attempt to retrace their steps and report to their patron on the orcs, to push forward, and to see what the fields represented.

They then proceeded to spend about two days constructing a raft, having Errs fly a rope across the river, and pulling themselves across via the rope. Everyone made it, although the raft almost sank. They then set out down the roads through the fields, until they came to what appeared to be an almost completely ruined village in the middle of the fields. The village contained a number of buildings which appeared to be so ruined as to be dangerous, but there was a stone building that appeared to be a temple, which was intact. Before the temple stood a statue of a dwarf at rest. Before the statue were two pillars with a sheet of utter darkness between them. This was also ominous.

When the group approached the temple they discovered that only certain individuals were allowed to enter; curiously, neither of the dwarves were among them. Errs, Aevay, and Varanus entered. Inside, they found the bodies of dead dwarves, and lying on a bier at one end of the temple, what appeared to be a dwarf encased in amber. Errs of course immediately went to touch the amber. He was shocked when the dwarf inside began to communicate with him telepathically. Varanus and Aevay immediately joined the conversation.

The dwarf in stasis informed the trio that he had been the last defender of this village when it was overwhelmed by orcs, and that the sheet of blackness was a gate beyond which the orc invaders were. The gate (for that’s what it was) can be traversed each way according to the dwarf. Over the course of the discussion Errs gave offense a number of times, and the dwarf told him to stop talking or else the stone golem would take action. Errs provoked him again, and the statue outside began moving! Errs quickly backed down, and the statue became quiescent once more. Finally, the dwarf allowed the party to take whatever they could use from the bodies of his companions; a search revealed several silver weapons. Aevay immediately laid claim to a silvered longsword, and the other weapons were parceled out. Errs did not get one.

But he wanted one. So he attempted successfully to filch the longsword from Aevay. Since her recovery, Aevay had been experiencing moments of intense rage toward Errs, and once she discovered the theft she yielded to it and attacked him, dealing a massive (seemingly magically enhanced) amount of damage and slaying him instantly. Then Varris cast a flaming sphere and destroyed his body. No more worrying about the prosthesis! At this time, with the group preparing to go past the gate, the session was ended.

[As a note, it appears the rage Aevay was feeling was coming in part from the group’s patron. Shawn wasn’t extremely upset over the character; his observation was that he had started to get tired of having to be “chaotic stupid” all the time, and is going to create a character for the next time that is neither stupid nor flighty. At least the growing feud between Errs and Aevay has been resolved.]

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Opening the Gate: Should the Group Abandon All Hope?
IRL Date 5/14/2016

A larger group gathered at the Reaper Game Store for the next stage in the tale, and there were additional changes. Dallas, the DM, announced that he would unfortunately be leaving town and handed the DM duties over to Don; they had both been players in my previous campaign (“The Survivors of Lemuria.”) Today they would be working together as part of the handover.

Unfortunately, Matt had to work, and so [Name] the monk was not active, although he was still with the group. Joining us for the first time were:

Jeff — Playing Tor Black, a dwarf cleric
Vincent — Playing Ellar, a dwarf paladin
Martin — Playing Varris, a sun elf wizard

Returning, we continued with

James — Playing Aevay, a dragonborn rogue
Robert — Playing Anima, a dragonborn fighter
Shawn — Playing Errs, a bard of indeterminate (but somehow fey related) race.

And myself, Andy, with 2 characters:
Thandiina, a human fighter
Varanus, a lizard man cleric

At least the party shouldn’t be short of healing powers on this expedition. Of the clerics, Tor follows the Domain of War, while Varanus follows the Domain of Light.

The newcomers had received a summons from the same noble wizard who had employed the original adventurers, and he had teleported them to the location of the group. Introductions of the new characters were made quickly, and it was time to open the gate which the troll (barely defeated in the previous session) had guarded.

Once the gate was opened the party entered into a scene of carnage. The ground was covered in the dead bodies of goblins and orcs which had apparently fought a major battle against one another. (Thandiina expressed regret that so many orcs had died without her assistance.) The friendly kobolds had told the group they would be locking the gate when the heroes passed through, as they feared what might come out. The friendly kobolds were probably wise.

From the large abattoir chamber two separate corridors led out on opposite sides. The two dragonborn heroes (possessing effective darkvision) proceeded into one, while Varrs sent his familiar (at this point in the form of a bat) into the other. Each scouting party found another troll. Aevay immediately attempted to sneak attack the one in her corridor, and battle was joined.

The first troll, with Anima, Thandiina, and Aevay flanking it, was not able to hold out for long, while the second troll, attracted by the sounds of combat, charged into the chamber to face the dwarves. Varris and Errs moved immediately as far from both trolls as they could in order to use their spells. In the meantime, Thandiina, Anima, and Aevay were engaged to the first troll, while Ellar engaged the second with support from Tor. Although several characters — most notably Anima — were dropped over the course of the fight, the two clerics were able to keep them alive, and the trolls were dispatched with much less difficulty than the smaller group had previously had with only one.

At this point the group rested and proceeded to explore deeper into the caverns. Some distance in they discovered a variety of fungi were growing; shortly thereafter they encountered an underground druid grove-cum-mushroom-farm. The druid gave the party a small number of mushrooms that might prove useful, and they proceeded on their way. Over the course of the journey, however, it became apparent that Ellar had ceased to move, and when the rest of the group discovered him he was completely paralyzed. However, he recovered after a rest from this apparent poisoning, and the exploration continued.

Eventually, the party entered into a truly massive cavern, with a river running through it and a profusion of mushrooms growing all over it. The river was fed by a waterfall, which appeared to come from an opening far above; the noise and mist interfered with everyone’s senses. As was often the case, Errs went on his own to explore, and ended up in the waterfall and being swept down the river, while the other characters found a safe way down to “ground level.” Errs managed to drag himself out of the river, and once the party found him some more verbal backbiting began between him and Aevay. Aevay suggested they fight a duel to resolve their conflict, at which point the two of them were suddenly teleported to a different space by the groups patron, who insisted they duel to the death.

[Note: At this point they began a somewhat ineffectual duel because the patron was sick of their constant backbiting; after it went on for a few minutes one of the players suggested that since there were two DM’s today we should take advantage of it and have one DM resolve this fight while the other dealt with the rest of the group. That being a good idea, Don went separately with the duelers to resolve the duel, and the rest of us only got the after-action report.]

However, further exploration of the area revealed little enough except for more mushrooms. Varanus investigated the river and determined that not even he (as a lizard manat he is a powerful swimmer) could risk trying to swim in it due to the swift current. At this point both combatants returned, having apparently resolved their issues. It wasn’t completely clear what had happened, but apparently Errs had won the duel, but the patron had returned Aevay. They joined the rest of the party in attempting to determine whether they could use the larger mushrooms to fabricate a boat to explore the swift river.

At this point the real life hour had become late, so this was the point at which the story was left.

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