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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 707
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:33 am  
    Post 22: Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, Level 1

    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
    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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 707
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:40 pm  
    Post 23: Battle for the Sea Ghost

    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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:03 am  
    Post 24: An Awkward Homecoming

    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.

    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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    Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:22 am  
    Post 25: Sigurd and the Council

    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.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:34 pm  
    Post 26: The Lizardfolk Threat

    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.
    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.
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    Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:03 pm  
    Post 27: A letter for Tyrius

    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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    Tue Aug 28, 2018 6:56 pm  
    Post 28: Scouting the Lizardfolk Lair

    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.
    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.
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    Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:05 am  
    Post 29: Negotiations at Noon

    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.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:57 pm  
    Post 30: Stenchbrute

    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: 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!]
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:09 pm  
    Post 31: Hail to the Chief

    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.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 707
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:28 pm  
    Post 32: Lord Nehemeyer

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3: The Final Enemy

    When they awake in the morning on the ship, Thokk, Shefak, Willa, and Aurora are at third level. Attributes which have been added since second level are in bold.

    Sergeant Willhemina Stoutly (Willa)
    Third Level Fighter / Human (mixed race, predominantly Flan) (Sailor)
    Str 17 (+3), Int 10, Wis 9 (-1), Dex 15 (+2), Con 12 (+1), Chr 9 (-1)
    Skills: (Fighter): Insight, Survival (Sea and Coast), (Sailor): Athletics, Perception
    Martial Archetype: Champion
    Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
    Chain armor, greatsword, longsword+1, dagger

    Shefak Ishu
    Third Level Monk / Human (Baklunni) (Acolyte)
    Skills: Acrobatics, Insight, Religion, Stealth
    Monastic Tradition: Way of the Open Hand
    Unarmored defense, staff, dagger, darts
    Crystal of Clear Thought

    Thokk of the Crystalmists (Thokk)
    Third Level Barbarian / Half-orc (Outlander)
    Str 17 (+3) Dex 14 (+2) Con 15 (+2) Int 5 (-2) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 12 (+1)
    Hp. 32
    Skills: Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, Survival (mountains)
    Primal Path: Totem Warrior (Wolf)
    Unarmored defense, Shield, ring of protection +1, battle axe, hand axes, javelins

    Aurora of Tringlee
    Third level wizard (School of Enchantment) / Half-elf (Sage)
    Str 13 (+1) Dex 9 (-1) Con 12 (+1) Int 17 (+3) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 18 (+4)
    Hp. 18
    Languages Keolandish (S/W), Elven (S/W), Common (S/W), Ancient Suel (Written only), one open slot
    Skills: Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Performance, Persuasion
    Staff, ring of protection+1, wand of magic detection

    Post 32: Lord Nehemeyer

    19 August, 570 - Azure Sea
    In the morning, the party enjoys a breakfast prepared in the galley, then makes ready to go ashore and pick up the lizardfolk diplomats. The cabin which the other lizardfolk were bunking in before still smells musky and swampy, so is set aside for them, although that means the party is two or three to a room in the private cabins. Willa and Tom are in the Captain’s cabin - they have shared a bed since Tom was born. Aurora, Babshapka, and Oceanus are in Punketah’s cabin - Aurora has sole use of the bed since the elves can trance while sitting. Tyrius and Larry are in the Mate’s cabin; Tyrius has sole use of the bed, since Larry had only ever slept in a bed during his brief stay in the Pelorian temple and is quite comfortable in a pile of sacking on the floor. Thokk and Shefak are in the Bosun’s cabin; they have worked out an arrangement to timeshare the bed. Finally, Barnabus has a hammock in the crew cabin - he is comfortable around the sailors, and his relationships with several party members are...complicated.)

    An away team rows back to shore soon after sunrise. They turn the thirty gold coins over to the chief and take two lizardfolk aboard the jollyboat. One is large and burly, nearly as grand as the chief, with thick, knotted muscles. The other is normal-sized, though appearing diminutive next to the first. If Babshapka is correct that sex can be determined by the type of back-ridge, the smaller is a female. She bears a satchel made from woven reeds; the male carries nothing but weapons affixed to leather straps. By the deferential way the large male is treating the female, she must have some kind of important position or status in the tribe.

    When the away team and dignitaries are back aboard the Sea Ghost, Willa orders the anchor raised and sails unfurled - it should be a short journey back to Saltmarsh, as the weather is fair and wind is with them.

    Once the lizardfolk are settled in their cabin, Oceanus calls the party together. With Babshapka and Aurora translating, Oceanus tells the party that he has a difficult decision to make. The lizardfolk chief has asked him to return to his people and offer them a place in the alliance. Personally, he wishes to stay with the party, as he expects that the Saltmarsh Town Council will be hiring them to strike against the Sea Devils, and he believes that having a fully aquatic party member will be of great benefit to them. He would like to do both of these things, but he is worried that whichever he chooses to do first, he will miss the second. He would like to hear the opinions of the party on whether he should depart at once for his homeland or remain with them a while longer.

    The party agrees that Oceanus should stay with them - if he has to make that choice. But they think there is plenty of time for him to return to his people, alert them to the threat, and still return to Saltmarsh before the Ghost leaves. Oceanus agrees to try. An hour later, when the ship is rounding the cape that is its furthest point south on the voyage, Oceanus says his farewells and dives overboard.

    They have not sailed much further when Babshapka, in the crow’s nest, spots an approaching ship. It is about their size, and flies the colors of Keoland. As it gets closer, they can see that it is likely a warship, and its many sailors are in uniform. Willa orders the Sea Ghost to lower sails and set a course to intercept, and the approaching ship matches. It raises a flag indicating a parlay is requested, and the two ships slowly draw alongside one another. A jollyboat comes over, bearing marines and a man in exquisite red leather armor and a black cloak. The party is initially very suspicious of him, thinking this could be an elaborate ruse by pirates, but eventually comes to accept that he is genuine.

    He introduces himself as Lord Horatio Nehemeyer Rhola, First Officer to the Viscount of Salinmoor. Lord Nehemeyer tells them, with a bit of bluster, that he is here to both deliver the sailors that the party had requested of the Viscount and to assess whether Saltmarsh needs the troops they had requested to defend against the lizardfolk.

    He decided to be personally involved because several members of the Saltmarsh Town Council had been convinced that the lizardfolk were being armed as a plot by the Sea Princes to destabilize the Viscounty as a prelude to an invasion or naval war - and he wanted to both assess this and put an end to the (most likely absurd and dangerous) rumor.

    He meets and speaks with the lizardfolk dignitaries, and surprises the party by demonstrating an ability to speak their language, and much more fluently than Shefak at that. When he learns about the Sea Devils, his manner changes from that of doing a necessary but boring duty to one of a highly competent man executing an urgent mission. He speaks with Willa briefly in private, transfers five sailors to the Sea Ghost, and has Aurora, Babshapka, Tyrius, and the lizardfolk return with him to his ship to sail immediately for Seaton.

    The Sea Ghost later arrives in Saltmarsh without incident. Willa speaks with the Council, and then privately with Secun. In both meetings she advises that now is the time for Sigurd to earn his clemency, but discusses what safeguards need to be in place so that he does not turn cloak and flee.

    Larry and Thokk retreat to the woods outside the town. Shafak meditates. Barnabus retires to the Haunted House and practices skulking and attacking from hiding.

    In Seaton, the lizardfolk are presented to an emergency meeting of the Viscount’s Small Council. Tyrius and Aurora are told to stay close, but Babshapka slips off into the woods. Aurora attempts to speak with the Viscount’s court wizard, but is told that he is busy at the moment but may be free later.

    When Lord Nehemeyer emerges from the council meeting, he briefs Aurora and Tyrius. The Sahuagin at the mouth of the Javan pose a threat to the realm itself - the Javan River carries half the trade of the kingdom, and a sahuagin fortress there would allow them to sink ships or raid cargo indiscriminately. The lizardfolk described their former lair as three levels of underground caves with access to the sea. A conventional siege would be impossible without an underwater blockade, since the devils could continually bring in troops and supplies beneath the waves. Thus the fortress will have to be taken by force. A well-fortified position, defended by sea devils, could require hundreds of troops to take and result in massive losses for the humans. The Viscount is currently raising an army, but the party has been requisitioned to act as a scouting force, and offered 1000 gold lions plus the right of pillage in return for four key pieces of information:

    (1) The strength of the sahuagin force - approximately how many warriors, lieutenants, and if there exist higher officers and priestesses

    (2) The location of important areas within the fortress - barracks, officer quarters, temples, etc. as well as the layout of both access points (land and sea entrances)

    (3) Any significant defensive measures - traps, heavily fortified areas, etc.

    (4) How advanced their preparations are - is there indication of when they might be finished fortifying the area and begin striking?

    Aurora tries to negotiate for a higher reward but eventually accepts the offer. Lord Nehermeyer advises them that the sahuagin are numerous, cunning, organized, and vicious; that they have a blood-frenzy and preference for attacking the wounded, that they can breathe air for hours at a time but less than a day, and that they are often controlled by female priestesses serving the evil shark god Sekolah. He also says that they frequently have trained sharks defending their lairs. The lizardfolk confirm this, and add that the sahuagin prefer to operate in darkness or dim light and are least active in the middle of the day.

    Tyrius leaves to pass the night in vigil at the Temple of Sol and take his final set of vows to become a true Paladin of Pelor at first light. Aurora finally gets to see the court wizard, and he allows her to copy two spells from the Viscount’s arcane library to her spellbook (but not Detect Thoughts, to her chagrin). Aurora also purchases four pearls suitable for identify and the material components for a few other spells.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 707
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:28 am  
    Post 33: En route to the Devils

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3: The Final Enemy

    When they awake in the morning, Tyrius (in the Temple of Sol), Babshapka (in the woods outside Seaton), Barnabus (in the basement of the Haunted House), and Larry (in the fields outside of Saltmarsh) are at third level. Attributes which have been added since second level are in bold.

    Tyrius of Sterich
    Third level paladin of Pelor (Sacred Oath of Devotion)/ Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 14 (+2) Dex 9 (0) Con 11 (0) Int 19 (+4) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 17 (+3)
    Hp. 22
    Languages: Keolandish (S/W), Common (S/W), Flan (Spoken only)
    Skills: History, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion
    Fighting Style: Dueling
    Chain armor, war hammer
    Spells: Cure Wounds, Heroism, Protection from Evil (oath), Sanctuary (oath), Divine Favor
    Scroll of Protection from Undead, Scroll of Hold Person

    Babshapka of the Silverwood
    Third level ranger (Hunter Archetype: Giant Killer)/ Wood elf (Folk Hero)
    Str 12 (+1) Dex 16(+3) Con 12 (+1) Int 12 (+1) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 7 (-1)
    Languages Elven (S/W), Common (S/W)
    Hp. 29
    Skills: Animal Handling, Insight, Investigation, Perception, Stealth, Survival (Temperate Woodlands)
    Fighting Style: Duel-wielding
    Chain shirt, broadsword+1, shortsword, longbow
    Spells: Alarm, Ensnaring Strike, Hunter's Mark

    Barnabus the Minstrel
    Third Level Rogue (Assassin Archetype/ Halfling (Entertainer)
    Str 15 (+2) Dex 17 (+3) Con 11 (0) Int 15 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 13 (+1)
    Hp. 19
    Languages Hobbniz (S/W), Common (S/W)
    Skills: Acrobatics, Deception, Perception, Performance, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (doubled), Thieve's Tools (doubled)
    Fighting Style: Two daggers, shortbow
    Leather Armor+1, glamoured, Ring of Protection+1, shortswords, shortbow

    Larrenthal of the Crystalmists (Dirty Larry)
    Third Level Druid (Circle of the Land - Mountains) / Hill dwarf (Outlander)
    Str 9 (-1) Dex 14 (+2) Con 15 (+2) Int 11 (0) Wis 17 (+3) Cha 4 (-3)
    Languages (all spoken only unless noted): Flan, Common, Druid (including written runes), Bear
    Skills: Athletics, Nature, Perception, Survival (Mountains)
    Chain shirt, shield, scimitar, quarterstaff

    Post 33: En Route to the Devils

    20 August, 570 - dawn. Seaton
    Soon after Tyrius has taken his vows, he, Aurora, Babshapka, and the lizardfolk diplomats are put on a naval cutter, one typically used for scouting or as a command courier. She is small and fast, and arrives in Saltmarsh by late morning. The reunited party is given a copy of a map the lizardfolk produced of their lair. They are told the Viscount has authorized (and is paying for) six marines from Saltmarsh to be part of their reconnaissance group, in addition to the five sailors already on the Sea Ghost.

    20 August, 570 - late morning. Saltmarsh
    When the cutter from Seaton arrives in Saltmarsh, Willa learns that she has been commissioned as a sergeant of the Excise Officers, and Tom has been promoted to corporal. Willa will be in command of the what the Viscount called “six marines from Saltmarsh,” but she and Tom are apparently two of the marines. The other four are all well known to her: Corporal Ebeneezer Smithson (a good blade from the militia), the Fisher brothers (Nathaniel and Dan, Excise Officers and good sailors and navigators), and Jeremiah Brown of the town constabulary (strong as an ox and almost as smart). In the afternoon, she leads Captain Sigurd, still in manacles, to the Sea Ghost and has him quartered in her captain’s cabin, with either herself or Tom with him most of the time. She tells him that “a certain letter exists” granting him clemency in return for his service against the Sea Devils - but that she and Tom will both have to return safely to Saltmarsh for him to receive the letter.

    Aurora uses two of the four pearls to identify Barnabus’ new armor as leather +1, glamoured and the crystal as a crystal of clear thought. She buys herself a lanthorn.

    In the early afternoon, the party boards the Sea Ghost. While they are waiting for the tide, Oceanus arrives. They set sail in the late afternoon and reach the lizardfolk lair by evening. The delegates depart and tell the chief about their mission to ally with the humans. The chief meets with Thokk, and confirms with him that it was his axe that dealt the death blows to both the crocodile and the dragon. The chief grants the “mighty warrior” command of two lizardfolk officers, with each of them in command of six lizardfolk troops, for fourteen lizardfolk in all. These board the ship as well and make camp on the open deck. “Thokk so happy!” the half-orc later beams to Willa. “Thokk have evil advisor and now Thokk have own army!”

    With eleven sailors aboard the Sea Ghost and good moons besides (Luna a few days past full and Celene approaching its first quarter) it is possible to sail the ship on all three watches. Willa tells the crew to prepare for departure after midnight, so that they should arrive at the Devil's lair well after sunrise of the next day.
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    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 09, 2018 6:40 pm  
    Post 34: The Final Enemy, First Blood

    Note: This post contains spoilers to the module U3: The Final Enemy.

    Post 34: The Final Enemy, First Blood

    “Oh, the blades did flash, the blood did flow,
    the tentacles did wriggle,
    but through it all, there shone the smile,
    of Barnabus the minstrel!”

    21 August, 570 - pre-dawn on the Azure Sea
    The Sea Ghost sails from the lizardfolk lair soon after 1am. On board are the party (numbering nine, including Tom and Willa), eleven sailors (three former smugglers, Old Lefty, two Saltmarsh men, and the five seamen on loan from Lord Nehemeyer), four recently-impressed “marines” from Saltmarsh (Ebenezer Smithson, Nathaniel and Dan Fisher, Jeremiah Brown), and fourteen lizardfolk, for a total of 38 souls. Willa has set watch hours for them to arrive at the sahuagin lair well after sunrise with everyone having had a full night’s rest (her goal: 9am). She takes the first watch, along with Tom, Thokk, and Aurora.

    They are perhaps an hour into the journey when the ship begins slowing - the helmsman shouts to Willa that she is not responding. On deck, gleaming in the moonlight, are many massively thick writhing tentacles. Four of them are fastened securely about the ship’s midsection, while another twelve are probing about the decks. In the fight which ensues, Tom, a sailor, and Aurora are all entwined and crushed before the tentacles on them, and the others, are severed and the hidden giant beast(s) of the deep are driven off. The lookout on the prow, one of the original smugglers, is caught by two tentacles, each pulling him in opposite directions. He dies screaming as his limbs are pulled out of their sockets, though not completely off. By the time Tyrius reaches his side, he is already dead.

    Aurora begins talking about gentle repose, but the already superstitious sailors are none too keen to have a foreign witch casting hexes on the body of one of their own, even a smuggler. Willa calls all hands on deck, and there is a brief funeral service before the sailor’s broken body is committed to its watery grave. Then she sends everyone back to their stations, and the Sea Ghost continues its silent glide through the dark waters.

    The sun has been up for hours by 10am when the Sea Ghost sites the promontory that lies just before the erstwhile lizardfolk lair. Guided by the lizardman officers of “Thokk’s army”, the ship sails behind the cliff, never siting, or hopefully being seen by, the lair itself.

    The jollyboats are launched, each with six members of the away team and two sailors to return to the ship for the next load. Aurora uses her spirit hawk familiar, “Buckbeak,” to scout the landing site next to the stream, while Oceanus scouts beneath the waves. The sea elf reports that game fish are not to be found, that the waters are fished out, and that the sahuagin population must be large and voracious. Load by load the away team assembles on the shore, with the lizardmen fanning out to scout through the marsh. When everyone is finally assembled (c. 11am), one jollyboat returns to the ship with four sailors, while the other is beached and hidden by the lizardfolk. Willa gives orders to the departing sailors for the Sea Ghost to retreat eastward along the coast, but to return to the landing site at least an hour before dusk.

    The path to the lair is narrow and a few missteps could easily plunge one into a bog, so the lizardfolk are interspersed through the long, single-file line of the team. They set off briskly in the humid air of late morning with a cloud of biting insects about them. The lizardfolk are in fine spirits it seems, and Thokk reads them as eager to retake their ancestral home. After several hundred yards (c. 11:15am) the tenuous and narrow coastal path intersects with another trail running inland. Thereafter it doubles in width, becoming apparent even to the humans. Willa advises Thokk to send a squad of lizardmen down the inland route to scout, with two remaining at the intersection as a perimeter guard. There is no way she wants their escape route to the hidden jollyboat cut off. Thokk gives the orders and beams. Not only does he have an army, and an evil human to advise him, just like all the powerful orc chieftains, he gets to lead his army to fight shark people! What a great day! While Thokk is grinning stupidly, Willa whispers to Sigurd, reminding him that if they need to retreat, his eventual receipt of the letter of clemency depends on him getting her and Tom to the jollyboat first, regardless of who else ultimately makes it or not.

    The main host continues along the trail, but slower, as they come into sight of the lizardfolk lair (11:45am). The mood of the lizardfolk has changed - they are crouching, almost cringing, at the sight of their home. Thokk calls for a halt and Willa orders everyone to get down among the reeds. Thokk asks his officers what is happening. They tell him that the promontory of the lair should be much larger and higher, with the causeway reaching its base and a trail leading up its side to the high cave that is the land entrance. Instead, their island has lowered and shrunk, and the causeway now falls short of reaching it. The cave entrance is now just above sea level. While Thokk puzzles on this, Aurora asks out loud, “What kind of magic could sink an entire island? Even an archmage…”

    Tyrius shakes his head. “Fie on archmages. ‘Tis little to a god to sink an island - and less to a god of the sea.”

    “They worship a shark god,” says Willa darkly.

    Shefak looks calm, but speaks gravely. “They have sunken the first two levels - when the last is sunk, their fortress will be complete. Then they will begin their raids.” [And the DM awards Shefak’s player, his 11-year-old daughter who has had no previous experience with this module, an Inspiration Point]

    Aurora sends Buckbeak to do an aerial tour, low over the water and high over the island. She sees no sahuagin, on land or in the water. The island has lichen, moss, a few tufts of grass, but no trees or other cover. There are barnacles and mussels at the waterline, but no other life - not even the nesting seabirds that should favor the rocky crag. It is low tide, and the causeway stands a good five feet above the sea, with a dry, rocky stretch to the island that will likely be beneath the waves when the tide rises. Just beyond the edge of the causeway is a flat ledge, with a recessed back, in which are set two massive stone doors. When Aurora asks about the doors (which can’t be seen from where the party is), the lizardmen do not know what she is talking about. (12pm)

    Crouching, the whole group moves quickly along the trail to the base of the causeway, to the furthest extent of where they can go without losing all cover. After preliminary scouting, two lizardfolk are sent ahead up the coastal trail, and another two back to the intersection behind them, leaving six and two officers still with the party.

    A long, hushed conversation follows about who should advance along the causeway. Finally, Sigurd, Babshapka, Larry, Shefek, and Barnabus step forth (1pm). Before they leave, Aurora casts invisibility and Larry darkvision on Barnabus. The five walk down the long causeway, silent except for the lapping of waves at its base, and then pick their way across the rock ledges and tidal pools and up to the large flat surface before the doors.

    The stone doors are each five feet wide and ten feet high. One has a small rectangular hole which ends on the inside with a metal plate but which shows the doors are at least two feet thick. No hinges are visible - the doors open inward and Barnabus concludes that they are likely either locked or bolted inside, such that nothing they have with them is likely to breach them. Babshapka and Sigurd are sent to fetch the rest of principle party members.

    After much discussion (1:30pm), Larry transforms himself into a small weasel, and Thokk ungently stuffs him into the hole. He pushes at the metal plate but cannot move it, at least not without making noise, and he distinctly smells sea creatures on the other side. He backs out, becomes a dwarf, and the party again confers, then lines up for battle.

    Larry now adopts the form of a tiny springtail. The doors are flush to the ground, but don’t actually touch, and the flat insect slowly makes his way in the crevices underneath them, then climbs up the inside of the stone door until his antennae touch wood, likely a stout bar. With no idea of whether he will be able to reach the bar in time, and no perception of what else is in the room given his insect senses, Larry again resumes his dwarf form.

    The room is dark, but he sees five sahuagin as well as a massive bronze gong. Larry lifts the bar at the doors, then turns and throws it at the closest approaching sahuagin, delaying him just long enough for the doors to crash open and the party to rush in. The initial fight is brief, the sahuagin easily overcome, but then a volley of crossbow bolts from behind a recessed portcullis cause the party to pause and take cover.

    Thokk and Willa move forward, and despite the missile fire are eventually able to lift the portcullis with muscles alone, allowing the party into the room beyond. Thokk charges, leaving Willa straining to hold the heavy bronze gate alone and cursing him with all her breath. She is relieved by the arrival of Sigurd, but just in time for him, Larry, and Aurora to be caught under a heavy net set with metal hooks and the portcullis to come crashing down. The fight beyond the portcullis is more costly for the party than the first, but by its conclusion they slay four more sahuagin and capture a lieutenant of the shark people.

    What follows is a careful, measured exploration of the entire first level of the complex, with Barnabus scouting far ahead. The natural cave system of the lizardfolk has been greatly expanded and turned into finished stonework, square rooms, and straight corridors at every turn. There are even rooms tiled in blue or green and they argue about whether these are for sahuagin officers or air-breathing allies. They find a massive armory with nets, tridents, and crossbows. In the deep recesses of the mountain Barnabus hears the noises of construction, and eventually comes upon a crew of slaves with sahuagin guards and overseers. The workers (half-starved hobgoblins, orcs, and lizardfolk) are finishing a chamber with stairs leading down. Barnabus smells seawater in the stairwell, but does not approach close enough to look directly down. This appears to be the only unfinished room on the level, indicating that the fortress is, perhaps, nearing completion.

    Withdrawing, and hoping that the noise of construction will cover the combat, Barnabus then leads the party in a rapid assault on a guardpost of three sahuagin outside a slave pen. In the pen they find a frail, emaciated, dying human. Tyrius eases his suffering but cannot prevent his death. The old man, Elmo, in confused and rambling phrases, tells them that he is the last survivor of a party of five adventurers, sent to explore the lair by the Prince of Monmurg. They entered through the sea cave below and found that the entire third level was flooded. They were ambushed by the entire lair, led by a massive powerful sahuagin he called “The Baron”. His party overcome, Elmo was enslaved and put to work digging and carving the second level of the complex, which he still believes he is on. He tells of feeling an earthquake soon after switching pens, and the party suspects that he was moved to the upper level just before the island was sunk and the middle level flooded. The party extracts as much information from him as they can before he pleads to feel the sun one last time and collapses. Tyrius carries him outside. Feeling the sun on his skin, he rouses, clutches at Tyrius and whispers “Remember metamorph,” and then dies. (4 pm)

    “Metamorph?” Aurora says, overhearing his final words. “What do you think he means by metamorph?”

    “Hmmmph, we must kill this metamorph, I think,” Thokk grunts, rather pleased with his own logic. He looks to his human evil advisor, Willa, and smiles, searching for her approval.

    “Um, aye, possibly we will Thokk. But we should probably find oot wha' a metamorph be first.”

    “Speaking of finding out things,” Aurora interrupts, “I don’t think we have really discovered much of what Nehemeyer sent us to be discovered. Yes, we seem to have a rough indication of what their plans are in sinking this fortress, but we’ve only fought some common troops and a lieutenant or two on this first level. I doubt we want to approach the underwater entrance like Elmo did and we have no real means of doing so. And, aside from the net trap over the gate, we haven’t encountered any heavily fortified areas. If we want to return to Saltmarsh with more information than we have (not counting some information we may gather from our sea devil prisoner), I think we need to free those slaves working on that last portion of their lair. Not only could they provide us with a wealth of information, but we may very well delay whatever plans they have afoot, buying us time. What do you all think?”

    Shefak frowns. She speaks, but does not look at anyone - instead, she is shading her eyes with her hand and scanning the rocks and sea nearby. “It is obvious, we must attack that last room the halfling found. First, because enslaving sentient beings is an affront to all, and they must be freed. Second, because we don’t even know if the next level down is flooded. Yes, the halfling smelled sea-water - but what if it was simply a pool or reservoir? Or perhaps the entire level is flooded - but just to a depth of one foot. If there is a possibility we can scout more, we can not walk away now.”

    Turning to Aurora and Dirty Larry, Willa asks, “Do ye have any magic up yer sleeves t’at would subdue or stop ther saughin near ther openin’ into ther lower levels from fleeing inta ther water fer reinforcements, while we kill ther guards in ther room?” She adds, “If ye can secure t’at openin’, I’m certain Thokk and ‘is “men” can secure ther room.” Willa wipes her blade clean, and says to the group, “I be assumin’ we will keep ther lizardfolk slaves fer questioning and release the orcs and hobgoblins. Aye?”

    Dirty Larry says, “The only magic what I have to stop people is spike growth, and moon beam. Spike growth grows spikes out of the ground and deals damage to people who run into it, but I can only hold it for a wee few minutes. Moonbeam is a beam of light that does damage to anyone what walks through it, but again I can only hold it for a might bit o’ time. Either o’ those would hurt someone running through them, and could be cast on the entrance, but they wouldnae necessarily stop someone willing to take the damage from getting through. For me, I think that we must finish what we started - wherever that takes us.”

    Aurora glances at the sun and winces. “I have used both of my higher level spells already. The invisibility on Barnabus and crown of madness in our earlier fight. It looks like we have another 3 hours until sunset, that is, until the ship comes back for us. We could rest for an hour and recuperate a bit? I would then be able to cast web around that watery stairway if need be. Larry could heal Thokk and Babshapka of their wounds and then recover both of those spells. He’d also get back his ability to transform another two times if we needed it. That would still give us another two hours to explore whatever we can before dusk, though I admit it may not be a bad idea for us to give ourselves full daylight to get everyone back to the ship, rather than traveling at dusk.”

    She continues, “I think the potential benefits of going further outweigh the dangers. If we’re lucky, we can kill that group and keep our losses to a minimum. If we’re very lucky, we can kill that group without raising an alarm. We’ll free prisoners and perhaps be able to recon the second level a bit. Even if we’re unlucky and things get out of hand, we will still have hours to retreat, and we have the spells needed to make that very likely. If we’re very unlucky and we can’t even get back to the ship, we can likely retreat inland and outrun them. I’m guessing that these ‘sharkies’ are none too keen on overland multi-day journeys.”

    “Here’s what I propose. We rest for an hour and recover some magic and the ability of our druid to transform. Then we attempt to lure the sahuagin force, or part of them, away from that chamber. I can use a silent image of poor Elmo as if he were making some sort of crazed inept attack, and then have him retreat, hoping some or all of them follow him. Given the noise down there, we’d only have to get him around a corner or two and they’ll be out of earshot of the others. With the element of surprise, I suspect we can down the others in a matter of seconds. Thokk’s army can rush in and hold the entrance to that stairway, denying anything easy passage to or fro. We’ll never get another chance at surprise after today. While some of us are resting, I’d also suggest that we reset the net trap over the portcullis but then sabotage it - see if we can find a way to tie the net to the ceiling so that it will not actually fall when tripped. Ooh, or perhaps some way that we can trip the net onto enemies unsuspectingly? And is there any way that we can sabotage the door to make it easier to open the next time around? Perhaps the hinges can be weakened in some imperceptible way?”

    When it appears that Aurora is descending into “what ifs”, Sigurd raises his voice. “I agree we caint go back yet. I sailed fer Nehemeyer, tho’ ‘e wouldn’t recognize me. I were third mate on one o’ the ships in ‘is fleet and ‘e came aboard all o’ three times that I remembers, but I ‘eard plenty o’ talk aboot ‘im from the other officers. ‘e wants things done and done ‘is way, an’ ‘e don’t care what the cost is, so long as it ain't none to ‘imself. We return with only one o’ ‘is “four goals” complete an’ ‘e’s jess going t’ send us back - an’ by then ther whole place will be right up in arms, fer sure. Our best chance be to do as much as we can afore they know we’s ‘ere. I don’t even mind fighting ‘em in small groups as they come out o’ whatever that hole is - they don’t seem so tough on land, so far, and if Thokk ‘ere calls all his flickers in we’ll outnumber them up until it’s time t’ run away, anyway. One thing, tho’ - I think we should ‘it ‘em now, nae wait and rest. Ain’t no tellin’ when their shift will end and they march those slaves back t’ their cell. If they find out ther guards are dead and Elmo’s gone while we be restin’, then we’ll be worse off than if we hadn’t rested t’ begin with. It’d be nice t’ have a web to block off that hole, but we don’t need it. I bet if me and Thokk charge that entrance, we can keep them from getting by us while the rest of you clear the room. Then we can take an hour to rest if ye want.”

    “Hmm”, Willa ponders thoughtfully out loud, “Aye, I agree t’at we attack today afore returnin’ t’ ther ship. What I need t’ consider is if we go now, or wait fer one hour…Tyrius - can ye heal Thokk and Babshapka now?”

    “Aye, by the grace of Pelor I can heal, or I can use my own meager faith to lay on hands.”

    Willa nods, satisfied. “Aurora - can ye cast silent image now or do ye need to wait?”

    “Oh, sure, silent image is a first level spell and I have plenty rearing to go. It’s a wonderful spell that makes an image. . .”

    “Agggh, we go now!” Thokk interrupts.

    “Um, yes, well okay if that is what everyone agrees,” Aurora shyly assents. “How about we heal up Thokk so the devils aren’t getting that frenzied blood lust attack against him [Thokk’s current hp is 21/32]? Babshapka is wounded [Babshapka is at 16/29], but if he’s in the rear with a bow, it’ll only do us favors if sea devils break out of their pack to attack him.”

    “No more talking! Army!! We go kill more devils!” Thokk roars at his troops, forgetting that only the officers speak Common. But the officer present quickly translates and the half-orc seems puzzled at the bizarre hissing sounds that rush out of them all. “Hhmmph, okay.”

    [DM's note: Lord Nehemeyer's Goals for the Party:
    (1) The strength of the sahuagin force - approximately how many warriors, lieutenants, and if there exist higher officers and priestesses Partially complete - the party has fought warriors and a lieutenant, but does not know other officers or numbers

    (2) The location of important areas within the fortress - barracks, officer quarters, temples, etc. as well as the layout of both access points (land and sea entrances) Partially complete - Elmo confirmed an underwater entrance and the party has mapped the land entrance and most of the first level

    (3) Any significant defensive measures - traps, heavily fortified areas, etc. Partially complete - the party knows about the barred entrance doors, portcullis, and net trap

    (4) How advanced their preparations are - is there indication of when they might be finished fortifying the area and begin striking? Partially complete - the party surmises that the raids will begin when the first level is complete
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    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:08 pm  
    Post 35 - The Final Enemy, First Level Secured

    Note: This post contains spoilers to the module U3: The Final Enemy.

    Post 35 - The Final Enemy, First Level Secured

    21 August, 570 - afternoon - the lair of the sea devils

    The party leaves the body of Elmo on the rocks just outside the entrance door. They, Sigurd, and the lizardmen reenter the first guardroom, where the Saltmarsh marines wait with more lizardmen. Tom steps up to Shefak and hands her the rope which she had used to bind the prisoner. The captured sahuagin lieutenant lies dead on the floor, still bleeding out. “Ye killed him?” asks Willa indignantly.

    Tom shrugs. “The lizardmen wanted to kill him. I just didn’t get in their way.” Thokk chuckles. Larry and Tyrius heal Babshapka and Thokk while Willa sketches a map with a stone on the floor, in the light of the open doorway. She draws the chamber with the entry to the second level and the branched hallway outside. Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora derive a plan while Thokk waits impatiently, but trusting in his advisor.

    Aurora will try to draw out the devils with a silent image, while the main force waits in both the storeroom and around the corner to ambush them. After they have eliminated whatever devils they can draw from the room, they will rush the room to attack those remaining and try to block off access to the stairs down. Oceanus will pursue any sahuagin that manage to flee down into the water they presume is there, and any lizardmen present will follow Oceanus. When they all agree to the plan, Willa divides them into three groups for the march there. Barnabus will go first and alone, stealthily. He has already lost Aurora’s invisibility, but still has Larry’s darkvision in effect. Behind him will come a group who are able to see without light. Behind them, after a discreet pause, will be those who cannot see in the dark led by a few who can, but without light sources.

    Willa assigns the marines to secure the gatehouse, leaving one great door closed and one door partially open to observe outside, but with orders to close and bar it should any sahuagin emerge from the water or return along the causeway.

    Just before they head out, Barnabus says “hey presto chango” and his armor changes form. Up close, in the light, it looks like he is wearing a costume shark suit - thin, supple scaled green leather covers his chest, arms, and legs. From a distance he appears to be a miniature sahuagin, except for his head. He pulls up his hood and plays with the shape until it more-or-less resembles that of one of the shark people. Standing next to him, no one would be fooled - but from a distance, in the dark, he might just be mistaken for one of the devils, albeit a small one.

    The party sets out, heading down the long eastern corridor that has a nearly 200’ straight run to the slave-pen guard room. They aren’t halfway there when Barnabus sees two devils emerge from the arched doorway at the end of the hall - and by their posture, they have seen him as well. Immediately he tells Aurora (in the middle group and in message contact with Barnabus and Willa), to back up and hide. As the party behind him ducks into two different side-rooms, one of the sahuagin holds forth her arms and calls to Barnabus in a solicitous tone, as one would address a lost child.

    Barnabus kicks at the floor petulantly, twirls and jumps, and starts making his way leisurely back up the hall. The sahuagin pair follow, with one of them continuing to call to him. He leads them to just past the open archway where Oceanus and Babshapka stand poised to attack. By this point, Barnabus can see the pair clearly - a large male sahuagin, larger than even the lieutenant they captured, and a smaller, thinner one he takes to be a female. The male wears the same gold armband the lieutenant had, but his is inlaid with polished coral. The female has a gold armband, but bears no weapons.

    As the male passes the archway, he freezes, turns, and immediately begins attacking the elves with his spear. The female calls out to Barnabus in increasingly concerned tones. Though no one in the party can understand her speech, if they could it would be something like, “Come here little one! ..why do you have knives?...what is wrong with your face?..ah, the creature is attacking me!

    As Barnabus advances on the female, she points a finger at him and a bolt of black energy shoots forth. He dodges it nimbly, and it strikes the wall, blasting a small hole in the stone. Barnabus leaps through the shower of pebbles and strikes at the female, wounding her gravely. As she turns to run, he stabs her in the back and she collapses. A few seconds later the male falls as well, though he wounds Oceanus first.

    The bodies are dragged into the side room and quickly searched. The female, whom they believe to be a priestess, is carrying a short wand-like object with the grip of a cutlass. It is covered with some sort of insulating material but has an engraved metal rod underneath. Aurora uses a charge from the wand of magic detection and concludes that jamming it into a creature will release an electric shock.

    The party reforms, continues down the hall, and sets up in their planned positions outside the room where the labors of the slaves are still easily heard from outside. Barnabus slips into the room and hides behind a pillar, reporting through message that he can see seven common sahuagin and a gold armband lieutenant, as well as ten slaves of various humanoid races. When he is ready, Aurora sends a silent image of Elmo in, animated and capering wildly. It takes a few minutes for the sahuagin to even notice the silent crazy old man in the noise and darkness, but eventually the lieutenant dispatches two warriors to restrain him.

    The warriors follow the retreating figure, but immediately run into Thokk, who just can’t keep himself from prematurely charging around the corner at them. The ambush sprung, the pair of devils are quickly overcome, the fight and their shouts fortunately covered by the noise of the slaves’ labors.

    Aurora sends "Elmo" back. This time, the lieutenant himself leads two warriors in pursuit, but not before signaling the other guards to be at the ready beside the stairs. When Barnabus relays this, the party charges, and a general melee breaks out in the room. Thokk braves the attacks of many devils to secure the stairs, which has water lapping at the very top steps. Two devils manage to slip by him and start into the water, but Shefak blocks one. The second takes another step and then dives into the water. Oceanus charges, with a pack of lizardfolk following him, but he trips over hidden Barnabus before he can vault the railing surrounding the stairs. Oceanus recovers and enters the water, six lizardmen close behind him. The stairs lead to a large, completely flooded room below with an exit corridor at the far end. Oceanus and the lizardmen are able to surround and kill the escaping devil just before he exits the room below. In the meantime the party finishes off the remaining devils above, but not before many of them are wounded.

    In less than a minute it is over. The slaves, having ceased their labors at the first sign of combat, look on in stunned silence. The party members breathe heavily. Oceanus drags the body of the sahuagin from the water, leaving a plume of blood behind.

    Willa, Sigurd, and Shefak calm the slaves while the others search the bodies of the devils and secure the room. Thokk at first makes a great show of smashing the leg chains of the lizardmen, but quickly loses interest when Shefak converses with them and tells him they do not wish to join his army. They are not from this lair, not of his lizardfolk tribe, and they merely wish to be released. Sigurd converses at length with the single hobgoblin in a goblinoid tongue - there may be more to this smuggler captain than they suspected. Willa talks to each of the slaves in turn, using Shefak, Sigurd, and Thokk as needed for translation. She learns that they all are from nearby tribes and camps, none of them more than a half-day’s travel from the sea coast or river, by which she concludes that the sahuagin either can’t or won’t spend more than a day out of water. None of the slaves have been below this level, and for them the second level has always been flooded - they were all captured recently. When they arrived, Elmo was already a prisoner, as well as a dwarf who was worked to death and then hauled away a few days ago. The slaves say they are are worked in a long shift with the same guards, then taken to their pen for food and rest when the guards change. When the guards change again, they are brought out for more work. Willa takes this as a sign that eventually there will be a guard change up here, so they need to be prepared for the arrival of more foes. The slaves are all humanoid and don’t really fathom the human concept of “hours,” but can say that their next shift change is still a good way off. They have not heard of the “Baron,” and say that mostly they see normal warriors and lieutenants, and only occasionally a chieftain or priestess - though one of each did pass through a short while ago. They are all emaciated and badly whipped and beaten, and would offer little to the party’s force even if they were willing, so Willa is content to let them go, and allows Shefak to lead them to the entrance of the lair so that they can get by the marines without incident. The monk looks carefully at the sky, and when she returns she tells Willa that they have another two and a half hours until sunset, and a half hour of dusk after that before it is night.

    Aurora surveys the room, frustrated at the inability of most of them to enter the water. She asks Larry and Barnabus to search the upper level more thoroughly, convinced that there must be something they missed or some other, dry, way down to the next level.

    The halfling and dwarf leave silently. As they pass the open archway to the storeroom, Larry gestures questioningly at it, but Barnabus shakes his head. “I already searched that before, by myself. All I found was some blue tiles.” The pair head north.

    Aurora paces and talks to herself - “There must be another way down…”

    “So what if thar be atother way down,” scoffs Willa. “What be flooded be flooded, an’ we cain’t enter.”

    “Thar may be atother way…” says Sigurd, almost off-handedly. When he sees that Aurora has stopped her pacing and turned to him, he continues. “I ‘ave an idear. But if I be right, I wants me sword back.” [Sigurd’s magical longsword+1 was taken by the party after his defeat on the Sea Ghost and is currently being carried by Willa, although in the fighting so far she has used her new greatsword.]

    Now everyone remaining is staring at Sigurd (except Oceanus, who with the lizardmen, is taking shifts guarding the stairs, and Shefak, who is sitting cross-legged in a corner, meditating). “What’s your idea?” demands Aurora.

    “Now, now,” Sigurd laughs easily. “If I tells ye, I ‘ave no leverage, do I? An’ ye’ll ‘ave no reason t’ give me me sword. I want t’is sworn in front of yon priest” (he gestures at Tyrius). “I’ll tell ye me idea, an’ if it works, ye swear to give me back me sword.”

    “How do we know you won’t use the sword against us?” says Babshapka, “You did before.”

    “Aye, t’at I did,” responds Sigurd. “Because ye war attacking me ship, an’ me crew! An’ without provocation! Now, ye’ve taken me ship, an’ me sword, and yon lass ain’t even used it! All I wants is t' get back t’ ther profitable life I had afore I crossed wit’ any of ye! Yon lass has a paper granting me clemency, but if I attacks ye, I cain’t ‘ave it. Even if I kills ye all, I’m cursed t' be an outlaw fer the rest o’ me poor days. What possible reason would I ‘ave to attack ye?”

    Tyrius holds his hammer Molly in front of him and leans on her as he speaks. “Let’s hear your idea.”

    Sigurd looks back and forth between the party members, and finally at Tyrius. “Ol’ Elmo came in wit’ five other adventurers, ‘e did. That’d be six souls all entering, he said, t’rough the sea cave, unner ther water, prepared t’ fight unner ther water. They ‘ad to ‘ave magic what let t’em breathe an’ move. And now ther devils ‘ave all t’ose magic items. T’ey’re no use t’ t‘em, but t’ey knows ther items be valuable. So t’ey be keeping t‘em somewhere ‘ereabouts - an’ I t’ink I ken whar.”

    [DM's note: Lord Nehemeyer's Goals for the Party:
    (1) The strength of the sahuagin force - approximately how many warriors, lieutenants, and if there exist higher officers and priestesses Partially complete - the party has fought warriors, lieutenants, a chieftain, and a priestess, but does not know numbers

    (2) The location of important areas within the fortress - barracks, officer quarters, temples, etc. as well as the layout of both access points (land and sea entrances) Partially complete - Elmo confirmed an underwater entrance and the party has completely mapped the land entrance and entire first level

    (3) Any significant defensive measures - traps, heavily fortified areas, etc.Partially complete - the party knows about the barred entrance doors, portcullis, and net trap, as well as that the second and third levels are under water

    (4) How advanced their preparations are - is there indication of when they might be finished fortifying the area and begin striking? Complete - the party surmises that the raids will begin when the first level is complete, and they know that just one final room remains to prepare
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:46 pm  
    Post 36: Old Elmo's Hoard

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3: The Final Enemy

    DM's Note: One of the peculiarities of U3 is that the party cannot complete the module unless they have a means of breathing under water. The module solves this by providing them with a number of magic items belonging to Elmo's former party, but places these items in a secret room. Thus, the only way for most parties to "win", is to find that one secret room, which comes down to them making a singular secret door check in the right place on an entire dungeon level. Barnabus failed that check when he searched the room, which left my novice players up against a time constraint (wanting to be out before dark) and with no means of entering the water. I decided to give Sigurd the ability to speak goblinoid and have him provide a clue to the party in return for them having to return a magic item to him, someone they did not really trust.

    DM's Note: As explained in Post 12, this campaign was a novel experiment for me in that I did away with tracking xp and had all leveling as a function of story awards. Up to this point (leveling to 2 and 3) I had kept the events that would "unlock" leveling secret, and informed the party after the fact. For the current scenario, however, I wanted to emphasize the importance of the party completing the four goals that Lord Nehemeyer had set for them. Since there were eight PCs at this point, I told them that for every goal they completed, two PCs would advance to 4th level; one chosen by me, and one chosen collectively by them. At the end of the last post they had completed goal (4). I do not remember why I chose Shefak to advance, but I do recall their discussion about choosing Larry - it was explicitly so that he could attain wild shapes with a swim speed and thus have access to a number of forms that would allow him to better scout underwater.

    Post 36 - Old Elmo's Hoard

    21 August, 570 - late afternoon - sea devil lair, upper level

    Sigurd pauses a moment for them to grasp his logic.

    “An’ I tell ye w’at. Ye don’t even ‘ave t’ give me me sword back. If we can find Elmo’s gear, I’ll take me first pick o’ w'at’s thar an’ call it even.”

    As soon as Sigurd speaks about how Elmo’s party must have had magic items for underwater travel, Aurora knows he is right - but she still can’t fathom how he could know where the items are. She nods to Tyrius.

    “You have my oath as a Paladin of Pelor - if you help us find the gear of Elmo’s party, we will give you EITHER your sword, OR first pick of the items, at our discretion.”

    Sigurd scowls, but nods. “I be thinkin’ afore t’at ther items be deep in ther lair, an’ we’d ‘ave t’ send ther flickers an’ ther wet elf t’ look in every locker below. But t'en, I be speakin’ t’ ther ho-jebli slave. An’ ‘e said t’at after ther slaves finished ther storeroom, ol’ Elmo an’ ther dwarf spent a long time in t’at particular room wit’ just guards, an’ no tother slaves. Dwarves means fine stonework. T’at’s ther first place I’d look.”

    Aurora nods. “Barnabus said he checked that room - but it can’t hurt to check it again, and using light this time. It’s just outside.”

    Leaving the lizardmen and Oceanus to guard the stairs, Aurora, Thokk, Babshapka, Tyrius, Willa, and Sigurd leave and walk to the storeroom. Shefak stays behind, meditating.

    Tyrius calls forth the holy light of Pelor, and it does not take long for Babshapka to find the vague outline of a secret door in the far wall. Immediately Aurora is on it, looking for a means of opening it. She finds a panel that yields to her touch, and hears a click as she presses it - but also sees a glowing rune appear under her hand.


    Electricity arcs out from the now-glowing rune and courses through the wizard’s body. Aurora is blown across the room, her face and hand blackened with soot. Hair still standing on end, she unsteadily rises to her feet. “I...I think I found it…” she mumbles.

    Peering through the now-open door, the party sees a small room of plain dressed stone. There are several items of interest within - a leather cloak hanging on a peg, a human-sized suit of plate mail and a pile of chain mail of undetermined size, three shields, a spear, a longsword within a fine scabbard, and, at the far end of the room, a large stone coffer.

    Undeterred by her fragile state, Aurora is the first one into the room, and she is immediately drawn to the coffer. She tries to open it with her mage hand, but finds it locked - and a pattern of slits around the keyhole suggests it may be trapped as well. She calls for Barnabus - but then remembers that he is off searching the rooms of this level at her behest.

    “Well,” Aurora starts, still feeling woozy from her unfortunate encounter with the electrical rune, “I think we should probably bring in an expert with chests to handle this lock. And as much as I hate to admit it, that is our favorite halfling. Willa and Sigurd, would you two be willing to go find Barnabus and Larry and bring them back here to help? Thokk and Tyrius could go if you’d prefer, but I think they should rest a bit and bandage their wounds. We’re not safely back on the boat yet.”

    “Ye nae be tryin’ to rheneeg on our deal, are ye, lass? I ‘ave been fair by ye, aye?” Sigurd responds to Aurora.

    “Thus far, you have dealt fairly with us, Sigurd, admittedly,” Tyrius interjects. “You have my word as a light of Pelor that I will honor our agreement. Do you trust me equally?”

    “Aye, ‘tis fair, priest. C’mon lass, ‘tis just ye an' me, eh?”

    “Yes, ahem,” Willa nods, “just ye, me, an' yer sword. Tyrius, might ye be willing t’ hold t’is fer me ‘til our return? I want t’ be sure our new addition . . . behaves.” Tyrius nods and takes Sigurd’s captured sword, glancing disapprovingly at Aurora’s curious gaze.

    “Aw, ye don’ trust me, lass,” Siguard moans, feigning indignation.

    “Trust? Ha!” Willa smirks, “me papi said ye can trust a whole boatload o’ sailors, as long as it’s sunk. Let’s go, smuggler. After you.” Willa stretches her arm forward into the doorway. Sigurd bows and saunters by her, stepping perhaps a bit closer than needed as he passes.

    “Heh,” Thokk chuckles proudly, “my advisor commands even that fine warrior to do her bidding. Thokk chose her well.”

    “Oh, Willa,” Aurora whispers to her quickly before she leaves, “if you return to the entrance looking for Larry and Barnabus, perhaps you could have your marines sabotage the net trap and the doors? If nothing else, perhaps they could just remove the pins on the doors and wreck the hinges? We may appreciate an easier entrance to this level if we return at a later time.”

    After the pair has left, Aurora turns to the others. “Well, gentlemen, I should very much like to sit down. Thokk, Tyrius, Babshapka, shall we rejoin Shefak and tend to our wounds? I suspect we will need your healing potions and spells before this day is through, so let us rest if we may. I propose we carry the items found here back to the other room and collect them with the other things we’ve recovered. Once the chest has been opened we can detect magic among the lot of them.”

    Tyrius shakes his head. “No, if we have to beat back another patrol, I don’t want them to see that we have found these items. We can store them here for now, and it will be quicker to retreat with them if need be. And if Barnabus and Larry, or Sigurd and Willa, come back, I don’t want them to waste time looking for us. I’ll go get the other things we have taken so far and bring them here.”

    Tyrius hasn’t been back but five minutes when Willa and Sigurd, bearing the lantern, return with Barnabus and Larry. Apparently the duo had just finished searching the slave pen when they were found.

    [5pm] “Bugger all, I should have found that the first time around,” Barnabus laments, looking at the secret door. “But what have we here, eh? Yes, this coffer shouldn’t be too much trouble. Thokk, mind if I borrow your shield to put in front of me just in case these slits release something nasty?”

    Thokk tosses his shield to a lizardman officer, who carries it over and holds it as best as he can in front of the halfling. Barnabus then sets to work investigating the lock carefully while asking Larry for a bit of guidance. Barnabus quickly determines that the shield will be unnecessary - the trap is a spring-loaded blade, not anything fired. Of course, in order to open the lock he will have to put his hands at risk, and the shield would just get in the way. “Ah, yes, you little minx, you. I think I’ve got you.” The lock opens with a satisfying click, and without a blade being thrust into Barnabus’ hands.

    Even as the party members come forward to see what is inside, Barnabus waves them back. “Since the Devils obviously didn’t want anyone messing about with this chest, I’m opening this a wee bit carefully. Larry, mind bringing a pole over here?” Barnabus edges his dagger under the lip of the coffer and raises the cover a hair, just enough for Larry to wedge the pole up against the lip where he can then flip open the lid from 10’ away, being sure not to stand in the line of the slits from the front. The lid creaks open and . . .

    Inside are a stoppered bone tube, a stoppered brass jar, a velvet bag, and three small books.

    Resisting the urge to sort through the precious discovery, Aurora begins her short rest and encourages the others to do the same.

    Tyrius, unwounded and full of faith in their find, examines the items so as to save time later. The bone tube has a securely-fastened stopper, but can be opened with firm twists. It contains a slim, six-inch piece of thin ivory, carved with sigils in scrimshaw.

    The brass jar is about half-full of a thick, green, cloudy, briny-smelling liquid.

    The books are interesting in that they are covered front and back with hard leather, but the parchment pages are not sewn in as they would be in a normal book. Rather, they are each bound with four brass rings that penetrate the covers and pages equally. The pages themselves are hard and stiff, and appear to have been treated with a clear shellac or varnish. They are covered in arcane runes he does not understand. One of the books has four loose pages in the back, not fastened with the bronze rings. Taking these out, he finds that he can read two of these - they are prayers in the Common tongue, one of silence and one of continual light. The other two are covered in the same runes as the bound pages of the book.

    The velvet bag has four rings, three with carved runes, one inside, one out, one both. One is plain. None of them are set with gems.

    The leather cloak is full-length and human-sized, with a hood.

    The plate mail is human sized, and would fit him well - or Willa or Sigurd, for that matter. It is of exquisite craftsmanship - he has never seen any more fine in his life. The other armor and weapons are also very good quality, though he finds the chain is both short and wide - apparently sized for a dwarf.

    After 30 minutes, Shefak enters the storeroom - she is rested and ready to go. She relieves Tyrius in watching over the party and he moves to the stair-room, after allowing his light of Pelor to fade out. [It is now 5:30pm]

    [DM’s note: Shefak has leveled to 4th. New features in bold.

    Shefak Ishu
    Fourth Level Monk / Human (Baklunni) (Acolyte)
    Str. 7 (-2), Dex. 18 (+4) Con. 12 (+1) Int. 11 (0) Wis. 15 (+2) Chr. 10 (0)
    Hp. 27
    Skills: Acrobatics, Insight, Religion, Stealth
    Monastic Tradition: Way of the Open Hand
    Unarmored defense, staff, dagger, darts
    Crystal of Clear Thought, Ring of Invisibility]

    After another 30 minutes, everyone in the party has had a short rest.
    [It is now 6pm, with 1 hour of daylight and half an hour of dusk remaining]

    [DM Notes:
    Aurora spent three hit dice and recovered 15 hp, taking her to 17/18 and recovering a 2nd level spell slot.
    Tyrius uses 1 lay on hands point to take her up to full (currently 12 lay on hands remaining)

    Thokk rested and used one hit dice. He is at 32/32.

    Babshapka rested and used one hit dice. He is at 29/29.

    Oceanus rested and used three hit dice to recover 19hp. He is at full 22/22.

    Larry cast cure light wounds on Barnabus and healed him for six. This takes him to 16, and Tyrius lays on hands to improve him to 19/19 (currently nine lay on hands remaining).

    After finishing his short rest, Larry recovers some spells. He also levels to 4th. New features in bold.

    Larrenthal of the Crystalmists (Dirty Larry)
    Fourth Level Druid (Circle of the Land - Mountains) / Hill dwarf (Outlander)
    Str 9 (-1) Dex 14 (+2) Con 16 (+3) Int 11 (0) Wis 18 (+4) Cha 4 (-3)
    Hp. 38
    Languages (all spoken only unless noted): Flan, Common, Druid (including written runes), Bear
    Skills: Athletics, Nature, Perception, Survival (Mountains)
    Wild shape now includes the ability to become a creature with a swimming speed
    Chain mail +1, shield +1, scimitar, quarterstaff]

    In the last ten minutes of the rest period, Willa decides things need doing. “Everyone, we need t’ be smart ‘ere. It’s near six ev’ntime, and we only ‘ave an hour or so o’ daylight left t’ us. It’ll take twenty minutes fer a round trip to ther Sea Ghost, so if we want t’ get everyone back safely, we gotta get movin'. Each jolly can only take eight, maybe a couple more if our smaller members sit tight, an’ there’s . . . (Willa takes a quick mental note of the party: 8 party members, 14 lizardfolk, four marines, Tom, Sigurd, and Oceanus)...Damn, there’s near thirty of us all together.” She pauses a moment, thinking.

    “We gotta start now.” Willa motions the lizardfolk lieutenants over to her. “Thokk, I’d advise t’at ye ask fer a couple o’ lizardfolk volunteers t’ stay ‘ere with us and ‘elp us scout the second level a bit. T’ey should be safe, but it’ll mean t’ey’ll be swimming back t’ the Sea Ghost in ther dark. The rest of the flickers can ‘ead back now wit’ a message to the marines. Tom, Ebeneezer and the lizard soldiers need to leave fer ther ‘idden jolly immediately - t’ey can pick up ther lizard guards on ther trails on their way out. Ther lizardfolk will swim back t’ the boat, keeping careful watch fer Sahuagin ambushes, while Tom and Ebeneezer go snag ther ship’s jollyboat and t’en return to ther landin’ t’ wait fer us. When we leave, we’ll be our party o’ eight, plus Oceanus, Sigurd, and the two lizardfolk what stayed. That’ll be sixteen, just eno’ fer ther two jollies.”

    One lieutenant nods curtly and hisses to the group of lizard soldiers. They appear nervous, but eager to find out more about their submerged former home, and four of them step forward. The lieutenant quickly chooses two and motions them back to the stair room to gather up the others and take their place guarding the stairs. The lieutenant looks quizzically at the tools in the storeroom, then orders a few of the remaining lizardfolk to gather up pickaxes and pry bars before they leave. In the stair room, the lizardfolk have decided to go underwater, but to stay concealed in the stairwell. They take turns relieving one another as their breath runs out.

    Aurora searches her bag for quill, ink, and parchment and writes out a set of instructions. Willa nods and continues, “Ther three marines can stay an’ finish sabotaging ther front guard room, but not past another ‘alf hour. Fix ther net t’ ther ceiling somehow if they can, but yon doors gotta come down. Take out ther hinge pins and smash ther hinges. Throw ther doors over ther causeway if t’ey can manage.”

    “We’ll join t’em after we scout around a bit more down ‘ere. ‘opefully we won’t have any devils on our tail an’ we can make our way back t’ ther landing just before sundown.” A minute later Aurora folds the parchment and hands it to the lieutenant. The lizardfolk salute Thokk and head out of the chamber toward the entrance, hissing softly but proudly among themselves. Thokk chuckles as he sees a few of them spit on the sahuagin corpses on the way out of the room.

    Aurora closes her eyes and spends five more minutes in meditation, until the symbols rearrange in her mind and she knows she has recovered the ability to cast another spell.

    Standing up, Aurora immediately turns to the pile of items that Tyrius had carefully arranged before her, and uses a charge from her wand of magic detection. The cumulative glow that results lights up the storeroom, easily overwhelming the meager lantern light. Sigurd gives a low whistle. “Thar be eno’ firepower t’ outfit a galleon! What say we forget about t’ese devils, take back me ship, and try our ‘ands as privateers? Equal shares fer all?” He looks around, searching the faces of those gathered, but receives only disapproving glares (and the barest flicker of interest from Barnabus). “Fine, then. ‘ave it yer ways. But I’ll be takin’ me pick now.”

    “Well, as you no doubt recall, Sigurd,” Tyrius interjects, “we agreed that we would decide either to return to you your sword, or to allow you your first pick. Given the presence of some of these items, I suspect we will agree to return to you your sword. You have been fighting along our side and we are not ungrateful, but we also know that you hold toward us no particular loyalty.”

    Seeing nods of approval among the party, Willa steps forward and returns Sigurd his longsword. “It’s a very fine blade ye ‘ave here, Sigurd,” Willa says salaciously.

    “Aye, I’d take ye fer an expert on that score,” he teases in return.

    None of the weapons or jewelry taken from the sea devil officers is glowing, with the exception of the electric-shock wand from the priestess that had already been examined. The spears and daggers are taken away to a corner of the storeroom.

    Aurora calls for silence and examines each of the remaining items in turn, holding the object in one hand and her wand in the other. She announces each item as she struggles to understand them.

    [DM's note. The wand provides, at a minimum, the school of magic. I then allowed Aurora to make an Arcana check, with higher numbers revealing more, such as identity, command words, charges, etc. The Arcana roll for each item is noted]

    Leather Cloak (26) - strong transformation / transmutation magic, tied to elemental plane of water. [No command word - most likely activated when worn while in contact with water.]

    Plate Mail (27) - strong abjuration magic [human-sized plate mail +2, base AC 20, counts as light armor, attunes to wearer, no additional powers]

    Chain Mail (14) - abjuration magic - dwarven-sized full chain armor [counts as light armor, AC and powers not known until worn in combat or identify spell used]

    Shield (17) - abjuration magic [AC and powers not known until worn in combat or identify spell used]

    Shield (22) - abjuration magic [shield +1, provides +3 to AC, no additional powers]

    Shield (17) - strong abjuration magic [AC and powers not known until worn in combat or identify spell used but likely better than the other two shields]

    Spear (21) - strong evocation magic, tied to positive elemental plane [spear +2, damage d6+2 / d8+2, no additional powers]

    Longsword (16) - evocation and abjuration magic [the blade is obviously made for fighting but hints that it may have other powers - the hilt and blade seem mismatched, as if it is a replacement hilt - the blade is covered in Suelese runes that call it “The Sunsword, Vanquisher of Darkness” The initial properties are as the module, but the Suelese runes and mismatched hilt are foreshadowing of this being important in the future]

    Ivory wand (14) - strong transformation magic [spell-casting wand, command word unknown, number of charges remaining unknown]

    Ring (10) - runes inside and out - abjuration magic [protects ring-wearer automatically, will need to be worn in the situation it would protect from to determine its power, or be identified]

    Ring (8) - runes outside - transmutation magic [grants wielder power or ability in certain situation, must be worn in the situation to determine power or be identified]

    Ring (28) - no runes - enchantment magic [ring of invisibility - requires attunement - you may use an action to become invisible - you will become visible when you attack, cast a spell, or use a bonus action to become visible]

    Ring (20) - runes inside - strong enchantment magic [ring of delusion - wearer will believe the ring is whatever sort of magic ring the wearer most desires, and will create self-delusions to maintain this belief as long as possible, counts as a cursed item]

    Brass Jar (22) - transmutation magic, tied to elemental plane of water [potion of waterbreathing, four doses]

    The three books are obviously spell books, though the contents are not discernible without time to decipher them. The two scrolls, however, are meant to be read (out loud), and use the “standard runic notation” that anyone versed in arcane lore can read. One is “Knock,” one “Ice Storm.”

    The lizardfolk have reached the front gatehouse and delivered Willa's commands to the marines.

    "Right," says Tom. "'ow we goin’ t’ sabotage a bronze gate an’ stone doors when alls we 'ave is swords?"

    The lizardfolk lieutenant steps forward and motions his men to hand over the picks and pry bars.

    "Well I'll be danged," says Ebeneezer. "Never thought I'd see a flicker with more smarts then you, Tom." The older man chuckles and Tom reddens.

    "That's Corporal Tom to you, Ben," he huffs, and then starts ordering his men about.

    Willa's letter tells Tom to leave at once, but he doesn't trust the sabotage operation to the Fisher brothers and Jeremiah acting alone. He tells the lizardfolk officers to gather their people off of the trails and then wait at the head of the causeway. He directs his men to raise the portcullis as high as they can, then has Jeremiah use a pry bar to open the portcullis frame until the heavy gate it is swinging free by its chains. It is then lowered to the ground so that it lies flat on the floor. The bronze suspension chain is too heavy to break easily, but Tom has the wooden wheel of the winch smashed so the portcullis cannot be raised again. While all this is going on, the Fisher brothers are cutting the net with their daggers until it lies in a dozen pieces on the floor.

    "Damn shame, wasting a fine net like that," says Daniel.

    "Ayep," says Nathaniel.

    “Well,” Aurora says, “that potion is a good find but will work for only four of us. We know there were six in Elmo’s party, so some of the other items may still help us breathe or act underwater. I think we may have a bit more experimenting to do. We have a transmutation ring of some sort, but we don’t know what it does exactly. The same issue applies to this cloak, here. It is possible that the transmutation magic embedded in these may reveal itself in the presence of a certain stimuli, hopefully the need to swim or breathe underwater. This ivory rod may do something as well. Any volunteers to test out some of these things? We can sample them or put them on and go swimming a bit -- see what happens? We can decide who should have what when we figure out what things do.”

    The party members, even as Aurora is speaking, begin to gather up the items and move into the room with the stairs. Oceanus takes the spear as if it were already decided and heads down into the water to relieve the two lizardmen who are still on watch below.

    “Wait!” calls Aurora after him. “We haven’t decided who will get that!” but the sea elf ignores her. She turns to Tyrius, hoping for support. “We are trying to divide up the items, but we still don’t know what many of them do…”

    “How many permanent items are there?” Tyrius says in a voice used to command.

    “Uhh...thirteen, I think,”

    “And there are nine of us, with Oceanus. So long as we each get one and no one gets more than two, it is fair. Let us do this, wizard - the favor of my god is waning with the sun and I wish to be out of this den of iniquity before dark.”

    Babshapka likes the look of the cloak as, if nothing else, it is likely to serve him well in the wilds. He coolly picks it up from the floor next to the wizard and throws it on over his chain shirt.

    Working together, the five marines have closed one of the huge stone doors but left the other one cracked for light. With careful blows of the pick-axes they have freed the huge bronze hinge pins from the hinges, then separated the door hinges from the frame hinges. Still the massive stone door stands upright, balanced on its casters. All of the marines charge the door at once, slam into it, and it topples out onto the landing with a resounding crash, several tons of stone falling against stone.

    “Wha’ wuz dat?” asks Larry, looking around.

    “What?” say the others.

    “Big thump - the floor jumped.”

    No one else had felt anything, and several say so. “Well, of course not,” Larry scoffs. “Yer all wearin’ shoes. How ya gonna feel anything?” He strides over and picks up the set of dwarf-sized magic chain armor, then tears his own chain shirt off and throws it away in a heap. Lowering the mail onto his shoulders, he sighs contentedly. “Now that’s better. Nice and light and it fits just right!”

    The marines warp and crush the hinges on the wall by the fallen door, then repeat the process of felling the other door. That one falls so that it partially overlaps the first, creating a huge stone barricade in the entrance way. The stones are too big to move, so the gatehouse entrance still has a fair degree of cover, but it is no longer a secure entrance by any means. That done, the marines quickly cross the causeway and meet up with the lizardfolk on the other side. The sun is low on the horizon and the wind is beginning to shift from a seaborne breeze to an onshore air.

    Willa eyes the suit of plate armor appreciatively. “I doubt t’is will help me breathe unnerwater, but t'will be easier t’ transport out of 'ere wearing it, t’an it will be t’ pack it.” She asks Sigurd to come help her don the heavy plate.

    “Of course, m’lady,” he says playfully, “jess let me ‘elp you doff your old chain aforehand.”

    As the smuggler helps Willa adjust the straps and buckles of the plate armor, she gasps. It feels like the armor itself is changing, shifting, conforming to her shape. By the time it is all in place it looks as if it were forged for her and perfectly measured at that. There is now no way it would fit anyone else in the party - only a person of exactly her figure. Sigurd whistles in appreciation - of the armor, or her figure, he doesn’t say.

    Barnabus nonchalantly picks up the abjuration ring and looks it over appreciatively. Holding it up to the light off to the side of Aurora’s gaze, he wonders aloud, “Aurora, you weren’t able to decipher these runes completely were you? What’s your best guess?”

    “Oh,” she smiles and starts explaining in greater detail, “these runes are likely from the third Suelese dynasty. You can tell from the nature of the boar rune along the side there. When we get back to the boat I can’t wait to cast my comprehend languages spell and gather some more information about it. I suspect . .”

    With Aurora easily distracted, Barnabus quickly places his left hand on the ground beside him, pocketing the ring of transmutation unnoticed. He has a hunch what this ring may do, and cannot resist the temptation to sneak up behind some unaware Sahuagin.

    “Yes, that’s fascinating, Aurora. You keep at it girl.” He flips the ring of abjuration into the air toward her. Aurora attempts to catch it from the air but fumbles the attempt. It hits the floor and rolls back toward her robes. The half-elf blushes and fishes for it from underneath her in a rather undignified manner.

    Shefak walks forward next and offers to take the ring of invisibility, “Masters of my order can move unseen without the need for magic, just through the power of their perfectly focused minds. I am still a novice, but I know the value of hidden movement. With this, I will be able to eliminate the greatest threats to the group before they know I am there.”

    “Well, the rest of this seems fairly straightforward,” Aurora says. “There’s a shield here for each of our shield wearers. Thokk is a bit less armored than Tyrius and Larry, so perhaps he should have this one,” and she points at the one whose magic detected as strongest. “Larry and Tyrius can swap out their standard shields for these instead?”

    Thokk looks down at the frail half-elf as if she has wounded him. His lip curls in a sneer. “Thokk not take this because he needs more armor. Thokk takes this shield because it is the biggest. And Thokk is the biggest!” He scoops up the shield she had indicated for him anyway. Larry and Tyrius don the other two, testing their balance.

    Aurora continues hesitantly. “And this sword and cursed ring probably deserve some further investigation. Where did that ring of transmutation go?”

    As Aurora pats the ground frantically around her, Barnabus snickers gleefully to himself. The rest of the group quickly surmises what must have happened and glares at him. “Oh, relax,” he offers while deftly flipping the ring across his fingers, “I suspect we’ll all want me having another little trick up my sleeve. You can’t blame me for having a little fun with her while I’m at it.” Tyrius sighs audibly and rubs his temples with his thumb and forefinger.

    Aurora picks up the abjuration ring, hesitates, then slips it on. She packs up the remaining ring, the sword, the wand, and the books and scrolls. Already Babshapka and Barnabus are headed for the flooded staircase. The elf wades down into the water, pulling the hood over his head after he is fully submerged. The leather cloak changes color from dull brown to a steely blue - it flows out behind him like wings - through the cloudy water he appears not so much like an elf in a cloak as a huge manta ray. He takes a trial swim through the underwater room at the bottom of the stairs - he is swimming fast, and is quite able to breathe underwater.

    Meanwhile, Barnabus is gingerly easing himself down, step by step. “Well, I’m still wet,” he says. “And still cold.” He shivers. The cave has been much cooler than the tropical air outside, but this water is colder still. After a few more steps, he says “Curious.” Two more, and he goes under, then comes up a second later, sputtering and coughing. “Well, it sure doesn’t let me breathe,” he says, “but I feel fast - like the water has no resistance. I mean, I can feel that it is there, but it is not holding me back or slowing me down.”

    The others gather together on the stairs, but none of the armor or other items seems to change properties in the water.

    “Okay,” announces Aurora. “We have Oceanus and Babshapka who can breathe underwater. The two lizardmen can hold their breaths for a while. And we have enough potion for four of us. So who is scouting, and who is staying here?”

    “I’m not going underwater,” says Willa, for what seems like the hundredth time.

    “I will scout,” says Larry. “and I won’t be needin’ no foul potion, neither. “What should I be? If we are just scoutin’, I’ll make myself a fish - but if you think we’re gonna mix it up down there, I can be a crocodile. If it’s a little bit of both I’ll be a giant frog.”

    Although it seems a simple question, the resulting discussion of who will be going in the water takes another half an hour to resolve.

    [It is now 7pm. Outside, the sun is setting]
    During the discussion, the two lizardfolk are sent out with instructions to return all of the lizardfolk to the stair room, and three of the marines to gate room. Tom and Ebeneezer are still to be waiting at the launch, with the two jollies ready for the retreating party. Also during this time, Aurora uses a pearl and a first level spell to further identify the sword found. It is a sword+1, with the further ability to improve saves by 1. More powers are possible if it can be reunited with its original hilt.

    By the time the entire complement of lizardfolk return (including the ones that had been assigned to guard the trail heads), they report that Jeremiah and the Fisher brothers are in the guardroom, and that both the gate and the stone doors are down. Tom and Ebeneezer have indeed readied the boats (with lizardfolk assistance in finding the hidden one in the growing dusk), and now have them hiding in the reeds (not as well hidden as it was initially, but still hidden and much readier for a rapid departure).
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:30 pm  
    Post 37: Going too far?

    Note: This post contains spoilers for module U3: The Final Enemy. Numbers in (bold) refer to keyed map locations.

    DM's note: I estimate Saltmarsh and the Sea Devil Lair to be at about 25N latitude, 5W longitude. This is approximately the latitude of Miami, FLA. On August 21st, there are approximately 13 hours of daylight, from 6:00am to 7:00pm.

    Post 37 - Going too far?

    21 August, 570 - evening - Sea Devil Lair, upper level

    It is finally decided that two of the lizardfolk will remain at the stairs, while the rest go into the water with Barnabus (potion), Babshapka (cloak), Thokk (potion), Tyrius (potion) and Oceanus. Willa, Sigurd, and Aurora will remain on the first level and attempt to parallel the scouting party directly below them, staying in contact with them mentally through Aurora’s message while Sigurd lights their way with a lantern. Larry (as a fish) and Shefak (potion) will return to the gatehouse, enter the open water outside, and scout the outside of the sea cave entrance. Before the party splits, Larry casts darkvision on Shefak and Tyrius, leaving him with one second-level spell slot he is holding in reserve for a spike growth to cover their retreat. Barnabus, Thokk, Tyrius, and Shefak each drink from the potion of water breathing, finishing it and starting a metaphorical hour clock for the scouting mission.

    Both water-scouting teams enter the water; one inside, one out. Once inside the water, Larry changes his form to that of a small saltwater predatory fish. [stats as Quipper but for saltwater] He immediately notices that Shefak, though invisible beside him, is easily discernible as she is leaving a human-sized “space bubble” where water should be but isn't. She decides to float on the surface, with her head in the water looking down, and follow Larry-fish from above so as to displace the least water and be the least visible. They travel around the outside of the mountain-island in the gathering darkness to the far side facing the open sea. With Shefak watching from above, Larry dives below and finds the entrance to the sea cave. It is protected by a huge bronze portcullis, perhaps twice the size of the one on the first level. The openings between the bars are easily large enough to allow fish access, so Larry darts in and out, scouting the cave beyond.

    The cave is huge, and goes back farther than Larry’s darkvision can see. Most of the cave is filled with a massive seaweed bed, but he sees rock formations at the limits of his vision. Just inside the cave entrance is a large winch with a bronze chain. The size and depth of the seaweed could obscure dozens of devils, so Larry does not dare enter. Larry and Shefak decide to scout the outer surface of the mountain for other entrances. They do not find any, but they do find, hidden by a rock outcrop, a second winch with a chain leading into a small hole cut in the rock. It is possible the winch could be worked by one creature, slowly, as there is a ratchet mechanism.

    Goals (1) and (2) - sea entrance, sea cave (60), both winches

    Meanwhile the main scouting force inside descends into the water-filled staircase. Their first impression is that the water is cold, dreadfully cold - at least the seawater outside the lair has been warmed by the tropical sun all day, but this water feels as cold as the larder room where they found the remains of Elmo’s party.

    [DM’s note: Warm-blooded creatures in the cold water of the sahuagin lair will need to make a CON save (DC10) after 20 minutes of immersion. Oceanus is immune to this effect. The lizardfolk are cold-blooded.]

    They proceed into the large chambered room (20) scouted before. The group tracking them from above is faced with a wall to the north, so Willa, Sigurd, and Aurora have to jog out and around through the halls to try to stay in contact. Thokk posts six lizardfolk as guards, two at each entrance to the room, and the main group takes the left (west) arched entrance. Some of the party (Barnabus) are light enough to swim, others (Tyrius) are wearing enough heavy armor that they have sunk to the bottom and are walking. For some of them, it is slow going.

    [DM’s note: Water counts as “difficult terrain” (double movement cost) for any creature without an inherent swim move. Oceanus and the lizardfolk have a swim move; Babshapka is granted one by the cloak, Barnabus’ unidentified ring of free action means he isn’t slowed by difficult terrain. Thokk and Tyrius are moving at half their normal land speed while in the water.]

    The corridors bend and turn, but always at precise, clinical right angles. Barnabus scouts ahead, swimming with his “child sahuagin” suit, and checking at corners with his mirror before advancing. He leads the party into two rooms that look like the tiled officers quarters above, but flooded (22, 23). They have stone tables and benches, closed and locked stone coffers, and colored tiling, with only the colors of the tiles distinguishing one from another. Each also has a seaweed bed; a thick growth of stalks and leaves that obscures vision and runs from floor to near the ceiling. Oceanus believes that the sahuagin rest in these, using the stalks to keep themselves from drifting while they sleep. Thokk attacks the one in the first room furiously, but methodically and carefully stabs through the one in the second to make sure nothing is hiding within. Barnabus lingers over the coffer, but Aurora chides everyone to keep moving, reminding them that their potions of breathing are flowing away like sand in an hourglass. The lizardfolk with them peel off, return to the upper level to breathe, and come back at intervals.

    Goals (1) and (2): officer’s quarters (22, 23)

    By the time the scout force gets to the third arched entrance in the hall, Aurora and company have run all the way to the far southern corridor of the upper level. Barnabus sees a huge room, farther across than his darkvision can scan (24). It has an open center with tables and benches, but the walls are lined with seaweed beds everywhere but the entrance itself. Dozens of females and young swim, drift, sit, or play. The young come in all sizes, from nearly that of the adult females to smaller than he is. After a minute of watching, Barnabus turns the group around and they return to the stairs level.

    [DM’s note - 7:20pm Babshapka, Barnabus, Thokk, and Tyrius make their CON saves.]

    This time the scouting party takes the east entrance. They pass and inspect a single, empty, officer’s quarters (21). After that, the corridor bends round and comes into a large chamber with seaweed, females, and young (24). The room is large enough that Barnabus suspects he has found a second entrance to where he was before.

    Goals(1) and (2): officer’s quarters (21)

    They again return to the room with the stairs and the lizardfolk have a chance to gather air. They set out down the northern corridor, which quickly branches east and west. They go east, and then east again when the corridor branches again. At the far corner is an arched doorway. Barnabus peers through it and finds a room with at least a dozen sahuagin, and several officer types (27). Some are lounging, but some are swimming in formation - drilling? This is definitely a barracks. and not a place the scouting party wants to be. Barnabus watches from the doorway, and ushers the others past him when he thinks it is safe.

    Goals (1) and (2): Barracks (27)

    The corridor returns to its northward direction after this. At the next branch one hallway clearly runs northward to stairs going down. The other goes west, passed an arched doorway, and ends in another arch. Barnabus investigates the doorway, and finds a guardroom (39) with two soldiers entertaining two female sahuagin. With just four devils and only one entrance, the party feels confident about being able to take this group out - more confident than their chances of slipping past unseen, anyway. And if this is a guardpost, what is it guarding?

    Goal (2): Guardroom (39)

    Led by Barnabus, the party bursts into the room. Between the halfling, Babshapka, Oceanus, and the lizardfolk, the two warriors are killed before they can respond. The females, however, before they are laid low, savage Barnabus. Tyrius and Thokk, hampered by the water, do not even have the chance to attack before the fight is over. Tyrius staunches Barnabus’ wounds with a single laying-on of hands, but the four sahuagin bodies are slowly filling the room with blood. The party recovers coins and jewelry from the bodies. The males have electrum arm bands - seemingly ranking them above unadorned common warriors, but not as high as the lieutenants with gold bands. Oceanus hides the bodies in the seaweed bed, twisting the plants around them them so that they can’t drift away. The party concludes that these are elite guards, and are even more eager to discover what they are guarding. But first, Barnabus needs more healing. The lizardfolk are sent back to the stairs to breathe, but are instructed to pick up the three potions of healing from Willa.

    Goal (1): fighting capability of elite guards

    [DM’s note: When fighting in water, characters with slashing or bludgeoning weapons have disadvantage on to-hit rolls. Piercing weapons and “natural” attacks (including unarmed strikes) are not affected.]

    [DM’s note: When fighting in water, creatures without a swim move are slowed. They may attack only every other round, and even when they attack they automatically lose initiative to any creature with a swim move. Barnabus’ ring prevents this, so only Thokk and Tyrius are affected.]

    [DM’s note: The female sahuagin were unarmed, but proved surprisingly vicious as they had five attacks each - underwater, sahuagin attack with bite, two clawing strikes with their hands, and two raking strikes with their feet.]

    It is now 7:30pm, and truly dark outside. Floating on the surface of the water, Shefak hears the metallic clanking of the sea gate being raised. A group of ten sahuagin with an officer swim out, going straight out into the depths of the sea. Five minutes later, another similar group emerges, and moves to parallel the coastline to the east. They do not spot Shefak or Larry-fish, but their current course will lead them to intercept the Sea Ghost if they simply follow the shore. Five minutes later, another group of ten plus officer emerge and move west along the shore. The sea gate is then closed.

    Goal (3): Sahuagin patrols emerge shortly after nightfall, and go east, west, and south.

    Looking carefully about, Shefak swims to the shore, trying to find a landing where she can climb up on the rocks without being battered by the waves. She opens her wineskin in the shallows and lets go of it, so that it becomes visible. Larry-fish immediately darts inside, and she closes it. When she picks it up again, it disappears, and now on land, she is leaving no telltale “hole” in the water. It is a cloudy night, and dark, but not windy or stormy. It is slow work picking her way along the rocks and around the outside of the mountain lair, but she is aided greatly by her darkvision.

    Inside the guardroom of the lair, the party waits nervously for the return of the lizardfolk. Thokk, on guard at the corner, spots them first. Barnabus downs a potion of superior healing, the one taken from the wyrmling dragon hoard, and is restored to full health. Oceanus tells the others that he can still taste blood in the water, even in the hallway outside the guard room, and that they need to get moving.

    The party passes through the archway into a large, long feast hall (41). Eight columns support the high ceiling, and in the center but above the floor level there is a niche with a stone statue jutting out. Massive stone tables line the center of the room. There is an arched doorway exactly opposite them, and another in the center of the north wall, but the latter is decorated with black and gold wave-shaped designs. It obviously leads somewhere important, and Barnabus heads through it while the others quickly search the room. The lizardmen are incensed to find that the statue of their god, formerly ensconced in the niche, has been torn down, and only the defaced head remains.

    Barnabus passes down a short hallway and hears conversation coming from the room beyond. There is no archway to hide in at the other end, so Barnabus hugs the wall and trusts to his luck. The room opens into a large chamber (42). At the north end there is a massive, ornately carved throne on a blue dais. On the throne sits a huge, four-armed sahuagin. His upper two arms hold a net and trident, while his lower two grip the arms of the throne. To his right on the dais stands a female sahuagin holding a short wooden stick, to his left is a normal-sized male with a spear and dagger.

    In front of the throne, at the foot of the dais, stand three sahuagin, armed with trident and net. Their backs are to Baranabus and their body postures are rigid. There may be some other figures between them and the dais, but the halfling cannot see from his vantage point.

    Goal (1) - Identifying the Baron. The female with a staff next to him is possibly a high priestess.

    Barnabus is looking for other exits, and it seems that along the far wall there are recesses into shadows on the right and left. Suddenly, from the west one, a figure emerges. A male sahuagin, and he is swimming straight at Barnabus! It will take him some time to cross the length of the room, so Barnabus swims leisurely and in what he imagines is a playful, child-sahuaginlike manner, retreating back down the hall. At the same time he is frantically trying to reach Aurora mentally, telling her to clear the feast hall.

    By the time Barnabus appears in the feast hall, Tyrius is ushering everyone out, down the hall to the guard post. Barnabus swims behind the column closest to the exit, then hides. Several seconds later the sahuagin appears in the room, calling in an oddly pulsating voice. Halfway across the room he stops calling. Barnabus sees him from behind just as he enters the archway to the corridor. He is tense and moving carefully, as if to enter the corridor without being seen.

    From the second the sahuagin is in the hallway, Babshapka and Oceanus are on him, and he is slain before he can call out or turn around. His body is hidden in the seaweed bed of the guardpost.

    Aurora has been in mental contact with everyone except Shefak and Larry-fish. She does not need to speak out loud to communicate with them, merely in a whisper, but she has found it expedient to speak in a normal voice so that Willa, standing next to her, is kept informed. The burly Saltmarsher woman has been growing more agitated the longer the scouting has continued, and now responds, “Aurora - get our people out of there NOW!”

    “But, Willa,” she vacillates, “we don’t know anything about the third level - and most of the second. They still don’t know we are there...just a bit longer…”

    “By the time they know we are there, it will be too late!” shouts Willa. “Thokk and Tyrius can’t outrun a sea slug, let alone a sahuagin! They need to leave, and we ALL need to get back to the ship. It is well after dark.”

    “Okay, okay…” but still the half elf hesitates. “Babshapka is fast - faster than the devils with that magic cloak. What if just he was to keep exploring - say just a peek down the stairs at the third level, while the rest start back…?”

    Willa groans, torn between risk and duty. “Fine, ask him if he is willing. But start the rest back NOW.”

    Aurora tells Tyrius and Thokk to get the others back to the stairs, but she asks Babshapka if he would be willing to scout more - just scout, not engage. “Let’s do this,” she hears back from the wood elf. A second later, as he darts down the stairs to the third level, he is lost to contact with her.

    Just as well, as she is busy working her way down the long hall, trying to keep pace with Thokk and Tyrius as they lead the lizardfolk up to the barracks. Barnabus is scouting ahead and reaches the open archway of the barracks first. With his mirror he watches the room. Most of the sahuagin inside are swimming about in formation, doing some sort of drill as before. Barnabus uses hand motions to usher people forward or to halt them, having them pass the archway in groups of two and three when they are least likely to be seen.

    [By the time they are all on the other side of the barracks it is 7:40pm - they have been in the cold water 40 minutes and take another Con check now at DC11. Thokk, Babshapka, and Tyrius are now all affected by the cold (Level 1 exhaustion) and will be at disadvantage on any skill check, including stealth.]

    As they make their way back to the stairs, Thokk and Tyrius begin to shake violently in an involuntary effort to stay warm. The water has stopped feeling cold to them and now feels as if it is burning them. Thokk has been in enough cold mountain winters to know that he will need to get out soon or he might lose control of his functioning and be unable to walk - already his hands and feet feel numb. Several of the lizardfolk look lethargic and listless as well. Barnabus is shivering, but hiding it well - does his shark-armor protect him? “Hey Tyrius, let’s get going! I know you’re a blue-blooded aristocrat, but come on!” the halfling goads. Of any of them, Tyrius has the naturally fairest skin - but his whole face is tinged blue now, and his lips are purple. He is steadying himself against the stone walls as he walks methodically down the corridor.

    In another five minutes the entire group (less Babshapka) stand at the base of the stairs leading to the first level.

    [7:45pm. One of the patrol groups that left the sea cave has spotted the Sea Ghost. Half of them return immediately to the lair, while the other half stay to observe.]

    Meanwhile, Mantabshapka has floated silently down the hallway toward the stairs, sticking close to the ceiling. It is a long way down, perhaps forty feet of vertical descent and more forward. At the bottom of the stairs, an arched doorway opens to the left.

    From above the doorway, Mantabshapka silently, gingerly lowers his head down past the upper lip. There is a large, plain stone room beyond (48). He can feel the pulsing motions of several creatures in the water, but from his vantage point can see only one - a sahuagin, and from his metal arm-band, some kind of officer. He is giving verbal orders, directed at others in the room out of sight. The flow of water, particularly the cold water along the floor, indicates that there is an open exit to the room very close by - likely just around the corner from where Mantabshapka is spying. Suddenly the devil stiffens, and turns his attention to the doorway.

    With a flash of steely blue, Mantabshapka whirls and glides back up the stairs. At the top he pauses for a moment, listening for sounds of pursuit, but does not hear any. He does not recall being informed of what way the party planned on taking in their retreat to the stairs, and he does not see or hear them either. Reasoning that new scouting reports will be more useful than covering the same ground, he glides along the ceiling of the feast hall and out the arched doorway on the other side.

    The corridor beyond is a mirror image of the one he came from. If nothing else, these devils do seem to have an inordinate fondness for symmetry. Mantabshapka cautiously enters the archway corresponding to the guardpost (40) on the other side and indeed finds it a duplicate of the one he fought a battle in a score of minutes ago - the two-toned green tiling, tables, benches, four closed stone coffers, and thick bed of seaweed. Only the guards are missing, although they could easily be concealed in the weeds. After a quick tour around the room, Mantabshapka emerges and takes the hallway to the left at the intersection. The right one, as before, looks to lead to stairs down.

    Goal (2) - guard post (40)

    At this point, Mantabshapka begins to tremble. His cloak allows him to breathe but it is not protecting him from the cold of the water and he appears to be at his limit. He decides to take the closer of the two passageways, which he reasons will take him to the stairs. In fact it does so, and he is soon gliding up the steps and emerging into the air to leave the oppressive cold of the water behind him. As soon as he is completely out of the water his manta form falls away and it is just a sodden and shivering elf in a leather cloak that stands at the top of the stairs. A minute later and Willa, Aurora, and Sigurd enter the room through the door, the last bearing a lantern. In a minute more the first of the lizardfolk are emerging from the water until eventually the entire scouting party is there.

    Willa does a quick head count and declares everyone present. She asks Aurora whether she is going to web the stairwell or if they can withdraw immediately. Aurora nods affirmatively and quickly mutters a few arcane words. She smiles as gooey webs fill the sea entrance. Using the two finished railings and the floor on the open sides as anchor points, she soon has the entire stairwell filled with five feet thick of webs. “Alright, that’s should buy us a little time - let’s move!”

    The party travels rapidly down the twisting halls towards the front gatehouse, arriving five minutes later. [7:50pm] The brisk walk has returned the blood to the extremities of Thokk and Babshapka - Tyrius, still soaked and covered by layers of cloth, gambeson, and armor, is still trembling,

    [Warming up; DC11. Thokk and Babshapka succeed, Tyrius fails and is still exhausted.]

    They pause to appreciate the smashed winch and downed portcullis, then find Jeremiah and the Fisher brothers just outside the gatehouse, crouched behind the massive fallen stone doors. Outside, standing vigil over the body of Elmo with a full waterskin in hand, is a visible Shefak. “Quiet?” asks Willa.

    “Too quiet,” agrees Nathaniel. “Are we going?”

    “‘ells yes! Time to cut bait afore the storm.”

    [7:55pm. The sahuagin patrol returns to the sea gate and informs the lair of the presence of the Sea Ghost. A larger patrol body begins to muster. As the message begins to be relayed throughout the lair, the Baron’s elite guards are found slain. Eventually the web is found over the entrance to the first level. Waves of alert run through the lair. Messages and commands are relayed.]

    The party - seven humans, a wood elf, sea elf, half-elf, halfling, fourteen lizardfolk, and a dwarf-fish-in-a-bag, arrange themselves to cross the narrow causeway, with those who can see in the dark in the front and rear. The moons have not yet risen and it is well and dark - the shore of the land cannot be seen. The place stinks of fish and death - the previously slain sahuagin from the gatehouse have been lying out since the early afternoon, all except the one taken by the escaping slaves as food for their journey. Tyrius says he will be carrying the body of Elmo with them. Thokk snorts derisively at his sentimentality, but the paladin insists that as they are all wearing the largess of his former party, it is the least they can do to carry out his body.

    “Fine, whatever,” says Willa to move them along. “It can’t make sir-clanks-a-lot any slower than he already is.”

    They move out along the causeway, tense and not speaking. It is a cloudy, muggy night but with no hint of a storm. They can tell they are getting close to the land when they hit the cloud of biting insects. Slapping and cursing and hushing one another, they proceed along the trail, with the lizardfolk keeping them on the trail itself and not stepping off into the marsh.

    The moons are now up (with Luna full and Celene in a waxing crescent) but unseen behind the clouds when they round the promontory and thread their way between the river and the rock face. They can see the lights on the Sea Ghost a mile out to sea before the lizardfolk tell them that they are approaching the shore. They reach Tom and Ebeneezer guarding the jollies and ready the boats with whispers. Babshapka, thinking of the frigidity of the water within the fortress, tests the temperature along the shoreline while being careful not to wet his cloak. The water is colder than the warm swamp air, but not nearly as chill as that in the sunless caves of the sahuagin lair. They should be able to make the swim out to the ship without difficulty. The effort of moving along the trail with the body of Elmo across his shoulders has finally warmed Tyrius.

    [Warming up; DC10. Tyrius succeeds, no longer exhausted]

    [8:10pm. A large response force leaves the sahuagin lair and heads for the Sea Ghost. The water breathing potion has ceased to function.]

    [DM's note: Lord Nehemeyer's Goals for the Party:
    (1) The strength of the sahuagin force - approximately how many warriors, lieutenants, and if there exist higher officers and priestesses Partially complete - the party has fought warriors, elite guards, lieutenants, a chieftain, and a priestess, but does not know numbers. They have seen the Baron and possibly identified a high priestess. They have found officer quarters (21),(22), (23), barracks (27)

    (2) The location of important areas within the fortress - barracks, officer quarters, temples, etc. as well as the layout of both access points (land and sea entrances) Partially complete - Party has scouted the underwater entrance and completely mapped the land entrance and entire first level. Has found officer quarters (21), (22), (23), barracks (27), guardrooms (39), (40)

    (3) Any significant defensive measures - traps, heavily fortified areas, etc. Partially complete - the party knows about the barred entrance doors, portcullis, and net trap, that the second and third levels are under water, and that the underwater entrance has a portcullis with both inside and hidden outside winches. Sea patrols leave shortly after dark and go east, west, and south.

    (4) How advanced their preparations are - is there indication of when they might be finished fortifying the area and begin striking? Complete - the party surmises that the raids will begin when the first level is complete, and they know that just one final room remains to prepare
    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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:31 pm  
    Post 38: Race to the Ship

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3:The Final Enemy

    DM's note: The players' continual delay at leaving the lair and the discovery of the Sea Ghost by the sahuagin patrol meant that the resultant play session would be a race back to the ship. If the sahuagin were able to overtake the jollies, they would first decimate the lizardfolk surrounding them (both outnumbering them and at five attacks to the lizardfolk's two) and then try to flip the jollies and put the remaining party into the water. On the other hand, should the party reach the Sea Ghost first, they would have the the high draft of the ship plus the railings as defenses, and I planned to give them a number of combat advantages over the attempted boarders. Thus, arrival time would be essential in how this would play out.

    I had already determined that the sahuagin would arrive at the Ghost at 8:20pm - I knew this even before the party had decided to leave the lair, but they did not know the time constraint. The party launched the jollies at 8:10pm. Before I went over their strength scores or who would be in which boat, I had decided that their time to the Sea Ghost would be ten minutes assuming a total strength score of 20 pulling at the oars and two people on board. I would then reduce time based on the strength of those pulling, and increase it based on the number on board]

    Post 38: Race to the Ship

    21 August, 570 - 8:10pm, Azure Sea

    Sigurd insists that both Tom and Willa go into the same jolly as he does, as the only way he has a chance of getting them both to safety and earning his letter of clemency. Their strengths are each (17). Also in their jolly are Aurora (13), Jeremiah (19), and Barnabus (15). [Total strength 98 for 5.5 people; will reach Sea Ghost in six minutes]

    In the other boat are Ebeneezer (16), Thokk (17), Tyrius (14), Shefak (7), and the Fisher brothers (14 / 14). [Total strength 82 for six people; will reach Sea Ghost in eight minutes]

    The initial swimmers are Mantabshapka, Oceanus, and the entire troop of the lizardfolk. Soon after they set out, Aurora asks Larry-fish via message if, assuming the sahuagin are looking for humanoids or a manta ray, he would be willing to swim a bit below the rest of the group to extend the range of their vision. She doubts that the devils would reveal themselves just to attack a little fish, but if he could give the group advance warning to avoid surprise it could be enormously important. She reminds him that there are 16 swimming people at the ready to grab him if he is hit and transformed into his lovable dwarf self. When she gets the mental answer back that he is ready, Shefak empties her waterskin over the side of the boat.

    The two jollies then have a ring of lizardfolk around them at the surface and Larry-fish and Mantabshapka underneath. Oceanus swims ahead to scout the water between them and the Sea Ghost. Soon after they launch, it becomes obvious that Tyrius’ boat is lagging behind Willa’s. Willa, facing backwards as she rows, yells to the other boat that they need to “Man up and keep up!”

    [DM's Note: At this point, the players asked me what they could do to row faster. I told them that they could attempt a DC10 Athletics check. If they made it, I would temporarily add to their strength for calculating the speed of their boat. If they failed, their effective strength would stay the same. A critical failure would mean they were no longer able to row. Before they made the check, Thokk enraged himself so that he would have advantage on the check.]

    Thokk, his masculinity challenged by Willa, grips his oar fiercely and bellows into the darkness. The others on his jolly try to match his furious pace.

    [DM's Note: Strengths for those on Tyrius’ boat: Ebeneezer (now 18), Thokk (now 19), Tyrius (fail - still 14), Shefak (fail - still 7), Nathaniel (now 17), Daniel (now 17). Total strength 92 for six people; will reach Sea Ghost in six and a half minutes.]

    Thokk and the marines dig deep and start pulling in faster, harder strokes. Shefak and Tyrius, fortunately matched across from one another, can’t keep up. Shefak concentrates on not interfering with the other oars while Tyrius pulls hard but also steers, keeping sight of Willa’s jolly. They slowly fall behind, but it is almost imperceptible and Tyrius judges that they will arrive at the Sea Ghost within a minute of each other.

    Willa restricts herself to checking over her shoulder every thirty strokes to get a bearing on the Sea Ghost, or at least the single lantern light she hopes is the Ghost and not a decoy. After she checks their orientation, she calls for a few port- or starboard-side-only strokes to adjust. Tom, Sigurd, and even Jeremiah follow her commands automatically; Barnabus picks it up quickly. Aurora...just keeps rowing, to the same time and pace she has since they left the shore, whether it is her side called on to row or not. Willa generously assumes that she is communicating with the scouts underwater and not actively listening.

    8:13pm. The jollies are about three minutes out and halfway to what they take to be the Sea Ghost when Oceanus emerges from the water, doing a quick breech and dive near Aurora in a bid to get her attention. When she contacts his mind he reports that he has spotted at least five sahuagin on the seafloor, perhaps a hundred feet down, almost directly under the Ghost. They appear to be attempting to hide among the rocks and weed beds, so there may be more. He also says that he has not seen on-deck, but he takes the ship to be the Ghost as it is the correct size and shape. It is currently at anchor. [Note: these sahuagin are left over from the patrol that discovered the ship, but did not return to the lair]

    When Aurora reports this to Willa, she tells the half-elf to have the lizardfolk on the surface go a bit deeper - to form a shield under the jollies, but not be provocative or engage. Sahuagin hiding on the bottom are welcome to stay on the bottom - her immediate goal is to get anyone who can’t swim onto the deck of the Ghost. As she continues to row, Willa looks over her crew - they are all reasonable swimmers, Aurora perhaps the worst, but at least she has no armor. “When we board...huhn...I want ye up ther ladder first...huhn…” Willa says to Aurora, as she pulls on the oar. “T'en Tom...huhn...get out your bow...huhn...and cover ther boats…” Willa looks instinctively at the other jolly, but can’t make out forms in the darkness. She tells Aurora to tell Tyrius that she wants him and his armor out of the jolly first, and then Ebeneezer.

    The boats continue to glide through the darkness, growing closer to the Ghost but widening the gap between them, now at more than 50 feet. When Willa sees over her shoulder that her jolly is within hailing distance, she tells Aurora (next to her on the bench) to lay off her oar. Willa stands, and turns facing forward. “Jollies comin' aboard!” she yells through cupped hands. “Weigh anchor! Lower ther mainsail! Prepare t' be off!”

    Willa guides the four rowers of her jolly on their last strokes to bring the boat parallel to the ship on its starboard, then has those on the ship’s side stow their oars. Freed from her rowing duties, Aurora summons Buckbeak, her spirit hawk, to cruise the deck. The bird’s night vision is poor, but it can tell the difference between a human and a sahuagin at closes range and all it sees on deck are normal sailors.

    8:17pm. Boarding starts for the first jolly as the second one is just coming into range. Aurora, Tom, Jeremiah, Sigurd, and finally Willa climb up the rope ladder. Barnabus actually climbs up the ladder while Jeremiah is on it - up and over the man, who does not seem to notice.

    8:18pm. Situation: All of the party from the first jolly are boarded, and the second jolly is against the port side of the Ghost with a rope ladder lowered and Tyrius ready to board. Larry-fish, Mantabshapka, Oceanus, and the lizardfolk are all in the water, around and under the ship. On the Ghost, sailors 1 and 2 are at the capstan, raising the anchor (which will take 2-3 minutes). Sailors 3 and 4 are lowering the mainsail. Sailors 5 and 6 are preparing a block-and-tackle to lift the first jolly on-deck. Sailor 7 is steadying the rope ladder into the second jolly. Sailor 8 is on the fo'castle and has a lantern, and is currently directing it over the main deck so that the other sailors have light to work. Sailor 9 (Old Lefty) is alone on the poopdeck manning the tiller. Tom has his crossbow out and is covering the side of the incoming jolly. Barnabus is skulking the deck, ready to hide. Jeremiah has his sword out and is guarding the two sailors raising the empty jolly. Aurora is standing in the center of the main deck, communicating mentally with the troops underwater. Sigurd and Willa are standing next to her, with Sigurd suggesting orders for the sailors, as he knows the ship better, and Willa calling them out, as she is in command.

    Action: Boarding starts for the second jolly. Tyrius climbs up the rope ladder. Once Tyrius is up, Willa calls to him to throw down a rope for others to board. There are plenty of coiled ropes on deck. Tyrius throws down one which is caught by Thokk. Ebeneezer is exhausted from the hard rowing and has several slips and mis-steps, taking half a minute to climb the ladder. Thokk easily scales the rope and drops onto the main deck as Ebeneezer struggles with the ladder. Shefak moves to the very tip of prow of the jolly, signalling to the Fisher brothers to balance her by moving to the stern. As Ebeneezer struggles up the ladder, Shefak and the Fishers take turns rocking the boat fore and aft in a see-saw fashion. As both Fishers come down on the last rock, Shefak leaps straight up, catapults over the ship’s rail, somersaults in the air, and lands lightly on the main deck. The Fisher brothers climb the rope ladder after Ebeneezer, arriving just at the end of the minute. Willa calls to Jeremiah to get the rope ladder out of the way of the jollyboat being lifted, so that others can use it. Surprisingly, he understands and works to haul in the ladder without interfering with the sailors.

    8:19pm. “Marines!” shouts Willa. I want ye fore, aft, port and starboard! Let’s bring those flickers on deck!”

    Jeremiah, already handling the rope ladder on the starboard side, moves several feet away from the sailors hauling up the jolly and settles the ladder into place, hovering protectively over it. Ebeneezer steadies himself on the port side rail. Daniel and Nathaniel clap each other on the shoulder - one moves back to the poop deck and stands next to Old Lefty on the tiller, and then is joined by Tom, still using his crossbow to cover the deck. The other moves to the fo’castle and guards the sailors raising the anchor.

    Thokk turns back to the port railing he just climbed over and stabs his four javelins into the deck at easy reach. He then loops a free rope around his arm and lowers the end down to the waterline, prepared to yank up members of his army.

    Tyrius moves to the base of the main mast and calls for the light of Pelor. The main deck is awash in a golden glow.

    Aurora contacts the swimmers each in turn - Larry-fish, Mantabshapka, Oceanus, and the two lizardfolk officers, and tells them to board. She then pulls a scroll out of a scroll tube and moves to the aft hatches, just behind the mainsail.

    The two sailors (1/2) at the capstan continue to bring in the anchor, although it is by now well off the bottom and the Ghost is starting to drift landward. The two sailors (3/4) who were lowering the mainsail have it lowered, but they are standing by to trim it under Lefty’s orders. The two sailors (5/6) who were raising the first jolly have maneuvered it on to the deck by the end of the minute. One sailor (7) continues to steady the rope ladder on the port side, preparing for lizardfolk. The sailor (8) that had been holding a lantern moves to the port railing, sets the lantern down on the deck, and tosses a rope down into the water.

    By 8:20pm (arrival of the sahuagin) there are 9 lizardfolk on deck, one on the starboard ladder, and four still in the water. Larry-fish, Mantabshapka, and Oceanus are still in the water.

    What follows is a furious, pitched battle.

    [DM's Ruling: races that have claws (lizardfolk, sahaugin, thieves with tools) must make a DC 12 strength check (proficiency for athletics or acrobatics applies) to climb the side of the ship in one round. Those without claws need at least a rope to be allowed the check; a rope ladder gives advantage.]

    [DM's Ruling: If there is an opponent within range when someone climbs over the rail itself, the opponent may make one attack of opportunity. A successful hit requires the climber to make a concentration check or fall back into the water.]

    The sahuagin attempt to scale the sides of the Sea Ghost in groups of eight at a time, trying first the port side where the jollyboat is still in the water, then the aft, then the starboard side. With the large numbers of lizardmen on hand on deck and the advantage of height, the party is generally able to hold the sahuagin to the rails. Few devils actually make it onto deck until a chieftain and three warriors take the fo’castle. Once on deck they prove more dangerous, as they forgo attacking and simply knock people overboard (push attack).

    Dan Fisher is thrown into the sea, and immediately set upon by three devils still in the water - he is dead in seconds, torn to shreds.

    The chieftain knocks Sigurd into the water, but the old smuggler swims just ahead of the devils [Athletics check], and then hauls himself up a rope thrown him by a sailor [Athletics check]. Arriving back on deck, he cuts down the chieftain and his guard with two massive blows of his sword. “Not on me own ship, ye don’t!” he spits, then [Action Surge] leaps over the fo’castle rail and knocks one of the few remaining devils on board into the drink.

    A sailor is lost, and four lizardmen are struck down, before the devils are finally driven off. Besides the six dead on the party’s side, another nine are wounded. Larry’s moonbeam saves the party from a wave of devils, and Aurora uses the gust of wind scroll to fill the sails and pull away much faster than they would have been able to without it. Everyone did their part, with Shefak sometimes felling multiple devils at a time. Ebeneezer collapsed under an onslaught of devils, and was nearly dead before multiple sailors came to his aid.

    After the three sahuagin remaining in the jollyboat turn and dive into the water, the Sea Ghost slowly comes about until it is pointing east-by-southeast. With the foresail furled and the mainsail at full mast, she gradually gathers speed. Nathaniel Fisher moves away from his position guarding Old Lefty at the tiller, and simply stares over the aft rail, looking off into the sea where, somewhere in the darkness, is the savaged body of his brother.

    The crew goes about their business, there being much to do and much more to be attentive to in a night sail. The wind is not directly behind them, so they are constantly angling back and forth across its path. They mutter when they pass one another in their duties. About half of them seem to think that the party heroically arrived just in time to save them, the other half think the party let them be at anchor, like sitting ducks, a full hour after dark, guaranteeing an attack by the devils.

    Barnabus methodically strips the armbands and pouches of the fallen sahuagin before getting Jeremiah to pitch the corpses over the rail. The slain lizardfolk are arranged on deck and the officers say a few hissing, rasping words before they too are committed to the arms of the deep.

    Even when the sailors call that they are at full sail, Willa does not feel like they are going very fast, certainly not as fast as they came in. When she asks Sigurd, he confirms it. "Oh, 'ells no. We've a rum poor wind behind us, 'tis certain." When Willa asks if the devils could catch them at their current speed, he nods grimly. "Aye, I reckon' they could. 'Course, they'd need ta swim back t' thar stronghold, gather a larger force, an' then come after us. We'd be at least an 'our out afore that, but unless this wind picks up, they could catch us indeed. I suggest ye set watches, with casters restin' first. An', by yer leave m’lady, I won't be puttin' me manacles back on any time soon."

    Willa doesn’t answer, her face somewhere between a scowl and a grin. Truth to tell, she saw Sigurd pull himself back on deck after getting knocked into the water, and slay the sahuagin chieftain who knocked him in besides. She has no intention of fettering him for the time being. She turns to look over the crew and party. “I want all hands on deck fer ther first ‘our, as t’at is when we be most like t’ be hit ag’in,” she commands. “An’ if ye ‘ave any pull with ther gods, now would be a good time fer ‘ealin’ yerself or others.”

    8:30pm: Healing: Larry casts cure light wounds on Oceanus [7/22], healing him for 6. He then casts it again, healing him for 8 (Now 21/22). Tyrius uses 1 point of lay on hands on Oceanus to bring him to full, and then heals Ebeneezer for 1 point to return him to consciousness and allow him to later spend his hit dice on a short rest.

    Current status: (spent hit dice are from the rest in the sahuagin lair)
    Larry: 38/38 hp, 4 hit dice remaining, no level 1 spells, no level 2 spells remaining
    Aurora: 18/18 hp, 0 hit dice remaining, no level 1 spell, no level 2 spells remaining
    Thokk: 24/32 hp, 2 hit dice remaining, no rages left
    Barnabus: 19/19 hp, 3 hit dice remaining
    Babshapka: 28/28 hp, 2 hit dice remaining, 3 level 1 spells remaining
    Shefak: 21/27 hp, 4 hit dice remaining, 3 Ki points left
    Tyrius: 14/22 hp, 3 hit dice remaining, 2 level 1 spells left, 7 lay on hands points remaining
    Oceanus: 22/22 hp, 0 hit dice remaining
    Sigurd: 29/41 hp, 5 hit dice remaining
    Lizardfolk 6/22 hp, 3 hit dice remaining
    Lizardfolk 9/22 hp, 3 hit dice remaining
    Lizardfolk Officer 2/22 hp, 3 hit dice remaining
    Ebenezer 1/13 hp, 2 hit dice remaining]

    With Oceanus healed, Larry examines him critically for any open wounds that might trail blood in the water and allow the ship to be traced. With none found, Oceanus dives overboard, hopefully to provide warning should another cloud of devils approach below the surface. Two ropes, one port and one starboard, are set to trail in the water should he need to catch hold, and sailors are set to each to pull them out if need be. Aurora takes position on deck, sitting with her back against the sterncastle and continually checking the minds of Oceanus and the party with her message. She would like to check in with the sailors as well, but she knows that they are already deeply suspicious of her and her comrades and would not take well to her being "inside their heads".

    As suspected, Oceanus is easily able to keep up with the ship at their current speed. He could perhaps not swim thusly all day and night without resting, but for a few hours at least he does not have to overexert himself to keep pace.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Nov 13, 2018 3:25 pm  
    Post 39 - A Clean Getaway

    Note: No obvious spoilers follow, but there are some contingent results of all three modules in the U series.

    DM's Note: Looking at the list of scouting goals met (cf. post 37), the party had completed most of each of the first three goals, but not all of any one of them. They were unlikely to complete any one of them without completing all of them, either.

    However, there was considerable debate within the party over whether the risk of returning to the sahuagin lair was worth the reward. A number of the players felt that they should just abandon the adventure at this point and refuse to help Lord Nehemeyer further. With six of them not yet level four, they had a strong incentive to just walk away and try their luck elsewhere. I thus decided to allow four more of them to level. This both encouraged them that with more power they would be able to face a now-warned lair, and served as a guilt-inducing incentive to complete the goals for the leveling of the final two members of their party, who would otherwise be "left behind".

    Thus, I allowed Barnabus and Babshapka to level after a short rest, Thokk after a long rest, and Tyrius after he had been shriven and blessed by a priest of Sol. I didn't tell the party about my plans for when they would level beforehand, I just let them know that they would in response to unspecified future events as each event happened. As I had predicted, the tenor of the continuing discussion on whether or not they should return to the lair changed after each character leveled.

    Post 39: A Clean Getaway

    21 August, 570 - 9:30pm - Azure Sea
    After an hour of sailing without incident, everyone except the sailors has had a short rest.

    [Babshapka and Barnabus have leveled. Attributes which have been added since third level are in bold.

    Babshapka of the Silverwood
    Fourth level ranger (Hunter Archetype: Giant Killer)/ Wood elf (Folk Hero)
    Str 12 (+1) Dex 18 (+4) Con 12 (+1) Int 12 (+1) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 7 (-1)
    Languages Elven (S/W), Common (S/W)
    Hp. 34
    Skills: Animal Handling, Insight, Investigation, Perception, Stealth, Survival (Temperate Woodlands)
    Fighting Style: Duel-wielding
    Human-sized Chain shirt+1, broadsword+1, cloak of the manta ray, ring of protection+1, shortsword, longbow
    Spells: Alarm, Ensnaring Strike, Hunter's Mark

    Barnabus the Minstrel
    Fourth Level Rogue (Assassin Archetype / Halfling (Entertainer)
    Str 15 (+2) Dex 18 (+4) Con 12 (+1) Int 15 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 13 (+1)
    Hp. 29
    Languages Hobbniz (S/W), Common (S/W)
    Skills: Acrobatics, Deception, Perception, Performance, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (doubled), Thieve's Tools (doubled)
    Fighting Style: Two daggers, shortbow
    Leather Armor+1, glamoured, Ring of Protection+1, Ring of Free Action, Staff of Shock, shortswords, shortbow

    Thokk and Sigurd spend 1 hit die each and are now at 32/32 and 41/41 respectively. Shefak, Tyrius, and Ebeneezer spend two dice each and are now at 27/27, 22/22, and 5/13 respectively. The three wounded Lizardfolk spend three dice each and are now at full except for the officer who is at 21/27. Tyrius lays on hands for six to the Lizardfolk officer to take him to full (one lay on hands left), then uses a cure wounds on Ebeneezer to get him to full as well.]

    With no one remaining wounded and now a full hour away from the sahuagin lair, Willa dismisses most of the party belowdecks and tells them to get some rest, especially the casters. She keeps herself, Sigurd, and Old Lefty on deck for the first four-hour watch.

    [First watch (Willa in command): 9:30pm-1:30am]
    Oceanus and two lizardfolk “swimmers” take turns in the water scouting ahead and behind, relieving one another and resting on deck. At least one is always in the water, but no one is ever so long at one stretch that they get tired or lag behind.

    Aurora, before turning in, asks Barnabus, Sigurd, and some lizardfolk to help her in the hold. Using empty cargo nets and the abundant spare rope, they funnel off the narrow ladders leading down into the hold from the main deck, both fore and aft. Now anyone coming down from above cannot leap off the sides of the stairs (as they themselves did when they took the Ghost from the smugglers), but must proceed one-at-a-time to the bottom. When it is finished, she shows the results to Willa, explaining that they should try to fight the sahuagin on the rails of the ship, but if there is not time to call everyone on deck, or if they are overcome, they should retreat and defend the hold rather than being knocked into the sea.

    Willa looks closely at Aurora and sees a landlubber. "So ye want t’ abandon ther ship t’ ther sea devils an' be trapped in ther hold? An' if t’ey can sail a ship, an' take us back t' thar lair, wha’ t’en? An' if t’ey can't sail an' we run aground? Do ye 'ave a magic way out o’ ther hold if ther sea devils don't follow ye in?"

    Aurora reddens, turns, and strides off to her cabin.

    Sigurd chuckles. “Aww, don’ be too ‘ard on ‘er, lass. She’s jess tryin’ t’ ‘elp. Nae much chance o’ bein’ trapped in ther ‘old - thar be four easy ways out and portholes besides. I prefer makin’ me stand on ther deck, too - but it might nae be a bad idea ta send at least the sailors below if we get attacked ag’in. Now, as far as yon wizard...if ‘twar me, I’d be sendin’ 'er ta ther crow’s nest a’ ther first sign o’ devils - she can firebolt ther whole deck from oop thar an’ be reasonable safe asides…”

    Willa and Sigurd walk the decks of the ship through the night. Sometime after midnight, Sigurd takes a lantern from a sailor and casts the beam on the mainsail, then on some pennants flying on the mast, then back to the sail. “Come aboot, bless ye, come aboot now…” he mutters and stares. By the time Willa calls for the end of the first watch, he is looking in fine spirits. The mainsail is full and the Sea Ghost is heading due east with a fair wind behind her. Sigurd keeps a crew of four sailors on deck but tells the other three that they can go below to rest, even as he will be.

    22 August - The Azure Sea
    Willa calls for Tyrius and Babshapka to come up on deck, sends Oceanus below, and switches out the two swimming lizardfolk for a new one and an officer.

    [Note: Babshapka has tranced for four hours, has completed a long rest, and is at full HD, hp, and spells]

    [Second watch (Tyrius in command): 1:30am-5:30am]
    The sky is lightening and the wind has flagged again when Tyrius and Babshapka go to wake Tom, Thokk, and Aurora. When Tyrius enters the captain’s cabin he wakes not only Tom, but Willa and Sigurd as well. Sigurd, once awake, goes on deck, checks the wind, curses, and sends the sailors on duty to rouse the others as they will need to begin tacking again. Tom changes the lizardfolk on duty for two fresh ones.

    [Aurora has had a long rest, has her full HD, hp, and spells]

    [Third watch (Tom in command): 5:30am-9:30am]
    By midway through Tom’s watch, many of the party are up and about though not officially on duty - the smell of frying sausages in the galley has called them from their beds or hammocks. It is a fine, clear summer day, and the Ghost moves slowly closer to shore and then farther out again as it tacks its way eastward. At mid-morning, Tom finds Nathaniel Fisher in his cabin. The Saltmarsher is grim but responsive, and agrees to take command. He goes about ordering the crew on his watch. The lizardfolk are changed and their second officer has a turn; Barnabus is roused and Larry brought out from the galley.

    From 8am to 10am, Aurora is deciphering the spells in the waterproof spellbooks recovered from Elmo's party
    Book 1: Charm Person (first level, enchantment), Friends (cantrip, enchantment), Shield (first level, abjuration), Unseen Servant (first level, conjuration - ritual), Light (first level, evocation)
    Book 2: Arcane Lock (second level, abjuration)
    Book 3: Fireball (Third level, evocation), Water Breathing (third level, transmutation - ritual)

    [Larry has had a long rest, has his full HD, hp, and spells].

    [Fourth watch (Nathaniel Fisher in command): 9:30am-1:30pm]
    The wind picks shifts to the west again on Nathaniel’s watch, and soon the Sea Ghost is running at full mast rather than tacking. She makes good progress, and by early afternoon, as Nathaniel is preparing to hand off command, the mouth of the Dun River and the lizardfolks’ temporary home come in to view. The schedule Willa made for command before retiring calls for Jeremiah to take the helm, but Sigurd scoffs at ceding control of the Ghost to the simpleton, and comes back on deck himself. Soon after the changeover, however, the wind shifts to the south and Sigurd and the full crew have to work hard to keep the Ghost out to sea and not running aground.

    [From 10am to noon, Aurora is studying the Arcane Lock spell to understand it better in an attempt to determine whether it is worth copying into her own spell book.]

    Thokk rouses himself in the morning. He is filled with pride at the vast numbers of sahuagin slain, and rage over the loss of four of his trusted lizard army. He feels even more powerful and capable and argues (unsuccessfully) that they should turn around now and finish the devils off. Only Aurora and Willa together insisting that he should let Lord Nehemeyer pay tribute to his new prowess first convinces him to wait.

    [Thokk is now level 4. New abilities are indicated in bold:

    Thokk of the Crystalmists (Thokk)
    Fourth Level Barbarian (Totem Warrior - Wolf) / Half-orc (Outlander)
    Str 18 (+4) Dex 14 (+2) Con 16 (+3) Int 5 (-2) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 12 (+1)
    Hp. 46
    Skills: Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, Survival (mountains)
    Unarmored defense, Shield+2, ring of protection +1, battle axe, hand axes, javelins]

    [Fifth watch (Sigurd in command (nominally Jeremiah): 1:30pm-5:30pm]
    As the sun moves into the west, the offshore wind finally shifts and the Ghost again begins making progress. Sigurd estimates that they will make Saltmarsh by nightfall.

    [Sixth watch (Willa in command): 5:30pm - sundown in port]
    After dining in the galley, Willa joins Sigurd on deck. Many of the party are gathering as word goes 'round that they are nearing port. From about six pm on they see numerous other vessels ahead, spread out from one another, all small craft - cutters with step-down masts. Getting close to a few they find them each manned by two sailors wearing the uniform of the Keoish navy, with one always bearing a spyglass. A set of complicated banners flies from the masts, and the ships appear to be positioned in a rough half-circle a few miles out from Saltmarsh. In one of these cutters a sea elf is spotted. The first such vessel they pass hails them and has a brief conversation with Willa. As they pull away, the craft raises yet another banner, and like a ripple on a pond this banner is taken up in series by the vessels nearby.

    By six-thirty the Sea Ghost is less than two miles from Saltmarsh Harbor. A pod of merman ride their bow wave for some time before saluting and disappearing. The lizardmen doing subsurface scouting report that there is just as much activity under the waves as above, with small groups of mermen, sea elves, and fishmen moving about.

    The red-golden light of the setting sun illuminates the fields around Saltmarsh, which are now crowded with scores of tents. Babshapka claims he can see the reflection of the light on the window panes of the alchemist’s house on the hill outside of town. In the inner harbor there are docked three large war vessels, troop galleys by Willa’s estimation. Three more ships are at anchor in the outer harbor just outside the breakwalls, two bristling with ballistae and the last flying the personal colors of the Viscount of Salinmoor.

    The sun has just dipped below the horizon and there is perhaps half an hour of twilight by which to navigate safely as the Ghost approaches the warships guarding the entrance to the harbor and comes into ballista range. “Should we be droppin’ anchor out ‘ere or go in?” Willa asks Sigurd, “thar seems t’ be room at ther docks, yon galleys notwithstanding.”

    “I’ll take ther Ghost anywhere t’at gets ‘er closer t’ t’at letter yer holdin’ fer me, m’lady.”

    On Willa’s command, Old Lefty steers the Sea Ghost through the gap between the two warships and the sailors work the sails for maximum control at low speed. Lantern lights from both warships are run along the decks of the Ghost; ballistae are loaded, wound, and aimed, but they are allowed to pass into the inner harbor and dock.

    Troops move up and down the dock area. There is a surge of locals coming to see the Ghost, but the soldiers shout at and then disperse the crowd - a squad of men guards the end of their dock. A sergeant calls for Willa and explains that she, and only she, is to disembark - she has a private meeting with Lord Nehemeyer. Nathaniel Fisher catches Willa’s eye. He mumbles, “Beggin’ yer leave ta go ashore, sergeant Stoutley...I need...I need ta see me brodder’s widder.”

    Willa argues with the officer on the docks to allow Nathaniel ashore but in the end it is only she who leaves the Ghost.

    “Tell him, advisor!” shouts Thokk from the ship behind her. “Tell the perfumed lord how many devils Thokk and his army slew! Tell him how the decks ran with their blood! Tell him!” The soldiers on guard duty shift uncomfortably under his bellows.

    Willa is gone several hours - it is late at night and most everyone has turned in by the time she returns to the ship.
    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.

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    From: LG Dyvers

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    Fri Nov 16, 2018 5:31 am  

    This is awesome stuff, Kirt! I love the background detail you provide for your players. Keep these posts coming and I will keep reading. Smile

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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 707
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    Fri Nov 16, 2018 9:55 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    This is awesome stuff, Kirt! I love the background detail you provide for your players. Keep these posts coming and I will keep reading.

    Thanks, and will do!
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:06 pm  
    Post 40: Megotiations with Nehemeyer

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3: The Final Enemy

    Post 40: Negotiations with Nehemeyer

    23 August, 570 - Saltmarsh Harbor
    In the morning, the party wakes to what they think is the smell of cooking from the galley, but it is actually coming from the dock area. Laborers have two large iron cauldrons, fires going underneath, heating up thick, rendered fat. Willa calls for a party meeting.

    “Ther good news be: Lord Nehemeyer be pleased wit’ all ther information we collected. Ther bad news be: he be demandin’ we go back,” she begins, and then fills them in on her meeting the previous night.

    The salient points are that upon learning from Willa that two-thirds of the sahuagin fortress is submerged, the Lord realized that the large human host he has assembled in Saltmarsh will be practically useless in a direct assault, and a land blockade would accomplish nothing if the devils can re-supply or even re-garrison through the sea cave. The aquatic members of the alliance (sea elves, fish-men, mermen, and even lizardfolk) are capable of fighting underwater, but they simply do not have the numbers to take on the entire fortress of devils without sustaining massive losses. After speaking with a representative of the elves, Lord Nehemeyer has made the following plan: assuming the first level is still dry when his force arrives, he will capture it with his human infantry. Once held, he will bring in gnomish-made mining pumps. When these are in place, a combined force of fish-men, merfolk, and sea elves will rapidly assault the outside of the fortress. Striking quickly, the elven mages will seal off the access to the sea, making the complex water-tight. The human forces will then begin draining water, eventually being able to assault the second level and then the third as they are drained dry This will take quite some time, but Nehemeyer is practiced in siege warfare. It may be that the devils can be starved out before their lair is fully drained, but Babshapka’s scouting suggested that they have a high-level priestess. If she can create food they may be able to last a siege indefinitely, so ultimately the Lord is prepared to take the place by force.

    This plan requires additional intelligence, however. Nehemeyer needs information on how many sahuagin are in the sea cave, and how close are any barracks to the exits. It is essential for him to know how rapidly they can respond to the appearance of the elven host - if the devils can overwhelm the elven mages before they manage to seal off the sea entrances, the plan will not work. Likewise, the map the lizardfolk provided shows a second entrance to the lowest level. The lizardfolk called it “the backdoor,” and claimed that it went to the water’s edge, on the shore. Surely it is now sunk as well, which means that it would also need to be sealed off, but the party didn’t report any intelligence on its location or current use. Finally, while the party found one barracks on the second level, there is a likely second one if the complex is a “mirror image” as Willa has suggested. It is vital that Nehemeyer knows how rapidly the devils can respond to an assault on the first level. He is confident that if he has time to set up his men defensively in the unfinished hall, his troops can handle any devils as they emerge from the water, since the stairs will act as a choke point and restrict their numbers. But if the devils can leave from the barracks, set up first, and defend the first level at multiple points in the corridors, Nehemeyer might not be able to take the stair room and install the pumps.

    Thus, the entire alliance assault plan depends on three vital pieces of information - (1) the sea cave and any nearby barracks, (2) the “backdoor”, and (3) the putative “mirror barracks” on the second level. Once the party has reconnoitered these, Lord Nehemeyer will happily reward them for their valiant service, but until he has this information it would be pointless to launch the assault.

    Aurora is incensed, and demands that Willa arrange a meeting with Nehemeyer. The Saltmarsher woman leaves to request it. As the morning wears on, the laborers from the docks come aboard, and begin “painting” the sides of the Ghost with the hot, liquid fat, applied with tarring brushes from railing to waterline. Sigurd nods approvingly and guides their work.

    Nehemeyer arrives in the early afternoon and is escorted to the mate’s cabin, where he is met by Aurora and Willa. Tyrius is otherwise occupied - a priest of Sol has come aboard and is performing a dedication ceremony for the Paladin.

    “Look, Nehemeyer,” begins Aurora, after pleasantries.

    Milord Nehemeyer,” corrects Willa. Aurora continues unphased.

    “We got all the information you sent us for, and we nearly got killed. We lost six men. We want our reward and then we are done. We are not going back.”

    “Your efforts are most sincerely appreciated. But you did not, in fact, collect all of the information I sent you for. Rather, you discovered approximately three-quarters. As I am sure Sergeant Stoutly explained, the success of our assault requires just three more pieces of information. Only then will you have completed your agreed-upon service.”

    “You haven’t given us anything - and even the reward you promised, a mere thousand lions, is paltry. We need gold to identify things, and by the time that is paid, there will be little left to split between us.”

    “I am sorry the Viscount cannot offer more. In case it had escaped your notice, I have an army encamped outside Saltmarsh, as well as a flotilla of six vessels. That is not cheap in and of itself. And now I learn that I am in for a siege, and may have to maintain these troops in the field, away from any town that could supply them, for a month or more? I fully agree that your valor and service merits a higher reward, but I simply am not in any position to pay it.”

    “That’s your problem, not ours. There is no way we are going back without more compensation. Open your purse or we are done here. None of us but Willa are crown subjects, and you have no authority to compel our service. I am ready to leave today.”

    Lord Nehemeyer cooly regards the brash young woman for several moments in silence, then begins on a separate tack. “I understand that identifying magic is expensive, but that doing so will likely be useful in your continued mission. I have taken the liberty of procuring several pearls, as I thought they might be useful.” He produces a small velvet pouch and slides it across the table to Aurora. “I would be happy to advance them to you for now, counting them against your final reward when you receive it.”

    Aurora smiles thinly. “Keep talking.”

    “However, the fact that you already have in your possession magical items which you have not yet identified implies that they were looted from the fortress. One of the rewards of your contract was the right, duty free, to any items you recovered while in the process of gathering information. If you feel that your future reward is too small, you are free to go. But I will be retaining any and all items you have recovered so far in the name of the Viscount.” Aurora’s eyes narrow. “And I am sure that Sergeant Stoutly can give me an accurate accounting of all the items in question.” Willa nods curtly and Aurora reddens.

    “Even if we wanted to go back, how can we explore the underwater parts of the lair? We don’t breathe underwater. If you want information on the second level, you need to supply us with potions of water breathing.”

    “I have seen the maps you made - you have already begun to explore the underwater parts. You have a sea elf, you have lizardfolk - a dozen or more of your force can function underwater, if not breathe. However, I do have a few officers in my fleet equipped with potions of water breathing. I would be willing to loan them to you - the potions, not the officers - but I would expect that the value of any that were not returned would also be counted against your reward.”

    “I need to learn the spell gust of wind. It will be essential for a fast getaway.”

    “I will check among the few battlemages we have with our force whether any have that spell.”

    “We lost troops last time, and we had surprise. We will not catch them unaware this time. We need more men, and more firepower. Send one of your warships with us, and a complement of marines with missile weapons.”

    “Now, that is something I could do, but I do not find it advisable. As far as the fish-man scouts tell me, the devils are not yet aware of the force I am mustering. I do not want to tip my hand, and warn them into a more defensive position, or, worse yet, encourage them to summon aid from whatever deepwater realm they were sent from. No; they must be led to believe that when you return it is the same ship, with the same few adventurers on it, not the vanguard of an assault force. My own force will leave the day after yours, and trust that you will have the information we need when we arrive for the assault. I can replace your current sailors with a fresh crew - royal navy men trained to both sail and fight, and see that they have crossbows, but your scouting force itself must remain the same.”

    “We will need spears and crossbows for our own troops as well, the lizardfolk and Saltmarsh marines. What are left of them.”

    Nehemeyer nods impatiently.

    “And we need some sort of defensive barricades on the railings of the ship.”

    “Sergeant Stoutly spoke of that to me already. My men are greasing the sides of your ship even as we speak - the barricades will be delivered as soon as they are completed. If there is nothing more?” The lord rises from his seat.

    “I still didn’t agree that we will do it,” says Aurora petulantly to his back as the lord leaves. Willa rolls her eyes.

    Shortly after Nehemeyer has left the Ghost, Sigurd enters the cabin with a “Beggin’ yer pardons, miladies.”

    “Wha’ be ye wantin’, Sigurd?”

    “Now that it be day an’ all, I war wondrin’ iffen ye hae me letter?”

    Willa drops her gaze, looks at the cabin floor. “I asked ‘is lordship fer it. ‘e twarnt willin’ ta give it ta ye until after we come back from our next mission, as it twer.”

    Sigurd frowns, but controls his obvious anger. “Now, haint I done efferthing ye’s asked o’ me? Haint I been fair and square on me end o’ the deal?”

    “Ye 'ave, Sigurd,” says Willa. “But ‘e’s nae givin’ it back, yet, nonetherless.”

    “Well, then, why should I be goin’ back?” He stares hard at them both.

    “What do you mean?” asks Aurora.

    “The wind blows both ways, lassie. I hard ye talkin’ ta Nehemeyer in ‘ere. Ye said yerself ye twarnt goin’ back fer nothin’. Now by me reckonnin’, ye’s getting a reward o’ a thousand lions, an’ a hold full o’ magic, assides. More than one item fer each o’ye. What hae I got? Me own sard an’ me own chain shirt back an’ nothin’ more fer sheddin’ me blood against the devils two times?”

    “What do ye want?” says Willa calmly.

    “I want me ship back!” he roars suddenly.

    Willa nods. “Tha’ be fair - when our need o’ it be done, ‘tis yers.”

    “No way!” protests Aurora. “He’s welcome to leave! We don’t need him, and we’re not giving him the ship.”

    “We do need ‘im. Ye know ‘e’s the best sword we got - better’n me or Thokk.”

    “Tyrius will never agree to this, and neither will the others.”

    “‘Tis already done,” says Willa, and leaves, ignoring Aurora’s protests and Sigurd’s grin.

    Later, a red-robed mage appears at the docks. After insulting Aurora’s training, background, and abilities in the most polite and courtly language, he begins negotiating with her. The end result is the exchange of one page from Elmo’s spellbook containing Unseen Servant for one page from his own “traveling” spellbook containing Gust of Wind.

    Aurora uses one of the pearls from Nehemeyer to identify the lesser staff of shock recovered from the sahuagin priestess, and another to identify Elmo’s wand of polymorphing, and learn its command word, “metamorph”. “Oh, that’s metamorph,” she says wryly.

    Finally, the new crew arrives, nine sailors and two excise men (Bill and Bob) and with them two log barricades, of the hastily-built type used to protect field camps, with long, sharpened stakes fixed all around them. The barricades are arranged on the decks at midship. Aurora and Barnabus direct the crew in nailing chains to the railing. The sailors leave the ship under guard - just to keep the crowds away and ensure they don’t reveal any sensitive information until after the fleet sails on the morrow. Willa bids farewell to the old sailors, and especially Nathaniel.

    The Sea Ghost sails from Saltmarsh at about four in the afternoon. It is accompanied by a dozen fish-men cavalry (mounted on giant eels), who provide the underwater scouting.

    The sun is setting when they pass the mouth of the Dun River. Willa has the Ghost brought close to shore, and sends a lizardfolk officer to update the tribe. He returns with two volunteers to replace their losses, and the news that most of the warriors in the lair have already left, as they are moving overland to assume forward positions near the sahuagin base.

    Once he is shriven by the Priest of Sol, Tyrius gains a level. New features and abilities are in bold.

    Tyrius of Sterich
    Fourth level paladin of Pelor (Sacred Oath of Devotion)/ Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 15 (+2) Dex 9 (0) Con 12 (+1) Int 19 (+4) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 17 (+3)
    Languages: Keolandish (S/W), Common (S/W), Flan (Spoken only)
    Skills: History, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion
    Fighting Style: Dueling
    Chain armor, shield +1, war hammer
    Spells: Cure Wounds, Heroism, Protection from Evil (oath), Sanctuary (oath), Divine Favor
    Scroll of Protection from Undead, Scroll of Hold Person
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 707
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    Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:16 am  
    Post 41: The Final, Final Enemy

    Note: This post contains spoilers for the module U3: The Final Enemy.

    In Post 38, I recounted my house rules for ship boarding by the sahuagin. Since then, the party's efforts to grease the sides of the ship meant that the devils would climb the sides at disadvantage, and, once on deck, the addition of the barricade would require an additional Athletics (or Acrobatics) check to pass, with failure indicating the devils were stuck behind it for the round.

    Cover became very important, with the crew of the Ghost using the railings as half cover (or three quarters, when crouching), and the wounded below using the port holes as three-quarters cover.

    I liked the party's thought of nailing a heavy iron chain to the railing and using it to transmit the staff of shock, so I allowed a luck role to see how many devils could be targeted at once when passing over it.

    I didn't think the Baron or the High Priestess would emerge for what seemed like an assault by one ship. It turned out that a sortie of fifty devils with javelin volleys, supported by a few lesser priestesses and decoys, was just the right amount of force. The party was seriously challenged, almost all of them (PC and NPC) were wounded, and they were concerned enough about the arrival of another sortie to flee rather than face it, but only after their scouts had reported in, which added to the tension. This was a long combat to run, but very exciting all around.

    Post 41: The Final, Final Enemy

    24 August, 570 - Azure Sea, near the mouth of the Javan River

    In the morning the Ghost is close to rounding the point that will bring them within view of the lair. The wind is from the west, and Sigurd doubts it will be changing all day. Willa has them continue to the southwest, moving offshore rather than following the curve of the coastline, for several miles out into the open sea. At this point their cavalry escort drops away, leaving to scout for the arrival of Nehemeyer’s fleet on the morrow. The Sea Ghost sails past the lair from afar, finally coming about and moving north when up against the swampy delta of the mouth of the Javan. As it approaches noon they are west of the lair, near the coast, and moving east with full sails and a strong wind behind them. While they may be spotted, they are moving fast enough that any scouts will be hard-pressed to report them before their arrival.

    Once the twin promontories are seen it is all hands on deck. The plan is to sail directly for the western-most point of the lair, and just before turning to the south-east dispatching three scouts: Oceanus (headed for the back door), Mantabshapka (going for the land entrance and thence to the second level), and Larry-fish (whose goal is the sea-cave). Once the Ghost is near the sea cave entrance, half the lizardfolk will mount a sortie to attract attention, which will ideally pull troops out of the lair and act as a diversion so that the arrival of the scouts will not be noticed. Once the devils are in pursuit, the lizardfolk will return to the ship, which will tack as close to south as the wind allows, pulling any devils away from the lair before making a grand turn in the open ocean and approaching for a second pass from the west. By the time the ship passes the lair again, the scouts will, if all goes well, be ready to board.

    All three scouts are dispatched into the water, with Babshapka having been rendered invisible by Aurora. He and Oceanus travel together to the foot of the causeway, but Oceanus is spotted by a handful of sahuagin. The devils appear to have missed Mantabshapka, so Oceanus turns and attempts to lead them back to the ship. Meanwhile Larry-fish is not halfway to the mouth of the sea entrance when he spots a force of fifty sahuagin or more coming straight at him. He retreats to the ship and is able to raise Aurora by mental contact, alerting them to the coming wave. Then he descends to deeper waters, as does Oceanus - neither of them appear to have been followed.

    The first sign of the sahuagin force is a group of about ten, off the port side, keeping pace with the ship (which has its sails at half-mast now), with just their heads out of the water. They are well off from the ship, just at the edge of crossbow range, and appear to be only watching. Suddenly, a group of fifteen devils break the surface just off the port side. They explode from the water in synchrony, coming completely out as they turn, face the ship, and hurl spears over the rails before arching their backs and entering the water head first. “Take cover!” shouts Willa and the lizardfolk and sailors crouch behind the railings. Only Thokk remains standing, shaking his fist at the rippled wakes of the devils.

    Perhaps half a minute later, they emerge again (the same group, or another?), this time off the starboard bow, and throw their spears at the relatively few figures there. A sailor goes down and is hustled to the main deck for Tyrius to help. The sudden volleys continue sporadically, and then ten sahuagin appear at the waterline on the starboard side. A few are climbing to the rail, but it appears most are unable to ascend the still-greasy sides. The sailors shoot crossbows and the lizardfolk rain down javelins. In the end, only three of the ten devils make it onto the deck, and two of these are (literally) shocked when Barnabus applies the staff to the railing chain as they clamber over. Aurora is in the crow’s nest, hurling firebolts and attempting to polymorph the devils into snails with Elmo’s wand. Suddenly the port railing of the crow’s nest explodes in a shower of splinters. Several of the distant figures, visible only as heads, are hurling their spells at her - seemingly the same black explosive bolts that the priestess shot at Barnabus previously. Aurora crouches, but the next volley includes one bolt that hits her squarely and knocks her unconscious. Shefak, invisible from her ring, climbs the rope ladder to the crow’s nest, hoists Aurora across her back, and slides down to the main deck before another volley can be sent. Tyrius revives the wizard with a cure spell. When the last starboard boarder is killed the bobbing heads that are watching them from the water submerge, and the Ghost sails on for several minutes without seeing any devils. They are about halfway to the entrance of the sea cave. Two sailors, wounded but conscious, go below and open port-holes so as to continue firing crossbows from relative safety, one each port and starboard.

    The next wave begins with a full thirty sahuagin emerging alongside the Ghost on the port side and throwing spears. Although the spears are ineffectual against the crew and party crouching behind the railings on deck, it does allow nine sahuagin to begin to climb the port side. They seem to have an easier time of it, and Tyrius detects an aura about them, as if they have been blessed. Half the thirty sahuagin launch another volley, while the other half swims under the Ghost and begins to scale the starboard side. Shefak stands boldly on the port side, attracting spears which she deflects with rapid blocks and kicks. At this point three sahuagin priestesses emerge, casting spiritual weapon to create three glowing, floating tridents on deck to attack the defenders. Each priestess is flanked by two “decoy” sahuagin, imitating the motions of their casting so that the defenders cannot target the spellcasters. The fighting is furious for several moments - a lizardfolk is lost, and many more are wounded. Wounded sailors and marines go below and use the cover of portholes to shoot until the sahuagin begin entering the hold through the openings. Then Thokk takes some of his lizardmen into the hold. Shefak continues to clear the decks of sahuagin until a misplaced flip lands her on the barricade, and a devil follows up by knocking her out. Barnabus, hidden behind the railing, continues to slay unsuspecting devils from behind. Aurora and the sahuagin priestesses trade spells through the portholes. The last knot of sahuagin boarders is overcome by Tyrius, Thokk, Sigurd, and Willa working together, and the remaining devils sink beneath the waves. At this point the ship is turned due south, sailing directly away from the lair.

    After five minutes and near a half-mile, the Ghost turns to the southwest, sailing as close into the west wind as it can. They are sailing thus, unopposed, when a quipper-like fish leaps into one of the side-borne jollies and transforms into Larry. Hauled aboard, he gives his report on the sea cave, three nearby barracks, and the underwater arena. He also tells the party that the devils are mustering an even larger force for a third attack wave, giving them all serious pause for thought.

    After a few minutes the Ghost is turned northwest, again as close to the wind as it can sail, for nearly twenty minutes. Along this trajectory Oceanus arrives. He explains that the “back door” entrance took him some time to find, as it is hidden among piles of rocks on the seafloor. Inside is an unfinished guardroom, in what looks like the original lizardfolk lair. Beyond that a narrow, twisting tunnel dead-ended; sealed off by a large block of finished stone. Oceanus could feel current and smell the water beyond, so it was not watertight. Nowhere along its length did he find any guards, meaning an elven assault force should be able to easily take this portion.

    When the Ghost is due west of the fortress, Sigurd orders her brought about and all sails raised. He is not keen on making another pass by the fortress, but Babshapka has not returned. The wounded are sent below, with crossbows in the open portholes, and just those sailors needed remain on deck. The crew and party braces for another assault. They are half a mile from the sea cave when Babshapka finally appears, and Willa immediately orders them to turn south and away from the lair. Babshapka has been wounded, and recounts his narrow escape from the lair, and the location of another barracks on the second level. With all Nehemeyer’s mission completed, the party with great relief sails further and further out to sea, several miles out, before they finally turn east.

    All throughout the afternoon the Sea Ghost gradually returns closer to shore as it works its way east. When the sun is low in the sky, a fleet of six ships is spotted, obviously that of Lord Nehemeyer. Willa brings the Ghost closer for a rendezvous. In a brief meeting aboard the flagship, she reports to him, and this time he is satisfied. He quickly pens letters to the Viscount and the Saltmarsh Town Council, confirming that Willa and her party has faithfully and honorably fulfilled their mission and may receive their reward - including the pardon for Sigurd. He also tells her that the Viscount would like to entertain them at his palace in Seaton until the victory celebration - in fact, the Viscount “insists”. His tone indicates that this is both a reward and “insurance” that the scouting information they have given him is accurate and will lead to the successful conclusion of the campaign.

    While Willa is meeting with Nehemeyer, the sailors are busy abovedecks. The extra spears and javelins are collected, the borrowed potions of water breathing returned, and the unwounded sailors are transferred over to Nehemeyer’s fleet - the Vice Admiral seems to think they will need every last man. The Sea Ghost is allowed to retain her wounded sailors to make it as far as Saltmarsh, and the Saltmarsh marines stay aboard as well, in recognition of their service - all of the other militia and excise men from the town have been levied and are already onboard the fleet. Willa learns later that even Nathaniel Fisher was impressed into service, over Secun’s strong objections, but that he was able to find her brother Tom a place in a fleet message-cutter sailing for Seaton, an assignment which should keep him out of at least the first week of fighting. The fleet is being continually circled by fish-men on giant eels, and the water is calm, so while Willa is reporting the lizardmen feel confident swimming across the open water to greet their nestmates on the other ships. They report that most of the lizardfolk force left several days ago - they are traveling as a grand host overland to the sahuagin fortress, with just a few troops being assigned on each of Nehemeyer’s ships. The warren has been left with virtually no warriors, so when the lizardfolk get back to the Ghost they are anxious to return to their temporary home and protect the young and females who remain.

    When Willa is back on board the Sea Ghost, the crew and party bid good luck and farewell to the fleet with fanfare and salutes. Thokk is sulking in his cabin - frustrated that he did not get to face the Baron and that he will soon be losing his army.

    With just a few sailors aboard, all tired and wounded, and the fleet between them and the sahuagin, Sigurd has the Ghost pull in to shore and anchor for the night, while Willa sets a night watch rotation, heavily favoring the lizardfolk.

    Final Goal Log:
    The strength of the sahuagin force - approximately how many warriors, lieutenants, and if there exist higher officers and priestesses GOAL COMPLETE
    The party has killed 48 troops (no band, bronze buckles) and five lieutenants (gold band, electrum buckles), giving a troop-to-officer ratio of about 10:1.

    They have killed 3 elite guards (electrum bands, bronze buckles) and two normal females (no bands but non-standard jewelry, bronze buckles).

    They have also killed two chieftains (gold band with coral beads, gold buckles) and a priestess (gold band, no buckles).

    The fortress is commanded by “The Baron”, a huge four-armed sahuagin. To his right was a female they took to be a high-level priestess and to his left a powerful warrior.

    On the upper level there was an armory with weapons for many warriors.

    They have seen a barracks of one or two dozen sahuagin, have seen thirty leave on a night patrol, and have faced off against a sortie of fifty.

    (2) The location of important areas within the fortress - barracks, officer quarters, temples, etc. as well as the layout of both access points (land and sea entrances) GOAL COMPLETE
    For the land entrance, see goal 3 below.
    On the upper level there are numerous decorated chambers, for officers or dignitaries.
    On the upper level there is an armory with weapons for many warriors.
    On the second level there is a barracks room (27) and three officer’s quarters (21, 22, 23)
    The sea entrance opens into a huge sea cave (60) with dense seaweed beds

    (3) Any significant defensive measures - traps, heavily fortified areas, etc. GOAL COMPLETE
    The land entrance has bolted stone doors that would require a battering ram to open (but these have been dismantled). Inside there is a bronze portcullis with a winch and a suspended net protecting access to the upper level. The portcullis can be guarded by missile troops. Both the net and the portcullis have been sabotaged.

    The sea entrance is guarded by a huge bronze portcullis, with a winch inside and a hidden winch outside.

    Patrol groups leave the sea cave at nightfall.

    On the second level there is a barracks room (27) and three officer’s quarters (21, 22, 23)

    (4) How advanced are their preparations - is there indication of when they might be finished fortifying the area and begin striking? GOAL COMPLETE
    The lower two levels have been completely flooded. The upper level is nearly “finished” and will likely be complete within a week. If it is flooded then, the sahuagin will have a completely underwater base, which will be nearly impossible for humans to assault. It is likely that they will begin raids and declare their presence at this time.

    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Dec 10, 2018 4:17 pm  
    Post 42: A Few DM Notes

    Post 42: A Few DM Notes

    Both during the initial race to the Ghost, and the subsequent diversion with the Ghost while three scouts infiltrated the lair, I realized that I needed to come up with some guidelines for seafaring movement, acceleration, and directional change. In particular, it was relevant how quickly the ship could go from "zero to full speed", both while under full sail with a good wind, and under the less optimal conditions of tacking.

    Individual characters and monsters might come to approximately full speed within their six second turn, but it would break the suspension of disbelief to have a huge ship do so.

    The website proved to be a great resource in this regard.

    I began with the base assumption that the top speed of the Ghost was 7mph under full sail with a good wind directly behind her, and converted this to 10.3 feet per second, or c. 60 feet in a combat round to scale with the sahuagin pursuers.

    Using the website above, I figured the acceleration of the Ghost to be:
    ⅓ speed in 250 sec, ½ speed in 500 sec, full speed in 5000 seconds

    Under poor wind conditions (such as when tacking or during the first escape of the Ghost), I took the speed to be 4 mph = 5.9 ft/sec = c. 35 feet in a round
    Half speed: 18 feet per round
    Third speed: 12 feet per round

    Note that sahuagin can swim at 40 feet per round, without taking a dash - so with poor or indirect wind conditions, the Ghost would not be able to outrun pursuers. Furthermore, the sahaugin would be able to make a full move as well as launch a missile attack while staying even with the ship, which they did during the "diversion".

    While the ship was at full speed with a good wind, however, sahuagin would be able to keep pace while pursuing it, but only by continually taking the Dash action, which would not allow them to attack.

    A second area for which I had to create some guidelines was for Nehemeyer's plan to drain the lair of water.

    The map of the second level is 31 x 41 blocks, each of 10 feet, or 127,100 square feet.
    About half of this is solid rock, the other half open water: 63550 square feet
    Most of it is about 15-20 feet high, so around 1,112,125 cubic feet = 8,319,273 gallons

    I don't want my campaign to have working, advanced steam engines, but I was willing to consider special "gnome-made" devices to pump water from mines, the equivalent of a Newcomen Engine.

    However, the 8.3 million gallons of water would take a typical Newcomen engine some 33 days to pump out, which was longer than I wanted the party to wait in Seaton for the siege to be resolved.

    Before the Newcomen engine, teams of horses were used to work mechanical pumps, with four teams of horses equivalent to one engine. I calculated that if Nehemeyer could use ten teams of horses, he could drain the entire second level in 12 days or so, which worked for my planned timeline.
    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.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:27 pm  
    Post 43: Sitting in Seaton

    Note: With the successful completion of all their adventuring goals (cf. Post 41, above), the last two members of the party attained fourth level. New abilities in bold.

    Aurora of Tringlee
    Fourth level wizard (School of Enchantment) / Half-elf (Sage)
    Str 13 (+1) Dex 10 (0) Con 12 (+1) Int 18 (+4) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 18 (+4)
    Hp. 28
    Languages Keolandish (S/W), Elven (S/W), Common (S/W), Ancient Suel (Written only), one open slot
    Skills: Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Performance, Persuasion
    Staff, ring of protection+1 x2, wand of magic detection, wand of polymorph

    Sergeant Willhemina Stoutly (Willa)
    Fourth Level Fighter (Martial Archetype: Champion) / Human (mixed race, predominantly Flan) (Sailor)
    Str 18 (+4), Dex 17 (+3), Con 14 (+2), Int 10 (0), Wis 9 (-1), Chr 9 (-1)
    Skills: (Fighter): Insight, Survival (Sea and Coast), (Sailor): Athletics, Perception
    Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
    Plate armor +2, greatsword, dagger - magic longsword returned to Sigurd
    Potions of neutralize poison, healing x2, cure disease

    Post 43: Sitting in Seaton

    “Oh, the blades did flash, the blood did flow,
    the slaves all dropped their chisels,
    but through it all, there shone the smile,
    of Barnabus the minstrel!”

    25 August 570, Azure Sea
    In the morning, Willa and Aurora feel exceptionally refreshed and powerful. The lizardfolk lair is reached by late afternoon. The farewell is short - the lizardfolk invite the party to the lair for a feast, but Sigurd wants to make Saltmarsh by nightfall, and most of the party agree.

    The Sea Ghost arrives in Saltmarsh harbor just before nightfall. The docks appear almost deserted, as many of the able-bodied men have been levied and have sailed with the assault fleet. The remaining citizens appear anxious and fearful, and the few wounded sailors and relieved marines returning on the Ghost are greeted warmly, although they soon are given town watch assignments.

    26 August, Saltmarsh
    In the morning Sigurd triumphantly presents his letter of clemency to the Saltmarsh Town Council, who formally release him of all charges. He spends the rest of the day scouring the fishing docks and taverns for seamen. By nightfall he has assembled a motley crew of those too young, too old, or too lame to have been levied. “I’d nae take ta the open sea w’ ‘em,” he tells the party, “but they’ll do ta limp along the coast ta Seaton, an’ then Gradsul. Gradsul’s a big enow port I can be findin’ a real crew.” He offers the party passage to Seaton and they accept, although many grumble about the loss of the Ghost.

    Aurora appears before the Council and collects the party’s reward (less what Nehemeyer advanced in pearls, which they were apparently explicitly informed of), then apportions it out to the party (including Willa, but not Oceanus). Willa is ready to say her farewells to the party and await the return of Tom in Saltmarsh, but Secun explains to her that the Viscount’s “invitation” to his court included her as well.

    Oceanus wishes the party well - he intends to return to his home, and then perhaps rejoin the fight, if it is still going on.

    27 August, Saltmarsh to Seaton
    It is a short journey to Seaton, where Sigurd hustles them off the Ghost and sails again within the hour. True to his word, the Viscount has them quartered in his palace (though in a far wing, removed from the main court). Without the Ghost to trade in, they have no armor commissioned, but their own armor is taken for much-needed repair and maintenance by the palace smiths, free of charge. They are all also measured and fitted for clothes, as none of them own clothes that would be presentable at the Viscount’s table (Tyrius’ clothes once were, but are now travel-worn and adventure-stained).

    28 - 30 August, Seaton
    The next several days sees the party largely resting and relaxing. Some of them eagerly follow the dispatches arriving from the battle, which has turned into a siege.

    Willa spends her first day free trying to locate Tom, only to find, eventually, that his message-cutter has already sailed back to the main fleet. Whether he will be kept on fleet dispatch duty or might have to join in the fighting is not clear. After this she tries to remain in their rooms in the palace, but feels anxious and stifled by the atmosphere and servants. She soon decides to practice with the palace guard when they do their weapons drills. When she is not at weapons practice, she spends the rest of the time along Seaton’s docks and wharves, talking with sailors and stevedores and trying to find out anything she can about the ongoing battle.

    Babshapka and Larry spend as little time in the palace as possible. Larry feels uncomfortable in Seaton itself, the largest city he has ever seen, and more so in the palace, where servants click their tongues at him, and follow after him cleaning whatever he touches. Fortunately the palace has a large garden and he spends his time there, even when it is raining. Babshapka is not bothered by the servants, for he is clean and well-mannered, but nevertheless he seems to chafe at the sheer number of people about. After their first miserable full day in the palace, the two discover a group of men leaving the city to hunt in the Viscount’s Forest for game for the palace tables, and convince them to take the pair along. Once they reach the woods outside of the town they take their leave of the group, which warns them that even their status as heroes will not allow them to poach game. They spend the next two days camping and roving, and finally return in the evening of the last day on a wood-cutter’s cart.

    Shefak knows Seaton better than any of them, for she spent a month here before meeting the party. She has little interest in exploring the town. Mostly she passes her time in the palace meditating and practicing her armed and unarmed combat techniques, though she prefers to do this alone rather than with the palace guard. Occasionally she wears the “cursed” ring recovered from among Elmo’s effects and can be heard giving orders to imaginary servants in her native Baklunish.

    Barnabus adapts well to palace life, using his magical armor to copy the styles of court dress he sees and turning up in many intimate places uninvited. He charms the noble ladies and serving women alike. He also slips off into the town, and while the party does see him from time to time, his bed in their quarters remains unused. Unbeknownst to the party, he uses his time on the town to look for a contact who might teach him disguise or poison brewing, but finds the criminal element in Seaton disorganized and unprofessional. He will have to find another location to train in these assassin skills, and he sets his sights on Gradsul.

    Thokk enjoys himself the first day, bellowing at servants and demanding things, but he soon becomes bored and restless. He is frustrated at the loss of his army and the fact that the fighting is going on somewhere else, without him. His efforts to provoke fights with nobles in the palace meet with sharp disapproval from the party and the palace natives alike. His growing violence over the course of the first day threatens to have him, or perhaps all of them, confined to their quarters or worse for the duration of their time in the palace. Aurora suggests that Barnabus, Willa, or Tyrius take him on tours of the town's taverns and brothels to keep him occupied. Barnabus laughs and says that he has his own things to do. Willa seems to think that having Thokk pass the time in a cell in the Viscount’s dungeon would be better for everyone involved. Only Tyrius seems ready to assume responsibility for the barbarian, though he has several particularly cutting remarks to Aurora about her casual suggestion of brothels. Instead, he introduces Thokk to the cooks and cellar-men of the palace, and engages him with copious food and drink. Fortunately, Thokk has not had much experience with alcohol before, and is content to spend the next three days drinking, drunk, passed out, or hung over.

    Aurora and Tyrius are the most comfortable in the palace. Although Aurora is not nobility, she is used to talking to servants and being served. They are distracted by trying to keep the rest of the party out of trouble, but take advantage of the situation nonetheless. After the first day they plan and execute a market day, in which they sell off the small amounts of loot, mainly armbands, that they recovered from the sahuagin. After this they have their own pursuits. Aurora is copying and practicing spells, including new spells she has gained access to through the Viscount’s court wizard. He still claims he does not have a copy of Detect Thoughts, to her disappointment. She peruses the many volumes in the Viscount’s library to maintain her image of being a traveling scholar, and she visits the banks of the town where she has sequestered the various tomes they have recovered in their adventures.

    Tyrius, for his part, besides keeping Thokk drunk and manageable, is found much at the Temple of Sol, praying. At other times he explores the armorers and horse markets, guided by suggestions from the palace staff. Without the Ghost in trade, he does not have enough money to commission a full set of plate armor for himself - but a fitted suit of splint armor is within his price range and nearly as good. Then again, perhaps he should be saving for a warhorse.

    On the 30th, the palace is abuzz with excitement and activity, as a grand dinner party is being planned for the morrow.

    31 August
    In the morning, the party finds new clothes delivered - from smallclothes to dinner jackets (for the men) and evening gowns (for the ladies), all of fine quality and well-fitting. Not coincidentally, they are invited to dine with the Viscount in the evening. Tyrius and Aurora spend the day coaching the party on manners (though the lessons are largely lost on Larry and Thokk) and palace servants help them all to dress.

    To Aurora’s disappointment and Tyrius’ relief, they are not seated at the high table with the Viscount himself, but at one of the lower tables, surrounded by knights and a few lesser noblemen, with their ladies seated at a safe distance from Thokk and Larry. Thokk is seated next to Tyrius, with two particularly burly knights on his other side. The dinner progresses smoothly, with those about them making amiable small talk, interrupted by occasional toasts from those seated at the high table.

    Near the end of the evening, when they are enjoying custards and after-dinner liqueurs, the Viscountess calls upon Tyrius to tell those assembled something of his native land of Sterich. The paladin, seemingly without surprise or pause, stands and gives an account of the harsh weather of his homeland - the deep winter snows, the terrible mountain winds, the raging alpine streams. Several of the more well-traveled among those present smile and nod knowingly at their less peripatetic dining companions. When Tyrius concludes with how pleasant he finds the climate in Salinmoor in contrast, and how “the warmth of the land is almost matched by the warmth of the Viscount’s court and the warmth of the Viscountess’ smile,” there are polite murmurs of “hear, hear” and “good show”, and the Viscountess herself leads a round of applause. With a wink to his companions, Tyrius takes his seat.

    After those present have had ample time to discuss the paladin’s remarks, the Viscount himself rises and calls on “Sergeant Stoutley” to give an account of the party’s exploits. Willa feels herself go pallid, and then blush hotly. Fortunately this is lost to all but those at her table, given her dark complexion. “Uh..I ain’t much fer speakin’, milord…” she says, and titters at her lowborn accent fill the room.

    “Nevertheless,” his lordship replies simply.

    To give herself time to think, Willa begins all the way back at the Haunted House, giving a modified version of the speech she gave to the Saltmarsh Town Council. She makes certain to leave out any references to magic or spellcasting by the party, and plays up the battle scenes, hoping they will be appreciated by the knights at least. She stumbles a bit when it comes to the assault on the Sea Ghost, for in her narrative she has already painted Sigurd as a villain and smuggler before she remembers that she needs to end with him as a hero on their side, but then decides she will later emphasize his sincere repentance due to the grace of the Viscount. Despite the snickers at her speech patterns, the audience does seem interested - and by the time she gets to the battle with the giant crocodile and the black dragon, she can see them leaning forward eagerly. Though she has never really enjoyed speaking herself, Willa has heard enough tavern tales to have picked up the rudiments of pacing and embellishment. She remembers to be circumspect in her description of Lord Nehemeyer and his demands, for he is obviously in the Viscount’s favor and undoubtedly has allies at court to boot. By the time she arrives at the viciousness of the sahuagin, she even remembers to say a few words about the wisdom of the Viscount in forming the alliance of sea nations and mustering his fleet, trying to keep her tone sincere and her concern for Tom and Nathaniel Fisher from her voice. When at last she concludes, there is scattered applause before the Viscount says simply, “Entertaining and most informative.”

    Willa has barely taken her seat before Barnabus is standing on his. “May it please your lordships...” he begins and the hall is immediately silent, everyone aghast at his impertinence in addressing the Viscount without having been spoken to. “Now that you know the basic narrative of our adventures, perhaps the gentlefolk assembled would care to hear a few ballads I have composed on the subject?”

    The halfling smiles winningly, but the Viscount says icily, “Certainly, you may play your tavern music for any who wish to remain. I myself have a war to run and regret that I must retire early.” About half the nobles assembled disperse for the night but those remaining seem quite willing to hear the halfling play. The party, of course, has heard the ballad innumerable times while on ship, and in ones and twos they take their leave. As Willa makes her way to the party’s quarters, one of the palace guards sidles up to her. “My lord the Viscount would speak with you in his drawing room,” he says simply, before continuing on.
    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.
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    Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:53 am  
    Post 44: Willa's Choice

    DM's Note:The contents of this post are known only to the player of Willa, and not any of the other players.

    Post 44: Willa's Choice

    31 August, 570. Seaton - The Palace of the Viscount of Salinmoor

    As Willa makes her way to the party’s quarters, one of the palace guard sidles up to her. “My lord the Viscount would speak with you in his drawing room,” he says simply, before continuing on.

    Willa lets the rest of the party return to their rooms while she pauses. Once they are out of sight, she returns to the great hall, where Barnabus is still playing his lute, and asks a guard for an escort to the Viscount. The guard does not seem surprised at her request.

    She is shown to a parlor room, with the Viscount at a desk cluttered with maps and communiques. Two guards were outside the door, but there are none inside the room. The Viscount motions her in, offers her a seat and a glass of brandy to match his own, already on the desk.

    Willa knows enough to let him do the talking. She sits stiffly in her chair as he continues to go over his maps. Finally he looks up. “Sergeant Stoutley.”

    “Yes, milordship?”

    He chuckles at her pronunciation of his title. “I must say it is refreshing to have one such as you at court. I enjoyed the tale of your group’s exploits.”

    “Thank ye, milordship, but beggin’ yer pardon, them ain’t me group, if ye please.”

    The Viscount smiles slightly, and raises his snifter. “No, I suppose they are not. And yet you were awfully careful in how you described their adventures, very circumspect regarding their use of magic and so forth.”

    Willa looks nervous and the Viscount chuckles again. “Don’t worry - I have read in detail all of the reports Secun has sent me regarding them - reports in which you were the principal informant. I know you have been a faithful servant to both the crown and Salinmoor.”

    Willa exhales, relieved. “Aboot th’ story, I jes’ thought it be more…(she searches for the right word)..politic not t' mention some t'ings in public an’ all.”

    “Indeed,” the Viscount agrees. “In addition to your skills as a warrior, you have a knack for discretion. Frankly, I’m surprised you haven’t been made Captain of the Customs Officers yet.”

    Now Willa is stymied. Secun had always told her he wanted her to be Captain, but that the Viscount would never approve it. “Thank you, milord,” she offers uncertainly.

    The Viscount seems to change tack and gestures at his maps. “Suppose we are victorious, gods willing,” he offers. “What is next, then, for Sergeant Stoutley?”

    “Well, milordship, Secun charged me w’ watchin’ yon foreigners whilst they be in Saltmarsh, an’ then I jes’ kinda got caught up in everythin’, as t’were. If me work w’ them be done, I suppose I’ll go back t’ bein’ a Customs Officer. Keepin’ Saltmarsh safe an’ solvent an’ trying’ t' keep me baby brother out o' trouble.” She pauses, then adds, in what she hopes is the correct and deferential tone, “T'ough I wouldnae mind tryin’ me 'and at a Captaincy, if one be offered, sometime.”

    The Viscount has been staring into his snifter, but listening to her. Now he looks straight at her. “Stoutley, what’s your honest assessment of this group? Politic aside, are they a threat to Salinmoor?”

    Willa swallows. Was this what this whole meeting was about, absent pretense? “Well, milordship, I did t’ink so afirst. I couldnae believe t'ey be as foolish as t'ey seemed. I even t'ought t'ey might be makin’ up the whole ‘smugglers’ story. But now as I know ’em better, yes, t’ey be that foolish. Betwixt ther lot of them, nae be enough sense t’ fill a shite bucket...erm, a chamber pot, milord. Tyrius be a good man, an’ he tries t' keep a rein on ‘em, but t’ey’re too many an’ too wild. Ther halfling be too smart fer ‘is own good and be as larcenous as the day is long, besides. Ther orc’s a simpleton but ‘as a keen bloodlust. An’ ther wizard, well, she thinks ther party exists t' fuel ‘er own power an’ not much else. As long as t’ere be atother threat like smugglers o' sea devils, t'ey be a useful tool fer yer lordship. But I wouldnae wan' 'em around too long withoot somethin’ t’ occupy ‘em - t’at’s jes’ askin’ fer trouble.”

    The Viscount nods. “Indeed, that was my very assessment. But of all of them, it is the wizard who troubles me the most. When they arrived in Saltmarsh, they were hard-pressed to defend themselves against giant ants, as I understand it. But now they are fighting off a whole colony of sea devils. Every time they visit Seaton, that wizard is asking my court mage for more spells, and more powerful spells. They have gone from an amusing distraction to a very real, though still potential, threat.”

    The Viscount pauses, scanning Willa’s face for a reaction, and finds her nodding in agreement.

    “This Aurora has twice now asked my mage to learn the spell detect thoughts, and he has twice put her off, though of course he has it. Stoutley, I have a foreign wizard of unknown loyalties in my land, trying to learn magic that will allow her to read people’s minds, and in loose command of a well-equipped band of skilled killers. I hope you can appreciate my concern.”

    “Of course, milord.”

    “When my steward first reported that the wizard was asking for access to my map room, I was thrilled, hoping that they would be soon departing. But the maps she has looked at have all been of the Dreadwood.”

    “Beggin’ yer pardon, milord?” Willa stares at the Viscount blankly. Up until now, she had shared his concerns. Her reports mentioned that Tyrius wanted to take Larry to the Great Druid in the Dreadwood. If Aurora wanted to come with, so what?

    “The Dreadwood,” he says. “A wizard in the Dreadwood!” Seeing that his meaning is lost on Willa, he falls silent. From the shadows in the corner of the room, a figure emerges. Willa starts, her hand reaching for where her sword should be, were she allowed to wear her weapon in the palace. The Viscount waves at her to stand down.

    The figure approaches, entering the light of the oil lamp on the Viscount’s desk. He is of medium height, but broad-shouldered. A scar runs across his pale face, from his hairline, down the side of his face, and ends at the corner of his mouth, giving him a perpetual smirk. His beard is thick but neatly trimmed, jet black with highlights of gray. His robes are black, but have the red lion rampant of Keoland - or at least half of one, on his right breast. The left breast is plain, as if the other half of the lion were missing.

    He begins without introducing himself. “You know the Dreadwood only as a wild place of fell monsters, and perhaps as the court of the Great Druid,” he says. Willa nods warily. “But there is more to it than that. The forest also holds many secrets - among them, dark magic. It is not a place the King would have foreign wizards visit, particularly those who, as you say, are interested in growing their own power.” Willa nods again, beginning to see where this is going. “And yet, were the King to simply forbid entry to the wood, particularly to wizards, then it would become common knowledge that it holds more than monsters.” He looks at Willa expectantly.

    “Ye don’t want Aurora t’ gae t’ere, but ye don’t want ‘er - or others - t’ know that ye don’t want her t’ gae t’ere.”

    “Just so,” the man says simply. The Viscount pours a third glass of brandy, but the unnamed man ignores it and he leaves it untouched on his desk.

    The unnamed man continues, “If, however, we were to have someone accompany the wizard, someone we could trust, someone who could tell us where the wizard went in the wood and why, and what she found there, then we could decide whether our concerns were well-founded, and what the most appropriate, and unobtrusive, action to take would be.”

    “You have a choice, Stoutley,” the Viscount says. “And you have earned the right to make it freely. Your service to Salinmoor is duly noted. Retire to Saltmarsh and enjoy your Captaincy. Become an envoy to the lizardfolk, and the sea elves and the merfolk and even the fish-men, however they call themselves. Take care of your town and your brother. I will write your commission tonight.”

    “Or,” says the unnamed man, “leave the service of your Viscount and enter the service of your King. Become Special Agent Stoutley and help us keep track of this wizard.”

    Willa looks closely at the stranger - an agent of the King? To buy time to think, she sips slowly at her brandy, the finest she has ever tasted.

    "'most all me life, I 'ave served milordship an' Saltmarsh. I always t’ought I would be content t’ continue in t’at service, an' a Captaincy sweetens ther deal. Me brother, Tom, be set up fer his life in Saltmarsh now, an' I find meself chafing a’ ther yoke o’ keeping 'im out o’ trouble. Ther current campaign agin’ ther devils should see Tom inta manhood an' responsibility."

    Willa takes another sip, "Yon group o’ adventurers 'ave caught me up in a merry chase. I 'ave seen interestin' t’ings an' terrifyin' creatures an' sailed in new waters. I also dinnae trust ther wizard an' wouldnae wish t’ see 'er become a threat t’ me countrymen. So, I accept yer offer t’ enter ther service of ther King."

    "An’, beggin' yer pardon, but jes’ who might ye be?" asks Willa boldly as she regards the stranger.

    “You do not need to know my real name, and you’ll be needing to pretend we have never met, should you see me in public. But you can call me “Runnel” as a code name. I am a knight of the Malagari as we call ourselves, or in Keoish, the Dark Watch.”

    Willa knows just a handful of Suel words, but she does know that “mal” means dark, or bad. She has never heard of the Dark Watch, or seen the man’s half-lion heraldry. The “Knights of the Watch” are well-known though; they guard the northern borders of the Kingdom. Perhaps the Dark Watch are a secret organization within that Watch, dedicated to protecting, well, dark secrets?
    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.
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