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    It started in Saltmarsh... [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  Next]
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    Master Greytalker

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

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    Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:56 pm  
    It started in Saltmarsh...

    This thread will be a campaign journal for a game I started with co-workers. It is set in the southwestern Flanaess in 570 - the party started in Saltmarsh but are ranging farther afield with each adventure.

    I will use this first post as a Table of Contents

    Page 1
    1. Backstory for "Dirty Larry", Mountain Dwarf Druid, level 1.
    2. Backstory for Tyrius of Sterich, Human (Oerid) Paladin of Pelor, level 1.
    3. Backstory for Thokk, Half-orc Barbarian, level 1.
    4. Arrival in Saltmarsh.
    5. Backstory for Aurora of Tringlee, Half-elf Wizard, level 1.
    6. Backstory for Babshapka, Wood Elf Ranger, level 1.
    7. Backstory for Barnabus, Halfling Rogue, level 1.
    8. Arrival in Saltmarsh (reprise)
    9. The call to adventure
    10. The Haunted House, upper levels
    11. The Haunted House, lower levels
    12. A DM's Aside: About these players
    13. A DM's Aside: Detailing Saltmarsh
    14. A DM's Aside: Detailing the Town Council
    15. The Party meets The Council and Murphey's Flight
    16. Backstory for Willa
    17. Sanballet's Refrain
    18. Taking care of business
    19. Return to Saltmarsh
    20. Plans and Preparations
    21. Preparations, Plans, and a new party member

    Page 2
    22. Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, Level 1
    23. Battle for the Sea Ghost
    24. An Awkward Homecoming
    25. Sigurd and the Council
    26. The Lizardfolk Threat
    27. A Letter for Tyrius
    28. Scouting the Lizardfolk Lair
    29. Negotiations at Noon
    30. Stenchbrute!
    31. Hail to the Chief
    32. Lord Nehemeyer
    33. En route to the Devils
    34. The Final Enemy, First Blood
    35. The Final Enemy, First Level Secured
    36. Old Elmo's Hoard
    37. Going too far?
    38. Race to the Ship
    39. A clean getaway
    40. Negotiations with Nehemeyer
    41. The Final, Final Enemy
    42. A Few DM Notes
    43. Sitting in Seaton
    44. Willa's Choice

    Page 3
    45. The Siege, and Farewell to Salinmoor
    46. On to Gradsul
    47. Barnabus' Choice
    48. Out and About in Gradsul
    49. The Riddle of the Malhel
    50. Willa's Chocie II
    51. Gradsul to Daerwald
    52. Dearwald
    53. The Riddle of the Malhel II
    54. Willa's Choice III
    55. Dearwald to Silglen
    56. Silglen
    57. The Riddle of the Malhel III
    58. Silglen to the Owl Stream
    59. A Willage in the Mists
    60. The House of the Burgomaster
    61. The Kirk of Father Donovich

    Page 4
    62. The Barge of Madam Eva
    63. The Townhouse of Mad Mary
    64. Castle Ravenloft
    65. The Court of the Count
    66. Strahd the Devil and Appropriate Level
    67. The Rooms of Weeping
    68. Going Down?
    69. The Dungeons
    70. The Riddle of the Malhel IV
    71. The Catacombs
    72. Strahd 5 - Party 3
    73. The Heart of Darkness
    74. The Fall of the House of von Zarovich
    75. Gertruda, Tatyana, and Ismark
    76. The Spoils of Victory
    77. The Heart of the Matter
    78. A final visit to the Castle
    79. Find Steed?
    80. A horse is a horse, of course, of course?

    Page 5
    81. The Price of Forbidden Knowledge
    82. Have Swords, will travel
    83. Willa's Choice IV
    84. A Series of Reunions
    85. Lavienth to Nighford
    86. Nighford
    87. Nighford to Highfell
    88. Knight comes to Highfell Keep
    89. Know you this!

    Page 6
    90. The Keep, outside and in
    91. The First Tower (Southwest)
    92. The Second Tower (Southeast)
    93. The Third Tower (Northwest)
    94. The Fourth Tower (Northeast)
    95. The Ghost Tower (Entrance)
    96. The Ghost Tower (Air)
    97. The Ghost Tower (Oerth)
    98. The Ghost Tower (Fire)
    99. The Ghost Tower (Water)
    100. The Ghost Tower (The Soul Gem!)
    101. Return to Highfell
    102. Willa's Choice V
    103. Good does not mean Stupid
    104. Preparing for the Jump
    105. The Deep Ethereal
    106. Meetings and Reunions
    107. What happened with Shefak

    Page 7
    108. Battle Royale
    109. Exploring the Tower
    110. An Infernal Fury
    111. R & R (Rest and Reading)
    112. 'Splorin'
    113. Nholast?
    114. The Scriptorium and Beyond
    115. Waiting for the New Day
    116. Every Last Nook and Cranny
    117. Powerful Revelations
    118. Backstory for Umbra, Grey Elf Sorcerer, level 4
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Mon May 25, 2020 12:19 pm; edited 53 times in total
    Master Greytalker

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

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    Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:59 pm  
    Post 1: Backstory for Dirty Larry

    Post 1: Backstory for Dirty Larry, Mountain Dwarf Druid, Level 1

    Larrenthal was born to a clan of Crystalmist Dwarves. His clan was wealthy, prosperous, and in the process of expanding its holdings and starting daughter colonies to explore new mines. His parents were among those chosen to pioneer a new colony, and they set out with him still in his mother’s arms. At three years old he was developing like any dwarven infant - he could crawl and babble but not walk or talk.

    What was supposed to be a short caravan journey in the late fall to an already-secure base instead turned into a nightmare when his parents and all their clanmates were ambushed by a combined force of ogres, bugbears, and goblins. The battle was long, bloody, and desperate. His mother was the last dwarf to die, just after she hid him under some bundles in a mule cart. The goblins were already leading the live mules away while the ogres feasted on the dead ones, when a huge bear came upon the scene. It must have been a cave bear, for it towered over even the ogres. After a few dozen goblins had been crushed by its paws, the rest retreated - for the moment.

    Then, the bear was gone and an elderly man was probing in the cart with his staff, seeking the source of the baby’s cry he had somehow heard through the din of the battle. The man took the dwarven babe and retreated to his cave before the humanoids could regroup. All through that winter the old man cared for the babe and by the spring, Larry was walking and talking – but he spoke in Flan, not Dwarven.

    The werebear druid had thought to return the babe to the first group of dwarves he found in the spring. Little did he know that the caravan massacre had prompted the dwarves of the area into a series of wars and genocidal campaigns against the humanoids that lasted for years. Dwarves aboveground had been rare before – now they were simply not to be found except in military hosts, none of which passed near the alpine valley that was the druid’s home.

    The first dwarven explorers to arrive after the war were seeking pasturelands for their goats. They came when the boy was ten. Of course they knew the story of the massacre, of course they knew to which clan Larry belonged, of course they offered to return him. But when Larry was taken back to the cold stone halls of his father’s clan, he found all of his near kinsmen had been killed in the wars. True, he had distant cousins who took him in. But what were they to make of the boy who cried at the dark, who begged to see the sun and feel the wind, and who couldn’t even speak Dwarven? The boy who preferred mud to woolens and trees to forges? After two weeks, “Dirty Larry” begged to be returned “home” to the old man – and his kinsmen did not take much to convince, did not even consider Larry a “real dwarf”, but a strange, wild “bear boy”.

    Over the next years the kindly old bear-man taught Larry the ways of the Old Faith, the Great Circle of the Flan, the names of all the gods and spirits of the woods and hills and mountains. Larry grew and learned and prospered, until his foster father initiated him into the First Mystery and told him that to learn more he would have to apprentice to another druid. No, he could not apprentice with the old man – they were too close and the druid's code prohibited apprenticeships within family. Besides, the man claimed to be too old.

    It was only a few months ago that the man determined to send Larry to the Great Druidess. He had heard tell that the current head of the Druidic Orders held moot in the Dreadwood, far to the south. A longer journey than the old man cared to make, and through lands far too civilized.

    The old man knew of a remote temple to the Old Faith, though. It was considered part of the
    country of Sterich, but they did not have to cross many farms or fields to get there. Just a few valleys over, really, though the journey took them weeks, scaling the mountainsides.

    The old man approached the temple warily, for in truth he seldom spoke to men, but the Head Priest knew the Old Ways well and welcomed them in the temple garden. He agreed to take Larry in and find a guide for him to the Great Druidess. Larry cried that afternoon, for the first time in many years, and would have had the old man stay if he could have moved him, but the man said his final lesson was that loss, too, was part of the cycle of life.

    Larry had not been at the temple a se’nnight when he was introduced to Tyrius, a bright young paladin of Pelor, shining like a newly-minted coin. The pair were a perfect contrast – the tall, handsome, worldly, noble-born youth and the short, stout, grubby dwarf who went everywhere barefoot. Tyrius escorted Larry down the valley into Sterich proper. Every hamlet they passed seemed a city to Larry, but the hamlets grew into thorps, the thorps to villages. Finally, in a bustling river-village, Tyrius booked passage on a boat headed downriver. It carried refined ores from the mountain mines and the dense cargo meant there was plenty of deck space for passengers.

    They navigated by day and pulled up at night, for the swift mountain river had many rapids that could only be safely run in the light. They had been on the water just a few days when came a misty morning. The captain advanced the boat slowly, but then ordered his men to make camp when they spied the first set of rapids. He would pilot it later in the day, when the sun had burned off the mists. Little did he know that this was a favored ambush spot of a band of hobgoblins who preyed upon the river traffic. They fell upon the camp in the mist and a half-dozen guards were slain in the space of a few minutes. The remaining guards rallied and carried the day and the hobgoblins were driven back.

    But as the mists cleared, there was a curious sight – a towering, misshapen man stood among the slain. He seemed just as surprised to see them as they him, and he drew a huge axe and began to chant. The boat guards surrounded him and prepared for another fight, but then the strangest thing happened. Tyrius stepped forward.

    Moving slowly, the paladin approached the misshapen man with hands open. Tyrius led him to the river’s edge. He showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and the man said he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the guards; he was just looking for a meal. After that Tyrius began arguing with a riverboat captain. Tyrius told the captain that he needed more guards to replace his losses, and pressed him to accept the misshapen man into his service. The captain did not trust the stranger further than he could spit, but eventually his greed overcame his common sense. He gave the man a berth in the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. Larry came to learn later that the man was not misshapen. In fact, he was a half-orc named Thokk, a wild raider from the mountains who was fleeing his home, much like Larry.

    The guards grumbled and cursed the stranger all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more than any of them, their grumbling ceased.

    Thus it came to everyone’s great surprise that when the ship emerged from the swamplands and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. The captain had just been made to pay for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, he said, and he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left the combats behind. Tyrius argued with him past his patience, which resulted in the paladin being told to go ashore as well, along with Larry. In truth, it all seemed no great loss to Larry, for the town was a scant few leagues overland from Larry’s goal - the Dreadwood, but Tyrius did seem rather put out.

    Now Thokk, Tyrius, and Larry stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching the ship cast off.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:45 am; edited 4 times in total
    Master Greytalker

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

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    Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:30 am  
    Post 2: Backstory for Tyrius

    Post 2: Backstory for Tyrius of Sterich, Paladin of Pelor, Level 1

    Tyrius was born to an old and important Sterich noble family, themselves related to the Earl of Sterich (the nation’s ruler). Tyrius was the third son of a distant cousin of the head of his family. He was raised to be cultured, sophisticated, and elite – but the older he grew, the more tenuous he realized his position was. His father held lands that were smaller than his title was due. His eldest brother stood to inherit those lands, barely enough to maintain the family’s privilege. His eldest brother was the heir, his older brother was the spare, and Tyrius, as a third son, was just an inconvenience.

    He was barely twelve when they sent him away to take holy orders. He went to a large and respected pantheonic temple in Istivin, the capital city. He didn’t appreciate how much his family was paying, he only knew that he was not willing to trade his life of privilege for scrubbing floors as a novice. He complained constantly, he got into fights with the other novices, and he had no patrons among the clergy-teachers who were willing to advance his position.

    After several miserable months he was moved to a dedicated temple of Hieroneous. He was somewhat happier there, as at least the drudgery was supplemented with martial training, which he both enjoyed and excelled at. But the clergy there demanded strict obedience and deference, and Tyrius never missed an opportunity to remind the low-born war priests that regardless of his rank within the church, he was still their social better. After he had insulted his trainers one too many times, he was sent to a remote shrine to Pelor, something both he and his trainers considered more of a punishment than anything else. Pelor was a Flan deity for godssake – a god with no noble patrons and no presence at court, a lingering, embarrassing reminder of the conquered aboriginal people and their backward “Old Faith”. When she learned of this latest humiliation, his mother sent Tyrius a final letter – his family had had enough of his foolishness, they were ending his allowance, and they did not want to hear any more from him until he had been made a priest of some faith, any faith.

    The shrine to Pelor, the sun god, was small, with him the only novice among a handful of priests. There was even more manual labor than before – cutting wood, milking goats, dipping candles – but now the brother-priests worked alongside him rather than lording it over him. And as much as he railed at them and cursed his misfortune, they just smiled back. All the other, previous, priests had risen to his challenges, been insulted by his abuse – but these priests of Pelor were so selfless, so effacing. They honestly cared about him and ignored his tirades. Eventually he was intrigued and had to know their secret.

    They explained Pelorian dogma to him: “Justice and freedom are the fruits of charity, modesty, and perseverance. The truly strong don't need to prove their power. Perform so many good acts that evil has no room in which to exist. Pelor’s strength is the power of will and hope, the need to confront evil in the face of insurmountable odds. Be wrathful against the forces of evil, corruption, and darkness, and especially the undead. But remember that excessive attention to things of evil can blind one to more important things: personal compassion and goodness.”

    Tyrius had insulted their race and their low birth; they knew that social place does not bring goodness or happiness. Tyrius had insulted their lack of wisdom and education; they accepted his challenge to their vanity and had compassion for his anger. In the end, they won him over. Their honest desire for goodness in the world, for helping people, seemed more fulfilling to him then the anxious social scrambling of his own noble family. He still had a temper and had many relapses – but every time they forgave him, his faith grew stronger. He studied the dogma and mysteries, learned the healing arts and the arts of righteous warfare, dedicated his time to improving himself and helping others.

    By sixteen he was a man grown and was anointed a paladin of Pelor. He had been in a purifying vigil for a week and had not known of the recent arrival of a curious visitor to the shrine. The pair were a perfect contrast – Tyrius was by now tall and handsome, and had always been worldly and noble-born. The visitor was a stout, grubby dwarf who went everywhere barefoot, had atrocious table manners and who could barely speak Common. When the dwarf introduced himself as “Larrenthal, but you can call me Dirty Larry,” Tyrius was simultaneously appalled and delighted at the chance to put his faith to the test. The Head Priest told Tyrius that the dwarf was to be escorted to the moot of the Great Druidess, deep in the Dreadwood – and that Tyrius himself would be the escort as his first official duty as a paladin.

    His brothers in Pelor had given him just enough food for their journey overland to the headwaters of the Davish river, and just enough coin to book passage for them both in a merchant ship bound for Gradsul. In that great city the brothers of the shrine of Pelor would provide aid for the last leg of the journey.

    Tyrius escorted Larry down the valley into Sterich proper. Every hamlet they passed seemed a city to Larry, and Tyrius came to believe the dwarf truly had been raised in the wild. Finally, in a bustling river-village, Tyrius booked passage on a boat headed downstream. It carried refined ores from the mountain mines and the dense cargo meant there was plenty of deck space for passengers. The captain was a foul and grasping sort, and Tyrius took this as another great test of his faith.

    They had been on the river for just a few days, navigating by day and pulling up at night, for the swift mountain river had many rapids that could only be run in the light, when came a misty morning. The captain advanced the boat slowly in the open river, but then ordered his men to make camp when they spied the first set of rapids. He would pilot it later in the day, he said, when the sun had burned off the mists. Little did he know that this was a favored ambush spot of a band of hobgoblins. They fell upon the camp in the mist and a half-dozen guards were slain in the space of a few minutes. The remaining guards rallied (with help from Tyrius and Larry) and carried the day and the hobgoblins were driven back into the fog.

    But as the mists cleared, there was a curious sight – a towering, barbaric half-orc stood among the slain. He seemed just as surprised to see them as they him, and he drew a huge axe and began to chant. The boat guards surrounded him and readied themselves for another fight. At first, Tyrius prepared to defend his comrades, the ship’s guards, and protect his charge the dwarf. But then the strangest thing happened. Through the grace of Pelor, Tyrius looked upon the half-orc and simply knew that he was not one of the attackers. His mind kept returning to the lessons he had learned about St. Jalnir the Gentle, a half-orc Peloran priest of legend. Tyrius stepped forward. Moving slowly, he approached the man with hands open. Tyrius led him to the river’s edge. He showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and the man said he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the guards; he had arrived after the battle and was just looking for a meal. Tyrius knew that the divine will of Pelor was in this meeting. He explained to the riverboat captain that he was low on guards and should take the man on. The captain claimed the half-orc would slit their throats at the first opportunity. Tyrius vouched for him and pressed the captain on his weak spot – coin. How much would it cost him to replace these guards, simple sellswords who had never been in a battle before today, when he could have this seasoned warrior for free? Eventually the man’s greed won out. He gave the half-orc, Thokk, a berth on the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. The other guards grumbled and cursed the stranger all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more than any of them, their grumbling ceased.

    Perhaps Tyrius had still not learned the humility of a true Peloran. Perhaps he had failed to thank or praise the captain enough for simply doing an adequate job. When the ship emerged from the swamps and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. In Saltmarsh the captain would have to pay the tax for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, and said he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left all the combats behind. Tyrius tried to reason with him, but old habits die hard and their discussion became an argument, the first time Tyrius had raised his voice in years. This resulted in both he and the dwarf being kicked off the boat as well.

    True, they were now only a few leagues from the Dreadwood, but on the wrong side of that vast forest. Tyrius had paid for passage to Gradsul, from where he could take the King’s Road to the northern side of the forest, and there beg an elven guide to the moot of the Great Druidess within. Entering here, on the south side, would mean crossing leagues of dangerous forest infested by humanoids, with no idea of where they were going or how to get there. Tyrius had some coin left in his purse, but he doubted it was enough to book passage for himself on another ship to Gradsul, let alone the three of them. And what was he supposed to do with the half-orc now? He had naively assumed that the captain would have been so pleased with Thokk’s performance in the marshes that he would have taken him on as a paid guard upon reaching Gradsul. But now, he could hardly leave the savage warrior with no means of employment in a peaceful port town - that was surely asking for trouble.

    Tyrius, Larry, and Thokk now stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching their former ship cast off.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:38 pm; edited 2 times in total
    Master Greytalker

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

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    Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:04 am  
    Post 3: Backstory for Thokk

    Post 3: Backstory for Thokk of the Crystalmists, Half-Orc Barbarian, Level 1

    Thokk was born in a powerful orc tribe in the Crystalmist Mountains, although he was not himself an orc. His mother was a human woman, captured by an upstart orc chieftain on the first raid of his rule from among the rare human mountain holds. Most human captives were quickly worked to death, or tortured for entertainment and then eaten, but for some reason the chieftain instead made Thokk’s mother part of his official harem. He was young and brash and claimed that keeping a human enslaved was a sign of his power and prestige, and he was strong enough that no one in his tribe could argue, though the shamans muttered against him. No one expected the woman to live long, but she was of stout mountain folk and survived the petty cruelties of his other concubines without complaint. Much to everyone’s surprise she even bore the chieftain a son before the next winter and it was likely this that ensured her survival. Thokk never knew whether or not the chieftain had any actual feelings for his mother, but he did defend her against his tribe and that is about as tender-hearted as one could expect an orc to be.

    Though far stronger and more precocious than any human child, Thokk lagged behind his orc peers and was considered a runt and a weakling by everyone but his mother. He has no memories before his fifth summer, and looking back now he cannot imagine how she was able to keep him alive. His earliest memory is of his mother presenting him with a simple carven flute, and his next is of being allowed to play for the chieftain. After that he was much at the chieftain’s side, entertaining him and his personal guard as they lounged drowsily after feasts and ruts. Being in his father’s “court” often meant that Thokk had occasion to listen to visiting dignitaries, for his tribe was important, indeed. Goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, even human priests and bandits, all passed through his father’s halls, and Thokk soon found he had a skill with language. By his seventh winter his mother was dead but he had secured a position as his father’s official interpreter.

    Though his growth was slow, he did keep growing, and by ten had even achieved the adult size and strength his peers had reached years ago. He asked to be made one of the tribe, underwent the ritual scarring, and killed a fellow applicant four years his junior with his bare hands as part of the initiation ceremony. The shaman named him “Thokk” after the sound his fists made bashing in the face of his opponent.

    Once he was actually a tribe member, his life became, if not easy, at least relatively free. Sometimes he volunteered for raids, and even won human-crafted weapons as blood booty. More often, though, he preferred solitary hunting, providing game for the chieftain’s household. He was not afraid of the fighting during battles, but he knew he faced as much danger from the tribemates at his back as he did from the enemies at his front - killing him in the confusion of battle would be an easy way to eliminate him. Twice his father sent him as interpreter on diplomatic missions afield – once to a bugbear king, once to human hold. It was on the latter that he was given a hunting trap in the vain hope he would convince his tribe to cease hostilities. Iron, gnome-crafted with a spring mechanism, the trap was finer than anything in the tribe and he concealed it from the others as the most valuable thing he owned. He never used it within less than a day’s journey from the lair.

    Then the day came that he had long dreaded. After a particularly fine feast, a member of the chieftain’s guard slew his aged father and assumed control of the tribe. Along with all the others, Thokk pledged his loyalty to the new chieftain, his own half-brother. He begged leave to go hunting and return with meat as a show of fealty to the new ruler. His request was granted.

    As he packed his few possessions (axes and javelins, a staff and a waterskin) he could already hear members of the chieftain’s guard wagering on how long he would live after his return. With his father dead, all his half-siblings were in danger - but Thokk especially so.

    For the next three days he did not sleep. He first traveled into the mountains to recover his trap, but then pushed east toward the human lands down in the valley. Nowhere was safe for him now within the territory of his erstwhile tribe, but outside its territory, nowhere was safe for a solitary orc. Thokk had fought against enough of his tribe’s respected neighbors to know he did not stand a chance against any of them alone, but his tribe had always derided the humans as soft and weak, so he thought his best chance for solitary survival lay in human lands.

    He skulked among the human holds of the land they called “Sterich” for the next week, moving at night and hiding in the day. He stole chickens and sucked eggs, found a rope and a tinderbox in a barn, and made it as far as the great river his people called the “Dagar” and the humans the “Davish”. He thought it wise to avoid the river as being too well-traveled, but on a cold and misty morning he heard the sounds of battle. Battle meant corpses, which meant he could scavenge gear or a meal or both. After the sounds had died down, he crept forward in the mists. He had just found his first fallen, a human soldier, but had not yet eaten of the corpse when the mists suddenly cleared and he realized he was surrounded by a whole squad of human soldiers. Though they were winded and bloodied, there were still six of them and only one of him. He pulled out his axe and began his death-chant.

    Even as the men began to surround him, the strangest thing happened. A young human man in a white robe, obviously not one of the soldiers, stepped forward. Moving slowly, he approached Thokk with his hands open and empty. Thokk was ready to split his head with the axe and then start on the soldiers, but something about the man’s eyes bewitched him. They looked on him not with the fear and loathing of the soldiers, not with the contempt of his tribemates, but with a concern and compassion he had only ever seen before in the eyes of his mother. Was it his hunger, or his weariness? Thokk did not kill the man, but allowed him to lead him to the river’s edge. The man showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and he surprised the man by speaking Common and answering his questions. No, he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the soldiers; he was just looking for a meal. After that things became surreal as the man began arguing with a riverboat captain. Thokk did not catch much of their shouted, heavily-accented argument, but pieced it together over the next few days. The riverboat was transporting refined metals from a mine in the mountains to a market downriver. The boat had begun with a full complement of guards, but nearly half had been slain by the hobgoblin attack.

    The man, a priest named Tyrius, told the captain that he needed more men to properly defend the barge, and pressed him to accept Thokk into his service. The captain did not trust Thokk further than he could spit, but eventually his greed overcame his common sense. He gave Thokk a berth in the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. The other soldiers grumbled and cursed him all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more foes than any of them, their grumbling ceased.

    Thus it came to everyone’s great surprise that when the ship emerged from the swamp and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. He had just had to pay for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, he said, and he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left the combats behind for good. Tyrius argued with the captain past his patience, which resulted in the priest being told to go ashore as well, along with his odd dwarven ward. Once their argument began, Thokk was able to nick, unseen, a bedroll, backpack, and mess kit from one of the guards, and pass it to a dock worker for “unloading” as if it were his own.

    Now Thokk, the priest, and the hairy dwarf stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching the ship cast off.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:11 pm  
    Post 4: Arrival in Saltmarsh.

    Post 4: Arrival in Saltmarsh

    DM's note 1: Since my players were new to pen & paper RPG, and none of them had experience in Greyhawk, I decided to go with a real world calendar so that they could have a better sense of what time of the year it was without constant cross-referencing.

    DM's note 2: For the town of Saltmarsh, I adapted the map made by Yabusama, available at
    Within Saltmarsh, the bolded location numbers reference this map.

    27 July, 570 (afternoon) - Saltmarsh
    After the stevedores had unloaded their gear (for which Tyrius slipped them a copper each) and they watched their former ship set sail, the trio contemplated what to do next. Or rather, Tyrius contemplated, while Larry and Thokk returned the open stares of the passers-by. The dockworkers seemed rough-and-tumble men, and if they were taken aback by the newcomers in town, they did not let on. The inner harbor, however, was lined with a dirt road that ran all along the shore. Judging by the number of commonfolk stopping and gawking, the town did not see much in the way of half-orcs, grubby dwarves, or noble paladins. It was anyone's guess which of them made the bigger spectacle. Keoish manners seemed to prevail, however, and fortunately all the bystanders did was stop and stare, whisper, and occasionally cuff the bolder children who would have spoken to them had they been permitted.

    With the decision-making left to Tyrius, it seemed meet that they should first thank the gods for their safe arrival. Enough of the commoners sported the dusky hue of the Flan that Tyrius dared ask about a temple to Pelor, but the look he received spoke louder than the answer itself. Overhearing, an old man who sat mending nets nearby said that anyone who had any sense would thank Osprem for a safe arrival after a voyage at sea. He jerked a hand at the back of the harbor, where what was obviously a temple stood overlooking the water (4).

    The temple was of limestone without, decorated here and there with bits of coral. Inside were simple wooden benches without backs for pews, and a stone altar in front of what looked like a marble-lined wading pool that smelled of salt water. No clergy were present, even novices, so Tyrius offered what he hoped was an appropriate prayer. He looked up just in time to stop Thokk from entering the pool. The half-orc was convinced that they should collect the coins and pearls from the pool and use them for drinking money; Tyrius tried to explain to him several times that the valuables there were offerings, not for taking. He finally succeeded in convincing the barbarian not to take anything when he suggested that the treasures belonged to a sea goddess who would be mad when she found them missing, a line of argument that Thokk found reasonable.

    By the time they emerged from the temple, there was a gaggle of town watchmen waiting for them. They were escorted to the Customs House (17) which seemed, to Tyrius' surprise, to be a center for civil governance in the town. A junior customs officer questioned Tyrius at length, establishing that they were not merchants, had nothing of value that they needed to declare (or pay taxes on), and were not mercenaries. Having determined that they were not there on business, the functionary made it plain to them that Saltmarsh had laws against vagrancy - they would need to establish a residence by sundown, and gainful employment within a week. Tyrius replied that he doubted they would be staying that long, and the officer helpfully gave him the names of the three inns in town, as well as a tavern that had a common room. Finally, the officer clarified that as Larry and Thokk were neither humans nor crown subjects, they were legally considered as Tyrius' chattel - meaning that he was responsible for all their actions within the town, and any consequences thereof. Furthermore, the man said that while there was no law against freemen carrying weapons, he had already received several complaints about Thokk and his axes - he advised Tyrius to make sure that the half-orc never drew or brandished his weapons, or they would all face charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, at the very least. Tyrius agreed, but thought to himself that this was not going to be a leisurely sail through the Hool Marshes.

    With so many ways to run afoul of the local law, after they left the customs house Tyrius decided the best thing to do would be to find a room at an inn and placate Thokk with food and drink while he thought about their next move. The Inn of the Merry Mermaid (7) was close at hand, the owner Madam Ruth friendly even after seeing Thokk, the room adequate, the common bed cramped for the three of them but acceptable. Tyrius washed before preparing for supper - the others saw no reason to do so - and then counted the coins remaining in his purse. Not enough for a week's food and lodging, to be sure.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:04 pm  
    Post 5: Backstory for Aurora

    Post 5: Backstory for Aurora of Tringlee, half-elf wizard level 1

    Aurora was born in Tringlee, the capital of the Duchy of Ulek. Her mother was the daughter of a wealthy human merchant, her father an elf. She never knew her father. Her mother spoke fondly enough of him, when her own father was not around. As Aurora had grown from babbling child to discreet young maiden, her mother explained that her father was a soldier, a guard to an elven noble in a delegation to the Duke, on a diplomatic mission that lasted all of one glorious summer. They met, they fell in love, he returned home before either knew she was with child, they never saw each other again.

    When you are older, her mother would say, when you are a young woman, you will understand such affairs of the heart. Why did her mother not go after him? Why did she not write? Why could she not find him? Aurora would ask. Her mother never answered directly, but always with a tale or lesson – about how some parts of the Duchy were forbidden to humans, about how her grandfather was a good man but was still subject to all the prejudices of men, about how she had known more than one person undone by the deaths of their children, and it was a sad truth that Aurora would surely die before her father…always the lesson was different, until Aurora did not know whether the true reason was one of these or some or all or none.

    Aurora grew into a highly intelligent child, and quickly surpassed any tutor that her grandfather could find. She could still remember the day, a month shy of her twelfth birthday, she first saw the mendicant illusionist doing cheap street theatrics in the market square. She had dragged her maid home early from shopping, politely slipped into a business meeting with her grandfather, and announced her intention to be a wizard. His face grew beet red, easy enough with his pale Seul coloring, but then he sighed. “Ah well”, he said simply. “Blood will out.”

    Aurora was apprenticed to a local Master of History and Magic, an ancient human sage with a lifetime appointment to the Duke’s Court, though one without much power or prestige (which was, he told Aurora, just how he preferred it). Like all his apprentices, it seemed she studied just as much history as she did magic, and did more text-copying, book-searching, and scroll filing than anything else. But still, over the years, she had mastered one spell after another, and delighted in practicing them.

    Like all students of history, she knew about the Twin Cataclysms (the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire), which had, a millennium ago, destroyed the two greatest nations the world had ever known, The Suel Imperium and the Baklunish Empire. She could recite several different authoritative texts (and note their contradictions and discrepancies) explaining how the Suel refugees passed over (or under!) the Hellfurnaces and brought human civilization to the east, eventually founding the Kingdom of Keoland. She could add, and in the presence of her master she would always add, how the people’s reaction to the destruction of their homeland by mages of power had led to a great distrust of magic among the populace, and that for the first five or six hundred years of its existence, the practice of magic was in fact forbidden in the Kingdom. And she would add, again at the insistence of her master, how lucky they were to live in an age and in a nation (for the Duchy was once part of the Kingdom, but was now independent) that were both more tolerant of the craft than the Keoland of old.

    One fine day, just a few weeks ago, her master had dismissed the other apprentices and asked Aurora to remain behind. Making sure the doors and windows were closed, he even used a few charms and wards to make absolutely sure they were alone. Given the strange beginning to their conversation, she was at first disappointed when he asked her to recite the texts concerning the migrations of the Seul houses and the founding of Keoland, even more disappointed when he asked her to recite the names of the principle Seul Houses, but she did as he bid.

    “And what became of House Neheli?” he asked.

    She answered by rote. “They founded Niole Dra and are today the most important noble house in the north of the Kingdom.”

    “And House Rhola?”

    “They founded Gradsul and are today the most important noble house in the south of the Kingdom.” She respected him too much to let her boredom enter her tone, but seriously? A private lesson for subject matter known to apprentices before their first week was done?

    “And House Malhel?” And here she paused. She had read this, of course, but had never been asked before.

    “Master, those of House Malhel were wicked and fought against the good Houses. After many battles they were banished from the Kingdom.”

    “Correct. And where did they go?”

    There was a long pause while Aurora searched her memory. “I imagine they dispersed, or died out…I have not read any record of them.”

    “Indeed. A House powerful enough to war upon the Neheli, and they just faded away?”

    “That does not seem likely, but…”

    “But that is what the texts would have us believe. Most of them.”

    Now Aurora had a creeping sensation under her skin and was beginning to think the wards had perhaps been a good idea.

    “Suppose,” continued her master, “they did not die out. Not at first anyway. Conjecture,” he demanded.

    “Well, they had the hubris to war upon the Neheli, thus they must have been both proud and powerful. Such people are unlikely to give up after a setback. While they could have fled, migrated out of the Sheldomar, it seems unlikely. More likely they would have withdrawn, regrouped, and planned revenge.”

    “Precisely,” her master said, pleased. “Logic is one of your most important tools, don’t forget that. So why do you suppose you have not seen any records of this?”

    “Because they didn’t regroup? Something else ended them before they could?”

    “Perhaps, or perhaps they did persist…and any record of their defiance has been destroyed, eliminated, or altered.”

    Now Aurora did not know what to say. Her master had instilled in her a reverence for history so profound that at first all she could feel was aghast at the crime against truth. But then, slowly, it dawned on her…who would have the power to make sure that this history was not known…and what else could someone with that power do? She thought of her master’s wards and shivered.

    The old sage lowered his voice to a whisper. “I believe I have uncovered an unedited text, describing how House Malhel retreated to the Dreadwood Forest, and from there planned their revenge. I have another text, very rare but likely authentic, claiming that the Mahlhel were powerful spellcasters, even while the Neheli and Rhola sought to ban magic. I will not tell you the names or locations of these texts, for your protection, and mine, and theirs. If I were a younger man, I would investigate this myself. You are my best student at the moment. I am charging you with learning more.”

    Aurora looked at the old man, shocked. “Master, you want me to…”

    “Travel to the Dreadwood, and see what you can find. Ruins, stories, texts, tales, anything. Most likely you will find nothing. But if I am correct, someone will find you. Someone will appear and, in the most delicate way, attempt to ascertain what you are doing and steer you away from any discoveries. And that is what we are after. I don’t expect you to find proof that the Malhel were in the Dreadwood. But if you can find proof that someone does not want us to know, then we will be sure that I am on the right track.”

    “Master, you honor me with your trust, but this sounds dangerous, and I am just an apprentice.”

    “No, Aurora, you are no longer an apprentice. Consider yourself a journeywoman, as of today. You have earned it. As to the danger, well, certainly there is plenty of physical danger in the Dreadwood. You will need to be ready for that. I suggest you get as close as you can safely, and then recruit a group of sellswords who fancy themselves heroes – what is it they call themselves? Ah yes; ‘adventures’. With your wit and charm I am sure you can convince them to go looking for treasure in the forest. But the true danger lies not in mindless monsters, but in whoever is protecting this information. And there you are safer than I, I suspect, or I would never send you. Should I, a Master of History, go poking about the forest, I am sure it would be immediately noted and defenses would be put into place. But you are a young, inexperienced wizard, seeing the world, seeking adventure…what do you know of possible hunting grounds for ancient, forbidden magic referenced only in the most esoteric texts accessible to a handful of academics?”

    “But Master, you have warned me many times against appearing as a wizard in Keoland.”

    “True enough, the common folk still harbor many superstitions about our craft. To the commoners you should appear as merely a scholar. But the more astute and discerning must not know you are interested in history, must instead perceive that you are a simple freemage looking for fortune, not a threat to their secret histories. Only you and I must be aware of your actual mission.”

    “So I must be an historian pretending to be a wizard pretending to be a scholar?”

    The old man smiled deeply. “As I said, Aurora, you are my best student.”

    Over the next several days they made their plans. Her master gave her advice on what to buy, what to bring, and what prices to pay. He told her not to take just any adventuring group, but to test them first. Would they be strong enough? Would they be easily manipulated into doing her will, all the while thinking it was theirs?

    He cautioned her against having another arcane caster, or anyone with too high an intelligence, in the group. He told her not to head straight for the Dreadwood, but to have a few preliminary adventures first, both to gain experience herself and to avoid suspicion. When she felt confident with a group she trusted, she could steer them to the forest, all the while making it seem like she was merely agreeing with their idea of what to do next. He told her that the northern Dreadwood was under elven control, and that the elves were surely in the pocket of the Kingdom and would
    report any investigations and block any discoveries. Far better she try the dangerous and unexplored south if she was to have any chance of either a real find or of drawing out those who did not wish to see her find anything.

    On the day before her departure, as she was cleaning out her desk area in the master’s tower, he burst upon her excitedly with a letter in his hand. “It is done!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to explain that he had petitioned a friend of a friend to provide her a dedicated guard, someone she could trust beyond a mere adventuring oath. He was an elf of the Silverwood, and would join her when her ship made port in Kewlbanks.

    The next day she bid goodbye to her mother, her grandfather, and his staff, and boarded the ship on the Kewl. It was a passenger vessel, and while she did not have a private cabin, she did share a bunking room with other young ladies, mostly those going to court in Gradsul. It took a bit more than a day to get to Kewlbanks, and as promised, the guard was waiting for her there.

    He was not at all as she expected. Aurora had known many elves in Tringlee, and all were bright, curious, open beings – free and polite in speech, forward in questioning, and firm in friendship. This one, Babshapka by name, was the polar opposite. After confirming that she was indeed his charge, he had practically ignored her as he boarded the boat and stowed his gear. He asked her no questions and responded to hers with the bare minimum of answers. True, he did look capable enough, with his massive unstrung longbow, and twin shortsword sheaths crossed across his back.

    His traveling cloak was heavy and his boots worn. She was sure he would be both skilled in woodcraft and at guarding her person, but he acted as if conversation was a more serious threat. Even when she addressed him in her best Elven he seemed offended.

    All the next day they sailed downriver, with the green-grey Silverwood on their right and the farms and fields of the County of Ulek on their left. Babshapka leaned against the rail, watching the forest roll past as if in a trance. The next day they reached Junre early and spent the rest of the day in port – her guard remained sullen and distant. The day after they set sail again, soon reaching the confluence of the Kewl with the mighty Sheldomar. At last he seemed more personable, and even willing to exchange a few words with her on the two-day journey to Gradsul.

    Gradsul was the final destination of their passenger vessel, and it was from this point on that Aurora was fully in charge of the expedition (all previous arrangements having been made by her master). Of course, passenger ships did not exist on the Azure Sea (at least not commercial ones – the pleasure yachts of nobles being the exception, but those were not for hire). Her first order of business was finding a merchant vessel that would take passengers. She had thought the matter simply one of coin, but soon found two impediments.

    First, ships sailed with only a limited number of berths, and these were always filled. Out on the seas, after the death of a sailor, there were often free spaces – but ships left Gradsul fully manned. Second, most of the captains she talked with actually spoke, in serious tones, about the bad luck involved in having a woman aboard ship! “Best not to offend the Lady of the Waves,” they would say, or “Osprem is a jealous goddess, love.” After a full day at the docks she had not managed to find a passage anywhere, and was forced to use much of the meager allowance her master had given her on a second night at the inn.

    She sought to rouse her guard early the next day, but found him already in the common room downstairs. Determined to find passage, she arrived at the docks before any of the ships had left and immediately began harassing captains from one end of the quay to the other, with no different results than the previous day. Having been turned down yet again, she thought her patience was at an end, when a voice from beside the latest captain said, “Hold now, Cap’n, surely we can make things right for such a charming lass?”

    What followed was a rather spirited discussion in sea slang between the human captain of the vessel and a most curious hobniz sailor. She did not follow most of it, but as an end result the captain acceded to taking her and her guard on board, for nearly the entire sum she had remaining to her name.

    In the week that followed, she learned many things about the ship, its crew, and the hobniz Barnabus. Almost too much about him, in particular, as he claimed to be enraptured by her beauty. To her surprise he was not a sailor after all, but an entertainer – or, he preferred to say, “a good luck token”. He did no real work on the ship, but sang often, played the hornpipe, and if the weather was fair, his lute. It seemed the sailors were a superstitious lot and believed, almost to a man, that Barnabus brought them luck. Certainly he seemed lucky enough, for he won coin nearly every night in the games of dice or cards that took place below decks. Aurora was not permitted to see these but Babshapka reported, tersely, to her. Aurora herself got to stay in a cabin, small and cramped, but private. It turned out that Barnabus had won a week’s stay in the cabin from a foolish first mate and had been waiting for just such an opportunity to cash in his debt. Many of his songs were simple sea shanties to help the sailors work, but he also played her love ballads and, whenever the captain came round, he sang to the sea itself, or as he claimed, to the goddess Osprem, placating her jealousy over having Aurora on board.

    The ship was bound for Torvin with a cargo of hoes, plows, sickles, machinery, spirits, medicine, cloth, clothes, boots, and various and sundry other goods in demand on the plantations of the Sea Princes. Few ships sailed west, for it went against current and often against wind, so they had been lucky in that regard. When Aurora had made plans with her master, they had considered the two ports south of the Dreadwood – Anglar and Seaton, and had decided upon Seaton. Though father from the forest it was larger and would give her more chance to assemble the team she needed without drawing immediate suspicion. Thus she had told the captain that they would disembark when the ship took on fresh water in Seaton. But when, a week into their voyage, they rounded Cape Salinmoor the captain told them that the wind was not right and that he would be making port in Saltmarsh instead, a small fishing village rather than the county seat. She did not have near enough coin to make him change his mind and by this point Barnabus, tired of her rebuffs to his advances, did not seem interested in interceding on her behalf. Curiously, he did bid farewell to his shipmates and told them that he would be going ashore for a bit to spend their wages.

    As evening falls, Aurora, Babshapka, and Barnabus stand on the docks of Saltmarsh.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:38 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:41 am  
    Post 6: Backstory for Babshapka

    Post 6: Backstory for Babshapka, wood elf ranger, level 1
    A thousand years ago, in the time of Babshapka’s great-grandparents, the Elven Kingdom of Celene ruled nearly a quarter of the subcontinent of the Flanaess. A huge forest filled the entire Sheldomar Valley, and extended unbroken from the mountains in the west to the sea in the east. There were a few foul monsters lurking in the darkest corners of the forest, but the realm of the Elven King was peaceful and prosperous. The elves had as much time for feasts as they did for hunting, spent as much time in song as they did in scouting. They learned from nature and celebrated life. The elven gods walked on the Oerth and took communion with their followers. There were humans in the open plains of the Flanaess, the primitive but kindly Flan. They avoided the elves, avoided the forests, and were of little concern.

    Then, over the mountains to the west, two huge and powerful human states began to war. Amid a cycle of escalating bloodiness, their greatest spellcasters called down ever more powerful curses upon one another, until finally both nations were destroyed and their lands turned into ash in the Twin Cataclysms. Hundreds of thousands perished, but tens of thousands crossed the mountains and entered the Flanaess as refugees. In mercy for what they had suffered, the Elven King allowed the humans to enter his kingdom.

    Almost immediately, the humans began to multiply. They cut down the forests to make their farms, they bred like locusts, and they continued to war amongst themselves. They enslaved the native Flan people and declared themselves Kings, ignoring the rightful claim of the Elven King. Humanoids, chiefly orcs and goblins, had been used by the humans as mercenaries, and they too fled the destruction of the western lands and came to the realm of the elves.

    By 750 years ago, the time of Babshapka’s grandparents, the “Kingdom of Keoland” was established and had driven a wedge between the forests of the west and the forests of the east, right along the Sheldomar River. No longer could the elves roam freely in their hunts. Every year humans ate away at the edges of the forest in their insatiable appetite for land. With the forces of the Elven King hindered in their movements, the old humanoids of the mountains and fens joined with the newcomers and grew quickly in number.

    By 500 years ago, in the time of Babshapka’s parents, the humans of the Kingdom of Keoland had established or conquered all of the nearby states, and the great Elven Kingdom was no more. An elven queen now held rule in Celene, but all throughout the Sheldomar Valley were isolated forests, with communities cut off from her lands. Keoland took to the sea and began exploring, conquering, and pillaging all along the coasts. The humanoids had swollen still further in numbers, and combined into nations and tribes of their own, growing bold and aggressive.

    Babshapka was born a scant 250 years ago, and is still quite young. He was born at the time of the greatest power and largest extent of Keoland. Within his lifetime he has seen the outer dependencies of the Kingdom struggle for, and eventually win, their sovereignty. Thousands of humanoids emerged from the mountains in a series of campaigns called “The Hateful Wars”. Most importantly, the King of Keoland was forced to recognize the nation of Celene and the right of the Elven Queen to rule. Fearing her power, Keoland created the Ulek States; the Duchy, County, and Principality on its eastern border. When Babshapka was born in the Silverwood Forest, Keoland claimed his home as part of its nation. Today, the land is considered part of the Duchy of Ulek, and is ruled by elven nobles who are independent, but still favor Keoland.

    And that is the problem. Too many elves have compromised with the Kingdom of Keoland. Rather than fight for Celene, they have accepted their new state. Rather than push the humans out, they have collaborated with them.

    Babshapka comes from deep in the Silverwood, in the part where humans are still not allowed, and that suits him fine. He had an idyllic life – chief huntsman for his village, respected by his peers, staunch warrior against humanoids on occasion but mostly free to live, sing, feast, dance, and hunt.

    And then, less than a small moon ago, all of that changed. His village is beholden to an elven noble, and that noble called for a ranger. Someone to serve as a guide, guard, and protector to a half-elven child of the Duchy. Babshapka did not volunteer. And yet he was selected. It was an unwanted honor.

    Babshapka gathered all his possessions and bid farewell to his villagemates. He traveled to the town of Kewlbanks and there met the riverboat with the half-elf on it. She was fair of face, but innocent and raised by humans. She spoke at length of history but never mentioned how the humans had destroyed the great Elven Kingdom. She talked incessantly at him, even over the next two days, as he was silently singing his song of farewell to the Silverwood, his only home. He will serve her faithfully, protect her as required by honor, but he does not have to like her.

    Things were easier after they passed Junre and he had the excitement of seeing new lands instead of mourning the loss of his home. The next day they reached the confluence of the Kewl with the mighty Sheldomar.

    Gradsul was the final destination of their passenger vessel. There, the woman spent two days wandering up and down the docks before she finally found them passage on a merchant vessel. They spent a week on the ship. A strange Halfling, too interested in the woman for his own good, gave her his cabin; Babshapka slept in a hammock among the reeking sailors.

    The woman had told the ship’s captain to let them off in the town of Seaton, but he chose to have them depart in Saltmarsh instead. As evening falls, Babshapka, the woman, and the halfling stand on the docks of Saltmarsh.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Sat Mar 24, 2018 4:41 pm  
    Post 7: Backstory for Barnabus

    Post 7: Backstory for Barnabus, halfling rogue, Level 1

    Barnabus was born to a solid farming family of halflings on a pipeweed plantation in the Hold of the Sea Princes. As a child, he didn’t question their labors much, but he was not far into adolescence when he decided it wasn’t for him. The halfling community as a whole had a fair agreement with the noble human landowner – protection in return for a share of the crop sold at market. And they weren’t treated poorly – certainly not as poorly as the human slaves on other plantations nearby. It wasn’t even that the work was long and hard (although it was). Really, it was that it was boring. Monotonous, even. Barnabus’ parents, like all good halflings, valued security and comfort over most anything else, but he had always felt that excitement and freedom were worth a little discomfort and danger. This attitude brought him into conflict with his parents and the larger halfling community with greater and greater frequency as he grew.

    Finally, he decided to run away to “the city” – in his youthful naivety, Mantan being the only city he knew. It didn’t take him long to run out of coin, and he soon found himself hiding on a ship to escape an angry innkeeper. When the ship sailed with him on it, he became a cabin boy. Humans always seemed unsure of the age of a halfling, due to their small size, and a halfling with any cleverness could quickly convince a human that he was a child or a man grown as he desired.

    Barnabus liked just about everything about the seafaring life. He liked the colorful language, the interesting men, their stories and songs, the fascinating destinations, each different than the last. He didn’t like the buggery. All the other duties of being a cabin boy were easy, but he drew the line when he learned about that and immediately explained that he was a man grown after all. That put him in a difficult position, halfway through his first voyage. If he were a man, why then he was expected to do a man’s work on the ship – and though he was as strong as any of the human men, he did not have the size to go into the rigging, the weight to haul lines, and so forth. And if he couldn’t do a sailing man’s work by day, and he wouldn’t do the night work of a cabin boy, then what good was he? Well, he could play, he thought, for he had always been considered a good player, both for work songs and in worship on the plantation. With borrowed hornpipes he performed the pieces he knew, and set about learning those of the sailors. His efforts mollified the sailors themselves, but the officers told him he would have to pay for his passage. He had always been a bit of a card sharp, and he found the sailors such easy marks that by the end of the voyage he had enough coin to pay his passage and had a number of sailors praising his luck.

    Over the next few years he perfected this craft, and saved enough to buy a quality lute. He has performed at port towns all over the Azure Sea, and finds it easy to earn coin enough for meals and lodging wherever he goes. Sometimes on a bad night or with a sullen crowd he doesn’t get much, but a quick dip in the pockets of the drunkenmost patrons usually does the trick. When he has “played out” a port (or has received a visit from the local Thieves’ Guild demanding a membership fee and a cut of his take), he finds passage on a ship to somewhere new. He hasn’t paid for passage in quite some time; he now convinces the sailors that his songs to Osprem, the Lady of the Waves, can bring good luck and good weather and is offered his berth for free and meals as well more often than not. If there are those aboard who don’t believe in his luck, a few games of cards or dice can soon convince them.

    Barnabus’ life has thus unfolded quite pleasantly and he has few complaints about his lot. A week ago things looked even more pleasant. He was on a merchant ship in the docks of Gradsul when he discovered a breathtakingly gorgeous half-elven woman attempting to book passage on his ship! The Captain was denying her for obvious reasons – the bad luck of having a woman on board, and the practical consideration of not having a private berth for her. Barnabus convinced the Captain that he could solve both difficulties. He had previously won a week’s stay in the cabin of a foolish first mate and had been waiting for just such an opportunity to cash in his mark, and he eagerly offered that to the woman, one Aurora by name. As to the other, Barnabus promised to sing twice as much to Osprem on this leg of the voyage as he had previously, and to gamble only half as much, so as to not use up his luck. When the Captain accepted the woman on board, Barnabus’ heart lifted.

    The wind changed when he realized that the woman brought with her a wood elf bodyguard. Though there seemed to be nothing between them (in fact he seldom spoke to her), his constant vigilant presence put Barnabus off his game. And though he worked the entire next week on her, using all his best ballads, she refused to yield so much as a kiss or even a sigh! After several days, some of the sailors were even starting to doubt his luck. “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love…” they said helpfully, but he was unnerved and once they almost caught him cheating! Him! He never got caught!

    When the woman and her guard put ashore in Saltmarsh, he decided he would have to go with her. If the sailors saw her leave unconquered, they would doubt his abilities for the rest of the voyage. If he left with her, he could (and did) tell them that she was insisting they take to the privacy of the land to seal the deal. As far as his own affections, well – he would give her one more chance before denouncing her as a stone-hearted ingrate. Perhaps it was the close quarters and watchful eyes of the ship that was fueling her resistance, and he would find his fortune on land. If he could just get her away from that damnable wood elf!

    As evening falls, Aurora, Babshapka, and Barnabus stand on the docks of Saltmarsh.[/i][/b]
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:37 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:18 am  
    Post 8: Arrival in Saltmarsh (reprise)

    Post 8: Arrival in Saltmarsh (reprise)

    27 July, 570 (evening) - Saltmarsh

    In the gathering dusk, the setting sun reflecting off the Azure Sea, a cool salt breeze blowing over the docks, the town of Saltmarsh seems picturesque to Aurora, and she resolves to be unperturbed that it is not Seaton as she had planned. Her Master sent her because he trusted her to resolve just such difficulties, after all.

    By the time the three of them have gathered their gear and walked the gangplank to the dock, the Captain and Mate are engaged in conversation with a local customs officer, assuring him that they will not be unloading any goods and will only be taking on water, as soon in the morning as he can arrange, and paying with crowns of the realm. The officer is briefly distracted by the appearance of the trio, but after a word or two from the Captain, assuring him that they are passengers only, he waves them on distractedly and resumes his conversation. Most of the ship’s crew is lined up along the sheer strake, waiting to see whether they will be granted shore leave. When Aurora’s back is to them, Barnabus catches the crew’s attention and makes a lewd gesture, suggesting that he will indeed have her soon enough, and there is a laughing cheer in response.

    The streets are deserted; apparently the good folk of Saltmarsh have gone to their homes to take their evening meals and only stray dogs and cats prowl the docks, sniffing out the offal from the day’s gutted fish. In the town, lights fill the windows one by one as candles and lanterns are lit, and the sea air mixes with the scents of dozens of hearths. At the end of the dock a single human figure, a man dressed in brown robes, stands, as if awaiting them.

    As they draw closer, the man welcomes them to Saltmarsh, and says that he is “Flern, priest of Fharlanghn.”

    “A priest, excellent!” responds Aurora, and immediately begins a barrage of questions. “Do you have a temple in town? Can we stay there? Can we use it as a base of operations? Can you sell us healing potions…”

    The man holds up his hand and laughs good naturedly, more amused at her impertinence than offended. “No, no,” he says, “I have no kirk in town, neither temple nor chapel nor shrine, and nothing to sell you. My order exists to help travelers.”

    Barnabus suspiciously eyes the simple wooden bowl the man carries on his hip. “It looks like your order exists to beg.”

    The man smiles again, though this one is a little more forced. “I am a mendicant priest, yes, as there is not a local endowment for my order. Nevertheless, I help travelers such as yourselves. What do you wish to know about Saltmarsh, where do you wish to go?”

    “Know?” ponders Aurora. “What great deeds need to be done? What wrongs need to be righted? Who is in danger here that we can…”

    The man laughs again. “At sundown in sleepy Saltmarsh? The only ones in danger here are you, in danger of being arrested for vagrancy if you do not find a place to stay for the night. Let me right that wrong and I will take you to an inn. We can count that as my great deed for the day.”

    Flern leads the trio along the shore of the inner harbor. He does not have to work to avoid most of Aurora’s questions, since she keeps asking another before he can answer the first. They turn right at a crossroads and come to a solid, two-story building with a hanging sign showing a mermaid (7). “The Merry Mermaid,” says Flern. “Best inn in Saltmarsh.”

    Inside is a cramped common room, most of the first floor space apparently being taken up by the kitchen, and a steep stairway to the guest rooms above. At a rough wooden table a strange trio sits supping; a golden-haired man whose fine robes bespeak noble birth, a dirty dwarf in course traveling clothes, and a huge half-orc who might be naked, for he is bare from head to below the table he sits at. As Babshapka enters the room, the half-orc stands and his hand goes to a huge axe strapped to his bare back. Now that he is standing, they can see that he is indeed clothed, in a dirty loincloth that covers little more than his privates. The nobleman speaks soothingly to him, lays his hand on the brute’s shoulder, and eventually he releases his hold on the axe and resumes eating.

    A door to the kitchen bursts open, and a matron enters with a platter and three mugs of ale. She smiles broadly at the trio of potential customers and nods at Flern.

    Barnabus looks at those at the table, then at the ample-figured, middle-aged hostess. “Yes, well, I’m for the tavern,” he says, and turns for the door, pushing past Flern. He pauses, turns back, and stares suggestively at Aurora. “You really should come and catch my full repertoire,” he says, “It is much more refined than anything I play on ship.” He then leaves.

    Aurora speaks with the matron (Ruth) and arranges the let of a room with a single bed for herself and a chair for Babshapka to trance in. She orders dinner for herself and the wood elf, thanks Flern, and sits down at the table to meet the others, who look as much as anything like candidates for her new adventuring group.

    In the meantime, Barnabus has no trouble finding the the tavern (12). Although it is three blocks to the west, the noise of a boisterous crowd is unmistakable in the quiet streets of the town. It has been quite some time since he has been in a town as small as Saltmarsh, and the tavernkeep is dubious when he offers to sing in return for supper, drinks, and tips. “I’m Barnabus the minstrel,” he says reassuringly, “known in every port of the Azure Sea, and this is my standard deal.”

    “Well, I don’ know ye,” responds the tavernkeep sourly. Barnabus finally convinces him when the crew of his former ship begin to arrive and greet him by name. Soon even the locals are joining the seamen in calling for the halfling to sing, and the tavernkeep relents. By evening’s end, as the last drunken sailor is staggering from the tavern, supported by an equally-drunk shipmate, Barnabus is working on a plate of cold mutton. The singing was a success, of course, such a small town rarely hears an entertainer of his quality, and he has a pouchful of copper sparrows more than he came in with. But the vexing half-elf woman never came. Damned if he is going back to the “Merry Mermaid” without her invitation, and fie on her! Besides, he saw the look exchanged between the “priest” Flern and Matron Ruth when he arrived. Obviously the “priest” is hustling customers for the woman. “Finest inn in Saltmarsh”, my hairy halfling ****, he thinks. There was some highlands they passed at the harbor entrance with merchant warehouses and fine craftsmen’s shops - Barnabus would wager more than his bag of coppers that there is a better inn there. He bids goodnight to the tavernkeep and gives a salacious look at his daughter, a serving wench (why did he waste the night waiting for Aurora, instead of working his charms on her?), and steps out into the cool night air. His head is heavy with ale, but he manages to find the inn alright - “The Full Moon,” (19) it is called. He has to knock hard to rouse the innkeep, but he gets a private room with a bath, better than anything the fools at the Mermaid will have tonight.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Sun May 17, 2020 11:19 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Mon Apr 09, 2018 1:13 pm  
    Post 9 - The call to adventure

    [DM's note: For the town of Saltmarsh, I adapted the map made by Yabusama, available at Within Saltmarsh, the bolded location numbers reference this map.]

    Post 9 - The Call to Adventure

    28 July, 570 (morning) - Saltmarsh

    Tyrius, Thokk, Larry, and Aurora are awoken by the smell of fresh bread and batter-fried fish. Babshapka has been awake for hours, having tranced early in the night. He has spent the time since seated near the open window of his and Aurora’s bedroom, staring out over the town.

    At breakfast, Aurora continues the discussion begun the night before, sharing stories and inching closer to a formal resolution that they will indeed form an adventuring company. Tyrius is reluctant to commit to anything long-term, as his goal is still to get Larry to the Moot of the Great Druid, but he recognizes that he will need coin to do that - and if these two others want to help him get that coin by doing good deeds, so much the better. They are still talking when visitors arrive - Lieutenant Dan of the town watch, and several of the watchmen that Tyrius encountered the previous day. Dan is meeting all of them for the first time, as well as verifying that they have found honest lodgings, are paying Ruth with good coin, understand that they now have six days to find employment or a patron, and understand that violence of any kind, including drawing weapons or threatening the townsfolk, will not be tolerated. Tyrius is serious but charming, and reassures Dan on every point.

    Aurora introduces herself as a scholar from Ulek, and invites Dan to tell them something of the local history of Saltmarsh. She says she is especially interested in current and perennial threats to the town, and how the brave men of the watch have dealt with them. Dan says that there really are no current threats to the town itself, and the efforts of the watch (under his leadership), mean that the townsfolk are quite safe. Historically, of course, there have been incursions of marsh orcs, there have been curses from the occasional bog witch, there have been goblin raids from the Dreadwood. Even at present, pirates on the Azure Sea are always a concern, but they do not menace the town itself. As a scholar, he says, Aurora has no doubt heard of the Long Summer, some 15 years ago, when the flickers came out of the marshes in the north and burnt and pillaged all up and down the Javan.

    “Of course, of course,” says Aurora, “but are there not any more contemporary concerns for you brave men?”

    No, says Dan. Under his watchful eye, Saltmarsh is peaceful and prosperous. And, he adds with just a bit too much emphasis, he intends to keep it that way, so if this group is composed of would-be-heroes, they will find nothing to interest them hereabouts, and really should clear off sooner rather than later.

    After Dan’s departure, Aurora puts the same questions to Ruth, hoping that the Lieutenant is hiding something, but her answers are nearly identical to his - except for the part about clearing off. Ruth is more than happy to accept their coin and they are welcome to stay at the Merry Mermaid as long as they would like.

    After breakfast, the group of five leaves the Mermaid and sets out to explore the town. They quickly find the Lord’s Marketplace (25), an open-air collection of stalls with people of all sorts buying and bartering for the dozens of different supplies and luxuries available in a town of this size. Aurora seizes upon the opportunity to talk to more than a score of stallkeepers and customers, asking each of them in turn the same questions about threats to the town, while she pretends to be interested in the wares on display. Babshapka trails her silently, his sharp eyes on the people around her and how they are reacting rather than the conversants themselves. The conversations are similar - though some sellers emphasize the orcs more (especially when Thokk lumbers by), and others the bog witches, and others the goblins, flickers, or pirates; the litany of villians is the same, without anyone naming a clear and present threat to the town.

    For his part, Tyrius is organizing the purchase of various supplies the group will need if they are to leave town together. Does everyone have a waterskin? A bedroll? Is there enough cheese and hardtack for a week at least? His purchases are careful, but also occur slowly as he spends as much time keeping Thokk and Larry out of trouble as he does negotiating trades.

    Eventually they come upon Barnabus, himself wandering the stalls. By way of greeting, the halfling mentions offhand that after a rousing performance in the tavern, he retired to a fine inn with a bath and a feather pillow. He hopes, of course, that their accommodations in the Mermaid were as comfortable as his. Aurora tells him that she has joined forces with Tyrius, Thokk, and Larry, and that there is room for him on their adventuring team if he desires.

    “Team with you?” he begins loudly. “I wouldn’t…” he pauses, his previously planned speech for denouncing her for all the marketplace to hear as a shrill and fickle harpy stalling on his tongue. Everyone knows about adventuring groups, of course. They merely set foot outside town and fissures in the earth open for them, leading to caves with monsters and treasures. If these fools want to tackle the monsters, he doesn’t mind a share of the treasures. It is said that adventurers even have magic items thrown at them by the denizens of the darkness. For some useful magic items, he can swallow his pride and suffer this annoying temptress. Barnabus’ pride is strong, his lust stronger, but it is his greed that is strongest still. “I wouldn’t want to refuse such a potentially lucrative venture. At least not until the next ship comes to town.”

    Aurora tries a few more stalls, but gets nowhere. All along, she has also been asking about who sells magical supplies, such as potions of healing, as well as quality incense (that she might use in her find familiar spell, although she does not mention that last part). Most of the townsfolk stiffen at the mention of magic, and a few even make signs to ward off evil. Some of the more trusting sorts take her “potions of healing” to mean herbal remedies, and point her in the direction of the town’s herbalist, which lies across the commons from the marketplace.

    When Tyrius has conferred with Barnabus and declared that their party is fully equipped for travel, and Aurora has not gotten a single lead for a potential adventure or magic component for sale, they leave the marketplace and start heading across the commons. The grass is a lush green but close-cropped, for knots of sheet and goats graze here and there. Curiously, as they begin to walk across the grass, Aurora notices a throng of children leaving the marketplace and following them at a distance. When she comments on it, Babshapka sighs. Speaking for the first time that day, he says, “They have been following us ever since we entered the market. We have attracted every guttersnipe in the town.”

    The herbalist’s shop stands on the other side of the road from a much larger building of strange construction. It is all of wood, with a lower story and a roofless upper level. Both levels are without walls, with large timber support columns and beams so that the whole structure is open to the elements except that the floor of the upper level forms the ceiling of the lower. A railingless spiral stair is made by narrow planks set into a vertical post in the center of the lower level and ascending to a trapdoor.

    Behind the building and perpendicular to it are a series of bound straw bales covered in lime - apparently archery targets for the town watch or whomever else practices with a bow hereabouts. There is a single crude, scarecrow-like manikin as well, dented and scratched. A small shed behind the building is roofed and has three walls, but one open side reveals several cut yew boughs curing.

    As they get still closer, they can spy wooden frames set with cressets on both the lower and upper stories of the open building, and Tyrius is the first to take them for altars, and the whole building a temple of some kind. Since all the walls are open, there does not appear to be an “entrance” per se, but he leads them around to the side nearest the road for formality’s sake. Just then a man emerges from a small dwelling next to the temple, a house they later learn is the temple’s rectory. The man is dressed oddly, in loose breeches but no shirt. He does, however, wear a light linen cape. Undoubtedly his odd style is comfortable on this hot midsummer’s day, but it seems awfully immodest for local mores - other than Thokk, they have seen no-one bare-chested in town but babes. The man’s pale skin is covered in freckles, particularly his broad shoulders and face.

    The man introduces himself as Aeravis, priest of Phaulkon. He confirms that the building is the Temple of Phaulkon (21), or as he calls it, the Aerie. In response to Aurora’s questioning, he explains that while he is a priest, he does not have potions of healing for sale. If someone was wounded, he would be able to administer a cure in exchange for a suitable donation. When asked about incense, he says that he does have some, but it is for use during services - he does not have extra for sale, and it is hard to come by in the small town. The next time a merchant ship makes port with some on board, if Aurora is still in town, he will let her know. When she mentions Flern, he chuckles. “That ne'er-do-well? Let’s just say that some of us worship the wind, and some of us are blown by the wind from town to town. I wouldn’t get accustomed to seeing him around, if I were you.” Aurora asks him about threats to the town, and he replies with the same litany as the others, but adds one more. “The greatest threat here is complacency, of course. It has been peaceful so long that it is hard to get these staid townsfolk to prepare for danger. Look at yon gaggle of followers you have attracted,” he says and points to the children, most now sitting in the shade of the bow shack or the practice targets, but still watching the party. “Why, there’s at least two of of those strapping lads strong enough to string a bow, but do they come to practice of a week? No, the lazy urchins. Why don’t you ask them what threats they face? Most like their father’s belt is the only thing they ever were afeared of.”

    Aurora laughs derisively, but Tyrius looks inspired. He takes out his brightest copper coin, then begins tossing and catching it so that it glints in the sun. Once he has attracted the attention of the youths he ambles slowly over to them. “We don’t need to be chasing boggarts,” Aurora calls after him, but Tyrius ignores her. Aurora crosses the street but finds the door to the herbalist’s shop (22) closed.

    “Out gathering herbs,” calls Aeravis and shrugs.

    Tyrius greets the children with a toss of his long golden hair, and one of them, apparently a girl beneath the street dust and scabbed knees, blushes. “So, I have a game for you,” he says in perfect Keoish, but his northern accent sounding exotic to their ears.

    “A game?” they respond in chorus, some eagerly and some with suspicion.

    “The game is this - I ask you a question, and if you answer truthfully, you get a copper sparrow.” The youngest of the children begin jumping, begging to be chosen, but the largest boy turns on them, brandishes his fist, and they sit down sullenly. He turns back around to Tyrius.

    “Ain’t nothin’ fer free,” he says. “What’s ther catch?”

    “The catch is this,” smiles Tyrius. “I am a servant of the sun god,” and he points up at the disk of the sun, now almost directly overhead. “If you take my coin and lie to me, you’ll have Him to reckon with.” The boy snorts - but he doesn’t offer to play. Sensing the restlessness of his band, though, he waves another boy foreward, smaller than him, but still one of the largest present.

    “I’ll play,” says the youth.

    “Allright,” says Tyrius, and holds forth, but does not release, the coin. “Here is my question - What is it you fear the most?”

    “Me Pa, when he’s been in the cups!” the boy says without hesitation. A roar of laughter goes up from the children. Tyrius smiles and hands the boy the coin. He is instantly mobbed by children all trying to see if it is real. He bites it and grins.

    Tyrius fixes his gaze upon the girl, and draws forth another copper from his pouch. “And you, young miss, what is it you fear?”

    “I ain’t afeared o’ nothin’,” she says defiantly, and then, when a nearby boy sniggers, she shoves him so hard he falls to the ground.

    Tyrius closes his hand about the coin and frowns. “The coin is only for those who tell the truth,” he says, “those are my rules, and the rules of Holy Pelor.”

    The girl stares at her feet. “Malenxa, the bog witch,” she whispers, and a few of the children shudder. Tyrius tosses the copper at where her gaze is fixed on the ground. She snatches the coin up, then takes off at a run across the commons.

    “I bet she be goin’ ter buy sweets!” says one of the smaller boys jealously.

    “Nah,” says another. “She be buyin’ milk fer her baby sister. Her ma’s done gone dry an’ don’t her sister holler all night!” That gets laughter as well.

    Tyrius points at another youth, one of the smaller lads. He pulls a third coin from his purse. The boy starts to answer, then stops, then starts again, and stops. “Petey’s afeared o’ so much, he don’t even know what he be afeared of ther most!” cracks the largest boy, and everyone laughs while the boy flushes.

    “The alky-mist ghost!” the small boy blurts out, and the unruly crowd goes coldly silent. Tyrius notes that a few of them make the ward against evil.

    “Aurora,” he calls over his shoulder. “You might want to hear this.”

    The full tale takes thrice as long to tell as necessary, with half of the children interrupting each other and trying to tell it at the same time. Just outside of town, along the coast road, on a lonely cliff overlooking the sea, is the abandoned house of a long-dead alchemist-magician. Even while alive he was an evil sort, but death has made him worse, as his ghost haunts the house and kills, in quite terrible ways that seem to vary with each child doing the telling, any who enter. That would not be so bad, were his spirit confined to the house. But there is one way (no, two! NO, three!) that he can actually leave the house. For anyone who walks the coast road (for business, travel, or even a spot of poaching in the wood) and passes the house, if they are incautious and allow the shadow of the house to fall on any part of their body, then the ghost can leave the house, come to them at night, and strangle them in their bed. Furthermore, if one is so foolish as to travel the coast road by night, it is more than likely that one will see eerie lights, or hear screams, coming from the house. In that case, the ghost can also come to you. The only escape in any of these cases is to spend the next night in a temple, and any of the five temples in town will do. The ghost can’t chase you on holy ground, and so will give up, return to his house, and you are safe.

    When the tale is largely done, and the urchins are just arguing over details, and who really knows someone who was killed by the ghost, no really, the party members look at one another. Tyrius and Aurora find this as likely an adventuring idea as any they have heard so far. Larry says the undead are abominations and need to be destroyed. Babshapka rolls his eyes and says his duty lies in protecting Aurora. Barnabus asks a few clarifying questions of the children - yes, the alchemist could turn lead into gold, and yes, there is a mysterious treasure still hidden in the house that was never recovered after he died - and then declares that he is “in.” Only Thokk objects. “Fah - ghost made of wind! Thokk’s mighty axe cleave ghost in one stroke. Fight over too quick to enjoy.” He reaches for his axe to pull it out and demonstrate, and Tyrius has to physically restrain him. “Yes,” says Tyrius as he struggles with Thokk, “an adventure outside of the town limits would be perfect.”

    The party makes plans to return to the Mermaid and collect their gear (including Tyrius’ chain hauberk), have lunch, and pass by the Full Moon on their way out of town. They retrace their steps across the commons with the gaggle of urchins surrounding them, though several of the children are pulled away by angry parents upon their return to the market. Those that remain are chased off by Ruth and her broom when they arrive at the Mermaid.

    Unnoticed by the party, one of the youths is not taken by parents or chased off by Ruth. Rather, he darts behind a stall as soon as they reach the marketplace, and then dashes off by himself down a side street. Ultimately, he arrives breathless at the shop of Master Merchant Murphy.[/b]
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Sun May 17, 2020 11:35 pm; edited 3 times in total
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    Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:43 am  
    Post 10: The Haunted House, upper levels

    [DM's note: While it should be obvious, this post will include numerous spoilers to the first section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Bold numbers in the text refer to keyed building locations.]

    Post 10: The Haunted House, Upper Levels

    28 July, 570 (afternoon and evening) - Saltmarsh to Haunted House

    After Ruth has served them luncheon as part of their bill of fare (with some extra coin for Barnabus), they question her about the alchemist’s house, hoping to get a less sensationalist view than that of the children. Ruth admits that the place is as like as not haunted, but hardly a threat to the town.

    Through their conversation with her, they learn that the Haunted House is some four miles east of Saltmarsh - it is doubtful any of the ragamuffins they spoke with has ever actually seen it. It is indeed just off the old coast road and looking out to the sea. Until some twenty years ago, when she was in the flower of her youth, it had been the residence of an aged alchemist and magician, and he did indeed have a sinister reputation - as anyone who practices magic deserves, really. The townsfolk mostly shunned the house because of the occupation of the owner. He disappeared under unexplained circumstances - his body was never found. He simply stopped receiving the weekly lot of food he purchased from the sundries store in Saltmarsh. After several missed pick-ups and payments, the Town Council ordered the house searched. Nothing was found - though over the next few years, everyone in the search party, to a man, suffered ill luck and untimely ends.

    The house is now long-abandoned and dilapidated, and in recent years there have indeed been reports of ghastly shrieks and eerie lights emanating from within it. Not even the bravest of the townsfolk dare enter it now. Were it restored, the house would make a wonderful country estate for some wealthy merchant or noble from Seaton, and the fact that the Town Council (who assumed title to the land and house after no heirs to the alchemist appeared) has been unable to sell it for even a paltry fee attests to its unsavory reputation.

    After lunch, the party organizes and packs all of their gear and settles accounts with Ruth, who is sorry to see them go. As they pass through the streets to the Full Moon, the urchins gather, so that they eventually have an even larger crowd than before. By the time they leave Saltmarsh proper, a full score of youths are in tow. However, the youngest of these do not last long once the town is no longer in sight. By the time the four miles have gone by, and the vague outline of the house appears, only the oldest and boldest remain.

    The Haunted House stands on the cliff top some seventy feet above the sea and eighty feet from the edge. A six foot high stone wall, topped with rusty ironwork, surrounds the property, looking a bit out of place since there are no neighboring buildings. An ornate iron gate pierces the wall, and a weed-choked stone and earth drive leads to the well-traveled coastal road.

    The handful of youths remaining take one step forward for every two steps the party takes once the house is in view. They can clearly see the party pass through the open gate, at which point two of them bolt and run, and three remain, hesitantly.

    Beyond the gate, the party sees an overgrown garden and the back of the house. The drive actually curves around the side and disappears from view, for the front of the house, and presumably the main entrance, faces the sea. Moving cautiously through the garden, the party finds a stone well. No bucket is in sight but there does appear to be water in the bottom. From the garden, the party can see a dozen windows and two doors on the back of the house, on the ground floor. A second bank of windows indicates a first floor above, and the steep roof hints at a large but unlit attic. The windows have glass panes, a sure sign of wealth. The panes are largely intact but so caked with dust inside and out that little can be seen through them. Each door has a window next to it, but only one of them opens on to the same room that the door does, and that off of a back patio.

    Babshapka finds the door to the patio unlocked, and slips silently into what appears to be a ground floor living room (4). The room is bare save for a pile of refuse in the corner, but has a stone hearth and a door to the main house. Cobwebs and rat droppings are everywhere. After a second for his eyes to adjust, Babshapka continues - at which point a booming voice calls out, “Welcome fools - welcome to your deaths!” Babshapka’s blood runs cold and he freezes, but no further sound is forthcoming. The voice came from the ceiling, and the force of it shook loose some plaster that now has fallen to the floor.

    Once he finds the hearth cold and nothing reacts to him prodding the refuse pile, Babshapka calls the others into the room. They carefully and methodically search all the rooms on the ground floor (1-3, 5-10). The wood is rotten and there are several loose floorboards. Mold and water damage is abundant. There is no sign of undead, or of life beyond vermin. Aurora collects a few books from the library (2). They kill a large spider in a drawing room (8) - while the party is occupied with this, Barnabus finds a magic ring hidden in a chimney. As he secrets it on his person, he shakes his head. The tales are true, he says to himself. Magic items throw themselves at adventurers. Giant centipedes are killed in the kitchen (9). In the scullery (10), a narrow stair descends to (presumably) a basement, but the room is so covered in mold, the party avoids it.

    The ground floor thoroughly searched, the party ascends to the first floor. The grand staircase in the main entrance hall seems untrustworthy, so they use the steeper but sounder kitchen stairs.

    At the top of the stairs is a landing (18), with access to the rest of the house and a collapsed stairway to the attic. They explore the first floor; empty bedrooms and storage rooms (16, 17) in the northern wing (though Tyrius does find a scroll of hold person), and empty bedrooms in the west wing (11, 12). In one of these is a wardrobe, and while Thokk is investigating it, he is covered in mold spores from what Larry says is a potentially deadly yellow mold. Larry claims that the key to eliminating fungal growth is to stay dry - he rips plaster off the walls, grinds it up into a powder, and covers Thokk head-to-foot so that the half-orc appears a ghost himself.

    The passage between the west and east wings has a section of dangerous flooring; Larry devises a safety rope and pitons, but all present safely jump across the sagging section of rotten wood. The three bedrooms of the east wing have more interesting contents - in the first (13) are two large spiders to kill. The second (14) has odd scratches, obviously recent, on the window sill. The door to the third is (15) locked, but the key is nearby on a sill. Inside, gagged and bound and with a lump on her head, is a woman in her smallclothes!

    Of course Tyrius is the first in the room and works quickly to free the woman, and then gives her his cloak to cover her modesty. The floor in the room is unsafe, so they retreat to the bedroom with the slain spiders to talk. The woman says that her name is Nadine Shakeshaft and she hales from Seaton. She is a mercenary and has worked mostly as a guard - for warehouses, ships, and caravans (her current state of undress shows that she has both the build and hands for such work). She had been traveling from Seaton to Saltmarsh the previous evening, looking for work, but due to delays on the road could not reach Saltmarsh by dusk. She took refuge in the house at sunset, but had only entered through the door to the scullery and gone into the kitchen when she was attacked from behind and knocked unconscious. She awoke, bound and gagged, sometime this morning. Her boiled leather armor, metal helm, and sword are missing along with her clothes. The party loans her a dagger and says that they are happy to escort her to Saltmarsh, but not until they are done searching the house. She agrees to help them by standing watch and such.

    With the first floor clear, but now even more suspicious of a malign presence in the house, the party decides to head for the attic. Most of them manage to jump the gap in the collapsed stairs and attain the floor of the attic (19), but when Nadine is helping to boost Tyrius up, he slips and falls, tumbling not only to the floor of the landing, but all the way down the stairs into the kitchen, suffering a number of bruises along the way.

    Eventually everyone is able to ascend into the attic, which is one open space underneath the sloping roof of the entire house. As they explore it, they come upon a stirge nest and begin a desperate battle in cramped quarters. They have just managed to slay the last of fully a dozen stirges, with several of them wounded but Aurora having recovered a magic ring, when a swarm of giant ants begins flooding up from below. Surrounded, Larry calls upon his thunderwave spell. This succeeds in killing the ants, but also collapses much of the floor of the attic under him. He is left dangling by his hands from some sagging crossbeams while the rest of the party stares helplessly. Tyrius attempts to rescue him, but the weight of the northern paladin plus his armor finishes the collapse of the floor, plummeting both of them to the first floor in a shower of splintered wood and a cloud of dust and plaster. No sooner have they hit the first floor landing when that, too, gives way, and they fall to the stone floor of the entryway. Their limp bodies are half covered in debris. Sensing the urgency of the situation, Babshapka leaps through the open hole in the attic floor, tucks and rolls and safely lands on the first floor, then does the same thing to attain the ground floor. He clears the debris and checks his companions - after some first aid on his part, he has them stable but unconscious.

    The Saltmarsh youths had in the meantime crept to the stone wall, and listened eagerly at the faint sounds of combat emerging occasionally from the house. At the peal of thunder and crash of timbers, however, all three of them turn and run back to town.

    The party assembles in the entry hall. With both of their healers unconscious, they are in no state to continue. Larry and Tyrius are coincidentally the two heaviest members of the party, and there is no way they will be able to transport them both to Saltmarsh, even with the help of Nadine, but Aurora is adamant that they will not spend the night in the house. They withdraw across the road and a hundred yards or so into the forest. There they take their evening meal and set watch while they wait for their companions to regain consciousness.

    Thokk and Nadine share the first watch, and then Barnabus and Aurora, and finally Babshapka on his own - Aurora having carefully selected someone with darkvision to be on each shift. What Barnabus and Aurora do not notice is that Nadine actually slips off into the forest on their watch, leaving Tyrius’ bundled cloak in her place. Much like the urchin before, she too pays a visit to Merchant Murphey in Saltmarsh, before returning by the light of the moon and taking her place back in camp with none the wiser.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:05 pm  
    Post 11: The Haunted House, Lower Levels

    [DM's note: While it should be obvious, this post will include numerous spoilers to the first section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Bold numbers in the text refer to keyed building locations.]

    Post 11: The Haunted House, lower levels

    29 July, 570 - The Haunted House
    Sometime during the previous night, both Tyrius and Larry regained consciousness. Those on watch encouraged them to keep resting, however. By morning Larry is able to cast two healing spells, and Tyrius to lay hands on himself, so they are mostly recovered. Still, they are now bereft of magic ability and the party is not keen to return to the house with one of their two primary spellcasters at “empty”. They decide to let Larry continue communing with nature, and set out in the afternoon.

    [The generous DM rules that since more than half of the first long rest occurred on the “24 hour period” of the 28th, the party may take their long rest on the 29th immediately after the spellcasting in the morning]

    After a leisurely morning, the party has a large lunch. Nadine doesn’t have food to contribute, her supplies having been taken along with her clothes, but she does provide assistance with gathering wood, cooking, and washing up, so the party doesn’t begrudge her the meals. Thanks to Tyrius’ planning, they have a week’s worth of supplies, and are in no danger of running short soon.

    In mid-afternoon, the party breaks camp and returns through the woods to the house. Arriving there, however, they find it surrounded by townsfolk! Mostly the young and spry, but people of all ages have gathered - many having brought a picnic lunch with them. They are spread out along the road or camped on high spots so as to see over the wall - a few youths are even perched in trees, studying the house. None have dared cross the wall or enter the garden, however - and the more observant in the party note that they stay well away from the shadow of the wall.

    When the party emerges from the woods, a cheer goes up. As they walk toward the road, they are surrounded by the smaller children. Why have these people come? Did the boys from the day before report the thunderclap, and they have come to be entertained, or is something else at play? Nadine successful hides the smirk on her face from the party.

    Most of the party is confused and taken aback by the cheering crowd. Only Tyrius seems to take it in stride. He smiles and waves and tosses his golden hair. “So nice of the small folk to turn out for us,” he murmurs contentedly.

    The cheers grow muted and fade into silence as the party approaches the gate, and when Babshapka steps through first, there is an audible gasp from the spectators. Ignoring the stares as best they can, the party follows the drive around the house to the sea-side and up to the front entrance.

    The entry hall (1) is as they left it the afternoon before - in a shower of shattered timber, plaster, and dead giant ants. They pick their way carefully across the room, then down the hall to the kitchen (9) and open the door to the scullery (10). There the abundance of mold again gives them pause. Most tie rags over their faces before proceeding forward, though Thokk scoffs at the idea.

    As Babshapka takes the top step of the stairs, hideous screams emerge from the basement, as of a soul in terrible torment. That gives them all more pause. As a party, they decide that tormented spirits are more the province of paladins than rangers, so Tyrius descends first.

    The basement (20) is a single open room, obviously a former wine cellar, though now a mess of collapsed shelving and broken bottles. The most striking feature is a human corpse in plate mail on the floor, his flesh well rotted away. Thokk and Babshapka agree that he is several weeks dead, and unlikely to have been the source of the screams - unless they were his soul. Tyrius is much impressed by the quality of the man’s plate armor (far superior to his own chain shirt), and estimates that the man is about his size. While he is handling the corpse, however, a number of large, maggot-like creatures emerge from it and spring on to his gauntleted hands. While the grubs root around seeking some way to his flesh, Aurora quickly firebolts them. Considerably more care is taken as they further examine the rest of the body and its possessions, and Aurora burns a half-dozen more of the maggots before the armor has been stripped from the corpse and laid aside, along with the sword and shield. The remaining possessions and the body itself are soaked with oil, moved to the open hearth, and then burned.

    All this noise alerts the smuggler guard on the other side of the secret door to the presence of the party. He goes to inform his companions, and Sanballet organizes an ambush in the cave complex, such that when the party enters, they can be suddenly set upon from two sides at once, trapped by his full force of smugglers and gnolls.

    The party searches the wine cellar, but finds nothing more, and completely misses the secret door. Tyrius comments that as large as the cellar is, it underlies only the north wing of the house, and there may be some other access to a seperate cellar they have not yet found. Aurora in particular does not believe that they have gotten to the bottom of the mysteries of the house, though Nadine remains skeptical and asks when they will be returning to Saltmarsh.

    The party returns up the stairs and back to the main entry, when something catches Babshapka’s eye. None of them have been down the east hallway since their return to the house this morning, and yet there is a set of footprints in the new layer of plaster and dust from the collapsed attic. The prints lead down the center of the hallway to the door at the end.

    What the party does not know is that these tracks were left by a careless smuggler the night before, assigned by Sanballet to check on damage to the house from the party after hearing the explosion and collapse. Sanballet was principally concerned with whether it was still possible to get to the bedroom from which he signals the ship.

    Babshapka follows these tracks into the living room (4), but once past the closed door the trail is lost - the new layer of dust and plaster was mostly stopped by the door. The party agrees that this room merits a more thorough search than they gave it the previous day.

    About halfway between the hearth and the door to the patio, approximately under the spot from which the spooky voice emerged the previous day, Babshapka finds a disguised trap door in the floor! Opening the door reveals a wooden staircase descending into the earth. The space below is no dark basement, though - it is lit!

    The party arranges themselves carefully, and then starts down the stairs with trepidation. What they find is in no ways objectively eerie, but curiously it has this effect on them. The well-lit and reasonably clean quarters below (21) are obviously tended and lived in - there is no mold, no water damage, no cobwebs. There are cots for ten men, personal trunks, a long wooden trestle table, and various kitchen supplies. For some reason, after the disorder and decay of the abandoned house itself, the party is spooked by the thought of a large number of men living beneath them the whole time. The sausages hanging from hooks along the wall seem especially creepy. What’s more, although the space itself is obviously recently used, there is no one currently about - heightening the sense of dread about when all of these men will be returning!

    They search the foot lockers and the wooden bins, but find only personal effects and food supplies. The sense of dread about when, and how, the occupants will return, grows. At the east end of the room are two doors - one normal and wooden, the other similar but barred with a stout wooden bar set into metal brackets on the wall. The door has the word “DANGER” scrawled across it in chalk, in Common. Listening at either door reveals nothing.

    The party decides to try the unbarred door, which opens upon a large 15’ by 20’ bedroom (22). The furnishings are comfortable and obviously of better quality than the common room. The party crowds into the room and closes the door behind them as they search. They find a lantern, oil, a scroll with curious marks, a naval almanac with the times of the tides for the surrounding coastline, and a number of other mundane items.

    After the search they hold a hushed conversation - if all of the occupants return at once (and they are now counting eleven), they will be outnumbered. It is better to have the element of surprise, they reason. They decide to hole up in this room, wait until the occupants return, and take them unawares.

    After perhaps an hour or so of waiting in the caverns, it becomes apparent to Sanballet that the intruders have either not found the secret entrance or have no plans to descend into the caverns. He sends a scout ahead, who reports that there is no one to be seen in the cellar. Returning, he finds obvious signs that the room has been searched, and one of the smugglers hears hushed conversation coming from his personal quarters. If these intruders will not come to Sanballet’s ambush, he will bring the ambush to them. As quietly as possible, he motions his men to clear the stools out of the way and pile them in front of the secret door to the wine cellar to block that exit. The table is turned on its side, rotated, and used to barricade off the western end of the cellar. He puts his men behind the table to shield them from missiles or spells. The gnolls he stations next to him to guard against anyone who gets over the table. When all is prepared, he calls out across the room, “Ye can come out ter talk - we ken yer in t’ere!”

    Taken aback by the strange voice’s offer, the party sends Barnabus out. He remains hidden in the gloom of the eastern end of the cellar. Peering around the corner, he can see the defensive fortification that has been set up - with not only eleven men (and one of those in robes), but two monsters as well. He doesn’t like these odds, and says as much when he returns to the party.

    Tyrius is the party’s most charismatic member. He and Babshapka (Aurora’s guard) go out - “to negotiate” - and Barnabus uses them as cover to get to the south wall without being seen. Thokk wants to join them, but the party restrains him, saying it will be “only talking.”

    “Parlay,” calls Tyrius, as he strides across the room, “let us parlay.”

    When Tyrius and Babshapka are about halfway across the room, Sanballet calls out “T’at’s far enou’. Here be the conditions o’ yer surrender - lay down yer weapons and ye can walk outta ‘ere an’ nae be returnin’”. Of course, Sanballet has no intention of keeping his word, but if he can get the party to lay down their arms this fight will be that much the shorter, and go far better for his side.

    Tyrius has lost track of Barnabus - he hopes that the halfling ‘minstrel’ is in a good position. The paladin has come out prepared to negotiate in good faith - but when he sees the sour and hard-bitten faces of the men, notes that their leader is unarmored and most likely some sort of spell-caster, and sees that above all he is in command of these monstrous humanoids, his opinion changes. Filled with the righteousness of Pelor, he knows what he must do. Tyrius responds to the leader of the smugglers. “Actually, those were the conditions I was about to offer you. Lay down your arms, and your men are free to go. Only you and the brutes will face the King’s Justice.”

    This brings a raucous, incredulous laughter from the smugglers. The gnolls join in with strange, barking calls, though it is doubtful they have understood the exchange. When the sounds fade away, Tyrius waits for Sanballet to begin his response, and at the mage’s first words, he shouts “Charge!”

    Pulling forth his warhammer, “Molly”, Tyrius charges the table, swinging overhead at the men behind it. Babshapka falls back to the corner and begins loosing arrows. Thokk charges from the room, swinging his axe as he runs at the table. Larry, Aurora, and finally Nadine emerge from the room - though the latter, unarmored and armed with only a dagger, hangs back from the fray.

    Sanballet is in the middle of shouting orders to his men when he screams out in pain. A shortsword is stuck in his side, the other end attached to a halfling with a elegant moustache. He curses, points at the halfling, and says a word in gnoll. One of the humanoid brutes forces the halfling back with wild swings of its axe. Sanballet sends the other gnoll halfway up the cellar stairs to guard his escape route in case he has misjudged the strength of the party.

    Aurora completes her sleep spell, and several of the smugglers fall to the floor. Thokk runs up to a now-unguarded section of the table and vaults over it. He lands on the other side and starts toward Sanballet, but the gnoll guard intervenes. Barnabus takes the opportunity to disappear into the shadows again. Tyrius moves to the table and tries to either haul himself over, or pull the table down trying.

    For a brief moment, it appears as if the party will make short work of the smugglers. Then Sanballet completes a color spray and several of the party are blinded, Tyrius among them. The gnoll is having the better end of the fight with Thokk, and the half-orc is seriously wounded. The heavy table is proving to be very effective cover, and the smugglers are not taking much damage from the arrows of Babshapka or the cantrips of Aurora and Larry, while a few have thrown daggers at the party with some effect. By the time the smugglers have woken up all of their comrades, many of them are wounded, but only two are down. Even after he regains his sight, Tyrius has been unable to either scale or pull down the table. Barnabus’ location is unknown. Sanballet himself has vanished in thin air, though he is still shouting orders in a disembodied voice.

    “Fall back!” cries Tyrius, “back to the room!”. He stays at the table only long enough to cover Thokk as the barbarian climbs back over, then retreats himself, walking backwards with shield held in front of him as the smugglers jeer and hurl insults. Everyone in the party falls back to Sanballet’s room except the missing Barnabus. Even with two of the men down the party is still outnumbered, and Tyrius hopes they can at least even the odds by defending the doorway.

    With the cellar clear, the smugglers fall to squabbling over the coins and jewelry of the two dead men. Sanballet lets them bicker for a while then orders them to inch the table forward, closing half the distance to his own quarters. He has each man take up a stool, to use as an improvised first volley missile weapon should the party charge again. When no response comes from the party, he orders the table moved, halving the distance again and abutting the end against the nearer east wall to completely block off the narrower portion of the cellar.

    Inside the bedroom, the party is panicked. Tyrius is trying to organize a last-man defense of the doorway, but the others are urging him to flee. Barnabus is nowhere to be seen - presumably, he is still in the cellar, but for all they know he has slipped past the gnoll on the stairs and is even now making his escape. Finally, Babshapka slips out the door stealthily, charged by Aurora with trying the barred door to find an alternate escape route. The wooden bar is heavy and swollen, and Babshapka struggles with trying to lift it without being heard. “I’ve got you, mate,” whispers Barnabus, his hands already on the other end of the bar. Together they lift it, then set it down silently on the floor and open the door a crack without the smugglers being aware.

    Pulling the door outward half way, they peer in. Light from the cellar behind them spills through, but the room beyond (23) is dark. “What do you see?” whispers Barnabus, for while Babshapka has darkvision, he doesn’t.

    “No exits,” says Babshapka bitterly, “just some dead bodies. Skeletons, really. Uh…”


    “I think they are moving…”

    Sure enough, the three skeletons in sight are slowly swiveling their skulls and staring at Babshapka with eyeless sockets. Another three out of view of the door are staggering to their feet from where they were slumped against the wall.

    Just then the smugglers make out the open door and the shadowy figures in front of it. “Ther fools be openin’ ther door!” calls more than one to Sanballet.

    “Attack them! And close it, fast!” he yells back, but it is too late. By the time the smugglers get the table down so they can move forward, Babshapka and Barnabus are back in the bedroom, with the door closed. The first skeleton is through the door and the others are close behind. Babshapka is trying to get the party to brace the bed room door with furniture.

    A second later the party hears shouts outside and the ring of steel, then cries of pain and the howl of one of the gnolls. The combat is brief - the smugglers have numbers, but the table is down, many of them are already wounded, and their broadswords have little effect on the fleshless undead. As the cries of the living grow fewer, the party removes the furniture from the door and forms up for a charge. They spill from the room just in time to see the last smuggler fall from a blow of the last skeleton. Tyrius does not hesitate in his charge, and shatters the skeleton’s skull with his hammer. It disanimates and drops to the floor in a pile of disarticulated bones.

    Tyrius shouts orders to secure the room as he and Larry check the men - they find two still alive, though unconscious. They bind their wounds, but also their hands and feet. Thokk slits the throat of the fallen gnoll without checking whether it is alive or dead. All told, they count one gnoll, ten men, and six skeletons among the fallen. The other gnoll, and what they assume was some sort of mage, are nowhere to be seen. Nadine looks around the cellar, apparently dumbfounded.

    “Hey, you alright down there?” calls out a deep voice from the top of the stairs. Three faces peer through the trapdoor. The local youths sport bare wisps of beard, but have the muscles of stevedores or plowmen. Tyrius lays hands on each prisoner to restore them to consciousness, then leaves his companions to tidy up while he ascends the stairs to assure the townsfolk that everything is fine, and that the party has just overcome a band of brigands or outlaws of some kind. He tells the people that the show is over, and that they can return to their homes - there will be more news on the morrow, after the party has had the chance to consult with the local authorities.

    By the time he returns, he finds the two prisoners conscious but sullen, and Thokk suggesting various methods of torture while Aurora listens and nods sagely. “We’ll have no such thing,” Tyrius says in a voice that brooks no argument, then turns to address the prisoners. “We need answers,” he says in a friendly tone, “who are you, what illicit activities you were pursuing in this place; tell us all, admit your guilt, and we shall show you the mercy of Pelor.”

    “I ain’t tellin’ ye nothin, godsman,” says one of the prisoners.

    Tyrius looks at him sternly. “Your silence only condemns yourself,” he says. “If you will not speak to us, you force me to declare you outlaw, and execute the King’s Justice upon you.”

    “Do yer worse,” says the man, and spits at Tyrius’ face, though it falls short. “Kill me an’ answer ter yer jus’ an’ good god.”

    Tyrius bows his head in prayer, then retrieves one of the trestles from the table. He maneuvers the man into laying his neck over the wooden crossbeam, and holds him from behind. He calls for Thokk to bring his axe. “We can make him talk!” says Aurora hurriedly. “We need this information.”

    Tyrius shakes his head solemnly. “We do not torture,” he says firmly. “He has chosen his fate.” He nods to Thokk, and the half-orc cheerfully severs the man’s head from his neck.

    Tyrius uses some rags to clean the spattered blood from his face and chest, then turns to the remaining prisoner. “Please accept the mercy of Pelor,” he says, “and tell us all you know.”

    The man eyes Tyrius suspiciously. “What mercy be this? A quick death, like ye gave yon Paxton?”

    Tyrius shakes his head. “No; tell us all, and tell us true, and you leave from here a free man - free to mend your life, gods be willing. Although I would suggest you wait until the townsfolk outside have dispersed.”

    Since Tyrius returned, Nadine has busied herself picking through the fallen men’s weapons until she finds a broadsword sized for her, and then stripped one of the smaller men’s leather armor and begun to don it. She takes a dead man’s dagger and returns the one the party loaned her. They do not see the relief on her face when Thokk kills the prisoner, nor her expression of concern when Tyrius seems on the point of convincing the remaining man to talk.

    The sole remaining prisoner stares into Tyrius’ pale blue eyes for a moment without flinching, and then sighs and begins his tale. Aye, they are outlaws, right enough - though smugglers and he ain’t never harmed a soul, honest. True, some of his companions killed the knight what found his way into the basement some three weeks ago, but he wasn’t there for that. Most of his time has been spent unloading ships and loading wagons and nothing worse than that. The boss’ name be Sanballet and he a wizard and all, with some magic way to control those two hulking gnolls he got godsknowwhere. Sanballet has a deal with some merchant guy in town name o' Murph o' somesuch - he ain't never seen him in person. A ship with another lot of smugglers brings in goods - mostly silk and brandy - from other ports in the Azure Sea, and lands them here. They pass the goods off to the merchant at night, and he uses fancy book-keeping so it looks like he paid the crown tax to the customs house to import luxuries when he hain’t neither - at least that be what the other smugglers say, but he don’t claim to know the truth of that. The merchant then sells the goods in larger markets like Seaton and further afield. Sanballet communicates with the ship somehow at night - there be a lantern and signal codes involved, but he don’t know any of them. He don’t know when the ship be coming - every few weeks Sanballet goes upstairs in the house above each night, and then one night or another tells them it is time. They take the boat out of the sea cave below, row out to the ship, and bring in the smuggled goods. Usually it takes several trips. Sanballet then sends a message to town - he don’t know how that works - and the next night a wagon shows up for them to load. The merchant be fat enough, but he hain’t never seen the good gentleman’s face in the light.

    Tyrius asks him to repeat parts of the story he found unclear, and keeps him talking until he is satisfied about everything except the “sea cave below”. With Thokk hoisting the bound man, they walk over to a section of the south wall until the man indicates where to find a secret door. Sure enough, beyond it is a series of caves (25-30), several filled with bolts of silk and casks of brandy, sloping down to a cave that meets the sea and has a small jollyboat drawn up inside.

    Tyrius tells the man that they will release him at dusk.

    With the prisoner safely tied, the party then feasts on the captured supplies throughout the afternoon. As evening approaches, they make sure there are no townsfolk about the house. True to his word, Tyrius then releases the man and tells him to “go forth and do evil no more.” The man starts off down the coast road to Seaton with the clothes on his back and a dagger Tyrius returned to him only once they were outside the house.

    Taking one bolt of silk, the head of the gnoll, and the painted shield of the fallen knight as their proofs, the party, including Nadine, set off back to Saltmarsh, arriving just after dark. They resume their lodging in the Merry Mermaid, and ask lieutenant Dan to set up an emergency meeting of the Town Council at their earliest convenience. Nadine says that she will need to look for cheaper lodging, perhaps in the common room of the tavern, and disappears into the night. As soon as she is sure she is not being followed, she returns to the townhouse of Master Merchant Murphey.

    Meanwhile, when the tide of battle turned against his men, Sanballet retreated with the unwounded gnoll to the stairs. He stayed just long enough to see Tyrius smash the last skeleton, and then fled upstairs. Invisible, he left through the front of the house and then worked his way along the cliff face until well away from the house and townsfolk, crossed the road, and returned through the woods until nearby. He let his gnoll sniff out the party’s campsite from the night before, and lingered there in case a chance for revenge presented itself. He and the gnoll watched from the cover of the trees as the entire party left the house in the evening, and then they crept back inside. The party had not found his spellbook nor his treasure chest, so he recovered both of these, gathered some food, cast a final magic mouth spell in his room, and left, walking the coast road to Seaton through the night.
    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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    Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:28 am  

    This is an excellent tale, Kirt! I am enjoying your writing style as much as the encounters your players are involved in.

    "Lieutenant Dan" Lol! Laughing

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    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:50 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    This is an excellent tale, Kirt! I am enjoying your writing style as much as the encounters your players are involved in.

    "Lieutenant Dan" Lol! Laughing


    Thanks! This campaign was actually started three years ago, so I have a lot of material, and plan to keep posting about once a week.

    It often happens when my parties meet an NPC I have not prepared beforehand, that I have to come up with a name on the spot - and I'm not very good at it. I threw out Lt. Dan without thinking about it, completely innocently - and the party laughed and started calling him "Lieutenehnt Dahan" in their best Forrest Gump drawls. It wasn't planned, but it was funny!
    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 Apr 30, 2018 2:29 pm  
    Post 12: About these players...

    Post 12: A DM's aside: About these players

    At the start of the campaign we had three players, two of my colleagues from work and the son of one of them. Each was running two PC's, thus:

    Player 1: Thokk and Aurora
    Player 2: Barnabus and Tyrius
    Player 3: Larry and Babshapka

    All three of them had extensive computer RPG experience but none had actually played a pencil and paper RPG before, so it was fun watching them explore and learn. The upper level of the Haunted House is particularly forgiving for first level PC's and novice players. Although I must say it was hilarious when the druid chose to thunderwave in the attic after a dozen room descriptions emphasizing the decrepit state of the house. The collapsing floors were resolved with luck rolls and it was even more hilarious when the party found that both of their healers had been knocked unconscious in the fall. As they say, "Ain't no party like a D&D party, 'cause a D&D party don't stop - until the healer is unconscious and all the potions are used".

    A fourth player wanted to join the game, but at the point she talked to me we had already done character creation, backstory, and had played the first session. I had her come in as the NPC Nadine Shakeshaft, with the pledge that we would find a more permanent character for her later. I explained to her that she worked for the merchant in the town who was receiving the smuggled goods, and that her goals were to keep the party from discovering the smugglers and, failing that, to provide the merchant with ample warning of the party's activities. Assassination was on the table, but I told her she wasn't going to sacrifice herself for her employer - that is, killing a party member in a way that led to her own discovery and death was not an option. If you recall the party's ascent to the attic, she deliberately forced the dexterity check that led to Tyrius falling from the attic stairs all the way down into the kitchen - almost taking him out, but not quite. I'm not sure why she wanted the house surrounded by townsfolk the next day - perhaps she thought the audience would discourage the party from searching further.

    The party was indeed very spooked upon encountering the lived-in basement - to this day, their fear of "sausages" is a running joke in the campaign. When they decided to hole up in Sanballet's room (and thereby let the smugglers ambush them), I honestly thought that they were in for a TPK. Their opening the door to the skeletons and then shutting the door to their own room was something I had not predicted - a sort of desperate blunder that directly led to their survival. I actually rolled out the fight between the smugglers and the skeletons, and luck was heavily on the skeleton's side. I think that one scene really set the tone for the whole campaign - inexperienced players with bumbling characters who survive more often through luck than skill. A similar combat would later play out on the Sea Ghost. The Haunted House added a whole Scooby Doo-esque feel that was quite appropriate.

    For the campaign as a whole I decided to dispense with xp, and just award levels at an appropriate point in the story, typically after a specific PC had faced a particularly challenging and class-appropriate event. Thokk (as a barbarian, who had charged into numerous combats in the House) and Barnabus (as a rogue, who had both recovered a ring of protection without the party noticing and had won a share of all the smuggled goods) were the first up. The morning after their return to Saltmarsh, I told them they had leveled and they had access to all their new class features immediately. The other characters had leveled, I decided, but would not be aware of it until they did something story appropriate to "unlock" their new powers - Tyrius, for example, would need to pray in a faith-appropriate temple in Seaton before I told his player he was level 2.
    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 May 07, 2018 1:45 pm  
    Post 13: A DM's Aside: Detailing Saltmarsh

    Post 13: A DM's Aside: Detailing Saltmarsh

    While looking online for maps of the coast of Salinmoor, I came across a roadmap of the area around the real world Seaton in Devon, England.

    "Seaton" is not shown on the Darlene maps, so I am assuming that Seaton, Saltmarsh, and Burle were all creations of Browne and Turnbull for U1-U3. It looks to me like they used the real world Seaton for Greyhawk Seaton, and then roughly made "Sidmouth" into Saltmarsh, "Budleigh Salterton" into the new lizardfolk lair at the mouth of the Dun, and "Exmouth" into the old lizardfolk lair at the mouth of the Javan.

    The original U1 says that Saltmarsh
    U1 wrote:
    is a small, respectable fishing town. The inhabitants are relatively sober, hard-working and amiable. There are adequate facilities for justice and law-enforcement - debtors and bankrupts are dealt with particularly harshly. Fishing is the main industry but there are some tiny farms in the neighboring countryside. The town boasts a small weekly market to which traders are attracted from two larger towns (Burle inland to the northwest, Seaton along the coast to the east). In general, be guided by any small south-coast English fishing town of the 14th Century with a population about 2000.

    However, it leaves much of the detailing to the DM, and on p.3 specifies that
    U1 wrote:
    attention be given to at least some of the following:

    1. The Town Council. Name the members ; determine their trades/occupations and something of their background; decide how powerful and wealthy each member is, relative to the local community.
    2. Treat other prominent local citizens who are not members of the Council in a way similar to the Council members (in particular the merchant-receiver whose part in the plot is explained in the description of room 15)
    3. Draw a map of the town, locating prominent buildings and the places where Council members and other important people carry on their business.
    4. Decide where the characters could stay when resting in the town between adventures (the best inn? the only inn?); draw up a tariff (list of expenditures) for their accommodation and food.
    5. Decide where to locate the town's place(s) of worship and which deity is worshipped there.

    There are a number of online, fan-made maps of Saltmarsh, and as previously noted, I decided to go with Yabusuma's map at

    This solved numbers 3, 4, and 5 of the list above, and gave me a starting place for 1 and 2.

    To finish out my detailing, I used a house-rules system of my own devising, created to help me populate areas. The premise is a quasi-feudal pyramid of social rank and political-economic control. In this system, "Rank 1" is the population base of producers for the economy, while the ranks above are increasingly fewer individuals with religious, military, or political power who live off of the labors of the Rank 1 families.

    With 2000 people, this equates to 800 families, distributed as:

    R1 = 670 families of producers (fisherfolk, pastoralists, farmers)
    R2 = 80 families of petty landowners, local officials, and specialized craftspeople
    R3 = 32 families of master craftspeople and skilled professionals, community leaders and minor officials, and churchless clergy
    R4 = 16 families of wealthy merchants, major officials, and landed clargy
    R5 = 1.6 families of nobility

    With the Yabusuma map as reference, I detailed the

    670 Rank 1 families as
    580 Fisherfolk
    50 Fishing boat owners
    20 Farmers
    10 Dockworkers
    5 Goatherds, Shepherds
    3 Teamsters
    1 Servant
    1 Digger (graves and wells)

    80 Rank 2 families as
    13 Petty merchants and traders
    12 Temple clergy
    5 Militia officers
    5 Constabulary officers
    5 Customs officers
    3 Royal navy officers
    2 each: Merchant Boat Captains, Shipwrights, Salters, Coopers, Carpenters, Basketmakers, Netmakers
    1 each: Ropemaker, Woodseller, Weaver, Tinsmith and Lanternmaker, Thatcher, Tavernkeeper, Tanner, Tailor, Supplier, Shoemaker, Shingler, Locksmith, Lighthousekeeper, Herbalist, Gaoler, Cartographer, Butcher, Bowyer, Blacksmith, Quartermaster of the Militia, Bailiff of the Constabulary, Bailiff of Temple Farm, Bailiff of Saltmarsh Manor

    32 Rank 3 families as:
    14 Itinerant Priests (Xerbo (5), Norebo (2), Procan (2), Kord (1), Phyton (1), Fharlanghn (1 - Flern, whom the party met (cf. Post 8), Merikka (1), and Sol (1))
    11 Town Elders and Community Leaders
    3 Innkeepers (including Ruth of the Merry Mermaid)
    2 Fishbuyers
    1 Salt Merchant
    1 Master Shipwright

    16 Rank 4 families as: (note that (TC) indicates a seat on the Town Council)
    The High Constable of Saltmarsh (TC)
    The Reeve of Saltmarsh (TC)
    Secun, the Chief Customs Officer of Saltmarsh (TC)
    Aeravis, Head Priest of the Temple of Phaulkon (TC) (whom the party met, cf. Post 9)
    Hipoteco, Head Priest of the Temple of Zilchus (TC)
    Siluana, Head Priestess of the Temple of Osprem (TC)
    Head Priestess of the Temple of Lydia
    Captain of the Saltmarsh Militia (TC)
    A fishmonger (TC)
    A spice merchant (TC)
    A metals merchant
    A grain merchant (TC)
    A merchant fleet owner (TC)
    A fishing fleet owner (TC)
    A general goods merchant (TC)
    A general goods merchant (Murphey, the receiver)

    1.6 Rank 5 families as:
    Hewell II, Viscount of Salinmoor and Lord of Saltmarsh (nominally the head of the Town Council but generally residing at his seat in Seaton)
    Hewell's adult son and heir.
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:56 pm; edited 3 times in total
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    Mon May 14, 2018 10:54 am  
    Post 14: DM's Aside: Detailing the Town Council

    Post 14: DM's Aside: Detailing the Town Council

    There are three main power blocks or alliances on the 14-member Town Council.

    First, those who are primarily loyal to the Viscount. Second, those who are primarily loyal to the people and town of Saltmarsh. Third (and most numerous), those who are primarily loyal to their own pocketbooks. Most of the time these three groups agree and work well together, for in the long term, keeping the people of Saltmarsh safe and prosperous is good for business, which is good for the taxes of the Viscount. The only time true conflict arises is when a “wedge issue” breaks one group off - for example, if a policy would be bad for Saltmarsh itself but would increase trade throughout the larger county, the merchants and the Viscount’s representatives might favor it while the town loyalists would oppose it. Such issues are rare, however.

    Viscount Block Members (4):
    *The Viscount himself: As Lord of Saltmarsh, he is nominal Head of the Council. In practice, he rarely leaves his seat at Seaton, and is seldom present at Council meetings. Occasionally, if there is a close or symbolically important debate or vote, he will send his son and heir as his representative, and his son's family makes more use of the Lord's Estate in Saltmarsh than the Viscount does. Although it is obvious that the derivation of Seaton is Sea-Town, more than one scurrilous wag in Saltmarsh pronounces it Seat-On, when he wishes to make the point that the Viscount has installed himself there and doesn't look to the affairs of his subjects in Saltmarsh.
    *The Viscount’s Reeve (appointed by the Viscount, collects taxes for him)
    *The Chief Customs Officer (technically an agent of the King, but appointed by the Viscount)
    *The High Constable of Saltmarsh (responsible for civic order, appointed by the Viscount)

    Saltmarsh Block Members (4)
    *The Militia Captain (appointed by the Viscount, but must be a born citizen of Saltmarsh, responsible for the defense of the town against outside threats)
    *Head Priestess of the Temple of Osprem (goddess of the sea and fishing)
    *Head Priest of the Temple of Phaulkon (god of the winds and storms)
    *Fishing Fleet Owner (the margins on fishing are so slim, and morale of the fisherfolk so important to profitability, this wealthy merchant more often votes with the town than with the other merchants)

    Merchant Block Members (6)
    *Head Priest of the Temple of Zilchus (god of trade and commerce)
    *Fishmonger (not a wealthy person, this position rotates among the petty merchants in town on one-year terms. It is the closest there is to having a commoner's voice and perspective on the council)
    *Spice Merchant
    *Grain Merchant
    *Merchant Fleet Owner
    *General Merchant

    Other important and powerful people in town who are not on the Council include:
    *General Merchant Murphey (the receiver, who hopes to use the wealth from smuggling to obtain a position on the Council, possibly displacing his rival, the other general merchant)
    *The Head Priestess of the Temple of Lydia (supported by, appointed by, and a distant cousin of the Viscount, but not popular in town)
    *The Metals Merchant
    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 May 22, 2018 5:45 am  

    Double Post
    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.

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue May 29, 2018 7:43 am  
    Post 15: The Party meets the Council -and- Murphey's Flight

    Post 15: The Party meets the Council - and - Murphey's Flight

    30 July, 570 - Saltmarsh
    Tyrius, Aurora, and Barnabus hold a hushed strategy session over breakfast, even going so far as to take a different table from the other three and to stop talking whenever Ruth appears. At first, Tyrius says that they will simply need to appear before the Town Council and give them all the details of what transpired in the Haunted House. Aurora and Barnabus quickly tell him that he is being naive.

    Barnabus’ concern is simple - the disposition of the recovered smuggled goods - bolts and bolts of silk, casks and casks of fine brandy. Barnabus is sure that as soon as the Council learns of this windfall, they will seize the goods without a second thought. He counsels Tyrius that they can report everything they found in the cellar, down to the last gold earring if he wants, but they are better off keeping what was found in the sea caves a secret. He is convinced that in time he can find a way to move the goods to Seaton and sell them there, for the benefit of the party - equal shares all around. Tyrius replies that he will not lie or hide goods for simple monetary gain.

    Aurora’s argument is more subtle. Whomever was receiving these smuggled goods, she explains, is likely to be both wealthy and powerful. If they are not on the Council themselves, they are likely to have allies, eyes and ears, on it. For all they know, the Council itself could already be aware of the smuggling ring, and be using it to enrich the town at the expense of the King. Aurora says that they will have to tread carefully, for the smuggler could have given them the name of this Master Merchant Murphey as a ruse or decoy. If the Council, or at least some members of it, are complicit, the party as strangers in town are more than likely to be set up as fall guys, and charged themselves with the crime of smuggling. The less they reveal to the Council the better, especially about the sea caves - they are safer pretending they don’t even know about these, so that they don’t make anyone tip their hand.

    This argument Tyrius takes more seriously. He finally agrees to be more circumspect, and leave most of the talking to Aurora. He warns her, though, that he will not lie - if he is asked a direct question, he will answer truthfully, if not fully, and he will not allow her to blatantly lie in his presence. Aurora and Barnabus exchange glances and decide that is the best that they can expect from a paladin.

    Lieutenant Dan summons them to the Council meeting at mid-morning. Larry and Babshapka remain at the Merry Mermaid; Thokk is left outside the Council chambers with orders to guard their escape route in case one is needed but otherwise not to interact with anyone, and Tyrius, Aurora, and Barnabus are ushered in before the Council.

    There are ten people already in the room - they are told that the full Council numbers fourteen, but not all of them could make it on such short notice. The worse for the party, thinks Aurora, when introductions are made, for Murphey could well be one of those missing. All of those present are men except for a priestess of Osprem, and all are dressed in fine, if not noble, clothes. There are other priests, a number of merchants and tradesmen, and various civil officials. It soon becomes clear that the meeting is being run by a man named Secun, who is the Chief Customs Officer of Saltmarsh and an agent of the King himself. The others talk either when he invites them or, occasionally, when he does not object to their interruptions.

    Aurora introduces herself as a traveling scholar of little account, simply here to document the exploits of an odd band of would-be adventurers. She tells the Council members of the party’s arrival in town just three days ago, of their lodging at the Merry Mermaid, of the warm reception they have received from the townsfolk. Recognizing Aeravis on the Council, though in much finer robes than when they last saw him, Aurora even says that their decision to explore the Haunted House was at his suggestion, really. The priest looks puzzled but does not contradict her.

    Aurora describes how they found nothing of interest in the upper part of the house (she never mentions Nadine), but how when they found a hidden basement they were immediately set upon by a large band of ruffians. She tells them of the silk and brandy found in the basement, and how the sole survivor claimed to be a smuggler, their goods destined for “a merchant in town”. This last bit causes a stir of fevered whispering which Secun has to silence. Secun presses Aurora for more information on this merchant, and she carefully scans the faces of those present, trying to see anyone who looks angry, frightened, or guilty. Aurora insists that the party is not making any accusations themselves, merely repeating the words of the self-confessed smuggler. Secun notes dryly that since the party failed to take any prisoners that could be interrogated by the Council, instead either killing, letting escape, or even freeing the men, they will have to take her word for what it is worth. Aurora gives up the name of Master Merchant Murphey, and the uproar this time is even more frenzied. One merchant even rises from his chair and moves to speak directly with Secun, exchanging heated words that can almost be overheard, before he is sent back to his seat with a host of eyes following him. Aurora tries to note the man’s face, as she does not remember his name from the introductions.

    When the Council is done asking questions, Tyrius presents them with the bolt of silk, the head of the gnoll, and the knight’s shield. The three of them then leave the room and are brought refreshment while the Council deliberates.

    Eventually they are called back to the Council chamber and its disposition announced to the trio. The Council formally thanks the party for bringing this matter to their attention, but say that they cannot issue a final decision until they have more evidence. Secun explains that a force of constables, led by a customs officer, will be dispatched immediately to the House to see that all is as the party has reported. The High Constable interjects, apparently repeating a previous petition to be allowed town funds as a hazard bonus for his men, since “everyone knows that the House is cursed.” At a frown from Secun, he changes this to because “the common men believe the House is cursed”, but he maintains his petition until a quick vote is held which effectively denies him those funds.

    It is further resolved that a force of constables be sent to the various locations frequented by Murphey - his shop, his townhouse, his warehouse - and that he be brought in for questioning. Secun expressly warns the party not to interfere in this, as the Council does not want to prejudice the witness before he has a chance to testify under oath. Aurora agrees and they take their leave, but not before Secun further warns her, as a “simple scholar,” to stop trying to buy magic components in the town, since she is scaring the marketfolk.

    They are not half-way back to the Mermaid when the commoners in the streets have begun gossiping about Murphey. News travels fast in the small town, apparently. Tyrius is distraught. How will justice be served if the constables do not apprehend Murphey before he can catch word and escape? After Secun’s personal rebuke, Aurora does not want to raise her profile in town, so she returns to the inn, but Tyrius gets Barnabus and Thokk to accompany him to the shop of Murphey, which it turns out is a general store.

    A crowd has already gathered around it but the shop is closed, itself an oddity, and Murphey is nowhere to be seen. Tyrius pounds on the door and demands that it be opened, but receives no response. Thokk, not exactly knowing why they are there but excited by Tyrius’ calls, slams his shoulder into the door and breaks the simple latch. The trio of them search the store, and even the stock rooms in the back, but find no trace of anyone.

    Nadine, watching from the crowd in a simple brown threadbare peasant’s robe with a hood, sees the trio enter the store of her employer. She walks around back to the stable, quickly saddles and bridles a riding horse, and puts a cart horse on a lead, then takes both horses into the alley behind the shop. She returns to the stable, empties a half-lantern’s worth of oil onto a manure pile, and uses flint and steel to set it ablaze before returning to the alley.

    “Fire!” calls someone in the crowd, when the flame is seen through the open stable door. The cry is immediately taken up, even by those who do not see it. Precious few buildings in Saltmarsh are of stone - a fire could easily sweep through the town and render dozens dead and hundreds homeless in a few hours. The alarm spreads and the constables arrive on the scene just in time to forget their charge and join those running to wells with buckets.

    Hearing the commotion, Tyrius exits the shop and immediately sees what is happening. He calls off the search and begins to direct the bucket brigade, making people form lines rather than haphazardly dash about. Thokk returns to the store only long enough to grab a bushel basket of oranges before dumping out the fruits and heading off for a well. Barnabus strums his lute quickly and calls out in a clear voice, setting a fast tune that helps the people move in unison.

    With everyone thus occupied, Murphey emerges from the secret attic of the store, exits through a back door, and meets Nadine in the alley. He carries with him saddlebags full of food, gold coins, and even a few gems. He passes a small gem to Nadine while she holds the horse for him to mount, and then he rides through the streets of Saltmarsh and out to the coast road, receiving only a few cries of “Isn’t that…” and “Hey, stop!” after him before he is away. Nadine walks her cart horse slowly to the other end of town before leaving. Murphey has a long head start on her and a saddle, but his horse is laden both with his baggage and his considerable bulk. She has no doubt she will be able to catch up with him before their arrival in Seaton.

    An hour later, with the fire long out and no one hurt, Tyrius is on his way to a warehouse said to be owned or rented by Murphey, when he and the others are intercepted by a group of militia men, and told to return to the Merry Mermaid until summoned by the Council.

    That evening, Tyrius, Barnabus and Aurora appear before the Council for a second time, and this time the Council numbers thirteen, with the only missing member being the Lord of Saltmarsh himself. Secun is, not surprisingly, not the only member to be wroth with the party for expressly violating the mandate to leave Murphey alone. The High Constable assures the other members of the Council that without the party’s interference, his men would have taken Murphey alive. Tyrius apologizes profusely. More than by his contrition, however, many on the Council are mollified by the situation itself. With Murphey fled, the merchant can be declared guilty by admission in absentia, saving a prolonged and uncertain trial that would pit his word against that of the strangers. With no known heirs, the Council is free to seize his considerable assets in the name of the town. More than one of them looks to profit either personally or professionally from his downfall, and it appears to be only the officials of the Viscount that are left out and legitimately angry with the party.

    Furthermore, even Secun is forced to admit that the constables and customs officers dispatched to the House have returned and reported that everything was exactly as the party claimed, further strengthening the case against Murphey and legitimizing the party’s story of having broken up a smuggling ring. While the Viscount’s officials may not be getting a share of Murphey’s estate, they will likely receive a commendation or reward from the Viscount or even the King for having ended this crime against the Crown.

    Lastly, those on the Council representing the temples of Saltmarsh thank the party for helping to end the idea of the Alchemist’s House as cursed and as a blight on the name of the town.

    The Town Council has decided to award the party 300 gold lions for their efforts to date in breaking up the smuggling ring, to be divided among the party members as they see fit.

    The High Constable has declared the slain gnoll a "monster" and all the slain smugglers to be "outlaws" so that the party will face no legal repercussions from their kin (charges of manslaughter, or claims of weregild) for their deaths.

    The party is awarded the "Right of Pillage" on all goods recovered from the Haunted House, and may take immediate possession of them. However, the Council specifically and clearly states that since the Crown Tax has not been paid on the silk and brandy, the party will have to pay the 25% duty on them in order to take legal possession.

    Two nights' food and lodging (from the time the party left the Haunted House yesterday followed by the crowd, to tomorrow morning after tonight’s meeting with the Council) have been paid for at the Merry Mermaid from Council funds. While the Council has not granted title to the Haunted House or its land to the party, they say that the party will be given "squatter's rights" to the property so that they may camp there free of any fee for the time being and without being charged with vagrancy. When Aurora asks why they would want to camp there, Secun clears his throat and has the High Constable check the doors and windows to make sure there are no listeners about.

    The Council notes that assuming the smuggler’s tale of supply by ship is true, it is very likely that the sea-based smugglers have no idea of the party's actions against their land-based crew, as there is no easy communication between the two groups. They therefore propose that a trap be laid, such that the next time the smuggler's ship appears (estimated to be between two weeks and a month hence), the party will row out to it pretending to be the smugglers, and then seize the ship and take prisoner its crew. The Council is prepared to promise them 50 gold lions each to any surviving member as well as right of pillage for anything they manage to capture from the ship. If the party agrees to this, the Council would ask that no more than half of them be absent from Saltmarsh (or the House) at any point in time until the smuggler's ship reappears. The Customs House will send out patrols, day and night, of excise men to be on the lookout for the ship and will notify the party as soon as it is spotted.

    Tyrius and Aurora thank the Council for the reward, and say that they are very interested in the offer of future employment, but that they will need to take it up with the rest of the party. They then return to the Mermaid to inform their companions.

    That evening, Aurora gathers her five teammates at a single table at the Merry Mermaid, and bids them drink as much ale as they will, for the Council is buying. Even before the meeting is officially convened, everyone has pledged to help in the upcoming battle against the sea-going smugglers. Once everyone has had a round, Aurora begins talking of the future.

    "First of all, everyone, congratulations on a wonderful and successful adventure! Despite a few missteps along the way, we've handled ourselves admirably and saved Saltmarsh from looming criminal activity right on its back doorstep. Cheers!”

    “However, I worry that we have stepped on quite a few toes in the doing. By now, my friends, you know me as a capable…” she leans in and whispers spell caster, “ search of adventure, but a good friend of mine once wisely advised me to keep a low profile in this area of the world. The town harbors deep-seated prejudice against the magical arts, and so I present myself to others as a writer and common scholar. I believe it would be a smart course of action for me to burnish that side of my reputation. We've also annoyed the Council and the rather important Master Secun in the way our efforts were concluded, so I think a little massaging of the egos of the local community is also in order. I think that I can help kill two birds with one stone and offer to publish an extremely flattering account of our latest activities as a broadside. How does this sound to everyone?”

    Aurora writes with an imaginary quill in the air as she recites, “A lowly group of ragtag mercenaries are hired in secret by the Saltmarsh Town Council to investigate a local building of suspicion. Disbelieving the legends of ghosts and necromancers, the wise High Constable, Chief Customs Officer, and Lord of Saltmarsh encouraged the mercenaries to infiltrate the house and learn the truth of the situation, fearing that the house may present a threat to the town or the King's authority in the region. Proving their suspicions correct, the mercenary band uncovers an extensive smuggling operation and learns of a local contact in Saltmarsh working with the smugglers to defraud the King of justly-earned tariffs! On instruction from Chief Customs Officer Secun, the mercenaries were then sent to reconnoiter merchant warehouses believed to be the most likely sources of the urban contact. Once again validating Master Secun's outstanding deductive skills, the fence of the goods was quickly revealed as a local merchant. Sadly, though, a deceitful co-conspirator set fire to a stable and threatened to burn down not only the stables and the general store (containing much of the evidence against them), but half of Saltmarsh itself! Good Master Secun and the Council courageously ordered the mercenaries to divert all their efforts to fighting the raging fire, saving the town in the process, although allowing the merchant to temporarily flee. The Council has now set its goal toward ending the smuggling operation for good, and restoring the King's authority to the region in their charge.

    The rest of the group chuckles over their drinks as Aurora slides into old habits of storytelling, but decides that it can't hurt to try and mend a few bridges with their current employers.

    “That is fine and well”, muses Barnabus, “but not many of the folk hereabouts can read. Mayhap you should write your account for the parlors of the elite, while I compose a ballad for the commoners…”

    “Indeed,” agrees Aurora. "Also," she continues, "I suggest that we offer to keep ourselves somewhat secluded in the 'haunted house' to help avoid any further unpleasantness from occurring in this provincial little town. We could even help fund a few stability repairs to the home and suggest that, with our help, the haunted house could be turned into a minor attraction along the coast road after we've dealt with the smugglers - ‘come relive the terrifying tale of the haunted house of Saltmarsh!’ Of course," Aurora rolls her eyes, "the council's wisdom and loyalty to the King will be a central part of the information presented on tours, and proceeds from the house can benefit Saltmarsh at their discretion for years to come. We can use all this as a perfect excuse for making a few trips to Seaton. I, for example, ‘need to pick up supplies’ for writing the account of the council's heroics."

    Chuckles erupt from the party members. "Actually, I am anxious to meet with someone who might teach me a few new tricks, and could use some additional reagents for spells I think we all might find handy. We'll need some basic lumber and building supplies for stabilizing and improving the smuggler's house, too. Tyrius, you mentioned you're wanting to visit a temple as well.”

    “Just so,” replies the noble paladin. “I am told there is a temple to Sol in Seaton. Many of my faith consider Sol and Pelor to be two faces of the same god. I doubt I will find a temple to Pelor here in the south, so I would wish to be shriven by a priest of Sol in recognition of the divine providence we received in routing the smugglers.”

    "While we're there,” continues Aurora, “we might as well sell off the treasure we collected at top coin - surely we can find multiple goldsmiths, curio shops, and gem shops in such a big city. Collecting bids and bartering up the price will likely get us a far better deal than we could in turning over our spoils to the merchants of Saltmarsh. Seaton is likely to have a few trading houses where we can stash something for a rainy day, as well. Oh, one last thing, we never told the Council about the secret passage leading down the caves into the rocky area by the sea. It seems to me highly likely that they'll discover it on their own eventually, what with all their customs agents coming and going on the lookout for the smuggler’s boat. I suggest we tell them about the caves immediately, say we held back the information because we knew everyone would want to discover the identity of the fence first, and then offer to pay the full 25% duty as directed. We can offer to help sell the goods and settle all charges in Seaton."

    Barnabus grumbles that if they are selling things in Seaton, he is sure he could move the silks and brandy without paying the King’s tariff - but Tyrius informs him that that is not going to happen.

    After the drinks and celebration all of the party stays that night in the Merry Mermaid, with Barnabus already working on his ballad.
    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 Jun 05, 2018 3:19 pm  
    Post 16: Backstory for Willa

    Post 16: Backstory for Willa

    Corporal Willhemina Stoutly (Willa)
    Second 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)
    Hp 18
    (Fighter): Insight, Survival (Sea and Coast)
    (Sailor): Athletics, Perception
    Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
    Chain armor, sword, dagger

    Wilhelmina ‘Willa’ Stoutly was born in Saltmarsh as the first child of a poor fishing family. Her father owned a small rowboat but mostly worked on the larger trawlers of more prosperous men. Her early life was happy, with a kind and industrious mother and a hard-working and indulgent father. Her father didn’t begrudge her being a girl and indeed raised her to know the fishing craft as well as he did. Neighbors often said he simply never noticed that Willa was a girl, which was fine with her, as she was strong, swift, and adventurous.

    She had lived so long as an only child, until the advanced age of eight, that she simply assumed she would always be one, and perhaps her parents did as well. Everyone seemed surprised when her mother was again with child. Still, Willa was a big girl (nearly a maiden!), confident in her parents’ love, and did not worry overly much about the new arrival.

    Willa and her father were off fishing, more from pleasure than necessity, when her new brother Tom was born. It was an unexpectedly difficult birth and her mother passed soon after. Her father was devastated. He went through the motions of providing for the family, but the joy had gone out of his life. The sympathy and charity of neighbors kept the babe in milk for a year or so, but after that it was increasingly Willa’s job to look after the family. The more she grew, the more responsibilities she could assume, but the more her father retreated into idle depression and drink. Yes, she resented the sibling that had cost her both her parents, but she was also the only one keeping Tom alive - and as he grew, he did show her all the affection and appreciation that a child would its parent. He was never as serious as she, never as responsible, but then he never had to be.

    It was around the time Willa was 12 or 13 (she doesn’t remember well, but knows she hadn’t bled yet) that the militia officers began to hassle her father for not showing up for the monthly drills, or, when he did show up, for being drunk. After numerous warnings, he spent a weekend in the stocks. The next time muster was called, Willa went in his stead. The pimply-faced serjeant told her she couldn’t represent her family as long as there was an able adult male, and she told him she would go home if he could beat her two falls of three in wrestling. When she pinned his arm behind his back and made him cry yield on the first bout, he didn’t ask for a second fall.

    Willa had initially gone to the militia as her civic obligation and to spare her father, but was surprised to find that she actually enjoyed it, especially the weapons training. When she acquitted herself well in a skirmish with marsh goblins, she was hooked. She put in for auxiliary patrol duty, up and down the road to Fort Bale. The patrol work was occasional, but it was a guaranteed wage, and better than fishing all day and coming home with empty nets.

    The real breakthrough came when a position as an excise officer opened up. Sure, her sex was held against her, but the Saltmarsh Customs House could find no one else at the moment who could both competently swing a sword and navigate a boat. Her corporal told her that she would be replaced as soon as they did find someone, but she managed to distinguish herself in an encounter with pirates and get promoted before they dismissed her, and after that she became a fixture. Excise work was still part time, but it was regular and any one day spent checking tariffs and cargos earned her as much as three to five days fishing on her own.

    Now, at twenty-five and an “old maid”, she is the corporal. The Customs Master, Secun, trusts her implicitly. He has said more than once that he would name her captain of the excise officers in a heartbeat if he thought the appointment would be approved by the Viscount. She is more often than not the ranking officer on missions, so she commands in fact if not in title. Just this last year she was finally able to bully and cajole Tom into starting as an excise officer at 15. She understands that he prefers the freedom of private fishing, but how he intends to ever make enough to take a wife he hasn’t been able to articulate. He says he has no plans to marry, but then he has no plans for anything and with the number of maids he frequents it will not be long before one is found to be carrying. He actually does a decent job at officering, so long as Willa is not in his group.

    Several days ago strangers arrived in town and caused a big commotion by exploring the Haunted House and supposedly discovering a smuggler’s nest, though their claim was long on conjecture and short on evidence. Willa doesn’t doubt that there were smugglers, but the real motives of the strangers, with not a one of them a crown subject, are suspect. Could they have been working with the smugglers all along? Could they be attempting to gain some sort of local notoriety to hatch an even bigger crime? They drove merchant Murphey out of town without a trial and upset the Town Council to no end. Her patron Secun, in particular, had some choice words for them that almost brought a blush to her cheeks, and she reckons she can sling invectives with the saltiest sailor. The Council has asked them to seize the smuggler’s supply ship when next it makes port. Secun has told Willa that she will be going with them. As far as they know, it will be to navigate and assist, but her real job will be to find out more about them, especially whether they are who they are presenting themselves as and whether they are representing their actions accurately to the Council. Secun let her choose one private to take with her, and she picked Tom. Ordinarily she would take anyone else, as he always finds a way to subvert her authority on missions, but in this case he was the only one she could trust not to mouth off in town about what their real mission is.

    Willa is taking her suit of chain with her. Though it was second-hand and ill-fitting when she got it, it is a prized possession and was a present from Secun from when she made corporal. She has worn it on the coast road and the Bale road numerous times, and it even saved her from a blade once. She’s never worn it at sea and is not sure she wants to, but she wants it along just in case. She is also bringing her preferred weapons - longsword and dagger. The dagger is for when the craft is so small that a step could unbalance it, but she prefers the sword any time the deck is stable. If there is space, she prefers to use the sword two-handed for maximum effect, though she has been known to switch to one-handed so as to throw her dagger left-handed, a move seldom suspected. She has never really taken to shields - lots of the officers carry them, but she finds them completely impractical at sea. She would like to purchase a greatsword, and perhaps she will if she can make a claim to a fair share of whatever booty is captured from this smuggler’s 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.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:33 pm  
    Post 17: Sanballet's Refrain

    Post 17: Sanballet's Refrain

    31 July, 570 - Saltmarsh

    [DM’s note: Upon waking, both Barnabus and Thokk are at second level]

    Barnabus the Minstrel (Barnabus)
    Second Level Rogue / Halfling (Entertainer)
    Str 15 (+2) Dex 17 (+3) Con 11 (0) Int 15 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 13 (+1)
    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
    Studded leather armor

    Thokk of the Crystalmists (Thokk)
    Second Level Barbarian / Half-orc (Outlander)
    Str 17 (+3) Dex 14 (+2) Con 15 (+2) Int 5 (-2) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 12 (+1)
    Hp. 19, Languages Orc, Goblin, Common
    Skills: Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, Survival (mountains)
    Shield, battle axe, hand axes, javelins

    Some of the party are already awake when the smell of Ruth’s cooking comes from below. Others, having indulged in too much ale the previous night, need to be roused from their beds when the food is lain on the table. Eventually they are all downstairs and eating, some eagerly and some reluctantly.

    In through the door strides a tall, broad-shouldered, dusky woman. Her features are predominantly Flan, though not purely so, with a copper-brown skin and black tresses. Whether her mixed ancestry includes Oerid, or Suel, or both, is not obvious. Ruth nods in recognition of her, then does a half-curtsy in respect. The new woman is dressed in an old but well-maintained tabard bearing a device on the left sleeve, a loose linen blouse under, tight leather breeches, and high boots. The hilt of a longsword projects above her shoulder - it is worn in a back-harness under her tabard, and a dagger sits comfortably on her hip.

    The woman grins, more in satisfaction than friendliness, “No mistakin’ ther lot o’ ye fer Moorfolk, be t’ere?” she asks rhetorically. Thokk, looking up from his plate of fried fish, smiles in reply, spiky tusks protruding from his broad mouth. He takes an immediate liking to the newcomer.

    “Excuse me?” asks Aurora. She speaks Keoish well enough, but is taken aback by the thickness of the lower-class Salinmoor accent used by the woman.

    The woman tries again in Common, but her accent is just as thick. “I be sayin’, ther lot o’ ye be ther strangers wot met wit’ ther Council.”

    “Oh, yes, quite!”

    The woman introduces herself as Corporal Wilhelmina Stoutley, chief excise office of the Saltmarsh Customs House. Under the direction of Secun, she has been tasked with both conveying the party back to the alchemist’s house and retrieving any goods that they wish to turn in for reward under their right of pillage. She says she has a wagon ready outside. Aurora thanks her for bringing the wagon but says they are only part-way through breakfast, and after that they will need time to pack and load their gear. Wilhelmina scowls, gestures at the window, says they are burning daylight, mutters about layabouts, and takes a chair on the other side of the room, glowering at them as they eat.

    Ruth brings her out a plate of fried herring, which she refuses at first, then reluctantly accepts. Ruth says something to her too softly for the party to hear, but her response is clear enough, “Tom stays wit’ ther wagon!”

    Those sitting across from the window later see Ruth bringing out a fried egg sandwich to a man sitting in the passenger side of a wagon drawn by a single draft horse. Ruth even has a handful of raw oats for the horse, and she and the man talk amiably for a while.

    When the party is finally finished with their breakfast, they load their gear into the back of the wagon, and then themselves. There is only room on the seat for two, with Wilhelmina driving and the other excise officer sitting beside her. The lad introduces himself as “Private Tom Stoutley, at yer service!” They quickly notice that he addresses the woman as “Willa,” not “Corporal”. There is a strong facial resemblance between them, but the youth is much lighter in skin tone and a good ten years younger.

    It is a bit bumpy and jostly in the wagon, and Thokk soon elects to walk alongside them, his long strides easily keeping pace with the draft horse. There is no way little Barnabus, or Tyrius in his heavy chain, could keep up, though, so the party remains in the wagon, and arrive at the house before midday.

    Willa drives the horse right through the gate, without a hint of superstitious hesitation, and up to the front entrance of the house, on the sea side. Aurora comments that the horse does not shy away from the wall or the gate, unlike the townsfolk, and Willa says that the horse has more sense than most humans. She spits into the long grass, perhaps to emphasize her point.

    The party shows the excise officers the trapdoor into the secret basement, and points out the cask of brandy they want taken back to the town. The odds and ends like gold earrings removed from the smugglers they still plan on personally selling in Seaton. While Willa and Tom are rolling the cask up the stairs, Aurora confers briefly with Tyrius. When the officers return, Aurora shows them the secret door, and then walks them through the sea caves, counting casks and bolts, and ending at the lowest cave, which is half filled with seawater.

    “Ye dinnae mention aught o’ t’is t’ ther Council” says Willa hotly.

    Before Aurora can answer, Tyrius apologizes, and says that they did not want to inform the Council of the full extent of the smuggling ring until they were sure that the smuggler did not have allies on the Council. Now that Murphey has been run out of town, they are confident that the Council will be able to do the right thing with all of this contraband.

    “And by do the right thing, Tyrius means pay us the full value of all the goods,” says Barnabus.

    “After the excise tax,” adds Tyrius.

    “It nae be me place ta make decisions fer ther Council,” says Willa, “but we can bring all yon casks an’ bolts back. ‘Twill take more’n one trip, tho.”

    Meanwhile, Tom is looking out into the Azure Sea through the cave. “I musta been by t’is cliff a hunnerd times an’ never seen t’is cave.” he wonders.

    “Nae, yon rocks be concealin’ it,” answers Willa, and points out a rocky promontory that would shield the cave from view from the open water. “Ye’d need t’ be in tight t’ ther cliff face t’ see it - perfect fer smugglin’, all right.”

    Willa, Tom, Thokk, and Tyrius pack the wagon full of casks and fill the empty spaces with bolts of silk, and then the two excise officers set off back to town, leaving the party in the basement of the house. Before they set up camp, however, Aurora suggests they finish searching the secret cellar, as they did not have time to do that previously.

    Their first stop is the room of the leader. Even as he steps inside, Babshapka knows something is amiss. The bed has been moved, and the floor that was previously under the bed has had a flagstone removed to reveal a large hollow underneath. As he approaches, a voice booms out, seemingly coming from the hole itself but filling the room. It sounds suspiciously similar to the voice that greeted them upon their first entry to the house.

    “Fools! So you have returned. Well, you’re too late! Thanks to your premature departure, I now have my spell books AND my treasure, so there is naught more here for you. Me and the merchant and the captain had a nice little smuggling operation set up, and we would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you meddling adventurers! Well, don’t you worry. Sanballet doesn’t forget. Enjoy your success for now, but heed my words - I am out there, and I will have my revenge. And next time, I won’t be stopped by a room full of skeletons! I will have my revenge! AH-AH-HAHAHAHAHA!”

    Sobored and a bit nervous, the party carefully searches the room but finds nothing. They then move to the “danger” room from whence the skeletons came. Rapping on the walls, Aurora quickly discovers a secret door, but not how to open it. After several minutes watching her try, Thokk bores and leaves, but soon lumbers back, carrying the wrought iron stove that had been in the hearth.

    “Thokk, what are you...?” begins Aurora, but doesn’t have a chance to finish.

    Thokk shouts “Thokk open door!” and hurls the heavy stove at the wall. It crashes into the wall and then to the floor, but has broken through the dust-covered lathe to a thin layer of wood beneath. Thokk retrieves the stove and hurls it again, this time cracking the wood and revealing an open space on the other side. After several more blows, the stove is a smashed and rent ruin, but the doorway is open and large enough for them all to step through.

    The room beyond (24) contains the remains of a laboratory and, apparently, the famed alchemist. The party recovers several items of gold from the table in front of him, coins from his rotting belt pouch, and Aurora even finds a water-damaged spellbook in a secret drawer of the table, plus a specialized text on alchemy. Thokk finds a glowing stone clutched in the skeletal fist of the alchemist but eventually turns it over to Tyrius. Tyrius has taken to carrying the small valuables recovered by the party (gems, jewelry, coins and such) as the only one whom everyone trusts.

    Next the party searches the cellar itself, and this time they manage to find the secret door to the wine cellar. Tyrius takes the plate armor - he is eager to try it on, but still cautious about the corpse worms from before. He decides to requisition a single cask of brandy, break open the top, and soak the armor in it, reasoning that the potent alcohol will kill any remaining pests.

    After this the party does set up camp, to some extent. Barnabus declares that he has finished composing his ballad, and will be returning to town. Aurora (with her guard Babshapka) and Tyrius say that they will be taking the coast road to Seaton, leaving only Larry and Thokk in the house itself, which they say is fine with them.

    Several hours later, when Willa and Tom return with the wagon, the party informs them of their plans. Willa reminds them that the Council specifically enjoined them to have half their members in the house in case the smugglers returned, and Aurora reminds Willa that the language used was half their members in the house or town, so with Barnabus in town and Larry and Thokk in the house, they do indeed meet the requirement. Willa sighs, opens a small chest in the wagon, and takes out a wax-sealed sheet of parchment. If they are going to Seaton, she explains, the Council has prepared a letter of introduction to the Viscount for them. Although Aurora reaches out for the letter, Willa hands it to Tyrius, who carefully tucks it away. They then work on loading the wagon a second time, and manage to fit all the remaining casks and bolts aboard.

    In the early afternoon, Willa and Tom head back to Saltmarsh with Barnabus riding in the wagon and trying out his ballad on the captive audience. Between the three inns and the tavern in Saltmarsh, Barnabus plans on working out an arrangement of performing local songs, plus his featured ballad, in one each night in succession in exchange for food in the day and lodging at night. The stanzas of the song feature all the action of the search of the house and the climactic battle with the smugglers, and mention each of the party members by name. The chorus, curiously, refers to himself:

    “Oh, the blades did flash, the blood did flow,
    there was danger by the fistful,
    but through it all there shone the smile,
    of Barnabus the minstrel!”

    Aurora, Babshapka, and Tyrius begin walking down the coast road to Seaton as Barnabus’ voice fades behind them, while Larry and Thokk wave goodbye from the gate.

    Thokk, with Larry’s help, carries the bodies of the nine smugglers and the gnoll out of the house, and tosses them in the bushes on the other side of the road. He is hopeful they will attract wolves, or even a bear! He would like to fight a bear.

    Thokk and Larry did not understand the function of the stove and don't miss it. They cook a hearty supper cooked over the open hearth and then talk about where they will each sleep, Sanballet’s narrow bed being too small for the both of them together. Speaking of the mage has gotten them a little spooked, now that they are alone in the house at night. After a bit of conversation, they decide that they would be better off in the woods across the road from the house. If the mage returns, it will be harder for him to find them, and they both are more comfortable in the woods, anyway. They pack a few things and leave the cellar, setting up camp in the woods.

    Stretching out his shoulders before bed, Thokk smiles wistfully at all the glorious blood that has been shed recently. He remembers fondly the looks of admiration the townsfolk gave him after his return to the Merry Mermaid the day before - perhaps living among humans is not so bad after all.

    At second moonrise, Thokk is snoring heavily but Larry can’t sleep. He goes even deeper into the woods to commune with nature.

    Meanwhile, Aurora, Babshapka, and Tyrius have continued along the coast road all afternoon, carrying with them the gems, trinkets, and coins recovered from the house. By nightfall they have past several outlying thorps, but are not within sight of the lights of Seaton and so make a camp alongside the road.
    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 Jun 19, 2018 1:50 pm  
    Post 18: Taking care of business

    [DM’s note: Upon waking, Larry is at second level. He chooses to pledge himself to the Circle of the Land (Mountains)]. New features in bold

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

    Post 18: Taking care of business

    1, 2, 3 August, 570 - various locations in Salinmore

    At the Haunted House, Larry spends his time in the woods, communing with nature, and only visits the basement of the house to pick up food supplies. Thokk sets off into the woods to reinvigorate his hunting and foraging skills. He bags a number of small game, but on the third day he catches a deer in his hunting trap. When moving in to put the deer out of its misery, he is attacked by one of the largest wolves he's ever seen. The wolf dodges his first attack easily, and sinks his fangs into Thokk's forearm. The second swing of his battleaxe neatly guts the wolf, and Thokk decides to commemorate the battle in his camp that evening. He cauterizes his wounds with the tip of a dagger, neatly preserving every bite mark in permanent scar tissue, while he collects the wolf's teeth into an intimidating necklace that he vows he'll never remove, thinking of the power totems the orcs of his tribe would wear.

    On the Coast Road, Aurora, Babshapka, and Tyrius continue, soon drawing close to Seaton on the first of August. For Babshapka, even Saltmarsh was an unwelcome chaos of noise and foul smells - Seaton looks to be even larger and more repugnant. Though sworn to guard Aurora, he has resolved to entrust her safety to the Tyrius and the Viscount while she is in Seaton. Several miles before they reach the city itself, he sets his eyes on the last true stand of forest near the city and bids his companions farewell.

    When Tyrius and Aurora reach Seaton, they travel directly to the palace of the Viscount. The staff there seem to have been prepared for their arrival, or at least to have been briefed on recent events in Saltmarsh, for their letter of introduction is accepted without any questioning and they are shown to a waiting room in the palace and offered refreshment while the letter is being read by someone unseen. Tyrius also turns over the shield of the knight he originally showed to the Town Council; the armor is still in Saltmarsh and he retains the emerald for the time being.

    Some time later, they are told that a meeting with the Viscount himself “won’t be necessary.” Tyrius is provided directions, and a page for a guide if he desires, to the city’s Temple of Sol. Aurora is given a small but comfortable guest room in the palace (of a kind that might be afforded to the retinue of someone important rather than an important person herself). She is told that she will have access to the library of the Viscount’s Court Wizard, supervised by one of his apprentices, and possibly a meeting with the Wizard himself, at his convenience.

    Aurora soon finds herself so engrossed with her studies, with the Court Wizard visiting with her more than once and having her regularly attend his lectures to his apprentices, that she has no time to visit the markets and sell the smuggler’s treasures individually for the best price each as she had planned. On the second of August she visits Tyrius at the temple and gives the valuables over to him, asking him to take care of it. The paladin is fasting and praying and considers such worldly affairs a distraction - so he immediately meets with a merchant of the Saltmarsh Town Council, in Seaton on business, turns everything over and says he asks only a fair price for the goods.

    On the third of August, Aurora again visits Tyrius briefly. She is frustrated by his decision but can’t really argue as she did not have time to do the haggling herself. Upon receiving the money from him, she suggests that they use these, party funds, including some of their reward money, to buy a number of magic supplies - for the benefit of the party. She suggests that she needs 100 gold lions just to identify the stone they picked up from the dead alchemist. “We know it's magical in some way, but we don't know who should have it or how to use it until we identify it, and for that I have to buy a pearl worth 100 gold lions. I also need 25 gold lions to buy the materials to write the spell "Message" into my spellbook, which may come in handy if I ever need to speak to one of you in combat, or secretly, or through a door or something. And, if I can spend another 9 gold lions on incense, I can cast an involved spell allowing me to call a creature to me as my familiar. I was thinking that a hawk would be a good idea - we can use it to scout the ship once it comes in, as I will be able to see and hear through the hawk.”

    After a bit of discussion, Tyrius agrees that she can use party money of 200 gold lions to purchase two “identify” pearls, 27 gold lions for a brass brazier and incense for three "find familiar" castings, and 25 gold lions for her to inscribe the spell Message into her spellbook. They had also talked about purchasing building materials to improve the haunted house, but when Tyrius does the math for splitting what remains of the party treasure six ways, he decides the others should explicitly approve of that purchase first. They plan on meeting early on the morrow to make these purchases in the markets of Seaton and then returning to Saltmarsh.

    By evening’s end, Aurora has finished her “historical accounts” of the events in Saltmarsh - three copies on different sheets of parchment - and she presents one to a secretary of the Viscount. She has also copied some spells (both ones taught by the court wizard and some from the alchemist’s book) into her own spell book, and has made a complete backup spellbook in the event that something should happen to her own book. She had considered specializing as a diviner (like her master and patron), but ultimately decided that if she is to continue the adventuring lifestyle rather than that of a sedate researcher, being an enchantress would be more appropriate. The wizard makes sure she has the training she needs to enact her decision, and gives her a list of enchantment-based spells appropriate for her level, but in response to her request says that he does not have a version of the spell detect thoughts for her to copy.

    In Saltmarsh, Barnabus enjoys playing three nights in the taverns and inns. The crowds are enthusiastic, and though he does not make anything in tips, each day finds him with a full belly and, on more than one evening, with a companion for the night.[/b]
    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 Jun 26, 2018 2:16 pm  
    Post 19: Return to Saltmarsh

    [DM’s note: Upon waking, Babshapka, Tyrius, and Aurora are all at second level. New abilities are in bold]

    Babshapka of the Silverwood
    Second level ranger / 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)
    Skills: Animal Handling, Insight, Investigation, Perception, Stealth, Survival (Temperate Woodlands)
    Fighting Style: Duel-wielding
    Spells: Alarm, Ensnaring Strike

    Tyrius of Sterich
    Second level paladin of Pelor / Human (Oerid) (Noble)
    Str 14 (+2) Dex 9 (0) Con 11 (0) 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
    Spells: Cure Wounds, Heroism

    Aurora of Tringlee
    Second 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)
    Languages Keolandish (S/W), Elven (S/W), Common (S/W), Ancient Suel (Written only), one open slot
    Skills: Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Performance, Persuasion

    Post 19: Return to Saltmarsh

    4 August, 570 - Seaton

    In the morning, Tyrius arises early and at dawn he is blessed by a priest of Sol. Pelor grants him the ability to cast spells and the clergy of the temple wish him well as he takes his quest back to the world. He goes to the palace and is told that, based on the shield, the armor he found belonged to a landless knight, one Cyrus Stanforth, in the retinue of the Viscount. The knight disappeared a month ago while on assignment patrolling the coast road from Seaton to Burle, scouting for highwaymen and monsters. The Viscount would be greatly appreciative of the party's return of the armor to the heirs of Stanforth. While the family of the knight can offer Tyrius their gratitude, they are not in the position to be able to grant him a reward. Tyrius turns over the emerald and asks that it be given to the family - he pledges to send the full suit of armor when he has the chance. Tyrius is also given a sealed letter from the Viscount to deliver to the Saltmarsh Town Council.

    Tyrius is met by Aurora, and together they visit the marketplace and quickly acquire the brazier, incense, and pearls Aurora wanted. The inks and materials she needed she had already purchased from the court wizard and used for spell copying. Aurora doesn’t think enough money is left to worry about putting it into a merchant bank, but she does manage to find one which promises confidentiality for placing the alchemist's spell book in a safety deposit vault (after she has copied the spells from it in which she was interested), as well as her own recently-finished spare spell book.

    Their business in Seaton concluded, the pair set out on the coast road. They have not been walking an hour before Babshapka appears silently from the brush and joins them. They are traveling lighter than when they came, and had an earlier start, and they manage to arrive at the haunted house by dusk.

    Checking the basement, they see that Thokk and Larry have been using the food stores, but find no sign of them. Even calling for them and searching the house reveals nothing. Babshapka does find obvious tracks on the other side of the road which lead him to their campsite, and the two companions are eventually found and recalled to spend the night in the basement with the others. Thokk beams when Aurora complements his new scars and necklace.

    After dinner, Aurora addresses the group, explaining to them how she has spent both the party booty as well as some of their collective reward money. She reassures them that “We should have enough to keep us well-fed and housed for the next three to five weeks until the ship comes in, and we're bound to find lots more treasure on the smuggler's ship. I know my use of party funds was asking a lot, and I'm sure I'll be asking again in the future, but most of us are going to need help beyond our individual means as some point, and my magics will benefit us all. Tyrius, I know your donations to your god and the costs of some of your spells will be high at some point. Babshapka, Dirty Larry, and Thokk, you will likely need to . . . um . . . pay for companionship occasionally since . . . well . . . your social graces are . . . I mean to say . . ." It quickly becomes clear to the party that no one other than Tyrius has any notion of what Aurora is talking about. None of them seem particularly concerned about the money, either - Larry and Thokk have little use for it, and Babshapka is honor-bound to guard her, not a paid mercenary. The hard sell, she realizes, will be with Barnabus - who is still in Saltmarsh. She is still considering the best approach as they drift off to sleep.
    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
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    Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:34 am  
    Post 20: Plans and Preparations

    Post 20: Plans and Preparations

    5 and 6 August, 570 - Saltmarsh

    In the morning, the party walks from the alchemist’s house to Saltmarsh. Tyrius delivers the letter from the Viscount to Secun at the Customs House. Secon opens and reads it on the spot, nodding as he goes. When he finishes, he says that based on the letter, Saltmarsh is prepared to offer the party the following, in addition to their previous considerations:

    The merchants on the Council will agree to pay a "fair market price" for any goods the party wishes to sell or turn into cash, whether left over from the house or what they may acquire in the future from the ship. The price will be a fair price. If the party wishes to take the time to travel to Seaton and sell individual items in an attempt to earn more, they are free to do so.

    The merchants on the Council will agree to import from Seaton any gear or equipment the party should need for their assault on the smuggler's ship, for the market price in Seaton, with no charge for the transportation.

    The clergy on the Council will agree to make available to the party healing or other divine assistance and services for the rates generally applied to "favored non-worshippers."

    Tyrius thanks Secun and returns to the party at the Mermaid, who have been successful in locating Barnabus, and mostly successful in rousing him despite his objections about the hour. Once they are all assembled, Aurora says that the first order of business is to use her new pearl to identify the magic stone that Tyrius has. Tyrius searches his bag and his pockets carefully, but says that he cannot find it.

    “This glowy-stone?” asks Thokk, drawing it forth from a pouch. “Thokk find after you leave! Thokk think Tyrius play trick and hide in Thokk pouch!” Aurora doesn’t like the sound of that, and Tyrius shakes his head, denying responsibility. Aurora tells Ruth that she is tired from the morning’s walk, and would like water and a room upstairs to lie down in before they lunch, but once alone she arranges the supplies needed to mix up an identify potion and she drinks it along with the pearl. As she feared, she discovers that the stone is a cursed luckstone which has been attuned to Thokk, the first one who handled it. She wonders if the stone had anything to do with the death of the alchemist.

    In just the time it takes Aurora to walk downstairs to report to the party, the stone disappears from her pack and reappears in Thokk’s pouch. Aurora, Tyrius, and Thokk go to the temple of Phaulkon to beseech the aid of the priest. To Aurora’s great relief, Aeravis says that he will be able to remove the curse, and he says he will abide by the Council’s decision to charge her a good price for it, even though she is both a stranger and a non-believer. But when the “good price” turns out to be 65 gold lions, her heart sinks.

    Having now spent most of the party’s reward money, they return to the Mermaid and talk over lunch. Aurora decides to just say “after identifying and removing the curse” when talking about their current finances, and not mention to Barnabus that she spent far more on purchasing another pearl and copying spells. Sighing heavily, Aurora addresses the group: "Well, there's nothing for it. Our grand plans to disband and retire to a life of luxury after capturing this smuggling ship are going to have to be set aside for a while. I foresee us traveling and working together for quite some time into the future if you're all up for it.” They agree that they may want to remain together a while. It is warm afternoon, and thinking of the cost of a room for the night, everyone but Barnabus decides to walk back out to the alchemist’s house.

    Before they have finished their lunch, however, a bleary-eyed Wilhelmina Stoutley appears. She explains that she and Tom have been patrolling the coast at night, even though no one thinks the ship will come in so soon. Willa dismisses Ruth and closes the shutters, over everyone’s objections, and posts Tom outside. She asks them how far their planning and preparation has gotten. The party replies that when one of the excise officers sees the ship, they will row into the hidden sea cave and alert the party, who will row out in the captured jollyboat. That is really as far as they have discussed. Willa is not impressed. She peppers them with questions, and seems quite doubtful of their abilities. “Can any of you swim? Can you row? Can you row quietly? What about the signaling system - have any you deciphered the lantern code? Will you be wearing armor? What happens if one of you falls into the sea while wearing armor? Have you thought about your spell selection?” What follows is a multi-hour strategy session, with much back and forth. Only when Ruth reappears in the midafternoon, and says she must start on their supper, does Willa relent and let the party go - but on the condition that they will all, minus Barnabus, now be walking out to the alchemist’s house and making their own supper there. Tomorrow at first light, she says, they will begin a strict training schedule that includes swimming and rowing lessons every day.

    Willa tells Tom that he will be doing the nightly patrol by himself tonight, as she is accompanying the party to the house - the excise cutter docks in Saltmarsh at the end of each of its patrols, so as not to draw attention to the house. When they get to the alchemist’s house, the party immediately begins cooking while Willa inspects the smugglers’ jollyboat. She is pleased to find that there is sackcloth for muffling the oarlocks, and two grappling hooks, but she is dumbfounded to learn that the party had not even looked in it yet! Willa shakes her head in disbelief at the party’s incompetence.

    The next day, Willa has the party in the jollyboat as soon as it is light enough to see in the sea cave without a torch. As a small mercy, she says they will be doing the rowing first, when the morning is coolest. She orders the party’s seating in the jollyboat, explaining to them about the importance of balancing their weight especially port and starboard, but also fore and aft. She rows them out of the cave itself, and even the most casual of them is immediately impressed by the skill she needs to get them beyond the surf zone of water crashing on the huge rocks that conceal the entrance of the cave. Once they are out in calmer, open water, she allows them on the oars. First Thokk and Tyrius try rowing each alone, with two oars, and then she puts them together in teams, such that each of them is handling a single oar but the two sides of the boat are rowing in tandem. After much practice, when they are all hot and sweaty, she takes them away from the house and along the rocky coast until she spies a small spit with a protected pool behind, only perturbed by the largest of waves. Beaching the jollyboat, she has them strip down, wade in, and practice floating, then make short ventures out to the open water and back using a doggy-paddle. Thokk has the best time of any of them, and whoops and hollers as he splashes about, but he also ends up drinking far more salt water than he should and Willa tells him he will pay for that later. When they are all cold, shivering, and cramping she allows them back in the boat and tells them that they can warm up by rowing back to the cave.

    Barnabus joins the party at the house while they are at lunch. Despite his protests that he was “Born on a ship (nearly)”, Willa has him join them in the afternoon’s swimming and rowing lessons as well. Over their objections, she insists they draw up a watch schedule and send someone up to the second floor to watch out over the sea all night. More than one of them ends up spending their “watch time” sleeping against the wall of the room upstairs.
    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 10, 2018 6:30 am  
    21. Preparations, Plans, and a new party member

    Post 21: Preparations, Plans, and a new party member

    “Oh, the blades did flash, the blood did flow,
    Thokk’s anger it did kindle,
    but through it all there shone the smile,
    of Barnabus the minstrel!”

    7 August, 570 - Alchemist's House and Saltmarsh
    The swimming and rowing lessons continue for the next several days.

    Now able to cast three first level spells, and no “action” during the day, Aurora has begun casting mage armor on three people (including herself) every night before she turns in. That way she uses, rather than wastes, her spells and she is ready to memorize in the morning.

    With Thokk and Tyrius now potentially capable of rowing the jollyboat by themselves, and the others capable so long as they have a partner, some of the party put forth that it might be best to have the smuggler’s jollyboat act as a decoy, rowing slowly out to the ship, while the excise cutter sneaks around from the seaward side with the real boarding party. To accomplish this, they decide that they will need more grapnels, so they request that Willa purchase these in town, along with a set of dark cloaks for all of them to hide their features. Further, they have been debating among themselves about what to do with anyone on the ship who surrenders. The disposition of prisoners proved to be a major point of contention before, and they don’t wish to make that mistake again, especially in a time-sensitive situation. After much circular discussion, Tyrius finally suggests that they get instruction from the Council, as that could obviate the need for debate. Willa says that she will venture to Saltmarsh to report to the Council the next morning, and that they are ready to practice without her supervision.

    8 August, 570
    When Willa returns in the afternoon, she has the grapnels as well as a clear instruction: the party must not under any circumstances let any of the smuggler officers go, nor are any deals to be struck with them. They must be captured if possible and turned over to the Council; if they cannot be captured they must be killed. However, any common smugglers who are captured may be dealt with at the discretion of the party.

    Willa also has further news of interest - the party’s “right of pillage” granted by the Council extends to the smuggler’s ship itself! The party had not asked about this, but are very pleased to find it out.

    (In fact, Willa asked about it for them - after several nightly strategy sessions, she was growing increasingly concerned by Aurora’s repeated requests for her to purchase acid in town, and even more concerned about Larry’s mutterings of “First we thunderwave to clear the deck! Then we set the ship on fire! Burn it all down!” Willa had decided it would be better for all concerned to give the party a reason to capture the ship intact.)

    9 August, 570
    The party returns to their training regimen under the supervision of Willa. She tells them that they are doing well and that she has a surprise for them on the 'morrow.

    10 August, 570
    The party has a “holiday in town,” which is good for everyone to let loose a bit after having lived in close quarters in the cellar for nearly a week. Willa arranges for them to tour a trading cog captained by a friend of hers (Saul) who is in port for the day. They look at it from the docks, then go above and below decks, getting a feel for the size and space, approaches, managing the ladders between decks, and so forth.

    Rather than walking back out to the house in the afternoon, Willa and Tom sail them back in the excise cutter. The party is now sure that their strategy will involve using both the jollyboat and the cutter, so Willa has persuaded Secun that the cutter needs to be based in the sea cave rather than the town, and Tom will be joining them in the cellar.

    That evening a new strategy session is launched. They are agreed on a dual approach to the smuggler’s ship, but have now decided that most of the party will need to be in the smuggler’s jollyboat so as not to arouse suspicions from the ship. Thokk and Barnabus, the huge half-orc and diminutive halfling, are the least likely to be mistaken for smugglers, so they will be in the excise cutter and will try a stealthy approach, passing beneath the prow of the smuggler’s ship and attempting an unseen boarding on the far side. Barnabus can then attempt to eliminate opposition without being seen, while Thokk creates a distraction on deck that allows those in the jollyboat to board. Starting the next day, Thokk will practice rowing the cutter by himself, though Tom and Willa will still need it for patrols at night.

    11 August, 570
    More swimming and rowing practice. Although Luna is nearing full, summer storm clouds have been building at sea and the nights are growing darker. Willa believes the smugglers may attempt to use this to get near shore without being seen, and feels an attempt is imminent. At the night’s strategy session, she says she will be contacting the Council on the 'morrow.

    12 August, 570
    In the morning, Willa returns to Saltmarsh to give another report to the Council, and the party practices on their own. Tom seems content to sleep all day after sailing all night. When Willa appears in the evening, she brings strange news and a stranger person with her. The news is that, by order of the Council, Tom will not be going with them in the boarding attempt, rather the stranger will. Over their objections, Willa reminds them that someone will need to remain at the house to signal the ship even after they launch, “Altho’ o’ course ye hae not considered t’at afore now.”

    The strange woman with Willa is slight of build, almost frail in appearance, although she moves with a fluid grace. She wears simple traveler’s robes and carries a staff, with no obvious weapons or armor about her. But it is her skin that is the most striking - it is of a golden hue such as none of them have ever seen before. She has green eyes. Her eyebrows indicate that she should have dark black hair, but her head is smoothly shaven. She speaks an oddly accented Common, and with a little questioning, Aurora is able to determine that she is of the Baklun people, far to the north and west, in a place she calls the “Plains of the Paynims”. How she is to help the party in taking the ship is not addressed.

    13 and 14 August, 570
    After two more days of practice, the party has their strategy sessions. The new woman, who calls herself “Shefak Ishu”, is silent during the deliberations. The meetings are brief; they turn in for the night.

    Thick storm clouds obscure the sky, and a light fog is on the water. Far off at sea there is heat lightning visible, but not even the sound of thunder reaches the shore. Most of the party is asleep when Tom bursts into the cellar from the secret door to the sea cave, shouting that he has spotted a ship. Without pausing to answer questions, he grabs a lantern and heads up the stairs to the house.

    It is 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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