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Kirt
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:33 am    Post subject: Post 22: Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, Level 1 Reply with quote

Post 22: Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, level 1

Shefak Ishu was born to a wandering tribe of horse nomads in the Plains of the Paynims. Although physically weak, she was considered wise beyond her years by the holy women of the tribe. When she was a girl, her tribe’s travels took them near a temple to Xan Yae, “The Lady of Perfection,” the Bakluni goddess of Mental and Physical Mastery. It was there that she was enrolled as an acolyte, with her family hoping that she would become a priestess. After years of training, it was found that she excelled more at physical combat than prayer and spell-casting, so her training became that of a monk.

Eventually she was told the story of Zuoken, the most perfect disciple of Xan Yae. About sixty years ago, Zuoken was imprisoned, but no one knows where. It is the goal of every follower of Xan Yae to find and release Zuoken.

When Shefak completed her initial training as a monk, she asked to travel and look for clues as to where Zuoken might be imprisoned. Though she was young and inexperienced, she was also wise and dedicated and her petition was granted.

Shefak followed the rising sun to the east and the rivers to the south. After months of travel she eventually found herself in the nation of Keoland. There, the people all stared at her as most of them had never seen a Bakluni woman, but that did not bother her or deter her from her quest.

She has heard of an ancient forest called the Dreadwood, which is supposed to be home to many evil secrets. She thinks that would be an excellent place to start looking for Zuoken, but she knows she is not yet skilled enough to enter it on her own.

For the past month, she has been in the city of Seaton, trying to find people who would want to explore the Dreadwood with her. She has had several run-ins with the local constables, who do not appreciate her presence. But she has studied the local law and has made sure to never do anything illegal, so they have been unable to arrest or deport her.

One week ago, a representative of the Viscount of Salinmor (the lord of Seaton) met with her and explained that he knew of a group of adventurers who might wish to go to the Dreadwood with her. First, however, she must accompany them on a mission and prove herself capable. Shefak agreed to this and traveled to the town of Saltmarsh to meet the group. It appears that their mission is to attack a ship of smugglers, and she has been training with them to this end for several days.

Shefak Ishu
First Level Monk / Human (Bakluni) (Acolyte)
Skills: Acrobatics, Insight, Religion, Stealth
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:40 pm    Post subject: Post 23: Battle for the Sea Ghost Reply with quote

Post 23: Battle for the Sea Ghost

Note: While it should be obvious, this post will include numerous spoilers to the second section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.


DM's Note: Successfully taking the Sea Ghost and discovering the arms-running plot were the story requirements for the characters to level to third, with the exception of Shefak. Since the monk joined the party after the Haunted House, her participation in taking the ship would get her to second level. The player of Willa was allowed to start her at second level due to her pre-existing role and position in the customs officers, and the stats provided for her as an NPC in the module. Thus, she leveled to third along with the others.

14 August, 570 - The Sea Cave

Tom had sailed the excise cutter into the sea cave, taking down the mast to enter but not removing it from the ship in his haste. Willa directs its removal, then sees Thokk and Barnabus loaded and launched while she puts the rest of the party to order in the jollyboat.

Thokk strains against the oars and pulls his craft out into the black, rolling sea. His darkvision is sufficient for him to avoid the rocks around the cave mouth, but for Barnabus it is a terrifying few minutes of blackness and crashing waves, being tossed about the cutter and wet with spray while Thokk heaves and frets. Once they are out beyond the surf zone and into the open sea the waves calm and Thokk concentrates on rowing silently with a steady pace. Every so often the half orc looks over his shoulder, trying to detect a dark ship against the dark sky so that he has somewhere to make for more precise than “away from land”.

Willa checks everything twice in the jollyboat before shoving off - she is in no hurry, and wants Thokk to have as long a lead as possible. Her hauberk of chain is neatly folded under her aft seat. Her lantern is lit, and she directs the beam through the fog and across the rocks as she calls orders to those at the oars - Tyrius and Babshapka at the outset, though she will spell them out if needed.

Tom has made his way to the first floor window in the bedroom overlooking the ocean and has his lantern lit but covered. He scans the dark waters, trying to find the ship he saw before. After several minutes he still has not seen it - but he does see a flash of light! It is a long flash, followed by three short flashes. He looks at the parchment given him by the party, and reasons that it is the first line of the code - but how is he to respond? They have not told him! The same signal - a long flash followed by three short ones, is repeated twice more, with a pause between each. Tom decides the safest bet is to repeat the sequence itself, and this he does, uncovering one wall of the lantern and holding it toward the sea. He waits anxiously for a response. He cares little for the strangers, but is acutely aware that his sister, his only living family, is on board the jollyboat with them, even now rowing out to a ship full of cutthroats.

“Thokk!” hisses Barnabus, seeing flashes over the shoulder of the barbarian. He directs his companion to take their cutter more in the direction of the light, estimating they are perhaps half the distance out to it or more. In the jollyboat behind, Willa sees the signal as well, and she whispers to Babshapka to pull harder so as to turn them. Aurora has been in-and-out communicating with Barnabus through her message, but Thokk is keeping the cutter just at the edge of her range.

On board the Sea Ghost, Captain Sigurd “Snake Eyes”, Punketah the Mage, and two crewmen stare up at the decrepit mansion. “Ol’ Sanballet’s gone barmy,” mutters Punketah. “That ain’t the response signal, no how. That be our signal.”

“Nae be ye wrong,” replies Sigurd. “Too much brandy, or wacthin’ t’em coloured lights too long? Wait a fair bit an’ hail ‘im again,” he orders.

Ten minutes later, Sigurd has the crewman on the lantern flash another signal at the house. In the house, Tom sees the same signal as before, frets silently, and then repeats it again. The smugglers watch from the rail of the Ghost. “T’at’s wrong, alright,” says a crewman, shaking his head.

“Might be…” says Punketah, drawing his words out, “that Sanballet’s got summit to say to us and is coming out hisself - and one o’ those land lummuxes he uses fer muscle don’t know ther signal from his arse.”

“‘Tmight be,” says Sigurd, unconvinced. “Or ‘tmight be Sanballet got hisself caught, an’ yon light’s made by no friend o’ ours.”

“Kingsmen?” spits Punketah. “Nahh, it be past ther bedtime. Kingsmen don’t sail o’ ther night.”

Nevertheless, Sigurd calls up to the man in the crow’s nest, “Luke! Eye’s up! All directions, laddie!”

Sigurd waits a few minutes more, just to give whomever is in the house the chance to right the signal, but it does not come. “We be cuttin’ bait,” he decides, then shouts to the man at the fore, “Weigh anchor, lad!”

The man aloft calls down, “Cap’n, jolly t’ starboard!”

“Belay t’at!” shouts Sigurd to the man at the capstan. He has the crewman with the lantern shine it low across the water. The approaching jollyboat is dimly illuminated - and it holds fully six figures, though their identities cannot be made out in the misty air. “Bjorn, make ready t’ receive ‘em,” Sigurd calls out to his mate on the lower deck.

“Do ye want our jolly launched?” Bjorn calls back.

“Nae jes' yet.”

“Mayhap ye be right,” Sigurd murmurs to Punketah, “a full boat could mean Sanballet’s comin’ out fer a parlay - or ‘tmight be me in ther right, an’ t’ese nae be friends. When t’ey gets close enou’ t’ see, be ye castin’ yer web t’ keep ‘em in t’ boat, t’en sleep, t’en we be guttin’ any left standin’.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” agrees Punketah darkly, and his hand opens a belt pouch and draws forth a pinch of cobweb.

With most eyes on the approaching jollyboat, Thokk and Barnabus slip the cutter in front of the prow of the still-anchored Sea Ghost. Thokk’s oar strokes yield no more noise than the sea lapping gently against the hull of the great ship, and they pass unseen to the seaward port side of the Ghost. Barnabus takes out a grapnel, its hooks muffled by sackcloth, and tosses it neatly up to catch on the rail above.

Bloody Bjorn and a crewmen stand by at the starboard rail, the crewman with a rope ladder in hand. On the stern deck, the man with the lantern keeps it shining on the approaching jollyboat, and several of the figures aboard can be seen to lean in and whisper to one another.

When the prow of the jollyboat is some twenty yards from the hull of the Ghost, the mist parts enough to reveal that all those in the boat are strangers, though they are concealed by dark cloaks. The stout dwarf is the first giveaway, but none of those below are familiar to those on deck. Bjorn draws his broadsword, and the man next to him drops the ladder to the deck. “Now!” bellows Sigurd, and Punketah begins the words of an incantation.

Those in the boat are quicker. Babshapka drops his oar, turns and stands, pulling forth a bow, already strung, from beneath his cloak. He looses an arrow - a single shot that strikes Bjorn square in the chest - but the arrow shaft erupts in a tangle of vines that wrap around the mate and take him to the deck. His companion is hit by a firebolt from Aurora but does not go down.

Willa lunges across the seats to take up Babshapka’s oar. Together with Tyrius, she steers the jollyboat and then pulls in the oar so that they grind to a stop against the hull of the Sea Ghost, the two ships broadside to one another.

Larry has been mumbling under his breath for several seconds, perhaps even before Punketah. Suddenly, the whole jollyboat and the main deck besides are covered in a thick fog bank, obscuring all. A second later Punketah completes his web, but now has no targets in sight. The web splashes harmlessly in the water, its fringes adhering the jolly to the larger ship, but catches no beings in its sticky strands. Punketah utters a foul oath. Sigurd yells for the anchor to be raised and draws his own sword.

Under the shroud of Larry’s fog cloud, those in the jollyboat throw up grapnels and ascend to the main deck of the Ghost, even as Barnabus and Thokk climb aboard on the other side. “Sleep, damn you Punketah!” curses Sigurd, while the mage pulls forth a pinch of sand and mutters that he cannot sleep what he cannot see. The wounded crewman at the main deck rail slashes at a shape in the fog but is then felled by a blow from an unseen opponent as those in the jollyboat clamber aboard.

The stern crewman’s lantern dances through the fog but reveals nothing. Suddenly from the main deck comes a great cry of rage: “Thokk bathe ship in blood!”

Blown astern by the east wind, the fog advances across the main deck, and the boarders use it for cover as they move aft. Barnabus ascends the port ladder to the poop deck ahead of the fog but immediately darts into the shadows. With a clatter of heavy booted feet, Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa ascend the starboard ladder to the poop deck and engage the smugglers in melee. Shefak runs across the fog-covered deck but ignores the ladder. Rather, she uses her staff to vault over the railing to the poop deck, rolling as she lands.

Before the first blow is struck, Punketah completes his sleep spell, centering it on the attackers surging up the ladder. The first to collapse is Shefak, but then the crewmen at the tiller and holding the lantern go down. The lantern clatters to the deck but does not spill oil. Barnabus, sneaking up behind the man on the tiller, also succumbs to the sleep before he can strike. Aurora and Babshapka, still on the main deck but approaching the ladder, feel a brief moment of drowsiness before their fey heritage asserts itself.

With Thokk, Willa, and Tyrius now confronting Sigurd and Punketah on the poop deck and no one else there conscious, Tyrius calls for Sigurd to drop his sword and surrender his ship. In response, Sigurd roars defiance and slashes at Thokk faster than they can follow. After three devastating cuts the deck is wet with blood and Thokk falls to his knees. He is still struggling to rise when Sigurd runs him through with a final stab. The massive half-orc collapses with a groan.

[DM’s aside: With Tyrius and Willa arriving behind Thokk on the ladder, I ruled they could move but not attack on the first round. Barnabus, Shefak, and the two crewmen would have been allowed to attack but all were incapacitated by the sleep spell before their initiative came up, so only Sigurd and Thokk remained to go for the first round of this combat. This was the first 5E game I had run, and I converted Sigurd over as a 5th level fighter, champion duelist. In retrospect, a second level party facing a fifth level enemy fighter in 5E is a much steeper contest than the same level difference in the 1e original module. Had the party not been lucky with the previous initiative and gotten Larry’s fog cloud off before Punketah’s web, it would have easily been a TPK. In the case of Sigurd vs. Thokk, Sigurd was at +8 to hit and +7 to damage. He chose action surge in the first round to make four attacks. His first three hits on Thokk with d8+7 each did more than 38 damage total, which could have taken Thokk to -19 and instantly killed him. However, Thokk had his rage up for half weapon damage. He was knocked to zero but used his half-orc relentless endurance to persist at 1 hp until Sigurd’s fourth blow, which took him again to 0 hp.]

Babshapka ascends the ladder to the poop deck next and just behind him is Aurora. He joins the melee while she slaps Shefak and Barnabus awake. Aurora then takes an arrow from the man in the crow’s nest. With Tyrius busy trading blows with Sigurd and unlikely to notice, Barnabus takes the opportunity to kill, not capture, the two sleeping crewmen. This makes it five of the party against just Sigurd and Punketah in the melee, with Aurora and the man in the crow’s nest still trading arrows for firebolts. Punketah goes down quickly, but even at five-on-one Sigurd holds his own for quite a while and both Tyrius and Willa are seriously wounded by the time he falls.

The party holds the ship for the moment. The fog has cleared from the main deck, revealing a single dead smuggler by the rail. The formerly entangled mate is gone, as is the man who was at the capstan, and the anchor is still down. Thokk, Punketah, and Sigurd are all found to be alive though unconscious - the latter two are bound. Between Larry and Tyrius, Thokk is revived and some of the worse wounds of Willa and Tyrius are healed.

As the party crosses the main deck, a cabin door is flung open. Three lizardfolk charge the party, and Thokk is the first to meet them, blocking their javelins with his large hide shield. A small flying creature is with them, and it sinks its tail barb into the half-orc as combat is joined again. Seeing the beast, Aurora begins “Isn’t that a dragonne…” but that is as far as she gets before Thokk slices it in half with his axe. After the lizardfolk are slain as well, and dumped overboard besides, the deck is again clear and calm. Willa retrieves her chainmail hauberk from the jollyboat and dons it.

The subsequent battle below decks is desperate and hard-fought on both sides. It involves fighting on rope ladders, climbing on and over brandy casks and even attempts to roll them down upon others, thrown daggers in the dark, and the use of all of the party’s remaining spells. In the end, all of the party are wounded, most of them severely. Five common smugglers are dead, three have surrendered, and all of the ship’s officers (the Captain, the Mate, the Bosun, and Punketah) have been knocked unconscious, captured alive, and bound to the mast in the hold.

Besides the items recovered from officers themselves (jewelry, armor and weapons, and possibly magical gear) and the obviously valuable cargo of silk and brandy, the party’s search of the ship uncovers a cache of odd coins in the cabin of the lizardfolk, strange papers and four (labeled!) potion vials in the captain’s cabin, a spellbook and a wand in Punketah’s cabin, a secret room filled with weapons, and a secret prison cell with a manacled sea elf (who is soon after released).

The smuggler’s role in supplying Sanballet and Master Murphey with brandy and silk is already obvious. Between the accounts of the surrendered crew, the letter found in the captain’s cabin, the hundred electrum pieces the lizardfolk had, and the store of weapons, the party quickly surmises that the smugglers are also dealing in arms, supplying weapons to lizardfolk. Willa, in particular, is concerned about this for if she is reading the captured map correctly, the lizardfolk lair is at the mouth of the Dun River, which is just a few hours west of Saltmarsh by sail.

Where these arms are coming from, and for what purpose the lizardfolk are purchasing them, is not as obvious, for the three crewman claim not to know, and Sigurd has already told the others, “I’ll nae be sayin’ naught, an’ ye’ll do ther same, if ye hae any wits aboot ye.” The crewmen do say that the silks and brandy are loaded in the port of Jetsam in the nation of the Sea Princes, but none of them ever saw the arms come aboard.

The party decides to interrogate each of the four smuggler leaders separately. Aurora clumsily tries to get Tyrius to watch the remaining prisoners so that he will not be present during the questioning, but he quickly sees through that and has Thokk guard those remaining. Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora spend some time alone with each of the prisoners in a below-decks cabin before returning them to the group bound to the mast. The common smugglers have had their hands and feet bound, but are sitting on the deck and not tied to anything for the moment.

Captain Sigurd “Snake Eyes” is calm, collected, and quiet during his interrogation. He tells them his name, inquires after theirs, and agrees that he is captain of the Sea Ghost. Other than that, he steadfastly refuses to provide them with any information.

The first mate “Bloody Bjorn” struggles a bit and curses them as they take him away from the others, but settles down once they are alone with him and asks for a deal. Once he learns (from Tyrius) that his freedom is non-negotiable, and that regardless of what he says they will be turning him over to the Saltmarsh Town Council, he goes thoughtfully quiet. Eventually he tells them that Sigurd has a contact in Jetsam for the weapons. He says he could recognize the man and point him out in a crowd, but he does not know his name or the location of his business. The silk and brandy are brought aboard as legal goods in Jetsam, but the weapons are handled only by the officers and without the knowledge of the port’s customs officials or the crew. Bjorn knows that they have been running the arms to the lizardfolk for months, since the spring, but he does not know why. He also says that they captured the sea elf sneaking on board their ship while docked in Jetsam, but that no one has been able to speak with him, and that Sigurd is considering selling him to slavers. In return for this information, Bjorn asks them to not say anything to his shipmates about what he has told them, and he asks Tyrius to tell the Town Council that he has been cooperative, and Tyrius agrees to both of these conditions.

The bosun “Foul” Frithoff is sullen when they pull him from the mast, but once they have him alone in the cabin he lets fly with a string of invectives the likes of which even Willa has never heard. He curses them and their families, past and future, and goes into lurid detail about what he will be doing to each of them once he is free. His interrogation is effectively over after a minute, but they keep him in the cabin as long as the others so as to sow doubt among them. When they finally drag him out his voice is hoarse and their ears are red.

Lastly they separate Punketah. Tyrius begins by saying that the Saltmarsh Town Council has required them to turn over the smuggler officers but has empowered them to make their own decisions about the common crew. Punketah replies that he is not an officer and is outside the chain of command of the ship - he is more like an adjunct specialist, who reports only to the captain but does not rank higher than the sailors. He emphasizes that he was not personally involved in the smuggling or in breaking the King’s law - he was just hired by Sigurd as a spellcaster to defend the ship. In that case, Aurora reasons aloud, the party should be free to deal with him as they see fit. When Tyrius does not object, she asks Punketah what he is willing to trade.

Punketah claims to know even less about the weapons deal than Bjorn did - he says he does not know where they are from or how they get on board. He does confirm that the weapons are ultimately sold to the lizardfolk, and that they have a large lair at the mouth of the Dun. He also agrees that the brandy and silks are purchased legally in Jetsam, and that the sea elf was captured in that port. He says that since the party is free to deal with him as they choose, he would like to offer his magic items in return for his life and freedom. Aurora replies that they already have, by the Council’s affirmation of their right of pillage, his spellbook and wand, so unless he has some magic items they have not found, he still has nothing to bargain with. Punketah replies that he will tell the party the command word for the magic wand, and also describe to them how his magic ring functions (the party had taken his ring, suspecting but not sure of it of being magical), both valuable pieces of information. While they consider that, he also offers the following: the lizardfolk are arming themselves for an attack on Saltmarsh, he says, and the town is in imminent danger. If they allow him to keep his spellbook and magic items, he will join them in defense of the town or their pre-emptive attack on the lair, so long as he can go free with his possessions once the lizardfolk are defeated. Tyrius, Willa, and Aurora say that they will consider his offer, but need to talk amongst themselves.

Once all four captives are back at the mast, the party leaves Larry and Thokk to guard them and goes above decks to talk. They take the surrendered crew with them, releasing their leg restraints but leaving their hands bound. Out of earshot of the prisoners, Willa, Aurora, and Tyrius convey to Barnabus, Babshapka, and Shefak what Punketah and the officers said, and they talk about what they believe and what they don’t. The involvement of the Sea Princes is worrisome, as both Barnabus and Willa relate that the Princes are ancient rivals of Keoland, and that the nations have fought many naval wars in the past. If the Princes are indeed involved in arming lizardfolk to assault Saltmarsh, it could be part of a larger plan to invade all of Salinmoor!
_________________
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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Kirt
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Posts: 498
Location: Sky Island, So Cal

PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:03 am    Post subject: Post 24: An Awkward Homecoming Reply with quote

DM's note: This post includes numerous spoilers to the second section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Post 24 - An Awkward Homecoming

15 August, 570 - Azure Sea, early morning, after the battle
The party, at least those inclined to discuss such matters, has spent most of the night talking. All of the gathered loot has been placed in a single pile, and Aurora has made a ritual casting of detect magic on it. The three common sailors have had their hand restraints removed so that they can give sea burials to their dead companions, and after observing them during this act, Tyrius declares that they are to remain unbound, so long as they remain above decks. The three smuggler officers, and Punketah the mage, after their separate interrogations, remain tied to the mast in the hold and under the guard of Thokk and Larry. With the grapnels and hard work the party and sailors together have pulled both the smuggler’s jollyboat and the excise cutter aboard and lashed them to the deck. The sky is getting lighter and lighter as dawn approaches.

There has not been time to tell Tom back at the House what is happening. Willa hopes by waiting until it is light enough for him to see that they are sailing to Saltmarsh, he will deduce the ship has been successfully taken. As Willa directs the smugglers to raise anchor, she can see the the ship itself, painted on the prow, bears the name The Sea Ghost, an appropriate moniker for a smuggling vessel if ever there was one.

Willa takes the tiller while the three sailors raise the sail and work the ropes. Aurora asks her whether the crew of four will be enough to get to harbor in Saltmarsh. Willa points off the port side to where storm clouds blacken the southern horizon. “Wit’ ther fair east wind we hae right now, an’ calm seas, aye we be arrivin' soon eno’, though we willnae be settin’ any speed records. I nae be wantin’ t’ be out on ther open sea wit’ only four sailors on deck if summit blows up, tho'. That thar storm out t’ sea durn’t look t’ be gettin’ any closer, but we hae better be safe in harbor if she hits.”

One of the reasons Willa is at the tiller is so that she (rather than the sailors) can be in control of the ship’s direction, but the other is so that she can stand easily and speak with the rest of the party, who are on the poop deck discussing what happens next.

Willa and Tyrius are adamant that the captain, first mate, and bosun will be turned over to the Council, and will brook no contrary argument. For the common sailors, and Punketah, however, opinions are divided, as the council explicitly (or implicitly, in the case of Punketah) said that the party could use their discretion.

Should the mage be turned over to the Council? Should he be held by the party and the Council just told about him? Should they even mention him? By his own claim, the party will need him to safely approach the lizardfolk lair, since he warns of dangerous shoals and lizardfolk traps, but can they trust him? He said he would help them in return for his life and his gear.

As for the common sailors, they know the ship and could prove a valuable crew, but can they be trusted? Willa has already said they will not be sufficient to crew the ship should the party want to use it to sail to the mouth of the Dun, and more sailors will need to be hired. That being the case, why not just crew the ship entirely with Saltmarsh sailors of more certain loyalty? Then again, will the party be taking the ship to the lizardfolk lair? Even Punketah has said that he can only help them navigate if they approach during the day - but in a day approach the ship will be seen from miles off. Should they instead sail one of the jollyboats or the cutter, or even approach from the land?

Also, there is the question of the sea elf, who Babshapka has said is named Oceanus. For the moment he seems content to speak with Babshapka, who is filling him in on not only what the party is doing at the moment, but the history of the Haunted House as well. Should he leave the ship before it reaches Saltmarsh? If he stays on it, would he be summoned before the Council or possibly even seized or interrogated by them?

Finally, there is the question of the disposition of the magical treasure. It is generally agreed on that all the monetary treasure will be equally split, with Willa (but not Tom) receiving a full share. But since the magical loot cannot be divided equally, who will receive it?

Aurora is of the opinion that the gear should go to “whomever can best use it for the benefit of the party”. Items she has identified as being magical include:

The captain’s longsword - this is large and could be used one or two-handed - the most obvious choice would be Willa

The mate’s broadsword - this has a single edge like a large cutlass - it seems most fitting for Thokk but might not do as much damage as his axe. It could also be used by Babshapka, and seems light enough he could still use his shortsword in the other hand. It is similar enough to Bakluni falchions that Shefak would also be able to wield it.

Punketah’s ring - not yet identified, though he claims it is protective and has offered to explain its use.

Punketah’s wand - not yet identified, though he claims it is of magic detection, and has offered to provide the party with its command word.

Punketah’s spellbook - not yet read.

The four phials from the captain’s quarters - not yet identified, but labeled as healing, healing, cure disease, and neutralize poison.

Not magical, but possibly important, is an unopened scroll tube that was found with Punketah’s spellbook. Babshapka and Dirty Larry find that two of the officers' three chain shirts fit them well enough to use. They are rusty and missing links in places, to be sure, but still an improvement over their own leathers.


Tyrius, while arguing his own opinion, makes it clear that he will abide by the decision of the party, but that whatever deal they offer to the mage, Tyrius will make sure both sides hold to the agreement.

Aurora thinks it'd be best to hand over all the officers to the authorities (including the wizard, despite his offer to "help"). She believes they should be very clear to the Council that the smugglers were involved in an attempt to foment a revolution against the mainland, and so they should use all means at their disposal to wrest information from the prisoners, especially the Captain, Snake-eyes, who was uncooperative when the party questioned him. With luck, that should garner a little information to help the party assault or handle the lizard folk.

As far as the three sailors, Aurora votes that the party hire them on as deckhands for their new vessel, but she would propose some type of test for them. Perhaps they could anchor the boat off the coast, hide a few members of the party on board (Barnabus and Shefak are obvious choices) and then make a show of "everyone" leaving to go ashore. They could then listen in on conversations and be prepared to kill them and resume control of the ship if they are disloyal. The party could also hire another couple of sailors (if needed) from Saltmarsh to balance them out. Aurora thinks that they should ask Oceanus what he would most like the party to do with him and, assuming he wishes to be released close to his people, perhaps try to enlist his people's help in the fight against the lizard folk.

Aurora is also most curious about the spellbook and what it may contain. If they are useful spells, she'd like to propose pooling money to pay for their inscription into her spellbook. After that, she'd like to deposit this book in the same bank in Seaton where she put the first one (from the Alchemist).

Regarding the magical booty, Aurora suggests that Thokk could make good use of the ring of protection, given how often he is in the forefront of attacks, and she is happy to identify the magical weapons to be on the safe side (to be sure they are not cursed), but she would appreciate it if the party could split the cost of the expensive pearl required for each use of the spell. She thinks Thokk could make use of the longsword as well, but if Willa would like to use it she should get priority if Thokk gets the ring.

Thokk is happy relaying his opinion up to Aurora via her message spell, although he doesn’t get the part about whispering to her and instead speaks plainly in front of the prisoners. He thinks the easiest thing to do would be just to kill the entire crew, including those who surrendered and the fish-elf, but he's fine with letting the officers go to the Council at Saltmarsh if that is the decision of the party. He personally offers to slay any people who need slaying, and to test out the fancy new weapons in the process if anyone would like him to. He loves the look of the ring, and thinks it would complement his scars. While he admires the craftsmanship of the longsword, he has some sentimental connection to his trusty battleaxe, so he may take some convincing to use the sword. He is exceptionally excited by the prospect of killing hordes of lizard folk and begins nagging the party as to when that will happen.

Shefak is not interested in the broadsword. She says that by relying on magic as a crutch, one will never learn to truly focus the body and mind. She doesn’t mind contributing to the cost of identifying the magic items themselves, because pursuing knowledge is inherently worthwhile. She warns anyone who doesn’t want to contribute that a foolish attachment to money and other material things will surely bar them from spiritual progress. She is willing to accept the decision of the party with regards to the sailors, mage, and officers - they have all chosen their path and must walk it to its conclusion.

Babshapka is willing to take the broadsword, provided that magical identification shows that it is more potent than the weapons he now wields, and that it is light enough for him to continue using two blades. He does not comment on the disposition of the prisoners beyond saying that he will not allow Thokk to harm Oceanus.

Willa is very interested in the magic longsword, although she is is also considering purchasing a greatsword with her share of the booty. She agrees with the assessment of Aurora regarding the wizard, the officers and the crew. She likes the idea of hiring more crew in Saltmarsh for the ship. She, of course, will follow the direction/orders of the Council and the Chief Customs Master, Secun, in any matter they decide upon.


Resolution:
It is eventually decided that Punketah will be turned over to the Council along with the three officers, but with a warning to them that he might be useful to the party later (so a swift execution is not in anyone's interest).

The three sailors will not be turned over.

Willa takes the longsword, Babshapka the broadsword, Thokk the ring, and these are practiced with but not identified. Aurora takes the wand, spell book, and scroll tube.

Babshapka speaks with Oceanus, and the sea elf says that he would like to go with the party to assess whether the lizardfolk are a threat to his people - if so, he would then return to his home and ask that his people help the party in dealing with the threat. He warns Babshapka that just because the lizardfolk want to attack the humans of Saltmarsh, they will not necessarily be seen as threatening to his people.


15 August - Saltmarsh
In the early morning, the Sea Ghost docks in Saltmarsh harbor. She has been seen coming in for hours, and the docks are full of customs officials and a dozen guardsmen, while the length of the harbor is lined with small folk.

Chief Secun approaches once the ship is tied off and a gang plank lowered. He calls to speak with Willa, and when she answers, he asks her permission to come aboard. Those unfamiliar with naval custom are surprised or confused that her superior would ask her permission, but Willa stands a bit taller and pauses before granting him leave. Once he is aboard he asks her to order that no one comes aboard or leaves, and then the two head for the Captain’s cabin to have a private conversation.

Willa begins by telling him everything that happened the night before, and everything they learned from the prisoners. He remains thoughtful for half a glass of brandy, and then tells her that so long as the common sailors stay on the ship, they are outside the jurisdiction of Saltmarsh, but should they step on shore, they will be arrested for smuggling. He also says that while the party may speak freely about the smugglers to the townsfolk, they are on no account to speak of the lizardfolk, so as to avoid scaring the townspeople. The Council will need to debate the meaning of all this before making a public announcement. It would have been better had Oceanus remained below decks as well, but half of Saltmarsh has seen him now, so that ship has sailed. Secun says that the town constables are waiting to receive the ship’s officers. They will be taken first to the blacksmith, to be fitted for hand-manacles and leg irons, and then walked to the town’s single-cell gaol. Upon reflection, he doesn’t want the mage stored with the others - he believes that the butcher’s ice-cellar will do for Punketah.

When Willa and Secun emerge, the party decides to take the officers off the boat one at a time. The captain goes quietly, without concern, with hands tied and feet hobbled. He is marched slowly up the harbor road toward the blacksmith’s.

Foul Frithoff is next. He is halfway down the gangplank when he hops neatly out into the air and plummets straight down into the water. Thokk and Barnabus immediately dive in after him, but by the time they are next to him he already has his hands free, having used the sharp barnacles and mussel shells of a dock piling to cut the ropes that bound them. Oceanus also dives in: by the time Frithoff has been sliced by Barnabus, stabbed and brought to the surface by Oceanus, and shot with an arrow from the crow’s nest by Babshapka, he is dead. His body is laid along the shore for the people to gawk at, and his blood slowly stains the gravel around him.

After this, Thokk insists on knocking the prisoners unconscious before he hauls them off the boat. The captain and mate Bloody Bjorn share the town’s gaol cell; the wizard Punketah, after being manacled, is kept separately in the butcher’s basement.

The party are told there will be a late-night Council meeting; Tyrius and Aurora are expected to attend.

The party turns over most of the items of value found on the Sea Ghost, but they retain the magical items, the armor of the officers, and the weapons (both used and stored) of the unmentioned lizardfolk. Aurora uses their single remaining pearl to identify the wand of magic detection and learns that it holds more than 30 charges. After selling what they can to the merchants of the Council and paying excise taxes on the cargo, an eight-way split is 171gp for each of them (including Willa but not Tom). Party members except for Willa are given an additional 50gp from Council funds as a reward for capturing the smugglers.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:22 am    Post subject: Post 25: Sigurd and the Council Reply with quote

Post 25: Sigurd and the Council

15 August, 570 - afternoon - Saltmarsh
Most of the party remains on the ship, using the galley to fix meals. Aurora copies several spells from Punketah’s book into her own.

Willa goes ashore and buys a greatsword for herself. She sets aside the entire remainder of her share of the booty for a fishing cottage, boat, and nets for her younger brother Tom, so that he is now provided for with an inheritance and means of supporting a family, should he marry. While she is out, she also cruises the bars and taverns searching for available deckhands. She finds none, but learns that a merchant ship is due in to port which will have several men available.

In the evening Aurora and Tyrius go to the Council meeting. Babshapka is able to gain admittance as Aurora’s bodyguard, and Willa also attends as an aide to Secun.

The meeting starts with Secun, the High Constable, and the Militia Captain revealing to the rest of the Council the lizardfolk menace. There is great consternation - fear at the threat itself, and anger that the information was kept from them until now. There is an immediate resolution to ask the party to assess the threat posed, and an offer of a reward. Aurora makes a claim that if the threat is real, the Council ought to be paying the party more than what is offered...but this is not well received, especially considering that they were just granted an entire merchant ship and its cargo as their plunder.

The Militia Captain says that messengers have been dispatched to Bale Keep and to Seaton. They have not heard back from Seaton yet (not surprising since the city is more than 20 miles away). The commander at Bale Keep has his troops on alert, ready to dispatch to Saltmarsh if necessary. Bale Keep patrols the Hool Marshes, but the patrols penetrate deep into the marshes themselves only during the winter, when the ground is firmer under foot and there are less mosquitoes and poisonous snakes about. During the summer (such as now), they patrol at the edges of the marsh only, and make sure nothing threatening emerges. Thus, they can say with certainty only that if a lizardfolk lair exists at the mouth of the Dun, it was not there last winter.

When it is the party’s turn to speak, Aurora clarifies the connection between the lizardfolk, smugglers, and the Sea Princes. Most of the Council dismisses her idea at first, as they do not feel that the “flickers” could be part of a sophisticated plan, or that the Princes would be interested in a land war (since the previous animosity between their nations has been confined largely to naval battles). However, Aurora is persistent and persuasive. When she hits on the fact that the electrum coins used by the lizardfolk to pay for the weapons were of Sea Prince mint, several members of the Council do start to look concerned, and some are even alarmed. Willa has to intervene, telling Aurora privately to stop speaking along this line before the Council itself panics. Secun works to steer them back to the business at hand.

Captain Sigurd is brought in, still in irons. He calmly confesses to his part in the smuggling and arms running, although he offers no oaths. He explains that an assistant to one of the Sea Princes told him of the opportunity to run arms to the lizardfolk after he was already smuggling silks and brandy, and that the two operations are not connected. He does not know, and never asked, from where the lizardfolk got their coins. He names his contact for buying arms in the Sea Princes.

The Council asks him if he is repentant, and he says no, because he is not guilty. At least, he clarifies, he is not legally culpable, because he intends to demand trial by combat to prove his innocence before the law. Given that it took the entire party, plus magic, to bring him down, he is confident that he will be found innocent when fighting any of them in single combat in a fair fight. He doubts that Saltmarsh has anyone more challenging to offer as an opponent than Thokk, Willa, or Tyrius.

Aurora is incredulous and asks the Council whether Sigurd can do that. The High Constable explains that if he is a freeborn crown subject with no previous convictions, and the crime in question was not witnessed within the boundaries of Saltmarsh itself, he does indeed have the right to trial by combat. Sigurd nods sagely, apparently having known this all along and counting upon it.

However, the High Constable adds pointedly, since smuggling is a crime against the King, the Council has the right to petition for the King’s Champion to fight on their behalf, and as skilled as the Captain might be, he would not win such a fight.

The Captain agrees that he would not win that fight, but says nonchalantly that summoning the King’s Champion would assuredly take a great deal of time, and long before he arrived the town would be under attack by flickers. The Captain says that he is hopeful the Council will grant him clemency in return for his fighting on their behalf, for if they are willing to free him he will gladly defend the town, or accompany the party to scout the flicker lair. The Council members are outraged, but have to admit he makes compelling arguments.

The party members briefly question the Captain. They trade him some of his personal papers back in return for the command word to Punketah’s wand. He is then led away. Aurora claims that the party has no need of Sigurd's help in scouting the lizardfolk lair, and recommends that they do ask for a Champion to prove his guilt. There is a brief debate among the Council members, and it is agreed that it is better to keep Sigurd on hand in the gaol until the party returns with the results of their mission.

The Council concludes that it is more urgent than ever for the party to assess what is going on with the lizardfolk. They are prepared to offer a reward of 500gp total to the party to split as they choose, plus the right of pillage to anything they find in the lair. Aurora tries to get them to assign someone “expendable” to scout the lair from the sea under guise of a fishing expedition, but she is told coldly that none of the citizens of Saltmarsh are expendable and that the Council is only willing to pay the party the small fortune of half a thousand gold because they expect that the party is able to handle such dangers without hiding behind the good folk of the town. Tyrius interjects and says that they will set out as soon as they have a full crew for their ship.


16 August - Saltmarsh
When Shefak wakes in the morning she finds she is now second level.

Tom Stoutley joins the crew of the Sea Ghost. The excise cutter is returned to Customs service, but the Ghost still has two jollyboats - one that was on deck, and the other from the sea cave.

Willa is able to find at the cartographer's shop a nautical chart showing the coastline around the mouth of the Dunwater; the Customs Service buys this “for customs use” and she stows it aboard the Sea Ghost.

At noon, “Bloody” Bjorn (who, unlike Sigurd, does have prior convictions) is hung from a gallows outside the village gaol, for crimes including imprisonment, extortion, smuggling, manslaughter, and assault upon the King’s representatives. There is a good turnout from the town to witness the execution.

No merchant ships come into port this day, but Willa is able to convince “Old Lefty,” a retired sailor, to come out of retirement for one last voyage on behalf of the town. He is too arthritic to climb the rigging, but she trusts him at the tiller and declares him First Mate of the Ghost and in charge of the crew when she is not on-board. He will be charging the party 1gp per day, or 24gp if they wish to pay him for a month in advance.


17 August - Saltmarsh
In the early morning a merchant ship makes port in Saltmarsh. Two locals have ended their service with the voyage and disembark. They are immediately met at the docks by Willa and Tyrius, who offer them employment at the rate of 1gp per day, provided they are ready to leave before midday. They are reluctant to miss their shore leave, but agree. This brings the crew of the Ghost to eight, with Willa, Tom, three smugglers, two locals, and Old Lefty.

As the party finishes an early lunch, a private letter arrives for Tyrius.

High tide is around 1pm; the ship casts off just as the tide turns. Since she was sailed into the harbor prow first, crewmen row the jollyboats while pulling the ship about. Once she is facing out of the harbor, Willa lets the tide pull the ship out into the open sea. When she is well beyond the rocks of shore the jollyboats come aboard, the sails are raised, and they begin their journey to the mouth of the Dunwater.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:34 pm    Post subject: Post 26: The Lizardfolk Threat Reply with quote

Post 26: The Lizardfolk Threat

15 August, 570 - evening - Saltmarsh

Willa remains by Secun's side after the party leaves, as the Council continues to discuss the state of affairs. To her surprise, he asks her to stay on for a private conversation even after most of the Council has left. When they are alone, he asks for her assessment of the situation.

Saltmarsh is not walled, and it relies on the broad Janustream River as a natural barrier to threats from the Hool Marshes in the east. In time of need, the soldiers of Bale Keep are tasked with the active defense of the town, but both Secun and Willa know full well that a foe like lizardfolk, accustomed to traveling through the marsh, could arrive long before soldiers from the Keep. In the event the town had to defend itself without outside assistance, they figure the following would be available and dependable as combat officers:

The High Constable and the five town constables, and possibly the gaoler
The Militia Captain and the five sergeants of the militia
The five part-time customs officers, including Willa and Tom, but not Secun himself (as he is too old to lead troops in the field)
The priest of Kord
A few of the priests of Xerbo
The priest of Sol

In terms of troops, all of the heads of household of Saltmarsh are required to train one day a month in the militia (or to support ten militiamen with arms and equipment, which is what most of the wealthy do). Many of the town youths train at their own option as archers. The fishermen are stout folk, and the militia itself would easily number 500 able-bodied men if there was a general muster, assuming there was time for a muster. In an open field, in the day, Willa and Secun are confident that Saltmarsh could stand against any threat unless the lizardfolk numbered in the several hundreds.

As Willa and Secun discuss scenarios, what they fear most is lizardfolk deployed more strategically, who could attack with coordinated raids all along the seashore, coming up undetected from the water and not making any formal troop engagements. Once the families of the militiamen were under attack, most would not have the discipline to remain under the command of their sergeants; rather “every man for himself” would take his family and evacuate the town by whatever means were at hand. This would be exacerbated if the raids occurred at night, or if they came too swiftly for the militia to be mustered. If companies of militia, drastically reduced by desertions, faced a dedicated lizardfolk host, they would likely fail morale, break and run.

Secun's original charge for Willa was to assess the true nature of the party - were they actually fledgling adventurers, or was some ulterior motive in play? She can now assure him that they are well-intentioned but very inexperienced. With that in mind, he now assigns her the task of leading this scouting expedition to the lizardfolk lair. The safety of Saltmarsh itself may depend on it.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:03 pm    Post subject: Post 27: A letter for Tyrius Reply with quote

Post 27: A Letter for Tyrius

17 August, 570 - Saltmarsh
As the party is staying aboard the Sea Ghost in Saltmarsh Harbor, a private letter arrives for Tyrius (cf. Post 25). The letter is unopened and bears the official seal of the Viscount of Salinmoor. It was delivered by a functionary of the Town Council.

Taking the letter back to the cabin he shares with Barnabus, Tyrius breaks the seal and reads:

Tyrius, paladin of Pelor, nobleman of Sterich,

Good sir,

I wish to offer you and your party my sincere congratulations on your capture of the smuggler’s ship and its crew and officers. Ending this scourge on the honest merchants of Saltmarsh and the rightful income of the King is a service to my Viscounty and the Kingdom as a whole, and you have my heartfelt gratitude.

I wish also to thank you for your return of both the armor and gem belonging to my former knight. I have vouchedsafe their bequeathal to his heirs, who thank you as well.

Finally, I understand that you have taken possession of the smuggler’s ship, which the Saltmarsh Town Council granted you by right of pillage. No doubt the ship will prove useful and diverting to you so long as you stay in fair Salinmoor. However, if I am not misjudging you, no doubt adventure and noble deeds will eventually call you away from Saltmarsh and Salinmoor, at which time possession of the ship may prove to be more of a burden than a boon. Unless you are prepared to wait for some time in Gradsul (an expensive proposition in and of itself) you are unlikely to receive a fair price for it, and even then you would must needs pay a significant fee to whichever auction house helped you find a purchaser. I, on the other hand, would be eager for the ship to see service in either my merchant fleet or my navy, whichever were more appropriate to the design and status of the ship. While I am not at the moment able to offer you coin for the vessel, I do propose the following trade:

Should you decide to yield title of the ship to the Viscounty, I would be happy to host you and your party in Seaton, for as long as it takes my personal armorers to prepare for you and your henchmen any armor which they are capable of making, of your request, newly forged to your own measurements. I trust that such will prove more useful to you in your future exploits than the ship.

Please do not hesitate to call upon me at my court.

Hewell II
Viscount of Salinmoor, Lord of Saltmarsh, Vice Admiral of the Azure Sea, Defender of the Southern Realm, etc, etc.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2018 6:56 pm    Post subject: Post 28: Scouting the Lizardfolk Lair Reply with quote

DM's Note: This post contains significant spoilers for module U2: Danger at Dunwater.

After the party's bumbling near-TPK in the basement of the Haunted House, and a better-planned but still rather lucky assault on the Sea Ghost, I was interested to see what their scouting run of the lizardfolk lair would entail, and how long it would take them to realize the true nature of the module. They both surprised and impressed me with the careful planning and reasonably skilled execution of their initial scouting raid. Perhaps they were learning! The addition of Willa and Shefak certainly helped to add a more careful, deliberate element to the party.

Post 28 - Scouting the Lizardfolk Lair

17 August, 570 - evening - Salinmoor coast, several hours' sail west of Saltmarsh
The Sea Ghost sails west from Saltmarsh for a few hours, nearing the promontory shown on Willa’s chart, but without any specific idea of where the actual lair might be, having refused Punketah’s help in locating it. There are storms out to sea, but close to the shore it is merely cloudy and overcast. After a brief strategic discussion among the group members, they collectively decide they will divide up and disembark in the two jollyboats to make a show of fishing up and down the coastline, while actually scouting the banks of the mainland and sending Aurora’s spirit owl familiar Hedwig out on flying reconnaissance trips. They converse with the crew of the Ghost, setting up a system of signals: sparks will be sent into the air by Aurora (if things are desperate) or a more subdued lantern code will be used for normal activities. The Sea Ghost is to sail slightly northeast and remove itself from view by the shore, but will revisit the general area every six hours, starting at midnight. The jollies head first to the mouth of the Dunwater, and will then proceed south and west around the point. Oceanus patrols underwater close to the surface, keeping an eye out for submerged threats.

Close to the river mouth, Hedwig spots a trail of sorts, winding its way along the river bank. She also sees a fork in the trail with one path continuing north along the river and the other turning south and west and heading deeper into the marshland. Sailing up-river would be a suspicious behavior for fishermen, so the party comes about and lazily “fishes” along the coastline as they had planned. Hedwig follows the trail to the southwest, noticing that half way around the bend, the trail diverts up the hill, terminating just short of a small cave entrance.

As they continue west around the promontory, Larry suddenly notices an opening in the shoreline, a low sea cave not unlike the secluded entrance below the Alchemist’s house. The group notes the location and continues traveling toward the southwest tip of the area on Willa’s map, and then reverses course when they seem to have discovered all they can by jollyboat. They decide to sail back up the coastline (as it is now dusk and growing darker) and opt to make landfall near the path, planning on working their way up the trail toward the small cave entrance under cover of darkness. With nightfall comes a cool sea breeze, which when it hits the warm, humid swamp creates a layer of fog that envelops the low-lying marshlands and reduces visibility on all sides. Swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes increase in the darkness as well. After the party disembarks, Tom waits with one jollyboat at the ready in the water just offshore, while the other boat is pulled up and hidden among the reeds.

Unfortunately for poor Dirty Larry, he is less familiar with swamplands than mountains. Trying to lead the party overland to the trail Hedwig spotted, he suddenly mis-steps into a soft quag, quickly sinking and gulping in a few mouthfuls of the stinking bog as he cries out and struggles to stay afloat. Thokk chuckles at the hapless druid, and offers his ten foot pole to fish out the soggy dwarf. Sadly, Thokk too is baffled by the swamp and its mysterious ways, and stumbles into the same watery hole while trying to help his companion. Finally, Tyrius and Babshapka are able to pull the bumbling duo to firmer ground successfully, and the ranger dryly offers to help lead the party the remaining distance to the edge of the trail, carefully poking the ground ahead of him with Thokk’s pole as he goes.

Once on the trail, the party sends Babshapka to the front and Barnabus to the rear, so that they might stealthily approach any hidden dangers. All along the way they can hear the roguish halfling complaining about the enveloping darkness, his lack of darkvision, the party’s reluctance to shed some light on the dim ground, and the clouds of biting flies that surround them. As they make their way up the gentle slope, they notice the ground drying a bit and giving way to grassier surroundings. The fog thins as they gain elevation as well. Quietly and uneventfully, they arrive at the cave mouth in the late evening, peek into the gloomy narrow crevice in the hillside, and then gingerly creep forward toward a door at the back of the cave. The door is of stout wood - an impressive construction for supposedly primitive lizardfolk, and they debate whether they are even in the correct place or have actually found an altogether different lair.

Dirty Larry hears nothing behind the door and, after a quick inspection, Barnabus assures the party with his typical swagger that they need not fear any traps, so Thokk slowly advances into the lizardfolk lair. The group files into a narrow, rough-dug passageway that extends ahead toward a dimly lit juncture, with another small passageway on their immediate right. Barnabus creeps forward through the party, but stumbles over Aurora’s robes in the oppressively dark corridor. Babshapka and Dirty Larry offer to scout ahead instead - they are not as stealthy as Barnabus, but that may be a worthwhile tradeoff in return for actually being able to see. As they poke their heads around the corner of the passageway immediately at hand, they see five lizardman guards milling about in an adjacent room. With cool aplomb, the ranger and druid back away from the corridor slowly and retreat with the rest of the party outside the lair to discuss an approach.

Thokk readies his battleaxe and looks positively giddy with the thought of finally putting aside all this sneaking about, but his hopes are dashed when Dirty Larry offers to scout ahead in weasel form. Larry suggests that he advance through the passageways, taking the right hand path whenever possible and thereby giving the party the best chance to find him quickly if things go awry. “If things gae right cocked oop, I’ll juss transform, thunderwave th’ hell oot of all aboot, and then hide meself as a spider on ceiling.” Thokk chuckles and slaps Larry on the back approvingly as the muddy dwarf disappears into his tiny weasel form.

Larry is quite successful at scouting, it seems, and with his keen weasel sense of smell and hearing is able to chart close to a dozen rooms and numerous passageways. He discovers the kitchen, some living quarters, several other rooms of unknown purpose, and a locked and barred gate closing off a stairway down. At this location he can smell the sea, but he can also detect that there are other scents here besides the common lizardfolk he is quickly becoming accustomed to. After reporting all of this back to the party, the group decides that it would be risky to scout much further, and instead they opt to return to the Sea Ghost and report in, possibly trying out another approach later in the night.

Babshapka helps the party return to the jollyboats and, after subtly marking the location they used to hide the boat in case they wish to return, they row out to meet the Ghost for the midnight rendezvous. The torchlight inside the lizardfolk lair has suggested to the party that perhaps the reptiles do not have darkvision - if this is the case, they likely have an advantage over the lizardfolk at night, so they return to the jollyboats - this time to explore the sea cave. Oceanus, who has been swimming just under the boats so as to protect against an ambush from below, informs the party that he has not seen any threats in the dark water, but also notes that the cave passage into the hill has a dense carpet of seaweed along the ocean floor that could easily hide guards.

As the group silently rows into the cave, they send Hedwig to fly about the back side of the large chamber within, but the owl is able to discern little that the party members themselves couldn’t already see. Just as the lead boat approaches the back of the cave and finds a stone staircase leading out of the open chamber and into the hillside, however, the party is spotted by two figures who immediately flee the cavern. One splashes quickly off to the left, retreating into an adjoining cave, while another, clearly a lizardman, leaps from the water and onto the stone steps.

There is a flurry of hasty activity by the party. A crack bowshot from Babshapka hits the lizardman squarely, though he muscles out of the ranger’s attempt to ensnare him with magic vines. Thokk and Willa strain at the oars to rapidly narrow the distance to the stairs as Larry successfully yanks the warrior back toward them with his thorn whip. Aurora, her better sense apparently overcome by the thrilling events of the evening, leaps from the jollyboat and attempts to charm the lizardman into submission. This fails spectacularly, and the warrior attacks her, though the disorientation of the thorn whip and his lack of darkvision cause both his dagger and bite attacks to miss. Barnabus illuminates the reptile with his lantern and Tyrius nails him with a thrown light hammer, but it is Sheffek who finally subdues the warrior in spectacular fashion. She jumps from the rear boat, flips over the heads of Thokk and Willa to land neatly in their boat without upsetting it, then clears the remaining ten foot distance separating her and the lizardman in a single bound, and finally knocks him unconscious with a single, precise blow of her staff. She then assists Aurora in hauling him down the stairs and into the closest boat. Turning around swiftly, the party rows furiously and noisily to escape the cave before reinforcements arrive, and they make it back to the Sea Ghost without further incident. Oceanus later tells them that two more figures were following them under the water, but they left off pursuit when the boats exited the sea cave into the open water.

By the time they reach the ship, a light rain has begun, and the wind is picking up. They tell the sailors to gain some distance from the promontory. The crew grumbles about having been on duty since noon and now having to sail after midnight in the rain, but Willa aims some choice invective at them and tells them they are being paid to sail, not complain. Her stern captaining seems to arouse more respect than resentment.

The party ties the lizardman to the mast, asks Tyrius to heal him just enough to rouse him to consciousness, and then proceeds to interrogate him. They initially try the carrot, rather than the stick, and offer him water and fish while they attempt to calm his panicked reaction. Aurora casts comprehend languages so that she can understand him, if not vice versa, but the party is pleased to find that Shefek seems to have a strange natural affinity for picking up lizardfolk words. Over the next few minutes, they are able to work together and convince the lizardman, who names himself Sssessenek, that they mean him no harm but desperately need some information. Over the course of the next half hour, they are able to convey and are told the following:

The lizardfolk are buying weapons, but they are unaware of any larger plot involving human nations.

They are buying weapons solely for the purpose of protecting themselves from the Sea Devils, an evil rampaging aquatic race dedicated to conquest.

The Sea Devils attacked their home six months ago, forcing them to relocate to their present underground lair (in retrospect, Larry attests that the hillside resembled a simple home rather than any sort of advance war post).


The party successfully conveys to Sssessenek that the humans of Saltmarsh believe the lizardfolk mean to attack the town, to which the warrior appears genuinely surprised. Nothing could be farther from the truth, he says, as his people have their hands full desperately trying to rebuild a home and preparing to defend themselves.

Aurora asks how the lizardfolk are paying for these weapons, and hits a sticking point. The lizardman nobly refuses to answer, saying “I have told you the truth and all the information that I am free to provide, in the hopes that you will spare my life. But now you ask about knowledge that may imperil my lair, and I will readily die for my lair.”

Willa offers him the suggestion that they meet with whomever is responsible for the smugglers bringing the weapons. Sssessenek agrees and reveals that it is their chief that parlayed with Snake-eyes and his crew. He offers to speak with the chief and arrange a meeting at the mouth of the Dunwater at noon the following day.

After a quick discussion, the group decides that the potential benefit of such a meeting outweighs the risks, so they completely heal the lizardman of his injuries, sail him on a jolly to within a short swimming distance of the sea cave, and release him. The group returns to the Sea Ghost and retreats to a safe distance to rest and discuss the events of the evening.


DM's Note: The wildly successful conclusion of this scouting run was made possible by their diplomacy with the lizardman. Aurora's comprehend languages allowed them to understand him, but crucial to their success was him understanding them, as well. Shefak has the highest Insight score of any of them, and began play with an undedicated language slot as well. When her player asked me if she could learn the lizardfolk language "as she went", I agreed but said that she would then be locked into having selected lizardfolk as her language of choice, and that the language was unlikely to prove useful later in her adventuring career. She accepted that condition, and her being able to pick up and use a smattering of lizardfolk over the course of that first conversation proved instrumental.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:05 am    Post subject: Post 29: Negotiations at Noon Reply with quote

DM's Note: This post contains significant spoilers for module U2: Danger at Dunwater.

Post 29 - Negotiations at Noon

18 August, 570 - midday - mouth of the Dun River, Azure Sea
At mid-day, the party rows both jollies to the mouth of the river. A number of mangrove-covered sandbars dot the wide mouth, and on the largest a regal and authoritative lizardman waits for them, surrounded by a large retinue of warriors. Tyrius (the party’s diplomat) leads the group ashore and approaches the chief cautiously. Oceanus (underwater) and Babshapka (in the underbrush) remain hidden, but communicate with Aurora via her message spell. They tell her with some concern that the channels underwater and the sand spits neighboring the one on which the meeting is taking place are positively crawling with concealed lizardfolk. Aurora relays this to Tyrius, who tries to exude confidence nonetheless. Tyrius addresses the chief and, after a few initial verbal mis-steps, is able to gather the following information:

*The chief speaks in an accented but easily understandable form of Common

*Everything that Sssessenek told them under interrogation is corroborated. Six months ago, the lizardfolk fled their home for this new location and have been arming themselves with what they call “me-tal” ever since, anticipating renewed conflict with the Sea Devils.

*The chief mentions that he feels the release of his captured warrior by the party means that they are either very courageous or very foolish. He is hoping that it is the former.

*The chief says that he has entered into an alliance with both the Merfolk and Koalinth. He appears to approve of the party’s ignorance of the latter race, and believes it lends credence to the claim that the group has no larger aims on the lizardfolk other than the mistaken belief they planned to attack Saltmarsh. He says that when selecting allies, the lizardfolk considered approaching the sea elves rather than the Koalinth, but they believed that the Koalinth were stronger and so more valuable. He suggests that the party allows Oceanus to join the conversation, and points to the place in the channel where the sea elf lurks under the water.

*The chief explains that his tribe has made these allies to stand united against the Sea Devils. It is the Merfolk who have been raiding what he calls underwater “soft-skin log ruins” (shipwrecks?) for the “small bits of me-tal” that the smugglers valued.

*The chief came to the arrangement with the smugglers by simple chance - after they had sent out numerous lizardfolk groups to attempt contact, the smugglers were the first vessel found whose occupants didn’t immediately attack the reptiles and were then open to a trading arrangement. The chief convincingly denies that there is any attack planned on Saltmarsh. He does not see the “soft skins” (humans) as anywhere near as dangerous a threat as the Sea Devils, and he only moved them this close to their town because he was forced to do so.

Tyrius asks for a break and consults privately with Oceanus, using Aurora as a translator. Oceanus relates to the party that the Koalinth are a goblinesque underwater race that has warred with the elves for as long as Oceanus can remember (that is, centuries). The lizard chief appears to be speaking truthfully, as Oceanus can attest that the Sea Devils are a tremendous threat. And, yes, it makes absolute sense strategically and militarily for the lizardfolk to join with the Koalinth and the Merfolk against a common foe. The Koalinth and the sea elves do despise each other and would never ally. “No,” Oceanus concludes, “no matter how dire the threat from the Devils, I cannot ever see us joining in any coalition with the Koalinth. The oceans themselves will dry up before that day will ever come.” Oceanus also informs the party that while the Sea Devils are a foe he greatly fears, he himself has never seen one, for they live in the deep, cold, sunless waters far offshore. For them to displace a lizardfolk colony on the very shore itself is a grave threat to the folk of the sea and land both!

Tyrius, Oceanus, and Aurora rejoin the chief for more discussion and learn that there was a Koalinth ambassador at the lizardfolk lair the night before (likely the source of the strange scent weasel-Larry smelled near the sea port stairway but could not identify). Unfortunately for the health of the original alliance, the Koalinth ambassador believes that the capture and interrogation of a lizardman warrior by a party of “soft skins” is a reflection of weakness among the reptiles. His people were divided as to the benefits of the alliance to begin with, and this embarrassment appears to have pushed them toward abandoning the coalition. As such, the lizardfolk would entertain the notion of a possible alliance with the sea elves and even the humans, but only if they can prove their worth. The chief says that his advisors are convinced that soft skins are worth little more than hissing hatchlings in battle, but their actions during the raid on the sea cave and the respect they have shown him in the meeting today hints to him that there may be more to them than his advisors know.

The chief proposes a trial, and tasks the party with killing a rampaging giant crocodile interfering with their hunting grounds. Half a company of his own warriors could easily dispose of the threat, but their belief system forbids them from harming other reptiles.

The party agrees that this is a fair request and enthusiastically begins preparations to locate and slay the beast, which the chief says they have named “Stenchbrute,” and which lives up the “moving water.”

As the party prepares to launch the jollyboats, Willa offers the chief a seat in one. He stares at her, his tongue flicking in and out, with no trace of a recognizable emotion on his face. “Do not think we are alliesss yet, or that I would be foolisssh enough to go off with the group of you by myssself.” He speaks briefly with a large warrior by his side in their own tongue, then says “My trusssted officccer will obssserve your battle and report back to me.”

Willa shrugs and makes room for the lizardman officer in the boat.
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My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:57 pm    Post subject: Post 30: Stenchbrute Reply with quote

Note: This post contains spoilers for module U2: Danger at Dunwater.

While I ran the lixardfolk lair pretty much as written in the original module, for the battle with Stenchbrute and the wyrmling I did rely on Appendix A of the 5e conversion of the module by Jon Weir available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4UcyZ6zkUKFTVUyMjg1dlRCcVk/view. Most of the treasure suggested therein I kept, but I changed the bracers of archery to a crystal of clear thought. The latter is an item of my own invention. Once identified and attuned to a monk character, it allows the character to gain one ki point beyond the per level maximum if it is contemplated during the character's meditative practice.

Post 30: Stenchbrute

18 August, 570 - afternoon - Dun River

It is not far up one of the narrow channels at the mouth of the Dun before the jollyboats are grounded on a sandbank. After that, they need to be pulled through an area of thick reeds. For the next quarter mile, the party spends more time out of the boats, dragging them through thick grass and shallow water, then in them. It is hot, sweaty, muddy, buggy work. Finally they are past the sediment-clogged delta and out in the open river. Willa had occasionally wondered why the Dun never became a trade route like the other rivers of its size in the region and now she knows - there is no way a craft of any size would be able to get through its mouth to the sea!

It is hard work rowing against the current upriver, but no one complains. There are many hands for the oars and away from the reeds there are fewer bugs and even a light breeze. For the first time Barnabus navigates one of the boats while Tom and Willa sit together in the other, she filling him on the state of the negotiations, their deal with the Lizardman chief, and other matters spoken of in lower voices.

As the boats continue upstream, and the novelty of floating on the water rather than swimming in it wears off (for this is surely his first trip in a boat), the lizardman officer grows chatty. Perhaps he wishes to impress them with his Common, or warn them of what lies ahead. For whatever reason, he begins with “Our wissse chief did not tell you all of the ssstory of Ssstenchbrute,” and, when he sees that everyone in the boat is paying attention, he continues.

“When our colony firssst arrived at our new home, we sssoon discovered that Ssstenchbrute had itsss lair in the marssshesss nearby. Thisss wasss at firssst of no concccearn - crocodilesss are sssacred to our tribe and we thought itsss presssenccce wasss a good omen. True, one thisss large could be dangerousss, but our ssshamen have alwaysss been able to commune with other ssscale-ssskins. A ssshaman can sssimply asssk a crocodile to leave, and it will. But then the crocodile attacked and devoured three membersss of a patrol which had pausssed to ressst near itsss lair, and it would not lisssten to the ssshaman! Sssince then Ssstenchbrute hasss taken by sssurprise many of our patrolsss, eaten many of our warriorsss and once even an officccer. Sssome of the men believe that it is actually hunting usss! We are forbidden by our faith from harming it, asss you know. What is worssse, itsss lair liesss very close to a posssible route of approach of sssahuagin, ssso we cannot jussst avoid it and leave that area unpatrolled. Our lossses have continued to accumulate, and I for one will be much relieved if you are able to drive it off!”

The party discusses strategy after that, calling out ideas from boat to boat as they row. Babshapka expounds on the ecology of crocodiles, explaining that they are faster in the water than on land, that they have powerful bites, that they can knock people over with their tails, and that they have been known to grab people and drag them underwater. The lizardfolk officer agrees with all of this, and adds that while he personally can outrun a crocodile on land, in the water he would not stand a chance. As for the party, with their funny foot-wraps and metal scales...he can only imagine how slow they will be on marshy ground.

“No worries,” says Thokk, as he pulls on the oars and the sweat rolls off his glistening biceps. “Thokk finally get to fight! No need for running. Plan is simple. Thokk distracts crocodile, then hits it. Everyone else come in after Thokk, and hits it. Then, Thokk hits it again, and it dies.”

“Yeah, great, you do that.” says Babshapka. “Arrows from a tree sounds good to me.”

The lizardman advises them when they are getting close, and the conversation dies down. The boats pass single file through a narrow channel, itself running alongside a large, deep pool but not intermingling due to a sodden strip of land between. The boats are pulled up on the land, and the lizardman points to the pool as being the most reliable place to find the crocodile, although really it could be anywhere. On the far side of the pool the land rises and the marshes give way to trees, but the area between the trees is obscured by mist. Aurora sends out Hedwig to circle the pool, then the general area, but there is no sign of the beast.

In a hushed conversation, Aurora points out a large willow tree near the edge of the pool. She tells the party to arrange themselves in a line near the tree and hide to the best of their ability. She will create a “silent image” of a lizardman to walk along the banks of the pool in an attempt to draw the beast out.

As they file quietly away from the beached boats, Tom carefully arranges the oars and gear for a quick departure. He stands near the prow of one of the boats, a loaded crossbow in hand.

Most of the party has arranged themselves under or near the willow, crouching in the grass, but Aurora notices that Willa is standing, not hiding, about 20 yards back from the tree and alongside the lizardman. Aurora passes by and asks what is going on, and Willa says loudly, “I am guarding our honored observer - if something happens to him, their wise chief will not know how we fared.” She then leans in to Aurora and whispers, “As the chief said, we are not allies yet - this “test” could be an ambush, and if things go south, I want a hostage when we run for the boats. If it is really just a crocodile, there are enough of you to handle it.”

Aurora is frustrated but continues on, crouching by the willow. In a few seconds, she has created a convincing-looking lizardman, who appears suspiciously like the officer accompanying them but who is completely silent. This image walks up and down the banks of the pool, sometimes leaning tantalizingly over the edge, or dipping a toe or tail tip in.

WOOOOSH! The pool explodes and a shower of water falls along the banks as the huge bulk of the most massive animal any of them have ever seen emerges. SNAP! Jaws as large as any of their torsos close around the image of the lizardman, which instantly disappears. The croc shudders and looks about, angered at missing its prey. With a rousing cry, Thokk bursts forth from hiding, charging just out of reach of the creature, but next to its head, dancing forward and back, daring it to bite at him. The others run out, taking positions all alongside the enormous flanks of the creature, striking at it with sword, staff, spear, and hammer. SNAP! the brute turns and strikes again, now at Thokk, but he backs up just in time, even as the others continue to slash, pierce and bludgeon it. THWAK! The massive tail of the creature, it alone outweighing her several-fold, crashes into Shefak, knocking her to the ground in an unconscious heap. THOKK! Thokk’s massive axe cuts deep into the neck of the creature, lodging in its spine but not severing it. Then the true thrashing begins, and all standing nearby are covered in blood, mud, and water.

When the creature ceases its movements, Thokk tilts his head back and issues a deep cry of exultation, furious love of battle. The others around him relax and watch, until they see Babshapka’s eyes go wide and his jaw drop. They follow the pointing of his quivering finger. There, emerging from the mist behind Thokk, is the head of a black dragon, mouth agape.

Thokk whirls about, but just in time to be struck full-on by a mass of belched acid that burns and sizzles as it eats at his flesh. Barnabus and Tyrius, standing nearby, attempt to dodge away and each take a half-dose of the deadly acid-vomit. When it is over, the creature pauses, as if it cannot understand how Thokk is still standing. Then the half-orc again utters his battle cry, and he, Oceanus, Barnabus, and Tyrius charge the dragon. Of the other croc-fighters, Shefak is still lying unconscious in the marsh, Larry is retreating even as he heals Thokk with magic from a distance, and Babshapka is backing up but firing his bow as he goes.

Now surrounded and taking damage, the dragon leans forward to bite Thokk, but the arrow in its neck from Babshapka sprouts vines that wrap around its jaws and muzzle it! It rears up and stretches out its wings, trying to fly, but the nearby willow tree reaches forth its branches to entangle it. As it struggles in great bounds, its whole chest is exposed to Thokk, and he opens it to the bone with his great axe. The momentum of its last leap rips it free of the tree, and it sails over the pool to come crashing to earth, dead, just at the feet of Babshapka.

Now Thokk lets free another exultant cry, and this time he is joined by all the others, except Tom, Willa, and the lizardman officer, who are all competing for who can appear more stunned.

After several minutes, Thokk rests his axe head on the marshy ground, the rage leaving his body and now painfully aware of the acid burning his flesh off in large open wounds. The others are climbing on and around the bodies of the monsters, marveling at them. Tyrius is kneeling at Shefak’s side, restoring her to consciousness. Thokk looks over his fallen foes: the croc, indeed, is an impressive beast, worthy of a totem spirit, had he not already been chosen by the wolf he slew in Saltmarsh. But the dragon, well, it is actually small. Of course it looked much bigger emerging from the mist and surprising everyone, but now, slain, the bulk of its body is not larger than a man, though its neck and tail are quite long. Honestly, for a dragon, even his first dragon, it is small. Thokk tries to focus on this rather than on his increasingly-painful acid burns. A dragon this small must have a correspondingly small territory - it would stay close to its lair, so as to avoid the attention of other dragons that could easily pilfer its hoard - its hoard must therefore be close-by. Thokk walks off into the mist, attempting to trace the tracks of the dragon back to their source.

Meanwhile, the lizardman at Willa’s side flicks his tongue pensively. “A wyrmling? That mussst be why the crocodile could not hear our ssshamen. The wyrmling wasss controlling it!”

Tyrius and Babshapka begin a friendly argument. Babshapka wants to remove the teeth from the dragon’s mouth as souvenirs - Tyrius wants to mount the head, intact, on the prow of “his” ship. When the lizardman hears them, he hurries over. “You are not talking of dessicrating the bodiesss of thessse animalsss, are you?” Tyrius looks momentarily annoyed, then composes himself. “Of course not. Forgive us, most-trusted-officer of the chief. We respect your belief system. What shall we do with these bodies, noble ally?”

“We musst bring them to our home, ssso that we may honor their ssspirits at the victory feassst tonight.”

“Of course. Just so.” Tyrius strides off to requisition some rope from Tom.

Thokk is followed into the mist by Barnabus, and it it is not long before Aurora and Larry are trailing him. Thokk walks up the hillside until he sees a huge stone, flat against the ground, as if a massive boulder outcrop had been eaten away by acid and claws. In a depression in the stone are heaps of coin, but other objects poke out as well. Thokk sticks his axe into the mix, stirring the coins to see what lies beneath. “Fah, no weapons,” he says disgustedly. “Stupid dragon.” He retreats under a tree, leaving the treasure to the others so they won’t see his grimaces of pain from the acid-burns.

Aurora, Barnabus, and Larry comb through the treasure. Barnabus pulls out a small suit of leather armor and a closed iron box, then starts searching the box for traps. Aurora finds a scroll tube, and helps Larry separate the rest of the pile into coins (copper, gold, platinum), gems, jewelry, and art objects. When she is done, Aurora pulls forth Punketah’s wand and says “Abracaphagic!” The suit of leather armor glows. Aurora can sense protective magic - but something else as well - tiny lights play across the runes etched into the metal plates that reinforce the vulnerable parts of the armor.

Barnabus opens the box. In it are three flasks of liquid and a perfectly clear, spherical crystal. When Aurora sees them she curses, blushes, then uses another charge from the wand. All four objects glow - she is reading protective magic on one potion, superior healing on the second, and strength-granting on the third. The use of the crystal remains obscured to her. She opens the tube and finds a scroll of “protection from undead”.

Barnabus examines the armor. The designs on it appear like gears, though they are decorative, not functional. This, plus the size and shape, lead him to believe it is of gnome-make. He might be able to fit in it, though it looks to be too long and narrow for him.

As he adjusts straps and belts, it actually fits quite well. In fact, the longer he has it on, the better it feels. Supple, responsive - he feels protected, but like he is missing something - the runes on the metal plates hint at another power, if only he knew how to activate it. “I wonder what else it does?” he muses aloud.

WHAMM! Thokk hits Barnabus squarely in the jaw. The halfling tumbles over backwards into the grass. He does not get up. In fact, he does not move. “Hmmf,” grunts the half-orc. “Armor not good either. This rotten dragon treasure. Thokk going back to boats.”

While the strong people cooperate in dragging the bodies to the boats, tying them securely, and rolling them into the stream, the fast people make trips back and forth to the hoard-rock, eventually loading all of the treasure into the boats, with the coins loose in the bottom and the potions, scroll, and valuable items tucked away. Eventually they are ready to cast off, though a groggy Barnabus has a huge purple welt on his jaw.

The trip back to the lizardfolk lair is uneventful. Rowing downriver is easy, even with the bodies floating behind. Portaging through the delta is twice as hard as before until they are spotted. Then the boats are suddenly swarming with dozens of lizardmen, and twice-dozens of hands lift, pull, and drag until they make it to the trail leading to their lair.

[DM's Note: Thokk's player had a good time with this session. First he successfully used the "dodge" action to keep the crocodile attacking him but missing while the others piled on the damage. Then, when Barnabus tried on the new armor, he reasoned he could determine the armor class by making a single unarmed attack. Of course, he did not consult with Barnabus' player first about this tactic. As luck would have it, he rolled a critical hit - and the resultant unarmed damage was enough to knock Barnabus unconscious!]
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:09 pm    Post subject: Post 31: Hail to the Chief Reply with quote

Note: This post contains spoilers for module U2: Danger at Dunwater

Post 31: Hail to the Chief

18 August, 570 - evening - mouth of the Dun River, Azure Sea
Once at the trailhead, the crowd of lizardmen moves off, hauling the dragon and the crocodile, and leaves the party momentarily to themselves. Tom, Thokk, Larry, and Tyrius consolidate the coins in one jollyboat and launch it into the sea, heading for the ship. Aurora, Babshapka, Barnabus, Willa, and Shefak pull their jollyboat far onto the land, then follow the trail toward the lizardfolk lair. By the time they get to the “hidden” door, the black dragon has been arranged outside as if on guard, but there is no sign of the crocodile. They wait patiently as if they do not know of the door, and eventually it is thrown open and lizardfolk usher them into the underground lair. From the doorway they pass down the hall and beyond the guardpost, almost directly ahead to a door that weasel-Larry examined but did not enter.

Inside the door is a large banquet hall, fully fifty feet wide and nearly twice as long. Outside the room the narrow tunnels were of earth, but this room has been carved from stone bedrock and has six stone pillars in two rows supporting the high ceiling. Several wooden tables have been placed together, end-to-end, running down the length of the room between the pillars. Wooden benches flank the table - depending on how closely they are packed in, Willa estimates the table could easily seat 50 of the lizardfolk, perhaps as many as 70 or 80. At the far end is a large wooden chair, flanked by four other chairs and apart from the common benches. The room itself contains knots and clusters of conversing lizardfolk, though none of them are yet seated.

The five party members are shown to the benches at the far end, nearest the chairs that are presumably reserved for the most important members of the tribe. Lizardfolk are setting the table for a feast, bringing out plates with fish and waterfowl. Some of these are cooked and some are raw, but they have all been prepared in some way - scaled or de-feathered at least. The lizardfolk laying the meal appear different from the others of their kind, those heretofore seen outside - these are taller, but more slender, and their head-crests are much less pronounced. Babshapka offers the opinion that these are actually female lizardfolk, whereas the warriors, officer, and chief were males. The party sits at the benches, talking casually and watching the preparations around them. On the tables are a variety of earthenware pots, jars, plates and mugs, and a number of wooden trenchers. There are woven baskets containing small, dark loaves of bread. There are two tall wooden cupboards in the room, one against each of the long walls.

As the party relaxes, they are offered drink but not food. The room becomes noisier and warmer as more and more lizardfolk enter, though none of them sit. There are even diminutive lizardfolk (children?) from time to time, trying to snatch food from the table and being chased away or cuffed by the larger ones.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

With four people rowing, it does not take long for Tom, Thokk, Larry, and Tyrius to reach the Sea Ghost. Once on board, sacks are found to stow the coins, and they are placed in the captain’s cabin (currently occupied by Willa and Tom). Tom and Tyrius talk to Old Lefty - he reports that the crewmen are tired from long shifts but otherwise in good spirits. The crew brings up the bundles of weapons that were the most recent planned delivery for the lizardfolk and loads them into the jollyboat. At that point, everyone is ready to go except Tyrius. He insists on going to his cabin (the mate’s cabin, belowdecks, that he is currently sharing with Larry), washing, and changing clothes. He is, after all, going to a feast. Thokk is baffled. The feast is in honor of slaying the crocodile - so what is more appropriate than wearing the clothes with the crusted gore of the crocodile on them? (Not that Thokk actually has more than one set of clothes, but in principle). Larry agrees with Thokk. Tom didn’t get dirty in the fight but is covered in mud from the portaging in the delta; but then he isn’t going to the feast. Willa is, though: “typical” Tom mumbles.

When Tyrius finally emerges from his cabin - not as polished as he would be for a noble banquet, but good enough for lizardfolk and certainly better than anyone else in the party - the sun is just starting to set. Tom orders a lantern hung on the ship and three crewmen into the jollyboat - his plan is to drop the three party members off, but return to the Sea Ghost with at least one of the jollyboats. He tells Tyrius that the men have been nervous the whole time the party has used both jollyboats, since they prefer keeping at least one on board as a lifeboat - they have only tolerated both being gone so far because the Ghost has been within sight of land the whole time. The crew rows them back to the shore and they arrive while there is just enough light to make out the other jollyboat. After Thokk, Larry, and Tyrius disembark, they are passed the bundles of weapons and then the jollyboat pulls off into the gathering darkness.

Since the beached jollyboat was so near the lizardfolk trail, Larry does not lead them into any meres but straight to the lair door (and just around the corpse of the black dragon). “Stupid dragon,” mumbles Thokk as they pass, but with more mirth than invective, as his skin is now less raw and starting to scab over. Immediately after they enter the lair, they are whisked to the nearby banquet hall. The throngs of lizardfolk around them are practically humming in anticipation, and Tyrius gets the feeling that everyone has been waiting for them. He tries to not feel pleased by that, as he is supposed to choose modesty over pride.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

The party in the feast hall has been waiting quite some time. Sheffek and Babshapka seem impervious to boredom or frustration, but it has been hard on Willa. At first she amused herself by making tactical estimates of the strength of the lizardfolk, but that done, she has had nothing to do but pretend to listen to the vapid comments of Aurora, who hasn’t stopped talking. Barnabus, at least, has found the lizardman officer who observed their battle, and has asked him to recount the scene several times, all the while working out a new ballad.

It is with great relief that Willa notes the increased conversation among the lizardfolk that is the immediate prelude to Thokk, Larry, and Tyrius entering the room. Almost as soon as the party is united, a hush falls over the hall. A dozen lizardfolk, straining and heaving, haul the body of the crocodile in through a door opposite the one the party entered. The croc is lain near the head of the table, the chairs adjusted slightly to account for its presence. The lizardfolk stare in silent awe. Then, entering through the same door, comes the chief. At once all the lizardfolk present adopt a curious, hunched over position, almost squatting. The party looks to one another, trying to decide whether they too should assume this posture. Tyrius shakes his head at them and whispers that the chief wants strong allies, not subservient minions. So they are the only ones erect when the chief strides up to the table and stands near the great chair. After him come two lizardfolk, presumably females, with their skin dyed in places and both wearing jewelry. These take places at the chairs to either side of the chief. Finally one last pair come in. There is a lizardfolk female bearing a staff, and an ancient male wearing a large gold chain. He is hunched and has scales missing in many places. His teeth look blunted and he even has a pair of brass-rimmed spectacles on his nose!

The female with the staff pauses by the head of the croc, throws her arms wide, and makes a brief pronouncement in the lizard tongue. Sheffak listens intently, then whispers to the party that she is welcoming the spirit of the croc to the feast. After she stands by a chair, the aged lizardman hisses something barely audible, and gestures at the party before taking his place by a chair. Sheffak says she thinks he was welcoming them. There is a moment of silence, and the chief takes his seat. Finally the assembled lizardfolk stand from their crouched position, and begin to move about again, talking loudly. They gradually squeeze into places along the benches, with much jostling and polite shoving, male and female alike, though no children are present.

The feast is long and very satisfying, with plenty for everyone’s taste. Some in the party prefer the cooked waterfowl and fish, some the raw - some try the bread, others avoid it. Two huge carcasses on spits are carried in - one looks like an enormous fish, but bigger than Thokk. The other is human-sized and -shaped, but is thoroughly cooked and its exact identity is unrecognizable. Choice parts of these are served first to the chief and his retinue, then the party, and then the carcasses make their way slowly down the table, with the feasters calling for this part or that to be sliced off for them. Neither the chief nor his retinue speak to the party, nor indeed do most of them make eye contact, the exception being the wizened, bespectacled lizardman, who occasionally steals glances at them.

It must be late in the night indeed when the chief stands and the conversation again dies down, but this time slowly, with those at the far end of the room only gradually becoming silent. With a single gesture to the party to follow him, the chief turns and strides out the door he entered through.

As the party gets up, a number of lizardmen, presumably an honor guard, interpose themselves between the chief and them. While they are busy collecting the bundles of weapons, the party notices that lethargic, sated lizardfolk are retreating from the table, while others are just now coming in to enjoy the feast. The newcomers are generally smaller than the departing ones, and presumably of lesser status.

Following the guards, the party leaves the feast hall and enters earthen tunnels like those that preceded them. They turn right and almost immediately left and pass through a set of open wooden double-doors. The room beyond is large and carved from stone, though with the same six support columns as in the feast hall. It is about the same area, though wider and less deep. There are no furnishings save for a low stone dais at the far end with a large wooden throne on it, on which sits the chief. In the light of several oil lamps, gemstones glint and glitter from the throne. The two dyed and jewelried lizardfolk are gone, but the female with the staff and the ancient male flank the chief on his dais. Nearby the dais are several large officers, and there is a row of troops down each wall of the throne room. On the walls are mounted trophy heads; among them are a giant crayfish, a gnoll, a hippopotamus, a bear, a lion, two sharks, and a giant frog. Two other heads are not immediately recognizable. One is humanoid-sized and -shaped, but it has scaled skin and a heavy brow, a finned ridge, and many sharp, pointed teeth. The other head appears like some sort of giant worm or larva, with many large tentacles protruding from its face.

Once the entire party is in the room, the chief bids them approach his throne. They are perhaps thirty feet away when the female lizardfolk with the staff stiffens and begins to interpose herself between them. At once Tyrius takes a step back and the rest of the party arranges themselves behind him.

“Tell usss,” commands the chief to one of his officers, “how thessse sssoft-ssskinsss ssslew Ssstenchbrute.”

The lizardfolk officer begins the tale in Common, and the party quickly realizes that he is the one who accompanied them to the pool. His tale is accurate, even flattering. When he is done, the chief asks the party, “Isss thiss true?”

Thokk nods proudly as the rest of the party assents. “Tell me now in our own tongue,” says the chief, though his own command of Common leaves no doubt that he understood. The officer begins the tale again, recognizable by all the same gestures, though with different words. This time, however, the guards lining the walls are intent, listening carefully.

When the officer finishes, the chief speaks again. “It ssseems that you sssoft-ssskinsss are more powerful than my advisssers led me to believe. I will invite you to join our allienccce againssst the sssahuagin.”

“Thank you, wise chief,” says Tyrius. “Together we shall surely vanquish the evil sea devils.” With a gesture from the paladin, other members of the party lay before them the bundles of weapons and open them, so that the metal gleams in the lamp-light. “As a token of our good faith in the alliance, we wish to present you with the weapons we believe you purchased, weapons which were found on a ship we captured.”

The chief beckons to an officer, and the lizardman steps forward, raises the shield that is adorned with the symbol of the lizardman with tongue extended, holds it forth and turns for all the room to see.

“Thossse are indeed the weaponsss of me-tal that we purchasssed,” says the chief. “Our dealingsss with the sssoft-ssskinsss of the floating log were thusss: we would give them the sssmall bitsss of me-tal in exchange for the weaponsss - half the bitsss before the purchassse, the other half after. The part after would be held by our tribesssmen on the log until we had reccceived the weaponsss. Did you, then, find the bitsss on the log asss well?”

Barnabus makes to interject, but Tyrius beats him to it. “Yes, wise chief, we found many small bits of metal - half in the captain’s cabin, and half in another.” Barnabus scowls.

“Well then, you are welcome to thossse bitsss. Asss we now have the weaponsss by your handsss, it is jussst that you have their payment. However, I mussst asssk if you alssso sssaw our kinsssmen on the log, or know what became of them?”

Here even Tyrius gives pause. Willa eyes the distance to the chief, estimating whether she could charge him before the officers could respond. She catches Aurora’s eye and inclines her head at the female with the staff, but Aurora just mouths silently back at her, “What? what?”

Finally, Tyrius says in a firm voice, “Yes, wise chief. We fought three lizardfolk warriors on the ship. They came upon us, weapons drawn, while we were already in a fight with the humans. We slew them in honorable combat. Knowing what we know now, we regret their deaths, but feel we were acting in our own defense.” Willa’s hand moves slowly, comes to rest casually on the hilt of her sword.

The chief does not avert his gaze or betray any emotion. “If they fought to defend the weaponsss, then they fought to defend their tribe, and their deathsss were good. But if we are to ally with you, it mussst be asss equalsss. There isss a debt to be paid, a…(here he struggles to find the word, and the aged lizardman bends and hisses at him)...yesss, a wereguild. The tribe mussst be compensssated for their losss. Do you agree?”

Thokk understands that the slaughter of another orc means that a complainant gains the right to exact revenge in ritualistic combat. Of course, whether or not the wronged party is successful and slays the offender is up to the gods and the strength of his arm. Thinking that this is what the chief intends, he heartily agrees. Indeed, he is practically salivating at the chance to slay their greatest warrior in single combat and so prove that the lizardmen on the ship were killed without consequence.

Aurora, on the other hand, is very cautious about what the cultural differences between them may be, and would like more information. She interjects, “Chief, there are differences between our peoples. The things we eat, the gods we serve, the interactions of males and females, etc…We have different customs, traditions, and justice systems. In the interest of fairness and our future relationship, would you please explain to us how wereguild works in the lizardfolk culture, so that we may better answer your question?”

The chief looks carefully over the party - or is he casting sidelong glances at the advisers next to him before he speaks? “The lossss of a lizzzardfolk is a lossss to the tribe - it makesss the tribe weaker, more vulnerable. Sssomeone who deprivesss usss of a member owesss a debt to the tribe. Among ourselvesss, causssing an unjussstified death meansss the killer mussst take on the tribal dutiesss of the killed. The three lizzzardfolk you killed were not proven warriorsss or huntersss, asss they were young. But they had learned Common, and were tasssked with helping provide weaponsss for the tribe. Thusss, the wereguild I would impossse upon you would be to help usss acquire more weapons. I am asking that you pay ten of the little me-tal bitsss for each of us you ssslew - thirty in all, thirty of the yellow bitsss marked with lionsss. I asssk again, do you agree?”

Tyrius turns and looks to the rest of the party, but there are mostly shrugs and blank stares. Barnabus suggests, in as low a voice as he can register and still be heard by Tyrius, “Much as I resent having to pay to kill these things, rather than get paid, ten gold a head is selling themselves pretty cheap. That’s not even four lions each split between us, and we will be getting more than 60 each in reward when we get back to Saltmarsh, plus what we took from the dragon. Let’s just pay and be done with these dark tunnels!”

Thokk is not sure why he has to pay four gold to fight their champion, but he nods his agreement. What other use does he have for the coin?

Tyrius turns around with a broad smile. “As a wise chief you protect and care for your tribe. We will of course contribute so that you may purchase more weapons for their safety. I believe we have this amount on our ship at the moment, but you will have to allow us to return to it and count.”

The chief again gives no indication of whether he finds Tyrius’ words pleasing, but he does say, “You have proven your bravery and your ssskill in combat. You have proven your willingnessss to treat usss as equalsss and compensssate our lossssesss. I believe we ssshould include you in our allianccce against the sssahuagin. Return to your log now, but in the morning, be prepared to take with you our delegation.”

Tyrius is nonplussed. “Your what now?”

“Our delegation. Our diplomatsss. You will transssport them to the sssoft-ssskin lair to negotiate your people’sss participation in the allianccce. And you, sssea elf.” (the chief turns to Oceanus) “The koalinth have formally abandoned the allianccce. I would ask that you carry news of the sssahaugin threat to your people, if they do not already know, and requessst that they join usss asss well.”

It takes a while for what the chief is asking to sink in, but then there is little the party can do but say their formalities and take their departure. In particular, Thokk is very frustrated that he will not be allowed to challenge anyone. The party are escorted out of the lair and down to their beached jollyboat.

The row out to the Sea Ghost is uneventful; the way is clear to the lantern on deck. Aurora manages to circle the ship once and check the deck with Hedwig before she falls asleep - it is late, she is full, and she isn’t working an oar. Barnabus stifles yawns the whole way out to the ship.


18 August - late night - Azure Sea
While the others retire to their cabins, Barnabus, Tyrius, and Willa go through the sack of coins in the captain’s cabin. First they set aside 30 gold for the lizardfolk. Between the gold, platinum, and copper left, there is enough to pay the seven sailors on board (including Tom, but not Willa) a month’s salary, and still have a few coins left over. The more valuable items will have to be sold to the merchants of Saltmarsh before their worth can be divided among the party.

With that settled, Willa checks with the sailors on watch to confirm that there is a good watch schedule until the morning, then turns in.
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